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Friday, October 24, 2014

Flashback Friday: Stettheimer Sisters

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.

I wrote a post for this blog in 2011 after cataloging images in the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection of art work by Carrie and Florine Stettheimer. In that post I introduced paintings by Florine, as well as the fabulous dollhouse created by Carrie. I also mentioned the private salons and artist parties that were frequently hosted by the two, along with a third sister, Ettie. The sisters were well known in Manhattan’s early 20th century artist circles and were themselves huge champions of the Modern Art movement. Some of their artist friends included Carl Van Vechten, Marcel Duchamp, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Florine Stettheimer, Carrie with Dollhouse, 1923
   
Florine Stettheimer, Cathedrals of Art, 1942
Thanks to a recent permissions request, we’ve ‘discovered’ more Stettheimer images in the Juley Collection -- photographs of the interiors of the Stettheimer’s home, and of the studio Florine later kept in Bryant Park. I was thrilled to find these as they really help the viewer’s imagination in bringing the salons out of the fantastical world of Florine’s paintings and placing them in a real time in history. It’s easy to picture the sisters and their friends hanging out in the Stettheimer home or in Florine’s studio. 


Florine was also interested in interior design, as evidenced by the colorful d├ęcor from her studio. The rooms there were adorned in lace, cellophane and floral patterns, echoing a similar aesthetic found in her paintings and theatrical design.

Interior of Stettheimer home, New York
These images were originally mislabeled as depicting an unknown location, but after a bit of searching we were able to locate the entire set and correctly catalog them in SIRIS. You can see the rest of the images, along with other works by the Stettheimer sisters here.

Rachel Brooks
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Peter Blume, From Concept to Realization

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.


Russian American artist Peter Blume’s highly detailed surrealist allegoric paintings helped define American modernism.  Active from the mid-1930s through the 1980s, Blume’s creative process included sketching and drawing many drafts of his large-scale paintings.  Here, we see a sampling of sequentially numbered sketches Blume completed for his painting Tassos Oak, 1957-1960. The artist’s creative process is documented in numerous sketches and photographs found among the circa eight linear feet of Peter Blume’s papers at the Archives of American Art, as well as in an oral history interview with the artist conducted by the Archives in 1983.

Photograph of the actual Tasso's Oak tree in Rome, undated. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-24), circa 1950- 1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-29), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-8), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-12), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


Peter Blume working on his painting Tasso's oak, between 1957 and 1960 / unidentified photographer. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Peter Blume reflected in a mirror standing in front of his painting Tasso's oak, most likely in his studio, circa 1957-1960

Barbara Aikens, Head of Collections Processing
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

75th Anniversary of "Gone with the Wind"

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.
The David O. Selznick film version of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Gone With the Wind” (GWTW) celebrates the 75th anniversary of its premiere in December 2014. In the current era, when blockbusters, or would-be blockbusters, are released at regular intervals, the excitement around the original opening of GWTW may seem strange to us.  This object of advertising ephemera from the Marlboro Theatre in Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Maryland provides a window into the film’s promotion to a rural audience.  The Marlboro, designed by John Eberson, was built for theatre entrepreneur Sidney Lust and had opened for business in January 1938. 

GWTW did not go into general release until after a star-studded premiere in Atlanta in December 1939.  With immediate popularity and wide critical acclaim the film became the “must see” motion picture event of 1940.  GWTW did not reach Upper Marlboro until April 28, 1940 and Lust used bulk mail to advertise its coming to the Marlboro Theatre’s largely rural customer base.  Lust cleverly used a hanging card and on the reverse side of the GWTW promotional postcard advertised the theatre’s April 14-27 program.  At .75 for unreserved and $1.10 for reserved seating (roughly $12 and $18 in current money), the cost of a GWTW ticket was quite an investment for local tobacco farmers and their families.  The Washington Post reported the day after the opening, “'Gone With the Wind’ opened in three of Sidney Lust’s Maryland theaters yesterday before large and appreciative audiences.  The famous Selznick production was presented simultaneously at the Hyattsville Theater, in Hyattsville; the Milo Theater, in Rockville; and the Marlboro Theater, in Upper Marlboro.” (“Gone With the Wind”, The Washington Post, April 29, 1940, page 16.)


Verso of image above.  A bulk-mail hanging advertisement for the Marlboro Theatre, Upper Marlboro, Maryland advertising other films on the schedule for April 14-27, 1940.   Robinson and Via Family Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, AC0475-0000269-01.
Other Archives Center collections contain material related to this film.  Only a few weeks earlier and about twenty miles away, African Americans had picketed the showing of "Gone with the Wind" at the Lincoln Theatre in the segregated Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  The film's racist assumptions and stereotyped portrayals of African Americans roused normally complacent residents to mount a protest that foreshadowed the civil rights activism of the 1960s.

"Jim Crow" showing of "Gone with the Wind" / at the uptown Lincoln Theater. Rufus Byars, manager of Lincoln on left.
Probably photographed by Roberts S. Scurlock, March 9, 1940.  Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, NMAH

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.
Archivist, Archives Center
National Museum of American History

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Artful Collaborations at the Howard Theatre

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.

For decades the Howard Theatre, located at 620 T St NW, Washington, DC has collaborated with notable African American artists. Throughout its influential history, since 1910, almost every African American musician and singer has performed at the Howard Theatre. Some of the most notable appearances at the iconic theatre include Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Add to the roster the talent of Louis Armstrong, Sara Vaughn, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. Clearly the Howard has a significant contribution to the history of African American theatre.

In 1968, segregation and the ensuing riots presented the venue with many challenges. As a result of the societal and cultural climate, the Howard closed in 1970. The Howard Theatre Foundation was organized in 1973 by a group of local citizens in effort to preserve the cultural legacy of the Howard Theatre. The purpose of the foundation was to preserve the Howard Theatre as a viable cultural institution through fostering recognition and appreciation of the African American contribution to the performing arts. Due to the efforts of the Howard Theatre Foundation, the theatre was placed on the national register of historic places and reopened on February 15, 1975.  The Theatre Foundation also collaborated with other local cultural and historic organizations including Operation Heritage, Market 5 gallery, Museum of Temporary Art, and the African Heritage.

Harold Curtis Brown illustration, 1924. Henry P. Whitehead Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Michael A. Watkins.
Through recognizing outstanding local talent and providing suitable facilities for the presentation of theater, music and dance, the Howard Theatre has had a direct and dynamic impact on the history of African American culture. A local talented artists illustrations can be seen in two 1924 programs recently found within the collection. Harold Curtis Brown, today an unknown figure in American Art illustrated three known Howard Theatre programs. Brown was an artist, designer, illustrator, and decorator. Brown spent a year in Washington, DC where he ran an art shop “Blakra” on U Street a few blocks from the Howard Theatre. At the time these programs and one known other were distributed Brown was currently living and working in New York City beautifying the homes of the elite. Harold Curtis Brown worked primarily in interior decorating a field which was vastly unexplored by African Americans at the time.          

Henry P. Whitehead was a local Washington, DC historian who led efforts to restore Washington's U Street cultural corridor and achieved recognition as an authority on and collector of black theatrical memorabilia. Mr. Whitehead worked to promote and preserve Washington, DC’s rich African American cultural heritage. His collection was donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 2005 and is currently being processed and will soon be available for research.

Claire Norman
Project Archivist
Anacostia Community Museum Archives

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