Archive for the ‘Scholarship’ category

Scholarly Gainz

February 16, 2019

A while back I cleaned up my desk at home and found these white papers. I printed them like four or five years ago. At that moment, I realized I had implemented and have made sum scholarly gainz.

Unique Identifiers: A Closer Look at Biometric Technology in New Mexico

December 3, 2014
Biometrics_by Felicia Lujan_December2014

|Biometrics~ A digital composite by Felicia Lujan. This composite is composed of 13 layers, 8 masks, 3 color overlays, and a Gaussian blur. The composite includes images of binary code and components of ocular, palm vein, and voice recognition scans.|

**NOTE: This research was
not intended to promote or
renounce the use of biometric
systems, though I do find the
technology extremely interesting
and useful in most cases. I
understand that the use
of this technology is considered
controversial by some. I intend
to continue my exploration into
how biometric technology is
being used around the world
for the greater good.

I am an archivist with a deep love of technology, which is one reason I pursued a masters level certification in digital information management. A little over a week ago, I was in a meeting that reignited my interest in biometrics. I must admit that I was naïve in my assumption that my state was not a pioneer in this industry. First off, I didn’t know that the central nervous system of New Mexico state government (aka the State Data Center at the Department of Information Technology) utilizes biometric technology as a method of security. After that meeting I came home curious about how involved New Mexico is when it comes to biometric research and implementation. The writer, the researcher, the analyst, the special agent in me took over and that night I added biometric engineer to my list of dream jobs that I would love to have. So…what type of education does a biometric engineer need? Most commonly, a biometrics engineer has: a computer science degree; a computer language certification like Java or C++; and good problem-solving, people, and technical skills.

I found an informative link online titled “Become a Biometrics Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap.” Hum? Well, according to this plan, there are only 7 “popular schools” specializing in advancing a career in biometrics. The page said that “biometric technologies include complex equipment designed to analyze personal identification markers unique to each individual, such as fingerprints, ear lobes, vein patterns, voices, and iris shapes.” Through this research, I discovered that the technology is not limited to “individuals” or people here in New Mexico. I did know that biometric engineers were software developers, but there was a lot that I didn’t know before I embarked upon this research over the Thanksgiving break. Ear lobes? Veins? Hum? Didn’t know those were used as unique identifiers? We are all well aware of the TV shows touting the sexy use of biometrics, like CSI and most recently my beloved Scandal, but that’s just on TV right? A dead guy’s index finger couldn’t possibly be used to confirm his identity? Could it Shonda? Maybe I should ask Chien Le?

The most information dense white paper I discovered was written by Chien Le of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Washington University in November of 2011. Le wrote A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems and his research introduced biometric security systems. It also outlined application fields for biometric technologies, solutions, middle-ware and software, advantages and disadvantages, acronyms, and the future uses of biometrics. Damn! Chien Le beat me to the punch didn’t he?! Here it was…all laid out for my thirsty mind. Le’s paper says there are “seven basic criteria for biometric security systems.” These are “uniqueness, universality, permanence [hummm?? Do I hear digital preservation?], collectability, performance, accessibility and circumvention.” I don’t completely understand some of the criteria, but it was very useful to read over the types of biometric solutions outlined by Le. Current technologies include: facial recognition detectors, fingerprint readers, voice recognition, iris scanners, vein recognition, DNA biometric systems, and 2D barcode scanners, among others.

This technology can have good uses, but there are many privacy advocates who are against the use of any biometrics. In December of 2013, Scientific American published Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday with a byline which read “without explicit safeguards, your personal biometric data are destined for a government database.” The article starts with the sentence “security through biology is an enticing idea.” Yeah it is. Is that all it is though? An idea? I think not. Maybe I’m not worried about privacy as much as I should be? The article is basically a call to United States Congress for “lasting protections against the misuse of biometric data.” Munday quoted an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who seems to fear that biometric data will be used genetically to test for criminal predisposition. I’m actually not sure that’s a bad thing? I guess my only concerns at this point would be relative to health information and insurance coverage. When it comes to physical security and data security, personally, I think that biometric technology is necessary. It is a way to uniquely protect data, which in the end equals the preservation of knowledge and heightened security.

Over the weekend I started whittling through what I found. I read a great deal of articles and a few white papers before I started to look at projects going on closer to home. The more I researched this topic, the more information I found. I was most interested in how biometric systems actually work, so I focused my mind on the technical aspects. I had questions like…what are the major components of a biometric system? Who uses these systems? One of my questions was answered in Le’s paper. I have a sore throat now, so last night I wondered…what if a person needed to use voice recognition and something was wrong with their voice? How is that accounted for in designing a successful system? According to Le, there was no solution. A voice recognition system will not recognize a hoarse voice wave. So now that we have some background on the basics of biometrics, let’s take a look at what I found going on right here in my state. I was able to locate information on at least ten concrete areas where biometric technology is being used in New Mexico from at least 2003-2014. I’m sure there are many projects I missed, but frankly, this could be a thesis and maybe even a dissertation. This is just a quick look at highly visible projects I came across over the last week.

We will start with the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) since it is a meeting with this office that rekindled my interest in this technology. DoIT is “responsible for infrastructure IT services provided 24x7x365 which includes: the State’s telecommunications system, two-way public safety radio, digital microwave, the State’s core data network and internet connectivity, and the State’s Data Center.” It is here, in the State Data Center where biometric technologies are being used for data security. I felt impressed with my state when I learned that and tomorrow I will get a tour of the center. “The State’s Data Center provides a secure facility with redundant power and cooling which houses many of the State’s critical IT systems including the State’s mainframe and agency servers. This division also provides enterprise system services which include the State’s consolidated email system…” It will be interesting to see what type of biometric security the agency is using as of late. I am guessing a finger or palm scanner?

The two strangest projects I found information on were tied to the use of biometrics on kids and animals in New Mexico. On April 3, 2013, there was a news release put out by KOAT (channel 7) titled Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch. What? Seriously? Yes. Seriously. The school apparently tried to implement a palm vein scanner in the lunch room instead of good old meal tickets or cards. Parents were not happy about the suggestion of using infrared wavelengths (electromagnetic radiation) during the lunch hour to ID their children. The parents fought off the proposal which would have allowed scanners to recognize a unique vein pattern in the child’s palm and they won. I wasn’t sure which seemed stranger…scanning kids or scanning animals? I also read about how the New Mexico livestock industry is using Retinal Vascular Pattern (RVP) for livestock identification. RVP is the pattern of blood vessels at the back of the eye. It’s is being called the new way of branding animals. I wonder how ranchers feel about that since they must prefer the old burn and freeze methods? What’s a brand without cowboy symbology right?

I discovered that the national labs and the air force bases are also using biometrics. Of course, this was no surprise. I read a white paper Chris Aldridge prepared for Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in June of 2013. Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922 is titled Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects. This report was concentrated on the use of MBDs to enroll individuals in databases and perform “identification checks of subjects in the field area,” for “military, law enforcement, and homeland security operations.” The report was a multi-agency/multi-state project with 3M Cogent Systems and involved: Iowa, Colorado, California, D.C., Texas, Washington (Seattle), Arizona, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Idaho. I think the most interesting part of this study used a “mock prison riot” for first responders out of West Virginia. We all know how critical that information is given New Mexico’s prison riot history. Many of the agencies studied for this report are using “Fusion devices.” Fusion was developed by 3M Cogent Systems for the Department of Defense. A large part of studies in this field are tied to law enforcement, but currently the technology trend is leaning towards cyber security.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says biometrics are important because they: secure facilities, protect access to computer networks, counter fraud, screen people at our borders, and fight crime. The NIST says this technology is used to manage identities for: first responders at the scene of a natural disaster, border patrol, soldiers in theater, and police officers on the street. It makes sense that the following projects are closely related to the projects cited in the Sandia report. In New Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to support criminal justice DNA databases. The National DNA Index System or NDIS is part of CODIS. The FBI uses biometrics to analyze data from DNA databases and for latent print analysis. Holloman Air Force Base is using the 49th Security Forces Defense Biometric Identification System which is comprised of hand-held scanners. The scanners are used to screen people entering the base to verify the access authorization. Identity is established using barcode technology and fingerprints. In February of 2011, it was announced that Santa Fe County was using biometrics to “remove aliens convicted of a crime.” It can also be noted that between 2003 and 2005, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) researched the use of biometrics in handgun grips while working with a New Mexico biometrics company. The NAE was interested in developing biometric grip sensors, but a 2005 report declared the tests a failure.

I also located evidence of the health care systems in New Mexico using biometric technology. The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) offers Biometrics Screening Services as part of Employee Health Plans. These screenings are said to align with recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Ommmm…Maybe this is where my privacy fears rest? In 2013, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a Joint Consensus Statement on Biometric Health Screening for Employers. According to the “statement,” the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines biometric screenings as “the measurement of physical characteristics such as height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and aerobic fitness that can be taken at the worksite and used as part of a workplace health assessment to benchmark and evaluate changes in employee health status over time.” I am a fitness freak, but that seems crazy? What if something is wrong with me and I don’t know? The statement outlines the “purpose of screenings” and I found it kind of scary. What if they find out I experience shortness of breath or I’m genetically predisposed to cancer? Will they drop me from my insurance plan?

In New Mexico health circles, I also located a “Fingerprint Techniques Manual,” which was prepared by the New Mexico Department of Health. The manual had very interesting graphic illustrations on the fundamentals of fingerprints. This training tool covered from patterns to arches to loops to lines to deltas to cores to whorls to scars of the fingerprints. The machines can read all these intricate things. The Division of Health Improvement uses this technology as part of the Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program. Makes more sense than the biometric screenings. I feel comfortable with this use. This type of use can protect people from abuse or other forms of criminal activity. I was rather impressed with the 36 page manual. It reminded me that about 15 years ago I applied for a finger print technician position with the Department of Public Safety. I was crushed to learn that these people don’t make very much. I don’t know…I guess you have to be a biometrics engineer to make it out there!? What I do know is that I found a great deal of information about how New Mexico is actively participating in the biometric industry.

I gained useful knowledge through this research into biometrics and then regurgitating what I learned. My son just asked me what I was writing about and when I told him he looked at me with the curiosity that I love and see in myself. I told him “I’m writing about biometrics. Do you know what that is?” I explained with words and then decided it was easier to show a nine year old a catchy tech video with visual candy. Together we learned about the future of biometric systems. Between October and November of this year there were several videos on the use biometric technology. The National Science Foundation released information on a project by a young man studying the use of ocular biometrics in the video game industry for disabled people. In October the Telegraph out of the United Kingdom released a video declaring that we would simply kill passwords with biometrics and CBS news declared that biometric palm scans will help keep hospitals secure.

The future of biometrics is here. It is everywhere and happening all around us. Biometrics is about identifying who we are and not who we say we are. Tonight I learned that the most accurate method for a biometric reading is the heartbeat or an electrocardiogram (ECG). Makes sense ha? It’s symbolic actually. Symbolic because the heart is at our biometric core. It is the giver of life. The heart represents how we feel and who we are. That beat is indeed is a unique identifier.


News release, Santa Fe County and All New Mexico Now Benefit from ICE Strategy to Use Biometrics to Identify and Remove Aliens Convicted of a Crime, released on, February 15, 2011

White paper, A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems by Chien Le, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Washington University, November 28, 2011

News release, Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch, released on, April 3, 2013

White paper, Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects by Chris Aldridge, Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922, prepared by Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, June 2013

Article, Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday, released on, December 17, 2013

Publication, Fingerprint Techniques Manual, prepared by New Mexico Department of Health, Division of Health Improvement, Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program, no date

Various internet searches for basic information in articles and videos

Banshee: Exploring the Origins of a Witchy Woman

August 22, 2014
Banshee by Felicia Lujan

~”Banshee” a Digital Composite by Felicia Lujan~

What is a banshee? Is she a spirit? Is she a figment of our imaginations? Is she a monster? Is she a being of light or a lover of the darkness? Something I read recently sparked my curiosity with regard to the origins of these mysterious women who are supposedly supernatural. The dictionary defines a “ban·shee” as “an Irish legend” and “a female spirit whose wailing warns of an impending death in a house.” Banshee appearances and accounts have largely been captured and passed on through oral traditions; however, there are a handful of documented accounts and attempts to make sense of the stories.

A Princeton University web site defines the banshee as a “woman of the side” or a “woman of fairy mounds” or a “seer.” She is said to be a “female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.” This messenger or “fairy woman” is often “keening at the death of important personages.” Important personages? Yes…that is a word! Many believe the banshee can predict death. Many have heard the “mourning call” of the banshee in the late hours of the night when a person is going to die. This happens most often around woodland areas, though there are some accounts by water. A tale from 1437 says that King James I of Scotland had an encounter with a “banshee who foretold his murder…” Her cries may have been “so piercing” that they were able to shatter glass.

The university web site says that “the banshee can appear in a variety of guises. Most often she appears as an ugly, frightening hag, but she can also appear as a stunningly beautiful woman of any age that suits her. In some tales, the figure who first appears to be a ‘banshee’ is later revealed to be the Irish battle goddess, the Morrígan. The hag may also appear as a washer-woman, or bean-nighe (washing woman), and is seen washing the blood stained clothes or armour of those who are about to die.” I would like to learn more about the Irish battle goddess. The banshee is also rumored to appear in other supernatural life forms. She may appear as a “hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel.” In Ireland, these are animals which the locals associate with dark arts and witchcraft.
Syracuse Herald_1.2.1898_Syracuse_NY
In an 1898 column titled The Easy Chair, the Syracuse Herald said that “a genuine Irish banshee is a little old woman in a red cloak…” A little old woman doesn’t seem that scary, but maybe? The column was spurred by the review of a play titled Number Nine. In numerology, the number nine symbolizes karma, spiritual lightening and awakening, mysticism, and divine wisdom in addition to other things. It is not clear who reviewed the play, but it was apparent that their curiosity was spurred by the mythology shrouding the banshee. The column goes on to say that…“she appears only to announce unpleasant events, such as one’s demise” and that “she does not always appear.” According to the author of this column, the banshee may make an appearance only in sound by wailing.

By 1929, the story of the banshee seems to be associated with the death of important people. If you recall the 1898 column and the number nine, this may be due to a growing association of the banshee with karma. The Buffalo Center Tribune ran a short piece titled Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death with regard to the death of Baron O’Neill. Neighbors of the family mogul “declared they heard the wail of the banshee the night before near the ruins of Shane’s castle on the shores of Lough Neagh. The castle was formerly the O’Neill residence.” Maybe people used the banshee as a way to understand the death of corrupt officials? “Baron O’Neill was eighty-nine…” Really? The number nine shows up again? The article says he “had had a long career as judge and member of parliament” from 1863-1880. Maybe he was a bad man?
Buffalo Center Tribune_1.10.1929_Iowa
In 1942, Virginia Moore published a poem titled The Banshee in the scholarly Poetry journal. Her poem captures the darkness and the light of banshee mythology, which may be seen by writers as a deep symbol of both death as well as the afterlife. Moore wrote…“Lightly, lightly, Ever brightly, Moves the banshee, certain death. Cry and call out, Death will fall out. Hold – you cannot hold – your breath.” It is interesting how she frames the poem with light. When you read about the banshee in historical news articles, she (not he) is always fixed as a creature of straight darkness. This is one reason I love writers. We see deeper than the dark. Moore closes her poem with…“Brilliant yellow, Is this fellow, Is the banshee, plumed and bright. Lovers hearing. Listen, fearing. Hark! Who treads the plushy night?”
Elyria Chronicle Telegram_6.28.1935_Elyria_OH

Patricia Lysaght studied banshee folklore in the mid to late 1970s. In her white paper titled Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey, Lysaght took an in-depth look at the folklore of this mythical apparition based on manuscripts from the 1930s in the archives of the Department of Irish Folklore with the University College in Dublin, Ireland. This female scholar went straight to the source. She says that “the explanations of how the banshee came to be are not only few; they also seem to have a limited distribution, or even to be individual fabrications.” That was interesting to learn. It confirms that more often than not, the early origins of these oral stories were not recorded. She did locate an account of a local custom by Co. Tipperary. Tipperary said that “long ago people used to pay women to moan in the corpse house just when the corpse would be leaving for the church.”

Could this be how the mythology of the banshee started? Were women paid to wail and moan when someone died? Maybe we will never know if a banshee is a spirit or a figment of our imaginations or a monster that encompasses the light and darkness? What I do know is that my unending curiosity associated with the origins of mysterious things will never die, much like the tales of the banshee.

Santa Fe New Mexican_10.31.1976_Santa Fe_NM


Princeton University Web Site (Accessed August 21, 2014)

The Easy Chair~ Syracuse Herald~ Syracuse, New York (January 2, 1898)

Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death~ Buffalo Center Tribune~ Buffalo Center, Iowa (January 10, 1929)

How it Began~ Elyria Chronicle Telegram~ Elyria, Ohio (June 28, 1935)

The Banshee a poem by Virginia Moore~ Poetry (Vol. 59, No. 5, 1942, Page 247)

Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey by Patricia Lysaght~ An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann (The Folklore of Ireland Society), (Page 94-119, 1974-1976)

Down the Old Santa Fe Trail~ Santa Fe New Mexican~ Santa Fe, New Mexico (October 31, 1976)

Death by Curare: A Love of Blowguns

April 24, 2014


~“Blowing Poison in the Amazon” a digital rendering by Felicia Lujan~

For some time I have been fascinated with blowguns. These low tech tools or weapons used mostly by indigenous peoples in the rainforest are also referred to as blowpipes or blow tubes. A blowgun is traditionally made of a long tube of organic material such as bamboo. The tube is used to fire poisoned darts or other projectiles by blowing air by mouth into the tube.

I first became intrigued with the blowgun when one of my all time favorite fantasy films was released in 1985. I was a ten year old girl with a wild imagination. In Legend, a poisoned blowdart was used by the evil goblins to kill a unicorn in a dark fairy tale which I favor. I now own that movie and still watch it often. The blowgun made such an impression on me that I authored a poem titled “Blowdart” in February of 2013.


~The talking book and player on the chair in my office.~

For the last few days, I have been listening to a talking book while I work. This book along with a book my son and I read on poison dart frogs, made me want to research further into the history and use of the blowgun. After listening to my talking book, and doing some research, I am more fascinated by not only blowguns, but by medicine men.

Listening to Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice has been so interesting. The book was read and written by Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D. Dr. Plotkin is a famous ethnobotanist who searches “for new medicines in the Amazon Rainforest and said “everytime a shaman dies, it is as if a library burned down.” This is a very sad realization. There is so much oral history to be lost with death.

Dr. Plotkin spent an amazing amount of time studying the shamans of the northeast Amazon and his book is indeed mind blowing. There is something about actually listening to him tell the story. I could hear his love and enthusiasm for the Amazon, nature and research in his voice. I was particularly struck by his interest in the indigenous use of blowguns.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon, South and Central America, and South East Asia utilize blowguns as do the Native Americans of North America. These people have used both round projectiles as well as handmade darts for ammunition. I tend to favor those cultures which lace the tips of their darts with poison. This is done to cause paralysis and death.


~A Poison Dart Frog~

The type of toxins used on tipped darts to cause paralysis and death vary from culture to culture. Indigenous peoples use curare, a plant based extract or the frothy secretions of toxic frogs to tip darts. Native Americans have been known to extract toxins from the Golden Poppy. The amount of poison used, and the level of penetration seem to play key roles in the life or death of the receiver.


~The Golden Poppy~

On September 17, 1864, London’s Illustrated Times published a short piece titled “The Woorali Arrow Poison.” This historic news article says “from the fact that this poison, introduced into the system by the blood vessels, causes paralysis and death in the course of a few minutes, it has been erroneously inferred that death by curare is perfectly free from pain of any kind.” Dr. Claude Bernard’s experiments with curare showed that “one limb after another becomes gradually paralyzed…” He assumed death by curare was not painless as an animal retains intellect during the course of paralysis, which “gradually extended to the respiratory organs” causing suffocation.

On September 16, 1993, the Indiana Gazette ran an article on Dr. Plotkin by Nita Lelyveld, a writer with the Associated Press. He is truly an amazing man. The article was titled “Scientist Learns Healing Secrets from Rain Forest’s Medicine Men.” In this piece, there is a photo of the handsome scientist discussing “blow gun poisons with an En-Yeh-Pah Indian in central Venezuela.” What a great image! It was awesome to read this story. I’m in love with this ethnobotonist. Again, Dr. Plotkin’s professional passion was evident.


~The handsome ethnobotanist discussing “blow gun poisons with an En-Yeh-Pah Indian in central Venezuela.” ***Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press~

At the time of that article and the release of his book (1993), Dr. Plotkin was working with Conservation International. He is still on a conservation mission. That is commendable. Today he is president of the Amazon Conservation Team. His team is working with indigenous peoples in order to protect our magical rainforests. He is a very special man with a love of poisoned darts, blowguns, and medicinal cures.

When I first became intrigued with the blowgun, I was just a girl. I had and still have a wild imagination. As a young girl I could never understand the importance of conservation and preservation. If it were not for experts like Dr. Plotkin and the late Dr. Bernard, people like me would never learn about some things. I can only imagine what it is like to be a scientist studying in the rainforest. It must be an empowering, humbling and fulfilling experience.

I am not a scientist, but I am a writer. Through writing I can mentally experience those things I may never be able to do. Through writing, I can spread Dr. Plotkin’s message. Through writing, I can shoot a blowgun. Through writing, I can extract toxins and make curare. Through writing, I can become a poisoned dart. Through writing, I can administer death by curare.

Death of the Algorithm

July 2, 2013

It is so strange and other~ish that it
becomes a stream~of~consciousness
algorithm unto itself~
something almost inhuman.”

~ Jerry Saltz ~
(American Art Critic)

An algorithm is used in mathematics as a detailed procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for processing data, as well as for automating reasoning. The Scarf Algorithm has been used by researchers for stable matching and the balance of core elements. Herbert Scarf is a Sterling Professor Emeritus of Economics at Yale University. In 1981, he produced this algorithm for integer programming and the calculation of nonlinear complementarity problems. He has also used his model in the Mathematics Genealogy Project with North Dakota State University. He has identified 138 descendants.

Death of the Algorithm by Felicia Lujan

……….~~…Death of the Algorithm…~~……….
Digital composite by Felicia Lujan
Includes five layers: my photograph; an image of a skull; an image of the Scarf Algorithm; and two color layers.

U.S. auction to sell “unknown” 1758 document on proposed French Canada exodus to Louisiana

May 29, 2013


Very interesting…


Knowledge Hog

May 21, 2013

Here is a link to a super interesting article I read tonight by Drew Boyd. I had some convo today with a couple of my friends about a knowledge hog. The article provides a well informed take on what hinders and fosters knowledge sharing. It’s titled The Golden Rule of Creativity and it’s worth the read. Following are a few quotes I liked.

“Innovation is a team sport~ groups produce better results than the lone genius.”

“Reputation is what matters.”

“You have to be seen as someone who gives and shares information with others, and has a reputation for returning the favor when others give to you.”

Caging the Intellectual Bird

April 30, 2013

“The binary world has given
radiant wings to knowledge
and information. Those who
support the infringement of
cyber freedom cage the
intellectual bird.”

••••••» Felicia Lujan
••••••» 4.30.2013

Laura Cereta: My Renaissance Hero

December 15, 2012

An Italian named Laura Cereta was an intellectual woman ahead of her time. She is my hero because she pushed it to the limit. Cereta insisted on having intellectual conversations with both men and women during a time when women we not supposed to do so.

She was a writer who lived from 1469–1499, and was a well known humanist and feminist of the Renaissance Period. How sad that she died younger than I. I would love to locate the archive where her original writings can be found- if not, I guess a secondary source in the form of a book would do. Most of her writing was in the form of personal letters to scholarly men. There must be a private collection of her original works somewhere?

The subject of her letters, many of which she published on her own in a book included: enlightenment; war; death; fate; and the oppression of married women. Check out this awesome letter I found online. Of course~ an archivist would need to verify the accuracy of this internet source.
Laura Cereta’s “Letter to Bibulus Sempronius”

You [Bibulus] brashly and publicly not merely wonder but indeed lament that I am said to possess as fine a mind as nature ever bestowed upon the most learned man. You seem to think so learned a woman has scarcely before been seen in the world. You are wrong …. for you have ceased to be a living man, but become animated stone; having rejected the studies which make men wise, you rot in torpid leisure. The explanation is clear: women have been able by nature to be exceptional, but have chosen lesser goals. For some women are concerned with parting their hair correctly, adorning themselves with lovely dresses, … or standing at mirrors to smear their lovely faces. But those in whom a deeper integrity yearns for virtue, restrain from the start their youthful souls, reflect on higher things, harden the body with sobriety and trials, and curb their tongues, open their ears, compose their thoughts in wakeful hours, their minds in contemplation to letters bonded to righteousness. For knowledge is not given as a gift, but [is gained] with diligence. Nature has generously lavished its gifts upon all people, opening to all the doors of choice through which reason sends envoys to the will …. You pretend that I alone am admirable because of the good fortune of my intellect. But I, compared to other women who have won splendid renown, am but a little mousling.

A Visit to El Rito

October 20, 2012

Center of El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

On October 12, 2012, I moderated a wonderful session for the archives. My division director and two archivists delivered informative presentations for the Historias de Nuevo Mexico Conference. The conference was held on the El Rito campus of the Northern New Mexico College. There is a link on the Santa Fe Reporter’s web site to local writer Stephanie Hiller’s blog, Particle Beams. Hiller was accurate in saying that “the purpose of the conference was to present complementary perspectives of the state’s unique history to correct the picture cultivated by mainstream historians celebrating the state’s centennial.”

A Rose on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

The ride to El Rito was gorgeous and rainy. I can’t explain what it is about gloomy weather, but I absolutely love it. There were intricate rock formations, steep cliffs, and vast land which still seemed unspoiled by my contemporaries. The campus is beautiful and features rock walls, sleepy trees, ruins, dark rolling clouds (in the morning), and minds ready to absorb the power of history. In the dining area, there was one wall in a building which had one clear portal so that the old adobe could be seen by visitors and those who cared to look at New Mexico earth.

Intricate Wood Work
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Cutting Hall (named after Bronson Cutting) was the focal point of the conference. The hall, also an apparent performance theater enveloped the busts of historical figures such as Bronson Cutting and Jonathan Grant in oversized nichos. Grant was a local area Jewish merchant deriving from Abiquiu and the El Rito area. The theater featured traditional tin work (wall and hanging lights) as well as Spanish Colonial carvings on enormous wood beams, doors, hand rails, and benches. There were also wooden floors.

Rock water fountain on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

A friend and former classmate, opened the conference with a touching welcome. Dr. Patricia Trujillo, a powerhouse with Northern New Mexico Community College talked about connection and how when she wrote her introduction that morning, she was listening to the church bells on the El Rito Campus. She said the sound reminded her of her “familia” and specifically about the passing of her father one year ago. She talked about the bells as a symbol of connection, specifically connecting scholars with members of the community, as well as to remember our spirituality. When she and I spoke about me eventually pursuing a PhD, she gave me a wonderful compliment that made me feel good. She said “well when you do, you will have no problems because of all of your experience with documents and history.” Awesome!

El Rito Sky
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Cutting Hall on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Dr. Joseph Sanchez, Director- Spanish Colonial Research Center (UNM) talked about the importance of the term “ indigenization.” or what he called “taking back your culture.” He used the example of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, the Pueblo de San Juan de los Caballeros taking back their traditional name. He said “most of us when we write, we search our souls.” He said “we study the values of the period, not our values.” Former State Historian, Robert Torrez delivered “Aftermath of the Mexican American War 1846-1848” He talked about the Treason Trials. One witness reported that all the church bells were sounding when the executions took place. Thomas Chavez, former Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the Palace of the Governors/Museum of New Mexico delivered his paper titled “Juan Onate, Acoma, and a Troubled Administration.”

An Horno with Ruins
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Dr. Glenabah Martinez of Taos/Dine, a professor at UNM delivered her paper titled “Religious Persecution of Pueblo Peoples in New Mexico in the 20th Century: Pedagogical Significance for New Mexico Youth.” Dr. Martinez talked about how to best teach our youth about history and specifically the history of indigenous peoples. She talked about “counter-narratives” that are often left out of text books. She said if you can’t respect the history, how do you respect the individual.” it is about “homeland” and “scared space” and the “core values” of love, respect, compassion, faith, balance and service when developing historical curriculum “community-to-community, culture-to-culture, and person-to-person.” Also “to promote indigenous students and their teachers to become intellectually aware of the critical roles of Pueblo People.” This will enable them to examine “present-day manifestations of historical oppression.” The main question posed to them being “what will your contribution be?” I really enjoyed her presentation, she talked about the “religious persecution of Pueblo People” and having “cultural integrity.”

Northern NM Community College Sign
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

This conference was a great opportunity to continue the dialogue which remains critical to our understanding of New Mexico history. I enjoyed an overcast day in a sacred place where I was able to learn and grow as a person and archivist. It was nice to walk around the campus by myself and absorb history in a way that I am rarely afforded.

A Building on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

A Study of Ancient Minds

August 11, 2012

There is a Community Lecture on September 12, 2012. The lecture starts at 7:30pm and will take place at the James A. Little Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The lecture is titled Reading Ancient Minds: Metaphor, Culture, and History Making. Scott Ortman, an Omidyar Fellow with the Santa Fe Institute and a Lightfoot Fellow with the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center will likely deliver a powerful presentation. Following is the abstract for this lecture.

How much does culture influence the fates of human societies? Our experiences with contemporary politics suggest that the varying ways humans construe the world do make a difference, but the traditional view in many fields is that, in the big picture, material forces trump human conceptualizations. Ortman argues that we don’t actually know the answer yet, but that new approaches in archaeology may suggest an answer. Cognitive science suggests that conceptual metaphors are the building blocks of human conceptual systems; Ortman illustrates how one can discover these metaphors through archaeological and linguistic analysis and discusses how these methods enable one to see the role of culture in history using examples drawn from his research on ancestral Pueblo societies of the U.S. Southwest.

Sounds super interesting doesn’t it? I love the study of metaphors, symbols, signs, imagery, and other elusive forms of communication. If I go, I will go alone with just a thinking cap and a notepad- oh and of course my crow sign!

Why Wait to Learn About Crypto Connections?

July 18, 2012

Journal of Spanish, Portuguese,
and Italian Crypto-Jews
Cover of Volume I, Spring 2009

One thing I hate about the summer is my lack of time. There are always so many things going on- far more than I can successfully grasp! One conference I am sorry that I will miss is the 22nd Annual Conference of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. The conference will be held next week in Albuquerque, New Mexico from July 22-24, 2012. I would have loved to attend a special session being presented by a group of scholars, historians and genealogists. I know two of them very well. Exploring Hispano Family History, a genealogy workshop, will be presented by historian and genealogist José Antonio Esquibel, Henrietta Martinez Christmas, and a few others. I have been very interested in the scholarly studies being unearthed in this area. The oral history of my maternal line denotes a possible connection to Crypto-Jewish ancestry. When the DNA of my maternal line was analyzed not long ago, the DNA came back Native American. I believe that oral traditions hold firm ground in history, and so there must be a connection somehow linking the great grandmother I was named after to Crypto-Jewish ancestry. Her family came from Portugal through Canada in the 1800s. A great publication to check out is the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews. The journal contains the comprehensive research of contemporary scholars if you are interested in studies of this nature. My maternal DNA or mtDNA did return with a Native American result, so I have come to an educated conclusion that the Crypto-Jewish connection is not directly maternal. I think that the missing link may actually be my great grandmother’s father. If I wasn’t already attending the NAGARA/CoSA Conference here is Santa Fe, I would have planned to learn more about Crypto Judaic Studies. The Chair of the agency I work for is a Senior Adviser to the Board of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. He is also a founding member of the society. Dr. Stanley Hordes is a Former New Mexico State Historian who wrote a book titled To the End of the Earth (a must read). I have had many, many conversations with Dr. Hordes, who always insists I call him Stan.  At one point when my grandmother was alive, he wanted to interview her. Unfortunately, she passed away before he ever had the opportunity. I could kick myself a million times because I have missed so many chances to learn more about my family history just waiting for tomorrow. Don’t wait! Learn more today…

An Archivist Eating Acronym Soup

July 11, 2012

I am about ready to sip on some acronym soup at the 2012 NAGARA/CoSA Annual Conference. The soup is on with some PhDs, JDs, MAs, MLSs, JDs, BAs, CAs, CRMs, and CDIMs. There may even be a few mystery acronyms in there? I am hungry already!! Eating knowledge— one of my specialties. Yum! Haha… Next week I am attending the joint conference put on by the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators and Council of State Archivists. It will be a fine time to see what other archivists and records managers are up to? The 2012 NAGARA/CoSA Conference will be held in my city (Santa Fe, New Mexico) at the Inn at Loretto from July 18-21. The Diamond Sponsor for this conference is and the Platinum Sponsors are Family Search and Tessella. I am excited to learn, network with like minded people, and share information with anyone willing to learn before or after the conference. Some of the speakers will be from my agency, but the vast majority are traveling from all over the county to present here. The conference will open with a welcome from David Coss, Mayor of the City of Santa Fe. There will also be a “Greeting from the Archivist of the United States,” David Ferriero (NARA) followed by a session on the President’s Directive on Managing Government Records. Steve Adams, a Senior Records Analyst with NARA will speak, as will Albert Lama, the Chief Deputy Attorney General here in New Mexico. I am sure I will come away with some great information. It is sure to be outstanding.
Soup anyone?

Some of the conference sessions will include:

Archives 101
Collaboration of Native and Archival Communities
Fundamentals of Records Management
County Records: Access to Local History
A Thin Black Line- Researching Confidential Records
Who Controls Where the Governors’ Papers Go?
Records Management in the Cloud
Hiring Electronic Records Archivists
The Civil War Sesquicentennial
The Records Manager’s Role in E-Discovery
Archives, Agreements, and Access
Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories
The Future of the Past: A Report to the President
Use of Public Records Laws to Bypass Discovery Rules
SERI – State Electronic Records Initiative Update
Picture This! – Using Social Media to Feature Archival Collections
Judicial Records Management vs. Technology
1940 Census: The Next Generation
Essential Records and Emergency Planning
Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
Alternative Rural Hispanic Health Beliefs and a Dance and Music Video
Preserving Non-Written Ethnic Immigration Stories
Archives and Access Tools: Patron Response to Investment
The Digital Public Library of America
National Collections in a Digital Environment
Redaction, Expungement and Sealing of Electronic Records

Beautiful Woman – Beautiful Mind: A Look at Katherine Massoth

June 28, 2012

Katherine Massoth
Ph.D. Candidate (ABD)- History
October 2008 – Present
University of Iowa

I would like to take some time to honor my friend Katherine Massoth. She is an absolutely amazing woman!!! She and I have had many fruitful and thought provoking conversations over the years. Katherine has an extraordinary personality, and I love her for that. Ms. Massoth recently won the Irene Ledesma Prize from the Coalition for Western Women’s History and the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library. The Irene Ledesma Prize from the Coalition for Western Women’s History is awarded to scholars who study women, gender, and minorities. She was so very happy to receive the prize and become a Huntington Library fellow. I am proud of her. She is a woman who will change the world with her knowledge, and one smile at a time. Katherine says that these awards are allowing her “to be in-residence at the Huntington Library for four months next spring (2013) to write.” Love it! Good gob Katherine!

Information on Katherine Massoth:

United States Women and Gender History, United States Mexico borderlands, Nineteenth-Century American West

Ph.D. Candidate (ABD): History, October 2008- Present- University of Iowa

Dissertation: “As is the Custom of the Country”: Gender, Cultural Practices, and Ethnic Identity in New Mexico and Arizona, 1846-1930

Primary Field: United States Women’s and Gender History (1776-1920), with a focus on women’s labor, the American West, and borderlands history; with Leslie Schwalm and Omar Valerio-Jiménez. Secondary Field: United States Cultural History (1820-1920); with Douglas Baynton. Tertiary Field: Colonial and Nineteenth Century Latin American History; with Catherine Komisaruk.

To learn more about Katherine Massoth visit:

UNM Ph.D. Can­di­dates Baca and Turo Spill Knowledge

June 4, 2012

For those of you in the Albuquerque area, these lectures would be great to attend. Unfortunately, I will be unable to go because we have been so busy at work, and tomorrow is also Election Day (don’t forget to vote 🙂 ). I have known Jacobo for many years. I met him when he was working in the Political Archives at UNM. That now seems like eons ago. He is also a patron of the archives. I did get to attend his lecture for the 2012 New Mexico Statehood History Conference in Santa Fe. On May 4th, he delivered a presentation titled John Collier’s New Mexico Boundary Bill and New Mexican Sabotage, which was well researched. If you get a chance, you may want to check this one out.


Historians Offer Two Talks about New Mexico History on June 5

May 30, 2012 | By Karen Wentworth

Originally published on the UNM web site under the “research.”

Two Ph.D. can­di­dates in His­tory at UNM will speak on Tues­day, June 5 at 1 p.m. in the Waters Room (105) of Zim­mer­man Library on the UNM Cam­pus.  The talks are co-hosted by  the Cen­ter for South­west Research and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, the His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety of New Mex­ico and The Office of the State His­to­rian as part of the 2012 His­tory Schol­ars Lec­ture Series.

Jacobo D. Baca, a Ph.D. can­di­date in the Depart­ment of His­tory at UNM speaks on “Pueb­los and His­panos in the Era of Fed­eral Relief: The New Deal, 1933–1945″ on Tues­day, June 5 at 1 p.m. in the Waters Room (105) of Zim­mer­man Library on the UNM campus.

Jacobo Baca

Dur­ing the New Deal, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment inau­gu­rated more than a half-decade of inten­sive stud­ies of Pueblo and His­pano vil­lages that demon­strated sim­i­lar­i­ties between their depen­dence on and rela­tion­ships to the land.  Led by Indian Com­mis­sioner John Col­lier, activists-turned-bureaucrats held on to their notions the Pueblo Indi­ans and His­panos were fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent peo­ples whose for­tunes depended on mutual hos­til­ity and depri­va­tion.  Build­ing from these ideas they fash­ioned dur­ing the cru­sade for Pueblo land rights in the Pueblo Lands Boards fight of the 1920s, advo­cates worked to use New Deal lib­er­al­ism to repa­tri­ate land to Pueblo Indian communities.

They faced stern and steady oppo­si­tion to their uni­lat­eral pro-Pueblo approach from Sen­a­tor Den­nis Chavez, who stood firm against Collier’s will to aid the Pueb­los at the expense of sur­round­ing His­pano vil­lages.  This lec­ture focuses on how the Indian Pueb­los and His­pano vil­lages in the Tewa Basin expe­ri­enced New Deal reform and how this reform impacted their ral­tion­ship with one another and with the fed­eral and state governments.

Baca is work­ing on his dis­ser­ta­tion “Somos indi­gena: Eth­nic Pol­i­tics and Land Tenure in Mod­ern New Mex­ico, 1904–2004.”  In it he explores eth­nic pol­i­tics and mod­ern land tenure in the Indian Pueb­los and His­pano vil­lages in New Mexico’s Tewa Basin.  He also stud­ies the chang­ing rela­tion­ship with fed­eral, state and local gov­ern­ments and how that impacted social and struc­tural rela­tions among the Pueblo and His­pano peoples.

Bryan W. Turo will speak on “An Empire of Dust: Thomas Ben­ton Catron and the Rise of Cor­po­rate Enter­prise in New Mex­ico, 1866–1921.”  As a Repub­li­can Party boss in New Mex­ico for half a cen­tury, Thomas Ben­ton Catron con­tributed to the growth of the ter­ri­tory and its incor­po­ra­tion into the larger frame of democ­racy and cap­i­tal­ism in the United States and abroad.

Bryan Turo

But more than that, Catron’s life can help to explain how Amer­i­can cul­ture and insti­tu­tions infil­trated the west­ern ter­ri­to­ries in the years fol­low­ing the Civil War.  This lec­ture will explore how Catron grew an empire out of the acqui­si­tion of land in New Mex­ico and other parts of the west and how he used it to make money in the form of joint stock companies.

Turo was raised in White Plains, N.Y. and com­pleted his Bachelor’s degree in Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­sity.  After tir­ing of harsh win­ters, he moved to Tuc­son, Ariz. To earn a Master’s in His­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona in 2008.  Since then, he has lived in Albu­querque where he is in the process of earn­ing a Ph.D. from UNM.  He stud­ies U.S. his­tory, with a focus on the West and South­west.  He is cur­rently fin­ish­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion on the life and times of Thomas Catron.

The lec­ture is free and the pub­lic is welcome.

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