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Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking Flak-Bait for a Walk

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

With much of the work of the National Air and Space Museum taking place behind the scenes, the glass-enclosed Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar allows visitors to discover and connect to our work in real time.  Time and again we hear a very popular question: “How did that get there???”  In the case of the newest hangar occupant, the Martin B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait, the answer is: “With the help of the Archives.”

View of the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar floor from the visitor overlook.  Taken during the 2014 Hazy Open House (hence, the visitors on the shop floor).  NASM 2014-00195
The Archives?  As told in last week’s Flashback Friday, in the past, we have provided drawings and information in order for restoration specialist to build new parts, such as clips.  But moving an entire airplane?

Flak-Bait was the first Allied bomber in the European Theater of WWII to complete 200 missions.  It was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1949 but it did not come to DC until 1960.  When the Museum building opened in 1976, the forward fuselage section was a highlight in the World War II gallery.  The entire airplane has never been exhibited intact.  In fact, the forward fuselage section had never left the World War II Gallery and was already in place when the overhead walkway was built.  Questions abounded.  Could Flak-Bait go back under the walkway?  Would Flak-Bait even fit into the freight elevator all the way at the other end of the Museum?!

Flak-Bait leads other Martin-B-236 Marauders of the 332nd Bombardment Group over Belgium to Magdeburg, Germany, on 17 April 1945.  This was Flak-Bait's 200th mission.  NASM A-42346
The Archives again scoured our collections for manufacturer’s drawings of the B-26B.  Fortunately, unlike with the Helldiver, the set of reels contained an index!!   Based on these drawings, Archives and Restoration made a life-sized cutout of the nose section of the B-26.  First, the freight elevator was mocked up on the floor of the Restoration Hangar.  So far, so good.

A life-size cutout of the B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait on the floor of the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar.  Green tape marks represent the dimensions of the freight elevator on the Mall.  NASM 2014-02801
The next step was to take the cutout, affectionately dubbed “Flat-Bait,” to the Mall and walk it through the complicated route.

Starting out in the WWII Gallery.  Flak-Bait on the left.  Flat-Bait on the right.  NASM 2014-03656
With careful direction and measuring, Flat-Bait made it out of the gallery and into the museum corridor.

Taking Flat-Bait for a walk.  NASM 2014-03657
Then came the next test—the freight elevator.  Success!

Flat-Bait fits!  NASM 2014-03665
June 18 was the big day!  Flak-Bait moved down the hall to the freight elevator and…fit!

The real Flak-Bait enters the freight elevator.  NASM 2014-03304
Flak-Bait was then loaded into a truck and carried to the Udvar-Hazy Center, where it has since been reunited with the other two sections of the fuselage.

Hangar Sweet Hangar!!  NASM 2014-03788
Although currently you can only view Flak-Bait with your face pressed up against the glass of the hangar, the National Air and Space Museum has found ways for you to still connect with the work that we’re doing.  The Museum is constantly updating our Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr accounts with Flak-Bait photos.  Another great source for information is our AirSpace blog.

We in the Archives can’t wait to see what else we will discover in our collections to help!!

Elizabeth C. Borja, Archivist
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Flashback: Hello, Helldiver!

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

During Archives Month 2013, the National Air and Space Museum Archives told one of the many true stories behind the restoration of the Museum’s Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver.  In this story, restoration specialist Will Lee created a new clip for the outboard trailing edge using Curtiss manufacturer’s drawings from the Archives’ collections.

NASM Restoration specialist Will Lee with drawings from the Archives Department and newly fabricated parts for the Museum's Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver.  NASM 2013-03245
On April 1, 2014, the Helldiver finally went on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia!  Although you can’t see the clip Will constructed under the fabric, dope, and paint, we all know it’s there! 

The Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver on display at the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center.  NASM 2014-01742
And that isn’t quite the end of the story. Will gave the Archives duplicate copies of his work. We now pair these pieces with reproductions of the drawings as show and tell in Museum events, such as Become a Pilot Day and the Hazy Open House.

Will's duplicate pieces were part of the NASM Archives showcase in front of the Helldiver at Become a Pilot Day 2014.  (I'm very excited about something!)  NASM 2014-03501
What is the National Air and Space Museum up to next?  Stay tuned for Monday’s post!

Elizabeth C. Borja, Archivist
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Making Discoveries and Connections through Photography

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Alexander Gardner, Kaw Delegates, Washington, D.C., 1867. William T. Sherman Collection of Alexander Gardner Photographs. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution
In the 1920s, two of General William Techumseh Sherman’s descendants donated the general’s sixty large-format albumen prints to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, predecessor institution to the National Museum of the American Indian. Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner had printed these for Sherman from a selection of his negatives of American Indian delegates to Washington, D.C. (1867-1869). These included both views along the Kansas Pacific Railroad (1867), and scenes from the Fort Laramie Treaty signing (1868). The photographs belong to Gardner’s “Scenes in the Indian Country” series and were likely intended to recognize and celebrate Sherman’s role in the Fort Laramie treaty negotiations with the “hostile” Lakota, Crow, and Cheyenne and Araphaho people of the Northern Plains.

The MAI-Heye Foundation individually cataloged Sherman’s photographs but this summer the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center decided to reunite and re-describe the collection. Although the collection record is not yet available in SIRIS, the project gave me the opportunity to discover and connect. The cultural affiliation of the American Indian delegates pictured in the above photograph is often cited as Sac and Fox, but I recognized important Kaw leader Allegawaho seated at the far right. With this discovery, I contacted Dr. Crystal Douglas of the Kanza Museum of the Kaw Nation for assistance. So far Dr. Douglas has been able to provide definite identifications of two additional sitters, father and son Wahtiangah (standing far right) and Kahtega (standing far left). Gardner also circulated this photograph on a printed mount, and Dr. Douglas pointed out to me that on his mount Gardner reversed their names. By connecting with Native experts like Dr. Douglas, I hope to continue to correct the errors of the past so that future discoveries in the archive will be reliable.

Heather Shannon, Photo Archivist
National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Archivist on the Road

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

In my capacity as a collector at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, I am lucky to be one of those with the opportunity to travel the country to discover new collections to add to our holdings in American art history. In August and September of this summer, I made a circuit around the Rocky Mountains and along the West Coast of the United States in search of letters, sketchbooks, photographs, journals, and other primary resources to acquire for our collection. These voyages of discovery are an incredibly rewarding part of the work we do at SI.

My August trip’s direct route was about 4000 miles, but with side trips to places like Hondo, New Mexico and Aspen, Colorado, among others, I put over 6500 miles on my rental car.
There are many means by which we discover the existence of a new cache of papers we may want to acquire. The first, and most common, is from unsolicited offers from artists, dealers, collectors, scholars, or their heirs. Although we can’t accept everything offered to us, we do often run across collections of exceptional depth and scope, like that of Santa Fe dealer Dwight Hackett. Hackett ran an art foundry in New Mexico and worked to realize in metal the work of some of America’s most highly-regarded artists. The records of Art Foundry and his subsequent business Dwight Hackett Projects contain a wealth of research-ready material on artists like Kiki Smith, Lesley Dill, Bruce Nauman, Luis Jimenez, and Lynda Benglis.

The Art Foundry records and the Dwight Hackett Project records comprise over 40 linear feet of correspondence, photographs, drawings, and project files.
Another method that we employ for discovering interesting collections for potential acquisition is to build networks in art communities throughout the country. Our friends in the field often suggest people whose papers we might be keen to collect. Such was the case on this trip with metalsmith Tom Joyce, another Santa Fean, to whom I was introduced through a mutual friend. Joyce is a self-made man in every sense of the word. This includes his breathtaking home and studio, which he built by hand without any formal training in architecture. Joyce also collects widely in African metalwork. His papers include a shelf of dense sketchbooks with drawings by Joyce of each new acquisition in his metalwork collection.

Tom Joyce in his studio. In addition to his enviable collections of books and African metalwork, Joyce has a remarkable number of tools for his craft.

Tom Joyce draws each new acquisition of his African metalwork collection so that he can “get to know the piece better.”

Often, we look for collections with a connection to people already represented in our holdings. While in Seattle, Washington, I looked at the papers of the artist Byron Randall. Randall was married to Emmy Lou Packard, whose papers contain important material on her friend, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Randall and Packard also ran a gallery together in Northern California. Collecting in “circles” like this allows us to build on our strengths and comes with the added bonus of getting both sides of a correspondence. 



Ahren Hertel in his Reno, Nevada studio.

My favorite thing to do while I’m on the road is to meet young, emerging artists, whose archives may not be of interest to us yet, but whose promising careers mean we may be knocking on their doors later in life. A friend of mine in Reno, Nevada told me I had to meet two local painters, Jaxon Northon and Ahren Hertel. Both work in similar styles but have very different processes and themes. Not only is it important for us to develop these relationships early, but painters like Northon and Hertel represent a generation of artists whose “papers” will contain virtually no paper at all. Learning how they work, communicate with one another, and market their work is crucial to understanding what archives will look like in the coming decades.


Jason Stieber, National Collector

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Uncovering the Institute on Race Relations

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Having a background in History, I found processing collections is almost like working with a puzzle. At the start, all the pieces are laid before you, and it is your task to organize it bit by bit, photo by photo, news clip by news clip. Once a complete stranger to the material, you come to know it like the back of your hand, and sometimes more thoroughly than a researcher who will later come to use it. By creating a finding aid, especially the biographical scope, you come to regard the collection as a work of art and as a way to help bridge the gap between past and present.

Letterhead from the Institute on Race Relations collection, Anacosita Community Museum Archives, gift of Henry P. Whitehead 

For me, processing the Institute on Race Relations collection was just that— a way to connect with the past and expand my knowledge of the fight for equality in the African American community
mid-20th century.

Created in 1943 and based in Washington, D.C. , the purpose of the Institute was multi-fold. It aimed to reform communities in the U.S by advocating for democracy and challenging segregation. It attacked discriminatory practices like Jim Crowism and the segregation of African American soldiers in the U.S military, and advocated for the use of non-violent political action as a way of creating a sense of togetherness in the community.

The main focus of the Institute, however, was to build multi-racial relationships with the hope of allowing collective action to flourish and strengthen the community. America was to look inward and challenge itself to become the greatest democratic nation imaginable. This was the ultimate desire of the Institute, and its message was broadcast to the public through various means.

1949 Banquet announcement, Institute on Race Relations collection, Anacosita Community Museum Archives, gift of Henry P. Whitehead


One of the pieces in the collection that I found interesting was a banquet announcement from President of the Institute Tomlinson D. Todd to members of the Institute advocating support for the Americans All Radio program.  The program featured notable figures in academia, politics and entertainment who professed similar ideas of racial tolerance and democracy in an effort to spread the need for social change.

Such change often came in the form of requests for political action as these documents below demonstrates.
Institute on Race Relations collection, Anacosita Community Museum Archives, gift of Henry P. Whitehead
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Institute on Race Relations collection, Anacosita Community Museum Archives, gift of Henry P. Whitehead

Although the Institute on Race Relations operated domestically, it challenged the way in which other oppressed minorities were treated globally. Calling for a march on Washington, the Free India Committee of Reconciliation urged DC residents and citizens alike to march for the liberation of the Indian and Puerto Rican people from their oppressors. This notion of spreading democratic ideals was a major theme found in the Institute on Race Relations collection, and highlights the efforts that all of its members took in order to bring about social change.

This connection between India and America however is one that requires further exploration. Greater emphasis is needed in discovering the history of the Institute on race relations— the history between Gandhi and the desire to utilize non-violent political action in the African American community.

Institute on Race Relations collection, Anacosita Community Museum Archives, gift of Henry P. Whitehead

All in all, I discovered this small collection in its entirety helps to shed light on the necessity of nonviolent political action and the need to develop methods of bringing about peace and harmony in multiple communities.

In processing the Institute on Race Relations records, I was able to take some of the rhetoric, some of the material, and apply it to my own life. At times I became so immersed with the documents that they began to take on a life of their own. In reading the material, I was able to put myself in the shoes of the demonstrators, to fight alongside them as they fought for change in a world that seemed static and inflexible. Their hopes for social transformation in the past mimicked mine in the present, and allowed me to connect with the collection at its core. I had such pleasure processing this collection, and hope that researchersdiscover and connect with this material as much as I have.

Bremacha La Guerre
Volunteer
Anacostia Community Museum  Archives

Monday, October 13, 2014

Band Aid for American Culture: Brass Bands, Marching Bands, Women's Bands, Jazz Bands...

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Three years ago I published a blog in this space about the Archives Center’s Hazen Collection of Brass Band Photographs and Ephemera and its wealth of photographs of American brass bands.    Below is another example, which was not published at that time, showing the U.S. Indian School Band of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

U.S. Indian School Band of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on trip to Long Branch, New Jersey, 1906.  Photographic postcard.
From the Hazen Collection of Band Photographs and Ephemera, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. 
The plethora of bands in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America can be suggested by visual evidence in a number of our other collections as well.  The Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, one of the Archives Center’s original core photographic collections, contains many examples of both American and European marching bands, including military and non-military ensembles.  The murky quality of these images in our online database, SIRIS, is pretty atrocious, thanks to the fact that they represent a transition from videodisc technology to digital.  They were scanned at a very low resolution from analog videodisc images on a television monitor, and the videodisc images themselves were two generations removed from the original glass plate negatives and interpositives (used for making duplicate negatives).  So I’m illustrating one of these photographs in a small size!  Needless to say, we hope to upgrade these scans, and currently are doing so as needed.

White Oak band, White Oak Cotton Mills, Greensboro, North Carolina, ca. 1900-1910.
Silver gelatin stereoscopic interpositive for stereographs published by H.C. White Co., photographer unidentified.
Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, NMAH Archives Center. 
A small but fascinating collection of papers and photographs relates to the career of Helen May Butler, a woman bandmaster who directed an all-female traveling military band from 1898-1913.  The Helen May Butler Collection contains photographs such as these:
Helen May Butler's Military Band, ca. 1900.  Silver gelatin photographic print, photographer unidentified.
Helen May Butler Collection, NMAH Archives Center.
American music is certainly one of the strengths of the Archives Center collections.  We have other collections related to all-women bands, especially in the categories of jazz and other popular music.  The Virgil Whyte “All-Girl” Band Collection contains photographs, papers, and interviews related to an all-female (except the director!) jazz band from Racine, Wisconsin, which toured during World War II to provide entertainment for servicemen at U.S.O. venues.

Virgil Whyte's Musical Sweethearts, ca. 1943.  Silver gelatin photographic print by unidentified photographer.
Virgil Whyte "All Girl" Band Collection, NMAH Archives Center.
A companion archive is that of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a racially and ethnically mixed swing band, whose members were women. They toured the American South and Midwest, and toured overseas with the USO in 1945.
Members of International Sweethearts of Rhythm in performance at Club Plantation, Culver City, California, May 1944.  Silver gelatin print, photographer unidentified.  International Sweethearts of Rhythm Collection, NMAH Archives Center.
Of course, as far as professional jazz bands were concerned, all-male groups were the norm.  The Duke Ellington collection contains hundreds of photographs of his orchestra, and the Scurlock Studio Records include photographs of the African American dance bands and jazz orchestras (including "all girl" bands) which once made U Street, N.W. in Washington renowned as the “Black Broadway.”  

Johnson's Capital Rhythm Girls : acetate film photonegative, 1938.  Addison N. Scurlock, photographer.
From the Scurlock Studio Records, NMAH Archives Center. 

Club Prudhom orchestra, in band box : acetate film photonegative, ca. 1930s.  Addison N. Scurlock, photographer.
The negative is taped for cropping.  From the Scurlock Studio Records, NMAH.  Archives Center.
Music has been an important aspect of the National Museum of American History's collections, exhibitions, and public programs for decades.  The Museum actively collects and displays musical instruments and sponsors concerts.  The Archives Center works closely with music curators to collect original music manuscripts, published sheet music, ephemera, photographs, and other archival materials related to our American musical heritage.  Search SIRIS to discover additional examples of the wide variety of music-related documents we collect. 

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flashback Friday: Turner Returns to Brazil

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

In 2010 for American Archives Month celebration, I wrote a blog post on the pioneering linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner and the Anacostia Community Museum efforts to preserve and digitize his field recordings created between 1930s and 1950s.  Since that post, the museum has successfully recovered and preserved folktales, songs, and interviews Turner collected in West Africa and Brazil. The museum also presented a groundbreaking exhibition on Dr. Turner titled, Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner Connecting Communities through Language in 2011.  The exhibit looks at the life, research and scholarship of Professor Turner and is based almost entirely on his archival papers and objects in the museum collection.

A section of the exhibition focuses on Turner’s research on African survivals in Afro-Brazilian culture, especially within the Candomblé religion.  The show along with a museum symposium on Turner helped Brazilian scholars unfamiliar with Turner to discover and connect to his work in their country during the 1940s. As a result, “Word, Shout, Song.  . .” exhibition is scheduled to travel in Brazil starting in July 2015.

This will allow the Candomblé communities to connect with the research and documentation conducted by Turner. As an archivist, it gives me professional pleasure to see the materials one has arranged, described, and cataloged as a source for reconnecting a community to their heritage.  In addition, we plan to ingest some of Dr. Turner’s research and appointment books in the Smithsonian Transcription Center for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and the communities he researched.

In the meanwhile, here are some images from Turner’s research in Brazil:

Woman dressed as Iyansã goddess of the wind and storms and the wife of Sangõ, the god of thunder, in the Candomble pantheon. Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.
Afro-Brazilian holding a Berimbau, an Angolan musical instrument.Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.


Mãe Meninha do Gantois and her followers.Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.
See more images here!
Jennifer Morris
Archivist