Monday, November 19, 2007

American Indian History Month Display

My mother used to tell me that anything worth having is worth working for. I definitely put that principle to the test for the last week while Trina and I were working to complete the display for American Indian History Month. Preparation for this display began about a month ago and when it came to crunch time things just weren't falling into place like they were supposed to. If you have ever done the type of displays we do here I think that you might appreciate what I am saying. Every little step takes time and precision and with some aspects of the display (i.e. mounting photographs on to matte board, or scanning pictures) if you mess up the first time you have to go back and do the process all over again. Finally, this morning (after much screaming and gnashing of teeth) I finished my portion of the display. Woo hoo!

One of the things that I think made this display so difficult to complete (a sentiment that I think may carry through to the rest of our displays and reaches back to the first display) is a want to make sure we are accurately portraying our display subjects. Our displays are very people centered and that adds the extra challenge of being sensitive to cultures that are not our own, and that we may not be well acquainted with. Before we finalize decisions on our displays we like to enlist the help of others who know more. This month we had help from Greg and Debra our friends in Special Collections, IUPUI staff members, and members of the NASA (Native American Student Association) at IUPUI.

With their help I think that we have made this display interesting and informative. However, after spending hours and hours researching, gluing, taping, mounting and printing, when I finished hanging the final picture and stood back to look at the work i realized something: displays can only do so much. The most fulfilling and important part of this fellowship is the fact that we have the opportunity to have others share their experiences with us. The time we spend immersed in the diversity of the human experience is more enriching than any amount of research will ever be.

Until next the words of Tim Gunn "Carry on" and "Make it work!"

Friday, November 9, 2007

Taking the Good with the Bad

This morning I came to work a little later than usual and used the UL main entrance to come in. From a distance I saw a tiny yellow post-it note sticking to one of the display cases. I figured that it was an honest mistake and went over to take it down. That is when I noticed that something was written on the post-it: "STOP GAY CELEBRATION". I looked towards the other display case and winced when I saw another little yellow note. This one read: "WHEN DOES GAY (month) CELEBRATION END?.

Reading these notes I felt both upset and empowered. I felt upset because of two things.
1.) I am just generally fed up with intolerance (maybe being intolerant of intolerance is a bit hypocritical of me).
2.) I don't know how to address this problem. I am big on letter writing and speaking up for what I believe, but how do I address a single person and his/her lack of respect for the diverse cultures and experiences of others?

I guess the feeling of empowerment I have at this moment comes from the answer I gave myself for #2: I can't.

The notes that were posted on the display case were not signed. There was no contact information given for whomever wrote the notes and unless they somehow stumble upon this blog, I will never have a chance to sit down and talk with her/him and get a better understanding of his/her position. However, I can feel empowered by knowing that the things we do here can be both educational, thought provoking and hopefully somewhat empowering to people from under/misrepresented cultures.

There are many people who do not believe, as I do, in the equal rights and protections that the Constitution is supposed to provide each United States citizen. That is their right. However, through this fellowship, Trina and I, have and opportunity and obligation to make it known that it is our stance that all people deserve representation. And, though we have limited resources, we will do our best to represent the diversity of the IUPUI community.

In the future I will remain focused on not only displaying diversity on the surface, but also, through the opportunities and endeavors we will seek through this fellowship, immerse myself (as much as I can) in diverse cultures and ideas.

Still loving this job!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Current Buzz at the Fellowship

Kim Sorrell got my brain ticking.....and I decided to list all the web resources I had found and then used to help Ashley and I create the GLBT display cases. I have listed these resources on our Diversity Fellowship group page on Facebook, under the discussion topic "GLBT Resources." This is a great way to incorporate and encourage group members or net surfers to research this topic further - and I have given them a headstart with the resources I have found.

On another note, Ashley and I have an awesome idea and want to launch it as a project during our time here as Fellows. We discovered that we both were interested in the To Mexico With Love program, and we began to wonder if we could incorporate our Fellowship goals (diversity and librarianship) with this trip to Mexico. I mean, it is a program of cultural immersion, education, experience and service learning. So, we wondered, couldn't we possibly help a library in Cuernavaca as a service learning project?? Yes indeed, I believe we can! We just have to ask the right people and do the research!

So we have begun the initial part of our "project." We contacted the Director of Campus & Community Life at IUPUI (Michelle Verduzco) and we discovered that there will be a new service learning site for the trip next summer.......and guess what it is? They want to help build a library for an elementary school in a rural indigenous community!! Isn't this exciting? Ashley and I can put our new skills to the test and definitely help! Ashley and I are very excited to meet with Michelle this Friday, to learn about this new service learning site and to discuss what we can do in preparation for this trip. I believe that once we are filled in on the planning and preparation that has already been accomplished, we can help by finishing the following steps with them. Like, if they need books Ashley and I can start a book drive or see if we can have books donated by scholarly companies, etc. Also, they will need some type of organization process or cataloging system - Ash and I can be trained on this so that we can do that when we are in Mexico. If there are other sources we need to contact to make this happen, then we can help make the connections before next summer! I definitely want to be a part of this planning process! And I am sure there is much to do before next summer...

Also, Ash has this brilliant idea: Receive training on how to write grant/funding proposals and letters. We learned that the UL External Relations team does a lot of this, along with public relations work. But instead of "stepping on their toes" we can be trained, practice, and then write proposals to see if we can receive funding for this trip (it costs around $2,000 per person). This will be another great opportunity to utilize new skills that we will learn as Fellows.

When Ash and I do go (I am saying
"when" instead of "if" because I am going to stay positive about this), we want to record our experiences and activities so that when we return we can use it for our end-of-the-year display/project. (We are supposed to make a project at the end of the year to display what diversity means to us....or what we learned throughout the Fellowship). I think that the pictures, tokens, artifacts, journals, etc. that we bring back will be great resources and assets for our final project.

In the meantime, until Friday....Ash and I have been working on submitting scholarly work to Idea (an IUPUI digital archive) and gathering information for our National American Indian Heritage Month displays......