The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Reflections on Women's History Month
Throughout March, archivists from the Smithsonian Institution Archives archivists blogged about the women scientists in the Science Service Records (1902-1965). Here is a reflection on their experience.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives’ recent participation in the Photography and the Smithsonian blog has been a fun and rewarding experience; it was the first foray into the blogosphere for most of us and it provided us with an opportunity to offer some insight not only into what we do as reference archivists, but more importantly, the significant contributions of the relatively unknown scientists in the “Women in Science” set of images. Most of the 82 images that make up “Women in Science” set were culled from our collection of Science Service Records, 1902-1965 (Accession 90-105.) There are thousands of images in this collection, many of which remain unidentified. We solicited your assistance in unlocking the secrets of these unidentified images and have been excited by your responses, two images have been positively identified and we now have leads on a few others.
The Smithsonian holds thousands of photographs for which the provenance is unknown. Many of our images lack detail regarding the subject, date, location, and/or photographer. We (the Smithsonian Institution Archives, “SIA” for those of us who speak in seemingly mandated acronyms; consider yourself a member of this often confusing fraternity) maintain Record Unit 95 as a central file of photographs documenting the history of the Institution. It is a combination of reference files which were created by various administrative offices of the Smithsonian, and individual photographs which have come in separately from other records or manuscript collections. The Thomas Smillie cyanotypes, one of the very first sets of images we posted on Flickr, is such a collection of images. Thanks to your assistance, we now have positive identifications for two of the Smillie cyanotypes.
We did not know what to expect when the call for identifications was posted about a month ago. I consider four confirmed positive identifications a tremendous success, and am excited for identifications which may follow. We encourage you to comment on an image you are able to identify or offer some insight. It would be very helpful if you could advise us how you came to the identification, including a web link to a source would be greatly appreciated. We review comments daily and will acknowledge your contribution via a comment upon confirming the identification.
Thank you for your efforts, and for viewing images posted by the Smithsonian.