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Friday, January 28, 2011

Starting From Seed, Mail Order Garden Catalogs

After grumbling about the cold and rainy winter weather, a colleague reminded me that winter is the best time for planning a garden since many seed catalogs would soon be arriving in the mail. My colleague was right. It just so happens that the entire month of January is celebrated as “National Mail Order Gardening Month.” Nowadays after we’ve ordered our seeds by mail or online, we generally toss or, better yet, recycle those catalogs. However, it wasn’t too long ago that garden catalog publishers used the skills of artists and illustrators to entice buyers with their plant offerings making these meant-to-be-thrown-away catalogs worth collecting.

The first seed catalog printed in America was not at all enticing from a 21st century sales perspective. The Catalogue of American Trees, Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants printed in 1783 by John Bartram Jr. (son of the famous American botanist John Bartram) was printed rather simply and without illustrations. Catalogs with more sales appeal came about in the middle to late nineteenth century including those crafted by Joseph Breck, James Vick, Dellon Dewey, J.C. Vaughn, Luther Burbank and W. Atlee Burpee. The horticulture and floriculture trades during this period experienced huge expansion due in part to both scientific advancements and the power of advertising. 

Front and back of the 1902 Burpee catalog
W. Atlee Burpee Company records
Archives of American Gardens
No other company did this with more fervor than W. Atlee Burpee & Company. In 1891, Burpee’s catalog was the first to feature engravings made from photographs; by 1901 this process was mechanized. Within just a few years, the industry followed suit and only a few catalogs featured hand-drawn illustrations. Burpee published an extensive catalog each year that was filled with mouth-watering illustrations and descriptions of vegetables and flowers that detailed their size, color, and growth characteristics. Distinctive names such as “Defiance Pansies,” “Matchless Melon,” and “Success Tomato” conjured up visions of triumph in the minds of both amateur gardeners and professional farmers. By 1915, Burpee was the largest seed company in the world, distributing over a million catalogs a year and receiving 10,000 orders a day.

For more information on the history of seed catalogs, see the bibliography compiled by Marca Woodhams, former librarian of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Horticulture branch (now part of Smithsonian’s Botany and Horticulture Library):

The Archives of American Gardens includes the business records of a number of nurseries and seed companies that operated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including W. Atlee Burpee & Company (Pennsylvania), H. Weber & Sons (Maryland), and Bedman Brothers (New Jersey). Many of these collections include nursery and seed catalogs that showcase fine examples of the work of artists and illustrators. In addition, AAG’s J. Horace McFarland Collection features thousands of images that McFarland’s publishing firm, Mount Pleasant Press, used to illustrate the numerous seed catalogs it printed during the first half of the twentieth century.

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cozy Tile Oven Designs from the Gmundner Keramik Company

On a chilly January day with snow all around here in the Washington, D.C. area, it's easy to dream of stretching out next to one of these lovely ceramic tile ovens (also known as Kachelöfen or masonry heaters).

These colorful and elegant designs are featured in a 1928 portfolio issued by the Gmundner Keramik Company of Austria.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library copy of the portfolio contains 32 leaves displaying a variety of styles. Some of the foremost designers of the era are represented in the portfolio, including Hertha Bucher, Ludwig Galasek, Otmar Hillitzer, Edith Hirschhorn, Leopold Kleiner, Dagobert Peche, Michael Powolny, Emilie Schleiss, Marie von Zülow, and Vally Wieselthier.

A number of these same designers were also associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, a group of artists, designers, and craftspeople in Vienna, Austria who excelled in creating beautiful furniture, textiles, jewelry, and other examples of the decorative arts between 1903 and 1932. The Cooper-Hewitt and the Archives of American Art have items produced by the Wiener Werkstätte in their collections.

Both of the designs shown here are by Galasek. The original printed portfolio, which was acquired by the Cooper-Hewitt library in 1961, has edges that were "repaired" with brown cloth tape, a pragmatic, if not archivally correct, measure taken at some unknown time in the past --although for an item as ephemeral as a 1928 trade publication, this copy is in remarkably good shape.

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Peace Corps Papers

Today’s post focuses on the work of the Peace Corps in honor of Sargent Shriver and the 50th anniversary of the agency. Sargent Shriver led the task force that outlined the mission and design of the Peace Corps, which resulted in President John F. Kennedy signing Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961 to establish the agency. Sargent Shriver was appointed director, and five months later the first group of Peace Corps volunteers headed to Ghana. By December 1961, more than 500 volunteers served in nine countries while another 200 were in training. Since its creation 50 years ago, the Peace Corps has sent over 200,000 volunteers to serve in 139 countries.

The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) houses a collection of journals and correspondence by Peace Corps volunteers. The NAA started collecting these papers in 1975 when Herman J. Viola, director of the NAA, issued a call to Peace Corps volunteers to donate their journals, letters, sketches, photographs, and recordings to the archives in an effort to document their impact and experiences. In a 1975 newspaper article about the collection, Herman J. Viola said, “I am simply astounded at some of the events of significant historical interest that volunteers have been associated with in one way or another. The Peace Corps volunteer who works in a foreign society for several years often has an entirely different perspective of an event or development than has a visiting scholar.”

The collection, “Papers of Peace Corps Volunteers, 1920-1984,” contains material from 101 former volunteers and administrators who served in over 50 countries. Volunteer assignments included education, community development, agriculture, health work, and service through such special skills as art, surveying, mechanics, and photography. For a detailed list of the collection’s content, check out the online finding aid.

-Rose Love Chou, Reference Volunteer
National Anthropological Archives

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kaifeng: Travel Journals (1910-1913) in the Freer|Sackler Archives

Priest at the Iron Pagoda, Kaifeng. Photograph by Yü Tai, 1910. The Charles Lang Freer papers, neg.#34. Freer|Sackler Archives.
Priest at the Iron Pagoda, Kaifeng
Photograph by Yü Tai, 1910
The Charles Lang Freer papers, neg.#34
Many collections in the Archives contain journals, diaries, albums and reports based on individual travels.  When multiple travelers visit the same site over a period of years, they provide scholars a useful range of impressions.   Here are two passages describing the same location, the first by Charles Freer who visited Kaifeng in 1910, and another by the art historian Langdon Warner in 1913.

“Saturday P.M. – visited Iron Pagoda.  Priest said built during late Tang and Five Dynasties and repairs made and the prominent yellow tiles with seated Buddhas were placed in the openings by the first Ming Emperor Hung wu, 1368 to 1399.  Name of  priest  (Fan Ming Tun-ger, Buddhist priest family name) now 70 years old – began in this temple when a boy 9 years old and has never since been outside of Kai Feng Fu nor out of sight of the pagoda. This pagoda is very beautiful seen nearby or from a distance.  Its low toned colors are very fine and at a distance resemble ancient iron with exquisite patinas.  Just within its small entrance doors is seen an unimportant seated Buddha – probably Chin, of plaster, but the early decorated tiles covering the walls of the little room are charming.”
Kaifeng,  Iron Pagoda. Photographs by Langdon Warner, 1913. From The Warner Report,Gift of Katherine Graham, 1994. Part I, page 105. Freer|Sackler Archives.
Kaifeng,  Iron Pagoda
Photographs by Langdon Warner, 1913

From The Warner Report,
Gift of Katherine Graham, 1994. Part I, page 105.
“The “iron pagoda” (T’ieh T’a) erected in A.D. 1383 stands among the ruins of a temple of which it was a part.  It is encrusted with glazed tiles moulded in relief and colored rich brown, green, red and yellow.  From a distance the blend of these colors suggests rusty iron.  The tower is thirteen stories high and is octagonal, each face measuring m. 4.15 at a height of about four feet from the ground.  In the faces toward the four cardinal points are small chapels (bricked up), that on the East containing four Ming (?) iron statues, and a glazed tile bearing and incrustation which could not be examined. “
With the kind assistance of volunteers, I am currently transcribing and cataloging Freer’s journals and diaries from his journey to Longmen which, in conjunction with the outstanding images taken by his Chinese photographer Yü Tai, will bring to light a previously unrecognized, but enormously valuable resource. 

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Roots of a Renaissance Man

When you walk though the front door of the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, one of the first things you see is the bronze bust of our namesake. Rinzler himself was much more than a gleaming forehead, however, and we have the 90 cubic feet to prove it. These boxes contain the records of a life lived exuberantly--to which interns Abigail Kabaker and Megan Northcote can attest. Though these papers were initially acquired and processed in 1994, they have begun tackling the enormous task of revisiting  them and refining their arrangement and description. 

Folder after folder, one gets the sense that Rinzler wore many hats throughout his life. From playing and touring with the Greenbriar Boys to recording and working with now-legendary traditional musicians Doc Watson and Bill Monroe, from founding Director of what is now the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and developing the annual Festival of American Folklife to being appointed Assistant Secretary for Public Service for the Smithsonian Institution in 1983 and Assistant Secretary Emeritus in 1990 (phew!), Ralph Rinzler was a true Renaissance man. In addition to having records relating to all of these periods of his life, we also have materials from his years at Swarthmore College, where he organized his first folk music festival. It is fascinating to look through his coursework and notebooks and see the roots of Rinzler's "Ralph-ness," a quality that informed so much of what he did later in life.

Rinzler was a dreamer and big thinker, personality traits that served him well in his creative life but perhaps not-so-successfully in his classes at Swarthmore. These qualities are especially illustrated in three items from his papers.

Two essays from his 1954 literature courses have especially relevant comments from professors. His essay titled "The Grapes of Wrath: Art or Propaganda" was given a C-, the explanation being that it "show[ed] undaunted powers of mind" that didn't "add up to anything in particular." The professor elaborates, saying "One question at a time is enough to answer, and any answer demands a good deal more concrete and analytical approach [sic] than you have offered." Rinzler made a career out of asking questions that didn't necessarily have answers, but  the asking resulted in much more than "nothing in particular."

The second paper, "Universality in Hedda Gabler," received a C+. "Hedda should have received far more attention than she gets, for the whole play centers around her. You tend to dwell too much upon peripheral subjects," says the professor. As Abigail Kabaker points out, Rinzler spent his life focused on peripheral communities and what they had to offer to cultural narratives. To Rinzler, what was happening on the periphery was the story.

The third item probably looks familiar to everyone, as we've all been in that class where doodling has been preferable to the subject at hand. In  Rinzler's case, Economics. Behold, the college doodles of the future Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian.

"A Mind is a Terrible thing to Waste"

Frederick D. Patterson (1901-1988), 1940s portrait.

"A Mind is a Terrible thing to Waste,” is the well-known campaign slogan for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).  The fund was founded in 1944 by Frederick Douglass Patterson, the third president of Tuskegee Institute, who was initially seeking financial support for the school (now Tuskegee University).  Realizing other private black colleges encountered hardship in garnering funds, Patterson decided that a combined fundraising effort would benefit all universities and colleges involved, thus forming the UNCF. The founding of UNCF and his other contributions to the field of higher education earned Patterson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.
President Ronald Reagan presented Dr. Patterson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom June 23, 1987.

Patterson was born on October 10, 1901, in the Beuna Vista Heights area of southeast Washington, D.C. , near Historic Anacostia and the home of his namesake, abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Patterson’s parents died of tuberculosis leaving him an orphan before the age of two.  Patterson lived in Anacostia with a family friend until the age of seven when his older sister moved to Texas taking him with her.

Frederick Douglass Patterson papers at the Anacostia Community Museum include correspondence, manuscripts, research material, published writing, photographs, and other materials documenting the personal life and professional career of Patterson.  Researchers will find of interest a scrapbook commemorating Patterson’s founding and involvement with UNCF.  The correspondence in the papers includes a note from George Washington Carver to Mrs. Patterson which accompanied a bottle of peanut oil with instructions to “use the same as “mothers [sic] friend, (as a massage).”  Most of the photographs in the collection were taken during Patterson’s tenure as president of Tuskegee and include dignitary visits to the institute. There are also images by official Tuskegee photographer and renowned portrait photograper P. H. [Prentice Herman] Polk, as well as images by Arthur P. Bedou, who is celebrated for his photographs of Booker T. Washington and Jazz musicians. You can learn more about this native Washingtonian in Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson.

Jennifer Morris

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe!

It just so happens that the Edgar Allan Poe Monument in Baltimore is my favorite outdoor sculpture.  I used to live nearby and would often visit the sculpture, which is in a wide-open plaza outside the University of Baltimore Law School. Sculpted by Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel, the statue was commissioned in 1911 but was not dedicated until 1921.  Why?

"The first model, finished in 1913, was destroyed in a custom house fire while en route to a foundry in Berlin; the second model, finished in May 1915, was broken in the artist's Rome studio by an earthquake; and finally a third sculpture was finished and ready for shipment by March 1916, but the Poe Memorial Association was afraid to ship it across the Atlantic during World War I. Although the artist died in 1917, it was not until the summer of 1921 that the sculpture finally reached Baltimore." (from the IAS record)

The statue was moved to its current location in 1983.  What I love most about this statue is the way Poe is leaning forward in his seat, his left hand raised as if signaling to us to "hold on" while he continues to listen to the Muses.  When I walk around the nearly life-size Poe, there is always something new to discover, whether in the carvings on the base or the folds in his coat.  To discover a very interesting story about the inscriptions on the base, visit the online record in the Inventory of American Sculpture.

--Nicole Semenchuk, Research and Scholars Center, American Art Museum

The Full Moon

Last week I was sitting at my desk one afternoon and thinking about what to write for my next blog post.  My eyes darted around my cubicle, momentarily resting on various objects: postcards of some sculptures by Daniel Chester French from my trip to Chesterwood several summers ago; photos of my nieces and my brother’s black lab; a lovely print of an painting of a woman drinking tea under cherry blossoms; library books on George Inness, Edward Hopper, and William Merritt Chase.  Nothing held my interest. Then I looked at my calendar. I was excited to get a calendar this year that recorded the phases of the moon.  And my blog post just happened to be due the week of the full moon.

Moonlight (1887)
When I think of the full moon and art I immediately think of Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). Ryder was an important late-nineteenth century painter and he painted several paintings of the moonlit land and sea.  In her 1989 monograph on Ryder, Elizabeth Broun writes, “Collectors and critics have come to consider the moonlight marine as Ryder’s personal emblem, although such paintings constitute only a small part of his oeuvre...But if there are few in number, they still hold a special place, for they are like conversations with the soul. The longing that permeates Ryder’s paintings of women and his urge toward the unattainable become the yearning of the boat for the moon...”

Four of these moonlit scenes are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum:  Moonlight, With Sloping Mast and Dipping Prow, Flying Dutchman, and The Lover’s Boat.

The Lover's Boat (ca. 1881)
When it was exhibited in 1881 at the Society of American Artists, Ryder accompanied The Lover’s Boat with one of his own poems.  The poem begins,

In splendor rare, the moon,
In full-orbed splendor,
On sea and darkness making light,
While windy spaces and night,
In all vastness did make.

Seeing a Ryder painting reproduced online or in a book is in no way a substitute for seeing one in person.  Broun discusses the often sculptural qualities of his work and how this was achieved:

The Flying Dutchman (by 1887)
“Everything temporal evaporated as Ryder worked over the image, sometimes for months or years. Layers of glaze accumulated as before, but now a dense, creamy white pigment full of coarse-ground crystals and lumpy impurities were liberally used as well. Forms took on palpable substance over a long period of work, so that even water and clouds present a sculptural aspect.  Whenever a moon appears, it is a full moon and the thickest part of the paint film, projecting in relief as if modeled. Positive and negative shapes, light and dark, balance each composition, like contending forces of good and evil.”

With Sloping Mast and Dipping Prow (ca. 1880-1885)

Besides the four moonlit paintings at the American Art Museum, the museum owns several other paintings by Ryder. There are also many other Ryder resources listed in the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.  His paintings and their current locations are listed in the Inventory of American Paintings.  The American Art Museum's Photograph Archives contain historical photographs of works by Ryder. Broun’s publication, along with several others, is held in the Libraries.  The Archives of American Art holds several items related to Ryder.

If you are interested in artistic representations of the moon, many other artists are known for their moonlit scenes, including Ralph Blakelock, Charles Burchfield, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, George Inness, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Dwight William Tryon. All of this information can be found by searching the National Art Inventories.

So when you look up to see the full moon tonight, I wonder if you will think of Albert Pinkham Ryder.  I know I will.

--Nicole Semenchuk, Research and Scholars Center, American Art Museum

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Image of the Day

Please enjoy this undated image of a man demonstrating use of Princess Ka’iulani's canoe on the National Mall. Click here to read a profile of Princess Ka’iulani from the Smithsonian Magazine.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Guess Who

While watching Jeopardy the other night I was excited to see that the final question was about the National Portrait Gallery (NPG).


Smithsonian Circular: Portrait Photograph Request
Smithsonian Institution Archives

The next day at work I decided to scroll through some of the portrait photographs on the Collections Search Center. NPG had a host of images since the Smithsonian collected portraits of famous people from its earliest days, which eventually led to the creation of the National Portrait Gallery in 1962. I also noticed that here at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives we had numerous portrait photographs preserved in our collections. Scrolling through I noticed the variety of individuals represented. There were presidents, scientists, statesmen and explorers, but also a host of lesser known individuals that never worked at the Smithsonian. I wondered how and why the Institution procured the images from these individuals.  

Later that week, while working on an entirely different project, the answer to my portrait collection question appeared right before my eyes. I have found that the archives work in mysterious ways. And though I was yielding few results on one project, out of nowhere the answer to the other appears!  There in a book of circulars was a copy of a letter adorned with the bust of James Smithson and elegant script. I scanned the letter and to my fortune in a Castellar-like font was the word: PORTRAITS. I carefully read the rest of the letter and learned that this document was the circular that was used to ask noteworthy Smithsonian correspondents or their families for their images, signed by the Smithsonian Secretary (Spencer F. Baird) himself! With this in mind, I decided to dig a little further.

List of Potential Names
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Draft of Follow-Up Letter
Smithsonian Institution Archives
I learned that in 1875, the Smithsonian Institution decided to create a list of individuals important in the fields of study and work who should be documented in the national collection. With a list in mind, the Smithsonian sent out this circular and kept a record of who responded. The list also revealed that the Institution sent the circular to its foreign correspondents as well.  Once the Institution obtained the portrait, the individual received a follow up circular asking detailed information for a registry.

Draft of Letter to Photographers
Smithsonian Institution Archives

The project was very active, filling the log book with numerous names and in 1880 the Institution began sending circulars not just to their correspondents, but to well known photographers. This draft circular solicits images from photographers and notes that “the collection does not embrace those who have attained prominence as actors only.”

Today the fruits of this labor can be searched across the Institution in the Collections Search Center. Photographs of naturalists, scientists, authors, and educators, who were leaders in their fields of expertise, but not necessarily household names, have been preserved at the Smithsonian thanks to its early curator’s forward thinking. 

100th Anniversary of the Samarra Excavation by Ernst Herzfeld

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): View of the Qaṣr al-ʿĀshiq towards the North, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Freer|Sackler Archives.
Above Image: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): View of the Qaṣr al-ʿĀshiq towards the North, 1911-1913 [graphic]. 

ANNOUNCING THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY of the Ernst Herzfeld Samarra Excavation!  It has been 100 years since German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld began his groundbreaking excavation work on Samarra.  In honor of the famous archaeologist's work, the Freer|Sackler Archives will chronicle specific sites and discoveries he made in his first campaign, right here on the Smithsonian Collections Blog.

To get this exciting year-long celebration started, I would like to unveil to you the *NEW* Samarra Resource page: This page contains quick links to all of our collection items from the 19 archaeological sites of Samarra, and provides an eight minute tutorial on how you can use the Collections Search Center to search Herzfeld Samarra records. While you're browsing the images, make sure you look at the newly added Samarra Photographs!

To transport you back to Herzfeld's Samarra 100 years ago I rely heavily on excerpts from Thomas Leisten's book, "Excavation of Samarra, Volume 1" and letters housed in Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil, View of Workers Excavating the Area in front of Miḥrāb and inside the Southern Wall (Qibla Wall), Looking towards the Spiraling Minaret (Malwiyya), 1911-13 [graphic].
Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil, View of Workers Excavating the Area in front of Miḥrāb and outside the Southern Wall (Qibla Wall), Looking towards the Spiraling Minaret (Malwiyya), 1911-13 [graphic].Pre-1911, Great Britain, France, and Russia  had a head start in many of the prestigious sites in the territory of the Ottoman Empire.  Emperor Wilhelm II endeavors to establish Germany's place among the European global powers.  Through the initial interest and work of Friedrich Sarre and the Kiser Wilhelm Society, Sarre and Herzfeld conducted a survey of sites that could be considered for German exploration.  Herzfeld had been to Samarra several times before the excavation 1903-1906 with the Walter Andrae's excavation at Assur.

"Up to this point, archaeological activities in the Levant and in Mesopotamia had focused on sites associated with classical antiquity or the ancient Near East.  There was little public interest or governmental support for the study of Islamic antiquities and sites at this time largely given the failure of European Christians to identify with what they perceived as a heathen culture (Leisten, 3)."

January 3rd, 1911: Herzfeld arrived in Samarra, and is concerned about how much ground his French predecessor Henri Viollet may have covered. In a letter to Friedrich Sarre on January 5th he says, "They just threw the debris into the ruin itself - the whole project has been done without any system or plan.  After this, it is impossible, I think, to give an idea of the true layout of the palace that is different from Viollet's earlier and fantastic reconstruction of the palace.  That he boasted himself in Babylon and Assur, that he had not left anything for us to do, is childish. In regard to our plans we can, I think, pretend that he never excavated here (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz)."

January 9th, 1911: Invigorated after proving how little Viollet had discovered, Herzfeld begins to excavate at the Great Mosque with 132 workman.

"The life of an excavator at the turn of the century in such rough circumstances was inherently an adventure, as Herzfeld's diaries and letters to Sarre testify, in a tone that ranges from dry to emotional, and even humorous. Some of the situations Herzfeld describes are well known to anyone who has ever excavated while some others sound like cautionary tales from the dawn of archaeology (Leisten, X)."

Look forward to more next month.

Above Samarra Images: 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A New Year's Resolution

Still frame from 99.10.14 [John V. Hansen
Travel Footage of Egypt, ca. 1926-1930]
'Tis the season for promises and oaths.  The world over, people are vowing to get in shape, get organized, quit smoking, learn to play the guitar, or finally take that vacation to Bora Bora. 

This year, I'm keeping it simple.  In fact, I'll be getting my New Year's resolution out of the way with this very blog post.  I vowed to spread joy by sharing one of my most favorite scenes in all of the Human Studies Film Archives' collections:  John V. Hansen's footage of an Egyptian snake catcher, shot somewhere between 1926 and 1930.

The guy's got skills, and he knows it.  He seems to really enjoy his work and he is definitely having fun hamming it up for the camera.  I love his confidence, his flair, and his mischievous smile.

Theatrical flourishes aside, this snake catcher and others of his profession provided a very important service.  In 1864, Islamic Studies scholar Alfred von Kremer described their work:
The Ghagar form in Egypt a numerous tribe, travelling through the country as tinkers, trope dancers, monkey showmen and snake charmers…Whilst one portion of the tribe are traders, another portion live in Cairo as snake catchers (H’wai*)…  It is this class which frequently come into contact with the European traveler and do good service to the naturalist, for they always have for sale snakes with or without the poison fangs, jackals, wolfs, lizards, etc.  The dexterity with which these people discover and catch snakes is really surprising.  Armed simply with a palm stick the operator gives a few knocks on the walls and floors, plays a short tune on his reed pipe, and the snakes make their appearance, which is explained by the fact that there are in most of the old houses of Cairo many snakes, most of which are, however, quite harmless.  The inhabitants are, nevertheless, in great fear of them and no person dares to sleep in a room after the Hawi had declared it to be haunted by a snake.   -- Alfred von Kremer, "The Gipsies in Egypt", Anthropological Review Vol. 2, No. 7 (Nov., 1864), p. 262-26. Published by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

Hansen, an award-winning amateur filmmaker and member of the Amateur Cinema League, shot nearly five hours of footage in Egypt, including the Tomb of Queen Nefertari in the Valley of the Nobles  and the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Cover for "Football,; or, Misery and Mud," by Wal Pink and W.G.
Eaton,  1894.  From the Sam DeVincent Collection
of Illustrated American Sheet Music
 One of the most popular and most-used collections in the National Museum of American History Archives Center is our Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music. Mr. DeVincent (1918-1997) was an avid collector of published sheet music, especially popular songs accompanied by colorful, often humorous cover illustrations. He filled his home with the thousands of items that form this vast collection, until the Archives Center acquired it in 1988.

American music is one of the Archives Center's specialties. Another huge music collection, the Duke Ellington Collection, actually arrived at the Museum on the same day. I remember this well, since I was the staff member who physically moved the first group of heavy cartons of both collections from the Museum's loading dock to the Archives Center! The Ellington Collection includes original music manuscripts by Ellington and associates such as Billy Strayhorn, whereas the DeVincent collection contains commercially published music.

"Three Times Three" by Inglis and Smith,
1902, including a reproduction of a
photograph.  De Vincent Collection
 There are other great collections of sheet music in the Washington area, notably at the Library of Congress, but what makes the DeVincent Collection unusual is the organization which Sam DeVincent imposed on this large aggregation. It was not arranged by composer or title in the conventional manner, but primairly by topic or theme. For example, songs about transportation--planes, trains, and automobiles--were grouped together. Such subject groupings simplify and expedite research for many scholars, picture resesarchers, and others concentrating on specific aspects of cultural history. The ease of viewing and comparing popular songs devoted to narrow themes and subjects--both in terms of their lyrics as well as cover illustrations--has thrilled many Smithsonian fellows and researchers. Sometimes everything a researcher needs can be found in a single DeVincent box.

Cover, "Those Dear Old College Days, by
W.R. Williams, 1905.  DeVincent Collection
  An online finding aid summarizes the contents of the DeVincent collection, and selected individual pieces have been catalogued in SIRIS, often accompanied by images of the cover illustrations. As more requests for copies of items from the collection are processed--usually older, public-domain materials--the database will be augmented. Examples of sports and college songs, many of which have humorous cover illustrations, are shown here.  Note the unflattering portrayal of a college student at the right.

--David Haberstich, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ernst Herzfeld Online Resources

Ernst Herzfeld, Freer|Sackler Archives
A foremost scholar in the field of Iranian studies, Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948) explored all phases of Near Eastern culture from the prehistoric period to Islamic times. The collection documents Herzfeld's archaeological activities including Samarra, Persepolis, Pasargadae, Paikuli, and Aleppo and includes correspondence; field notebooks; drawings; sketchbooks; inventories of objects; squeezes of architectural inscriptions and details; and photographs.

Preservation, digitization, and cataloging has been made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation. The cataloging of this collection commenced in September 2009, and will be ongoing until Summer 2011. Please be advised that some of the Series are not represented, and some of the images are not available yet as we are in the process of putting them online.

Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. For inquiries on selecting images or appointments to research the collection, please contact the Archives.

Browse the thousands of digital images from the Ernst Herzfeld papers by viewing them in the Collections Search Center, or by touring the *NEW* Ernst Herzfeld Image Gallery

For a dynamic tour on how to search for Ernst Herzfeld records in the Collections Search Center, make sure to check out our youtube tutorial below. An iPhone version is also available on our youtube channel:

The Ernst Herzfeld Finding Aid is available, and will be reprocessed to reflect the further work done on the collection once the cataloging project has reached its conclusion.

If you are interested in reading previously written Ernst Herzfeld articles, please view this cache in the Smithsonian Collections Blog.  Speaking of blogs, make sure to check out mentions of Ernst Herzfeld at the Persepolis Fortification Archives Project blog, written by our peers at The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

Stayed tuned in for more as we enter into the 100th anniversary of Ernst Herzfeld's excavation of Samarra!  More in-depth posts on the Samarra materials, and more online resources will be unveiled throughout the 2011 year.

Can't get enough Herzfeld? Make sure you're familiar with these related resources!

Online Resources

Archnet Digital Library:

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, The Creswell Archive:

Gertrude Bell Archive at Newcastle University:

The Samarra Archaeological Survey, A. Northedge:

Museum Databases

British Museum Collections Database:

Louvre database:

Metropolitan Museum Collection Database:

Victoria & Albert Museum database:
Victoria & Albert, Samarra Finds:

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives