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Friday, August 28, 2015

Collecting Katrina at the National Museum of American History

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the major devastation it wreaked.  It formed as Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, but became Tropical Storm Katrina the following morning, then a full-fledged hurricane on August 25. Katrina gained Category 5 status on August 28, although it weakened to a Category 3 by its second landfall on August 29.  Continuing as a Category 3 hurricane for its third landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, its winds were measured at 120 mph.

Many deaths and catastrophic flooding occurred in New Orleans due to the notorious failure of the levee system, in addition to the damage caused by the hurricane itself.  National Museum of American History curator David Shayt visited Louisiana after the storm to collect objects for the Museum that helped tell the human story of the disaster.  (See Erin Blasco’s blog about his collecting activity.)  He and his team concentrated not only on New Orleans, but the entire Gulf Coast area.

Hurricane Katrina’s horrendous legacy could be seen along the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas.  Severe property damage occurred along the coast, especially Mississippi beachfront areas, where more than 90% of the towns were flooded.  Vicksburg resident and free-lance photographer Melody Golding served as a Red Cross volunteer in the aftermath of the hurricane.  Transporting relief supplies as well as her camera to the battered Mississippi Gulf Coast, she began keeping a photographic journal of the days following the storm.  After her initial wrenching exposure to the ruined buildings and landscapes and suffering storm victims, and concerned that the New Orleans catastrophe was becoming the primary symbol of Katrina, she set out to document the devastation in her home state thoroughly, and ended up devoting a full year to her self-assigned project.
Melody Golding.  See-Through House, Katrina, Gulf Coast, Mississippi, 2005.  Gift of the artist.  From the Melody Golding Katrina Photographic Documentation Project, 2005, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Although Ms. Golding photographed all aspects of the disaster in both still photographs and video, some special themes emerged.  She was particularly attuned to the sufferings of women whose homes and lives were directly affected by Katrina, and interviewed and photographed them in their deeply altered circumstances.  From these photographs an exhibition and a book were developed, both entitled “Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember.”  The exhibition was shown at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, and as a national traveling exhibition sponsored in part by the Mississippi Humanities Council.  Among the women she met during her project, she took a special interest in artists, and royalties from the sale of her book are aiding artists from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Photographic prints from the Katrina project have been acquired by private and institutional collectors, but by 2008 Ms. Golding was anxious to place her entire Katrina archive, including original negatives, in a public repository in order to focus her energies on other photographic projects.  She invited me to meet her and see her exhibition in November 2008, while it was on display at Mississippi College.  I was deeply impressed with her artistry, sensitivity, and humanity, and the quality of the photographs both as documentary evidence and as works of art.  I have to resist the urge to say I was “blown away,” but I thought this project well deserved to be collected in its entirety.

Fortuitously, my Archives Center colleague Craig Orr was able to pick up the exhibition photographs from her home in Vicksburg while he was already on official travel for other purposes, and she later delivered her original negatives, contact prints, and other components of the project, including visitor comments from people who viewed her exhibition.  This remarkable, comprehensive archive, combined with the objects collected by David Shayt and others, gives the Museum a rich record of this monumental event, which will undoubtedly remain one of the most significant natural disasters in twenty-first century American history.  We hope it will never be exceeded in power and scope.
Melody Golding.  Smashed House, Katrina, Gulf Coast, Mississippi, 2005.  Silver gelatin print.  Gift of the artist.  From the Melody Golding Katrina Photographic Documentation Project, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
The Archives Center remains indebted to Ms. Golding for her thoughtful and important gift, and I certainly concur with her rationale for selecting us as the repository for her Katrina photographs and documents.  On one hand, she reasoned that Katrina was far more than a regional event: it was national and international news that captivated Americans for days and weeks, then months, so she felt that the collection deserved a national institution for its home—although a Mississippi institution also would have been appropriate.  In addition, as an advocate for her home state, she suggested that Mississippi might not be adequately represented in the national collections and that her coverage of Katrina would partially remedy that.  I don’t intend to establish anything resembling a state or regional quota system for representation in Archives Center photographic collections, but her point was well taken. We do need to strive for regional and state diversity in our collecting if we are truly a museum of American History.  Melody Golding’s most recent gift portrays a fascinating and far more pleasant aspect of Mississippi history—to be described later.

David Haberstich
Curator of Photography
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Heartland Activists

The Bil Browning and Jerame Davis Papers (Collection AC1334) are among some of the newer acquisitions of the Archives Center in the National Museum of American History. Mostly unassuming and full of things that would not look out of place pinned up to a corkboard above a desk, it will indubitably become a valuable resource to historians of the LGBT rights movement.

When we think of LGBT activism, our thoughts turn to the overcrowded streets where televised Pride parades and festivals are held in cities along the east and west coasts. Yet, Bil Browning and Jerame Davis both hail from two small, largely obscure towns in rural Indiana. Their collection – which is comprised of various documents, photographs, home videos, and even a scrapbook – provides a rare glimpse into LGBT activism as it unfolded in the Midwestern United States and the struggles that accompanied it.
Photograph by Perry Bidelf.  Left to right: Phil Reese, Anthony Niedwiecki, Wayman Hudson, Bil Browning, and Jerame Davis at National Equality March, 11 October 2009.
From the Bil Browning and Jerame Davis Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

I had the rare opportunity to speak with Browning and Davis about the materials they had donated to the Archives Center. While my primary objective was to have them identify photographs that were lacking names or dates, I was also able to talk to them about the events depicted in their collection. It was one thing to spend my day processing the photos and documents, pulling individual papers out of their messy arrangements in cardboard boxes and then sorting them into crisp legal folders. It was another thing entirely to sit down and talk face-to-face with the people who lived the events that I was merely a spectator to, ten or twenty-some-odd years after they took place.

It’s impossible for thoughts to be conveyed through static items, so my interview managed to add a distinctly human element to a process that evokes, at some times, a sense of disconnect. In our discussion, I heard about the discrimination lawsuit that catapulted Davis into activism, and in his own words, “changed the course of [his] life”, listened to Browning discuss his experience running his blog, The Bilerico Project, and learned about why the two of them wanted to include anti-LGBT materials in their collection (the answer to that, as I learned from Davis, was that “future generations need to know all the nasty, horrible things those [expletive deleted] said about us”).

My conversation with the two LGBT activists was truly an incredible experience and helped to flesh out the collection more so than it had already been. I hope that future historians, researchers, and even the general public, will one day take advantage of the rich materials within it and educate themselves about the struggles that members of the LGBT community have faced and continue to face on their journey to achieve equality.

Sara Dorfman, Intern, NMAH Archives Center

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Robert Scurlock's Street Scenes of Black Washington

During my time looking through the many photographs that comprise the Scurlock Studio Records collection in the NMAH Archives Center, one of my colleagues, Aysha Preston, also a research fellow, showed me a set of photographs Robert Scurlock took of seemingly candid scenes of young black children playing in the streets of Washington D.C. My interest in street photography drew me to these images, ranging from depictions of children playing in the water, to four black boys posing in front of a graffiti-filled cement wall. Although my area of focus for my dissertation research is in adult-age black men living in America’s urban environments, Robert Scurlock’s photographs encouraged me to think about the portrayal of black childhood in places of urban decay. The photographs beg the viewer to think about the kinds of effects living in disadvantaged neighborhoods can bear on those who are still in the process of growing and learning about themselves and their relationship to the world. The children Scurlock captures in this series might not have had a full understanding of the complex systems around them that played a role in their families’ hardships.
1.  Robert S. Scurlock.  Untitled, Washington, D.C., ca. 1970.  Chromogenic print.
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
What these photographs taught me was the dynamism of the Scurlock Collection. While the collection is illustrative of the important racial uplift projects that advanced civil rights for blacks—particularly those of the early 20th century—Robert Scurlock’s street photography partakes in a somewhat different agenda: to display the harsh realities of black life.
2.  Robert S. Scurlock.  Untitled, Washington, D.C., ca. 1970.  Chromogenic pirnt.
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

In the images Addison Scurlock’s son captures, black children are not propped and dressed up for a studio portrait like in Figure 3. Contrarily, as Figure 2 shows, the children are captured right in the middle of their mundane activities. An important research question I had while examining this photograph was the purpose behind Robert Scurlock’s artistic choice to capture scenes of urban decay through the experiences of black children. In Figure 2, four small black boys are playing with several dogs right in the middle of trash. The boys are in front of a row of dilapidated houses. The composition of the photograph heightens the dreary images of the rowhomes—my focus started at the foreground of the photograph and jumped back from house to house. Each house in the photograph is in disrepair, and the viewer is almost overwhelmed by the endless rows of homes in obvious states of decay. Your eyes travel from the cheerful, curious boys to the vanishing point where the two lines of row houses meet; your eyes are not given a break from the pattern of squalor in the image.

Addison N. Scurlock, photographer.  Cellulose acetate photonegative.  Undated but probably ca. 1910-1920.
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

The houses, combined with the trash and the seemingly wet streets, make the landscape very unsettling to observe. As a viewer, you are almost disgusted by what you see, particularly how the trash seems to encircle the boys and the dogs they are playing with. What heightens this discomfort for me as a viewer is the juxtaposition of the landscape with the cheerful pose of the boy in the center of the group, wearing a bright orange shirt. The shirt’s color grabs the viewer’s attention, along with his playful display of arm muscles.

As a viewer, I wonder what was going through the mind of these four boys as they posed before Robert Scurlock’s camera. They seem unabashed as they stand innocently with their dogs, despite the scenes of abandonment that encircle them. As I continue looking at the photographs, I have yet to reach a conclusion about the message being conveyed: are these images of sadness, meant to garner pity for the black underclass? Or is Scurlock capturing the paradox that is deeply embedded in black culture, strength amidst suffering? At this point, I see the interplay of both of narratives in these street photographs.

Lucy Mensah
Graduate Fellow, National Museum of American History

Ph.D. Candidate, English, Vanderbilt University
Graduate Fellow, NMAH Archives Center

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Swimming Pools in America

French Norman Manor House, Columbus, Ohio, 2007. Marilyn M. Briggs, photographer. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens. Garden Club of America Collection.
What would summer be without swimming pools?  The Archives of American Gardens includes hundreds of images of pools, a staple in many regions of the country and a welcome feature in so many outdoor spaces.

Weber Garden, Highland Park, Texas, 2013. Elsie Norman Dunklin, photographer. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Garden Club of America Collection

While swimming pools in some form or another can be traced all the way back to ancient times, they are by comparison a relatively new concept in America.  One of the earliest public pools opened in Boston in 1868; another opened in 1884 in Philadelphia.  These and other municipal pools served as a public baths for working class men and women and were often located in impoverished neighborhoods.  Many of the poor living in urban areas did not have the necessary facilities in their homes to bathe properly.  As a result, early municipal pools were more or less large, public bath tubs.

These pools were immensely popular, seeing over a thousand swimmers a day during the summer months.  Their popularity, however, was not due primarily to the desire to get clean but to go swimming.  In the late 19th century, however, social protocol did not see swimming as an acceptable pastime.

Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1931. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland Company Collections.
As time went on social norms changed and swimming became more accepted.  As a result, swimming pools evolved into something geared more towards recreation and social gatherings than to bathing. Beginning in the early twentieth century, hotels and resorts in America and other countries built swimming pools to attract the vacationing middle and upper classes.  By the 1920s, public baths and swimming pools were common and could be found in many U.S. cities.  Private pools gained in popularity as well.  While only the rich and famous could afford such a luxury during the early twentieth century, after World War II pools became more affordable and widespread.  As the latter half of twentieth century progressed private swimming pools grew in popularity and so did the desire to create more unconventional pools in shapes differing from the standard rectangle.  The kidney-shaped pool in particular became wildly popular.

Chilcott Garden, New Vernon, New Jersey, 1965. Molly Adams, photographer. Archives of American Gardens. Maida Babson Adams Photograph Collection.

Swimming pools represent a long-standing trend in American history that has evolved over the years. As resources, needs and social norms changed, so did the swimming pool.  Though they started out as public bathing pools, today swimming pools, both public and private, can be found in almost every community across the country.

Kathryn Schroeder
Archives of American Gardens Summer Intern 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

“For the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge:” from 18th-Century France to the Libraries' Collections

James Smithson, whose bequest led to the establishment in the mid-19th century of the American institution that now bears his name, famously stated in his will that funds should be used for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” This seemingly vague request is rooted in Enlightenment philosophy, the desire to create order and understanding in the world. As Heather Ewing wrote in The lost world of James Smithson, he was a member “of this distinct breed of English Enlightenment gentleman: citizens of a new republic of science, dedicated to the cause of ‘improvement.’” The Enlightenment era’s embrace of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” an attitude that so inspired Smithson, is exemplified by the monumental twenty-eight-volume publication of Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné (1751-1772). It is a work which the well-traveled and learned Smithson undoubtedly knew well.

The "System of Human Understanding" or Tree of Knowledge
The first volume of the Encyclopédie contains the famous "Preliminary Discourse" where it is argued that all human knowledge resides in three branches: Memory, Reason, Imagination. The rationalist, secular outlook made its creators subject to censorship, official condemnation and threats of imprisonment.
The Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de Lettres (Encyclopedia, or, Rational Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Trades, by a Society of Men of Letters) is a reference work that was conceived with the belief that everything in the world could be explained by rational investigation. Much as the Smithsonian Institution does today, the range of subjects covered was enormous: there were not only abstract disciplines, such as natural philosophy and mathematics, but also practical sciences (mechanics, technology, medicine) and the techniques of the arts, crafts and trades.  

All subjects were presented with the belief of the practical usefulness of knowledge. This plate, "Emailleur, a la lamp perles fausses," details the work of women and children in the porcelain industry, enameling with heat and enamel painting.
The large-format volumes, comprised of folio pages of text printed in double columns and with the famous plates of illustrations, has a long publishing history. It all began simply as a French translation of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, or, Universal dictionary of art and sciences, a two-volume work published in London in 1728. But the concept for the project grew with the prospectus stating that there would be eight volumes of text and two of plates of illustrations. The general editor was the novelist, playwright and literary and art critic, Denis Diderot (1713-1784), with assistance from Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783), another philosophe, who was responsible for mathematics and science, with a second mathematician, Abbé Jean Paul de Gua de Malves, helping out.  

The Encyclopédie differed from its seventeenth- and eighteenth-century predecessors by emphasizing the arts and trades and by drawing on a wide variety of prominent contributors to record the sum of human knowledge. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire were some of those prominent writers involved. It was published during a time when there was a great increase in literacy and the attending explosion in the availability of printed materials.

Fan Makers: "Eventailliste, colage et preparation des papiers." Sheets of paper for the fans are shown drying from the rafters before being trimmed and then decorated.
It was also a time when the guilds still closely protected their skills and knowledge, with master craftsmen teaching only by the apprenticeship system. The “métiers” of the title was not incidental: Diderot, son of a cutler, sought to reveal mechanical secrets in the hope that “our descendants, by becoming better instructed, may as consequence by more virtuous and happy.” Although the intricate details in the depictions of machines, tools, and instruments were engraved by a group of highly skilled craftsmen, Diderot himself gathered much of the information from hours of observation.

Details for fancy work, "Boutonnier Passementier," buttons and lace making for clothing trim.
The 3,129 large illustrations are immediately recognizable from countless reproductions. The calm scenes of small workshops of the pre-Industrial-Revolution era show men, women and children employing techniques that had previously been regarded as trade secrets. The clear diagrams and drawings of artisanship and mechanics are absorbing in their detail. Even if the view of industry is rather archaic, the volumes of plates may be the most revolutionary elements of the work, providing visual examples of the philosophe principle that rational knowledge, in the portrayal of human activity, could be the basis for a new world view where happiness is tied to progress and prosperity.

The Book Binder's Workshop: the steps and tools of bookbinding. A bindery for hand-bound books would operate much the same way today.
This radical world view challenged both the church and state, particularly in the earlier volumes addressing religion and politics. Although royal permission for publication had been granted, in 1752 Louis XV’s conseil d’etat threatened the editors with imprisonment. But the Encyclopédie continued to be produced because the project had friends in high places, including the royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Printing preceded slowly (volume three appeared in 1753). In 1759, during a difficult and unsettled period in French history, the Encyclopédie was included in an official list of condemned books and censorship forced a temporary suspension of publication. Editors defied the authorities by releasing the next ten volumes simultaneously in 1765 under that convenient and common false imprint of the time--the Swiss city of Neuchâtel.

The renown that the work reached, even as it was being printed, is seen in Quentin de la Tour's portrait of Madame de Pompadour, which places the royal mistress with a volume of the Encyclopédie. (The above is a 1755 pastel portrait on paper now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Then, as now, scandal and controversy were good for business and the print run was expanded from 1,625 to 4,225. Also helping sales was a 1756 portrait of Madame de Pompadour, by Quentin de la Tour, shows her posing with a volume of the encyclopedia. Reprint and pirated editions of the Encyclopédie appeared, as well as foreign language imprints, even as Diderot’s originals were being released. During the American Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson ordered a pirated Italian edition from the Virginia Gazette. In Geneva, a folio reprint was issued between 1771 and 1776. Several less expensive versions, in the smaller quarto and octavo formats, added most to the publishing competition before the close of the century.

However radical, the Encyclopédie was not a call for revolution in mid-eighteenth-century France. An encyclopedia of this scale was expensive to produce and purchase. The intended market may have been wider but still its audience was the wealthy, educated gentlemen who would have been conversant in history, philosophy, literature, science, technology, and the arts. Purchasers of the work included the nobility, military officers, clergy, parliamentary officials, and law professionals.  

The title page of volume one of the Dibner Library's copy, now digitized by the Biodiversity Heritage Library for the Smithsonian Libraries.
The Encyclopédie’s value as a source of information on eighteenth-century industry and life is tremendous and continues to feed modern scholarly research. A quick search of the Smithsonian’s online catalog, the Collections Search Center, turns up such titles as Diderot and Goethe: a study in science and humanism, by Gerhard M. Vasco (1978); The spectator and the landscape in the art criticism of Diderot and his contemporaries, by Ian Lochhead (1982); Three early French essays on paper marbling, 1642-1765, with an introduction and thirteen original marbled samples by Richard J. Wolfe (1987); and L'Encyclopédie Diderot & d'Alembert: Les métiers du livre, by P. M. Grinevald et C. Paput (1994); Diderot et le portrait, by Jeannette Geffriaud Rosso (1998); and Robert Darnton’s Censors at work: how states shaped literature (2014).

The art of milling grain: a mill on a stream and mill stones.
"Relieur Doreur" Another step in bookbinding is gilding on the covers for titling and decoration. Note the finished products on the shelves.
The Wonders of the Ancient World were represented in the Encyclopédie well before the work of the savants of the Institut d’Égypte, a scientific organization that accompanied Napoleon's disastrous campaign in Egypt, 1798-1801.
James Smithson very likely would be pleased by recent actions with one of the Institution’s editions of the Encyclopédie. As a further aid to scholarship, with open access to all, the copy in the Dibner Library has recently been digitized and placed online by the Smithsonian Libraries. To safe-guard the actual volumes for future use, this set of the Encyclopédie, ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers is now being conserved by experts in the Smithsonian Libraries lab. 

Julia Blakely
Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Libraries 

Before treatment: a volume of the Dibner Library's copy in the Conservation Lab. The plan is to use Iowa Paper Case paper that is toned to compliment the original mottled calf to re-back the well-used books. Photo by Katie Wagner, Book Conservator.
A subject to appeal to users of the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. This collection has many titles covering the history of astronomy with particular strengths in mathematical astronomy and geodesy.
Inspiration for a New York City fashion designer?: footwear from Antiquity.
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library also holds a set of the Encyclopédie. Photo by Katie Wagner, Book Conservator.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Greenhouses as a Therapeutic Tool in Veterans’ Homes and Hospitals

Proposed greenhouse for Veterans Administration, March 15, 1949. American-Moninger Greenhouse Manufacturing Corporation Collection. Archives of American Gardens.

The American-Moninger Greenhouse Manufacturing Corporation Collection at the Archives of American Gardens includes architectural plans and drawings of greenhouses designed by the firm dating back to the 1920s.  The plans in the collection include three designed for United States military facilities: Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey in 1936, the U.S. Navy Yard in Charleston, South Carolina in 1941, and the Veterans Administration in Fort Custer, Michigan in 1949. While we do not know for certain the nature of their use, it is likely that the greenhouse designed for the VA in Michigan may have been intended for therapeutic use by veterans recently returned home from World War II.

The first use of horticulture in the treatment of psychiatric patients in the United States took place at what is now Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.  Founded by the Quakers and first named The Asylum for Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason, the hospital built a greenhouse in 1879 to be used by patients.

The rehabilitative needs of war veterans in the 1940s and 50s helped to spur the further growth of horticultural therapy and to solidify its place among the therapeutic options for veterans.  Through gardening, wounded soldiers engaged in a form of physical therapy that simultaneously provided them with skills to help ease their transition into the civilian workforce.  Others who suffered from what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were aided by the calming orderliness of gardening in conjunction with other forms of treatment.  Greenhouses were (and still are) used to enable year-round gardening and thus continuous therapy.

A February 2015 article in Military.com reported an upcoming program in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that seeks to help rehabilitate veterans suffering from PTSD and other problems through horticultural therapy.  Veterans to Farmers, a program in Denver, Colorado, gives returning veterans a chance to gain viable skills while providing a peaceful environment in which to learn and work. Similar programs exist elsewhere, including the Veterans Greenhouse and Gardens Program, part of the VA Boston Healthcare System.

These are just a few examples of many such horticulture therapy programs throughout the U.S. The healthful benefits of gardening and greenhouse production have long been acknowledged and continue to be employed today in the healing process for our veterans.  The American-Moninger Greenhouse Manufacturing Corporation Collection of greenhouse plans here at the Archives of American Gardens offers a glimpse into the history of this long tradition of healing.

Katie McLain, 
2015 Graduate Research Assistant, Smithsonian Gardens
and
Master of Arts Candidate, History of Decorative Arts, 
The Smithsonian Associates-George Mason University

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Always with the Banjo: Rapid Capture Digitization at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

How we roll: live banjo music during the RCPP open house. Photograph by Ben Sullivan.

The last week of April, after months of preparation, the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections participated in a week-long Rapid Capture Pilot Project (RCPP) supported by the Smithsonian's Digitization Program Office (DPO).  The DPO has organized these projects at a variety of Smithsonian units, and we were very excited to join the club.

Colin Moore placing a mechanical board on the copy stand as Ed and Diana Coderre of Digital Ark get ready to capture it. Photograph by Ben Sullivan.

The goal of a RCPP is to digitize a large volume of similarly-sized objects using high-throughput digitization workflows and equipment and make them available to the public online in their highest resolution. The Rinzler Archives chose to digitize a large portion of the cover design mechanicals, or pasteup boards, for Folkways Records, due to their importance in the history of design and the beautiful original artwork found on many. Though it required months of preparation, the RRFAC was able to digitize 1,022 oversized folders of cover designs during the 5-day pilot, creating 2,345 unique images (some mechanicals contained multiple layers that required multiple shots). These images were embedded with metadata, sent to the Smithsonian's digital asset management system, and linked to the Collections Search Center for public viewing during the same week.

To promote the use of rapid capture processes, the Rinzler Archives also held an open house for the archives, library, and museum community to come observe the work and ask questions. Talking, being on our feet, and doing repetitive movements all week could have made for very long days, but we're lucky enough to work with some amazing musicians at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, including processing archivist Greg Adams. Greg got us through the week by playing his banjo for us and our 125 visitors throughout the week. When a visitor asked Jessica Beauchamp, a program officer from the DPO, why we had live music at our open house, Jessica replied, "It's just their way here."


Cover mechanical for FW04237 (FE 4237), Music of the Miskito Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua, c. 1981. Moses and Frances Asch Collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.

The Rinzler Archives has never before been able to push digitized content out to the public in this quantity or quality--this, combined with the live music and beautiful materials, energized and motivated us, and made the RCCP week the most fun in the archives in recent memory.

Special thanks to the Digitization Program Office, OCIO, the DAMS team, and the Digital Ark for all their support for this project. This was truly a (BIG) team effort, and we are so proud to have been a part of it.

To view the materials digitized for this project, search for your favorite Folkways album cover by its number in the Collections Search Center, or see some of our favorites here:
FW02319 American Ballads sung by Pete Seeger
FW03863 Radio Programme III: Courlander's Almanac: Familiar Music in Strange Places
FW04008 Songs and Dances of Norway
FW07451 Jill Gallina - Lovin' Kindness
FW06846 Jamaican Folk Songs sung by Louise Bennett

Cecilia Peterson, Digitization Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections