The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: American History
- 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]
Summertime in Washington, DC usually brings a few things to mind for me: the United States Department of Agriculture farmer's market, tourists, buses, Jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. First started in 1967, this year's festival focuses on the following:
- Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival
- One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage
- The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity
Running from June 24-26 and July 3-7, the schedule of activities, programs, and performances is incredible. So if you'll be in Washington, DC during this time or live nearby, please come out to learn from and experience the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
- 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]
I was visiting South Carolina recently, and passed through Beaufort. It turns out this beautiful southern town has a surprising connection to the Smithsonian.
In November 1861, when Union troops occupied Beaufort, one of the principal treasures of the town was its outstanding library - which had been incorporated in 1807 and encompassed several thousand books, many having been brought back from Europe by wealthy Carolinians. With the arrival of the troops, landed Beaufort-area residents had fled and the town was in the hands of those left behind: enslaved people from the Sea Islands plantations.
General Isaac Stevens, the Union commanding officer, ordered that the library, called "the pride of the town," be arranged for the use of the troops. Within a few months, however, a treasury agent appeared, demanding the books be confiscated as war booty. The books were sent to New York, where they were put up for auction.
This caused an immediate outcry. The New York Times editorialized against it; and a letter to the editor urged them to continue the fight (or as the writer wonderfully put it, "ventilate" the subject!). Within a day, Salmon Chase, Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, allegedly declared "the Union does not make war on books," and put a halt to the proceedings. The books were then deposited for safe keeping at the Smithsonian. They were to be returned at the conclusion of the war. (Salmon Chase became a Smithsonian Regent in 1864, after Lincoln successfully nominated him to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and he continued in that role until his death in 1873.)
Saved from auction, the books were placed in the fifth floor of the South Tower of the Smithsonian Building (the Castle - then the Smithsonian's only building). The war dragged on; in 1864, two years after the seizure of the books, newspapers reassured the South that the library remained safe and sound.
Tragically, on January 24, 1865, fire ripped through the Castle building. The Beaufort Library collection was completely destroyed, along with many other collections and papers - including almost all of the relics of the Smithsonian's founder, James Smithson, which were being kept a few floors below in the Regents Room.
Beaufort eventually received some token compensation for their loss. Today the Beaufort County Library is a thriving place. Happily, the book collection lost in the 1865 fire wasn't the last connection between Beaufort and the Smithsonian. The library hosted a Smithsonian traveling exhibition in early 2012.
- Smokin' Smithsonian, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
It is the season of 90 degree days, the Folklife Festival, ice cream trucks, and the sound of the Smithsonian carousel playing its fun house music in the distance. As someone who has to commute to and from work by bicycle through the legions of tourist buses, crowds of umbrellas, and FBI paraphernalia, I try to replace my slight annoyance in being delayed by remembering that many memories are being made right before my eyes. This Flickr Set brings that to life for me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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