Friday, August 18, 2017

LibrarianShipwreck and the final word on statues and history

The LibrarianShipwreck Twitter account (@libshipwreck) is one of the arms of the LibrarianShipwreck website, which describes itself as follows:
At its founding, LibrarianShipwreck was intended “as a resource, soapbox, forum, and gutter for those interested in the future of librarianship. Amongst our interests are libraries, archives, activism, radical librarianship, history, technology, cats, sweater vests, and other fascinating things. We hope to rile you up.”

Since then (as the site’s actual content makes obvious) the main topics of the site have become focused primarily on technology, critical theory, and impending doom. This may or may not be a result of the fact that one of the main authors on the site may or may not be pursuing a PhD in the history of technology.

You may or may not like what you find written here.
In the wake of the national events and conversation of the past week, the LibrarianShipwreck Twitter account posted a series of sarcastic, edgy — and, frankly, perfect — tweets in response to the claim, by some, including the President of the United States, that statues, no matter the subject, have a crucial educational value.

Here is the first response tweet from LibrarianShipwreck, followed by the entire "Twitter Essay" compiled and saved for posterity. (It's not going to be easy to find the good stuff when the Library of Congress is literally saving everything.)

As a historian the hardest part of my job is that I am constantly building statues, as statues are the only way people learn about history.

Little known fact, but most of what you learn when you pursue a PhD in history is actually just how to build and install statues.

Just the other day I was discussing dissertation ideas with my advisor and she said "pick a different topic, there isn't a statue of this."

The phrase "pre-history" derives from a German word meaning "periods of history that didn't leave statues behind so who knows what happened"

Last year I did a ton of archival research only to have a conference reject my paper for: "failure to cite a statue."

Harsh but fair!

How do we know that Don Quixote & Rocky are real historic figures, and not fictional characters?
Easy: because there are statues of them!

How do historians know that F. Kafka's father was a terrifying headless monster & that Franz rode on his shoulders?
Because of the statue!

There are some who ask "which came first: the history or the statue?"
But those people are philosophers and you should probably ignore them.

Some argue that you can learn about history from books & other non-statue materials. But who has ever heard of learning from a book? No one!

If a statue comes down it becomes impossible to know what happened in the past. No historian will dare make a claim without statue evidence.

Don't we all know the famed adage: "if you want to be remembered, do something important - but also build a statue of it"? We do!

Historians have been calling for a return to "statue based" education for years, but skills like "looking at statues" have been devalued.

In conclusion: taking down statues permanently alters the space-time continuum (unless you build a statue of the other statue coming down).

How do historians know that F. Kafka's father was a terrifying headless monster & that Franz rode on his shoulders?
Because of the statue!

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