The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: slideshow
On June 14, 1777 the Continental Congress adopted the stars and stripes as the national flag and on the same day one hundred years later, the first observance of the Flag was held. However, it was not celebrated again on such a scale until 1916, in the midst of World War I, when President Woodrow Wilson pronounced the day Flag Day. Though not officially adopted by Congress as a national holiday until 1949, on June 14, 1916 the Smithsonian’s staff and other government employees enjoyed an early release and headed out to the National Mall to celebrate Flag Day. Each participant, for a cost of 10 cents, received a small American flag and ticket to the enclosure for the celebration. The event included a speech by President Woodrow Wilson, music courtesy of the Marine Corp Band, and flag ceremonies.
As historical artifacts and evidence of the past, flags have always been an important part of the Smithsonian. Some flags are celebrated through exhibition, such as the Star Spangled Banner, or through events such as the one described above. But some of the most intriguing flags or banners at the Smithsonian are the Institution’s own. Not only does the Institution have a flag; but the individual bureaus have banners too.
The bureau banners were designed in 1965 for the celebration of the bicentennial of James Smithson's birth. Each of the thirteen banners was blue with a gold fringe on the upper, lower, and right sides. The center of every one contained a gold sun burst with sixteen alternating straight and wavy rays representing the Smithsonian’s mission of the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." Each bureau had a unique design element in the upper left corner; for example, the National Zoo had an eagle, while the National Portrait Gallery had a silhouette. From lions to dinosaurs, these flags represented the diversity of the staff and the work done at the Smithsonian.
In the past, we’ve talked about how families of Smithsonian researchers helped out with research, and some have even lived in the Smithsonian itself. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it seems like love, too, has brought many couples together both at the Smithsonian and out in the field. Love, as you’ll see in the photos below, enabled some women to travel the world and get involved (if not always recognized) in science during a time when this was still an improbable career path for most women. Take, for example, Gustav Arthur Cooper (1902-2000) and his wife Josephine Cooper, who worked diligently alongside one another in the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology, United States National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History). Though Josephine was not on the Smithsonian payroll (she definitely should’ve been!), she assisted her husband with collecting and ID’ing specimens. Biologist A. Stanley Rand and his wife Patricia Rand met one summer in Chicago, where they both had summer jobs cataloguing salamanders at the Field Museum. Soon after, they married and moved to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama where they raised their family and continued to collaborate in life and research, even writing papers together. And William M. Mann, Director of the National Zoo, and his wife, Lucile, looked happy together on a 1931 expedition in British Guiana collecting animals for the Zoo. As the zookeeper’s wife, Lucile traveled around the world with her husband on live-animal expeditions and acted as a foster parent (in their apartment!) to many of the orphaned infant zoo animals. She later was employed by the zoo, editing publications and working as an administrator. Enjoy our Valentine’s Day “Love at the Smithsonian” slideshow below, compiled by SIA’s Courtney Esposito, and featuring couples across the Smithsonian Institution who accompanied one another in the name of science and in the name of love.
Today, three new images of starbursts and colliding galaxies from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray team were uploaded to the Smithsonian's Flickr Commons stream. Check out these colorful, shimmering beauties, millions of light years away from Earth, in the slideshow below:
Here's what Kim Kowal Arcand, Multimedia Specialist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-Ray Observatory had to say about the new images:
"One of the central quests of astronomy is to understand how stars form, shine for billions of years, and eventually die—sometimes in explosive deaths as supernovas. The Chandra X-ray Observatory can focus on the high-energy action of this drama in the remains of exploded star SNR 0509-67.5, in the torrent of star formation in star-burst galaxy M82, or in the Antennae colliding galaxies where supernova explosions are enriching the intergalactic gas with elements that will be incorporated into new generations of stars and planets."
Today was the kickoff of the International Year of Chemistry 2011, and so we wanted to take the chance to introduce you to some of the chemists from our collections featured on the Smithsonian’s Flickr Commons.
Our Flickr Commons sets are filled with photos both of chemistry greats that even the non-scientifically inclined among us celebrated in grade-school textbooks, and lesser known individuals that have nevertheless had an impact on the field.
Here’s a rundown of a few of my favorites from the slideshow above:
- Louis Pasteur—French chemist and microbiologist we all know for his breakthroughs in germ theory, pioneering studies on crystal asymmetry, and perhaps most importantly (at least in my opinion), pasteurization: the primary reason we can all drink milk, wine, and beer without getting sick.
- Margaret D. Foster—American chemist who was the first woman to work for the United States Geological Survey, and who completed important research for the Manhattan Project.
- Wilhelm Ostwald—Baltic German chemist and Nobel Prize winner among those typically credited with being the modern founders of the field of physical chemistry, Ostwald also was a passionate amateur painter whose work in color theory influenced the likes of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian (who knew!).
- Irène Joliot-Curie—Although often overshadowed by the work of her mother, Irène was equally as brilliant, winning a joint Nobel Prize with her husband in 1935 for her contributions to chemistry on new radioactive elements.
And since in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Chemistry Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Marie Curie, the International Year of Chemistry 2011 will celebrate the contributions of women to science, I would especially like to call out the ladies in this group. Some are famous, but it is also the work of relative unknowns, such as Jane Blankenship Gibson—a chemist who was recognized for her homemaking as much as her science during a time when women were still relatively rare fixtures in science labs, and yet who pursued her passion anyway, paving the path for women in the sciences today.
As I wrap up my first year with the Smithsonian Institution Archives, I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to some of my favorite images. While the title “Photograph Archivist” might suggest I spend a lot of time looking at pictures, the truth of the matter is that I spend a lot of time manipulating and creating data that will make these pictures discoverable and accessible over time. A lot of this process involves scale and the application of global metadata, detecting and exploiting patterns in metadata, and establishing and implementing standards. Have I lost you yet? I do get to see some pretty amazing images though, and would like to afford those with more than a mental note. The following slide show of images simply contains things that make me happy, for no other reason than that I find them visually pleasing. I look forward to collecting many more favorites in the new year and sharing with you the rich visual history of the Smithsonian Institution and its vast collections.