The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: American History
- October is here and with it comes American Archives Month! [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- At the National Musem of American History - Three new collections that represent Latinas from Los Angeles, California. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- Aspiring artist? The National Portrait Gallery's Teen Portrait Contest runs through the end of October, so turn in your submissions today! [via NPG]
- You may have heard, but scientists have discovered the presence of water on Mars! [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Out this week - The Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit, a "tool that provides information and resources to help federal agencies use the power of public participation to help solve scientific and societal problems." [via NARAtions blog, NARA]
- A new exhibit at Throckmorton Fine Art in New York, Mexican Photography: Women Pioneers I, presents black-and-white images from some of Mexico’s most celebrated female photographers. [via Lens, NYT]
- For fans of DC - A video visualizing early Washington, DC. [via Ghosts of DC]
When I began doing oral history interviews at the Smithsonian in 1974, I went to see Louise Daniel Hutchinson (1928-2014) of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, now the Anacostia Community Museum (ACM). She was a pioneer in community oral history and experimented with new media, such as video, that captured settings and body language. She maintained the highest standards of scholarship at the same time that she welcomed the inexperienced, those outside the ivy-covered walls of academe. Her dedication to African American history was infectious, and she had a major effect on the development of the Anacostia Museum.
Born in 1928 in Ridge, Maryland, Hutchinson’s parents were teachers and civil rights activists in the District of Columbia. As a college student, she sat-in at lunch counters and attended the arguments for Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. She received her B.A. from Howard University in 1951 and pursued graduate studies in sociology. She married Ellsworth W. Hutchinson, Jr., and worked as a substitute teacher as they raised six children. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Hutchinson reassessed her life and decided she had to make more major contributions to improve the world for her children. As she was looking for an outlet, she was asked to take on an education project at the National Portrait Gallery that would focus on working with the District of Columbia public schools. So in 1971 she became a researcher at the Portrait Gallery, working on the African American portraiture of William Harmon and Winold Reiss, with a goal of linking to the local community. She also contributed to the exhibit The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution while creating a solid program of educational activities.
By that time, the Smithsonian was beginning to change a bit. Secretary S. Dillon Ripley had created the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in 1967 to reach out to the local African American communities that rarely visited the Mall museums. Community activist John Kinard was named director, and he brought Hutchinson to the Museum in 1974 to direct its Research Center. She quickly began a series of dynamic programs that engaged the community. The museum was housed in an old movie theater which a cadre of volunteers helped convert to a museum. The Anacostia Historical Society grew under her watchful eye, and she created a research center where locals brought their treasured bibles and photographs for preservation.
Hutchinson curated several ground-breaking exhibits, such as The Anacostia Story: 1608-1930, Out of Africa: From West African Kingdoms to Colonization, and Black Women: Achievements Against the Odds. Meticulously researched, they were accompanied by books that made this history available to a broader audience. Smithsonian administrators had viewed the Anacostia site as a temporary exhibit venue to attract visitors to the Mall, not an actual museum. Hutchinson worked hard to redefine the museum's mission and eventually succeeded "against the odds" in making it a full scale museum. But she and her colleagues had to overcome significant inertia and even opposition on the Mall. The museum's Research Center collected a wealth of materials on African American history, including interviews of community members. She ensured that the contributions of the Anacostia and wider African American community were recognized in the historical record, and then shared that information with K-12 teachers and their students, community members, scholars and college students alike. She also rewrote Smithsonian history with her book, Kind Regards of S. G. Brown, on Professor Solomon Brown, the first African American employee at the Smithsonian who spent 54 years at the Institution.
Hutchinson was always busy, but never too busy to mentor younger folks who needed guidance. Always generous with her time and expertise, Hutchinson placed the Anacostia Community Museum on a firm foundation and developed a cadre of young people to carry her work forward.
Please listen to the following audio clips from the oral history interviews with Louise Daniel Hutchinson:
- Louise Hutchinson on the impact of the Martin Luther King , Jr. assassination on her work.
- Louise Hutchinson on working against all odds.
- Solomon Brown: First African American Employee at the Smithsonian Institution, online exhibition, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Eminent scholar leaves lasting legacy, East of the River DC News
- Record Unit 9588: Oral history interviews with Louise Daniel Hutchinson, 1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- A wonderful graphic of the history of the National Mall using its museums, memorials, and significant events. [via Washington Post]
- This past week was #AskACurator day and the folks at the National Museum of American History shared some of their favorite questions they received. [O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- As part of it celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month, the Library of Congress launched an online selection from its Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. [via InfoDocket]
- Connections between Herman Melville and the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry, found! [via Unbound blog, Smithsonian Libraries]
- A look at the steps involved in putting on an Archives of American Art exhibition. [via Archives of American Art blog]
- The National Archives and Records Administration recently released new guidance for metadata requirements for transferring electronic records. [via InfoDocket]
- Congrats to the Biodiversity Heritage Library for making Wired's list of 103 Must-Follow Feeds in Science, Culture, Design, and More. [via Wired]
- It's been an exciting and sad time at the National Zoo these last few weeks as giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth to twin cubs, but then unfortunately loss the smaller cub within a few days. [The Torch, SI]
- Last week marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast area and Curator of Photography at the Archives Center at the National Museum of America History, David Haberstich, shares about collecting materials that documented the destruction that occured and its affects on the lives of those there. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Love maps? Well now you can download The History of Cartography for free! [via OpenCulture]
- Something to keep an eye on - Some of the biggest names in tech are teaming up to create a new open source video format. [via Wired]
- Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Library of Congress' National Book Festival being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. [via Library of Congress Blog]
- Smithsonian scientists and colleagues have discovered a new genus and species of river dolphin that has long been extinct. [via SI Newsdesk]
- Simply put . . . duct tape is awesome! Especially so when you have to fix your rover on the moon with it. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
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