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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives Introduction

Happy (almost) New Year's Eve!  This year the Freer|Sackler Archives resolves to be more accessible to you!  Check out our introduction to the Archives via youtube (, and subscribe to our channel to see new footage of events, projects, and collections!

Check out this clip for an introduction into the Archives.

See all of our collections in the Collections Search Center!

Best Wishes for  a Happy New Year!

Rachael Cristine Woody | Archivist
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jens Jensen, Pioneer of the Prairie School of Landscape Architecture

2010 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jens Jensen (1860-1951), a celebrated landscape architect who worked with many well known architects including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Jensen is best known for his public park designs in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. He is associated with the Prairie Style, a regional style of landscape design in the 19th and early 20th century that evoked the spirit of the prairie with its emphasis on horizontal lines and open spaces.

Columbus Park, c.1935
Courtesy Chicago Park District Special Collections
Jensen held strong beliefs about a nature-based approach to his designs (both public and private) and their ability not only to provide a refuge from the city and daily life, but also to serve as preserves for native plant species. Among the many parks Jensen designed, including Chicago’s Garfield, Douglas, Humboldt and Columbus Parks, Columbus Park is considered his most important work, designed with a prairie river edged with native wetland plants and pools that resembled swimming holes.

As Jensen made a name for himself, he was able to work in both public and private sectors and was increasingly sought out by the owners of grand estates in and around Chicago. He designed at least 350 private estates in the Midwest and beyond, as far as California. His most famous private commission was Henry Ford’s estate in Dearborn, Michigan.

Council ring designed by Jensen, Questover, Indianapolis, Indiana
Elements common to many of Jensen’s designs included prairie lagoons and rivers, stonework, council rings, flower lanes, small cascades and waterfalls, and meadows (even adapted for residential backyard designs) bordered by mid-sized trees and rich plantings. While his use of native plantings was extensive, it was met by resistance from many of his clients; Jensen remained adamant, however, and insisted on using them. He was committed to conservation and over his lifetime made great effort to gain the support of preserving dozens of important landscapes across the Midwest.

Haven Wood, Lake Forest, Illinois
The Archives of American Gardens includes garden documentation for a number of Jensen’s residential designs including Haven Wood, a large estate in Lake Forest, Illinois which no longer exists. Haven Wood included designs by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and landscape architect Rose Standish Nichols who collaborated on a number of projects together. Jensen is credited with laying out the meadow in front of the house, the numerous trees enclosing the property and the estate’s now-lost formal garden. 

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid

In 1962, Folkways Records, founded and run by Moses Asch, released a rather unlikely recording entitled “Ding Dong Dollar: Anti-Polaris and Scottish Republican Songs.”  Each Folkways recording has a story behind it, and this recording is no exception.  The physical document of the album and notes to Folkways 5444 do not shed much light on that story, but an examination of the correspondence in the Moses and Frances Asch Collection  clarify the interesting background of this recording.

I was led to investigate “Ding Dong Dollar” in our archives because of its connections to my graduate research in folk music at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies under the guidance of the late Hamish Henderson (1919-2002).  Henderson is considered by many to be the “father" of the Scottish folk revival.  Based at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies for much of his working life, his influence as a poet, writer, folklorist, collector, singer, songwriter, and activist is monumental, both in Scotland and beyond. 

I spoke to many singers who came up through the folk revival in Glasgow in the 1950s and 1960s.  Many interviews and conversations helped me piece together an anecdotal history of the Ding Dong Dollar songs, which had their roots in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or C.N.D. which was founded in 1958.

The key figure in the coordination and organization of the singers at rallies and demonstrations was the late Morris Blythman (1919-1981): a schoolteacher, poet, political songwriter and sloganmaker, internationalist, anti-royalist, and Scottish nationalist.  Blythman became very involved with the C.N.D. as the American military presence in Scotland increased toward the end of the 1950s, and the American submarine Proteus arrived in the Holy Loch in 1961.  This stimulated Blythman and others to write new political protest songs in what Blythman called a workshop fashion, and to gather groups of young folksingers to sing at protest rallies and demonstrations.

Scottish folk singers protest the presence of Polaris missiles in the Holy Loch while on board 
a ferry between Dunoon and Gourock, September 1961.  Josh MacRae is on the left playing 
the banjo, Morris Blythman is adjacent at center, and Nigel Denver is bottom center right.

The anti nuclear songs in Scotland owed much to the American songs of protest and performers who had been touring there such as Pete Seeger, a fact freely acknowledged by Blythman, Henderson and others involved with the song movement.  With conscious irony, some American tunes were used to carry the anti Polaris songs. "Ban Polaris Hallelujah!" was set to "John Brown's Body",  "Paper Hankies" was set to "Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and the eponymous song “Ding Dong Dollar,” originally called “Dollaris,” was set to “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”  The words were mostly in Scots, the indigenous language of Lowland Scotland.  Here’s the catchy refrain in the song “Ding Dong Dollar”: “Singin Ding Dong Dollar, everybody holler, Ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid.”  (You can’t spend a dollar when you’re dead.)

The anti Polaris songs were published in several
editions as a booklet entitled Ding Dong Dollar by the Glasgow Song Guild, which was, in fact, Morris Blythman and his singers. The booklets were sold for 6 pence and were widely distributed at demonstrations and rallies where the songs were sung.

Moses Asch first wrote to Blythman in November, 1961 to ask about the possibility of putting out a recording of the Ding Dong Dollar songs.  It was through the interest and suggestion of Pete Seeger, who had heard and liked the songs in his Scottish travels, that Asch put forth the query.  Thus began several months of collaboration between Morris Blythman and Hamish Henderson to prepare the content for the Folkways recording.

In January 1962, Henderson wrote to Moses Asch, saying that some new recordings of the songs were en route to Folkways, and he comments: “The more we read of the present political and cultural set-up in the USA, the more admiration we feel for your willingness to publish a DING DONG DOLLAR disc.”

In early March, 1962, Blythman wrote to Asch summarizing the various materials provided by himself and Henderson for the recording. The recording came out in April, 1962.

One of the hallmarks of the recording is the anonymity of the credits.  Both Blythman and Henderson wanted it that way because of the popular, group-created nature of the songs.  Henderson wrote the liner notes, and one of his now best known songs, "The Freedom Come All Ye",  was recorded for the first time on the Ding Dong Dollar album, with no attribution to him. 

Over the years, I have run into other people who were involved with the Ding Dong Dollar songs, and are very proud of the role the songs played in the anti-nuclear/ pro-peace movement.  The songs are bitingly funny, and though they are cultural artifacts of the early 1960s protest movement in Scotland, they still resonate today.

Stephanie Smith, Visual Materials Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

American Indian Language Bibles in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has been collecting texts written in the languages of various Native American peoples since the late 19th century, when the United States Congress established the Bureau of Ethnology (later known as BAE, or the Bureau of American Ethnology) at the Smithsonian. These books, in languages such as Mohawk, Ojibwa, Dakota, and Choctaw (to name a few examples; many of the texts include parallel translations in English) support the research of anthropologists in the National Museum of Natural History. These printed texts also complement the manuscripts and archival materials in the collections of the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives. The oldest volumes, which are housed in SIL's Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History and John Wesley Powell Library of Anthropology, are still actively used today by historians, biographers, and linguists interested in learning how different languages evolved, how translations were made, and how concepts were communicated across cultures.

Many of the earliest printed texts of American Indian languages were created by Christian missionaries, who were supported by their denominations and by institutions such as the American Bible Society (founded in 1816), the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (founded in 1810), and the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded in 1804). Not surprisingly, besides dictionaries and grammars, some of the most typical early publications in American Indian languages were books of the Bible, catechisms, and hymnals.

Shown above are the parallel title pages from The Gospel According to St. Luke, translated into the Mohawk Tongue / Ne Tsinihhoweyea-Nenda-Onh Orighwa Do Geaty, Roghyadon Royadado Geaghty, Saint Luke, translated by Henry Aaron Hill (also known as Kenwendeshon), printed in New York City for the American Bible Society in 1827. Kenwendeshon was a member of the Mohawk tribe who served as an interpreter and catechist for missionaries of the Church of England and the Methodists. Several of his translations of the Gospels and hymns are owned by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Other translations of the Bible in various American Indian languages owned by SIL can be found in the Smithsonian Collections Search database.

In recognition of this Christmas season, shown below are parallel translations of Mohawk and English from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 2, verses 9-15 (the English language translation is from the King James version of the Bible). The passage describes how the Angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in the field, to announce that the Christ Child was born in Bethlehem.

The Gospel according to Saint Luke, translated into the Mohawk tongue / Ne Tsinihhoweyea-Nenda-Onh Orighwa Do Geaty, Roghyadon Royadado Geaghty, Saint Luke. Translated by H.A. Hill (Kenwendeshon). New-York: Printed for the American Bible Society, A. Hoyt, printer, 1827.  Call number PM1884 .B53 1827 SCNHRB (Cullman Library).

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, with assistance from Daria Wingreen-Mason, Special Collections Library Technician, Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Wonderland

I love winter landscapes.  In celebration of the winter solstice, I chose some images from the National Art Inventories to share with you.  Enjoy these paintings of winters past!
Backyards, Greenwich Village by Joan Sloan, collection of Whitney Museum of American Art. IAP 60010048
Clover Pond by William Glackens, collection of The White House. IAP 08930051
Icebound by William Leroy Metcalf, collection of Art Institute of Chicago. IAP 12000188
Winter Scene in New Haven, Connecticut by George Henry Durrie, collection of American Art Museum. IAP 08581963
From My Window, Concarneau by Edith Varian Cockroft in the Neville-Strauss Collection, Florida. IAP 9C790024
--Nicole Semenchuk, Research and Scholars Center, American Art Musuem

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter is Upon Us

The 2010 Winter Solstice, marking the astronomical beginning of Winter, is not until 11:38pm on December 21. Meteorological winter, on the other hand, has clearly arrived already! Here in Washington, DC, it has been unusually cold and windy. The past two days have been the coldest yet at 22°F. With winds of as high as 40mph, the wind chill last night was 3°F! And however bad it has been in Washington, places like western New York and the upper Mid West have had it much worse.

All of this whining about the weather leads inevitably to the admission that in other parts of world, people live under conditions far, far colder than we will ever know in Washington, DC. For instance, near Barrow, Alaska, where the Inupiat people have been living for a millennia, the air temperature averages -13.4°F during the winter!

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, Leuman M. Waugh visited this part of the world as a scientist and dentist, taking meticulous notes, photographs, and motion pictures along the way. He was greeted by a people whose traditions equipped them for life in the rugged Arctic. And who appeared to handle the climate with far more grace than anyone in Washington that I know!

We have featured Waugh’s photographs on this blog before. Not only is the subject matter strikingly beautiful, but the amazing hand-tinting of these glass lantern slides gives them a special vibrancy. Click here for more Waugh photographs. To see more incredible hand-tinted lantern slides, take a look at this SIRIS Blog post from the Archives of American Gardens.

Michael Pahn, Media Archivist, National Museum of the American Indian,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Earliest photographs of the Canadian West

Humphrey Lloyd Hime (1833-1903) was a photographer and surveyor with the firm Armstrong, Beere, and Hime, Civil Engineers, Draughtsmen and Photographists in Toronto, Ontario. At the age of 25, Hime was hired as the photographer for the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858. He was also instructed to assist with the surveying where possible. Under the leadership of Professor Henry Youle Hind, a geologist and naturalist at Trinity College in Toronto, expedition members obtained comprehensive geographic information through careful surveying, which helped in the creation of illustrative maps depicting the natural history of the land between the rivers Saskatchewan and Assiniboine.

Commissioned by the Canadian Government, the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858 endeavored to establish a reliable trade route between Lake Superior and the Red River. With an exclusive permit for interior trade due to expire in 1859, The Hudson’s Bay Company requested an extension to its monopoly. To achieve this goal, a thorough investigation of the area was necessary; carefully documenting topography, vegetation, native life, and agricultural stability to assess the potential for future settlements.

Hime took a series of photographs during the arduous journey through the Canadian Interior. Conditions proved difficult for the creation of quality photographs, which involved the complicated wet-plate process. Hime had much better luck when the expedition stopped at Lord Selkirk’s settlement at the Red River of the North, however only forty-eight of these photographs are known to survive. The images in this series exemplify the character of the river and the level ground through which it flows. In addition, photographs portray a variety of buildings at the settlement, as well as Chippewa Indian people, camps, canoes, and graves.

The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) holds thirty-four of the 48 known Hime photographs, which were published in Henry Youle Hind’s Photographs taken at Lord Selkirk's Settlement on the Red River of the North, to illustrate a narrative of the Canadian Exploring Expeditions in Ruperts Land. (London: J. Hogarth, 1860). The publication is now extremely rare, making NAA’s collection of original albumen prints all the more significant as the earliest photographs of the Canadian West and its inhabitants. Access the catalog record for this collection.

Jennifer Handley, Archives Intern, and Gina Rappaport, Photo Archivist, National Anthropological Archives.

All photographs shown here are from MS 4285, the Humhrey Lloyd Hime photographs of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan exploring expedition at the National Anthropological Archives.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Solomon Adler, Nov. 1958: silver gelatin
photoprint, photographer unidentified
 Solomon "Sol" Adler (1901-1990) is probably best known for his sewing machine inventions, but when you look into his portfolio of work you also see ideas and patents for a fountain pen, a window treatment, a receptacle tap, a telescoping umbrella, an ashtray, a retractable table, and jewelry designs. Adler wrote fiction as well (mostly short stories) that reflected his experiences during the early 1900s in New York City. He filled pages with themes on social protest, radicalism, mobs, unions, poverty, and sweatshop operators. In 1958 Adler wrote about theories of nuclear physics, noting, "Indeed a very bold attempt and definitely a long way from sewing machines." Adler’s flow of ideas was constant and he sought to express them constantly.

Adler grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Isaac Adler, a tailor. He apprenticed in machine shops and attended the City College of New York, learning and honing the skills needed to become an expert machinist, toolmaker and draftsman.

Pacesetter user's guide, 1956
Adler’s work on sewing machines began in the late 1930s with tinkering with his sister-in-law Bess’s treadle-operated Singer machine. Bess wanted a lightweight, motorized sewing machine that had enough space between the frame and the needle for large projects such as quilts. Using his own basement machine shop, Adler began building simple frameworks for sewing machines to better understand the relationships between the parts and their functions.

Adler’s first sewing machine (which he dubbed the "parent machine") earned U.S. Patent 2,561,643, issued in 1951. The machine was a full-size home machine, with a concealed motor and power cord, that could also expand into a commercial-size machine. Six subsequent patents for subassemblies were derived from the "parent machine" over the next several years.

Analyzing the evolving U.S. domestic sewing machine market gave Adler ideas for further inventions, refining the machines and adding new features. Unfortunately, success was elusive; his machine with zigzag- and straight-stitch capability was rejected by several U.S. and European sewing machine manufacturers. But in 1954, Adler met Max Hugel, president of the Asiatic Commerce Corporation of New York, later known as Brother International Corporation (BIC), a subsidiary of the Nippon Company. Nippon wanted to solve certain design and operational problems it was having in developing a zigzag sewing machine for sale in the United States. Adler joined BIC, moved to Japan, and succeeded in helping correct the design issues.

New Japan Sewing Machine News,
Christmas issue, 1959
While working as an engineer for the Brother International Corporation in Japan in the early 1950s, Adler developed the Pacesetter sewing machine. This portable machine was designed to meet the rapidly growing popularity of multiple decorative and embroidery patterns. A selector dial, which Adler called the “Wishing Dial,” controlled sixteen internal cams, multiple cam selectors and followers to automatically sew thirty different basic decorative stitch patterns. Since the Pacesetter could sew both zigzag and straight stitches, varying the width and length of the basic patterns made it possible to create thousands of decorative variations. Adler stayed with BIC until 1959, working on a variety of sewing machines including an automatic zigzag machine and the versatile "Pacesetter," which was unveiled in the United States to great acclaim at the Sewing Machine Show in New York City on July 18, 1955 (a version of the Pacesetter is still sold by Brother). Additionally, he worked on a line of industrial and domestic sewing machines, home washing machines, home knitting machines, and other small appliances. Adler earned several Japanese patents for his work.

Pacesetter sewing machine advertisement
from publicity packet, 1950s
Adler wrote in a letter to his son Michael. dated October 23, 1958, “This is the way I tick. Over the years I store up a hodge-podge of heterogeneous information which one day jells into an idea. When this comes about I am overtaken by a spell of restlessness until the idea is expressed or finalized, one way or another.”

The Adler papers in the Archives Center, which include correspondence, notes, photographs, drawings, sketches, litigation records, and printed materials, provide insight into an independent inventor’s state of mind during the process of invention as well as an archival portrait of his contributions to 20th-century American life and commerce.

--Alison Oswald, Archivist, National Museum of American History Archives Center

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trimming the Tree

I am excited about the upcoming holiday season. After helping my co-workers start to decorate the office for the holidays the other day, I went home, put on the movie Elf and began decorating my apartment. Although I love hanging twinkle lights and making a wreath, I most enjoy trimming the tree. For me, unwrapping each ornament out of its tissue paper is almost exciting as unwrapping a present. With each ornament there is a memory, a story to talk about with family and friends. 

Smithsonian Tree Decorating
Volunteers from the staff of Smithsonian Gardens, National Museum of American History and Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations decorate a 10-foot live tree with the theme of origami from around the world, December 2006. Photo by Harold Dorwin. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The Smithsonian also does its fair share of decorating trees across the Institution. In the past, one of the most popular tree displays at the Smithsonian was the Trees of Christmas exhibit, hosted by the National Museum of American History. Sponsored by the Office of Horticulture, now called Smithsonian Gardens, each year the exhibit included about a dozen trees ranging from eight to twelve feet. What made the exhibit special was that each tree’s ornaments and trimmings revolved around a specific theme. Some represented America’s diversity, while others represented a historical decade. There were also trees with an international theme including trees from Russia and Japan. The ornaments that adorned the trees were made by volunteers from around the country.  The idea for the exhibit originated with the book written by Edna Metcalfe of the same name. Metcalfe’s book, like the exhibit, includes a variety of thematic trees and encourages people to make homemade ornaments (learn to make some with SIA pictures here).

The exhibit is not up at the Museum this year, but visitors can still enjoy the elegant work of the Smithsonian Gardens. Their seasonal décor can be found throughout the Institution, inside and out. Each year Smithsonian Gardens and Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations staff decorate a tree for the Castle (watch this video of this years tree) and this year will have a walking tour and craft project inspired by the gardens. So stop and check out their fabulous work which will put even the biggest Scrooge in a festive holiday mood.

For some more ideas on holiday themes for your own household decorations check out this search from the Collections Search Center. Happy Holidays!

Courtney Esposito, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Monday, December 6, 2010

Civilization On Trial in South Africa (ca. 1950)

In honor of Human Rights Day 2010 (December 10), the Human Studies Film Archives recognizes the Reverend Michael Scott, creator of the edited film, Civilization On Trial in South Africa (ca. 1950).

Around 1949, Rev. Scott, an Anglican clergyman and tireless campaigner for human rights, secretly documented the appalling and oppressive conditions for the majority African and colored (Indian) population of South Africa. The film dramatically demonstrates the reality of harsh conditions by using contrasting shots of “the minority whites’ lifestyle” with Johannesburg township areas and government housing, and by capturing such scenes as overcrowding and the lack of public services, street life in Sophia Town, and intertribal fights organized by police to control the African population and entertain white spectators.  (Text drawn from Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (2008) edited by Karen L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann.)

Rev. Scott  returned home to Britain with multiple rolls of 16mm film.  The footage was edited together by Clive Donner, who also recorded Scott’s voice-over commentary and added it to the film.  Donner (who died this year) was a well-known film and television director and editor.  Among the many films he directed  are What’s New Pussycat (1965) and – in a surprise seasonal twist - the 1984 TV movie A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. 

The film came to Human Studies Film Archives as part of the  larger "Colin Turnbull and Joseph Towles Collection" from the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston (South Carolina).

According to University of Vermont anthropology professor Robert Gordon, Rev. Scott's film could be to be the very first "protest" film made in South Africa.  As a result of his activities on behalf of human rights, Rev. Scott was ultimately declared a Prohibited Immigrant and banned from the country.

This year, the focus of Universal Human Rights Day is recognizing the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.  The official UN website states:
Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims.
While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families. 

Karma Foley, Daisy Njoku, and Pam Wintle, Human Studies Film Archives 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Uncovering the Nafisi Album at the Freer|Sackler Archives

Mosque. Caption reads:
Abdollah Qajar, Darolkhalafeh Naseri. ca. 1870.
Given the opportunity to work with the Freer and Sackler Galleries’ Archives, I have been introduced to our recent ‘Nafisi Album’ acquisition. The album was generously donated to the Archives by Dr. Azar Nafisi, a renowned Iranian novelist and author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, and daughter of Ahmad Nafisi, former mayor of Tehran. The Nafisi Album (unofficial title) has presented an intriguing yet enigmatic peak into life in Iran during the Qajar Dynasty (1785-1925). The photographs are meticulously inserted with golden borders, and stamped with the photographer’s seal; and depict everyday snapshots of street scenes, schools, landscapes, and architecture, in addition to the portraits of Qajar royals and military figures. Most of the photographs date from 1870-1880 and are attributed to the photographer Abdollah Mirza Qajar (1850-1909), son of Jahangir Mirza of the royal Qajar family.

Man on horseback. Caption reads:
Abdollah Qajar, Darolkhalafeh Naseri. ca. 1870.

Former ruler of Iran, Naser al-Din Shah Shah (r.1848-1896), was introduced to photography in 1844 and was so drawn to the art form that he commissioned portraits and prints from numerous photographers. Unlike other Islamic countries in the Middle East that discouraged the practice of photography, specifically that of portraiture, it flourished in Iran due to its state sponsorship. The largest collections of royal Qajar photographs and shots from 19th-century Iran remains in the Golestan Palace in Tehran; however we are fortunate to have a fair share of some ourselves!
While perusing the album, I have been attempting (not too successfully) to determine the subject matter and photographer of these images. There are of course the obvious portraits of Nasser-e-Din Shah (1831-1896) with his signature stance and mustache, but there are also the less obvious monuments and landscapes (image on left).

To further complicate attribution issues, much of Abdollah Mirza Qajar’s work was taken concurrently with that of the famous Antoin Sevruguin (1830-1933). Thus, some of Sevruguin’s own works are scattered amongst these photos (such as this bathing scene).

Men Bathing by Antoin Sevruguin. ca. 1870.
 How then can we determine the purpose of these albums? While looking through the Nafisi Albums, it forces one to consider the role of albums today: family mementos or historical documents? For this seems to be something of the two. Was it a studio portfolio of Abdollah Mirza Qajar that fell into the hands of the Nafisi family? We do know, for example, that Abdollah Mirza was the official photographer of the Dar al-Fonun school, the subject of many of these works. Or did the Nafisi family have relations to all of the following buildings and military figures included?

Caption reads:
Herzlichen Gluckwunsch (congratulations).

Furthermore, what purpose would these seemingly random European sketches have in a family album?

The Album undoubtedly deserves further research and exploration, but we are nevertheless excited to house the intriguing pieces in our collection and we look forward to unveiling more about the photos! 

Mariam Gheissari Freer|Sackler Archives