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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yatsuhashi Harumichi's Legacy

Mr. and Mrs. Yatsuhashi in Washington DC, ca.1930

The Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family papers document the career of a manager in Yamanaka & Company, one of the largest Asian art dealers in the first half of the 20th century. Yamanaka was instrumental in the development of many of America’s major public and private collections, including the Freer.

Born in Japan in 1886, Harumichi arrived in the US in 1907 as a clerk at the Yamanaka Boston branch.  Six years later he married Shigeki.  Together they raised 5 children in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston, just up the street from the Joseph Kennedy home.  By the 1930s, Harumichi was vice-president of the Boston branch.  He also served as president of the Japan America Society Boston chapter.

In addition to papers and photographs that document the commerce of Asian art in the 20th century, the collection contains a number of photo albums of the Yatsuhashis, a thriving Japanese American family.  Notable in the albums are the many photographs of their trips to Washington DC.  Visiting the nation’s capital must have been an important regular event, taking in the monuments, the cherry blossoms, and naturally, the Freer gallery. 

In 1944 the federal government seized all of the Yamanaka shops through the Alien Property Custodian and auctioned off their holdings.  After the war, Harumichi and his oldest son opened a small shop of their own and did appraisal services.  He occasionally corresponded with Freer staff into the 1950s, but as far as I can tell the Freer never did direct business with him, as we had when he was with Yamanaka & Company.  Shigeki passed away in 1961 and Harumichi in 1982. 

I hope that by preserving these albums we honor an old friend who in his quiet way contributed much to us and to his adopted country.

--David Hogge, Head, Archives and Visual Resources, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Foliaged Farewell to the Garden

250 year old allee. Pitney Farm (Menham, New Jersey)
Kathleen T. Pitney, photographer
How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.

– John Burroughs, naturalist

Nature writers like John Burroughs (1837-1921) along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau have had a huge influence on America’s appreciation of nature. Burroughs’ writings, in particular, made him a popular public figure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the conservation movement in America was making important strides at the national level. As a result of his popularity, Burroughs made friends with powerful and influential people, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford (all of whom he camped with).

Vollum Garden (Portland, Oregon)
Cynthia Woodyard, photographer

If you live where the leaves are changing right now, you are probably seeing what Burroughs observed in the striking reds, oranges, and yellows in the landscape as the days get shorter and the nights get crisper. So this week, the Archives of American Gardens celebrates the spectacular colors of autumn that say farewell to the garden… until spring when another seasonal transformation takes place.

Pitney Farm (Mendham, New Jersey)
Kathleen T. Pitney, photographer

To learn more about the science behind the changing colors of leaves, visit the U.S. Forest Service’s web site dedicated to the topic.

Archival materials relating to Burroughs can be found in numerous repositories throughout the country spanning from California to Massachusetts. 

-Kelly Crawford, Museum Specialist
Archives of American Gardens
Smithsonian Gardens 

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's on Harry's headphones?

As people who work with old things all day, it's easy to forget how historical materials, in addition to being fascinating on their own terms, can be incredibly relevant and versatile, depending on the perspective of the viewer.  Using the most exciting, culturally relevant event of the year, what follows is an exercise in  perspective. We are talking, of course, about the release of  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I (Yes, we already went at midnight. Obviously.).

We here at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections work surrounded by over 2,000 recordings released by Moses Asch on Folkways Records. When we decided to write a Potter-related post (and after we were done high-fiving in excitement),  we agreed that the best way to make the connection between The Boy Who Lived and our material was to take advantage of the world of sound at our fingertips and choose one album for each Hogwarts house. Each album was chosen with an awareness of the different qualities of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. These albums evoke emotions parallel to their corresponding houses.

Recording: Heart of Oak! by the X Seamen's Institute
Key Track: "Heart of Oak"
We imagine these shanties being boisterously sung by the courageous and loyal (and proud) residents of  Gryffindor tower post-quidditch win. The spirit of camaraderie and adventure  this recording is reminiscent of Gryffindor's ideals.

Recording: Goofing-Off Suite by Pete Seeger
Key track: Beethoven's "Chorale from Symphony No. 9," arranged for banjo by Pete Seeger
Hufflepuff is often viewed as the most benign (read: bland) of the Hogwarts houses. Poor Hufflepuff. In this recording, Seeger manages to take a canonized symphony and make it fun while maintaining the complexity and heart of the original. We believe Goofing-Off Suite is reflective of Hufflepuff's true nature: kind, honest and hardworking, all with a sparkle in the eye.

Recording: Indeterminacy  by John Cage and David Tudor
Key track: Lefebvre says, "You can't decontextualize this stuff, man." (but samples can be heard here)
Ravenclaw is rolling up one pant leg and listening to listening to this guy, telling you that "You just don't get it."

We looked at the Folkways Records Collection through the critical lens of Harry Potter and found that there's more than one way to look at what's in the stacks. Though this is a ridiculous example of the different “lenses” with which  researches can view historical material, we think it helps illustrate the versatility of the critical mind and its interaction with historical materials.

Oh, who are we kidding? We just wanted to geek out a little (okay, a lot).

- Nichole Procopenko and Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Art’s Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection

One of the joys of my job as program assistant in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Research and Scholars Center is to help bring “hidden collections” to light. Most recently, I’ve been working on 2,335 photo-mechanical prints of artworks that make up the Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection in our Photograph Archives. While we haven’t yet been able to digitize the images, we are making our way towards organizing and cataloging the entire collection. I’ve been working on this project for the past year, and while I find the span of artists and artwork very interesting, I hadn’t really given them much thought outside of our archives. Some of the artists represented in the collection are well-known, such as Mary Cassatt and Grant Wood, though many of the works are a bit more obscure and appear to be for illustrated books and advertisements. I’ve discovered quite a few artists whose work I would have never been aware of if it wasn’t for this collection. I also didn’t think that I would ever see any of these works represented in a museum or gallery.

Over the summer I was able to visit a friend in Boston, and while this wasn’t my first trip to the city, it was the first time I was actually able to check out some of the many art collections. We headed to the usual spots (the Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts), along with the galleries in the Boston Public Library’s main building. I am familiar with the Library’s Sargent Gallery, having seen pictures in art history texts, and it was nice to be able to see the murals in person. The library also houses a collection of murals by Edwin Austin Abbey, an artist who is far from obscure, though I was not aware of his Boston Public Library paintings until recently. Some of the first works I cataloged from the Library of Congress collection were a set of images by Abbey that depicted the legend of the Holy Grail. I had at first imagined that the images were copyrighted to be used in an illustrated book, though upon further research I learned that they were for the paintings in the Abbey Gallery. There are Sargent images in the Library of Congress collection that are waiting to be cataloged that I’m now curious about…I’m wondering if they are of the same murals in the Boston Public Library?

Abbey's Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail
Study for Sargent's mural at the Boston Public Library

You can search the already cataloged works in SIRIS, under American Art’s Photo Archives Catalog. Use the limit box to find just those that are in the Library of Congress Collection.


Rachel Brooks
Program Assistant, Research and Scholars Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Collections Search Center Tutorial

The Collections Search Center provides easy "one-stop searching" of (currently) more than 6.4 million of the Smithsonian's museum, archives, library and research holdings and collections.  The American Historical Association (AHA) says, "It’s no wonder it was the winner of the “Best Re-Purposing of Descriptive Data” category in the ArchivesNext Best Archives on the Web awards contest this past summer."

With so much well earned attention, many are asking how they can quickly learn to surf through the interconnected search engine.  After providing a few training sessions to my own curatorial staff at Freer|Sackler, I decided to try my hand at creating an introductory tutorial to get everyone started on utilizing the Collections Search Center and the wealth of knowledge sharing it has to offer:

*Please note this video was made and provided in 1080p, make sure your adjust your youtube settings (bottom right hand corner, usually set at 360p) to 1080p for best viewing results.

The Technology (as taken from the Collections Search Center About page)

In implementing this Collections Search Center, the Smithsonian reviewed a number of commercial and open-source products. The functional requirements included the support of faceted metadata searching, Boolean / simple search logic, synonym/stemming matching, proximity matching, customizable relevance ranking, and highlighting display capability. This system will need to support a wide range of documents and objects from libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs). In the end, the Smithsonian selected the open-source Lucene/Solr indexing software for the project.

The Lucene/Solr search engine has offered the Smithsonian a flexible and scalable indexing environment to support the fast growing online collections served in the new search center. The Smithsonian has enhanced the online display using Java and css style sheets. The Smithsonian developed a common Index Metadata Model to handle the large variety of data formats from library, archives and museum systems with subject expertise from arts to space science. MARC records and other data formats from more than 40 data sources and databases were extracted and mapped into the common data format and ingested into the Lucene/Solr index. Future data ingests are planned from other data sources with different formats.

The Smithsonian Collections Search Center is mobile-aware. Users visiting the site with their iPhone or Android devices should automatically be redirected to a mobile friendly version of the site while users of PCs, Macs, and iPads receive the fully formatted pages.

The Collections Search Center is in keeping with the Institution's thrust to digitize its collections making them available to a worldwide audience.

There are 30+ museums, libraries, archives, and special collections that contribute to the Collections Search Center.  Go to  the Collections Search Center About page to see contributing members,  information on their collections, and links to browse.

Check out the Freer|Sackler Youtube page for more information and tutorials on our collections.

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archivist

Sunday, November 14, 2010

American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Hopi Girls Husking Corn, 1899 (N03777)
Throughout the month of November, the National Museum of the American Indian will be hosting a variety of free public programs, including lectures, theatrical performances, art demonstrations, films, and more in celebration of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The museum kicked of the celebration the first of week of November with a weekend-long festival exploring how Native communities throughout the Americas celebrate the harvest.  In honor of the harvest, the NMAI Archive Center is highlighting photographs and photo collections in our repository celebrating indigenous ancestry, cultural heritage, and time-honored traditions. American Indian and Alaska Natives take great pride and honor in the harvest and the bounty that the earth provides to tribal communities. The harvest also brings those communities closer together in celebration and in daily life. For example, Sumner W. Matteson, Jr. captured this image (right) of three Hopi girls husking corn in 1899. Since women took on this role in many tribal cultures, it also provided them with camaraderie and reprieve from everyday life. Between 1898 and 1909, Matteson, an agent of the Overman Wheel Company, a manufacturer of bicycles and seller of Kodak cameras and supplies, carried his camera with him as he traveled throughout the West and Mexico documenting the people and places he saw.  

Group of women shelling corn, 1936 (N24111)
A similar image was also captured by Edward Davis in 1936.  The image to the left shows women shelling corn together from the Seri tribe in Sonora, Mexico. In 1916, Davis  became an official field collector for the Museum of the American Indian in New York. Sporadically, from 1917 to 1930, Heye contracted Davis to conduct field trips to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Mexico, and Tiburon Island, visiting over two dozen different Indian peoples in the course of his travels. Wherever he went, Davis continued to photograph the Native peoples he encountered, particularly their daily life and cultural traditions. 

Woman (Maria Luisa Curo [or Cura]) winnowing corn, 1907 (N24265)

Davis also captured the image of the women to the left, Maria Luisa Curo, winnowing corn on the Mesa Grande reservation in San Diego, California. These images depict the the significant role women undertook in the harvest and traditional preparation of food for the tribal community. As the museum celebrates American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, we also honor the harvest and our deep respect for the bounty that the earth has provided and continues to provide for native people across the Western Hemisphere.

Click here to see additional images from the Edward Davis photograph collection.

Jennifer R. O'Neal, Head Archivist, National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Miniature Books in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Good books can be found in a variety of formats, including tiny bindings. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has over 50 miniature books scattered among its collections in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, the Smithsonian American Art & National Portrait Gallery Library, and the Bradley Room of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library. Measuring 3 inches or less, these unusual books are practical as well as whimsical. Although examples of miniature books have been found dating back to ancient times, the format became most popular in the 19th century, when advances in printing technology and illustration techniques facilitated the mass production of these books. Easily tucked inside a wallet or pocket, these volumes are often plain and utilitarian, although many examples are elaborately decorated. Two excellent histories of this genre include Louis W. Bondy's Miniature Books: Their History From the Beginnings to the Present Day (1981), and Doris V. Welsh's The History of Miniature Books (1987).

The specimens in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' collections date chiefly from the 19th and 20th centuries, and include, for example, Bibles, almanacs, poetry, and children's books. Some of these little treasures have pop-ups or other feats of paper engineering. Because of their size, miniature books present special challenges for shelving, preservation, and exhibition, but this fact only adds to their appeal as curiosities and collectibles.

Shown here are two shelves of miniature books from the Dibner Library, including these two examples:

Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Bijou edition). London: Henry Frowde and sold by Edgar J. Vickery, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, [not after 1916]. Call number: m PS2263 .A1 1916 SCDIRB  (pictured on the right)

Witty, Humorous and Merry Thoughts, selected by T.M. [i.e. Thomas Mason]. Glasgow: David Bryce & Son, [1895?]. This volume is housed in a decorated metal locket-like case with a magnifying glass mounted on the front cover, apparently as issued. Call number: mPN6175 .W83 SCDIRB  (pictured on the left)

--Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Images from the Ruth Landes papers

Over 1000 photographs from the Ruth Landes papers are now available to view online on SIRIS. The photographs were digitized and cataloged thanks to the financial support of the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund. 
Ruth Landes, circa 1935

Both in her professional and personal life, anthropologist Ruth Landes was a woman before her times. Although she is now considered a pioneer in the study of race and gender relations, her work was largely unacknowledged during her lifetime. She struggled professionally for most of her life and did not obtain a permanent faculty position at a university until she was in her late 50s.

Born Ruth Schlossberg to Jewish immigrants in 1908 in New York City, her father was an activist in the Yiddish labor socialist community and one of the founders of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. In 1929, she married Victor Landes at the age of 21; however, the marriage did not last long. In 1931, her husband divorced her when, despite his objections, she enrolled in the doctoral program in anthropology at Columbia University. Landes kept her married name due to the stigma of being a divorced woman.

Maggie Wilson, circa 1933
From 1932-1936, Landes conducted fieldwork among the Ojibwa in Ontario; the Chippewa of Red Lake, Minnesota; the Santee Dakota in Minnesota; and the Potawatomi in Kansas. Her book Ojibwa Women, written in collaboration with Maggie Wilson, an Ojibwa interpreter and informant, is considered a classic in the study of gender relations in a native society.

Landes with Martiniano, 1938
Another seminal work, The City of Women, is based on her field research on the role of Afro-Brazilian women and homosexuals in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé in Salvador, Brazil. Her research, conducted in 1938-1939, ended sooner than she had planned when she was suspected of being a communist by the local police and forced to leave the city. Landes was not a communist, but she was romantically involved with Edison Carniero, an Afro-Brazilian journalist with communist ties. Her photos from Brazil, which comprise the bulk of the photographs in her papers, include images of Carneiro, prominent Candomblé figures such as Martiniano and high priestesses Mae Meninha and Mae Aninha, as well as ceremonies, festivals, and capoeira matches.

Margaret Mead and Catherine Bateson, 1960

Other highlights in the collection include photos of eminent anthropological figures such as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, as well as photos of physicist Elmer S. Imes, with whom she had a clandestine affair when she taught at Fisk University in 1937-1938.

View the finding aid to learn more about Ruth Landes and her papers at the National Anthropological Archives. Click here to view more of her photographs.

Lorain Wang, National Anthropological Archives

Friday, November 5, 2010

LGBT History: It's Not Just for October

October was officially LGBT History Month but time passed me by and I am just now posting an image from the National Museum of American History Archives Center’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection. The modern gay rights movement began on June 28, 1969, with rioting at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City.  
Precipitated by a police raid, the initial riot led to five days of protest. These protests helped motivate the gay community to seek equal rights under the law and acceptance by society. The movement has since grown to address the civil rights of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.
Cover of Gay Power, Vol. 1, #1, from the
Archives Center Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender Collection, 1953-2010

This image is taken from the cover of Gay Power, Volume 1, #1, the first gay bi-weekly newspaper, which began publication in New York City in September 1969 just months after the Stonewall riots. Edited by John Heys, a drag queen, performance artist, and visual artist, and published by Joel Fabricant, subscription rates were ten dollars for a year, fifteen for a two-year subscription. One hallmark of the paper was its psychedelic covers. This first issue included a report on the fourth annual convention of North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (N.A.C.O.) that was held in Kansas City during August. There were articles on astrology and politics, a sampling of poetry, a
pull-out centerfold, and photographs. The issue also advertised the opening of Charles Ludlam’s "The Grand Tarot" with a photograph of a man wearing the Mario [sic] Montez costume, holding a Gay Power banner. Ludlam was the founder of the Ridiculous Theatre Company and his play, "The Mystery of Irma Vep" (possibly his most famous), would be written in 1984.

In the first “Statement” Hey writes, “Whatever examples of gay power have been demonstrated thus far, whether it be through straight media or on the part of homosexuals themselves--it's either met with some kind of legal or ignorant interference or too one-sided a picture has been presented. Variety is still the spice of life and ‘GAY POWER’ is by and for all people.”

Franklin Robinson, Jr., Archives Technician,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Across the pond tonight and tomorrow, the United Kingdom and V for Vendetta movie fans are celebrating Guy Fawkes Day celebrations. Enjoying any excuse for celebration and fireworks I began wondering if the Smithsonian had any connection to the Gunpowder Plot and or Guy Fawkes.  To my delight, after searching in our SIRIS database I found it in the Archives. It always amazes me what can be found in this collection.
Thomas Percy, Gunpowder Plot Conspirator
Thomas Percy
Courtesy of the
Smithsonian Institution Archives

James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, was related to a man named Thomas Percy. Thomas Percy was one of the conspirators in the Gun Powder Plot.  The failed plot was an attempt to assassinate King James I of England and the House of Parliament by blowing up barrels of gunpowder hidden in a cellar below Parliament’s buildings. On November 4, 1605, authorities caught Guy Fawkes in the cellar with all the materials necessary for explosives. Guy Fawkes Day celebrates Fawkes capture on that fateful day.

This interesting revelation led me to think how little people know about James Smithson. In fact, Smithson is a man shrouded in mystery. His personal papers were lost in a fire in the Smithsonian Castle in 1865 and until Heather Ewing reconstructed his correspondence in The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution and the Birth of the Smithsonian, much of Smithson’s story remained unknown.  So who was this enigmatic man who left his inheritance to a country he never visited?

James Smithson
James Smithson
Courtesy of the
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Born in France, Smithson was the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland, Hugh Smithson and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie. Originally named Macie, after his parents’ deaths he changed his name to Smithson. Smithson was a naturalized Englishmen and was educated at Oxford’s Pembroke College. He studied the natural sciences and became a skilled chemist and mineralogist. Smithson spent most of his life in pursuit of scientific knowledge desiring to make it on merit, not his inheritance. In 1826, Smithson drafted his will and left a unique clause stating that if his nephew Henry James Hungerford died without any heirs, that the whole of his property was to go to the United States of America “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion among men.” Three years later in Genoa, Italy Smithson died and the rest is history.

Thus, in honor of James and his more conspiratorial relative let’s take a note from the famous Guy Fawkes poem and …

Smithsonian Institution Castle
Smithsonian Institution Castle
Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
                                           Remember, remember Smithson forever,
                                               The donor of the Smithsonian’s spot
                                       I know of no reason why Smithson was feeling,
                                                  To increase our knowledge a lot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Look at the Buck Run Coal Company

This week the staff at the Human Studies Film Archives will be in Philadelphia attending a joint conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (AMIA/IASA).
One of the most widely attended events of the conference is Archival Screening Night where archives are invited to present clips showing new preservation work, footage from recent discoveries and other curatorial curiosities.  This year the HSFA has submitted a clip for Screening Night and is offering up this sneak preview for the SIRIS blog audience:

HSFA# 83.12.1 [Benjamin Harrison Hay’s Footage of a Pennsylvania Colliery, ca. 1930-1940]

Benjamin Harrison Hay’s footage shows the mining village of Buck Run, located about 45 miles west of Allentown, Pennsylvania, built for operators, managers and employees of the Buck Run Coal Company which was in operation from 1902 until 1950.  The original mine owner James B. Neale was socially progressive and wanted to create a real community for the benefit of his workers.  By 1925 the town boasted a school, an infirmary, a community recreation facility, a company store and several churches, in addition to homes with running water, electricity and steam heat.  Benjamin Harrison Hay was Neale’s general manager, vice president and brother-in-law who assumed control of the company upon Neale’s death in 1943.  Buck Run Coal was bought out by Reading Anthracite Company in 1950 and the social experiment came to an end.  Very little of the original company town remains today.
This clip shows a steam shovel loading processed coal onto a rail car and workers entering and returning from the mine.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Found My Mom In the Archives

The theme the Society of American Archivists (SAA) set forth for October is American Archives Month 2010 was "I found my [blank] in the Archives."  The festivities this October are part of a larger effort by the Society of American Archivists to celebrate their upcoming 75th anniversary with 2010-2011 focusing on "I found It in the Archives!"  Their goal is as follows, "Public awareness. And building a greater understanding of who archivists are and what archivists do."  In an essence it is like celebrating October is American Archives Month - all year long. 
So here is my contribution November 1st.  We are post-Archives Month, and I write this knowing that the libraries, archives and special collections of the Smithsonian Institution will continue to share their thoughts on the profession, their passion for the collections, and their current project obsessions here with you.  What I hope for now is that YOU will start to add your thoughts, your passion, and share your current projects with the collections at the Smithsonian Institution or within your own home.  SAA is launching a nation wide contest idea, but for this post I'm going to keep it simple.  

I found my mom in the Archives.  Well, I knew she was coming actually; I invited her.  As the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections (SIASC) council and the October is American Archives Month (OAAM) subcommittee went into high planning gear in August I knew I was going to need my mom.  Mom (real name Rebecca) was a project manager in her former corporate life, not to mention quite the baker.  I inherited my obsession with post its, penchant for color-coding, and love of spreadsheets from her.  I brought my mom in for the month of October so that essentially there could be two of me in one place.  She helped me plan for and manage the 35+ volunteers we had for the day of the Fair by putting together action packets, creating buttons, and making sure no one went hungry.  Literally... see the spread to the right.

Having my mom here for the month was so efficient I was able to utilize her for other projects that have been laying around the Archives, begging to be done.  First I had her  help me pack and inventory 300+ squeezes from the Ernst Herzfeld papers, (see image to the left).  That kept her busy for all of 3 days, and ensured I didn't need to spend one more full day of my time packing and tracking them for the next 3 months.  

I then set her upon the Charles Lang Freer correspondence.  Freer is our founder and one of our most important collection of papers here are the Freer|Sackler Archives(See a youtube video showing highlights of his papers).  Over the years, and an archivist or two before me, the correspondence appears to have been added to physically but no updates had been made to the folder numbers, the box labels or the finding aid.  For example any given box can start with folder number 8, go to 25, then start over at 1 with many correspondents being bumped to the next box.  Normally this is not enough to warrant a "red alert" or a high prioritization for fixing the 29 document boxes of correspondence, but lately there has been a surge in researchers interested in Freer leading to more frequent frustrations on my part for having to double check every correspondence box I pulled.  I'm an archivist.  I like to have things in order.

Mom went through the boxes of Freer correspondence, and as she neared the end of her time here in the Archives she shared with me her thoughts and revelations based on her experiences this month.  They were things that I knew all along, but to have some one "from the outside" be able to articulate so clearly what I knew to be true inspired me to write and share her thoughts with you.  Here is what my Mom found in the Archives:

Rachael: First things, first.  What's the coolest thing you've seen here?
Mom: Peacock Room. [Why?] I think it best represents Mr. Freer and his gift to the nation, by helping artists who were struggling and trying to make a name for themselves, and it demonstrates his loyalty to his friends. I just feel a sense of peace when I go in there.  After reading through his correspondence, I realize how important his collection was to him, and why he was so passionate to share it with the nation.

Rachael: Can you talk a little bit about your first perceptions of what being an archivist is like?
Mom:  I really didn't understand the passion behind what was housed, and the importance it has in helping people to understand the gifts that Freer gave to the nation.  One of the first jobs I was tasked with was packing squeezes from ancient archaeological sites such as Persepolis, Pasargadae, etc., and realizing the history that they represented, and why it is important to have a repository for documents such as this.  Many of the important historical places and documentation of historical events are no longer accessible.

Rachael: Now that you've had an opportunity to come to work with me, what are some of your observations on the day to day stuff?
Mom: Busy.  I had the wonderful opportunity of watching many researchers visit your archives, and watch in wonder as they discovered the answers to what they were searching for.  It was like Christmas morning!

Rachael: You were here for a very big month for us archivists.  Can you talk about some of your interactions with my colleagues the day of the Fair?  What was the general feeling?
Mom:  That they are all very excited about what they are doing.   And the general feeling of importance of continued interaction to spread the wealth and knowledge that they have the honor of caring for.

Rachael: Based on your experience of being a project manager, did the Archives Fair unfold like typical projects do?
Mom: Yes and no.  A lot of up front work paid off to make it appear as though the Fair was set up and run flawlessly.  I think a lot of this has to do with the passion of those you work with, and their belief that this sort of outreach is important.  One thing that I found disappointing was that there were people who wanted to be involved, but were not supported by their larger units to contribute to the event that benefited everyone.  The lack of funding of such an important event was stressful.  In my experience in the corporate world, when a mandate comes down to authorize a project or event; funding and staff sources were made available.  The Smithsonian has mandated that you make collections available online, coupled with a need to hold outreach events such as the Fair - I don't know how the staff can try and do all that is expected and hoped for of them without more help in staff power and financial assistance.

Rachael: In going through the Freer correspondence, what revelations did you have on the importance of his papers?
Mom: That he was a self-made man and that he worked hard for what he had.  He was passionate about what he collected and continually shared his thoughts and his collections to better disseminate his knowledge and appreciation of Asian art.  He was a very giving person, and he definitely had a vision for what he collected, why it was important, and that it needed to be shared with people from all walks of life.  He continued patronage, and even through a long illness he fought to continue to make sure that others had what they needed - whether it was money, prints, catalogs, or whatever was needed to continue to share his beliefs.  He did not suffer fools gladly...

Rachael: Any other little gems you found while reading his letters?
Mom: I thoroughly enjoyed reading correspondence between him and Frederick Stuart Church.  Church's letters and envelopes were always covered in sketches and doodles.  The most humorous of course was when they involved Church and Freer hiking the Appalachian Trail together.

"No danger from Rattle Snakes bile if you only take proper precaution."
Rachael: What has the archives come to mean to you now?
Mom: That it wont be enough for me in the future just to go to a gallery and look at the art being exhibited. By learning the history of each art object and how it came be created, collected, and cared for by Freer (and now the Smithsonian) it gives me a much greater or deeper appreciation for what I am viewing.  After reading these documents I felt a need to go back to the Gallery to see the art he wrote about. And on a completely different note: the importance of volunteerism and support of institutions such as this.

Rachael: Any closing thoughts your have for us?
Mom: Now I understand why you are so dedicated to what you do as well as your sincere desire and commitment to ensure that all have access to the wonderful treasures housed in the Archives.  Having the opportunity to go through some of Freer's correspondence, and understanding the history behind the artwork, as well as a deeper understanding of world history at that time, it gave me a much deeper satisfaction to view the art work housed in this wonderful institution.  In a broader sense, having met many of your colleagues, I see the importance of collaboration and of public outreach so that others have the opportunity to see and learn from the wonderful treasures that are available.