Social Media and Museums

Instagram for Museums https://digitalpathways.weareculture24.org.uk/instagram-for-museums/. Posted by Digital Pathways.

Social Media for Museums: An Overview https://digitalpathways.weareculture24.org.uk/social-media-overview/. Posted by Digital Pathways. 

Should Museums Have a Personality https://medium.com/@RussellDornan/museumpersonality-87ab2112ee9e. By Russell Dornan.

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2020 https://via.hypothes.is/https://later.com/blog/ultimate-guide-to-using-instagram-hashtags/ By Benjamin Chacon. 

This week’s readings provided a guide for strategizing how to transfer a museum’s image onto social media platforms. These authors interpret ‘image’ as a museum’s mission, the culture of the institution. With a focus on Instagram, these articles collectively offer a multilayered introduction to the many advantages of branding your organization on this platform. These readings brought forth some of the most fundamental lessons in public history in extending the ethics of traditional methods of community outreach, networking within the profession, and producing original work. Furthermore, these readings also capture the importance of using the platform to strengthen interpersonal relationships between the museum and the people they serve.

Instagram for Museums and Social Media for Museums: An Overview, both published on Digital Pathways (unknown individual author) serve as a more general overview for museum employees in taking the first step of starting an Instagram page. I felt that the objective of these two articles were to persuade museum employees to take the first step of signing up on this platforms. By breaking down Instagram’s usability and promotional advantages, these articles highlight Instagram as a simple, accessible, and effective tool for growing a museum’s community. ‘Community’ refers to the professional and local community of which museums are situated in. One thing that I really like from Social Media for Museums: An Overview is the attention to audience and inclusivity. I think it’s important to highlight the history of exclusion of certain demographic groups, and to recognize the outreach that could be achieved through social media. 

Russell Dornan’s Should Museums Have a Personality and Benjamin Chacon’s The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2020 provide more minute details for maintaining your museum’s Instagram profile. Dornan, I feel, focuses more on the creativity aspect of producing content and writing captions across various social media platforms. I think this article serves as a lesson in consistency and appropriate language. Two very important factors in conducting public history that are applicable to digital platforms. Chacon’s article, on the other hand, is a more analytical approach to using Instagram to grow your following. Chacon offers probably  the most ‘advanced’ or in depth approach to growing your following, and keeping track of your museum’s social media activity. I really like how Chacon pulls back the curtain of average Instagram posts and captions to dissect how to take advantage of Instagram’s algorithm. Both of these authors do a very good job at providing an example of each of their methods. These authors provide readers with a new perspective to the simplest functions by sharing their approach for using the most common features across social media (Twitter threads, the explore page, hashtags, etc). I think this makes readers feel that they too can maintain an effective profile. 

I really like how all four authors stress that social media is not just about marketing. Each article highlights that maintaining an element of ‘fun’ in effort to ‘humanize’ museums, and maintain memorable social media presence. Each article recognizes that there are actual people behind the accounts that follow, or could potentially follow, the museum. While social media is great for establishing first impressions, this activity should continue this effort with real world interactions.

Keep the Pulse. The One Orlando Collection Review

Keep the Pulse. The One Orland Collection http://oneorlandocollection.com/ The Orange County Regional History Center, February 17, 2020

Keep the Pulse is a digital gallery honoring the victims and survivors of the June 12, 2016 mass murder at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The home page provides us with an image of a vigil with brief text describing the digital library and asking the site’s visitors to #Rememberthe49. Its imagery and sparse description is impactful, setting the tone for the rest of the website. If you scroll down, more information is provided, including the victims and their names, and access to the digital library, which commemorates the lives of the victims, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community coming together to mourn and rise up. The rest of the homepage provides information on the conservation process and how one can connect on social media, volunteer, or donate. Keep the Pulse is a heartfelt tribute to the victims and survivors of June 12, 2016 that inspires visitors to reflect and support the community of Orlando.

The Homepage to “Keep the Pulse.” sets a somber and reflective tone.

When arriving to the homepage of Keep the Pulse and seeing the photo of the vigil, visitors to the site will notice the care and reverence taken to make the digital gallery a place for reflection and respect. The name of the gallery is located on the top left of the homepage in white serif font with the colors of the LGBTQIA+ flag running vertically to its left side. The title is modestly sized, giving up most of the screen to the photo of the vigil outside Pulse nightclub. In a transparent text box is the headline: #Rememberthe49. Below it is a brief description of the digital gallery and the curators. Giving the photograph of the vigil space provides visitors with a moment of reflection, as well as setting the tone for the rest of the site. On the top right of the screen is the menu bar. Right below it is the option to view the sight in Spanish. The Spanish option is an important act of inclusivity. Most of the victims of June 12 were Latinx, making the incident one that affected both the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities and all the intersectionalities in between. Scrolling down, the site provides access to the digital library and images of the 49 victims.

The ‘About Page’ on Keep the Pulse provides a brief description about the incident at Pulse Nightclub and shares photos of the 49 victims of that tragic night.

Scrolling down the page, the digital library provides images of the 49 victims. The highlighted image provides the name of the victim. It is here that I have my only critique of the website. I wish there were a brief bio about the victim or anecdotes written by found or biological families. I would also prefer that each image provide links to other artifacts in the digital library that are connected to the specific victim. There are several links that provide access to the digital gallery, where one can view all the artifacts or filter by category or by victim. I like the options for filtering, but people who aren’t part of the queer Orlando community may not know the victims personally. The filtering option only provides names. I would suggest providing images as well. Providing a face to the name when looking through the artifacts would humanize the experience further. After looking through the gallery, there are links that provide further information on the project, or next steps visitors would want to take.

Visitors to the Keep the Pulse digital gallery have the option to take further actions after reflecting on the events of June 12, 2016. For further information on the website’s construction, the Orange County Regional History Center provides a summation of how the gallery came to be. There isn’t a page about their ethical approach, which I feel is missing, but the site does contact information in case visitors have further questions. The digital gallery also invites people to share their reflections on social media with #Rememberthe49. The site provides suggestions, events, general information about nonprofits, and frequently asked questions. The people behind the site have considered various site visitors and provide information that will help people contribute as much, or as little, as they can.

Keep the Pulse has remained active and it appears it will continue to be active as we enter the fourth anniversary of the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. This digital history is preserving the events of June 12th so that it won’t be soon forgotten. The site is easily navigable and provides a sense of reflection and reverence that the victims deserve. Visitors to the site can honor the victims by looking through the gallery, or taking further action, depending on their resources. The site stresses acts of love and kindness, and this digital gallery is emblematic of that notion.

The 9/11 Digital Archive: A Tribute to the 9/11 Disaster

The September 11 Digital Archive, https://911digitalarchive.org/, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, https://911digitalarchive.org/about , consulted on February 16, 2020

The Library of Congress inaugurated the 9/11 Digital Archive in 2003. The archive is a virtual smorgasbord of materials related to the events of September 11, 2001. It contains thousands of items: newspaper articles from before and after the event, pictures taken by families in front of the Twin Towers just days before the disaster, poems written in honor of first responders and fire fighters, personal compositions written by people who were effected by the events of 9/11, oral histories, news clips, and much more. In total there are over seventy thousand items in the archive. The archive is not purely scholarly, but rather acts as more of a digital home for the memories of those who experienced 9/11. As their about page states, ” The September 11 Digital Archive uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and the public responses to them. “

The design of the archive is simple, but it works. It is divided into different collections (for example the Anniversary Collections or the Audio Collection). Also, a visitor to the archive can browse the items without having to chose a particular collection; all text submissions, oral histories, videos clips, and photos will be mixed together, instead of being separated into different collections. Interestingly, the archive also has links to additional collections complied from outside sources, and a crowd sourced collection open for visitors to the digital archive to add their own memories of 9/11. Browsing through this collection, a visitor finds memories that are only a few sentences long, and these are usually not composed by those who participated in the events first hand, but instead by those who experienced the events from their T.V. screens or even half way across the world. This is significant, as it reminds the visitor of how far reaching 9/11 was for the American people. The archive also has the usual archive search option and an about page describing how the archive was compiled as well as a staff page thanking the team that put together and currently oversees the archive.

The audience for the 9/11 digital archive is extremely diverse. It is meant for all people who remember the events of 9/11. It is not merely limited to those who participated in the events first hand. This is evidenced by the sheer number of items in the archive, as well as the different kinds of submissions; many of which are written by or submitted by ordinary Americans who experienced 9/1 1. These submissions, as noted above, range from oral submissions to simple text submissions. However, all the submissions offer insight into how Americans viewed 9/11, both then and now.

The archive, as mentioned before, has a simple layout. However, it has a unique history in that it was the first digital archive to be accepted into the Library of Congress, thus helping to insure that it would be preserved for posterity. In 2011, the archive was moved to Omeka, where the website was relaunched on a more stable platform. This fathered the project team’s goal of preserving the archive and these memories forever.

The original team that put together the 9/11 Digital Archive is made up mostly of archive and meta data experts from George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media as well as historians, investigators, programmers, and web designers from City University of New York Graduate Center and John Jay College, City of New York University. Today, the project is overseen by a team from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. The 9/11 digital archive has also attracted many influential partners such as the Library of Congress and The Smithsonian Institute which have helped to preserve and grow the archive. Additionally, visitors to the archive can make their own contributions thus adding their voices and their stories to the it..

The 9/11 Digital Archive is a simple, well organized, and meaningful archive that successfully catalogs the emotional turmoil felt by a nation and its people during one of the most tragic days in its history.

A Screenshot taken by the author of the 9/11 Digital Archive’s Home Page, taken February 16, 2020 | Screen shot taken by author

Much Needed Perspective

In recognition of the 183rd anniversary of the Siege and Battle of the Alamo, residents of San Antonio are reminded of what makes this city so popular. Lifelong residents of this city, are introduced and introduced again to the defending heroes who fought for our city’s emblematic historic site. In celebration of that heroism, historians for the Alamo recently provided San Antonio residents with an opportunity to view the Texas Revolution through a new lens, one based upon new evidence and research. 

For this panel, Alamo historians brought together three individual perspectives on the familiar story of the Alamo. Dr. Miguel Soto, Ph.D., Professor of Mexican History at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, reimagines the story of the Alamo from the perception of the Mexican Army. Dr. Andrew Torget, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Texas, examines the story of the Alamo while emphasizing the connection between the Texas Revolution and the forthcoming Civil War, while Dr. Gregg Dimmick, a medical doctor who is an avid Alamo enthusiast provided a layman’s but still well-versed perspective.

Most intriguing among the things mentioned by these speakers were the ideas of looking past the traditional perspective of history, an idea growing among historians today. In particular, I found the theories of Dr. Torget most interesting. His connection of the Texas Revolution with the Civil War was highlighted by a discussion of por-slavery feeling among early settlers of the Texas Republic. Torget discusses this topic in-depth in this book, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850

In an age where differences in interpretation and opinion are not popular, voices which parallel Dr. Soto, Dr. Torget, and Dr. Gregg are much needed. It is my opinion that an absence or unwillingness to acknowledge the opinions of other historians of varied levels, disables us as enthusiasts from fully producing a complete history.  

A Review of the Shelf Life Community Story Project

Shelf Life Community Story Project, https://www.shelflifestories.com/. Created by Mayowa Aina, Jill Freidberg, Domonique Meeks, Inye Wokoma, Carina del Rosario, Henry Luke. Reviewed on March 4th, 2019 by Gabriel Cohen.

Introduction

The Shelf Life Community Story Project is a community driven website developed at the grassroots level to share the stories of Seattle’s Central District community. The Central District, commonly referred to as the ‘CD’ was undergoing a transformation as one of the core elements of the community, the local Red Apple grocery store was being shut down. At face value this may seem a common and natural development as neighborhoods change and grow throughout the years. However, the loss of the Red Apple had massive implications for the CD community. The store was a central location of the CD community – a place where people would work and shop, but also meet and socialize. The loss of this forum dealt a harsh blow to the community’s morale, and became a part of the ongoing process of gentrification that disrupts and displaces communities. Shelf Life is part of a community effort to ensure that the stories and experiences of this community don’t expire along with the Red Apple. The loss of the Red Apple, deemed so important to the character of the CD community means that the community itself is different.

Presentation

The website is easy to navigate, and is simple and aesthetically pleasing. The presence of a simple, clean interface and a layout emphasizing photography is undoubtedly inviting to visitors. There is minimal navigation necessary – the organization of the website requires only one to two different clicks or keystrokes to engage in its content, which is something that other public history projects should take note of and incorporate into their own sites. Aside from these photos there is simply a well designed cover photo and what appears to be their mission statement, “Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle’s Central District.” Their website reflects their mission through its simple and appealing design, but also provides the opportunity to learn more for those who are interested.

Audience

The website uses the voices of the community rather than their own to tell their story. Undoubtedly, this would be very appealing to the CD community and to other communities interested in finding a way to tell their story. Pages dedicated to sharing news of events and developments in the project also serve as an ongoing history of shelf life, and a resource for would-be community organizers that are looking for a place to begin on their own projects.

Content

The main content of Shelf Life are its oral histories accompanied by fantastic photography. The content is divided into specific pages that share the story of an individual from the community. These story pages require you to access each individually, but that is a great source of the site’s appeal. By hovering over a story page, visitors will see a caption that is just intriguing enough and just vague enough to encourage them to delve deeper and read that particular story. Once accessed, the story page consists of a photograph and a brief oral history of the individual’s relationship to the CD community. The voice of the interviewer is completely absent – all focus is on the individual being interviewed and their story. In this way, the organization of content of Shelf Life compliments the goal of the project designers: to give a voice to a community undergoing great change and in danger of irreversible and unwanted transformation.

Developers

The group that brought Shelf Life to us is a very diverse group. Their commonality is that they call the CD, Seattle or at Washington state home. The diversity of the Shelf Life development team is undoubtedly of great benefit. The team possesses individuals with different strengths, ranging from researching to storytelling to photography and even data analytics. More importantly, Shelf Life benefits from the input of people of vastly different life experiences. For a project that is all about finding an outlet for the voices of the CD community and incorporating historical context and visual storytelling methods in the process, this diversity of talent and experiences is critical.

Conclusion

Shelf Life isn’t overly ambitious. It seeks to do a very specific task and do it well: share the personal experiences of the CD community. The value of Shelf Life is in this simplicity. In the process of engaging in community driven storytelling, they accomplish their goals of granting longevity and relevance to communities undergoing change in the face of urban gentrification. Moreover, the experiences of the CD as it undergoes this transformation can serve as valuable historical information for communities that undergo similar experiences in the future. The type of personalized, visual storytelling Shelf Life shares is of great benefit to local communities, public and local historians and even as a memoir of communities fundamentally altered or lost to ubran development.

Mummies: From A Funeral to A Public Spectacle

As I begin to write this blog about mummies. I think to myself, “why are we so interested about the dead and its rituals? What makes mummies a thing of fear?” Since the beginning mummies have been seen depicted on the big screen as coming to life. We even dress up as mummies during Halloween and walk around with toilet paper wrap around our head. Mummies have intrigued people since their emergence into popular culture.

Mummification is a process to honor the dead and prepare them for their next life. Each high priest at the time had their own mummification process and had evolved from each generation of priest. This article that I read combined both of these ideas in a Hodge podge kind of way. A new discovery in Egypt’s El-Asasef necropolis that is located near Luxor has been unveiled. It has been unveiled in the most public of settings. The newly discovered tomb has been opened in front of media from all around the world for the first time. Our intrigue for the dead has made the unveiling such a media spectacle.

A group of mummies found inside a tomb from Luxor, Egypt.

The archaeologists have uncovered two mummies, one male and one female. They believe the female to be named Thuya and the male to be named Thaw-irkhet-if. The male is believed to be a priest who would embalm many pharaohs in his life time. This may be the reason why the female mummy is so well preserved. In this article one can see photos of archaeologists opening the tomb for the first time. The antiquate paintings and hieroglyphics on the roof. In these images one can also see the beautiful artifacts that these two mummies believed they would be taking with them to the afterlife. The tomb still has a great deal to tell researchers in the near future.

After hundreds of years of finding mummies, we as a nation are still so intrigued by them. So, intrigued that a new discovery needs to be publicized all around the world. It may be great to help flourish the economy of Egypt, yet the mummies should be treated with dignity and respect.

Reference: https://www.history.com/news/egypt-mummy-discovery-photos-luxor#&gid=ci0238ef9ff0002774&pid=ad-5

Public Art & History

In May of this year I was selected to be a member of the 2018 class of the Alexander Briseño Leadership Development Program (ABLDP), a program designed to mold participants into trans-formative leaders. All class members were sorted into action teams, the goal of which is to solve a problem pertinent to that field or industry. The action teams would deliberate and propose solutions at the last meeting of the program where industry leaders would be listening to the presentations. If the panelists like the pitch, the proposed idea has a chance of coming to fruition. My action team was Arts and Culture and I was paired with eight other classmates from companies and organizations all throughout San Antonio. We brainstormed as a team to think about what positive contribution we could make to the Arts and Culture community in San Antonio. What was missing? Or what existed but could be made better?

San Antonio has many great pieces of public art all throughout the city. There are murals, sculptures, galleries, and artists of all trades in almost every pocket of the city. The issue is that these art pieces are not widely known or visited. It may be an issue of accessibility or even relevance, but the fact is that we are a city lacking in art awareness and engagement. Our solutions to this problem involved a series of proposed projects. How to combat the issue of accessibility? Bring art to the people! We proposed a mobile art initiative beginning with an art installation on a river barge called ‘Studio Rio’ that traveled the San Antonio River. In the next phase of the project , art exhibits would be added to buses, then kayaks, then maybe even scooters. Art would be on the move and accessible to every resident in San Antonio because it would be in their backyards.  Through project revisions our proposal eventually changed and evolved into something bigger. Ultimately we decided to create an arts consortium to advocate for the arts in San Antonio. Although there are no shortage of art organizations in San Antonio, all are limited in their marketing capabilities by societal and economic constraints. The art river barge is an important component of this project and will serve as an activation point for learning about the arts in San Antonio through the use of a QR code. If this project comes to fruition we would be partnering with the San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture and Go Rio to promote accessible, mobile, and approachable public art access in San Antonio.

So, how does any of this relate to public history? During my time with ABLDP and working towards this goal of making public art more widely known and accessible, it dawned on me that we, as public historians are the consortium working to bring hidden histories to life, just as the advocacy group will be working towards the goal of making public art more accessible. Art and culture provide a sense of personal identity and breath vitality into communities. I guess this post serves as a thank you to all the artists and historians out there for doing what you do. Thank you for your passion, dedication,  and life enrichment. It is necessary and very much appreciated.

My Mission Statement

It is nearly the end of my first semester as a Public History graduate student. As I reflect on all the things I’ve learned and think about where I most want to make an impact, diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of my mind. Throughout my professional career I’ve gravitated to informal education which has given me the opportunity to explore different non-profit organizations in Austin and San Antonio. I am passionate about working with the under-served community, partly because of my own experiences growing up in the barrio. I come from a family of migrant workers, many of which did not receive a formal education. As an adult, I’ve worked at many places that my parents couldn’t afford to take me when I was a child such as the San Antonio Zoo and the Children’s Museum of San Antonio. Social and economic inequality tend to breed cultural inequality, leading to an unfortunate systematic imbalance.

According to the 2016 National Awareness, Attitude, and Usage Study many museums and other institutions are not sufficiently diverse.  Audience diversification is an area that museums need to grow and improve.

Data provided by the National Awareness, Attitude, and Usage Study

The National Art Education Association (NAEA) Museum Education Division and the Association of Art Museum Directors conducted a study on the impact of art museum programs on K-12 students. The study concluded that there are a variety of educational benefits that can be gleaned from visits to museums including questioning, developing multiple interpretations, and engaging the senses. I think this can be applied to a multitude of experiences in other educational institutions. For instance, one can watch a myriad of nature documentaries but nothing really compares to being face to face with a giraffe, playing tug of war with a lion, or being immersed in a tropical habitat with butterflies flying all around you. All of these are experiences that you can have at the San Antonio Zoo but at $18.99 per adult and $15.99 per child for general admission plus extra for interactive exhibits, these are experiences that not everyone will be able to afford.

If you would like to one day work in the museum field, on the job experience is essential. There are many unpaid internships that offer valuable experience in the museum industry. However, if you lack the financial means these opportunities are way too costly to take advantage of. A full time internship is essentially a job without the pay. If the internship is out of town, relocation and living expenses must also be taken into account. The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) is launching a program to diversify the museum landscape by offering paid internships for minority undergraduate students at ten art museums across the country. The project aims to “proactively address the demographic disparity in our industry by recognizing that access to funds is sometimes the biggest hurdle for many people”, according to Madeleine Grynsztejn, the president of AAMD. The program was developed after a 2015 study by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the American Alliance of Museums revealed that “minorities made up 28% of staff in US museums, but non-Hispanic white staff members held 84% of the more prestigious positions like curators, conservators and educators”. The program offers students a 12-week placement with a stipend of $6,300. The students will work alongside mentors and help with educational programs and exhibition projects.

Diversity is also taking different forms outside of traditional venues. People want their stories to be told and they are creating a medium specifically for that purpose. Zines are self-published original works, usually reproduced via photocopier for circulation. Launched from a copy machine in San Antonio, Texas, St. Sucia “tackles Latina feminism on a spectrum far and wide, the inclusive zine showcases a kaleidoscope of experiences, beyond borders and the binary, giving a voice to the underrepresented”. The inclusive zine is now included in university syllabuses for Gender Studies and Chicano Studies at universities across the nation. St. Sucia is made up of Isabelle Ann Castro and Natasha Hernandez, and includes submissions from all over. Natasha emphasizes the importance of giving a voice to Latinx mujeres: “It’s super important to just see yourself represented in the community, to see things are possible. All these things are important for us to feel validated, like we can dream to be all these things”.

This is my chosen profession and I want to work towards this goal of increasing diversity and inclusiveness in museums. Museums should be sites of empowerment, where audiences of all racial and ethnic backgrounds can see themselves reflected. Children’s author Xelena Gonzalez encapsulated this sentiment:

Every child should see their own reality reflected in stories, their own skin celebrated. For to love oneself is to love the world in a better way, and to understand one another expands the gift beyond our sphere“.

To accomplish this feat, there needs to be reform at all levels to provide sufficient representation in audience and staff at museums and other institutions. I strive to transform the museum from an ivory tower into an institution of everyday life for all.

Historia en Vivo | Living History: The Mission to Market Walking Tour

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To connect with or learn more about N. Geremy Landin, please click the photo above!

Recently, The Western History Association had a conference in San Antonio, Texas. It was of no surprise to me that the participants of the conference were very interested in the history of San Antonio and the past of a city reborn.

As part of a course at St. Mary’s University, Dr. Teresa Van Hoy gathered a group of her brightest minds as well as a grad student (that would be me). Dr. Van Hoy engaged these students in research at the level of a graduate

Photo of Casa Navarro courtesy of Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas

student’s course. These students learned about everything from the battle of The Alamo, the historic Market Square, Casa Navarro, as well as La Villita and The Arneson Theatre. History of these past lives for the places that we were treading upon for the sake of history is important. The major history of the west was highly influenced by the past of Texas and the past of the Spanish settlers of the time.

Pierre, the undergraduate history major, explains The Alamo and the history captured in the historic shrine. Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography

The Alamo is probably one of the most mentioned historical sights of the city in terms of tourism and engagement but the truth of the matter is that there are so many places that are filled with love, hate, energy, and resentment. These places are the true places that affect lifestyles and changes in culture and security and these were those places that the students were talking about.

La Villita, for instance, was a very familiar sight for a local leader, Anthony Delgado, this sight was was more than an artists’ grounds or NIOSA fiesta sight. This compound is holy ground for Anthony. “La Villita” was the land previously owned by his ancestors and Anthony ensured that his history and his family’s past have stayed alive. As the previous president of the organization, “Los Bexarenos,” Anthony knows what it means to be a direct descendant of a people of strength and resilience. Throughout Anthony’s talk, the somber feelings of disbelief and wartime angst began to fill the audience with feelings that some could say only a San Antonian could know.

Photo of Anthony Delgado (former leader of Los Bexarenos organization) presenting the La Villita Historic sights to conferences goers of the WHA conference.

The tour continued and different important topics were discussed and thrown in along the way. There was color-commentary from the beginning until the end and some of those fun-facts just grabbed the attention of the audience. The interesting part of this living history was that history was being created just in the activity itself. Each participant was some sort of scholar of history or fan of the city and learned something new that they had not yet heard before. Up until that day I had not heard of Los Bexarenos. The knowledge was highly appreciated and the “tour in the rain” seemed to be the best part of any scholar’s visits to The Alamo City.

By no surprise, the students, including myself, were introduced to many scholars and writers. These people have continued to keep interest in the students and the leaders of the tour. Recently while sorting through emails, I found correspondence about visits to museums, programs, and schools nationwide as a result of this great tour opportunity.

The Mission to Market Walking Tour was a great opportunity, to say the least. The connections built, the memories made, and the history learned was worth the trot through the pouring rain.

Students from the Texas history course at St. Mary’s University, taught by Dr. Van Hoy huddle together to talk about Henry B. Gonzalez, an influential San Antonio leader. Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography.

Public history is a program at St. Mary’s University, but it is more than that. Public history students are able to take part in these types of programs due to the efforts of the program and the leadership guiding it. The students that are growing due to this program are more than the average graduate and undergraduate student. This cohort is learning to work with and engage the community. In my time as a student (5 years now), I have not felt so empowered until now. I can see the work that is being done, as well as the influence it has on local perception.

The walking tour sure was an opportunity of a lifetime. The walking tour was more than just an opportunity, but a necessary component for the careers of many students and conference-goers. The memory is now an internal archive of a project that became part of a class and a group of students’ journey.

 

Fluxus: A Recipe for Art

Traditionally, the common person explores art through experimentation and schooling– one may take an art class in high school, or draw in the margins of their notebooks during a less than engaging lecture. What if, instead, you could read a recipe for art, and create art based on what was written? If you did, this would be called Fluxus.

The Fluxus movement took place from the last dregs of the 50’s to the late 70’s, primarily in New York City, and was facilitated by artists that believed fine art belonged to everyone. Museums and art dealers had made art a subject for the elites, only those with “good taste” and “finer sensibilities”. What resulted was an art movement for the masses, the viewer being encouraged to participate in the enactment of the art. A Fluxus artwork commonly had an “event score” which dictated what the individual or group should do in order to create a specific piece (though chance and spontaneity were also encouraged). There was no single method for creating Fluxus art, and its goal was to make art accessible to anyone, experienced and created by any common person.

Mieko Shiomi. Event for the Midday (In the Sunlight). 1963. Event Score.

The fun came to an end with the death of the Fluxus movement leader, George Maciunas. His “Fluxfuneral” was marked by several Fluxus performances, and a “Fluxfeast and Wake”, in which all food was purple, black, and white– very fitting. Fluxus was intended to be avant-garde, subversive, and even silly at times. It’s abrupt end begs the question– What would Fluxus look like in today’s world?

There is still art created using a type of event score– art created by Artificial Intelligence. One particular work, “Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy” made the news as a work of art created by AI and signed with the algorithm used to produce the final image, the technology for which has been around since 2015. This particular work was created by a machine imitating thousands of portraits over several centuries. The event score is the algorithm, but is this art? Is the algorithm the artist, or are the programmers the artists? And just as importantly, does the AI creation of art grow the chasm between fine art and the common person, or does it make art more accessible to everyone?

Personally, the traditional style of Fluxus speaks more to me– the idea of anyone at all picking up a recipe for art and making it. Whether it be pouring water into a Tuba as its being played, or arranging for a public viewing of a “No Smoking” sign (both of which have event scores), Fluxus encourages us to interact with the people around us, and do outlandishly silly things for the sake of the performance. That, I can appreciate. To learn more about Fluxus in a lovely video format, check out the Art Assignment’s video on the topic, and I challenge you to perform one Fluxus artwork from this Fluxus Performance Workbook. Let me know in the comments which artwork you chose!