Special Collections and Monkeys

enhanced-11580-1392492243-1You’ve got to give it to Buzzfeed—they do the lowest common denominator like nobody else. Even when they’re unpacking the quality stuff, you still have to pay attention to figure out which level of brow they’re aiming at. I know, I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing. It’s not—it’s what they do—but the sheer consistency is impressive.

For instance, this feature from February: 8 Book Historians, Curators, Specialists, and Librarians Who Are Killing It Online. It’s a wonderful sampler of some innovative ways digitized special collections are being featured on social media and blogs, as curiosities, parts of narrative wholes, and social commentary. But first you need to get past the silly headline, and a bunch of copy explaining that “book historians, librarians, and professors are just like us. They embrace social media to broadcast their ardor for archival treasures. It begins with a photo on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest, accompanied by a witty observation and context, perhaps followed by a longer post, podcast, or video”—oh, so that’s how it’s done—not to mention a characterization of the stereotypical librarian as “severe and pedantic.” I thought we had left that one behind a while ago, but maybe not.

Which is too bad, because the collections here are smart and funny, shining a light on a lot of things you can do with archival material besides catalog it. (The University of Cincinnati Libraries blog cut to the chase when they picked up the piece, identifying them as “some fun examples of digital humanities and outreach”—now that’s more like it.) We’re covered Ask the Past here already, but also make sure to subscribe to the Getty Museum’s Monkeys in the Margins Pinterest board, follow Richard Fitch’s Tudor Cook Twitter feed (which also features a lot of monkeys, and snails), and check out Colleen Theisen’s Miniature Mondays from the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Tumblr (not so many monkeys or snails, but miniature pop-up books—be still my heart), and don’t neglect the others, either.

Buzzfeed wants you to know: these may be special collections, but you’re special too. So shrug off that shroud of severe pedantry! And, you know… laugh at the monkeys.

(Image is from the Getty Museum’s Pinterest board, Monkeys in the Margins.)


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