Who owns the past at the California missions?

The question “who owns the past”? has been asked about antiquities being contested by museums and source nations (Kate Fitz Gibbons, James Cuno), about Indigenous narratives and anthropologists (IPinCH), and about the place of intellectual property in our cultural commons (Lewis Hyde).

At the California missions the question of “who owns the past?” is a multi-layered one. The majority of the historic sites are owned by the Catholic Church in some manner (Diocesan properties, a Catholic University, etc.), while two are owned and managed by the California State Parks. In cases such as Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission San Jose, the sites are managed in partnership with not-for-profits. These administrative structures are formative in the framing of the interpretation of the past at the missions. Another layer is the question of the tangled narrative of church and state. What is Catholic history? What is California history? And how do those two relate? The most pointed questions about who owns the past at the missions surround the place the Native American past in the narrative (Deana Dartt, Phoebe Kropp).

Along with these deeply ideological aspects of the question “who owns the past?” are the quite pragmatic issues of control of access to images in archival collections. Historic photographs and other visual culture related to the missions are in collections of museums, archives, historical societies, and the missions themselves. Much has been done to making these materials accessible to general audiences. Most of the larger institutions have digitized their collections. The Online Archive of California is a rich and remarkable resource that provides the public access to the collections of more than 200 repositories through a simple search interface. But anyone wanting to do more than view images, such as including them in  publications or digital scholarship, must navigate the labyrinth of permissions and fees that many institutions require. There is a move toward more open access to digital collections. The Huntington Library, for example, delegates seeking copyright permission to users.

Louis Choris, Vue de Presidio Sn. Francisco
Louis Choris, Vue de Presidio Sn. Francisco (San Francisco Presidio), 1822. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Yale’s Beinecke Library provides downloadable high resolution copies for free, noting that they are “committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and research in accordance with Yale University Policy. The Beinecke’s Website, catalog records, finding aids, and digital images enhance scholarship and promote use of both the digital and the original object.”

The vast majority of repositories, however, still charge fees. For some, these permission and reproduction fees are seen as vital revenue. Particularly troubling , however, is the practice of subcontracting out reproduction to for-profit such as the University of Southern California Digital Library which contracted the reproduction of some digital collections to Corbis (recently acquired by Getty Images).

The question of “who owns the past?” is a vital one at multiple levels, but for those trying to expand the voices telling that story, the sale of images to generate income or make a profit are barriers that limit the democratizing of knowledge and the broader engagement of public in curating their own history.

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Race and Cultural Landscapes

The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Nov. 10, 2017.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Nov. 10, 2017.

It was an honor to be the first interview for The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s new series on race and landscape. There are many narratives written into the fabric of the mission gardens, and some of the most significant revolve around the representation and erasures of the Native American past, particularly the history of the mission period and early California statehood. Despite decades of activism and some hopeful initiatives for more inclusive and critically reflective interpretation, the mission gardens remain paradoxical — historical yet timeless, beautiful yet violent, secular heritage sites yet sacred. Join the conversation about what the California Misison landscapes mean. https://tclf.org/race-and-cultural-landscapes-conversation-elizabeth-kryder-reid

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Adding new base layers to Neatline

Wayne Graham, Technical Director for the Council on Library and Information Resources and formerly the Head of Research and Development at the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab (where he was an architect of Neatline), provides a file of additional basemaps at github. These maps can provide alternatives to Google Maps and several cool options for base layers for Neatline maps from major sources like esri.

To add these maps to your Neatline, do the following:

  1. Go to https://github.com/waynegraham/neatline_basemaps and “Clone or download” the files.
  2. Open your finder and navigate to the “neatline-basemaps-master” file that you just downloaded.
  3. From the “neatline-basemaps-master” file, you want to upload the “providers.js” file into your Omeka install into the following folder: [your omeka install name]/plugins/Neatline.
  4. In your downloads, in the “neatline-basemaps-master” file, find the “layers” folder.
  5. Upload all of the files from this “layers” folder into the following folder in your Omeka install: [your omeka install name]/plugins/Neatline/layers
  6. The new base layers should now appear as options in the Exhibit Settings for Neatline exhibits in your Omeka.

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Enabling Google Maps in Neatline

Enabling Google Maps in Neatline

My students and I were having difficulty loading Google Maps in Neatline, so I came up with two possible solutions. The first is to upload alternative map layers. The second is to obtain a Google API key and plug it into the Neatline code. After some googling, I discovered several threads that indicated that (at least in the past) there had been a problem with Neatline’s code for OpenLayers, which doesn’t play well with Google Maps as is, but could if a Google API key were added.

If you want to add an API key, here is what you do:

  1. Get a Google Maps Javascript API key. These are free as long as you have less than 25,000 map loads per day. You can register for an API code here: https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/javascript/get-api-key
  2. Make sure you have backed up your site recently. If you have not, it might be a good idea to do it now.
  3. Go to your Omeka install and navigate to this file: [Your Omeka Name]/plugins/Neatline/helpers/Assets.php
  4. Open the file in the editor.
  5. Find this line: nl_appendScript(‘//maps.google.com/maps/api/js?v=3.20&sensor=false’);
  6. Rewrite the code and paste in your Google API key so that the line looks like this: nl_appendScript(‘//maps.google.com/maps/api/js?key=[YOUR KEY GOES HERE]’);
  7. Save the file.




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Day Eight —

A day about sound.  Although I use sound-based sources all the time as someone who works in oral history, I don’t always think about them as sound, but as sources that, like other sources, can be crafted or manipulated to convey different meanings.  Thus, I mostly disagreed with O’Malley’s assertion that sound sources are somehow more easily manipulated than other, particularly text-based sources.  Still, the session did make me think a lot about how manipulating sound (removing background noise, reducing highs & lows in interviews–all of which I’ve done …) can indeed change the way people perceive oral histories when they listen to them.  So, I will definitely be more mindful when I start manipulating the sound of interviews in the future.

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Billy Clark

Billy Clark was an African American Boxer and Entrepreneur who lived and worked in Guatemala for several years in the early 1890s. In 1895 he migrated to Mexico where this print by Jose Guadalupe Posada was made. Scholars believe this is Clark’s likeness and was related to a November 25, 1895 fight versus Jimmy Carroll in Pachuca. The image below was created using Thinglink. Scroll over the ‘buttons’ for more information about Clark in Guatemala.

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