The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: American History
- In partnership between Gale, part of Cengage Learning, and the Smithsonian, there are two new products available based on Smithsonian collections: Trade Literature & the Merchandizing of Industry and World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow. Watch the video above to hear SIL Director, Nancy E. Gwinn, and Head of Special Collections, Lilla Vekerdy, discuss the collections, their relevance in research and the significance of digitizing them. [via Unbound blog, SIL]
- “Behind the Badge,” an interactive exhibition, recently opened at the National Postal Museum. It showcases the work of one of the nation’s oldest federal law-enforcement agencies. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- A look at the Smithsonian Transcription Center from the perspective of one of its volunteers. [via The Past Burns Bright]
- New from AVPreserve is The Cost of Inaction Calculator, a free online tool that helps organizations analyze the implications of varying levels of preservation actions when dealing legacy audiovisual collections. [via AVPreserve blog]
- President Obama proclaimed June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month and the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History holds over 68 cubic feet of LGBT-related collections including the DC Cowboys Dance Company Records, an all-male, gay, non-profit dance company based in Washington, D.C. that was active from 1994-2012. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Recommended reading: The Allure of the Archives, by Arlette Farge; translated by Thomas Scott-Railton; talks about the joys and experience of doing research in an archives. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- In the 19th-century, color dictionaries provided a common language for scientists to describe different hues found in nature. One such dictionary was Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, but the Smithsonian's first curator of birds, Robert Ridgway. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- A boon to anyone standing in line at a grocery store or managing books or archival boxes, last week saw the 40th anniversary of the barcode. [via Core77]
- A unique collection indeed - North Carolina State University is developing a digital library of dyes. [via InfoDocket]
- Announced this week: Melissa Chiu, currently the museum director and senior vice president for Global Arts and Cultural Programs for the Asia Society in New York City, was named the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
- Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive launched a new digital online exhibit of World War II propaganda films. [via Kira Sobers, SIA]
- Members Only - A look at the characters who made up the membership of the Royal Institution. [via Royal Institution Blog]
- Who knew? - Roy Lichtenstein's, Modern Head, outside of the Smithsonian American Art Museum gets cleaned with dishwashing liquid. [via Eye Level, SAAM]
- The Biodiversity Heritage Library adds the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as its 16th member. [via InfoDocket]
- Another use for Legos - Cable management! [via Core77]
- Talk about a passion - Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor and computer graphics specialist, quest to determine the painting techniques of Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer. [via Colossal]
Will our photos help researchers authenticate the Kensington Runestone, or prove once and for all that it is a fake? The investigation is ongoing.
When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn’t really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Term handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you ask us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you’ll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here’s a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world’s largest museum complex!
Over the past three months, researcher projects have included:
- History of the American Society of Herpetologists and Ichthyologists
- History of the Waterbird Society
- Plant Geography
- History of botany
- George Washington University's Methods in Museum Anthropology class made its annual visit to use the microfilm of the Smithsonian's accession files
- Postmodern historicism on exhibit
- Early 20th century museum pedagogy
- Smithsonian educational initiatives
- The Kensington runestone
In addition, the movie, The Galapagos Affair, brought renewed interest in our records of 1930s Galapagos colonists and explorations.
Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:
The Department of State used numerous Smithsonian Institution Archives images in their American Spaces Program, including the Richard M. Nixon Inaugural Ball, January 20, 1969 at the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History)
- Mary Bird, “Experience Civil War Photography”, Government Executive magazine
- Julian Zelizer, A Great Society: the Fight for Liberalsim 1963-1968
- Robert Kett, Ornithologists in Olman: Ecological Knowledge and the Field Museum
Most Unusual reference Inquiry:
Question: We recently came across an article published in the Evening Star January 19, 1863. A similar article appeared in the paper the day before. We were curious if there were any records about this in the Archives, and if any more information was available about this case. The article reads:
It should be known that Mrs. Wren, by hand magnetism, has caused eight living reptiles to be expelled from a boy named Williams, living on 23rd street, between G and H, where the boy may be seen. He had been treated by the faculty without success for four months previous. At the request of Prof. Henry the reptiles have been presented to the Smithsonian Institute by Mrs. Wren. Her residence is No. 445 K street, between 6th and 7th streets.
Answer: A search of 1863 Smithsonian records didn’t turn up any reference to Mrs. Wren’s eight expelled reptiles. I fear that she was indulging a practice similar to the the sleight of hand tricks common to Brazilian psychic surgeons and other disreputable fortune tellers. . For what it’s worth, 19th century flim-flam artists loved to give their “discoveries” credence by stating that someone from the Smithsonian had shown interest.
- American Society of Herpetologists and Ichthyologists records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Waterbird Society records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 285 - National Museum of History and Technology, Office of the Director, Photographs, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives