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Historical Libraries Closing Nationwide

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My local historical society (Oregon Historical Society) has fallen on hard times lately, and recently closed its research library, temporarily permanently laying off most of its librarians (update: 15 were permanently laid off, 4 were later hired back). Oregon isn't alone in this -- as our local NPR station pointed out, historical societies in New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia have been cutting hours and staff, if not closing entirely. The Oregon Historical Society has managed to keep its public museum open, but not the research library. The society's collection includes "2.5 million photographs as well as maps, newspapers, audio recordings and other historical items," many of which are now inaccessible due to the library closure.

Our regional issues talk show, Think Out Loud, covered the issue yesterday and framed the issue as library users (researchers, academics, genealogists) versus museum-goers (4th grade classrooms, tourists). In this case, the 4th graders won: the historical society's museum is open, but the research library is closed. Responding to the cutbacks, a bunch of library supporters staged a protest on the last day at work for the librarians. A few of the librarians were rehired, but the whole thing is far from over. (There's also a save the library petition with nearly 700 signatures and a Facebook group with nearly 900 members.)

Full disclosure: I work at a company that does work for museums, and I have many friends who have used the OHS library for research (both for work and personal projects). I want that library open, partly because I can use it for work! But this issue had me wondering about what we're prepared to sacrifice in times of economic crisis. It's hard to argue for art when people are hungry, but what about history and research? What kinds of scholarship are important enough to continue even in tough times? If asked to prioritize a museum -- a public space for direct learning -- versus a library -- a space for researchers, who might then create museums, books, films, etc. of their own by using the library -- how do we choose?

Have you seen cutbacks in the arts, humanities, or sciences in your community? What would you take to the streets for? Share your experiences in the comments. Also, if you're a fellow Oregonian with a local perspective on this issue, speak up!

(Image from the Library of Congress on Flickr, "Annual flower fete, Portland, Oregon," circa 1910-1915. Used under Creative Commons license.)

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Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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