The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
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On February 11, 1927, the Smithsonian held the "Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian." Its purpose was "to advise with reference to the future policy and field of service of the Smithsonian Institution." Held in the Smithsonian Institution Building (or "Castle"), scientists, politicians and prominent individuals from across the country were invited to learn about what the Smithsonian was doing and to assist in determining a strategy for the Institution going forward. Staff were asked to prepare exhibits that illustrated their current research and information about the Smithsonian's history was shared followed by a luncheon. As a result of the conference, a new strategic plan was created for the Smithsonian.
It was a great endeavor to bring people from across the country to join in learning about the Smithsonian and to help guide its future to be sure. However there was another purpose of the conference; to increase the Smithsonian's endownment. In 1925, the Smithsonian engaged the firm, Tamblyn and Brown to help it with a capital campaign whose goal was to raise $10 million for the Institution. To this end, the individuals were invited based upon not only their interest in science and friendliness to the Smithsonian, but also based upon their ability to give. Additionally exhibits were meant to "illustrate present and prosed researches of the Institution" as well as to stress "wherever possible the ultimate economic significance" of the Smithsonian's research work. Attendees were meant to be informed of the important scientific research being conducted at the Smithsonian, but also be made aware of the impact that its research had in contributing to the economy.
Unfortunately two days before the conference was to take place Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott passed away. Assistant Secretary, Charles Greeley Abbot, hosted the conference in his stead, but timing was not on the side of the fund raising effort. With the strategic plan finalized and preparing to launch the capital campaign, the stock market crashed in 1929.
- Record Unit 46 - Office of the Secretary, Records, 1925-1949, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Proceedings of Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian Institution, February 11, 1927
- The Smithsonian, A Revelation, 1926, Smithsonian Libraries
On this day in 1972, the Renwick Gallery opened to the public. The Renwick serves as the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative art program. The collections, exhibition programs and publications put forth by the Renwick highlight the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Presently closed for renovations, the Renwick will get a completely renewed infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and other upgrades such as an all LED lighting system. For now, until it reopens, here is a look at some historic images of the Renwick.
- James Renwick, Jr., Architect of Smithsonian Buildings, Stories from the Smithsonian, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Before the Grand Canyon was made a National Park (1919) and before President Theodore Roosevelt placed the Grand Canyon under public protection by declaring it a national monument on January 11, 1908, the Smithsonian was interested in this natural wonder. In fact the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry wrote to Representative, later President of the United States, James A. Garfield in 1870 to urge that Congress fund John Wesley Powell's continued exploration of the Grand Canyon. Which they did with Congress appropriating $12,000 for Powell's expedition. Additionally in 1903 the fourth Smithsonian Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott and his family traveled to the Grand Canyon. In honor of this UNESCO World Heirtage Site are some images of the visits to the canyon by Powell and the Walcotts.
- Record Unit 7004 - Charles D. Walcott Collection, 1851-1940 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7177 - George P. Merrill Collection, circa 1800-1930 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
On December 5, 1961 the Smithsonian announced that Alice Pike Barney's Studio House was donated to the Smithsonian by her daughters Natalie and Laura Barney. Alice Pike Barney was an American painter born in 1857 in Ohio. During the late 1800s, she spent time in Paris where she studied painting and began a salon in the home she rented there. When Barney returned to her home in Washington, D.C., she put a lot of effort into turning the city into a center for the arts. She had solo shows at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and other major galleries. After her death in 1931, the Studio House became the property of her two daughters, who donated it to the Smithsonian in 1961. In 1976, the house was opened as part of the National Museum of American Art, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In April 1995 the Alice Pike Barney Studio House was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The house remained in the possession of the Smithsonian until 1999, and it now serves as the Embassy of Latvia in Washington, D.C.
- Barney House given to the Smithsonian, Chronology of Smithsonian History, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Summer Wind to Ban-y-Bryn, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 96-153 - Alice Pike Barney Papers, 1861-1965, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Named after the two-year-old daughter of soon to be President John F. Kennedy, the Caroline began its service as the Kennedy family airplane in 1959. The twin engine Convair CV-240 was one of the first planes with cabin pressurization that was manufactured for commercial use after World War II and also holds the honor of being the first private aircraft used during a United States presidential campaign, dramatically changing the future of political campaigning. Caroline served the Kennedy family for nine years and 650,000 miles, ending her run at Washington National Airport where she was donated to the Smithsonian Institution on November 17, 1967. Senator Robert F. Kennedy presented the plane to Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley and was accompanied by brother Edward M. Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy clan. The Caroline is currently in storage at the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility. Click through the slideshow below to see images from the presentation of the Caroline to the Smithsonian.
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