The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
- Come join the fun! The DC Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archves Conference and the National Archives Assembly are having an archives fair on Thursday, April 3 at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- Interesting fact, that may or may not be surprising to some . . . A new study coming out finds that only 11% of new Twitter users in 2012 are still tweeting. [via InfoDocket]
- Hey, be careful of that first step. On April 2, the National Air and Space Museum will be adding to its permanent collections the capsule that carried Austrian parachutist Felic Baumgartner to 39,044 meters (128,100 feet) over Roswell, New Mexico and the pressure suit and parachute that he used from an earlier jump from 29,455 meters. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Seems like curatorship is everywhere these days, from peoples' Pintrest pages to curated collections at retail shops, magazines, and websites. Leslie Johnston delves into this emergent phenomena of "curation." [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Another quiz you just have to take - Which Royal Institution speaker or scientist are you? (James Smithson played a part in the history the Royal Institution, not to mention being the founding donor of the Smithsonian) [via The Royal Institution]
- A call to action . . . preserving audio for the future is a race against time. [via NPR]
- Another call, this time from the National Archives to all the citizen archivists out there to help caption videos on Amara. [via NARAtions, NARA]
- Announced this week - The Canadian Museum of Nature launches a new site with 710,000 records of plants, animals, fossils, and minerals that are part of the museum’s national collections. [via InfoDocket]
- Last week we shared the awesome animated gifs of Hungarian/German graphic designer David Szakaly, this week comes the more tactile, but equally incredible mosaic patterns done in wet clay by Mikhail Sadovnikov. [via Colossal]
As we celebrate Women’s History Month at the Smithsonian, you might ask who was the first woman to secure a paid position at the Smithsonian? Jane Wadden Turner (1818- 1896) was appointed a library clerk in 1857 after being trained by her brother. The Robert Wadden and Elizabeth Jameson Turner family immigrated from England in 1818, with three children, Susan then ten, William Wadden then seven, and Jane Wadden only three months old. The family had some resources, but their father died in 1821 and their mother died in 1828, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Despite the challenges, the close-knit family stayed together and made a remarkable life for themselves in their new home. Susan, the oldest, always stayed at home and kept house for her two siblings, giving them the freedom to pursue intellectual careers and a life devoted to books.
William Wadden Turner (1811-1859) became a noted philologist and was trained as a librarian at Columbia College in New York City. He moved to Washington, DC, in 1852 to organize the library of the Patent Office and soon became a close friend of the Smithsonian’s Assistant Secretary Spencer F. Baird. His sisters soon followed and the household now included William’s wife and a growing family. The entire Turner family spent their Sundays and holidays at the Baird’s, part of the warm network of young scholars that Spencer and Mary Churchill Baird created in their home. In 1857, Baird asked William to assume responsibility for the Smithsonian library, and William delegated the task of preparing the catalogue to his sister Jane.
Family connections were one of the ways women were able to enter professional positions in the 19th century, and Jane Turner is a great example of that pattern. She was appointed a library clerk in 1858, and after her brother's early death in 1859, was placed in charge of the library. Secretary Joseph Henry wrote of her that she "vindicates by her accuracy and efficiency the propriety of employing her sex in some of the departments of the government."
After a devasting fire in the Smithsonian Castle in 1865, Henry transferred the Smithsonian Library to the Library of Congress in 1866. Jane Turner then served as assistant to A. R. Spofford, Librarian of Congress. She also was clerk in charge of the Smithsonian’s International Exchange Service from 1866 to 1869. Turner oversaw the distribution and exchange of scientific publications with 1,744 institutions in twenty-six countries. Turner's position, however, did not entail supervising men. When the Institution recruited another person to handle the ever growing International Exchange Service in 1885, one Smithsonian administrator wrote: "I have a full appreciation of the merits, business capacity, and efficiency of women, as is shown by the fact that our present librarian is a 'female of that sex'; but the place I refer to may grow to be a controlling one, covering several extensive departments which could not well be subordinated to a woman." The glass ceiling was cleary put up early in Smithsonian history.
After Henry’s death in 1878, the Institution's library began to grow again and Ms. Turner resumed the duties of Smithsonian Librarian in 1882 until 1887 when she resigned after a reorganization of the Library by the new Secretary, Samuel P. Langley. After Turner's retirement, a woman was not appointed Chief of the Smithsonian Library until 1942, during World War II, when Leila Gay Forbes Clark was placed in charge.
- Record Unit 7098 - Biographical Information File, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- In Memoriam - Jane Wadden Turner, Open Library
- Smithsonian Institution Libraries history, Smithsonian Institution Archives
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