On Friday, February 17, the Newberry will join hundreds of other cultural institutions in the #DayOfFacts campaign on social media. Throughout the day, libraries, museums, and archives will share mission-related content using the hashtag #DayOfFacts.
The purpose of #DayOfFacts is to assure the public that cultural institutions across the globe remain trusted sources of knowledge; that they are committed to facilitating conversations that explore questions about society, culture, and history from a range of perspectives.
The Newberry will spend the day posting facts related to our mission and the subject strengths of our collection. We’ll also share stories about our users and visitors, who regularly engage with the library’s resources to produce new knowledge.
Pointedly drawing attention to facts makes a statement that transcends the facts themselves. While each institution will address the current political climate differently, we expect a common subtext will run underneath the day’s social media activity: Truth and verifiable information have taken on a whole new valence in an age of “alternative facts.”
Promoting these things is a matter not just of enriching civil society but of helping to hold it together.
Because the Newberry is committed to bringing users into contact with the raw material of history, taking part in #DayOfFacts is not a departure from our mission. But neither is it a mere continuation of it. For us, #DayOfFacts represents an urgent, collective signal of broad institutional support for truth and access to the materials we preserve in our collections.
At the same time, we hope to engage in a dialogue on what counts as a fact and how scholars work to establish a fact. There are archival silences in the Newberry’s collection; there are past events whose printed or written accounts either don’t survive or were never created in the first place. Many cultures have documented their heritage through oral storytelling and other non-writing traditions. “Verifying” these moments of the past may be difficult, but that doesn’t diminish their historical truth.
We can’t convey all this in a single day. But during #DayOfFacts we can stand with other sites of cultural memory to reassert our missions together.