The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
You know the old cliché—“A picture is worth a thousand words.” But is it true in every case? A simple portrait from 60 years ago may give some clues to period hairstyle and dress, but none to where the photo was taken or why the person was noteworthy. Sources now available on the internet, such as the Historic newspaper database, Proquest, and even YouTube—give Smithsonian Institution Archives researchers quick access to information that will illuminate and enrich the photos.
The following three photos from the Science Service records held by the Smithsonian Institution Archives illustrate the early history of The Science Service Science Talent Search.
The Science Service Talent Search was a continuation of Westinghouse’s Science Award program for promising high school students. Open to both boys and girls, the Talent Search offered awards in proportion to the numbers of each sex entering the contest. Two top winners—one boy and one girl—each received a $2,400 scholarship from Westinghouse. Above, world heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney is pictured chatting up four Science Talent Search competitors. He became active in youth work after his retirement from the ring, but was perhaps best known for his famous fight with Jack Dempsey. YouTube gives us an opportunity to watch highlights of Tunney’s famous “Long Count match” with Jack Dempsey:
Marina Prajmovsky, 1942 winner, was remembered in a 2003 NY Times article:
"Miss Prajmovsky, the first winner, who later married and became Dr. Marina Meyers, died in 1974 after a career as an ophthalmologist. But there is still a record of her elation at the turn her life took.
'In high school there was little room to work and only the crudest equipment, but here with the luxury of a lab of my own and almost anything I want to work with I feel my own limitations,' she wrote from Harvard University, two years after she won. 'There just isn't any excuse for what I do wrong or leave undone. But as discouraging as this is now and then, it's such a wonderful feeling to begin to understand a little bit of something that seemed just about impenetrable only a little while ago.'"
New York Times (1923-Current File) ; Mar. 9, 2003; Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2006) pg. LII
1944 Science Talent Search winner Anne Hagopian’s cosmopolitan background is noted in her wedding announcement:
“Troth Announced of Anne Hagopian"
“Miss Hagopian was graduated from the Brearly School here and is attending Radcliffe College. A granddaughter of the Late Hovhannes Hagopian Bey of the Ministry of the Interior of Eggypt, and of M. and Mme. Gaston Perrot-Revilliod of Geneva, she is a grandniece of the late Gustav Ador, former president of Switzerland…”
New York Times: Nov. 24, 1946 (1923-Current file); Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2006) pg. 73
The Science Talent Search, now sponsored by Intel, is still held by the SS’s successor, the Society for Science and the Public. Here’s a link to the current winners.
When the names of certain cities are mentioned, photographic images of them pop into your head almost immediately. Washington = buildings on or near the mall. New York = skyscrapers of one sort or another. Paris = the Eiffel Tower. Tokyo = the Ginza shopping and entertainment district. With that thought in mind—and considering the multiple roles photography plays in shaping, documenting and marketing cities—we thought it would be interesting to explore how photographic images become symbolic and defining ones for metropolitan centers.
Miami sounded like a good city to focus on because it conjures up so many vivid and photographic images. Picture postcards of oranges, beaches, palm trees, coconuts, and crocodiles. Promotional images of mid-century hotels, swimming pools, and pastel-colored Art Deco buildings in the South Beach district. Television shows like Miami Vice, which ran 1984–1989 and, as People Magazine described it, "was the first show to look really new and different since color TV was invented."
The city photographs well. The light is bright and crisp; the weather’s great most of the time, which makes photographers’ jobs a lot easier to do. Every time I’ve been in Miami, I’ve walked by fashion shoots in progress. One afternoon, eating lunch at an outdoor café on Ocean Drive, I decided to keep count of the models, out on calls for their agencies and clutching their portfolios under their arms, who roller-skated by. There were lots of them.
Miami, of course, has its serious side. It’s a huge metropolitan area, a center of global trade, and has the largest concentration of international banks in the country. Historically, as the city has grown, and as real estate developers and architects have shaped and reshaped the city, photography has played a central role in the process. Which explains what led me to Allan Schulman, an architect, urban designer, and writer from Miami, whose work focuses on tropical architecture, housing, and regional design history. His story for click!, based on elegant black-and-white photographs made by Samuel Gottscho raises some provocative ideas about how photography shapes our experience of, and in cities. To read Allan’s story, click here.
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