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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seed Stories

About this time of year gardeners all over the country are planting the seeds they ordered over the winter. Tending tiny seedlings under heat lamps, they wonder if the rainbow chard or Early Girl tomatoes they have planted will live up to the tantalizing images and descriptions featured in numerous nursery catalogs. Last year my family and I planted our first garden, with, shall we say, mixed results. The squirrels ate all of the tomatoes. The beets were KO’d by a sweltering heat wave and the carrots pathetically stayed at the one-inch mark.  I did, however, manage to grow the best cucumbers--crisp and firm, with a delicate, aromatic flavor. That is, until the plants eventually succumbed to a filmy layer of mildew. Despite my mostly failed attempts, I enjoyed the time I spent gardening.
My foray into gardening revealed that seeds can tell stories. Sad or happy, surprising or disappointing, stories and seeds are natural vessels for our hopes. Gardening has consistently remained one of America’s most popular pastimes since the time of Thomas Jefferson, and is currently experiencing a revival propelled by the growing interest in sustainability and green lifestyles. My favorite part of researching in archives is recovering fragments of everyday life—discovering the varied and interesting lives of those who came before us. Dig a little, and you find an amazing story. While gardens are often transient, changing from year to year or disappearing altogether, the experience of growing a garden can be lasting and transformative.
Burpee Company contest announcement.
Founded in 1876, W. Atlee Burpee & Company grew to be the largest seed company in the world by the early twentieth century. Attentive to the growing importance of advertising and the seductive qualities of color, its mail-order catalogs were full of handsome photogravures and chromolithographs of vegetables and blooming flowers. In 1924 the company advertised a contest in its Seed Annual asking customers to write in about “What Burpee’s Seeds Have Done for Me,” with prizes for the best stories ranging from five to two hundred and fifty dollars. The thousands of letters that were submitted run the gamut from the frank and scientific, dwelling on the technical minutiae of horticulture, to the touching, funny, and theatrical. Some gardeners were thankful for a new hobby, food on the table, flowers admired and envied by their neighbors, or a chance to connect with their children. Others quite dramatically credited Burpee’s seeds with their recovery from deadly illnesses and curing them of depression and malaise. One mother’s experience of growing a garden with Burpee’s seeds inspired her to thank Burpee for sparing her children from “the evil influence of idle neighborhood boys” and encouraging an “appetite for previously despised vegetables.”

Cecilia Auge, "110 lbs. of pep," in her garden.
Cecilia Auge of Mendota, Minnesota, a self-described “19 year old farmette” planted one and a half pounds of onion seeds on land her father gave her for helping him weed. She earned eighty dollars the first year and twice that much the next. With her hard-earned money she bought an incubator and eggs, effectively producing fifteen chickens from a handful of seeds. “Some my age are richer financially,” she wrote in, “but the knowledge I have gained and being able to be out close to nature . . . has I am sure made me a better more contented, home loving girl than I ever could have been if I didn’t have something all my own to work for.”
The prize-winning Food Club of Ottawa, Ohio.

   August Heckman, leader of the Food Club of Ottawa, Ohio, was such a dedicated customer that she wrote to the company to tell them that “I expect to be with you until flowers from Burpee will bloom on my grave.” Her plant preferences changed over the years, from Witloof chicory one year to zinnias the next, but she always planted Burpee seeds. The girls in her club canned vegetables from her garden and won multiple prizes for their canning displays at state and county fairs.
Roughly 4,000 contest letters, as well as many accompanying photographs, are part of the W. Atlee Burpee & Company Collection at the Archives of American Gardens. The collection includes records of plant trials, business and advertising records, and ephemera from over one hundred  years of the company’s history. The National Museum of American History Library’s  American Trade Literature Collection includes catalogs from Burpee and other seed companies dating back to the early nineteenth century. To all of you who sent away for seeds and are now tending your tiny plants, good luck with your garden story. (I, for one, will be sticking with transplants this year!)
-Kate Fox
Intern, Archives of American Gardens

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Life and Baseball

Ronald Gabriel with Babe Ruth, ca. 1948
It is late March. America’s favorite game is about to take center stage once again.   I can almost taste the steamy euphoric bliss of a ballpark hotdog; I can smell the green grass and the red dirt of the colossal coliseums where baseball gods and mere mortals will behold the beginning of another season. Fans everywhere are beginning to feel that uncontainable mass of emotion expanding in their gut; afraid that at any time it will burst out with a sound strangely similar to the shrill shriek of a star-struck teenage girl who has just caught a glimpse of Justin Bieber. As we prepare ourselves for these days of glory it is fitting to pay tribute to one of the greatest and truest fans to ever push through a turnstile; Ron Gabriel. I became familiar with this remarkable man when searching through unprocessed collections in the Archives Center. I identified a collection to process to gain a better understanding of the work that archivists do. I chose the Ronald Gabriel Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, 1912-2009. My job is to re-house the collection and write a finding aid for research purposes. It is my chance to put my name into the history books, or the archives at least. Ron Gabriel (1941-2009) was an insanely devoted Brooklyn Dodgers fan whose life was shaped by the great game of baseball. He was fortunate to have witnessed the Dodgers become one of the most successful franchises in baseball during the 40s and 50s. As a boy he grew up just two miles from Ebbets Field, comparable to the distance I walk to work every morning. When he couldn’t make it to the games he could always listen to the announcer’s voice echoing through the streets and into his window. He wrote letters to ball clubs asking for autographs from players. He was amazingly successful at this, evident in his scrapbook from the collection, which spans 144 pages and easily contains over 1000 signatures, including Mickey Mantle, Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, Stan Musial, and many others. This scrapbook shows, more than anything else, just how deep his love for the game was. Not only did he get autographs from every team in the Major Leagues but he organized them from front to back like a depth chart; infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. He also incorporated baseball cards and pictures cut from magazines to put a face next to the signature. The scrapbook started out as a notebook about half an inch thick and grew to encyclopedic-size. A memorial to young kids everywhere who made baseball a way of life and saw the men on the field as immortal heroes. I was one of these kids. I hit more game-winning home runs in my daydreams than Hank Aaron ever hit his whole career. I begged my dad into letting me play on his little league team even though I wasn’t old enough. I played baseball every year since until finally “retiring” after playing college ball. Baseball has always a vital part of my life and it always will be.

Barney Stein with Jackie Robinson, ca. 1960
Most young baseball fans lose their passion for the game once girls, cars, and rock n’ roll push all other thoughts from their minds. Not so for Gabriel. Just three years after winning the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees the team moved west to Los Angeles. Gabriel was shocked, angry, and above all felt betrayed when his team was moved 3,000 miles away. Instead of transferring his allegiance across the country he remained loyal to the Dodgers… of Brooklyn. He started the Brooklyn Dodgers Fan Club in 1975 in honor of the 20th anniversary of their Championship season. He also published a newsletter called Dodgers Line Drives which lasted until the day he died. His baseball knowledge expanded far beyond his own team; he was a renowned baseball historian and once acted as the Vice-president of the Society for American Baseball Research and was responsible for starting their Washington DC Metro Chapter. In addition, he was frequently asked to speak about Jackie Robinson as a guest lecturer at George Washington University in a class called Race, Sports, and the American Dream.

Ted Williams trading card, 1957
Ronald Gabriel was honored by the Dodgers when they inducted him into the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, a tribute not usually bestowed on fans. Ron died in June 2009, in the midst of the baseball season. He will always be remembered by those in the Dodger community not only for his devotion to the team, but for his devotion to people. He became great friends with a number of widows of former ball players and he visited them often. He dedicated huge amounts of time and energy to make sure that other people got recognition while never asking for any in return. I envy Ron Gabriel. He showed that if we are truly passionate about something, hold on to it, and embrace that passion we can be successful and live a life that is full of meaning and happiness.

Josiah Gould, Intern, NMAH Archives Center

Monday, March 28, 2011

Archives Fair Lecture Series is Online!

American Archives Month may have been in October, but we'd like to announce that the lectures presented on the day of our Archives Fair are now available for consumption!  To view all the lectures click here.

Lecture Series Schedule

10:00-10:30am - The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of: Dr. J. Horace McFarland
Publisher, rosarian, writer, preservationist, City Beautiful advocate—J. Horace McFarland (1859-1947) was a driving force behind the establishment of the National Park Service but is barely mentioned today. Find out what his collection at the Archives of American Gardens reveals about his prolific professional career.

Presented by Archives of American Gardens, Museum Specialists Joyce Connolly and Kelly Crawford

10:30-11:00am - The Russell E. Train Africana Collection: An Archival Safari through Photographs, Sketchbooks, Manuscripts and Other Materials from the Smithsonian Libraries
An overview of materials on African exploration, travel, big game hunting, and natural history acquired by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries in 2004 from the private collection of the Honorable Russell E. Train, a former judge and chairman of the World Wildlife Fund. The lecture will focus on various issues related to the archival management of the Collection, including finding aids, cataloging plans, grant projects, social media applications, and preservation needs.

Presented by Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Special Collections Cataloger Diane Shaw

11:00-11:30am - Out of the Box: The Archives of American Art’s Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery
With over 16 million items—from passionate love letters to liquor store receipts—the Archives of American Art is the largest collection of primary source material on the history of American art. It presents three thematically centered exhibitions each year in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery, located in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. Mary Savig will provide an overview of the Archives’ exhibition program, including how staff continue to address the challenge of engaging visitors with archival material.

Presented by Archives of American Art, Archives Specialist Mary Savig

11:30-12:30pm - Cultural Stewardship at the National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center
An overview of the history of the collections and highlights of current projects at the preeminent repository documenting the historical and contemporary lives of Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, concerning Native art, culture, knowledge, politics, events, and social movements. The NMAI Archive Center takes an active role in fostering collaborative relationships with the tribal communities whose materials they hold and curate. The presentation will provide examples of how the repository has implemented culturally responsive care of indigenous archival material through respect, reciprocity, and consultation.

Presented by National Museum of American Indian Archives Center, Head Archivist Jennifer O’Neal

12:30-1:30pm - The Chief S.O. Alonge Photographic Collection: Royal Court of Benin photographer, Nigeria, 1926 – 1989
The Chief S.O. Alonge Photographic Collection at the National Museum of African Art spans six decades (1926 - 1989) and represents a dynamic, continuous record of the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria. As the Royal photographer to the Oba of Benin, Akenzua II (1933-1978), Chief Alonge documented the ritual, pageantry, and regalia of the Obas, their wives and retainers for over a half-century. In 2009, Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Funds (CCPF) enabled the Elisofon Archives to rehouse, preserve and duplicate over 2,000 images in the collection. This presentation will focus on highlights of the collection and the conservation of over 150 glass plate negatives and 1,800 large format film negatives for preservation and access. In 2010-2011, CCPF funding will allow the Archives to conserve Alonge’s photographic albums and photographs, including a number of original hand-colored prints. Some of these vintage prints will be showcased in a major photographic exhibition on Chief Alonge’s photography at the National Museum of African Art in 2012.

Presented by Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives NMAfA, Senior Archivist Amy J. Staples

1:30-2:00pm - Intermission

2:00-3:00pm - Documenting World Cultures at the National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives
Archivists at the NAA and HSFA will present the history, collections, research, and current projects underway at one of the world’s most significant repositories of archives relating to indigenous cultures and the history of anthropology.

Presented by National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, Photo Archivist Gina Rappaport

3:00-4:00pm - The Scurlock Photographs Project: Challenges in Preservation, Cataloguing, and Access
Processing problems and solutions with a large collection of identified acetate film negatives, some of which are badly deteriorated, and mostly unidentified photographic prints—plus business records and memorabilia. The Scurlock Collection documents the prolific work of a Washington, D.C. photography studio that spans much of the twentieth century.

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

4:00-4:30pm - Put Away… and Not Forgotten
IT Archivist Riccardo Ferrante will speak about the basic principles used to manage your digital records and digitized collections well.

Presented by Smithsonian Institution Archives, Director of Digital Services and IT Archivist Riccardo Ferrante

4:30-5:00pm - Preservation of Videotape
Collections Care Manager Sarah Stauderman will discuss the issues surrounding the preservation of videotape including format obsolescence and magnetic media deterioration, and provide strategies for preservation actions.

Presented by Smithsonian Institution Archives, Collections Care Manager Sarah Stauderman

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives


Friday, March 25, 2011

A voice from the mountains

As a junior undergraduate from Appalachian State University, spending a semester interning at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is like a home away from home. During my four months in the archives, I’ve helped preserve, organize, and interpret Ralph Rinzler’s personal and professional papers, which include materials illuminating his early days as a bluegrass musician with the Greenbriar Boys to his enduring legacy as founder of the Center for Folklife and Co-founder of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. But of particular interest is locating and compiling a preliminary guide of all materials within the collection pertaining to legendary banjo and guitar player Doc Watson.

From homemade apple pies to handmade quilts, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Watauga County North Carolina, home of Appalachian State, have nourished some of the finest Appalachian artisans, folk singers, and musicians, but none quite as remarkable and well-known as Doc Watson. 

“Ralph, I was born in Stoney Fork Township of Watauga County of N.C. I grew up on a little mountain farm there,” begins one of the earliest letters Doc wrote to Ralph on Dec. 30, 1960 now housed in the Ralph Rinzler Papers.

“My Dad taught me how to play the five string banjo and I just learned the guitar by ear,” the letter continues, as Doc shares with Ralph his humble beginnings as a talented musician, growing up blind.

The story of how Ralph first met Doc is one of sheer happenstance, worth repeating. In 1960, Ralph ventured down to the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention at Union Grove in the foothills of North Carolina. Aimlessly walking past an informal jam session being held in a high school classroom, Ralph stumbled upon an old banjo player entertaining a crowd with a few tunes. This old banjo and guitar player turned out to be none other than Tom Clarence Ashley.

A few months later, Ralph rushed back to record Ashley and his group playing old time tunes at Eva Moore’s house (Ashley’s daughter) in Shouns, Tennessee.  One of the members of the group, an aspiring Rockabilly musician, was jamming on the electric, amplified guitar. Ralph, on a quest to discover only old time folk musicians, refused to record him. 

The next day, while riding in the back of a pick up truck with members of Ashley’s band, Ralph, playing a five string banjo, was surprised when the truck stopped, and the same young electric guitar player from the day before gets out of the cab and  says to Ralph “Let me see that banjo son.”  He proceeded to “play the hell out of it,” Ralph said in a later interview, playing Tom Dooley, a traditional mountain tune. “And I thought to myself, how does it happen that an electric guitar player can do that!” Little did Ralph know, he had discovered a man who would soon become one of the greatest folk musicians from Appalachia, Doc Watson.    

Instantly mesmerized by Doc’s natural music talents, Rinzler wasted no time in sharing Doc’s soothing melodic voice and exceptional musical talent with the rest of the world, and booked his first show at the Ash Grove, a Los Angeles folk club. In 1961, Ralph helped record Doc’s first group album on Folkways called Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s Vol. 1. With Rinzler working as both Doc’s manager and encouraging friend, in no time at all, Watson was propelled to the forefront of the American folk music revival of the 60s. The rest is history! 

Nothing better expresses the deep friendship and understanding, which these two budding musicians shared early on than this photograph, housed in the Ralph Rinzler Papers, taken in April 1962 at Swarthmore College (Rinzler’s alma mater). Surrounded by nature, Ralph, holding his mandolin, eagerly observes Doc strum out a tune on his guitar.  In 1963 and 1964, Doc performed at the Newport Folk Festival, with which Ralph had a long association in various capacities. 

Since then, Doc has been the recipient of seven Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. 

“I am deeply indebted to Ralph Rinzler. He did not leave me where he found me,” Watson said upon Rinzler’s death on July 14, 1994.

Perhaps the one accolade that resonates closest to me is when Watson received his honorary Doctor of Folk Arts degree from Appalachian State University in May 1973.

While combing through the Watson archival materials, I often find myself silently humming my favorite song of his “Shady Grove,” and it always brings a smile to my face as I am reminded of the Appalachian Mountains, the place which we will both always call home.   

Related Materials: 

The Diana Davies Photographs include this shot of Doc playing with his son Merle at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

The Robert Yellin Photographs house a few shots of Doc, including the photo at left.

The Stettheimer Dollhouse: Art in Miniature

Florine Stettheimer, Soiree, 1917
One of the more interesting sets of photographs I’ve cataloged recently for the Juley Collection are of the handcrafted dollhouse created by Carrie Stettheimer (1869-1944), a young women who, along with her sisters and mother, played an important role in the New York City art scene in the early part of the 20th century. The sisters, Carrie, Ettie and Florine Stettheimer, were well known in the art world at the time, often hosting parties and salons out of their New York City home. Their circle of friends included many recognizable writers and artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Carl Van Vechten. Florine, the artist of the family, created colorful paintings that often depicted subjects that she knew best; her surroundings and the pastimes of her friends and family. Her painting, Soiree, offers an intimate look into one of the many studio parties hosted at the Stettheimer mansion. 

Carrie Stettheimer, Dollhouse Foyer, 1916

While Florine is known as the “artist” of the family, Carrie spent nearly two decades creating a dollhouse which is a piece of art in its own right.  Began in 1916, the dollhouse is intended to be a near replica of the sisters’ home, even down to the decorations and furnishings that were in the Stettheimer mansion at the time of creation. Carrie painstakingly recreated every detail of the mansion’s interior design. Each room is lush in detail and color, though the room that may hold the most charm for me is the tiny art gallery, situated along the back of the house. Artist friends of the Stettheimer’s, knowing of Carrie’s project, contributed pieces of art to the small house. Works in miniature included Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, and Gaston Lachaise’s Nude Woman.

The Stettheimer’s were a fascinating family. Talented and charismatic, they easily gained the respect of their peers and the artists and writers within their social circle. While I have not had the chance to see Carrie’s dollhouse in person, it is on view at the Museum of the City of New York.

Other images of the dollhouse as well as Florine’s many paintings are part of the Research and Scholars Center’s Peter A. Juley & Son Collection and can be viewed here.

Rachel Brooks
American Art Museum, Research and Scholars Center

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stand With Japan March 24th, 2011 - Cherry Blossom Fesitval

This time last year the Freer|Sackler Archives published a post, "A Vision of Cherry Blossoms."  The post highlighted images across the Smithsonian that held captivating views of the beloved Cherry Blossom trees.

This year the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC is beginning its 16 day celebration by marking the tragic events that have unfolded in Japan.  

"People are encouraged to gather reflect and participate in the walk around the Tidal Basin, where the cherry blossom trees, gifted to Washington, DC from Tokyo in 1912, have stood the test of time for 99 years. Our relationship with Japan is at the heart of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Festival is uniquely positioned as a natural conduit to unite the millions of people who want to assist and express their support in a show of unity, and the evening of hope and perseverance occurs before the 16-day celebration begins on Saturday, March 26." - Cherry Blossom Committee.  All proceeds will benefit the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund.

The Freer|Sackler Archives wish all your colleagues, friends and family members in Japan safety, comfort and healing, and hope that the bonds forged through art between that country and our institution more than a century ago will endure for many more.

Image Above:
Freer|Sackler Gallery

Image Right:
Freer|Sackler Gallery 

To see all 51 images of Cherry Blossoms from the Freer|Sackler Gallery click here.  To see images from the Archives click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Babalawo and the American Professor

Mariniano Eliseu do Bomfim photographed at his house in Salvador Bahia, 1940-41. Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia  Community Museum Archives

Professor Lorenzo Dow Turner, the first African-American linguist, arrived in Bahia, Brazil in October 1940 to research Afro-Brazilian culture. This trip was part of his work to research the existence of African survivals in the Americas, which had started with his study of the Gullah language in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia in the early 1930s. As soon as he arrived in Bahia he was directed to an elderly man who was considered the sage of Afro-Brazilian culture. Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim – his Yoruba name was Òjélàdé – who was in his mid 80s and in declining health. Nevertheless, Turner found him to be a veritable fountain of information. He recorded hours of songs, folktales and life experiences delivered in Yoruba, English and Portuguese delivered by Senhor Martiniano, as he was called by Brazilians.

Business card of Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim (his name is written in the old Portuguese orthogrpahy) with his handwritten name in Yoruba.  Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Born free in Bahia in 1859, the child of ex-slaves who had been able to buy their freedom, Martiniano was sent to Lagos by his father as a teenager in 1875 to study at the Faji School of the Anglican Church Missionary Society. He would stay in Lagos for 11 years. At the school he learned English, perfected the Yoruba he had already learned in Brazil and acquired a trade as mason and house painter. After his formal schooling, Martiniano studied to be a Babalawo, a practitioner of the art of divination known in Yoruba as Ifá.

Mãe Aninha (Eugenia Ana dos Santos) leader of the Candomblé Temple Ilé Axé Opo Afonjá which she founded with the help of Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim in 1910.  Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives

After his return to Brazil, Martiniano served as consultant for Brazilian and foreign scholars studying African cultural survivals in Brazil (see Images from the Ruth Landes papers). He was also an important member of the Afro-Brazilian religious community of the Candomblé and was a collaborator of the famous Mãe Aninha in the organization of the temple Ilé Axé Opo Afonjá in 1910. Martiniano also travelled back and forth from Bahia to Lagos trading in goods on both sides of the Atlantic and becoming a important link with the Afro-Brazilian returnee community in that city. He also taught English to well-to-do Afro-Brazilian families.

You can learn more about the career and travels of Professor Turner from the Lorenzo Dow Turner papers.

Alcione M. Amos
Museum Program Specialist

Friday, March 18, 2011

Taken Too Early: Remembering the children of Native American and First Nations' Boarding and Residential Schools

Montage of Indian Students at the Carlisle Indian
School, Pennsylvania, 1881. By John N. Choate.
General Nelson A. Miles Collection. (P06946) 

For many, we look back on our time in elementary or grade school with fond memories of afternoon naps, playing at recess, and making life-long friendships. But what if you didn't get those opportunities and instead were forcibly taken from your families and placed in a school that stripped you of all your identity, culture, and well-being? That is exactly what happened to thousands of young Native American, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children across the United States and Canada throughout the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century. Although some former students did have positive experiences at residential schools, many children suffered emotional and physical abuse. In addition, the children were often punished for speaking their own language or following traditional cultural practices. In general, the practice was forced assimilation to "kill the Indian and save the man." Much of the trauma suffered by these children has gone unresolved and has been passed from generation to generation. Thus, it is time to heal this suffering and tell the stories of thousand of survivors.

Tinted Lantern Slide of Sunday School with Inuit and Settler
children at the Moravian Churck at Makkovik, Kaipokok Bay,
Labrador, Canada. Leuman M. Waugh Collection. (L02274)

As part of this initiative, I was recently asked to speak at a forum, Sharing Truth: Creating a National Research Center on Residential Schools, organized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The TRC was established when former residential school students took the Canadian federal government and churches to court. Their cases led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. The agreement sought to begin repairing the harm caused by residential schools. Aside from providing compensation to former students, the agreement called for the establishment of the TRC of Canada with a budget of $60-million over five years. One of the TRC's major goals is the official establishment of a national research center and the preservation of its archives. Thus, the TRC organized this gathering to learn from a varied spectrum of knowledge and experiences from guest speakers from across the globe whose countries and peoples had also witnessed horrific atrocities, including South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan, Senegal, Germany, Chile, Guatemala, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and East Timor. For many of the speakers, while it was emotional to relive experiences, each noted the importance of having a living memory of these experiences because while the physical archive is critical to preservation, it in essence serves as a tool for memory. The information shared with the Commissioners will inform their decision making for the preservation and archiving of survivor statements, as well as materials created and received during the Commission's work. If interested, most of the webcasts of the forum presentations can be viewed here.

As part of my presentation I shared experiences and lessons learned regarding the development of the NMAI Archive Center. In addition,  I shared specific ways that NMAI has been involved with preserving the Native American boarding school experience so that these stories are carried on for generations and never forgotten, and more importantly, that these atrocities are never repeated. NMAI carries out these initiatives through various programs, exhibits, and publications, as well as partnering with other agencies, institutions, and museums that are also dedicated to this cause. In 2008 NMAI hosted a program titled Harvest of Hope: A Symposium on Reconciliation that focused on topical issues of reconciliation and highlighted national apologies made to Native peoples in Canada and the United States. Overall, the symposium sought a deeper, more inclusive understanding of our national narratives and the experiences of the Native peoples of the Americas. Additional information about the symposium and the entire webcast can be found here.

Furthermore, we preserve memories through our extensive photograph collections. The photos highlighted in this post are just a sampling of the thousands we have documenting the lives of children at boarding schools across the United States. For example, the two below photos are striking images of the same Chiricahua Apache children at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. The image on the left is upon their arrival in November 1886 and the image on the right is only four short months later in March of 1887. It is not difficult to see the physical changes of the children, so think how much they must have changed emotionally in that short time as well. 

Chiricahua Apache students at the Carlisle Indian School,
Pennsylvania, from Fort Marion, Florida, November 4, 1886.
Photo by John N. Choate. Gen. Nelson A. Miles Collection. (N36022)

Chiricahua Apache students at the Carlisle Indian School,
Pennsylvania, December 1886. Photo by John N. Choate. Gen.
Nelson A. Miles Collection. (P06847)

With the goal of making more of our collections digitally accessible, we will be digitizing many more boarding school images so that survivors will have access to these important images that encompass such a transformative period in Native American history.

For additional background information about the history of boarding schools, please see "Indian Education, American Education," by Brenda J. Child, in Native Universe: Voices of Indian America, eds. Gerald McMaster and Clifford E. Trafzer, 2004.

I Heart Photographs!

I heart photographs! Especially 19th and early 20th century portraits with subjects adorned in their finest attire and with some gazing into the camera. Perhaps it’s the elaborately dressed women in white lace wearing the latest hat style, yet the individuals wearing coarser dresses and hats simply trimmed also captivate me. Whether a man, a woman, or a child is pictured, there’s something wonderful and compelling about vintage photographs; they reveal so much about our history and the evolution of photography. When I was asked by a colleague in my museum’s education department for family images to include in a forthcoming publication, the cabinet card pictured at the left came to mind. It depicts one of my favorite themes found in photography: children with their toys, mostly little girls holding dolls.

This image, one of several of this girl, is from the Benjamin Layton collection. Layton was an avid collector who began collecting at nine years old. He served twenty-two years in the U.S, Army and retired in 1963 as commanding officer of the 181st Military Intelligence Detachment in Germany. While we may not know the name or family history of the little girl shown in this image, anyone passionate about early photographs can understand why Layton obtained this portrait.

I don’t know if this image will be selected for the publication, but it gets my vote!

To view other images collected by Benjamin Layton click here.

Jennifer Morris

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Digging those girl diggers: Dispatch from a former intern

Nicole Baynard is an undergraduate at American University studying anthropology. Nicole recently completed a Reference Services internship with the National Anthropological Archives. During the course of her internship, Nicole assisted researchers in the Reading Room, answered reference questions, and worked on collection assessment projects. Nicole shares a story about the intersection of her internship and academic career.

I was eager to take a hands-on approach to my education and get involved during my sophomore year. My peers were finding their places in various government agencies and I decided that I would pursue an internship that offered more than scanning documents and running errands. After a long and trying search, I finally found my place at the National Anthropological Archives. Each week proved more interesting than the last. I was learning about different organizations that contribute to the collections at the National Anthropological Archives, notable researchers and professors, and the progression of anthropological research.

In my first few weeks of interning at the NAA, I reviewed the newspaper clippings in the River Basin Survey papers for interesting material to contribute to a future online project. I was particularly fascinated with tracing specific incidents as they played out in the most popular newspapers of the time. After sifting through several articles detailing the complications with the return of a Confederate gunboat as it moved down the Chattahoochee River, I stumbled upon an article titled “Dig these girl diggers at Old Spanish Fort.” I was instantly attracted to the article because of the intriguing Introduction to Archaeology course I had taken the previous spring. The author of the article, Tom Sellers, seemed quite astounded to discover college women participating hands-on in an archeological field school during their summer break. He claimed that the female students were “holding up as well or better than their male colleagues” as if it was unheard of to see women in the muddy ditches. As I read the article describing the excavations the students were doing under the advisement of Florida State University Professor Lewis Lawson Jr., I started contemplating what it would be like to be engaged in an archeological dig as an alternative break for school.

A few days after reading the newspaper article, I received an e-mail from my university about the opportunity to apply for an archeological dig. With the same enthusiasm I had when applying for internships, I immediately researched the program and began my application. Five days later, I received word that I was accepted to travel to Varna, Bulgaria with the Balkan Heritage Field School to spend a few weeks digging and learning at a Byzantine monastery. I was overjoyed at the prospect of yet another hands-on opening in the field of anthropology and archeology. Much like the college students from the article, Janet Turner and Mabel Shaw, I will be digging alongside of my male colleagues and attending lectures and seminars regarding the processing of archaeological finds. Although it is common to find women in the field today, I look back on Sellers’ article and imagine what it must have been like for the young women from FSU to have the opportunity to recover artifacts and break the masculine norm asserting that working in the field was a man’s job. Even though they are not the only women who dug in the 1960s, Janet and Mabel helped break the stereotype of the woman as a fragile and delicate being. They paved the way for young college students, like me, to have the opportunity to prove themselves on “tough archaeological expeditions.” I hope to embark on my journey with the same gusto and drive as the students in the 1960s.

Much like Janet and Mabel, I do not plan on becoming an archaeologist, however; taking part in an archaeological expedition for college credit is exciting. As my internship at the NAA is coming to a close, I leave with the strong belief that their unique collections and willingness to allow interns explore the many facets the Archives have to offer are beneficial to both the NAA and all who have the privilege of working for them. Because of my explorations at the Archives, I leave with a renewed passion for advancing in the field of anthropology and hope to return one day to conduct research of my own.
-Nicole Baynard

Posted by: Leanda Gahegan, Reference Archivist
National Anthropological Archives

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thank You Mrs. Taft

First Ladies Exhibit, 1920s
The First Ladies Exhibit in the
Arts & Industries Building, 1920s.
When First Lady Michelle Obama donated her dress to the Smithsonian Institution’s First Ladies Collection on March 9, 2010 she followed a tradition starting almost a century before. Today, March 11, 2011, marks the 99th anniversary of the beginning of this popular custom. On March 11, 1912 Helen Herron Taft donated her white satin, silver embroidered gown that she wore to her husband’s inaugural and initiated a tradition continued by her successors. 
Helen Herron Taft's Gown
Helen Herron Taft's Gown.
Mrs. Taft’s dress became part of the Collection of Period Costumes’, Costumes of the Ladies of the White House section. It seems odd that a male dominated curatorial staff in the 1900s would place such an emphasis on this costume collection doesn’t it? Well, in fact the collection started due to the influence of Washington society leader Cassie Mason Myers Julian-James, and Rose Gouverneur Hoes, a descendant of President James Monroe. The two thought it important to showcase the women who held such historical positions and decided to act as volunteer curators. They established correspondence with potential donors, dressed the mannequins in the clothing and organized the exhibition in the United States National Museum building, now known as the Arts & Industries Building.  The exhibit, which opened in 1914, quickly gained in popularity and became a visitor favorite.

First Ladies Exhibit, 1972
First Ladies 1972.
Coolidge is second from left
Eisenhower is fourth from right.

Throughout the years, this tradition has held strong and beautiful dresses from all of the first ladies have been donated. The dresses are not just pretty. They represent the style of the women who wore them and exemplify the trends of the times in which they lived in the White House. Grace Coolidge adorned herself in a red, flapper style dress of the roaring twenties, while Mamie Eisenhower chose floor length, pink gown cut in a silhouette common to dresses on the 1950s.
From Martha to Michelle, the gowns of the First Ladies represent the wives and hostesses of the White House. Exhibited today at the National Museum of American History, the collection remains one of the Smithsonian’s most loved. Today let’s remember the first inaugural gown donated and thank Mrs. Taft, not only for her fabulous choice of dress, (it is my favorite) but for her, Julian-James and Hoes who recognized the importance of preserving materials to connect us to history.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mud Season!

While some of us eagerly await spring, others (in the northeast) dread the onset of Mud Season.  Waterproof (aka mud proof) boots are a necessity and must always be left outside or in the “mud” room if one is fortunate to have one.  Mud splashes and gets all over one's clothing and exposed skin.  Mud is everywhere--Mud is unseemly.  It is well known, however, that frogs love mud.  So do hippos.  And even many humans relish mud's therapeutic and cosmetic properties. Cleopatra, it is said, pampered herself with mud baths. Reputedly mud excels in relieving stress and body aches, as well as beautifying the skin.  And if beauty is embodied in Japan’s Geisha, then proof of a mud bath’s appeal can be found in this charming archival film from the Human Studies Film Archives.

Clip from HSFA 93.25.2  Japan: Promotional and Theatrical Footage, ca. 1927

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please Pass the Salt

Morton's Salt advertisement, ca. 1930s

You can almost taste the salt when you open the boxes for the International Salt Company Records, 1888-1964 (bulk 1920s-1930s), housed at the Archives Center, National Museum of
American History.  I recently sampled this collection for the Lemelson Center’s Food for
Tomorrow Symposium in November 2010. I was looking for images of salt for a salt tasting
activity and I was rewarded with colorful and informative advertisements touting the cooking
and medical benefits of salt. The latter gave me pause. Benefits of salt? Aren’t we supposed to consume less salt?

Union Pacific Salt Co. Anchor Brand
Liverpool Dairy Salt trademark, 1894.
In today’s news we are barraged with the dangers too much salt presents to our health when
consumed in large amounts. Indeed, this essential ingredient is under attack by the government, health officials, and others who discuss setting maximum levels of sodium in food. I doubt the salt industry could have predicted the shift in attitude, but the records we have reveal a different attitude, one that reflects the time period and its marketing strategies.

The collection consists primarily of scrapbooks of advertisements for the International Salt 
Company’s Sterling Salt label and other leading salt companies, especially Morton’s. One
scrapbook, devoted solely to Sterling Salt, promoted uses for the home (table salt, curing 
meats, and brines), industry (rock salt for winter weather) and agriculture (killing weeds). 

William M. Rittase, photographer.
Women packing cases of 24-ounce salt packages:
silver gelatin photoprint, ca. 1930s. 
 Many of the ads were part of the “Pass the Salt” campaign and were featured in publications such as Hide, Leather and Shoes, Department Store Economist, American Agriculturist, National Safety News, and Mill and Factory, to name a few. Other scrapbooks contain advertisements, newspaper clippings, and ephemera for salt products produced by companies such as Colonial Special Farmers Salt, Morton’s, Mulkey’s Salt, Rock Glen Salt Company, Jefferson Island Old Rip Salt, Myles Salt, and Kerr’s Cooking Salt. Much of the ephemera consists of labels, but there are also small pamphlet cookbooks. The cookbooks, prepared and marketed by various salt companies, tout recipes for tasty dishes using specific salts and expound upon the merits of salt in general, especially medically. Other clever salt-related advertising appears in conjunction with maps, buttons, song books, calendars, and health exercises.
 The records also contain a traveling salt kit for Sterling Salt salesmen; select annual reports and employee newsletters for International Salt; trademarks for a variety of salt companies (1890s-1920s); payroll ledgers; black-and-white photographs depicting mines and employees; and slides. Of note are photographs by American photographer William Rittase (1887-1968), active in the 1920s-1930s and known for his industrial photography. Rittase’s images provide insight into salt manufacturing and packaging operations.

So, next time you ask someone to “please pass the salt,” you can do so knowing that salt, an essential ingredient in food, has benefits when used in moderation.

Alison Oswald, Archivist