The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Archive
On February 11, 1927, the Smithsonian held the "Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian." Its purpose was "to advise with reference to the future policy and field of service of the Smithsonian Institution." Held in the Smithsonian Institution Building (or "Castle"), scientists, politicians and prominent individuals from across the country were invited to learn about what the Smithsonian was doing and to assist in determining a strategy for the Institution going forward. Staff were asked to prepare exhibits that illustrated their current research and information about the Smithsonian's history was shared followed by a luncheon. As a result of the conference, a new strategic plan was created for the Smithsonian.
It was a great endeavor to bring people from across the country to join in learning about the Smithsonian and to help guide its future to be sure. However there was another purpose of the conference; to increase the Smithsonian's endownment. In 1925, the Smithsonian engaged the firm, Tamblyn and Brown to help it with a capital campaign whose goal was to raise $10 million for the Institution. To this end, the individuals were invited based upon not only their interest in science and friendliness to the Smithsonian, but also based upon their ability to give. Additionally exhibits were meant to "illustrate present and prosed researches of the Institution" as well as to stress "wherever possible the ultimate economic significance" of the Smithsonian's research work. Attendees were meant to be informed of the important scientific research being conducted at the Smithsonian, but also be made aware of the impact that its research had in contributing to the economy.
Unfortunately two days before the conference was to take place Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott passed away. Assistant Secretary, Charles Greeley Abbot, hosted the conference in his stead, but timing was not on the side of the fund raising effort. With the strategic plan finalized and preparing to launch the capital campaign, the stock market crashed in 1929.
- Record Unit 46 - Office of the Secretary, Records, 1925-1949, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Proceedings of Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian Institution, February 11, 1927
- The Smithsonian, A Revelation, 1926, Smithsonian Libraries
- Celebrate Black History Month at the Smithsonian! [via The Torch, SI]
- Two tragic fires destroyed records, one occured at a Brooklyn warehouse which held records from the state court system, and the city's Administration for Children's Services and the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The other at the library of the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow where initial estimates say that 15 percent of the 10 million volumes and materials in the library were damaged. [via The New York Times and InfoDocket]
- All the way from Alaska - A rare skull of a Baird’s beaked whale arrived at the Smithsonian for study. [Unearthed blog, NMNH]
- This week the Smithsonian American Art Museum announced the creation of The American Art Collaborative (AAC), a consortium of fourteen American museums committed to building the next generation of digital searches and scholarly advancement. [via SAAM]
- More news coming out of the Smithsonian - Smithsonian Libraries presents the Smithsonian Libraries Artists’ Books Collection, which includes hundreds works of art in book form across numerous branches at the Smithsonian Libraries, spanning the 20th century through today. [via Unbound, Smithsonian Libraries]
- The Library of Congress published nine new file format descriptions. [via InfoDocket]
- A sneak peek at the first photo book from 1843. [via PetaPixel]
Dealing with items of an unusual shape or size is a perpetual difficulty for archives. Some collections consist of a wide variety of objects with different housing needs, but need to be kept together for provenance reasons. Items that are too small or too large both pose problems, but these storage difficulties can be mitigated by careful handling, or by sorting and housing different-sized items based on their size where possible.
Extremely difficult-to-handle formats also occasionally come in that need custom housing to be safely stored and accessed. One recent example is Accession 09-296 - Office of the Secretary, Strategic Planning Records, 2009, a collection of six rolls of oversize drawings done by Lynn Carruthers of Global Business Network, a scenario planning company that assists organizations in extrapolating and preparing for possible future events. These drawings are graphic recordings of strategic planning sessions for the Smithsonian held in March and April of 2009 under the direction of Secretary G. Wayne Clough, which ultimately resulted in the formation of the Smithsonian Grand Challenges, a framework that shapes the current strategic outlook of the Smithsonian.
These rolls, one for each workshop or planning session, consist of several sheets of large drawing paper, each of slightly different dimensions. While the majority of each roll is usually comprised of sheets that are close in size to one another, there are frequently outliers that are either significantly shorter in the rolled dimension (horizontal) or somewhat longer.
The preferred storage method for oversize rolled or folded items is often flat storage; however, these drawings far exceed the footprint available in the flat storage cabinets at the Archives, and this option was immediately discarded. The simplest solution would have been to keep the drawings rolled, place them in archival cardboard tubes, and send them to the Archives' offsite storage facility at Iron Mountain. Unfortunately, the drawings are too tall to fit in the tubes and Iron Mountain only stores enclosures of standard dimensions, necessitating a custom housing that would remain in the Archives onsite storage.
The drawings were first given a strong support base - archival-quality (pH-neutral, acid-free, buffered) cylindrical cores; for extra stability and to protect the bottom of the rolled drawings, these were attached to square feet cut from corrugated archival board with preservation-friendly hot glue. The drawings were then wrapped around the cores, linen tape was tied around each roll, and descriptive labels were created and placed beneath the ties.
A custom two-piece box was made from more corrugated board to house and protect all six rolls. The lower portion consists of two pieces attached with the hot glue at mitered flaps; a rectangular piece finishes off the bottom for a level base, and another rectangle placed between the bottom flaps gives a flush interior surface for the rolls to rest upon. A lip to support the lid was created from a strip of corrugated board and adhered around the exterior surface. The lid consists again of two main pieces, assembled in the same way as the lower tray, and finished with a rectangular piece on top. All pieces were pre-scored to ensure clean folds.
Time will tell whether this housing solution functions as well as hoped. Though the cores with their stabilizing feet are sturdy enough, because they are unusually tall they remain prone to wobbling, which makes moving the entire box difficult. At the moment, it is envisioned that only one or two rolls will be removed for a researcher because of how cumbersome they are, leaving the remainder in their box in the designated storage location. While this solution was not ideal, it is effective and was an excellent opportunity to experiment with custom enclosures.
Though this collection is an unwieldy one, it provides a valuable snapshot of the beginning of Secretary Clough's tenure, and documents his desire to provide the Smithsonian with a clear vision for its future as a repository of the United States' cultural heritage. As Secretary Clough's plan continues to shape the direction of the Institution, it may be that succeeding secretaries will revisit the origins of the Grand Challenges by studying these drawings, and be inspired with new ideas for the future.
Social media, blogs, and websites dominate our lives. A Pew 2014 social media survey found that among American adults 18 and older, 58 percent use Facebook, 23 percent use LinkedIn, and 19 percent use Twitter.
A few years ago I wrote about organizing and maintaining digital images and now seems like a good time to expand on that topic. Do your digital efforts include capturing or archiving your own social media accounts, especially when one considers all the time and effort that can be invested in them?
There are plenty of tools and information available online about social media archiving for businesses, institutions, and government agencies to fulfill legal regulations and recordkeeping requirements. For the individual interested in being digitally responsible and saving their online digital footprint, this information is not always so evident.
While this is not a complete list here are some options:
Facebook offers a download feature for users when logged into their personal account. It includes your uploaded videos, photos, posts, and even ads you clicked on. This data can be important if you are a longtime and frequent user of Facebook and use it like a public diary. Old Dominion University also developed a Firefox plugin that also pulls your Facebook data for you.
While the Library of Congress is archiving every public tweet from Twitter, account holders can request all their tweets via Twitter settings. Please note that it might take a few days for the archive to be created. It contains your own tweets and retweets in JSON and CSV formats. It does not include deleted tweets or direct messages. Public tweets dating back to 2006 on Twitter also have been searchable since November 2014.
In terms of accounts such as Flickr, Instagram and YouTube, it is wise to save a copy of your important images and video to a reliable medium, such as a hard drive that is backed up regularly. Cloud storage is another option.
Websites and blogs can be handled in a few ways. One option is to create a PDF of the site or the pages. Web pages also can be saved to HTML within browsers but this can be time-consuming. Some blog platforms have export options to save to XML.
If you are not inclined to install a web crawler on your own to capture content, the Internet Archive accepts web pages to be crawled, if allowed by the site, and displays it via its Wayback Machine. Keep in mind this option does not provide you your own copy on your computer but is a place online that provides a snapshot in time of the site. This is handy when a web page is cited in a publication since the Wayback Machine URI will not change of the capture even if the live page is removed.
Anthologize is a WordPress plugin that allows you to take blog content and compile it as a single volume. It can then be saved as PDF, ePUB, or TEI (an open XML format for storage and exchange). Staff from the Archives was involved in its development as part of the One Week/One Tool project.
And while we are still in the first month of the new year, consider changing all of your account passwords, if not done regularly. News stories of system hacks are a regular occurrence now. Not only can information be stolen but also deleted or altered. Having your own data in some form could take some of the sting out of an unfortunate incident.
- You Asked, We Answered: 2014 Archives Facebook Q&A, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- You Asked, We Answered: Archives Facebook Q&A, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Personal Digital Archiving: Preserving Your Digital Memories, Library of Congress
On this day in 1972, the Renwick Gallery opened to the public. The Renwick serves as the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative art program. The collections, exhibition programs and publications put forth by the Renwick highlight the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Presently closed for renovations, the Renwick will get a completely renewed infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and other upgrades such as an all LED lighting system. For now, until it reopens, here is a look at some historic images of the Renwick.
- James Renwick, Jr., Architect of Smithsonian Buildings, Stories from the Smithsonian, Smithsonian Institution Archives