The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Exhibitions
- The Muppets take the Smithsonian! The National Museum of American History recently received a donation of more than 20 Henson puppets and props, including characters from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock from the Henson family. [via National Museum of American History]
- Go out and see a museum on Saturday! Smithsonian Magazine sponsors Museum Day Live! again this year where participating museums open their doors to anyone with a Museum Day ticket for free. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- Hot off the press . . . A new design book published by the Smithsonian that manages to capture the great milestones in design from the 1860s onward. [via Cool Hunting]
- Calling all space shuttle photos! The National Air and Space Museum has a new Flickr group for people to upload their personal photos taken at space shuttle launches or landings events in preparation for the upcoming exhibition, Moving Beyond Earth. [via AirSpace, NASM]
- You never know what you will find - A museum visitor book contains a drawing of a Selk'nam man by Charles W. Furlong. [via NMAI blog]
- Talk about magnum opus, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin recently received the donation of the Magnum Photos collection of nearly 200,000 images taken by world-renowned Magnum photographers. [via Cultural Compass, Harry Ransom Center]
- An incredible mashup of robotics, projection mapping, and software created the following amazing video by Bot and Dolly. [via Colossal]
- The Field Book Project has even more records and digitized field books available online! [The Field Book Project blog, NMNH/SIA]
- You will be missed - This week, Secretary G., Wayne Clough announced that he will be retiring in October 2014. [via Around The Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- What the? That's crazy! An insect with mechanical gears in its legs! [via core77]
- That's a lot of websites . . . The British Library just completed crawling the entire UK web domain in about 11 weeks. [via Jennfier Wright, SIA]
- A recap of the best the Smithsonian's answers to questions from #AskaCurator tweets. [via Around the Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- Take a look how some iconic prints were edited in the darkroom. [via PetaPixel]
- The world's largest stamp gallery - The new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum will be opening on September 22. Take a look at just some of the steps its taken to make it all possible. [via The Torch, SI and Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
Imagine: It's 1809 and you are tasked with traveling by carriage across unpaved city streets to deliver correspondence to society’s elites. Are you a courier? Or a page? Perhaps, but you might also be the First Lady! Social historian Barbara Carson explains the varied social duties that 19th - century First Ladies were expected to fulfill in an interview conducted by Smithsonian Productions and now found in the Smithsonian Institution Archives' Accession 03-059 - Smithsonian Productions, Productions, 1987-2001.
In the era before telephones, people delivered calling cards to initiate contact with new acquaintances or to express an intention to meet with someone in the future. Calling cards were especially prevalent at the United States Capitol, where the turnover of congressmen, foreign ministers, and other government officials required a constant stream of new introductions. As the official hostess of the White House, the First Lady had a social obligation to pay calls to new wives, resulting in long and tiresome carriage rides around Washington to deliver calling cards fifteen to thirty times a day.
Dolley Madison, known as one of the White House’s most charming official hostesses, dutifully met this obligation. Her successor, however, broke with calling card tradition by refusing to deliver calling cards. At the time of Elizabeth Monroe’s entry to the White House in 1817, Washington society was rapidly expanding and the ritual of making first calls had become unreasonably demanding. President James Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, addressed the necessary change in social protocol by issuing a statement to explain that the First Lady would no longer make first calls. Though Elizabeth Monroe was relieved of this one social burden, she continued to work diligently as a hostess and is credited with bringing European influence to White House state dinners.
Listen to the clip below to hear Barbara Carson’s discussion of calling cards.
The social obligations of the First Lady have continued to evolve throughout each presidency. Modern First Ladies are expected to wear many hats during their residence in the White House: official hostess, fashion icon, policy advocate, and campaigner are just a few. As a figurehead of the president’s administration, the First Lady is an ongoing object of public fascination.
To learn more see the National Museum of American History's First Ladies exhibition.
As an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, I have contributed to the preservation of this collection by converting the Barbara Carson interview and other audio files from digital audio tapes (DATs) to Broadcast WAV files. DATs resemble the once-popular analog cassette tapes except that they are smaller, measuring roughly 2x3 inches, and are able to record digital audio. Since the advent of compact discs (CDs) and other newer audio formats, DATs have become obsolete.
In the DAT transfer process, short periods of missing audio, known as "drop-outs," are a common problem. A drop-out, like the one that occurs in the above clip at 1:57, is generally caused when existing damage on a DAT prevents the proper transfer of audio. Without the current interventions being taken by the Archives, these tapes would linger in archival boxes and, eventually, the recordings would become inaccessible due to either the deterioration of their magnetic tape or the disappearance of DAT reading equipment.
- Swingin’ and Swayin’ in the Archives, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- The First Ladies at the Smithsonian, online exhibition, National Museum of American History
- Accession 03-059 - Smithsonian Productions, Productions, 1987-2001, Smithsonian Institution Archives