The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
- On Thursday, the Founders Online project was launched. The website/online tool brings together the papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. [via InfoDocket]
- At the Bodleian Library staff can call upon a boxed collection of "dated and datable pins" (and paperclips) collected over the years to help identify the date of manuscripts, a veritable "prickly taxonomy." [via Heather Ewing, SIA]
- The ephemeral quality of digital artwork is put to the test, after the artwork, The World's First Collaborative Sentence by Douglas Davis needed to be restored. [via Carl Schaefer, SIA]
- In the third part of a series on preserving family history, Bertram Lyons, an archivist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, answers questions about manuscripts, video, and other issues. [via The New York Times]
- Before Facebook, there was MySpace; before MySpace there was Friendster; but before all of these were a myriad of online communites that included Usenet, CompuServe, and bulletin board systems among others, that connected people. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Musical traditions are an integral park of people's cultural history, but in some instances are in danger of being forgotten by newer generations. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are one example of a group that is keeping the sound and tradition of Southern black music from the 1920s and 1930s alive. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Around the Washington, DC area it is definitely feeling like summer and one of the awesome parts of the summer experience are the fireflies that come out in the evening. Photographer Yume Cyan takes some amazing long exposures of fireflies in the forests arouns Nagoya City, Japan. [via Colossal]
- Recently, the National Museum of American History acquired the guitar of Hawaiian slack key guitarist Reverend Dennis Kamakahi.
- Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire staff of photographers. Al Podgorski, one of the photographers, decided to capture the moment he and his colleagues got the news. [via PetaPixel]
- Familiar to archivists everywhere: The despised paper fastener gets its day in the spotlight at the National Archives. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- In part 2 of a series on preserving family history, Bertram Lyons, an archivist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, answers questions about preserving film and photographs. [via The New York Times]
- Celebrate archives! This coming Sunday, June 9 is the 6th Annual International Archives Day! [via Jennifer Wright, SIA]
- To promote its summer reading program the Seattle Public Library set up a record breaking domino chain of 2131 books. [via InfoDocket]
- In Part 1 of a series on preserving your family history, Bertram Lyons, an archivist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, answers questions about preserving audio. [via New York Times]
- Emulation has come a long way in helping preserve the look, feel, and funcationality of software from the past, but there is still a need to preserve the hardware as well. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Available for free download for archivists: Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition. [via InfoDocket]
- The National Archives as well as other federal agencies have been working to implement the Digital Government Strategy by improving digital services to better serve people though mobile apps and web APIs. [via NARAations, NARA]
- Smithsonian Magazine and Air & Space Magazine are now available in their entirety from Gale Cengage. [via InfoDocket]
- The people and places across America have so many stories to tell and Smithsonian Magazine offers two: Shane Confectionery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and coffin maker Marcus Daly. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
Even though I work at the Smithsonian Institution there are quite a few exhibitions throughout the museums and galleries that I don’t get around to visiting because there are not enough hours in the day. This includes the monster snake Titanoboa. Luckily my children did get to view it up close in all its frightening glory at the National Museum of Natural History last year. Nevertheless, I do get to work with the planning records of some of the Smithsonian exhibitions in my job. These records deal with the design, execution, and installation of exhibitions.
Digital files in these collections can include correspondence, memoranda, concepts, proposals, scripts, label texts, catalogs, promotional materials, clippings, installation photographs, floor plans, drawings, graphics, checklists, schedules, visitor comment books, notes, and other related materials. Going though these records gives me a real appreciation for all the work that goes into planning and opening an exhibition, which can take years and many phases. Multiple offices and contractors also can be part of the process.
Exhibition space has to be carefully laid out. The Office of Exhibit Central’s floor plans for the Smithsonian 2008 Artists at Work offer great details of where each object would go in the juried exhibition that featured 70 works created by Smithsonian staff, fellows, interns, and volunteers. This work was done using CAD (computer-assisted design) software.
Many exhibitions also have an online presence now either through websites or social media. Not only did the Piano 300 website serve as a companion piece for more than a decade to the Piano 300 exhibition that ran from 2000-2001, it also demonstrates how website design has changed since 2000. The website was recently removed but has been archived.
Some exhibitions also travel to other institutions after being on view at the Smithsonian in coordination with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music was one of those, which is now on exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Some of these records include educational materials for classroom use.
The Smithsonian also maintains a wonderful database of past (starting from the 1980s), current, and upcoming exhibitions as well. For instance, American Art at the 1893 World's Fair was held at the National Portrait Museum in 1993 to mark the 100th anniversary of World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This database serves as another tool that notes the history of the various museums, galleries, and research centers at the Smithsonian and their role in telling many stories.
Exhibition records are a rich resource that can document how museum exhibitions have evolved over time or how a specific object was described and used within an exhibition. These records offer a deeper understanding of all the hard work that was needed to make an exhibition a reality.
- Starting on Friday visitors to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center will be able to watch the conservation work being done on historical Apollo Saturn V engines that were recovered from the bottom of the ocean. [via Wired]
- How will researchers use digital content being preserved by archives? A good place to start answering this question is with the researchers themselves. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- This past week, the FBI and National Archives started returning the more than 10,000 historical items to their rightful owners after they had been stolen by Barry Landau and his assistant, Jason Savedoff. [via The Washington Post]
- Armed with their scanners, digital cameras, and smartphones, researchers' methods of research and use of archives has significantly changed. [via The New York Times]
- On the 150th Anniversary of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), the National Archives has completed the digitization of all service records of the USCT, some 3.8 million images. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- MP3 audio files, JPEGS, no thank you! Make mine lossless. The folks at the Library of Congress provide an excellent explanation of the costs of "lossy" compression of digital files. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- If you live in the Washington, DC metro area you have no doubt heard about the Brood II species of cicadas that are starting to emerge after being in the ground for the last 17 years, here's a view of the cicada's molting process. [via Retina, Smithsonian Magazine]
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