The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Digitization
- A bold plan from the National Archives - Digitize their analog records, all 12 billion pages of them. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- An epic road trip - Collecting on the road with Jason Stieber, National Collector, Archives of American Art. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Now availble - DigDC, a new online archive of Washington D.C. history created by the D.C. Public Library’s Special Collections department. [via Washington Post]
- Documenting events as the are happening - A conversation with Howard Besser and the efforts of Activist Archivists in saving the records of the "Occupy" movement. [via The Signal: Digital Perservation, LOC]
- From the stacks - Exhibits writer-editor, David Romanowski, talks about his adventures in doing research in the National Air and Space Museum Archives' Technical Files for the Hawaii by Air exhibition. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Some thoughts on archival appraisal in the age of distant reading and computational analysis of large sets of electronic records. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Gale/Library Journal 2014 Library of the Year - Edmonton Public Libary - presents this cool video timeline of their 101 year history. [via InfoDocket]
- 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]
- To boldy go - On September 11, 2014, the studio model of the Star Trek starship Enterprise, which has been on public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum since 1976, was removed for conservation in preparation for its new display location in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which will open in July 2016. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- As part of its exhibition, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, the National Museum of the American Indian will have on display the Haudenosaunee–U.S. Treaty of 1794. [via NMAI blog]
- Now online - 5 million First World War Prisoner Files from the Red Cross, The Barnard and Gardner Civil War Photographic Albums at Duke University, and 35,000 artworks from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. [via InfoDocket]
- Additional guidance came out this week from the National Archives on managing email. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- A 500 year old map that helpd guide Columbus reveals hidden text using multispectral imaging. [via MapLab, Wired]
- A now you know - Images from the 1970s of tree-planters who were hired by logging companies to replant trees on the large portions of land left bare by clear cutting forestry operations. [via Cool Hunting]
- Get to know the Civil War by taking the MOOC "The Civil War and Reconstruction" taught by Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Eric Foner. [via Open Culture]
James Smithson’s original purpose in bequeathing his estate to the United States was to establish the Smithsonian Institution for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” And the saying goes - learn by doing. To this end, the Smithsonian has been increasing its interactive opportunities across its entire network of museums and research centers, and the Archives are no exception.
This summer, I had the opportunity to work as an intern with the Digital Services Division (DSD), mainly working on the digitization of special collections. During my time here, I noticed that both the DSD and the Archives as a whole place a heavy emphasis on public engagement with the Archives collections. Peoples' use of collections definitely plays an important role in guiding the Archives decisions on what to prioritize for digitization. This aspect combined with other factors such as the physical condition and size of the collection, the available information about the materials, and the use of digitized collections for special projects inform the Archives as to what collections to digitize.
My work this summer, along with a few other interns and volunteers, was to digitize some of the Archives collections for special projects. All of us came from different backgrounds and had varying degrees of experience with digitization. With the ever increasing demand for digitized materials from the Archives, it is constantly in need of as many helping hands as possible. As a result a great deal of the digitization work is done by interns or volunteers.
The digitization of materials allows the Archives to share its collections with those who are not able to physically come to the Archives. By making its content as widely available as possible on the Archives' website, in the Collections Search Center, and in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) its collections can be discovered by as many people as possible. A new avenue that people can interact with the Archives collections can be found in the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where “volunpeers” can help transcribe text from digitized materials. Meghan Ferriter, Project Coordinator, Smithsonian Transcription Center, talks about the role of volunpeers in her blog post Growing to a Community of Volunpeers: Communication & Discovery.
Making archival collections available online and engaging people to help make them more accessible are just some of the many steps towards connecting people to collections. As more museums, libraries, and archives put their collections online there will be more opportunities for people to see materials from across the country and from across the world. The Smithsonian has made great strides in the past few years in getting its collections online and is now poised better than ever to work with other institutions and organizations to make it collections more readily discoverable.
Indeed, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough mentions in his e-book, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, that one of the Smithsonian’s next endeavors is collaboration with other institutions. With the expanding role of Wikipedia in research archives around the world are recognizing that collaboration with sites that get heavy traffic is highly beneficial in making people aware of their collections. Indeed, the Archives continues to experience an increase in traffic on its website and in its use of collections as a result of hosting regular Wikipedia edit-a-thons.
The Archives is currently engaged in work with Gale Cengage Learning, and also often cooperates with other folks at the Smithsonian such as the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. By collaborating with other museums and institutions in making its collections available, the Archives is following the tenet laid out by James Smithson for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge."
- Growing to a Community of Volunpeers: Communication & Discovery, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Location! Location! Location!, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, by G. Wayne Clough, Smithsonian Institution
I cannot, I feel, have any regrets about my accomplishments. What comes from art will just come. I don’t feel any need to strive. - John N. Robinson
One of my favorite parts of working in an archive is the opportunity to immerse myself in other people’s worlds, to learn more about their stories and experiences. One such person I encountered recently was John N. Robinson, a native Washingtonian and dedicated artist. Featured in Volume II, Edition 2 of the Here at the Smithsonian production series, Robinson’s artwork documents not only the regional history of Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia neighborhood’s growth and development, but also the personal history of his family, often featuring his wife, children, and grandparents. The episode features Robinson interacting with a group of fifth graders at the Anacostia Community Museum.
As I watched the video footage, I was struck by his dignity and gentle character, which is also conveyed to the viewer through his art. His style is one of celebration, encouraging the viewer to reflect on the beauty found in little things.
Born on February 18, 1912 in the Holy Hill community of Georgetown, Robinson was raised by his grandparents following his mother’s death when he was only eight years old, his father having abandoned him and his four siblings not long after. Their grandmother, Anna Barton, took in laundry to help support the family. Robinson and his siblings would assist her by delivering the clothes around Georgetown. Robinson remembered his grandmother as a “warm, lovely person.” Her husband, Ignatius Barton, was a U.S. Army veteran and had been a Buffalo Soldier in the Spanish-American war. Robinson described him as a kind man with a gruff exterior.
Robinson enjoyed doodling and sketching in his spare time - and sometimes while on the job. He had to leave junior high school to begin working, due to the family’s financial situation. His grandfather arranged a job for him, dusting automobiles at the garage where Barton was employed. It was while at this job that a chauffeur noticed Robinson’s sketches on a discarded time card and showed them to his sister, Elizabeth Thompson. She brought them to the attention of James Herring, art professor and founder of the Howard University art department. Recognizing Robinson’s talent, Herring arranged for Robinson to receive art instruction at Howard for a time, free of charge. Robinson studied under the tutelage of James Porter, though he wasn’t able to stay long-term, due to financial hardship.
When he was seventeen, Robinson’s grandparents moved to the Anacostia neighborhood of Garfield Park. His new next door neighbor was Gladys Washington, with whom he fell in love; they married in 1934. Together, they had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood. It was also after moving to Garfield Park that Robinson began to devote more time to painting, including religious murals in community churches. Robinson went on to be employed in food service at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, eventually rising to management. He retired in 1970.
Outside of his family and community, Robinson didn’t gain much notoriety as an artist until later in life. In the 1940s, he displayed his work at Lafayette and Franklin Parks, through the Outdoor Art Fairs sponsored by the Times Herald. Later his work was featured at the Barnett-Aden Gallery, a haven for multicultural diversity and one of the first black-owned art galleries in America. He exhibited a one-man show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1976, at a time when few blacks were welcomed there, through a partnership with the Anacostia Community Museum. Another one-man show followed at the Anacostia Community Museum in 1983. Other exhibitions included ones at Howard University, the National Museum of Natural History, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Atlanta University, Xavier University, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Oxon Hill Public Library, and the Washington Project for the Arts.
On October 17, 1994, John Robinson passed away. A family man, he mused that perhaps he could have been more ambitious in promoting his art earlier in life, but he also recognized success is not just in material things, but sometimes is seen best in “the happiness of those we love.”
- Accession 00-132 - Office of Telecommunications, Productions, 1982-1989, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
- “Here, Look at Mine!” exhibition records, Anacostia Community Museum Archives
- John N. Robinson artist file, Smithsonian Libraries
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