Ryan White Letters at the Children’s Museum

Ryan White (1971-1990) was a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. He was diagnosed at the age of 13. In the early 1980s, not much was known about the disease, and Ryan was not allowed to continue attending school in his hometown because parents thought he would spread the disease to others. After a fierce legal battle that brought national attention to Ryan and his family, he was allowed to return to school. However, discrimination continued, and Ryan and his family decided to move further south to Cicero, Indiana. There, Hamilton Heights schools educated their students about AIDS and its effects, and they welcomed him with open arms.

Meanwhile, Ryan became a spokesperson for AIDS communities, speaking locally and internationally about his experiences. He was friends with many celebrities and was able to speak at the President’s Commission on the AIDS Epidemic. A TV movie, “The Ryan White Story,” was made about his life, and it aired in 1989, gaining him further popularity. Ryan’s major goal in life was to have a normal childhood and normal experiences in high school. He enjoyed school and was able to skateboard, drive, and hold a job at a surf shop.

However, Ryan was still sick, and his illness caused his death on April 8th, 1990. Thousands attended his funeral in Indianapolis, including first Lady Barbara Bush. He was buried in Cicero, in part because of the warm welcome the community had given him. Ryan’s legacy lives on through the National CARE Act, IU’s Dance Marathon for Riley (as well as similar marathons at other universities), an AIDS walk at Hamilton Heights commemorating Ryan with a scholarship, and more.

In 2001, Ryan’s mother donated the contents of his room, in addition to other materials, to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The museum opened their ground-breaking permanent exhibit The Power of Children in 2004. The exhibit portrays Ryan’s life, as well as the lives of Ruby Bridges and Anne Frank.

In 2016, The Children’s Museum received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to digitize letters sent to Ryan White in the 1980s in collaboration with IUPUI Library’s Program of Digital Scholarship. The archive of nearly 6,000 letters offers significant cultural information related to the AIDS epidemic, the perspective of children, and related issues of tolerance, education, and inspiration as well as a window to popular culture in the 1980s.

As part of this project, the Museum has created an online learning platform for youth in grades 3-12 to learn how to transcribe letters and research questions of interest about Ryan’s life and time period. In addition, the letters and transcriptions are available to scholars through the IUPUI Library online digital collections, allowing the letters to be used for research regarding the misunderstood disease and to share the legacy of Ryan White.

Visit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis website to learn more.

From Humanities: Texting in Ancient Mayan Heiroglyphs

The Madrid Codex, World History Archive

If King Tut were around today, could he send a text in Egyptian hieroglyphics? Yes, with the right font and keyboard. That’s because the writing system of the pharaohs has already been included in the Unicode Standard, meaning that a character like the Eye of Horus has a code point, 13080, that will render the same way on a tablet in Cairo and a smartphone in Beijing. Because Mayan hieroglyphs have yet to be encoded, the ancient Mayan emperor K’inich Janaab’ Pakal would have to stick to emoji—but that’s about to change.

Unicode is the international encoding standard that makes it possible for users to read, write, and search in a wide range of written languages on all manner of devices without technical miscommunication. Made up of a mix of academics, stakeholders, and interested volunteers, the Unicode Consortium has encoded 139 of the writing systems, technically known as scripts, ever to have existed. Given that alphabets like Cyrillic, Arabic, and Devanagari serve more than 60 languages each and that 500 languages use the Latin alphabet, Unicode makes electronic communication possible in almost a thousand languages. But there are more than a hundred writing systems to go.

In June 2017, the Unicode Consortium rolled out its tenth version in 26 years, which included four scripts as well as the Bitcoin sign and 56 new emoji. The scripts introduced this year include Nüshu, a writing system that was developed by women in the Hunan Province of nineteenth-century China as a workaround when they were denied formal education. Also newly available is Zanabazar Square, created by a Mongolian monk in the seventeenth century to write spiritual texts in Mongolian, Tibetan, and Sanskrit. Crucial as these steps toward cultural empowerment may be, it is the textable faces, socks, mermen, and the like that have brought this global standard into the limelight.

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MPH Data Day

Indiana’s Management Performance Hub (MPH) provides analytics solutions tailored to address complex management and policy questions enabling improved outcomes for Hoosiers. They empower partners to leverage data in innovative ways, facilitating data-driven decision making and data-informed policy making.

On March 6, MPH is hosting Data Day 2018 at the Indiana Statehouse. The MPH Data Day is an open event for people who want to share ideas and learn how Indiana is leading the nation with data and innovation. MPH partners who use Indiana data to positively impact the lives of Hoosiers will present their projects.

Presentations will run from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in the North Atrium of the Statehouse. Food, refreshments, and data success stories will be shared.

Open Data and Open Government: A Workshop

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The Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies at Indiana University Bloomington will hold a free daylong workshop March 17 in Indianapolis on access to information.

“Letting the Sunshine IN: An Open Data and Open Government Workshop” is open to anyone interested in open government and open data, including journalists, civic activists and neighborhood association members, said Anthony Fargo, director of the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies and a co-organizer of the event.

The workshop will be in the ballroom of University Tower, 911 W. North St., on the IUPUI campus.

“The strength of our open government laws is that they apply to everyone, not just journalists or public officials,” said Fargo, an associate professor in The Media School at IU Bloomington. “Anyone at any time may need to gain access to records held by a government agency or attend a meeting of a public body, so all of us have a stake in learning how effective our access laws are.”

The workshop will take place during Sunshine Week, an annual national observance that highlights the importance of open government. Co-sponsors include the IndyPro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Indiana Coalition for Open Government. Fargo and co-organizer Gerry Lanosga, an assistant professor in The Media School, are Indiana Coalition for Open Government board members.

Confirmed speakers at the conference include state, regional, and national journalists and open government advocates, who will participate in informational sessions about state and national access laws.

The workshop will close with a hands-on session on how to request data and metadata from public agencies. Experts will guide attendees in submitting actual requests to state agencies for information about their data sets. Participants should bring a laptop computer or other WiFi-capable device.

Lanosga said the goal is to launch an open online catalog of state data sets.

“We know that one of the key barriers to opening public data is lack of knowledge about the range of data that state agencies maintain,” he said. “This effort will go a long way to eliminating the unknowns about state data sets and make it easier for journalists and others in the public to request them.”

The workshop is made possible by a gift to the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies from IU journalism alumna Barbara Restle. It is free to pre-registered participants and includes breakfast, lunch, and parking. Visitor parking is available in the North Street and Vermont Street parking garages and the Hine Hall Tower Garage.

Although there is no charge to attend the workshop, attendance is limited, and advance registration is required. The registration deadline is 5 p.m. March 12.

Click here for the workshop schedule and registration.