The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Archive
- Wanting to increase library card ownership, the Nashville Public Library decided to help promote and celebrate library cards with a little song. [via Nora Lockshin, SIA]
- As we come to the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some tips for experiencing Latino History at the National Museum of American History. [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- Poop Sleuth - Sarah Putman gives us a great look into the variety of work one can find at the National Zoo. [via Smithsonian Science]
- For all of those who practice digital preservation, The National Digital Stewardship Alliance Standards and Practices and Infrastructure working groups has published Checking Your Digital Content: What is Fixity and When Should I Be Checking It? [via The Signal Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Book love - Elizabeth Broman, Reference Librarian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library, talks about her experience attending the annual conference of the Moveable Book Society (think pop-up books) in Philadelphia. [via Unbound blog, Smithsonian Libraries]
- Even more book love - 800 year old doodles found in medieval books. [via Colossal]
- Thinking about being a digital archivist? Here's some great advice from Peter Chan, Digital Archivist, Standford University Libraries. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Digital images are such a common part of life, but it was not so long ago that Polaroid and instant film provided that immediate gratification of seeing what an image looks like instantaneouly. Here's a look at the Impossible Project and the beauty of instant film. [via PetaPixel]
Appropriately funereal for approaching Halloween, this military cortege accompanied James Smithson's remains from the Washington Navy Yard to the Smithsonian, on January 23, 1904. James Smithson (c.1765-1829) died in Genoa, Italy, and was buried there. However, after the turn of the century, the Smithsonian was notified that the graves were to be moved to allow quarrying on the cemetery site. Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel traveled to Italy to oversee the disinterment of Smithson's remains and their transportation to the Institution that his bequest created.
This photo will be used in an Explorer at Large internet documentary.
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 archives of the world's largest museum complex!
Over the past three months, researcher projects have included:
- African American history at the Smithsonian
- History of Tropical biology in the 20th century Caribbean
- Philippine collections at the Smithsonian
- World’s Fairs and Expositions
- William Whewell and Pre-Darwinian systematics
- The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
- Exploration and settlement of the American West
- History of African-American museums
- Tropical biology in the Pacific
- The Wilkes Exploring Expedition
- Smithsonian presentation of science to the public
- Botanical exploration in Lower California
Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:
Mary Jane Rathbun, carcinologist at the United States National Museum, at left with Katherine J. Bush of Yale University, second from left, Charlotte Bush and Eloise Edwards at the Marine Biological Laboratory and United States Fish Commission Station at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, probably in the 1890s.
This photo will appear in Richard Conif’s projected book on the history of the Peabody Museum of Natural History .
- Ipswich School's Old Ipswichian magazine
- Trowelblazers, a blog on women in archaeology
- Lawrence Livermore National Library in a workshop honoring Dr. Stirling Colgate
- David J. Meltzer for his book, The Great Paleolithic War
- Arthur A. Spector, for “Discovery of Essential Fatty Acids” in the Journal of Lipid Research
- The Springfield, Missouri Conservation Nature Center
Most unusual reference inquiry:
Fox Television was given permission to use Archives images as set dressing for its popular television series Bones. Among them was this photo of T. Dale Stewart, physical anthropologist, Department of Anthropology, United States National Museum. The photograph was most likely taken in October 1950 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Stewart often examined skeletons for the FBI and pioneered the field of forensic anthropology.
Last week, we celebrated two years of using Archive-It for documenting the Smithsonian Institution's web presence. Previously, we had been using an in-house software and hardware installation in order to crawl websites and had cobbled together various less-than-ideal methods for capturing social media. Our hope was that a subscription to Archive-It would allow us to capture our web presence in a more efficient manner as well as allow us to provide better access to our crawled web content.
So how are we doing?
The Smithsonian currently has a total of 349 distinct websites and blogs. In the last year, we've crawled 170 of them or approximately 49% of the total. Altogether, we've crawled 327 websites and blogs, about 94% of the total, since we began using Archive-It two years ago. In addition, a significant number have been crawled more than once. Of those that have yet to be crawled, the majority have underlying code that make them nearly impossible to crawl using the technology currently available to us.
By this point, we had hoped to be crawling our websites and blogs annually. Although we haven't reached that goal, we've certainly improved from approximately one-half of our websites in 2 ½ years prior to using Archive-It, to nearly all of our websites and blogs in less than two years with Archive-It. And there's the added bonus of most of our crawled content from the last two years being available online via our Smithsonian Institution Websites Collection on Archive-It.
We continue to take steps to improve our efficiency. One of our next steps will be to evaluate the websites we've already crawled to determine which ones do not need to be crawled again because they are no longer being updated. An example might be an online exhibition that was launched in its final format and was never intended to be modified. The fewer websites that need to be crawled, the more frequently we'll be able to capture those that do.
- Web Archiving Update, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Now Using Archive-It to Crawl Websites, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Connecting the Dots: Issues with Preserving Complex Websites, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- October is American Archives Month and archives across the Smithsonian are planning a variety of activities to highlight their collections and what they do. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- A new poison dart frog discovered in Panama. [via Smithsonian Science]
- Now online - The National Library of Medicine joins The Commons on Flickr and a collection of women's movement ephemera at Europeana. [via InfoDocket and Europeana Blog]
- To Do or Not to Do - The Shakespeare Theatre Company, in collaboration with the U.S. Botanic Garden, presents An Escape to the Forest of Arden. An examination of nature through the lens of William Shakespeare's writing. [via Marcel LaFollette, SIA]
- Take a look at the New York Public Library's map collection which was established in 1898, and includes more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 15th and 21st centuries. [via InfoDocket]
Beer is almost like a universal language. Most places you go to in the world will have a national beer and plenty of people willing to drink it with you. This is even truer when Oktoberfest comes around. From Oktoberfest flavored brews to the countless festivals held throughout late September and early October, people take the time to drink and be merry!
In honor of Oktoberfest, and in the spirit of beer, we thought we would share one of our beer stories from the Archives Oral History Collection. Beer is one of the best ways to sit and relax and socialize after a long hard day of work. Even when Smithsonian staff goes into the field in search of collections and knowledge, they find time to take a break from collecting to unwind with a cold one. But sometimes in these often remote locations, getting your favorite brew is a challenge.
Smithsonian researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center (STRI) came up with an ingenious way to overcome this problem. STRI began on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), an island found in the man-made Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal watershed. Smithsonian staff have traveled there for biodiversity research since the early 1900s. The research station officially joined the Smithsonian in 1946 and has served as a home to staff and their families ever since.
In the 1960s-1970s a group of BCI inhabitants found a way to make their time on the island even more comfortable. They created a beer machine. In an oral history interview A. Stanley Rand, a STRI herpetologist, discussed how they accomplished this feat:
The original beer machine was in the bunker at Naos, and it was discovered that the [Panama Canal] Company apparently had forgotten about it, because nobody ever came to fill it. So they decided they didn't need it. It was a Coke machine in those days, and was moved to BCI, and people used to sneak in and buy cases of beer and bring [them] out and put [them] in the machine. It didn't work very well, but people were afraid to tell the Company, complain to the Company . . . It later turned out that, in fact, the Company was delighted to have a beer machine, and not only that, but they would deliver beer to Gamboa once a week if you got around to calling in in due time.
The person who handled the beer machine key thus became one of the most important people on the island. In fact, when Brian C. Bock, a herpetologist who was a visiting scientist in STRI's Biology Program, split his ear on a ceiling fan, his first act was to not think of medical attention, but the beer key. Bock recalled that he was:
. . . bleeding all over and feeling rather stupid. I managed to get . . . to the top of the front porch where everyone was having Happy Hour. I was the beer hefter at the time, so my first act, of course, was to surrender my flag. I took the keys off and passed them, because it was like capital punishment to leave the island with the keys to the beer machine, because that would bring things to a halt.
This small luxury helped Smithsonian staff deal with life in the field. The beer machine helped STRI staff bond and add enjoyment to the hard work of collecting in the steamy tropics. However, a beer machine is not the only way Smithsonian staff brought beer into the field – check out the Field Book Project Blog to learn how beer became a collection in and of itself, and remember to enjoy this year's Oktoberfest celebrations safely!
- Record Unit 9579 - Oral history interviews with A. Stanley Rand, 1986, 1989-1990, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 9580 - Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Oral History Collection, 1990, Smithsonian Institution Archives