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  • 14 Jun 2024 7:43 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release written by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration:

    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) seeks member nominations for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee (Committee). The Committee serves as a deliberative body to study the FOIA landscape across the executive branch and advise the Archivist of the United States on potential improvements to FOIA administration.

    Nominations for Committee members must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 15, 2024. Email nominations to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at foia-advisory-committee@nara.gov.

    Background

    The National Archives established the FOIA Advisory Committee in accordance with the United States Second Open Government National Action Plan, released on December 5, 2013. The Committee operates under the directive in FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552(h)(2)(C), that the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within NARA “identify procedures and methods for improving compliance” with FOIA. The Committee is governed by the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 10. 

    NARA initially chartered the Committee on May 20, 2014. Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan renewed the Committee's charter for a sixth term on April 26, 2024. Member appointment terms run for two years, concurrent with the Committee charter.

    The 2024–2026 FOIA Advisory Committee will consist of no more than 20 individuals, including government and non-government representatives. Members are selected in accordance with the charter. Considerations when making appointments will include geographic diversity; diversity in company size or represented organization; and diversity in representations of business and industry, academic institutions, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders in accordance with the charter.

    Government members will include, at a minimum: 

    • three FOIA professionals from Cabinet-level Departments; 
    • three FOIA professionals from non-Cabinet agencies; 
    • the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy or their designee; and 
    • the Director of OGIS or their designee.

    Non-governmental members will include, at a minimum:

    • two individuals representing the interests of non-governmental organizations that advocate on FOIA matters; 
    • one individual representing the interests of FOIA requesters who qualify for the “all other” FOIA requester fee category; 
    • one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “news media” FOIA requester fee category; 
    • one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “commercial” FOIA requester fee category; 
    • one individual representing the interests of historians and history-related organizations; and
    • one individual representing the interests of academia.

    All Committee members are expected to attend a minimum of 11 public meetings during the two-year Committee term. Meetings will be held in-person or virtually. All Committee members are expected to volunteer for one or more working subcommittees that will meet at various times during the two-year term. 

    The first meeting of the 2024–2026 Committee term is scheduled for Monday, September 9, 2024, at 10 a.m. ET in the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The second meeting, which will be virtual, is scheduled for Friday, September 13, 2024, also beginning at 10 a.m. ET. Meeting notices will be published in the Federal Register.

    Additional information on how to apply can be found at: www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2024-12398/requests-for-nominations-freedom-of-information-act-advisory-committee 


  • 14 Jun 2024 7:39 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release written by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration:

    Dr. Colleen Shogan, Archivist of the United States, approved 32 awards totaling $4,070,583 for historical records projects in 20 states. The National Archives grants program is carried out through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). A complete list of new grants is available online. 

    The Archivist also approved two new funding opportunities designed to meet pressing fieldwide needs: Discovery and Access to Congressional Records Collections and Capacity Building for Historically Black Colleges and Universities Archives

    Grants went to 17 projects to publish the papers of key figures such as George Washington and Frederick Douglass. 

    Four projects will enhance public engagement with historical records:

    • Vanport Mosaic to use audio and video histories and other materials to create an augmented reality walking tour of the lost city of Vanport, Oregon, destroyed in a 1948 flood.
    • A partnership of the North Carolina American Indian Heritage Commission and the state archives to publish online at least 144 oral histories and train American Indian youth as oral historians.
    • Upstander Project, Inc., in Boston to expand access to historical records relating to Indigenous peoples from the 16th through the 19th centuries held at the American Antiquarian Society and to create new history curricula.
    • South Asian American Digital Archive for a nationwide participatory archiving initiative in which community members will collect, preserve, digitize, transcribe, and share 1,500 archival items online to shed light on the diverse experiences of South Asian Americans. 

    An additional 11 archival projects will enhance access to collections documenting Alabama’s coal and iron labor history, the records of Automobile Quarterly documenting classic American automobiles, aviation manufacturing records at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, reparative description of 80 collections related to enslavement in Georgia, the records of African American masons in Louisiana, the photography work of Emile Bocian who documented New York’s Chinatown in the 1970s and 1980s, records related to the landmark 1974 Bronson v. Cincinnati Board of Education desegregation case, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights (1945–76), employee records from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Relief Department, the records (1870–2015) of the Great Plains Black History Museum, and over 1,200 whaling logbooks and journals (1669–1977) at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

    A first-time NHPRC award was given to Pennsylvania State University to support the Colored Conventions  project to collect, catalog, and transcribe scattered records collections of the 79 Colored Conventions held in the Civil War era, the nation's largest movement for Black civil rights during the 19th century.


  • 13 Jun 2024 2:18 PM | Anonymous

    Ancestry.com is using artificial intelligence (AI) to help Black Americans in researching their family lineages. An updated database of searchable newspaper articles detailing American slaves' lives and descendants has been made public by the genealogy firm. Tens of thousands of newspaper records throughout the 1800s are part of the collection.

    Helping Black Americans discover their family histories is the goal of this free-access resource. The program uses artificial intelligence to go through newspaper archives in search of slave names. Approximately 38,000 newspaper articles spanning 1788–1867 make up the collection, which includes details about over 183,000 individuals who were formerly enslaved, such as their names, ages, physical characteristics, and whereabouts.

    "Where courthouse and community records have been lost or destroyed, many of these original newspaper articles fill gaps in historical records and contain never-before-seen information about enslaved individuals."

    The new landing page is "dedicated to enslavement records," so users can look for specific individuals by name or peruse the results by state that has the most records. AI will search the inaccessible newspaper archives for slave names, linking those identities to Ancestry's other probate document databases to fill in the gaps, according to Axios.

    As a professional genealogist and Ancestry Senior Story Producer, Nicka Sewell-Smith warned, "We're telling people upfront, listen, you might see some stuff, some terms, some things that are going to jolt you" due to the delicate nature of the information.

    The states of Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana have the biggest records. Surprisingly, there are records that "show how Harriet Tubman helped some enslaved people escape north or offer clues that some may have tried to make a journey south to the Underground Railroad to Mexico."

    In addition to Ancestry's current database of "more than 18 million records...that document the lives of formerly enslaved or newly emancipated individuals," this new endeavor will bolster that database. Records from the Freedmen's Bureau and Freedman's Bank, as well as some records from the United States Federal Census, are part of this collection.

  • 12 Jun 2024 7:23 PM | Anonymous

    Life in the “good old days” wasn’t always so good. For instance, one has to wonder about dental care as practiced by our ancestors. Ready-made toothbrushes and toothpaste were not available until the mid-1800s. Prior to that, everyone had to make their own.

    Throughout the Middle Ages, most people simply rubbed salt on their teeth. Some people made up their own dentifrice and rubbed the resulting powder on their teeth with a small stick, called a "toothstick," with a rag over one end. This was the forerunner of the toothbrush.

    By the 1700s medical knowledge improved to the point that doctors began to understand the importance of proper dental care. Toothpaste, properly called dentifrice, was made at home. Here is one such recipe:

    ...burned hartshorn, powdered oyster shell and white tartar. Also a mouthwash of sal ammoniac and water. Another uses cream of tartar, gum myrrh and oil of cloves. And if all this good dental care fails, you may get a set of artificial ones made from the tusks of the hippopotamus, or sea horse, or from the teeth of some domestick [sic.] animals. Teeth made of ivory or bone soon become discoloured and begin to decay and render the breath offensive.

    The above recipe doesn't result in a paste similar to what we squeeze out of tubes today. It apparently creates a dry powder, which is then rubbed onto the rag on the end of a dental stick. Those whose teeth rotted in spite of this care might consider false teeth made from hippo or walrus (“sea horse”) tusks or the bone of some farm animal. This was the best option available to our ancestors – at least, those who had the access and money to obtain it. The reality is that very few could afford such "luxuries." Most of our ancestors simply had their decaying teeth pulled (which I am sure was unpleasant before the invention of novocain) and simply went without false teeth.

    I didn't know what hartshorn is, so I looked it up on the web. Several sites mention that it is ammonium bicarbonate or "bakers' ammonia." Before the invention of baking soda and baking powder, hartshorn was used as a leavening agent when making cookies or bread. However, it leaves behind a strong smell of ammonia.

    Whew!

    Here is another recipe for tooth powder, published in 1740:

    Use a good tooth powder once a week or once every two weeks for unclean teeth. But the mouth should be rinsed daily after eating with fresh water and scoured with the finger. The tooth powder should not be composed of all rough or all sharp things such as tobacco ashes, powdered coral, pumice stone or brick but should also contain smoothe things such as prepared oyster shell, chalk made from mussels, with a lot of seasoning and flavoring.

    Once a week or once every two weeks? Compare that to today's recommendation of brushing your teeth after every meal! And this was before the days of mouthwash, as well.

    The first toothbrush would not appear until the more solid toothpaste or tooth soap became available in the 1860s. By the 1880s many druggists were making their own toothpastes, packaged in small tin cans.

    In the Middle Ages, barbers pulled teeth as well as cutting hair. The red and white stripes of a barber pole symbolize the blood that normally was lost during tooth extraction by the barber. Those who claimed to be more skilled at dentistry than their competitors were called "barber- surgeons." These jacks-of-all-trades would not only extract teeth and perform minor surgery, but they also cut hair, applied leeches to let blood, and performed embalming.

    Dentists did not appear as a separate profession until after 1700. Pierre Fauchard was a French surgeon who became known as the Father of Scientific Dentistry. He wrote a book that was to become the standard reference: "Surgeon Dentist." He recognized the intimate relationship between oral conditions and general health.

    He advocated the use of lead to fill cavities. Apparently, he did not know about lead poisoning and we can only assume that he poisoned many of his patients. Fauchard died in 1768.

    Paul Revere, known for his "midnight ride" in 1775, was by trade a metalworker. While he is best known for creating bowls and other items of silver, he was well-known in Boston for constructing dentures from ivory and gold.

    George Washington had dentures made of metal and carved ivory or metal and carved cow teeth. Despite modern stories, George Washington never had any teeth made of wood.

    Until the mid-1800s, dentures continued to be individually constructed by skilled artisans. Gold, silver, and ivory were common components, causing them to be very expensive and available only to the very wealthy. The poor simply had their teeth extracted and then went without dentures. One can only imagine the difficulty they had with biting and eating once they became middle aged.

    Monsieur Geoffroy, president of the Royal Society of Medicine in Paris, wrote in the 1700s, "I declare the success (of my false teeth) is superior to my hopes, I further attest that the teeth of sea horse which I wore for only one year had so much disgusted me by the bad smell that they gave to my breath and the disagreeable smell they communicated to my food ... that I had taken them out to eat!"

    In 1844, Dr. Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, observed an exhibition of people reacting to inhalation of nitrous oxide (laughing gas). He was the first to use nitrous oxide inhalation during dental therapy and founded the concept of inhalation analgesia and anesthesia. The medical community later adopted inhalation anesthesia as a method of managing pain during surgery.

    In 1851 a process to harden the juices of certain tropical plants into vulcanized rubber was discovered. The ability to mold this new material against a model of the patient's mouth and attach artificial porcelain teeth allowed the manufacture of less expensive dentures. This improved technology for creating false teeth benefited millions who could now afford artificial teeth for the first time.

    Trying to imagine the lives of our ancestors is always difficult. Typically, we tend to romanticize their lives in a time when life was simpler and moved at a slower pace. Romantic or not, their lives probably were far more difficult than our own. The lack of understanding of simple sanitation rules and the inability to deal with medical issues made many lives uncomfortable, even painful. By the age of twenty, most people had rotten teeth with some teeth already extracted. By the age of fifty, many had lost most or even all of their teeth. One can only imagine how this affected their diets as they were unable to chew their food.

    Your ancestor who crossed the ocean, cleared the land for a new homestead, or perhaps fought in wars, may have done so while suffering from tooth pain that we can hardly imagine today.

    Perhaps the "good old days" were not as good as we sometimes imagine.

  • 12 Jun 2024 6:30 PM | Anonymous

    Fans of medieval manuscripts have even more to explore with new additions to e-codices, the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland. The database has put online 48 manuscripts, 30 of which date between the 9th and 15th centuries.

    Since 2005 e-codices has been digitizing manuscripts found in Switzerland. Closing in on 3000 manuscripts from nearly a hundred institutions, it is one of the largest online collections of its kind.

    You can read many examples of the 30 medieval manuscripts in an article in the medievalists.net web site at: https://www.medievalists.net/2024/06/30-medieval-manuscripts-digitized/.

  • 12 Jun 2024 9:01 AM | Anonymous

    Adults who were adopted in Quebec now have the right to obtain the names of their biological parents, regardless of whether the parents chose to keep their identities hidden or not.

    Lise Emond, the Montreal delegate for Mouvement Retrouvailles, asserts that this is a transformation that her organization has been diligently pursuing for a considerable period of time. "Throughout all these years, every piece of information was kept confidential," she clarified. "They would provide us with details such as your mother's age and the color of her eyes."

    In 2018, the mother was granted the authority to exercise a veto, expressing her desire to keep her name confidential. With the introduction of Bill 2, they are now disclosing the name.

    You can read more at: https://bit.ly/3xfAfp6.

  • 12 Jun 2024 8:50 AM | Anonymous

    Pam Cooper, a county historian said to be passionate about genealogy and who secured troves of historical data and tools for as many people as possible to discover their family histories and learn about the place they call home, died last week at age 74.

    Before it was a $5.5 million industry with family histories and DNA profiles available as gifts and monthly subscriptions, genealogy, or learning about one’s ancestry and the creation of family trees were acts of individual detective work through historic records and newspaper clippings housed in court offices and public libraries.

    Pam Cooper

    By the end of her three-decade career, Pamela “Pam” Cooper was credited with having transformed what was an Indian River County library bookshelf corner in 1986 into what at the time of her retirement in 2016 was an over 33,000-volume archive center and genealogy department, considered one of the “top three small genealogy departments in the country.”

    “She built that from basically nothing,” said Marlis Humphrey, president of the Florida State Genealogical Society.

    You can read a lot more in an article by Corey Arwood, published in the tcpalm newspaper’s web site at: https://bit.ly/3Ro2BV0.

  • 12 Jun 2024 8:33 AM | Anonymous

    Prior to the opening of a research center and artist residency dedicated to Pablo Picasso, a museum will be established in downtown Paris. The digital site provides users with unrestricted access to the museum's extensive assortment of artworks, articles, conferences, podcasts, and interviews.

    A significant number of items, including around 19,000 photographs, have not been made available to the general public.

    Over the next few years, about 200,000 words from Picasso's workshops will be digitized and made available online.

    Picasso was born in 1881 in Spain and resided primarily in France throughout his lifetime, ultimately passing away in 1973. In 1992, the family consigned his archives to the French state. The Paris museum will inaugurate a new exhibition titled "Picasso: Consuming Images".

    The exhibition juxtaposes numerous renowned pieces by Picasso with the influential historical artists who served as his inspiration, such as Poussin, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Goya, and Matisse. Additionally, it showcases various additional images and themes that Picasso incorporated into his work.

    According to curator Cecile Godefroy, Picasso was exposed to a plethora of novel pictures and artworks that he personally visited in museums in Paris throughout his formative years.

    However, she noted that his assimilation of pictures extended far beyond the realm of academia. She explained that his captivation with postcards, art magazines, photography, television images, cinema, comic strips, and advertising foreshadowed the overwhelming influx of images that we now see in the era of social media.

    You can view the assortment of artworks housed in the Picasso Museum in Paris through an online platform: here.

  • 12 Jun 2024 8:24 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release written by the Illinois State Museum:

    Museum historians will record oral histories with travelers, businesses, highway builders, and others

    SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois State Museum is seeking individuals to share their personal experiences with the original Route 66 in Illinois, including travelers, businesses that operated along the route, workers who built the highway, and others.

    Route 66 will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026. Historians from the Illinois State Museum will record and share oral histories of people who can recall their connections to the historic roadway, which operated from 1926 until decommissioning in 1985.

    "These interviews will help illustrate the significance of this important transportation achievement," said Erika Holst, the museum's curator of history.

    Specifically, museum historians would like to interview:

    • People who have memories of driving on Route 66 or traveling the highway with family or for business.
    • Those who were involved or whose families were involved in operating restaurants, hotels, or auto service businesses along the route.
    • Anyone who participated in the building, maintenance, or rerouting of the Mother Road.
    • First responders who worked along Route 66.
    • Those who have any other firsthand experiences with Route 66 to share.

    "This project also gives us an opportunity to preserve memories of Illinois citizens for posterity," said Amanda Bryden, registrar for the history collections of the Illinois State Museum and Illinois historic sites.

    Anyone who has experienced Route 66 in one or more of these ways and would like to be part of the project can contact Route 66 project coordinator Judy Wagenblast at jwagenblastp@gmail.com. The oral history project is funded in part by the National Park Service.

    Interview participants will be asked to sign a permission form granting legal rights to conduct and preserve the interview. Monetary compensation is not offered. Video recordings of the interviews and transcriptions will be made available to the public in an online database as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Historic Route 66 in 2026.



  • 11 Jun 2024 10:03 PM | Anonymous

    The data watchdogs of the UK and Canada will investigate genetic testing company 23andMe over a data breach in October 2023.

    Hackers gained access to personal information of 6.9 million people, which in some cases included family trees, birth years and geographic locations, by using customers' old passwords.

    One of the things the joint taskforce will investigate is whether adequate safeguards had been put in place to protect such data.

    "We intend to cooperate with these regulators’ reasonable requests," 23andMe said in a statement.

    The data stolen in October did not include DNA records.

    23andMe is a giant of the growing ancestor-tracing industry, offering genetic testing from DNA, with ancestry breakdown and personalised health insights.

    The company was not hacked itself - but rather criminals logged into about 14,000 individual accounts, or 0.1% of customers, by using email and password details previously exposed in other hacks.

    The criminals downloaded not just the data from those accounts but the private information of all other users they had links to across the family trees on the website.

    At the time, 23andMe said it informed affected customers and made them change their passwords and update account security.

    According to the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the data stored by 23andMe "can reveal information about an individual and their family members, including about their health, ethnicity, and biological relationships".

    It said this means it is "essential" for the public to trust the service.

    The joint investigation between the data watchdogs will look at the size of the hack and its potential harm to users as well as whether adequate safeguards were in place.

    It will also look into how 23andMe reported the breach, and if the firm followed the correct processes in the UK and Canada.

    "In the wrong hands, an individual’s genetic information could be misused for surveillance or discrimination," said Canada privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresene.

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