The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Entertainment
Tomorrow marks the anniversay of a momentous occasion for children visiting the National Mall; on April 12, 1967, the Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley opened a carousel in front of the Arts and Industries Building.
Some people were concerned at the time that the carousel, along with popcorn wagons, outdoor puppet and musical performances, would lead to the Smithsonian becoming an "ivy-covered Disneyland" ("Some Fresh Air for the Nation's Attic," New York Times, April 9, 1967), but as we can see today, that did not happen.
The first carousel was a 1922 Denzel carousel that was accompanied by a 153 Wurlitzer Band Organ. It is hard to imagine now, but at the time , rides were 25 cents (currently the cost is $3.50).
Due to wear and tear the carousel was replaced in 1981 with a carousel from Baltimore's Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. This carousel is 10 feet larger in diameter and has 60 horses, as opposed to the former which had 33. The carousel was built in 1947 by Allan Herschell Company. The seemingly benign carousel however, has a rich history, best told in Amy Nathan's book, Round and Round Together: Taking a Merry-Go-Round Ride into the Civil Rights Movement. Gwynn Oak Amusement Park was a segregated park and became integrated after a nearly decade-long effort in 1963.
The carousel continues to bring laughter and joy to those who ride it today, many of whom may not know of its place in history, but enjoy it nonetheless.
- Round and Round Together: Take a Merry-Go-Round Ride into the Civil Rights Movement, Amy Nathan
- The Carousel on the National Mall, Washington Post
- OCLC's WorldCat contains almost 300 million bibliographic records and is the largest aggregation of shared library data in the world. OCLC Senior Program Officer, Roy Tennant gives an exilarating look at what new and exciting things can be done with this data. [via InfoDocket]
- Maps are a treasure trove of historical data and extracting that information for the digital realm is getting easier with projects such as the New York Public Library's New York City Historical GIS Project and the Map Warper tool. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Rock On! From Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstein guitar to the Supreme's dresses, curators at the National Museum of American History collect materials that represent the American musical landscape. [The Torch, Smithsonian Institution]
- Just as a scientists's field notes document their collecting and research, the diaries and photographs of individuals document their life experience. Actor, Matthew Modine, shares his experience while shooting Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, through the journal he kept and the photographs he took. [via Unframed, LACMA]
- The Library of Congress tackles the important question, "What Resolution Should I Use?" when one scans photographs or documents that are meant to be enlarged. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Information retrieval and databases, check. Awesome new ideas, ready to go. 20 videos about Harvard Library Lab projects. [via InfoDocket]
One of the things I love about working at the Smithsonian Institution Archives is that I feel like I learn something new every day. For instance, in 1984, the first game in a series called King’s Quest made its debut on the computer gaming scene. It was such a success that Sierra On-Line went on to produce seven more games in the series. King’s Quest was not only one of the best selling franchises for Sierra On-Line, but it helped revolutionize the gaming world. If you are a gamer of any type, you probably already knew all of this, but did you know that the person responsible for developing this entire series is a woman? I didn’t either until I digitized the videos from Record Unit 9533 (Mini and Microcomputers).
Roberta Williams was born on February 16, 1953 in Simi Valley, California. In 1972, she married her high school love, Ken Williams, and in 1979 they co-founded the company On-Line Systems, which later became Sierra On-Line. The first video game Roberta wrote, Mystery House, was released one year later in 1980. At the time, all of the existing computer games were text only with no graphic component such as Colossal Cave Adventure which was released in the late 1970s. Williams, a stay-at-home mom who considered herself a writer and not a programmer or even a gamer, wrote up the plot line for Mystery House and created a map of the different rooms in the game in order to determine the graphics necessary for the game. Ken, who is the programmer in the family, took Roberta’s storyline and graphics and coded them to create the game. Ken even provided Roberta with a tablet that was hooked up to the computer so she could include her own handwriting on some of the textual elements. Later that same year, On-Line Systems released another game designed by Roberta Williams called Wizard and the Princess, which became the first computer game with color graphics, and ended up being a prequel to King’s Quest in terms of storyline.
Roberta Williams continued to design video games for Sierra On-Line until her retirement in 1999. Although creating computer games is a thing of the past for this revolutionary woman, the gaming world will forever be grateful for her contributions to this male dominated field.
- Yes, The Library of Congress Has Video Games: An Interview with David Gibson, The Signal: Digital Preservation blog, Library of Congress
- The Art of Video Games traveling exhibition, Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Record Unit 9533 - Minicomputers and Microcomputers Videohistory Collection, 1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Though none of the three daughters of Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, ever married, it seems that Mary Henry, the eldest, had at least one suitor vying for her heart. We found a very beautiful but very mysterious valentine tucked away in a "miscellaneous" folder of Joseph Henry's papers. The secret admirer did not include his name or a date, so we do not know who he may have been, but we can enjoy the lovely lace-cut paper and touching poem he wrote upon it. The poem seems to be original and is certainly very heartfelt:
To Mary Henry
Oh, were I a bird that could sing all the day,
I would fly to her bower to carol my [lay?]!
Or were I a breath of the soft scented air,
I would waft all my sweets to her bower so fair!
Or were I a thought could awaken a smile,
I would rest on her lip all her woes to beguile.
I would make my bright throne in her sorrowing heart,
And each impulse that grew should its pleasures impart.
Oh, were I a strain of some melody sweet,
I would steal to her chamber her slumber to greet.
Or were I a dream could recall to her mind
The pleasures and joys she has long left behind.
I would [hover?] around in the stillness of night
and her visions of sleep should be joyously bright.
I would kiss from her cheek every envious tear,
and guard her fond bosom from sorrow and fear.
Perhaps "Valentine" was one of the scientists who lived in the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle," with the Henry family during the Institution's early years. Rumor has it that some of these scientists, who formed the unofficial "Megatherium Club" and often disturbed the "Castle" with sack races and other drunken antics, frequently sang to Mary and her sisters, Helen and Caroline, which I'm sure did not make their father very happy. So this Valentine's Day why not present a poem (or a song) to your own sweetheart!
- Mary Henry: Eyewitness to the Civil War, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7001 - Joseph Henry Collection, 1808, 1825-1878, and related papers to circa 1903, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- 1 of 22