The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: American History
Thanksgiving is gone and over
The Turkey is in the stew
When the pot is empty
What then, will you do?
Mayhap, glance at the calendar
And conceive with joyful delight
That the furious little snowflakes are here
And Christmas is almost in sight
The bearded man will soon take leave
To make place for the young
And soon we'll all be gaily caroling
A happy Easter song.
By Leroy Wells, Biological Sciences International Exchange
From The Torch, December 1956 - Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION ARCHIVES!
- The beauty of the mechanical - Photographer, Kevin Twomey, has a series of images of the inside workings of mechanical calculators. [via PetaPixel]
- The Getty's Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OCSI) serves as a platform for the sharing of free art catalogues, including the Freer and Sackler Galleries catalog, The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book. [via OpenCulture]
- On Halloween this year, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of American History redidicated Alexander Calder's, Gwenfritz, as was reinstalled in it's original location on the west lawn of NMAH. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- A reimagined National Mall, as told by artist, Sam Durant's Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions, Washington, D.C., which is on exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. [via Unframed blog, LACMA]
- Imagine that - You are now able to search every tweet on Twitter, all some half trillion of them and get results in under 100ms. [via InfoDocket]
- The Great War is a video series that will document how World War I unfolded, week-by-week, for the next 4 years. [via OpenCulture]
- Talk about a handful - A look at raising red pandas by hand at the National Zoo. [via Smithsonian Science]
Named after the two-year-old daughter of soon to be President John F. Kennedy, the Caroline began its service as the Kennedy family airplane in 1959. The twin engine Convair CV-240 was one of the first planes with cabin pressurization that was manufactured for commercial use after World War II and also holds the honor of being the first private aircraft used during a United States presidential campaign, dramatically changing the future of political campaigning. Caroline served the Kennedy family for nine years and 650,000 miles, ending her run at Washington National Airport where she was donated to the Smithsonian Institution on November 17, 1967. Senator Robert F. Kennedy presented the plane to Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley and was accompanied by brother Edward M. Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy clan. The Caroline is currently in storage at the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility. Click through the slideshow below to see images from the presentation of the Caroline to the Smithsonian.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – 163 to be exact – Herman Melville's Moby-Dick was first published in the United States. In honor of this classic work, we'd like to share this whale themed slideshow. Enjoy!
- Accession T90043, New England Whaling Schooner Logbooks, 1841-1888, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
- Accession 10-062, National Museum of Natural History, Office of Education and Outreach, Friday Noon Lecture Program Audiotapes, 1991, 1995-1996, 2000-2004, 2007-2009, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
In our modern world of Internet feeds, push notifications, and twenty-four-hour news coverage, it can be difficult to imagine relying not only on printed material for knowledge of world affairs but on time-delayed information - like this update on the progress of World War II from The Washington Star, dated August 30, 1942. The article was rediscovered on the back of another clipping which was being prepared for digitization from the papers of Samuel Pierpont Langley, third secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. It featured a detailed breakdown of the conflict across all relevant theaters from Europe to the Pacific, and supplemented by a map of Allied and Axis movements in northern France, this war update provides what may have been for many Washington, D.C. residents one of the only resources available to them for following the progress of a struggle that friends and family were directly or indirectly involved in, and that touched all aspects of their lives.
At this point in the war, the extent to which the conflict would continue was a subject of much debate and great concern; as the headline states, "Embattled World Starts Fourth Year of War With Turning Point Still Lying Ahead," highlighting the uncertain future of world affairs. While the article is positive about Allied victories, the pervading sense that the world is being beaten down by the conflict is clear from the author’s stark observation that “there is no end in sight,” and from the characterization of Russia's resistance to the German eastern line as "in an increasingly desperate condition." The article further touches on the German–Russian stalemate at Stalingrad and the Japanese defeat at Guadalcanal, foreshadows the Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt, and celebrates the declaration of a previously neutral Brazil for the Allied side.
This update is also fascinating for the glimpse it offers of wartime censorship, both subtly through some sub-textual journalistic frustration at lack of information on recent American casualties in the Pacific, and less so courtesy of a second article below the war update specifically discussing the "Herculean task" of censoring news, an intriguing juxtaposition of the two contradictory wartime imperatives to spread and curtail information. The headline’s subtitle is of particular note - "Curbing of News Only Minor Part of Problem of Guarding War Information" - given the general perception of censorship as a negative process. In this case, censorship is functioning in part as a protective measure for the American forces serving overseas, lest sensitive information be acquired by the Axis powers.
The need to keep troop locations and movements under wraps even influenced those servicemen who volunteered to collect natural history specimens for the Smithsonian (when time permitted) to leave physical provenance information out of their reports home, as can be seen in a letter from Sergeant Raymond L. Baker to the Smithsonian. He informs the curators that "the exact geographical location will only be furnished when there is no longer need for censorship," presumably providing those details after the conflict ended. The instructions to keep geographical data out of reports likely came from A Field Collector’s Manual in Natural History, prepared by Smithsonian staff for these soldier-collectors.
As the United States celebrates Veterans Day in conjunction with Remembrance Days throughout the world, the rediscovery of this World War II era news update encourages reflection on the dedicated service of the men and women who fought for their countries and did their best to protect innocent lives.
- Record Unit 7003 - Samuel Pierpoint Langley Papers, 1867-1906, Smithsonian Institution Archives