The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Wikipedia
In conjunction with the Archives' "Women in Science Wednesday" series, one of my responsibilities this summer was to make sure that women featured on the Archives' Facebook page were also represented on Wikipedia, either through beefing up existing wiki pages or creating pages from scratch. Often times, women in our Science Service collection (Accession 90-105) are only identified on the web and on Wikipedia by name and notable accomplishments, and that's it. (Some exceptions include writer Betty Freiden and pilot Jacqueline Cochran who already have pretty extensive wiki pages.)
For example, Josephine G. Fountain was the inventor – the inventor! – of the direct suction tracheotomy tube and holds it patent – its patent! – yet there is no mention of her on the tracheotomy tube's wiki page nor is there any substantial information on Fountain through a basic internet search (including her background or birthdate). What happened to make Fountain’s accomplishments basically disappear – especially since the trach tube is something used in hospitals every day?
Frederica de Laguna, on the other hand, was much easier to research. Although she is identified in the photograph on the left and featured on collaborator Kaj Birket-Smith's wiki, her own page wasn't linked from it - and was so under-promoted that I actually created a new page before realizing a page already existed. Why does information for de Laguna exist where none does for Fountain and other female scientists like Jane Blankenship, Kathleen Beyer, or Matilda Moldenhauer Brooks? Both de Laguna and Brooks published. Brooks discovered the antidote to carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning; like Fountain, she's responsible for something still in use today. Beyer discovered that plants contain sex chromosomes. And Blankenship was a spectroscopist in an era when women in science was rare. All of these accomplishments are notable and interesting – but these women are almost totally absent from the web.
While I found my (lack of) online discoveries incredibly disappointing, there were also a few cases when doing a simple web search actually did prove beneficial. A previous Archives intern, Mary Tressider, made a webpage on five women in science – Jane Stafford, Marjorie Van de Water, Frances Densmore, Emma Reh, and Marjorie MacDill Breit – which helped me add invaluable information to the wikis of both Stafford and Reh. Also, searching for Mary Blade led me to two unlikely sources: a tumblr entry by Blade's grand nephew and a design blog, both of which featured posts on Blade's involvement with a 1978 book on chair design and ergodynamics – and included some great pictures of Blade posing!
Although it's not surprising that wiki pages sometimes don't exist for science professionals (or else don't expound on one's professional career), it's still more common for women science professionals to suffer these consequences over men doing the same work. Part of the need for (and appeal of) the Archives' "Women in Science" campaign is to highlight the many varied and fascinating accomplishments women make to scientific disciplines. And the beauty of the web (especially a website like Wikipedia that is explicitly reliant on user-generated content) is that it allows anyone the ability to contribute information and ensure these great women get the same exposure and recognition on social communities as their male counterparts
- Meet Sarah Stierch: The Archives’ Wikipedian in Residence, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Women and Science at Science Service, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- This past week the Nationa Postal Museum celebrated its 20th Anniversary. [via Pushing the Envelope, NPM]
- Out and about this weekend? If you happen to be in Winchester, Virginia stop by the Cat Tail Run School for Bookbinding Arts to learn about how books are made and how to preserve them. [via Washington Post]
- The Library of Congress holds many rare books, of particular interest to some may be Otieno, by Barack H. Obama, President Obama's father. [via Library of Congress blog]
- The Wikipedia edit-a-thons continue, this one was at the Smithsonia American Art Museum. [via The New York Times]
- This past week the National Archives released the 2012 Records Management Self-Assessment (4th annual) report which presents the results of the annual records management self-assessment (RMSA) taken by Federal agencies. [via InfoDocket]
- A couple of projects work checking out: Chicago Collections Consortium and Exploring the Vilnius Ghetto: A Digital Monument. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig and Jennifer Wright]
- Not just a car guy, Chris Wilson at the National Museum of American History, shares about a lesser known side of Henry Ford. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Staff at the National Zoological Park are on watch as female giant panda Mei Xiang may be pregnant. [via National Zoological Park]
- As born digital media continues to make up more of what archives collect, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group at the Library of Congress, has awarded its inaugural set of awards to recognize innovative work in digital preservation. Here is an interview with one of its awardees, Bradley Daigle, Director of Digital Curation Services and Digital Strategist for Special Collections at the University of Virginia. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- The future of data storage? DNA? [via ExtremeTech and Carl Schaefer, SIA]
- Congratulations to the Field Book Project for reaching 6000 catalogued field books! [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Also from the Field Book Project, SIA's own Tammy Peters discusses the developing archival standard, EAC-CPF, which primarily addresses the description of individuals, families and corporate bodies that create and/or are associated with records in a variety of ways. [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Sometimes we can lose our purpose among the rules we set up. Case in point, the difficulties author Philip Roth ran into when trying to update a Wikipedia article about one of the books he wrote. [via InfoDocket]
- More often than not, when processing the personal papers of an individual, archivists come to a better understanding of that person than what is more widely known by the public. Such was the case for an intern at the New York Public Library while processing the papers of Timothy Leary. [via NYPL]
- Open Data - Europeana announces the release of its cultural dataset of some 20 million cultural objects under the CC0 public domain license. [via InfoDocket]
- An exciting oral history project coming out of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library, the Speaking of Dancing Project is composed of a series of interviews with prominent figures in the field that explores the role of interpretation in dancing. [via NYPL]
Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists. Sporting the theme “Beyond Borders,” I was impressed by the recent transformation in how archives and archivists “do business”—how the technological and digital border has for the most part disappeared.
Five years ago, the handful of conference sessions talking about digital records focused on how to capture and preserve born-digital records. This year, most sessions touched on digitization and digital records not as a novelty topic, but as one of today’s facts of life. History and access to it is happening in the digital realm, and archivists around the globe have embraced the Internet’s potential to enhance and expand the ways their organizations deliver services on a daily basis.
Then and now on my phone. Today, people are searching archival collections with their smartphones, accessing primary sources through “wired” devices they carry with them almost everywhere. In many cases, visitors are using the web browsers on their phones to visit an archives website or review the RSS feed from its blog. Mobile apps are starting to roll out. Photos from the Smithsonian Institution Archives collections can be accessed through the Historypin app (you can also see our photos on the Historypin website). You can plot the images on a map, use an embedded Google Street View to superimpose the historic photograph on the location in real time, and contribute your own stories about that particular place.
Going where the people go. More and more, archives, museums and libraries are establishing a presence at popular online social media sites. In places like Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter, they proactively call attention to the rich body of primary source materials in their permanent collections. Some have begun to engage with Wikipedians enhance and expand content related to their collection. Several Wikipedia editing events have been held at the Smithsonian, including our own recent edit-a-thon “She Blinded Me With Science: Smithsonian Women in Science." We are planning another event with the Archives of American Art and other Smithsonian groups for mid-October in honor of the “Wikipedia Loves Libraries” initiative.
Relevant connections. Has someone ever told you about something they’ve just discovered? The connections other researchers have made with a particular set of historical records can stir up new ideas and point to new areas to focus on. Some of the best archival blogs do just that, sharing the stories of people making connections with rich research material relevant to their field of study. In our own case, Archives’ research associate Marcel LaFollette ran across previously unpublished photos from the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, and she and our staff blogged about these finds here on The Bigger Picture. The trial photo set we shared on Flickr have been viewed over a 107,000 times, and people who were actually at the trial have contacted us to share their personal experience of the event.
Conversations enrich collections. Something archives have known for a long time is changing the way we learn more about our special collections. That secret: we are not the only experts. “Crowdsourcing” is another way archives and libraries are inviting others to contribute their own expertise or even simply their interest to enrich parts of their collections. Maybe you took part in New York Public Library’s “What’s On the Menu?” transcription project? It’s still going on with over one million dishes on over 15,000 menus transcribed so far!
These are just some of the huge and valuable changes occurring in Archives worldwide. Are there any issues we’ve missed or innovative archives projects you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments below.
- Ahhhh . . . c'est très romantique! BibliOdyssey presents hand-coloured 19th century etchings of Paris streets.
- The United States Geological Survey now has a treasure trove of digitized maps at your fingertips [via Effie Kapsalis, SIA].
- Exciting news for your next Smithsonian visit: Google is mapping the Smithsonian's seventeen museums for visitors.
- Spellbound blog covers the opening of the Grateful Dead Archive Online (45,000 digitized items!), which threw open its virtual doors in late June, 2012. Users are invited to submit their own stories and items to the archive.
- The Smithsonian Institution Archives, in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History, has mounted an exhibit: When Time and Duty Permit: Collecting During World War II.
- Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, recently spoke at Wikimania, DC—where 1,400 people from 87 countries came together to talk, hack, and share their expertise and experiences during the week-long event about Wikipedia:
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