Watch Now: Today is Archives Fair

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Today is the Archives Fair at the Smithsonian. If you can't make it in person to the film series, lecture series, and "Ask the Smithsonian" session where you can consult with our conservators and archivists about your personal collections, you can tune into the lecture series on "Revealing Hidden Treasures" which is being webcast live now. Join us!

Here is what you'll see:

Postcards From the Colonial Edge: Digitizing Hidden Treasures From Africa

10:00 a.m. 
Presenter: Amy Staples, Supervisory Archivist, National Museum of African Art
The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives (EEPA) is completing a three-year cataloguing and digitization project of over 13,000 historic postcards from Africa produced during the late 19th to early 20th century . Funded by the Smithsonian's CIS/IRM Pool (FY2010 - 2012), the goal of this project is to make fully accessible one of the EEPA's premiere visual resources for scholarly research, exhibition and publication. This slide presentation will feature the postcard as a multi-layered artifact that not only presents challenges for cataloguing and digitization, but illustrates how popular and stereotypical images of Africa were created, circulated and gained global currency throughout the 20th century. Examples from the EEPA collection will highlight the role of African photographers, studios and publishers in creating a commercial market for the postcard, and how these mass-produced images and personalized messages contributed to the promotion of travel, tourism and trade in Africa.


Word, Shout, Song:  Revealing the Hidden Research of Lorenzo Dow Turner
10:50 a.m.
Presenter: Jennifer Morris, Archivist, Anacostia Community Museum 
In the 1930s and 1940s, pioneering linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner proved through scientific research and audio recordings that the Gullah language, spoken in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia by descendants of African slaves, retained African words and expressions and conveyed cultural traditions. In 1936, Turner wrote to the president of Fisk University: “The resemblance between these [West African] languages and Gullah [is] much more striking than I had supposed.” Lorenzo Dow Turner papers at ACM contain approximately 110 field recordings made by Turner in the United States, Brazil, and Africa which includes songs, stories, and poems used by Turner for his seminal work, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (1949).  This lecture will discuss how ACM preserved these recording which risked loss of content due to delamination and palmitic acid.  In addition, the process involved with cataloging photographs documenting Turners research in West Africa  will be addressed.


When More Process Equals More Product: Access to the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art Records (1883-1962) Collection 
11:40 a.m.
Presenters: Judy Ng and Marisa Bourgoin, Archives of American Art
This lecture provides an overview of this 240 linear feet collection prior to processing,  the challenges to research access that presented, the reasoning behind processing the collection to a full level, and the resulting success it has found in the Reading Room and through Collections Online now that the collection is fully accessible.   


World War II Monument Men
12:30 p.m.
Presenter: Barbara Aikens, Chief Collection, Archives of American Art 
During World War II, the Allied Forces formed a special armed forces unit named the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section (MFAA.) This unlikely group of heroes was composed of American and British museum directors, art historians and scholars, curators, educators, artists, architects, and archivists who were tasked with locating and protecting historical and cultural monuments, buildings, and sites throughout Europe from bombing.   The unit became simply known as the Monuments Men.  Towards the end of the war and shortly after the war, these same Monuments Men were tasked with locating and recovering innumerable cultural and artistic artifacts stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The Archives of American Art holds a number of personal archives and oral histories of several of the leading Monuments Men and archival documentation of their recovery efforts.  The story of the Monuments Men is one of danger, espionage, interrogations, discoveries, and the recovery of the largest stash of stolen art and cultural objects ever imagined. 


Discovering Artistry in Field Books: Intersection of Art and Science  
1:20 p.m.
Presenter: Emily Hunter, Cataloger, The Field Book Project, National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Archives 
Biodiversity field books are the original documentation of scientific exploration and discovery.  The Smithsonian Institution houses over 6,000 such field books distributed throughout various departments, divisions and buildings.  The Field Book Project is currently working to bring all of these field books together in one online location with detailed catalog records and digitally imaged content. These materials range in content from brief notes on scientific data and observations to lengthy personal accounts of the scientist's field experience.  Despite the implications of the term "field books", these records can also take the form of more visual materials including sketches, maps and a variety of photographic formats.  Often overlooked when discussing field books, these visual materials can provide great insights into the surrounding environment in which a specimen was collected; methods of collecting; and the social and cultural contexts in which specimen collection occurred.


The Weird and Wonderful at the National Anthropological Archives
2:10 p.m. 
Presenters: Gina Rappaport, Photograph Archivist, National Anthropological Archives
The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) is the oldest archives in the Smithsonian, with 13,000 cubic feet of collections including manuscripts, artwork, sound recordings, maps, and 1,000,000 photographs. Though most collections are described in catalog records and finding aids, the NAA archivists routinely find incredible items of historical significance, curiosity, beauty, and just plain weirdness. The stories behind the collections are often fascinating, moving, or disturbing. Several archivists from the NAA will highlight just a few of the many hidden treasures in the NAA as well as what it takes to care for them and make them available to the public.


Preserving a Folk Music Legacy: Digitizing the Moses and Frances Asch Collection
3:00 p.m.
Presenters: Cecilia Peterson and Dan Charette, Archivists, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage 
This presentation will highlight the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collection's
current efforts to digitize the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, a long-term project funded by the Save America's Treasures grant. Following a brief outline of our digitization process and metadata efforts, we will discuss how the project has helped illuminate obscure items in the collection (and in some cases, helped uncover items we never knew existed !)


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