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I Used ProQuest Products to Enrich My Summer Vacation — in Amsterdam!

One of the things I love about working for ProQuest is how much I learn and how I have been able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned into my personal life, including, most recently, my summer vacation.

Last summer, I blogged about the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), and while researching RAGBRAI, I learned how local libraries helped make lives easier for the cyclists.

Hearing the enthusiastic responses from the librarians in Iowa about the RAGBRAI summer cycling event inspired me to plan and partake in my own bicycle adventure.

From Inspiration to Reality

This summer, I took my son to Amsterdam, a city famous for cycling. There, we spent eight days biking around the city and getting in touch with our Dutch roots — our ancestors immigrated from Holland to New York, some 300 years ago, when it was called New Amsterdam. (And, yes, I even learned a bit about New Amsterdam via a ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic page called Dutch Colonies in America!)

House Boat Living

House Boat Interior

View from my bedroom window on our house boat on the Amstel River in Amsterdam. The boat had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining area and stocked kitchen. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Before our trip, I remembered something else I had learned at work. From ProQuest’s CultureGrams, I had read about how some Dutch people live in house boats (CultureGrams has a neat slideshow and video on house boats in the Netherlands.) So, for our grand adventure, my son and I decided to do as the Dutch do and stayed in our very own house boat. (And, it even came with bikes!)

I was told by an Amsterdammer (or Mokummer, the nickname for a person born in Amsterdam) that the weather in their city can be quite unpredictable and that you must always have these four things with you: an umbrella, a rain jacket, a sweatshirt (or sweater) and comfortable shoes that can handle getting wet. But I already knew all that from my ProQuest research.

That said, as prepared as we were, we still managed to get drenched one day while boating in Giethoorn, a charming village of thatched-roof homes near Amsterdam. (Giethoorn is mostly car-free as the locals get around by boat instead.)

We had gotten caught in a downpour like the ones we’ve experienced in our hometown in South Florida, only the weather in Holland was much colder. But, no worries, because some restaurants will give you nice, fluffy blankets to warm up in while you eat!

Cycling in Amsterdam

Every time we parked our bikes in the city, we took a picture of our bikes and the location so we wouldn’t forget where to find them. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

As for the cycling in Amsterdam, if you’ve never done it before, you are in for a shock at the sheer numbers of bicycles (more than 800,000)! Nearly everyone rides bikes there, no matter the weather or the season. I asked a local if she even biked in the winter and she said yes, through snow or rain.

With all those cyclists, it is important to be careful and always look in all directions and especially keep an eye out for mopeds, which also share the roads and paths (fietspaden) designated for bikes.

Babboe Cargo Bike

Cargo bikes are common in the Netherlands. Some have seat belts in them for hauling children. (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Our biggest regret about Amsterdam is that our trip ended too quickly, but we will be sure to return. In the meantime, we really miss the food there, so we are making plans to try some of the Dutch recipes on CultureGrams.

RAGBRAI 2017

Oh, and coincidentally, this year’s RAGBRAI in Iowa opens on July 22nd in Orange City, Iowa, with the theme Dutch til’ Dawn, reflecting the city’s Dutch heritage.

More Pictures


Clockwise from left: Supermarket purchase, Unusual house boat on the Amstel River, Marsh land outside Giethoorn (Credit: Amy Shaw)

Epic Video

After our trip, I found this cool music video created by a Silicon Valley family that is moving to Amsterdam. Check it out here: http://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/family-leaves-SF-epic-video-11275244.php

What Inspires You?

Learning from librarians about a cycling adventure and reading about different cultures at work inspired me to take a trip of a lifetime. What have you learned in the classroom or at work that has enriched your life in some way? Tweet us at #ProQuest.

Nelson Mandela’s Birthday: eLibrary Resources for the Classroom

On this day 99 years ago (July 18, 1918), Rolihlahla Mandela was born to the Thembu royal family in the South African village of Mvezo. The world would come to know him as Nelson Mandela, opponent of racialist policies, 27-year prisoner and eventually the first black president of South Africa.

While he is undoubtedly a hero for his pursuit of equality for all South Africans, history is complicated, and Mandela’s life and career provide the opportunity to examine justice, freedom and the moral considerations of revolution. Early protests against apartheid were largely unsuccessful and resulted in retaliation by the white-minority government. Mandela and others in the African National Congress came to the conclusion that armed resistance was necessary. This brings up some questions. “What is the difference between a struggle against an unjust government and a terrorist movement (which is what some called the ANC’s efforts)?” “Can the same question be asked in relation to the American Revolution?” “How did the West view Mandela and the situation in South Africa at the time?”

Mandela and President F. W. de Klerk negotiated a new constitution that would ensure rights for all and agreed on elections that would enfranchise the country’s majority black population–efforts that won them a Nobel Peace Prize. What cements Mandela’s legacy is his insistence on uniting his country in a climate of fairness. After the apartheid system was defeated and Mandela became president, he rejected a course of retribution against whites and made efforts to bring all of his countrymen together, much to the dissatisfaction of more militant voices. He helped form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated crimes committed by both the government and the African National Congress.

Nelson Mandela Research Topic

Nelson Mandela Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

ProQuest’s eLibrary can supplement your classes’ discussions of Mandela, African history, human rights and matters of justice. Besides all of the great articles, websites and other resources available in eLibrary that can be discovered while searching, also look for relevant Research Topics that can provide background, context and points of view. Here is a sampling:

Nelson Mandela

Apartheid in South Africa

F. W. de Klerk

South Africa

Human Rights

Imperialism

CultureGrams: The Importance of Maps

World Map via CultureGrams

Have you ever thought about why maps are so important? Maps can help orient us. They can tell us where we are and where we want to go. Maps can help us find things. They offer a visual way to comprehend the world we live in and even worlds beyond ours. They provide perspective from high up or at a micro level.  They can be valuable in providing context, making comparisons, identifying connections or patterns, and even in predicting what lies ahead. Whether in the classroom or outside it, maps are valuable tools for teaching and learning. No wonder that developing map skills is a part of Common Core and other national and state curriculum standards.

Gabon Detail Map via CultureGrams

 

In CultureGrams you’ll find a wide variety of maps to help users learn. There are simple maps, physical maps, political maps, regional maps, detail maps, and county maps. And there are outline maps that are not only useful in their own right, but that students can use to create their own maps to reflect what they find interesting about a particular region, country, state,or province.

Denmark Outline Map via CultureGrams

To add further value to the wide variety of CultureGrams maps, our editorial staff has created a number of map-related learning activities that teachers can use for in-class projects or homework assignments. Students can use maps to understand the worldwide popularity of soccer in The World Game, as part of a “Geography Bee.” Or they can learn more about the impact of colonialism in Africa and elsewhere through such activities as “Colonization of Africa” or “Cricket and Colonization.”

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Celebrate Canada

This July marks the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Canadian Confederation. Canada was just four provinces in 1867 and has now grown into ten provinces and three territories that reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and go north to Arctic region. Canada is the second-largest country in the world. While the British monarch is head of state, the crown has no real power. Canada has two official languages: English and French. Students can learn all about Canada with the resources available on SIRS Discoverer.

Our Canada Facts offer snapshots of each Canadian province and territory. Canada Facts contain maps, flags, general statistics and links for further information.

Being such a beautiful and diverse country Canada has many points of geography worth exploring.

Located in northeastern Canada, Hudson Bay is home to polar bears that are believed to be impacted by global warming.

Polar Bears in Hudson Bay
Image from Pixabay

Spotted Lake in Canada’s Okanagan Valley is an unusual body of water with mineral “dots” in its basin.

Spotted Lake
Photo by anthropodermic via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

The St. Lawrence River is an important trade route between the United States and Canada.

St. Lawrence River
By Abxbay (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Educators, how will you spotlight Canada with your students? Tweet us at #ProQuest.

Don’t have SIRS Discoverer? Request a free trial.

Breaking News: Vice President Shoots Former Treasury Secretary!

Dueling Pistol

Dueling Pistol Photo via Pixabay [CCO Public Domain]

If you find yourself teaching U.S. History in summer school classes, you might want to rip a page from the headlines of July 11, 1804, and share it with your students. In what has to be one of the wackiest acts of political animosity in United States history, a sitting vice president fought a duel with and fatally wounded a hero of the Constitutional Convention and former Secretary of the Treasury. If it sounds convoluted, it is.

Your students are probably familiar with Alexander Hamilton either via textbooks or the wildly popular “Hamilton” Broadway musical. If not, here is a brief primer. Hamilton was born on Nevis, an island in the Caribbean. He arrived in the Colonies in the 1770s and joined the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was noticed by General George Washington who used him as an aid. Fast-forward to the Constitutional Convention, where Hamilton was instrumental in winning ratification of the Constitution. He was appointed the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington. Hamilton developed a monetary policy that saved the young country from financial ruin. He later became leader of the political party known as the Federalists.

Aaron Burr may be the lesser known of the two figures, but he was an accomplished person in his own right. Burr, born in 1756, was from a wealthy New Jersey family. He graduated college at the age of 17. Like Hamilton, he joined the Continental Army and served for a while under General Washington. Burr was elected to the New State Assembly and later served as a state attorney. In 1790, he defeated Hamilton’s father in a bid for the U.S. Senate. Burr eventually became vice president under Thomas Jefferson in 1800.

Now, here is where things get a bit ugly.

Aaron Burr Research Topic

Aaron Burr Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Alexander Hamilton Research Topic

Alexander Hamilton Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long before the advent of social media, politicians were bad-mouthing each other either in a public forum or in print. Hamilton detested Burr. Hamilton once said of Burr: “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” Hamilton began his first series of public attacks on Burr when Burr first ran for the vice presidency in 1796. Hamilton considered Burr to be “dangerous” and an “opportunist” and spoke against him on many occasions. Burr later ran as an independent for governor of New York. During the election, his character was attacked so viciously by Hamilton that he challenged him to a duel, or an “Affair of Honor.”

These so-called affairs of honor were somewhat commonplace in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and they usually ended peacefully enough, but not this time. Burr demanded satisfaction. The combatants met at seven o’clock in the morning at a spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. There are conflicting reports about what happened next.

Even though some pundits say we live in the era of “Fake News,” we have nothing on the media of the time of the Burr/Hamilton duel. Hamilton’s assistant said that Hamilton decided that the duel was immoral and deliberately fired his pistol into the air. Burr’s assistant, however, claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. Many newspapers of the time tended to print the version of the story associated with the political party they supported. Some praised Hamilton and declared Burr to be a murderer. Burr’s supporters, however, attacked the newspaper campaigns aimed at him.

What is known for sure is that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet stopped near Hamilton’s spine. He died the next day.

Historical marker of Hamilton-Burr duel in Weehawken, NJ

Historical marker of Hamilton-Burr duel in Weehawken, NJ via Wikimedia Commons by Billy Hathorn (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Burr was charged with murder, but because he was a sitting vice president living in Washington, D.C., he was immune from prosecution. His reputation, however, was forever tarnished. In 1805, Burr led a half-baked scheme to take over the Louisiana Territory and establish himself as the leader of a new empire. He even went so far as to lead armed citizens down to New Orleans, but he was captured and tried for treason. He, again, avoided prison and promptly left the country. In later life, he returned to the U.S. to practice law. He died in 1836.

This Summer, instead of challenging your students to a duel, challenge them to explore the many historical Research Topics available in eLibrary.

Dueling Trivia:

*The dueling ground in Weehawken, New Jersey, where Alexander Hamilton was fatally wounded was the same spot where Hamilton’s own son was killed in 1801 defending his father’s honor.

*Future president Andrew Jackson fought a duel with Charles Dickinson in 1806. Dickinson accused Jackson of cheating on a horse racing bet, so the two met near the Red River in Kentucky for a 19th-century throw-down. Dickinson fired first and hit Jackson in the ribs. Jackson returned fire, killing Dickinson. Doctors judged the musket ball lodged in Jackson’s chest to be too close to his heart to remove, so the bullet stayed in his body for the rest of his life.

*In 1826, Senator John Randolph accused Secretary of State Henry Clay of “crucifying the Constitution and cheating at cards.” Randolph, of course, found himself challenged to a duel. Randolph, a crack shot, decided that it would be unwise and unmanly to kill Clay, so he determined to aim high and let Clay live. When both men met for the duel, Randolph accidentally fired his gun into the ground. Clay, accepting that it was a misfire, allowed Randolph to reload his pistol. Randolph, still not wanting to kill Clay, fired first and nicked Henry Clay’s coat. Clay fired back and missed his target. They decided to have a do-over. This time, Clay fired first, missing his opponent yet again. Randolph then fired his weapon into the air. Moved by the gesture, Clay met Randolph at mid-field and shook his hand, thus ending the duel.

If you do not have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here.

 

How Well Do You Know the G20?

2017 G20 logo

2017 G20 logo [via Wikipedia]

This past Friday and Saturday (July 7-8), many eyes were on Hamburg, Germany, as it hosted the 2017 G20 summit. The G20 is an international forum composed of 20 of the world’s largest economies—19 countries, plus the European Union. Formed in 1999, it serves as an economic council to address issues of global financial stability. G20 summits are often the target of major protests, and this year was no different, with tens of thousands of activists staging protests, some of which turned violent.

In addition to heads of international financial and other organizations, G20 summits are attended by the leaders of member nations, plus the presidents of the European Council and European Commission to represent the European Union.

How well do you know the leaders of the nations in the G20? Test your knowledge here! Can you get 10/10? Tweet us @CultureGrams with your results! Or learn more about the economies of the countries of the world with CultureGrams!

 

Don’t have CultureGrams? Request a free trial.

Happy Birthday, P.T. Barnum!

Today marks the 207th birthday of Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum. The legendary showman is best remembered for his elaborate hoaxes and founding the circus he called “The Greatest Show on Earth.” He entertained the public by promoting human curiosities, animal attractions, and music concerts.

P.T. Barnum Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

P.T. Barnum Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Early Life

P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut on July 5, 1810. He started his journey as an entrepreneur at a young age. At 12-years-old, he was selling cherry-rum to soldiers. His various jobs included working as a store-keeper, running a lottery business, and editing his own newspaper called the “Herald of Freedom.”

The “Great American Showman”

Barnum moved to New York City in 1834. A year later, he launched his entertainment career when he purchased and exhibited Joice Heth, a blind African-American slave. Heth was touted as being George Washington’s 161-year-old former nurse. After Heth’s death in February of 1836, Barnum staged a public autopsy that revealed Heth was probably not older than 80.

In December of 1841, Barnum bought Scudder’s American Museum and relaunched it as Barnum’s American Museum on January 1, 1842. The museum’s collections included historic exhibitions, taxidermied animals, live animals, wax figures, and oddities–such as the “Feejee Mermaid.”

In 1842, Barnum met a 4-year-old dwarf named Charles Sherwood Stratton in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Stratton weighed 15 pounds and was 25 inches tall. Barnum hired Stratton for $3.00 a week and introduced him to audiences as “General Tom Thumb.” Barnum told the public that Stratton was 11-years-old to avoid accusations that he was exhibiting a child somewhat smaller than average. The exhibit’s massive popularity led to a tour of Europe, which included a performance for Queen Victoria.

One of Barnum’s most successful ventures was his promotion of Swedish opera performer Jenny Lind. Barnum brought the “Swedish Nightingale” from Europe to the United States in 1850 for a triumphant tour that set astounding box-office records. Barnum reportedly earned over $500,000 for the tour.

Bridgeport, Connecticut

In addition to being a promoter, Barnum was interested in transforming Bridgeport, Connecticut into a booming metropolis. He suffered bankruptcy after trying to lure the ill-fated Jerome Clock Company to his adopted hometown. Barnum restored his monetary standing by touring with General Tom Thumb and through a lecture tour. He was Bridgeport’s mayor for one term and served two terms in the Connecticut legislature.

Circus Pioneer

On July 13, 1865, Barnum’s American Museum was destroyed by a fire. He opened a second museum that also burned down in 1868. In 1870, Barnum agreed to collaborate with circus managers W.C. Coup and Dan Castello on a gigantic circus venture. P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus opened in Brooklyn on April 10, 1871. Many of Barnum’s old performers were recruited for what he referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In 1874, Barnum’s spectacular show found a permanent home at the New York Hippodrome, now known as Madison Square Garden.

In 1881, Barnum combined forces with his chief rival James Bailey to form the Barnum & London Circus. Barnum and Bailey experienced great success the following season with the purchase of Jumbo. The legendary elephant weighed 6 ½ tons and stood over 11 ½ feet tall. Jumbo delighted audiences until his accidental death in 1885.

In 1887, Barnum agreed to relinquish control of the circus, which became the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth.

Legacy

Barnum died on April 7, 1891. After Barnum’s death, Bailey managed the show for many years. In 1907, Bailey’s competitors, the Ringling brothers bought the Barnum & Bailey show. The two shows were combined in 1919, becoming known as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, The Greatest Show on Earth. As someone who grew up with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and loved the extravaganza, it is with a heavy heart that I write that “The Greatest Show on Earth” no longer exists. The iconic circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Resources

P.T. Barnum is remembered as a brilliant promoter who transformed entertainment. Educators, have your students learn more about his life and career through these websites available in SIRS Issues Researcher and these ProQuest Research Topics available in eLibrary:

The Barnum Museum

Circus Research Topic

Circuses and Sideshows

The Lost Museum

P.T. Barnum and the Management of Spectacle

P.T. Barnum Research Topic

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Independence Day! 10 Official Symbols of the USA

It’s the Fourth of July! And thoughts of this holiday can, of course, take one in many directions: the Founding Fathers, family gatherings, the struggles over the years to maintain peace and prosperity, etc. But today, let’s take a look at 10 iconic symbols that have become synonymous with the U.S. over its 240-plus years of existence.

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

  1. Liberty Bell  Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this iconic symbol of American independence was originally commissioned in 1752.
  2. The Great Seal  The seal was created by the Founding Fathers to reflect the beliefs and values they attached to the new nation.
  3. Old Glory  Betsy Ross was reported to have sewn the first American flag in May of 1776.
  4. Bald Eagle  The American bald eagle was chosen as the National Bird in 1782, chiefly for its majestic beauty and strength.
  5. Uncle Sam  The U.S. got this nickname in 1813. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, who supplied food to the US Army during the War of 1812.
  6. Statue of Liberty  This gift from France was dedicated in New York City in 1886, and was declared a National Monument by President Coolidge in 1924.
  7. The Pledge of Allegiance  This Oath of Loyalty was originally written in 1892 by clergyman Francis Bellamy. It was amended in 1954 to include the words “under God.”
  8. “In God We Trust”  This became the nation’s official motto in July 1956 after President Eisenhower signed it into law.
  9. The Mighty Oak  The oak tree became the national tree of the U.S. in 2004 after Americans voted for it via the National Arbor Day Foundation.
  10. Bison  In 2016, President Obama signed into law the National Bison Legacy Act, marking the bison as the country’s official mammal.
Independence Day Research Topic

Independence Day Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

For further information on these and so many other facets of Independence Day, just go to eLibrary and get started. If you don’t as yet have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here!

 

New Burkina Faso Photos and Slideshows Added!

We’ve recently added new media to our Burkina Faso country report, including more than 35 gallery photos and 5 new slideshows. Come have a look! CultureGrams has over 20,000 photos across its 209 country reports, in addition to hundreds of slideshows.

Burkinabè children stand next to a reservoir in Djibo. Image credit: Salym Fayad

A young boy poses for a picture in the northern town of Djibo. He wears a protective amulet around his neck known locally as a gris-gris. Image credit: Salym Fayad

Women pose at their street-food stall at a Sunday afternoon market in central Ouagadougou. Image credit: Salym Fayad

A Burkinabè girl stands for a portrait. Image credit: Salym Fayad

Young boys hold up a board with verses from the Qurʾan written on it. Young Islamic students memorize the Arabic verses by copying the sentences onto their boards. Image credit: Salym Fayad

“Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote.”

Many young people may not realize it wasn’t until 46 years ago that teenagers gained the right to vote. The voting age started to become a controversy during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the minimum age for the military draft to 18. Many young people felt it was unfair to be required to fight in the war without the right to have a say in the policies of the nation through voting. The youth voting rights movement began with the slogan, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

From 1942 to 1971, Rudolph Jennings of West Virginia, as a congressman and later as a senator, brought 11 pieces of legislation to Congress to lower the voting age to 18 but was unsuccessful. Only a handful of states lowered the voting below 21 and only Georgia and Kentucky allowed voting at age 18.

The 1960s brought the issue to a head at a time when young people were at the center of civic involvement. They often participated in marches, sit-ins, and other forms of protest on civil rights issues for blacks, women, and to end the war in Vietnam. Again a war was the impetus to fuel the movement.

On June 22, 1970, Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act to apply to age and allow voting at age 18. After challenges to the law and a ruling at the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress could only regulate the age in federal elections not State or local, support swelled for an amendment that would set a uniform voting age of 18 in all elections.

On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted in favor of the 26th Amendment and it went to the states for ratification. On June 30, 1971, the amendment was considered officially ratified. On July 5, 2017 the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The youth turnout was 55.4% in 1972 but then declined over the years reaching 36% in the 1988 election. The tide dramatically turned in the 2008 election of Barack Obama with a youth vote turnout of 49% which is the second highest in history.

The Current Debate

The current controversy with voting age is a call to reduce the age further to 16. As young people have access to more information than ever before, many teens and youth advocates are calling for lowering the voting age. Some countries, such as Austria and Nicaragua, have reduced their minimum voting age to 16.

Proponents say a lower voting age would focus attention on issues of particular interest to young adults. But some say younger teens are still learning about the democratic process and may not yet know how to be responsible citizens. These critics argue that, at 16, children are too immature to vote.

Educators, find the latest coverage of this issue in the SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issue: Voting Age and in the eLibrary Research Topic: Voting Age.

Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher or elibrary? Request a free trial.