As Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, I wanted to create a 40-question guide that could capture these special food-related memories. I crafted a list of questions to record as much information about a favorite family recipe as possible. As you gather together over a meal, take a moment to ask about the nuances of your favorite dishes.
In my book, Creating Family Archives: How to Preserve Your Papers and Photographs, I discuss the techniques that archivists use to protect historical materials from the ravages of time. I find that it's also helpful to discuss what can cause damage to your archival items too. Many hazards are obvious, but others may surprise non-professionals.
Archives and special collection development policies should state what the organization currently holds and the collecting areas, especially records of enduring value that represent the organizations' history. A policy will not only formalize the archives program, but it will allow you to focus on what you would like to acquire as well as to disregard materials that fall outside of the collection. Focusing on what you will not collect will also allow you to deaccession materials that should not be in the collection.
In 2004, I wrote a master's thesis in History about Aileen Wuornos, who was hailed to be the first female serial killer. I examined her representations as "white trash," a lesbian, and a prostitute. When I began my project, few people had heard of her. When I completed my thesis, Wuornos had been executed and Charlize Theron had won multiple awards for her depiction of Wuornos in the 2003 film Monster. While I don't share my personal opinions in my thesis, I'll note here that I believe the first murder (against a convicted rapist) was in self-defense; the others may have been committed because she had reached her breaking point with difficult johns. Despite being a killer, I found Wuornos to be a tragic, sympathetic figure. Of everything I've written, my thesis seems to draw the most comments, queries, and citations, so I've made it available here.
From the Preface:
Aileen "Lee" Carol Wuornos, forty-six, died of a lethal injection at Florida State
Prison on October 9, 2002. She was the fifty-second person executed since Florida's
reinstatement of the death penalty and the third female execution in the state's history.
Eight hundred and five prisoners have been put to death in the United States since
1976, more than half since 1997. In response to the increase in state killings, the
American public has grown less interested in death penalty cases. As a result, news
coverage of executions has become inconspicuous. Wuornos's execution, however,
offered the media the opportunity to recount her final hours for an eager audience. The
public was informed that she declined her last meal and spent the night reading the Bible,
listening to the radio, and meeting with documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield and
with her lifelong friend Dawn Botkins. Botkins told correspondents, "She was looking
forward to being home with God and getting off this Earth. She prayed that the guys she
killed are saved.... She was more than willing to go. It was what she wanted."
Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed her death warrant on October 2, 2002, after
psychiatrists found Wuornos competent for execution. Her death was timely--a month
before Bush's gubernatorial re-election bid--and controversial as well: four months
prior, the Supreme Court ruled that only juries should decide whether to sentence inmates
to death. In Florida, judges make the decision after a recommendation from the trial
jury. However, the Supreme Court's ruling did not prevent Wuornos's execution because
she confessed more than ten years before, volunteered for execution, and fired her appeal
Her cryptic final statement was, "I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the Rock and
I'll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mother ship
and all. I'll be back." After an injection of potassium chloride, Wuornos took sporadic
shallow breaths, and her skin slowly turned ashen. She was pronounced dead at 9:47 a.m.
Terri Griffith, a daughter of one of the victims, told reporters, "She got an easy
death. A little too easy.... I think she should have suffered a little bit more. Use the
electric chair. Let her legs kick and smoke come out of her ears."
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