The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Cities/Places
- The delights of browsing the National Park Service's B-roll video archive. [via Motherboard]
- Now available online - University of North Carolina archaeologists and librarians produce an online catalog of artifacts. [via InfoDocket]
- Now you don't see that everyday - A CT scan of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue shows the mummified remains of a monk inside along with rolls of paper scraps with Chinese writing where his organs would be. [via Colossal]
- Accessing the inaccessible - Drones used to create a 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. [via The Verge]
- 40 years in the making - A brief history of the building of the Washington Monument. [via The Libray of Congress blog]
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture published a new book, Through the African American Lens, that offer iconic images of black culture, activism and community in America. [via Time]
- New blog alert - bloggERS! - the new blog of the Society of American Archivists' Electronic Records Section. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, SIA]
- A piece of photography history - a 19th century photo album by Oscar Gustave Rejlander has been sold, but the United Kingdom has put an export ban on it in the hopes of keeping it within the UK. [via PetaPixel]
- For those of you old enough to remember - A look at a technological icon - The fax machine. [via BBC Future]
- That's Awesome! - An entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London is using LEGOs to build a device that holds fragile insect specimens. [via The Atlantic]
Remington Kellogg, director of the U. S. National Museum from 1948 to 1962, was a devoted naturalist from an early age, eventually acquiring his Ph.D. in vertebrate paleontology and joining the Washington, D.C.–based U. S. Bureau of Biological Survey in 1921, before becoming an assistant curator at the Smithsonian's U. S. National Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) in 1928. He ultimately rose to the position of museum director and served concurrently as an Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
One of Kellogg's correspondents was Franklin Metcalf, who worked as an assistant biologist with the Bureau of Biological Survey both before and after World War I. From 1923 to 1928 Metcalf was a professor of botany at Fukien Christian University, originally a missionary school in China that is now part of Fujian Normal University, located in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. In 1931 he received his Ph.D. in systematic botany from Cornell University, and held a fellowship at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum before being inducted into the Air Force in 1942.
With Chinese New Year upon us, these letters from the A. Remington Kellogg Papers, written by Metcalf and his wife, Mabel, from Fuzhou during their time in China are of particular interest. The letters are on exceptionally beautiful paper, with a soft texture and clearly visible chain and laid lines from the mold used to form the sheets. Wonderfully detailed botanical images are printed, likely with wood blocks, on the writing side of each page, and each features a small vermilion seal stamp. These letters give us a fascinating look at the stationery available in 1920s China.
Kellogg and Metcalf were both colleagues and friends, as these letters demonstrate: the first, written on smaller paper, is in fact from Mabel Truss Metcalf to Kellogg's wife, Marguerite Henrich, whom Mabel addresses as "Mrs. Kellogg," and the letter is full of chatty news about their recent move to China for Metcalf's position at the university, including a reference to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 in Japan. The second letter is from Metcalf to Kellogg (who is addressed by Metcalf in other correspondence as "Kelly") and contains holiday greetings in addition to a request for assistance in compiling a reference library of systematic botany his students.
Gong Xi Fa Cai! From the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Happy Year of the Goat!
Record Unit 7170 - A. Remington Kellogg Papers, circa 1871-1969 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- By the way there's something in the closet - The story of the Armstrong Purse, its discovery, and the objects contained within. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Leave those selfie sticks at home - Smithsonian museums and museums across the globe are starting to impose restrictions on the use of selfie sticks. [via ABC News]
- Hey don't throw that one away - Charles Darwin's childrens' drawings on the back of some of the pages from his manuscript draft of his On the Origin of Species kept those manuscripts from being discarded. [via Washington Post]
- Love is in the air at the National Museum of Natural History as their scientists there are helping species look for love in a series of “dating profiles” to celebrate Valentine's Day. [via Unearthed blog, NMNH]
- This just in - The Freer Gallery of Art will be closed for a year for major rennovations starting in January 2016. [via Smithsonian Newsdesk]
- Experiments in reposting - Here is what happens when you repost the same image to Instagram 90 times. [via PetaPixel]
- A thrill and sense of responsibility - Reflections on organizing the Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress. [via Library of Congress blog]
- Now available at the New York Public Library - The papers of Tom Wolfe, the author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, among others. [via the NYPL blog]
- Inspired by love? Say it with Shakespeare with these Shakespeare Valentines. [via Folger Shakespeare Library]
- 3D scanning and the Transcription Center at the Smithsonian are in the news. [via CBS News]
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
One hundred fifty years ago, the Smithsonian Institution was the site of a devastating fire that destroyed much of its early work. The Smithsonian was founded in 1846, using the bequest of Englishman James Smithson, to create an organization devoted to the increase and diffusion of knowledge. Less than twenty years later, its iconic Castle building erupted into flames on a bitter cold winter day. Workmen doing work in the Art Gallery on the second floor incorrectly installed a stove, inserting the stove pipe in a wall space rather then the flue out to the roof. For several days, hot embers spewed into the wooden attic floor and on the afternoon of the 24th, a huge fire erupted, leaving the Castle enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Reports focused on the destruction of the Smithsonian's treasures, such as art works, scientific specimens, Smithson's personal papers, and records of the Institution's early work. The Castle, at that time however, was also home to a number of people, and their lives were deeply affected by the fire.
Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry and his family lived in the east wing; Henry's wife Harriet, his three daughters Mary, Helen, and Caroline, and his son William. On a better day, the Henry family might be seen playing croquet in front of the Castle. Mary Henry described the fire and its aftermath in her diary. "Jan.25th I record in my journal tonight one of the of the momentous and saddest events of lives – the burning of a large portion of the Inst . . . I was sitting reading in the Library reading and surprised at the sudden darkening of the room went to the window and finding a thick cloud of smoke or mist obscuring the view I hastened from the room to discover the cause. One of the gentlemen from the Inst. met me saying 'the building is in flames you have but five minutes to save your property.' We immediately went to work packing books, etc. first clothing and then Father's library . . ."
Paleontologist Fielding B. Meek, an extremely introverted and deaf scholar, lived in a small apartment under the gallery stairs in the southeast corner of the lecture room. He had been working in an office on the second floor east wing, when the room suddenly grew very dark. He went to the windows thinking a snow storm had begun, only to find smoke swirling around the Castle. Meek ran for the water buckets that were kept at the ready in a lower piazza, near the document room, and grabbed several to assist with the fire. But he immediately realized that, on this bitterly cold day, the water in the buckets was frozen solid and useless. He saved what he could of his meager possessions and then ran to the study to remove manuscripts, drawings and books. Sadly, some of his few possessions were looted as they sat outside the burning building.
The day after the fire, Mary surveyed the damage: "The dismantled walls & towers rose high above us reminding us of the ruins of some English Abbey . . . We picked out way over the cinders & burnt bricks through the lecture room to the Picture Gallery. The remains of the dying gladiator lay scattered about – we picked up a few pieces but they crumbled in our fingers. The blue sky above us formed a beautiful roof but we dreaded storms . . . " Two men who helped with the evacuation of the building, explorer Lt. James Melville Gilliss and John Varden, who had founded an early museum in Washington, died within the next two weeks, probably due to their exertions. The fire occurred as the Civil War was coming to an end. The war had swirled around the Castle, and this additional trauma had a profound effect on all of those who lived and worked in the Smithsonian Castle. Eventually the building was repaired, programs reestablished and new artifacts collected, as the fire demonstrated that the Institution could survive severe challenges. Indeed, despite fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes; despite wars and government shutdowns, the Smithsonian has grown into the world's largest museum and research complex where work is done to help shape the future by ensuring the preservation of our heritage, through the discovery of new knowledge, and though the sharing of our resources with the world.
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