Current Events: What do Ben Affleck and Special Collections have in common?

While holding a hymnal in one hand, President Jimmy Carter holds his left hand in front of his face as he prays with the families of the American hostages in Tehran on November 15, 1979 during an afternoon interfaith service at Washington’s National Cathedral. (UPI Photo/Tim Murphy/Files)
Read about it: http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1979/Iranian-Hostage-Crisis/12311692377023-2/

One of my projects at the Special Collections has been labeling and recording data from  reel-to-reel tapes in the WAMU-FM archive. While this may not sound like the most fascinating job (unless you REALLY love Excel?), the collection itself is incredible. A few weeks ago, I found some reels labeled “Hostage Crisis Report” and “Hostage News Conference” dated 1979.

This is one of the moments when you feel the past speaking to you. As new tragedies emerge, and our nation considers how to handle the latest international events, we can expect many charged discussions about freedom of speech, media, and politics. For example, news sources are portraying the anti-Islamic film as a “US-Made” film; do we feel this is an accurate representation? How does our national right to free speech translate to an international platform like the World Wide Web? How have we handled such situations before, and how will that influence us moving forward? What events shaped the current crisis, and how do we understand them?

Photo from the movie "Argo"It is more important than ever to inform ourselves about not just current events, but historical events that impact our present. Before the death of our ambassador, I had planned to write about historical politics in modern day entertainment, connecting the Hostage Crisis tapes in the archives to Ben Affleck’s upcoming film Argo. But now it seems that this film and UMD Libraries have something more important in common than just interest in a time period. While the former is a means for inspiring the public to learn more about a certain event, the Special Collections exists to create the informed individual, someone who can interpret the data recorded from the past to shape our future in a knowledgeable way. In that sphere of creating an informed citizenry, entertainment and special collections sometimes successfully collide–as I believe this example demonstrates.

What is your opinion? How do you inform yourself about current events? What resources have you used to shape your knowledge of freedom of speech on the WWW and international politics? What other examples of political entertainment exist, and are they successful at informing the public, or inspiring the public to search for information?

Sarah Espinosa, Student Assistant at the Special Collections

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