The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Photo History
In the summer of 2013, my family and I took a vacation that was decades in the making. I actually consider it a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. More than 20 years ago my father and I talked about going on a Route 66 road trip, but it did not happen as life got busier with careers, moves, children, and other daily routines. We decided that it was finally time to do it – even if it meant only part of the 2,400-plus-mile road would be traveled due to time, expenses, and other constraints. The Mother Road goes from Chicago to Los Angeles (or Santa Monica Pier, depending on whom you ask).
My husband and I previously had traveled the iconic road from Chicago to St. Louis in two trips. Of course, this was before the explosion of the Internet, GPS devices, digital cameras, and apps that can make traveling easier. The road was decommissioned in 1985 and had been on the decline for decades as interstates made travel faster.
The 10-day journey comprised three generations in a borrowed family vehicle. The starting point was San Bernardino, California, taking a pass on Los Angeles this time. We went about 800 miles into Arizona and New Mexico on the route most the time (a decommissioned road means some rough spots and mysterious or missing segments). There were side trips to the Grand Canyon and El Morro National Monument in New Mexico. We were treated to beautiful landscapes, wild burros in Oatman, Arizona, iconic Route 66 signage, and lots of old roadside lodging and diner options you won’t find near the interstates. My boys even got to enjoy a movie at drive-in theater for the first time.
Not only are vacations about places but people as well. My father and I had a nice conversation with Mauricio Perez of Seligman, Arizona. The family runs a popular gift shop, and his father-in-law is Angel Delgadillo, 87, who is considered one of Route 66’s biggest supporters through his efforts to revitalize the highway after its decommissioning. We even talked about how the Delgadillo family is featured in the America on the Move exhibition at the National Museum of American History. Perez said they needed to take a trip east to Washington, D.C., to see it.
The allure of Route 66 has grown in the decades since its closing and attracts visitors from all over the world. Delgadillo, who is a barber, was giving a haircut to a filmmaker from Spain working on a Route 66 special while we were there.
Of course, we tried to document as much as we could through our cameras, resulting in lots of digital photos (there were more cameras than travelers). I did upload the images to my computer as soon as I got home and also printed the ones that I considered special for display. But a year later I still need to finish the job of deleting some of the images that I don’t need to keep and were missed during a first review (blurry ones, duplicates taken from inside the car by the youngest passengers, etc.), as well as making sure metadata is there.
There also are steps you can take before and during the trip to get the most out of the memories you are making:
- Get to know your camera/s before the trip especially if it is new. Most digital cameras have multiple options these days that you might want to use, such as a timestamp on the image. Some cameras and smartphone cameras also have GPS capability, which will note in the metadata of where the image was taken as a geotag. Take the instruction manual along if you have space for it.
- Delete blurry photos when you have down time (waiting for lunch, waiting at the airport, waiting to go on an amusement park ride, etc). Digital cameras allow us to take more pictures than with film, which can be a mixed blessing.
- Try out apps that can track your trip to create a map of the route that can be saved, if you have a tablet or smart phone.
- Write or type up observations while they are fresh in a travel journal/blog.
- Collect impressions of others who travel with you either by video or audio recording or writing them down.
- Consider purchasing some old-fashioned postcards to round out the images especially if you forgot to take some at a particular spot.
Now we just need to complete a St. Louis, Missouri, to Gallup, New Mexico, leg.
- Route 66: The Road and The Romance, online exhibition, The Autry
- The Mystique of Route 66, by David Lamb, Smithsonian Magazine
- Smithsonian Secretary Charles D. Walcott at the Grand Canyon, Record Unit 95 - Photograph Collection, 1850s - , neg. no. 83-14116, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Using a combination of clever sculpting and well-timed strobes, artist, Takeshi Murata created what appears to be a perpetually melting sculpture. [via PetaPixel]
- Think you have a lot of data on your computer, tablet, or phone . . . the federal government has real big data that it needs to manage. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Librarians make lasting impacts on people and their respective organizations everyday, take library analyst Eilene Galloway, who helped launch the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [via The Library of Congress blog]
- When we think of the internet we tend to think of its invisibility and ever present nature around us, but it takes a real and substantial presence to make all that cloud computing and connectivity work. Timo Arnall, a designer and artist from London, takes a look at the machinery of the internet. [via Wired]
- In 1863, at the age of 48, Julia Margaret Cameron, received a camera as a gift. Her subsequent photographs are awesome! [via PetaPixel]
- This week saw the passing of two important and influential people: Author and poet, Maya Angelou, and designer, Massimo Vignelli. [via InfoDocket and Core77]
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently released 400,000 hi-resolution digital images online that you can download and use for non-commercial purposes. [via Colossal]
- When digitizing still images, here is a comparison of the different formats you can choose from. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- There are 35,144 active museums in the United States, double the last official estimate in the 1990s. [via InfoDocket]
- The Archives Center at the National Museum of American History recently acquired the personal papers of Don Herbert, who was better known as Mr. Wizard and who brought science education to kids from the 1950s to the 1980s. [via Smithsonian Science]
- May and June bring about graduation season at high schools, colleges, and universities across the country. NPR has a new online database of commencement speeches to peruse and C-SPAN has a collection of 677 speeches as well. [via InfoDocket]
- Due for an inspection - with the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall scheduled to be redone, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis will be lowered for inspection and conservation. [via AirSpace, NASM]
- Album covers, a disappearing fixture of our music experience, photographer Jim Cummins took hundreds of images that made were used for covers at Atlantic Records. Now he is in the process of restoring some of those photos from his archive of 2500 images. [via PetaPixel]
- Announced this week were the winners of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's 2014 National Design Awards. [via Fast Company]
- For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Library of Congress highlights a collection of photographs taken by photographer Ansel Adams at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. [via LOC blog]
- The Art Discovery Group Catalogue, a research resource that brings together items from leading art libraries around the world, launched this week. [via OCLC]
- New collections online - 90 years of University of North Carolina records, University of Michigan's 3D fossil collection, and the Civil Rights History Project Collection at the Library of Congress. [via Infodocket]
- The Smithsonian Institution is getting into online education with a new series of online courses. [via Washington Post]
- Conservators use knives? Indeed they do, here is a look at how knives are used and cared for in book conservation. [via Verso blog, The Huntington Library]
- Think you have a lot of photos to manage, take a look at the vault where Corbis Images' Bettmann Archive of 11 million images is stored. [via PetaPixel]
- Back in the news in a big way - Andy Warhol digitally created art comes back to life, resurrected from floppy disks from 1985. [via Core77]
- Meet the man who invented the cell phone - Martin Cooper. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- The American Museum of Natural History has made available some 7,000 archival photographs, rare book illustrations, drawings, notes, letters, and Museum memorabilia in the new online database Digital Special Collections [via AMNH blog]
- As Preservation Week comes to an end the Smithsonian Institution Libraries offers some advice on how to best maintain your paper based collections. [via Unbound, SIL]
- Perhaps the end of an era - This may be the last year that the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival will be held on the National Mall after new rules and regulations were adopted by the National Park Service. [via Impact, The Huffington Post]
- Now open - The British Library's new $55 million Newspaper Reading Room. [via InfoDocket]