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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 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
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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Duncan P. Shiedt Collection and All That Jazz

The National Museum of American History sponsored a variety of special activities in April to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, including special concerts and the opening of the LeRoy Neiman Jazz Café in the Museum, with its colorful mural (painted by Neiman) depicting eighteen jazz masters.  Spearheaded as usual by Dr. John Hasse, the Museum’s indefatigable curator of American Music, Jazz Appreciation Month often focuses on jazz-related acquisitions by the Museum, especially in the Archives Center.  Searching for “jazz” in SIRIS reveals the jazz-related riches of the Archives Center, from the original music manuscripts of famed composer and bandleader Duke Ellington to published sheet music in the Sam DeVincent Collection (arranged by the topics or subjects of songs), to photographs of jazz musicians by many important photographers.

Photograph by John Miner.  Billy Strayhorn playing piano, possibly Chicago, 26 May 1952.
From the Duncan P. Schiedt Photograph Collection, Archives Center, NMAH
Dr. Hasse has located and helped to negotiate most of the Archives Center’s jazz acquisitions over the years, collaborating with our staff to arrange and complete the transactions.  Some of these acquisitions were made possible through personal friendships and professional connections dating back to his graduate work in music at Indiana University, and Indiana, it seems, has been an unusually fertile source of dedicated collectors of jazz-related collections and archives.  This has been of personal interest to me because I also pursued graduate work at Indiana University in Bloomington—not in music, although I knew a number of music students.  Our most recent major jazz-related acquisition was donated by the children of another longtime friend and colleague of John Hasse’s—Duncan P. Schiedt.  Schiedt was himself a distinguished photographer of jazz musicians, but he also collected the work of other jazz photographers, and authored a number of books.  He wrote in the preface to his book Jazz State of Indiana that “Indiana represented something special in jazz history” and that “Hoosier jazz” made a special contribution to the style of many college and professional jazz bands. The Archives Center is just beginning to view the thousands of photographs in this collection.  Shown above is a photograph of jazz great Billy Strayhorn, from the Schiedt collection.

David Haberstich
Curator of Photography, NMAH Archives Center     

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Message in a Box

The Freer | Sackler Archives is blessed to have many wonderful volunteers.  Many have been working for the archives for years. They all have collections that they come in every week to work on and care for.  One volunteer, the lovely Charlene, has been work on the Pauline B. and Myron S. Falk, Jr. Papers for several years. She is currently organizing all of the Falk correspondence. Recently, she stumbled upon some truly wonderful letters both sent and received by the Falks.  

They are filled with humor, life, and wonderful use of language.  One can’t help but stop to hear what neat letter Charlene has found on a particular day.  You get the impression that the Falks were warm, intelligent, and entertaining people to be around.

Pauline Falk worked with the Lincoln School for many years.

These letters have given us something more precious that a window into the Falks lives.  They have given us an idea of how diversely and uniquely individuals expressed themselves to one another. You can picture the people writing these letters as if they are in the room.  Furthermore, it reminds us how fun, complex, and different the English language can be.  

Excerpt from Mrs. Pauline Falk's 50th High School Reunion.   It took place in 1978 for the class of 1928.  Several of the classmates could not attend the reunion, but then sent delightful notes to be read at the reunion.

In yet another way, it makes us more aware that the art of letter writing is dying. We have email. We have Facebook. We have Twitter.  We have an endless amount of devices to keep us connected.   We communicate instantly and uniquely, but in a different more abrupt way.

The written word seems to be fighting a losing battle in the war of communication.   This is an era of abbreviated thought, where pausing to contemplate and write a personal letter and send it seems as foreign as an alien planet.

Letter thanking Pauline Falk for all her dedicated service to the Lincoln School, 1953.

Of course, email can be and is used to write thoughtful letters, but more often than not, the language of email seems to have given way to short perfunctory business sentences.  The idea of allowing one’s thoughts to wander deeply before putting words down is almost lost.

Perhaps we should all take the time to pause and breathe before we write and send our next email (or, perhaps, even a physical letter) to a friend.

Lara Amrod
Freer|Sackler Archives

Friday, April 17, 2015

How Do I Compare Thee To a Burpee Seed: The 1924 Burpee Contest Inspired Poetry

“Roses are Red; Violets are Blue” may be the most famous lyric about flowers and love. In fact, poetry and the beauty of flowers and gardens often seem to go hand-in-hand.  This is why it comes as no surprise that poems accompany several of the letters submitted for the 1924 W. Atlee Burpee & Company contest, “What Burpee’s Seeds Have Done for Me.”

Now located in the W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records at the Archives of American Gardens, the contest letters are not only evidence of the firm’s marketing practices, but also snapshots into the lives of everyday gardeners of the time. The personal and touching stories that contestants shared with the company were often accompanied by tokens stuffed alongside the letters, including newspaper clippings, photographs, and even seed packets.  It is the lyrical composition of the ones that included poems, in my opinion (and the opinion of the Burpee Seed Company as many were selected as potential winners for the contest), that truly made a contest letter stand out.

In honor of National Poetry Month the Archives of American Gardens has selected a few poems from the 1924 contest letters to highlight.  The majority of the poems were written by gardeners inspired by their own gardens grown from Burpee seeds.  Typically composed in a simple a-b-c-b style, the poems recount the joys of gardening and using Burpee seeds.  One poem in particular that caught my attention was written by a Miss Blanche Billings of Vermont who writes of growing a garden for the benefit of selling produce.

1924 contest letter submitted by Blanche Billings.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records,
Box 330, Folder 12. Unassigned Letter Number 4, Page 7
Occasionally, those unable to craft their own poetry would submit a poem penned by someone else or a well-known poet.  One such person was Miss Mary Rowan of Logansport, Indiana who submitted a poem by George Elliston (1883-1946), a Cincinnati poet and female American journalist. In the contest letter Rowan expresses her inability to compose a poem that could accurately reflect her experiences with gardening and Burpee seeds, but felt that Elliston’s poem perfectly described her love of gardening.

1924 contest letter submitted by Blanche Billings.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records,
Box 330, Folder 4. Letter number 4418
Several hundred 1924 Burpee contest letters have been digitized and transcribed in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.  Take a look and see what you may find! If you are lucky enough, you might even stumble across one of these wonderful poems enclosed with a contest letter.  And who knows, perhaps you will be inspired to write your own poem about your own garden!

Melinda Allen
Archives of American Gardens 
2015 Winter Intern

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Archives in Bloom

This has been a particularly long, hard winter for most of the country (here's lookin' at you, Boston), but finally, at least the calendar will soon say it's Spring. The Vernal Equinox (am I the only one who finds that to be one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language?) is this Saturday, March 21st. In anticipation/celebration, here are some of the Springiest images I could dig up, like a squirrel after freshly planted bulbs, from the collections of the Archives of American Art.

Study for Geranium, circa 1966. Janet Shook LaCoste papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh in a garden, circa 1892 / unidentified photographer. Bessie Potter Vonnoh papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Girl in the woods, circa 1930. David Park papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
For more blooms from across the Smithsonian's collections, browse our Collections Search Center

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dumping the Bosses off your Back: Collector Records and Labor Song

Brochure from the Coalition of Labor Union Women, 1980. Collector Records business papersRalph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
In the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, I often have the good luck to work with the papers of individuals and record labels full of materials that are rooted in history and continue to stay topical today.  For the past few months, I have been working with the Collector Records business records , and I've enjoyed exploring the materials that intended to inspire and capture the music of the labor movement.  Joe Glazer, often referred to as “Labor’s Troubador," founded Collector Records in 1970 in order to share his own recordings of labor songs as well as those of other musicians.  He set out to explore workplace issues, such as women's struggles through the release of albums like Bread and Raises: Songs for Working Women sung by Bobbie McGee. Glazer also released albums that were meant to laud and inspire union members such as with his celebration of the United Auto Workers in his album The UAW: Fifty Years in Song and Story.
Paste-up for Songs of Steel & Struggle, 1975. Collector Records business papersRalph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
Although it is a historical collection, the songs, sentiments, and commitment to the Labor Movement by Glazer and Collector Records are still applicable today.  I was a member of Transportation Workers Union of America: Local 100 and a colleague was previously a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local: 30.  In a lunchtime anecdote, he recalled the time he brought his banjo to the picket line and led striking workers (UPS strike 1997) in the singing of protest songs such as "Solidarity Forever". This particular song appears on at least eleven of Collector Records' commercial records and has been an important tool in the movement.  Labor songs such as "Solidarity Forever" can be effective on many fronts, but especially for education, relaying a message, and political organizing. This uniqueness is found through the song's abilities to both teach and keep morale high while on the picket line.
Songs of the Wobblies, 1977. Collector Records business papers, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.

Oppressed groups have historically addressed their oppressors through song.  Folk song, and labor song, are a reflection of the community from which they are created.  They reflect the values, social norms, and concerns of the surrounding community.  For particular social movements and historical time periods where printed media could not carry a message fast enough, or for communities in which literacy is not a given, folk music served as substitute for mass media and a way to relay social and political messages off the wire.  The idea of using music as a political unifier has deep roots and Glazer recognized that idea through the release of albums such as I Will Win: Songs of the Wobblies which contains songs published as early as 1909 in the Wobblies' original hymnal I.W.W. Songs: To Fan the Flames of Discontent. 

Nichole Procopenko
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archive and Collections