The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Archive
For this next installment of Miscellaneous Adventures, you voted to open Record Unit 50 – Office of the Secretary, Records, 1949-1964, Box 26, Folder Awards - Miscellaneous, 1928-1958. As the title suggests, this is a folder of correspondence with regards to awards given out from 1928 to 1958 that did not fall into any other award category in this collection.
The very first letter in this folder caught my eye instantly. It was a suggestion submitted on September 20, 1951, to the Efficiency Awards Committee for a possible award to be given to Mr. W. C. Hamer, Chief of the Cabinet Shop. Six months earlier, Mr. Hamer had received a request for 5,000 marking blocks with tin label holders from the Division of Mollusks. This type of marking block had been requested and produced in the past, but this time Mr. Hamer suggested eliminating the tin label holder and cutting a groove in the block to hold the label instead. The approved design resulted in a cost savings of almost $350, mainly because of the significantly reduced amount of labor required to create the new marking blocks. If the submission was approved, Mr. Hamer would be eligible to receive a small monetary award.
Also contained in this folder is correspondence relating to awards that were not given out. For instance, there is a letter from Secretary Leonard Carmichael to Mr. H. M. Trent, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Engineering Award, providing a response to Mr. Trent's request for a candidate from the Smithsonian for the award. In Secretary Carmichael's letter he states that the Smithsonian does not have a suitable candidate to submit for the 1955 Engineering Award, but that there is an individual who might make a good candidate in the next three or four years. The notes attached to the response state that the prospective candidate had not yet published a paper in the engineering field, and therefore he would not have a good chance of winning the award so Secretary Carmichael decided to delay his submission until the candidate was ready.
The last set of material pertains to the establishment by Congress of the Medal for Distinguished Civilian Achievement. The folder contains a draft of the bill "incorporating recommendations agreed to by the Committee on Civilian National Honors." The medal was to be given to people who had outstanding accomplishments in the fields of public affairs, social betterment, health and medicine, arts, law, and agriculture, among others. The bill also contained a section to establish a board of five members who would recommend up to five people to the President of the United States who met the designated criteria for the reward. After going through revisions, the bill was voted upon favorably by the House of Representatives and passed on to the Senate in July 1958.
- Vote Folder A for Accession 91-176 - John J. Wurdack Papers, c. 1949-1986, Box 1, Folder Miscellaneous, 1965
- Vote Folder B for Accession 02-027 - Freer Gallery of Art Superintendent of Construction, Correspondence, 1913-1936, Box 1, Folders Letters Regarding Miscellaneous Jobs, 1920-1934
- Past Miscellaneous Adventures posts, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Archive-It 5.0 Changes and New Features
As a web preservation intern at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, I capture and preserve the Smithsonian’s web presence using the Archive-It crawling service. In October 2014, Archive-It released Phase 1 of Archive-It 5.0, which featured the roll-out of a new interface and more robust data collection for post-crawl reports. Currently the service allows users to switch between the 4.9 and 5.0 versions. Archive-It offers ten new features for reports, which include quick text box filter, infographics, the ability to add notes, and the option to compare two crawl reports side by side. The reports generated by web crawls play a large part in the Archives’ web collection packages and quality assurance (QA), so the changes between versions 4.9 and 5.0 are important for us to understand as we attempt to preserve the record of the ephemeral web.
Version 4.9 Crawl Report
Version 5.0 Crawl Report
Archive-It One-Time IDs
The snapshots above were taken of the same crawl report, one in 4.9 and the other in 5.0. The new format and interface are not the only differences. The one-time IDs (identifiers) are different. For this crawl version 4.9 was assigned 20150320165024358, and version 5.0 was assigned 149112. While the Archives does not fully rely on these numbers as identifiers for crawls, they are attached to the file name when a summary/overview report and the WARC files are downloaded for our collections. Currently, the ability to switch back and forth between 4.9 and 5.0 makes this issue moot, but once this capability is removed those reports and WARC files downloaded with the 4.9 ID will be more difficult to locate and identify in the new Archive-It reports. Archive-It does not mention this change on the Wikis it has provided regarding the roll-out of 5.0. This change could be problematic for those organizations who use these IDs to identify crawls.
Report Summary Data
Part of our web collection packages include downloading the host data and the report summary from the post-crawl report. The host download provides the URLs that were archived from each host as well as other information such as new data, documents blocked by robots.txt, and out-of-scope documents. When switching between 4.9 and 5.0, the only change is the interface and the ability to browse hosts by seed for more robust data.
When viewing 5.0, the report summary is now called an overview but with the same type of data. However, I noticed a few discrepancies. The data is not consistent when switching between the two versions. The snapshots of the same crawl above show different numbers for the Total Documents Archived. Version 4.9 archived 12,440 documents while version 5.0 archived 12,386 documents. It is unclear why the data is different when switching between the two versions.
New Features Overall
The interface of the 5.0 reports page is an improvement. The one-time IDs are now visible, however the collection name is cut off if the collections name is too long, requiring users to hover over the name to see it in its entirety. The reports page quick text box filter is a helpful feature. The search function is more flexible than 4.9, which only allowed searches by collection name or date.
The new view feature provides users with a link from the reports page directly to the Wayback Machine to view the URL without having to navigate to this resource through the access tab. This feature can help improve our quality assurance (QA) workflow. QA involves ensuring our crawl and capture of the site accurately represents what the website displayed at the time of the crawl. Wayback allows us to view the crawl results visually in website form unlike the reports and hosts which provide numerical data about the crawl.
Overall, the 5.0 features are an improvement on this service, which is an important tool for archiving the record of the Smithsonian today.
Sprinkled throughout the Science Service records are traces of a merry crew, the fading shadows of colleagues who shared jokes in the workplace, made up fake press releases to announce marriages, created gag photographs to make each other laugh, and sprinkled their speeches and correspondence with humor.
Astronomer James Stokley normally adopted a dignified demeanor while working on the Science Service staff. During the 1920s, however, for undisclosed reasons, he posed in pince-nez and bowtie, with a mischievous glint in his eye.
Family members joined in the fun. During the early 1930s, Watson Davis and Frank Thone posed for a series of gag photos with Watson's daughter Charlotte.
Thone then took the gag one step (or one wastebasket) further.
Frank Thone had a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Chicago and wrote the organization's "Nature Ramblings" column. Such interests may have inspired the "facial insect ramble" photograph created by Science Service staff photographer Fremont Davis.
By the 1930s, Watson Davis had become a popular speaker, making the case for popularization and offering insight to the state of science in the United States. Davis kept a file of jokes, anecdotes, and aphorisms to insert into speeches, many of which are archived in Record Unit 7091: Science Service, Records, circa 1910-1963, Box 443, Folder 10. On one of the cards, dated November 5, 1938, Davis recorded how his young son Miles had reacted to the Smithsonian Institution: "Miles visiting U.S. Nat. Museum Industries Bldg. liked it so much he said: 'If I can find a hook sticking out around here, I’d like to shake hands with it.'"
- Science Service Records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- The public has voted - Congratulations Mayni and Muniri, the newly named Andrean bear cubs at the National Zoo! [via NZP]
- A salute to an extraordinary archivist, Sara Dunlap Jackson of the National Archives and Records Administration. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- For your reading pleasure - The Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering 422 of its publications free to download. [via OpenCulture]
- For your consideration - A look at the mostly superficial media portrayals of women scientists. [via Scientific American]
- Happy 100th! The Flickr Commons welcomed its 100th member institution this week - Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. [via InfoDocket]
- Answered - How does one process butterfly pupae? [via Unearthed blog, NMNH]
- A duo of discoveries - William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales and forgotten works by pioneering artisit, Nam June Paik. [via InfoDocket and Smithsonian Magazine]
- A new tool for managing your digital projects - UCLA Library Special Collections Digital Project Toolkit. [via UCLA Library]
- Once synonymous with photography, Kodak is trying to reinvent itself to remain relevant. [via The New York Times]
With a hint of spring finally in the air, my thoughts turn to the sights, sounds and smells of trees in bloom and birds nesting. I look forward to a beautiful day in May when I can walk through a nearby nature preserve and see delicate blossoms hiding among the leaf litter. These wild flowers have not been bred to last in a vase; they appear and disappear quickly, attracting insect pollinators and fading away when that task is done. What does it take to paint a wild flower that blooms for a single day in a deep forest? For Mary Morris Vaux (1860-1940), a young Quaker woman who accompanied her family fossil hunting in the Rockies most summers, you pull out your paint box to sketch and paint with water colors for 17 hours to capture the shape, movement, and colors of the delicate petals and leaves. Back at camp, comfortably ensconced on a tree stump, she would produce a more final version. She also became quite skilled at photographing them as reference for her art work.
Mary Morris Vaux was born into a well-to-do Quaker family in Philadelphia and attended the Friends School. She planned to enroll in Bryn Mawr College, but when her mother died, she stayed home to care for her father and brothers, as was expected of 19th century young women. The family spent vacations in Canadian Rockies, so her father could pursue his amateur interest in geology. Mary brought her sketching pads and watercolors so she could capture the beautiful wild flowers she found along the trails. Botany and drawing were considered very appropriate avocations for educated young women, although most sat in their gardens rather than scale peaks and cross glaciers. Mary was far more adventurous – in 1913, she climbed Mount Robson, the highest peak in the British Columbia Rockies. Mount Mary Vaux, some 10,881 feet high, was named in her honor. Despite those adventures, her life was fairly circumscribed, centered around family and church.
That same year as she scaled Mount Robson, she embarked upon quite a different adventure. She told her father she planned to marry a paleontologist they had met in the Rockies. Her father rejected the notion summarily and refused to attend the wedding. He was very fond of his 53 year old unmarried daughter, who had cared for him lovingly since her mother died. He also did not much care for the fellow she intended to marry – Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927) paleontologist and Secretary of the Smithsonian. He regarded Walcott as something of a gold-digger and he was not a Quaker. At 64 years, Walcott had been widowed twice and had four children. Walcott's family was no happier about the wedding. His daughter Helen had cared for her father and brothers after her mother died and did not want an interloper taking her place.
Despite the negative response of their families, Mary and Charles married and shared many happy years, based on their mutual love of natural history exploration. Mary Walcott quickly became part of the Smithsonian family and the Quaker community in Washington. In the 1920s, when her husband launched a fund-raising campaign, Mary Walcott found a way to contribute. She published a five volume set of her drawings of North American wild flowers, between 1925 and 1928, with proceeds going to the Smithsonian's endowment. Her beautiful and accurate drawings have been displayed in exhibits and republished several times since then. In 2014, the Smithsonian Institution Press with Smithsonian Institution Libraries reprinted a selection of them in a single volume. It is nice to know that I can browse through them in the chill of winter and look forward to that sunny spring day when they will reappear at a pond's edge or in a mountain glen.
- Mary Vaux Walcott, Artist, Smithsonian American Art Museum artist database
- Charles Doolittle Walcott, Smithsonian Secretary, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Mary M. Vaux, a picture journal, The Palaeontological Society and Royal Museum of Ontario
- Accession 92-006 - Mary Vaux Walcott, North American Wildflowers Prints, 1925, Smithsonian Institution Archives