Find a Grave – It’s About Time

I know this post is from back in March, but this an effort which everyone should support. Find A Grave should change their name!

The Hipster Historian

Find A Grave.

What a site. It landed on the genealogy scene in 1995 when Salt Lake City resident Jim Timpton built a genealogical database with his hobby of visiting celebrity gravestones. Since then, it has grown into a global database for many of the millions of dead from around the world.

Anna N Daniloff — Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Members and non-members alike can sift through the multitudes of data and find information on their ancestors and view their finals resting places. Due to the interest in genealogy, per the increase in awareness of family history through companies like Ancestry and 23 & Me, more and more people are getting interested in their past and finding their ancestors.

With this increase in popularity, there are some parts of the genealogy world that haven’t moved into the future.Pride Flag

I’ve always loved Find a Grave, I’ve used it since…

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REPOST — More than a warehouse: why the closure of Seattle’s National Archives facility matters

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. The following is from Burkely Hermann, recent graduate of the University of Maryland – College Park’s graduate program in Library and Information Science, with a concentration in Archives and Digital Curation.

On January 26, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the sale of the 157,000 square foot National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Seattle facility, which holds permanent federal records for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. This decision raises the question: which is more important, access to historic records or selling a public facility in a high-value real estate market? There has been fierce opposition from historical societies in Alaska and Seattle, historical researchers, genealogical groups, indigenous leaders, university professors, archivists, and historians. They were joined by a bipartisan group of eight Alaskan state legislators and 16 Congress members. The latter, comprising Washingtonian, Alaskan, Idahoan, and Montanan politicians, was also bipartisan. Washington Governor Jay Inslee also opposed the decision, as did Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is considering suing the federal government over the closure. He reportedly submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the five-person Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB), OMB, NARA, and the General Services Administration (GSA) regarding the closure. The Washington State Archives even created a page about the topic.

History Associates Incorporated, which cautioned their clients to plan ahead for the facility’s closure, noted the process would take 18 months. They also included the estimate from Susan Karren, NARA’s Seattle director that only “.001% of the facility’s 56,000 cubic feet of records are digitized and available online,” and stated that permanent records may be inaccessible when transferred between facilities. According to NARA, no actions are being taken imminently which affect users of the facility, and NARA has requested to stay in the facility for three years following the sale. With such hullabaloo on this topic, one question is relevant: why does this closure matter to us, as fellow archivists?

NARA’s Seattle facility in Sand Point is more than a “giant U.S. government warehouse” or “excess property” as described in bureaucratic language. This facility holds records on indigenous people in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It also holds: Chinese Exclusion Act case files which have been diligently indexed by local volunteers for the past 28 years; Forest Service teletypes about the Mount St. Helens explosion in 1980; federal case records from the early 1900s; and other important local documents. Such records make the NARA facility part of the “historical ecosystem” in the Northwestern United States, providing the public “direct access to government documents, from genealogical records to court files.” These aspects make the facility a “high value” federal property (or “asset”) which has a “deferred maintenance backlog of $2.5 million.” Additionally, no public PBRB meeting transcripts showed discussion of the closure. In one meeting, “warehouse[s]” used by NARA for “long-term storage” was touched on and at another there was a passing mention of Seattle.

Some may point to existing digitization efforts. Sure, some of Alaska’s records have been digitized, but record series are often digitized by FamilySearch and the project is only five years old. For instance, some records relating to Alaska have been digitized like crew lists, immigrant lists, draft cards, and naturalization records, as is the case with Washington and Idaho. But these are primarily 20th century records, with very few 19th century records. The letter from congress members criticizing the decision also called this out, stating that “NARA’s partnership with FamilySearch to digitize records has…not resulted in actual access to records that have been prioritized by stakeholders,” a unique and rare criticism of the NARA-FamilySearch partnership. The limitations of existing digitization undermines NARA’s reasoning that some of their “popular records” are already digitized or available online, asserting that public access to their archival records will stay in place.

Access to “archived knowledge” is vital and inherent to archival ethics. Moving records away from those who can use it, dividing it between two existing facilities in Riverside, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, is an act of cruel inaccessibility. Furthermore, splitting the records between two locations, regardless of the reason, leads to a strain on those facilities, which need additional storage space. NARA itself admits that the closure will negatively affect those who use the facility. They pledge to engage with researchers in a “smooth” transition when the facility is shuttered, even though this change will undoubtedly disadvantage various stakeholders, whether state archivists, government employees, scientists, students, or others. In a recent invitation-only meeting, they showed their commitment to the closure of the facility, pledging to work with indigenous groups.

The PBRB’s executive director Adam Bodner claimed that the closure of the facility was a decision by NARA staff. If true, this would put them at odds with users and stakeholders who want the facility to remain open. On pages A-68 to A-71 of their report, the PBRB concluded that NARA wanted to move to a more modern facility and that the 10 acres the facility sat on would be great for residential housing, apparently worth tens of millions of dollars as one article claimed. The PBRB also stated that NARA could only fulfill its storage needs at another facility because the current facility does not meet NARA’s “long-term storage needs.” In the process, some records will be moved to a temporary facility. Reportedly, NARA justified the closure by the fact that the facility is the third-least visited NARA site in the country and has “high operating costs.” Such arguments don’t consider the fact that the 73-year-old building could be retrofitted for the agency’s needs or records could be moved closer rather than split between two locations. This closure also stands against NARA’s stated goal that public access is part of its core mission and violates the Society of American Archivists’ Code of Ethics, stating that archivists “promote and provide the widest accessibility of materials.”

In coming days, NARA will be submitting a Report of Excess to the GSA, headed by Administrator Emily Murphy, which will collaborate with the PBRB and OMB to help “offload” properties like this facility. As such, to speak out against the closure, you could email Emily Murphy at emily.murphy@gsa.gov, the GSA’s Deputy Administrator at Allison Brigati at allison.brigati@gsa.gov, call 1-844-GSA-4111 or contact the GSA’s Office of Real Property Utilization and Disposal at 202-501-0084 and at realestate.buildingdisposal@gsa.gov. Alternatively, you could contact the OMB’s Russell Vought at Russell.t.vought@omb.eop.gov or Archivist David Ferriero at David.Ferriero@nara.gov.


Note: This post is reprinted from Issues & Advocacy, as part of their “Archivists on the Issues” series. I wrote this article back on February 18 and am glad I did so. The situation has not changed as a result of COVID-19. Articles by the Seattle Times, Seattle Times again, and MyNorthwest, show that the closure seems to still be on the agenda, although discussions with the Congressional delegations and others with NARA continue in hopes of reaching an agreement.

Entrapta, She-Ra, and Autistic Representation

This is reprinted from Neurotastic and was a shorter version of my post a couple days before on the same topic.

When people think of autism, Raymond Babbit in Rain Man, Christian Wolff in The Accountant, or Sheldon in Big Bang Theory, may come to mind. These negative stereotypes persist in popular culture despite increased positive representation for autistic characters. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (SPOP) is different.

While the series rightfully received accolades for its LGBTQ+ representation, there is another aspect of the show: positive autistic representation. Entrapta (voiced by Christine Woods), a curious and sensitive hacker, scientist, and “geeky princess,” is a well-written autistic character. SPOP series creator Noelle Stevenson stated that autistic storyboarder Sam Szymanski played a huge role in shaping Entrapta.

Behind the Mask

Whether she is seen as “morally grey,” “adorkable,” or “chaotic neutral,” she is a smart character who makes her own decisions and tries to fix problems through a mechanical means. Unlike the show’s other protagonists, Adora, Glimmer, Catra, and Bow, around age 17 or 18, she is older, in her late 20s or early 30s. She struggles to connect with others, due to her occasional low self-worth, and sometimes hides behind her mask, affixed to her face. Her voice changes when wearing the mask, as she tries to cover up her autistic traits and appear neurotypical.

As Noelle described Entrapta, she struggles to communicate her feelings or understand what other characters are saying, seeing “humanity in everything,” whether clones, robots, or otherwise. In the show’s most recent, and last season, she begins to balance her love for machines and a desire to connect with others, while helping the protagonists save the world of Etheria, where the series takes place, from the villainous Horde Prime. One of the characters she humanizes is Hordak, former leader of the evil Horde. Their interactions, in the show as a whole, led some fans (and members of the show’s crew) to ship them as “Entrapdak.” This was confirmed as canon in a Black Lives Matter charitable Twitch stream hosted by Noelle and her wife, Molly Ostertag.

Noelle also stated that Entrapta, as a loving person, has a lot of robot boyfriends and girlfriends. The latter is reflected in the show’s most recent season when she flirted with technology, specifically the Horde Robot in the episode “Launch,“and the spaceship, which she named “Darla,” in the episode “Stranded.” Whether these are examples of robosexuality, referring to love or sexuality between a robot and a humanoid person, or not, there is not question it is part of her propensity to see humanity in everything.

System Failure

Entrapta freely makes her own decisions as an “underappreciated technowizard,” some of which are reprehensible. For instance, she helped the Horde destroy much of Etheria. Although she stayed loyal to her friend, Hordak, it is incorrect to call her the “worst kind of villain” or a person who cares only about pursuing knowledge despite the consequences. Whether she is fully aware of the planetary damage she has caused, she is undoubtedly morally ambiguous, with a “cheerfully wobbly” moral compass, different than the show’s other characters.

She thinks that her calculations and data will give her the “answers,” no matter the cost. As such, it is incorrect to say she lacks the ability to self-assess her actions or embodies stereotypes. After the Princesses unintentionally stranded her in the Fright Zone, she joined the show’s villains, the Horde, leading some to declare that she is a harmful form of representation, while others claimed she believed the lies of Catra, Adora’s romantic interest. In any case, Entrapta willingly stays with the Horde and the Princesses respect this decision while disagreeing with it.

There is a deeper reason she joined the Horde. When Glimmer and Adora meet her in her debut episode, “System Failure,” fighting the murder robots she accidentally created, Glimmer sees her as a way to impress her mother and win the war against the series villains. In contrast, Glimmer’s friend, Bow, sympathizes with Entrapta, calling her a “brilliant inventor,” praise she happily accepts. Despite Glimmer’s negative vibe, she stays friendly, and offers to cut off her leg to save them from the robots.

A few episodes later, in “Princess Prom,” Entrapta geeks out, describing the prom as a “social experiment” which is the best place to observe social behavior. She pries into Glimmer’s uneasiness and becomes friendly with Catra. Later, after Adora pulls her aside, it is implied that Entrapta’s heart isn’t with the Rebellion. The forcefulness of Glimmer, Adora, Mermista, and Perfuma toward her throughout season one, may be a subconscious turn-off for Entrapta, with the Princesses not completely understanding her. While the Princesses mourn the “death” of Entrapta, unknowingly leaving her behind, they had used her for their own purposes (defeating the Horde). Catra does the same thing, using her to get back at Adora.

Finding Friends in Exile

Furthermore, Entrapta may have been unaware she defected to the Horde or cares what side she is on. In the episode “Ties That Bind,” she tentatively says she is with the Horde, telling Glimmer that she is on the side of science, but is living in the Fright Zone. Near the end of season three, considering what Adora told her, she tries to warn Hordak to not open a portal which threatens to destroy Etheria. Catra panics, electrocutes Entrapta, and tries to distance herself from her mistakes by sending Entrapta into exile onto the remote Beast Island. In the bizarre world created by the portal, Adora and her friends meet Entrapta who helps them figure out what is happening and thanks Adora for being a friend. In the following season, she is thankful that Bow, Adora, and their talking horse, save her from Beast Island, a place full of “technological monstrosities.” Although she left Beast Island for scientific discovery and data, she appreciates Bow as a friend.

Due to Entrapta’s track record with the Horde, the princesses are distrustful. This is shown in the season five episode, “Launch.” As Megan Crouse describes it in her article, Entrapta begins to clash with the other princesses, putting them in danger. When Mermista accuses her of not caring about them and being untrustworthy, she responds by not realizing the Princesses were angry with her in the first place. She retreats to apologizing, stating: “I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech. I thought maybe if I could use tech to help you, you’d like me. But I messed that up, too.” After this, Entrapta tries to get away, but Mermista pulls her back by her prehensile hair, like Horde Prime in a later episode, relenting only when convinced that Entrapta cares about Glimmer.

In the rest of the season, she works to earn the trust of the other Princesses, gaining more friends as she recognizes the reasons behind her actions and explores her feelings for others. While you could say that Entrapta does not see the full consequences of her harmful actions, she overcomes possible social isolation and helps the series protagonists save their friends (first Glimmer, then Catra) from Horde Prime’s flagship, the Velvet Glove. She also removes the mind-control chip from Catra’s neck and forgives Catra after she apologizes for her hurtful actions. In the final episode of the season, after trying to disable mind-control chips of those across Etheria, when held against her will on the Velvet Glove, she apologizes to everyone. Later, after Catra and Adora save the world with their love, she reunites with Hordak.

Entrapta Represents

In the end, Entrapta is a positive form of representation for autistic people and subverts the Entrapta from the original She-Ra series, a simple villain without a conscience.