The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Exhibitions
- Awesome news - NARA has a new, updated National Archives Catalog, to help make it easier for people to search and find records in their collections. [via NARAtions blog, NARA]
- The Digital Einstein Papers launched last week, making available the collected papers of Albert Einstein, including a letter he wrote to Marie Curie supporting her and giving counsel on how to deal with her critics. [via Open Culture]
- The last of the Hidden Collections awards were given out by the Council on Library and Information Resources. The awards were created in 2008 and is supported by ongoing funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program has awarded 129 grants totaling about $27.3 million and has allowed repositoties to process and make available collections that were previously hidden. [via InfoDocket]
- The report is out - The FADGI (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative Audio-Visual Working Group) report on "Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video" was released this week, and the Archives was one of the contributors. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Science lesson for the week - Five major advances in scientific knowledge that have occurred since the National Museum of Natural History opened in 1910. [via Unearthed blog, NMNH]
- Available now - Two new online exhibitions from the Biodiversity Heritage Library - Early Women in Science and Latino Natural History. [via Field Book Project blog, NMNH and SIA]
- Watch as paleontologists discover Sue, who at 42 feet long and weighing nearly 4,000 pounds, is the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found. [via Underwire, Wired]
- Last week we had Abraham Lincoln's life mask 3D scanned, this week it is President Obama's turn to be scanned. [via Smithsonian Science]
- Check it out - Woman's Work: How Rosalind Franklin's 'Photo 51' Told Us the Truth about Ourselves, by the Archives' Research Fellow, Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette. [via Hillman Photography Initiative, Carnegie Museum of Art]
- Thanks H.R. 1233! - President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1233, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 that among other things modernizes records management by focusing more directly on electronic records. [via InfoDocket]
- Voices forgotten to the past are heard again thanks to IRENE, a high-tech turntable that spins records while a 3D camera takes high-resolution pictures of the microscopic scratches etched into the record's grooves. [via WBUR]
- What It Means to Be American - The National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square embark on a three-year long project to delve into American identity. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- For the AV archivists out there - Comparing formats for video digitization. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- It takes a village - What it takes to get Edouard Manet's painting Spring (Jeanne Demarsy) from delivery to being on exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum. [via The Getty Iris]
- I've read about trying out historic recipes, but historic deordorant recipes? [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- The recognition of the importance and need for improvements to disaster preparedness and art conservation and historic preservation got a boost after the 1966 flood of the Arno River in Florence, Italy. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- Collaborations towards tools to access and preserve email. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Have a little one? Here is some great advice for getting kids to really explore museum exhibitions. [via O say can you see? blog, NMAH]
- Photographic inspiration - 7-year old gets deep in the mud to get the shot at a cyclocross race in Colorado. [via PetaPixel]
- From Europenana - #OpenCollections - highlights of some of the most interesting and high quality collections from around Europe. [via Euopeana blog]
- A look at what it means when one inherits a collection, particularly one which may have significant monetary value. [via The New York Times]
- Is Pluto a planet? A discussion and vote on the definition of a "planet." [via Smithsonian Science]
You voted, we listened. For the next installment of our adventures with miscellaneous archival folders we opened up Record Unit 363 - National Museum of Natural History, Office of Exhibition, Records, circa 1955-1990. The folder that you voted for after our last adventure, was “Miscellaneous Photographs,” and a more appropriate title for a folder never existed. When I first opened the file I was overwhelmed by the randomness of its contents, so much so, I was not even sure what to write about!
The photographs in this folder cover a wide range of events, objects, and people. Some of the images document the annual Regent’s Exhibit. The Regent’s Exhibit, was an exhibit created to showcase the different activities around the Smithsonian for the Board of Regent’s Annual Meeting. It appears that up until the early 1950s the exhibit was a small endeavor, cobbled together a few days before the meeting. However, in a memo from 1953, Smithsonian administrators discuss the possibility of increasing the time spent on the exhibit. “It is felt by most that previous exhibits have been too numerous, much too crowded, often confusing, and not well-attended by the Regents…We think it would be more effective to limit the exhibits to a few appropriate phases of the Institution’s activities.” It seems their plan worked. The images found in this folder document the exhibits from the 1960s and they are sleek, well organized, and even stayed up for public exhibit inside the Smithsonian Institution Building’s Great Hall.
Other images found in the folder are photographs of collections and buildings around the Smithsonian. These images include everything from a picture of an elephant at the National Zoo, to schematics showing fabric and wood veneered panels of a third floor corridor in the National Museum of American History. Many of these images are negatives placed in smaller envelopes within the folder. The outside of the folders often have notations indicating what a print of the negative might look like. For example, the image of the elephant’s envelope reads “1-12 HIGA matt.” One could venture a guess that these images were reprinted on larger scales to display in the various exhibits the office was producing.
The most interesting images included in this smorgasbord are the photographs that give a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibits staff and their work. These images capture the detailed work it took Smithsonian staff to create exhibits that not only labeled the objects, but placed them within a larger historical context. From climbing into an exhibit to carefully creating a floor that looks like sand, to painting the leaves to set the scene for collection items, the artistry and skill utilized by Smithsonian staff never ceases to amaze me. It is great that this work, sometimes overlooked because of its seamlessness, is captured in these images to show an interesting side of the Smithsonian.
If you would like to see inside more of our miscellaneous collections, let us know what you would like us to open next. Comment below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter with Folder A for a look at a miscellaneous folder from Record Unit 548 - National Museum of Natural History, Division of Meteorites, Correspondence, circa 1970-1988 or Folder B for a look into a folder from Record Unit 50 - Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Secretary, Records, 1949-1964.
- Record Unit 363 - National Museum of Natural History, Office of Exhibition Records, circa 1955-1990: Box 7, Folder: Miscellaneous Photographs, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 50 - Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Secretary, Records, 1949-1964: Box 148, Folder: Regents Exhibit 1953, Smithsonian Institution Archives