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Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Canaan Modern

During her long career as a garden photographer, Molly (Maida Babson) Adams turned her camera to estate gardens, rooftop terraces and suburban yards across New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and even the grounds of the White House during President Kennedy’s tenure there. Her photographs are a rare record of American residential landscapes and modern garden design in the mid-century period. The Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection at the Archives of American Gardens includes documentation for over forty gardens in Connecticut including at least three (and possibly more) mid-century modern homes in New Canaan, Connecticut, which became a hotbed for modern architecture when Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, Marcel Breuer, and other architects moved there after World War II.

The three New Canaan homes and gardens documented by Adams include the Wiley House (1952), Celanese House (1959), and Ford House (1961), all of which are listed in the New Canaan Mid-Century Modern Homes Survey along with Philip Johnson’s Glass House (1949).

Wiley House, probably early 1960s

The Robert C. Wiley house was designed by Philip Johnson in 1952, one of thirty mid-century modern homes that were built in the village at that time. Johnson designed the Wiley House as a cantilevered glass box sitting atop a fieldstone base looking out over a circular swimming pool and an older barn. The garden has yet to be attributed—although both designers Friede Stege and James Fanning are possibilities. Sparse and minimal, the landscaping is representative of the low-maintenance philosophy espoused by the California landscape architect Thomas Church in the 1950s. 

Celanese House, c.1960

In 1959 Edward Durell Stone designed this model home for the Celanese Corporation to showcase the company’s products. The house generated enough excitement to warrant a thirteen-page color spread in House & Garden:

“Though it may seem avant-garde, the house faces up to problems that are with us now and will grow in the future . . . the lattice that surrounds this house creates a private world. Here, windows can be large and wide because they look out onto the landscaped courts, not upon the neighbors’ windows or lot.”
The house satisfied the requirements of the modern home: an open floor plan, integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, circulation, and privacy for the family. Twelve pyramids on the flat roof acted as skylights that brought light into the interior rooms. A lattice screen shielded the house’s indoor and outdoor spaces from view of the busy road. James Fanning (c. 1911-1998) was the landscape architect on the project. Though he received no formal academic training, he went on to work with architects such as Edward Larabee Barnes and Louis Kuhn. He was also a frequent contributor to gardening and horticulture magazines. On the left, Fanning brought the outdoors in by planting evergreens in crescent formations in the breezeway, providing a colorful year-round backdrop for meals and entertaining. Adams’ photographs adeptly capture the nuanced relationship between the lines and mass of the house and the complementary geometry and textures of the gardens.
Ford House, early 1960s

Molly Adams’ photographs of the Ford house, featured above, appeared in Popular Gardening in 1967. This Japanese-influenced garden designed by landscape architect Friede Stege complemented the low-profile wooden home designed by Russell Ford and Edward A. Winter for Ford’s own family in 1961. Stege’s design included a gravel drive in front of the house encircling a planted island,  a groundcover of creeping juniper surrounding a pine tree, boulders, and a Japanese stone lantern.  Inset courtyards provided spaces for the family to enjoy privacy outdoors and, in an affront to suburban lawn-lovers everywhere, low-maintenance meadow grass was used behind the house.
All three homes and gardens featured above are listed in the New Canaan Modern Homes Survey, a catalog of significant mid-century homes, many of which are under threat due to development and lack of historical landmark status. The Survey is a joint project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and five other organizations to aid in the preservation of these vulnerable and historic homes. In the face of overdevelopment, Molly Adams’ photographs stand as an invaluable record of gardens and houses in an invigorated postwar America.
-Kate Fox, Intern
Archives of American Gardens

Smithsonian Gardens 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Conservation Treatment of the Ernst Herzfeld Drawings

In honor of National Preservation Week and MayDay!, the Freer|Sackler Archives is highlighting conservation work from 2009, made possible by the Leon Levy foundation.  After the completion of a thorough survey to document the conservation needs within the Ernst Herzfeld papers, the Archives hired a conservator to select a percentage of damaged drawings and provide treatment.  

Below is an example of a drawing in its damaged state.  Alongside the image is text to help describe the conditions and treatment of the drawing as taken from Ms. Christina Finlayson’s report.

The object is in poor condition. It suffers from overall discoloration, planar distortions and creasing, tears, losses, and severe adhesive staining.
The blue watercolor component appears to be in stable condition. There are some minor instances of media loss which correspond to areas where the paper support has been creased, scratched, or torn.  

*As taken from the Condition Report and Treatment Proposal created by Christina Finlayson, June 24th 2009.

1.    Written and photographic documentation of the object was conducted before and after treatment.
2.    The water color was surface cleaned with particles of vinyl eraser.
3.    The water color media was tested for sensitivity to acetone, and was found to be stable.
4.    The backing support was removed by carefully tearing away sections. A small piece with an ink inscription was kept and will be retained with the drawing.
5.    Excess adhesive residue was reduced as possible by rolling acetone soaked swabs over the affected areas. Heavier applications of adhesive were softened with acetone solvent chambers placed locally as necessary. The adhesive was then scraped off under magnification with a scalpel blade. A minor amount of residual adhesive remains on the reverse of the watercolor.
6.    The watercolor was humidified in a cold vapor chamber to relax the distortions.
7.    The tears were mended with heat-set tissue[1].
8.    The water color was re- humidified in a cold vapor chamber, and then dried between sections of blotters under glass and weight.

*As taken from the Treatment Report created by Christina Finlayson, August 21st  2009.

Final Product:

Now that the drawings have been treated and are looking their best, we are showing the collection online through the Collections Search Center: Ernst Herzfeld drawings.   (See our original announcement here).

Freer|Sackler Archives

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Preserving Lorenzo Dow Turner's Recordings

It’s National Preservation Week, so it’s a good time to update you on the preservation and digitization of field recordings made by linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner. The recordings were made in West Africa, Brazil, and the United States, and contain songs, stories, and poems. In addition, the recordings include a 1947 lecture by Dr. Turner, featuring poet Langston Hughes (listen to Hughes reading "Madam and Her Madam"). The materials were formerly inaccessible due to the obsolete nature of the recording medium and the obvious chemical instability of the discs.

Palmitic acid residue on acetate coated aluminum disc.
Data on this disc was successfully transferred after a cleaning.

This disc is delaminated, but we were able to transfer data from the backside.

Data was transferable from this disc despite a little uneven surface.

In 2010, an award from the Collections Care and Preservation Fund allowed Anacostia Community Museum Archives to conserve and reformat approximately 80 of 110 acetate (lacquer) and aluminum discs created during the 1930s through 1950s. Once the discs were cleaned, a physical assessment was completed and the audio was digitized. Unfortunately, some of the discs could not be transferred due to delamination of the lacquer layer. Approximately 15 % of the discs had palmitic acid residue on the surface caused by deterioration of the lacquer layer. Other discs were warped or had uneven surfaces, but data was transferable.

The first phase of the project produced master digital audio files, reference CDs, and MP3 files, which will allow cataloging of the materials and will make them accessible to researchers, scholars, and the general public.

The original discs were re-housed in acid- and lignin-free record envelopes and placed in appropriately sized boxes. The archives staff created special spacers for support. We are fortunate that the majority of the disc labels contain descriptive information which will assist us when we begin the cataloging phase of the project. 

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Monday, April 25, 2011

Broken Glass Plate Negatives: Storage and Imaging

April 24th-30th is National Preservation Week and May 1st is MayDay! Both events are created and hosted by archives and librarian entities in order to raise awareness for the care and emergency preparedness required for collections.

According to the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) website:

"ALA encourages libraries and other institutions to use Preservation Week to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections. Last year, over 65 events took place nationwide. View the 2010 Preservation Week Events in the U.S. in Google Maps. ALA would like to thank the founders, partners, and sponsors of Preservation Week for their generous support."

Make sure to check out the Society of American Archivists and the ALCTS's website for more details on how to participate and view links to helpful hints and tips that you can use for your archives, professional or personal!

Today, the Freer|Sackler Archives is participating by raising awareness for broken glass plate negatives, and to point you to resources on how you can properly store and image these gems.

Below, first photograph is a broken glass plate negative, set with dividers to hold all the shards in their proper place to prevent further damage or loss of image.  The second photograph is the broken glass plate negative scanned in-house with hardly a trace of all the broken fragment lines.  This set helps to illustrate that although a glass plate negative may seem broken beyond repair, you can still scan a beautiful image from it with patience and tender loving care.


Gulistan Palace [?], [1870s - 1930s] 1 11 Negative number 35.6 Caption: Bagh-i Atabeg
Antoin Sevruguin photographs collection, Freer|Sackler Archives.

You too, can save the images captured on broken glass plate negatives.  View the below resources for step by step guidance:

"Conservation Tip No. 4: A Method of Rehousing Glass Plate Negatives," Archives Outside blog.

"Storage of Glass Plate Negatives," Interpreter, Minnesota Historical Society, July 1999.

See sister blog The Bigger Picture, "Walking on Broken Glass," for more on broken glass plate negatives at the Smithsonian.

See other posts in the Smithsonian Collections Blog related to "Preservation."

Citation of Image:
Gulistan Palace [?], [1870s - 1930s] 1 11 Negative number 35.6 Caption: Bagh-i Atabeg
Antoin Sevruguin photographs collection, Freer|Sackler Archives

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives

Friday, April 22, 2011

Griot with a Lens

I tell you the truth: it pays to answer your telephone. One day in early 2004, the docent on duty in the lobby of the Anacostia Community Museum called me to come down to greet a visitor who was interested in the overall work and mission of the museum. I left my desk—piled high with project files—and met a lovely gentleman who was visiting from North Carolina. He said he was a professional photographer, as well as a poet and an author, and he wanted to donate some of his images to the museum’s collections. He was particularly interested (at that time) in the museum’s study, documentation, and archival work with rural as well as urban churches. We talked amicably for a while and agreed to speak again, once he sent our collections committee samples of the images he was offering.
Guide, New Testament Bpatist Church, 2002
Titus Brooks Heagins

Oh, did I mention that the visitor was Titus Brooks Heagins, renowned documentary photographer from Durham, North Carolina? His work is highly regarded in capturing the daily lives, experiences, and culture of people of color from around the world. Over his short professional career as a photographer since 1997 (he was formerly an arts program coordinator and a foundation director), he has produced an extensive body of work that covers worship services, funerals, cemeteries, daily encounters, and issues of identity and human interaction in places as disparate as the southern United States, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, and Japan.

In many ways, to me, Heagins is a “griot with a lens.” His images tell their own stories, but, most important, they invite viewers to remember, recover, and imagine their own life tales. I look at “Guide, New Testament Baptist Church, 2002,” a photograph of an unnamed male usher (shown from the folded hands at the waist down), and I know this man. I know his commitment and dedication to being a doorkeeper for the Lord, because I see in Heagins’s photo the image of all the ushers and greeters I have ever encountered.

The other eleven oversize prints (from film and from digital process) that Heagins has donated to the Anacostia Community Museum (Titus Brooks Heagins photographs, circa 1997–2004) elicit similar reactions from all who see them. The evocations of time and place are strong and visceral; the imagery is often enchanting, often challenging.

What if I had not answered that phone call? Without this collection of vital images, what joys, what heightened sense of connection to humanity, what consciousness-raising opportunities would we have missed? I am certainly glad that Titus Heagins thought his work could be shared and conserved well here at ACM. I’m really glad I picked up my phone before the message rolled to voicemail!

Gail S. Lowe, Ph.D
Anacostia Community Museum

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who Gives a Hoot? Paul Manship’s Owls

This semester Christopher Morley, a recent graduate from the history program at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, interned with us in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Photograph Archives. During the course of his internship, Chris helped research over 350 Paul Manship images in the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection to identify the titles, dates, medium, dimensions, and owners for each sculpture. The Manship collection is now cataloged, digitized, and available on SIRIS. As his internship comes to an end, Chris reflects on his favorite Manship sculptures- owls.

Manship at work in his studio

“I rejoice that there are owls.  Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men,” Henry David Thoreau eloquently wrote in his 1854 novel Walden.  “It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men have not recognized.  They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all [men] have.”  With their large eyes, neatly preened feathers and mysterious, haunting call, owls have held a place in human mythology that spans millennia and transcends national, geographical, and political boundaries.

The ancient Greeks revered owls for their wisdom and wise looking eyes.  The owl was linked with Athena, goddess of wisdom and patron protector of Athens.  While the Greeks might have respected and admired owls, in many cultures, the owl was (and still is) seen as a symbol of death; an omen of impending doom and misery.  In Africa, owls are associated with sorcerers and witches.  In Arabia, owls were reputed to carry off children in the night.  Whether as a symbol of protection or death, owls continue to fascinate us and are still represented in literature and the arts.

Sculptor Paul Manship (1885-1966) is perhaps best known for Prometheus in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. However, this Minnesota native also celebrated owls in his artwork. In his sculptures, Paul Manship accomplished the difficult task of melding beauty and elegance with a strong contemporary aesthetic.  Many of his pieces are the very essence of timelessness.  His animal sculptures are particularly interesting, at least to me, because not only did he manage to create beautiful art, he also created art that had a realistic, humorous albeit subtle quality.

Manship started sculpting at age sixteen, when he enrolled in a modeling class.  Sculpture was such a strong interest for Manship that at age seventeen he dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a professional sculptor.  Over the course of his career, Manship studied under various masters and in various locations.  It was however, one of his earliest tutors, Solon Borglum, who instilled in Manship the necessary skills and dexterity required to master the art of anatomy.  Borglum’s area of expertise was animal sculpture, something which in later years Manship himself was to cherish and finally master.

Owl, Juley Collection

When I was researching the Juley photos, I discovered that there are many Manship sculptures in the  American Art Museum’s permanent collection as well. Two owl sculptures on display in the Luce Foundation Center immediately caught my attention because they capture the essence and humor of Manship’s art. Aptly titled Owl (#1) and Owl (#2), these sculptures exhibit both the archaism and modernism which the sculptor was known for.  Owl (#1) appears to be from the same cast as the one depicted in Juley’s photo,  J0038981.

As described in Paul Manship by Harry Rand, Owl (#1) “places the bird in a quasi-landscape setting as replete as an Audubon study”, due to the fact that the owl is shown perched on a tree stump.  Rand continues with his assessment of the sculpture, stating that “a hint of archaism resounds in the bird’s plumage, which Manship treated as a repeated pattern whose regularity recalls classical imbrication (the overlapping of tiles or shingles).”  While I agree with both statements, I also have to add my own two cents.  

Owl (#1) reminds me very much of the archetypal owl we all think of when we think of an owl: majestic, with beautiful glossy feathers, crested “ears”, powerful talons, and large golden eyes.  This sculpture is a bronze embodiment of the Great Horned Owl.  Some people may think of “Archimedes” from the 1963 Disney movie The Sword and the Stone, or perhaps the owl from the “Tootsie Pop” commercial.  I however, have a different recollection.  I can vividly remember hearing the call of the Great Horned Owl many years ago. 

My grandparents lived in Minocqua, up in the north woods of Wisconsin.  As a child, every summer my family and I would pile into the car and drive to my grandparents house.  While on vacation, we would go on long walks through the woods.  If you have never experienced what it’s like to walk through the forest on a sunny July day, hear the crunch of acorns and twigs beneath your feet, listen to the lazy buzzing of insects, and look for raspberries to eat, then you’re missing out on something wonderful.  At twilight, we would hear the lonely, mournful cry of the Great Horned Owl.  Its call would reverberate through the woods; eerie yet beautiful.
Owl (#2)

According to Rand, Owl (#2), “demonstrates the liability Manship faced when he returned to the regalia of mythology with none of its faith . . . all of the mysterious self-containment of the earlier Owl seems exhausted by the later work, which altogether lacks the brilliant counterpoise of small decorative elements with a fresh overall conception.” While Owl (#2) might not be as “refined” as Owl (#1), I think that it’s no less artistic or entertaining. 

Whereas Owl (#1) is proud and haughty, with a stern gaze, Owl (#2) is light and comical, and seems to be almost smiling.  The fact that Owl (#2) is perched atop a sphere makes the illusion that much more whimsical, perhaps a nod to the seals of the old circuses who balanced precariously atop similar spheres.  In fact, he seems to be almost saying “Hey, look ma, one foot!”

If you find yourself intrigued by these owl sculptures, there are many more photos of Manship’s animal sculptures in the Juley Collection.  In addition to animals, the collection also features Manship’s sundials, portraits, medals, monuments, and many other interesting items.  A favorite sculpture of mine is Hercules Upholding the World –Armillary Sphere.  I am also fond of Model for John F. Kennedy Inaugural Medal; a simple, yet strikingly handsome portrait of the late president.  Whatever you choose to look at, have fun!  Who knows?  You might find yourself having a hoot!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Processing Tea

Did you know that tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world? I've always been intrigued by the intensive process it takes to transform the plant into the dried leaves used for brewing. Here are some photos from the National Anthropological Archives that document different stages in the traditional processing of black tea. These photos were taken in India during the late 19th century by Colin Murray of the photography studio Bourne & Shepherd.

First, tea leaves are plucked from the Camellia sinensis plant. [Assamese Women in Costume, Picking Tea Leaves NAA INV 04423401] The leaves are then withered to reduce water content and rolled to start oxidation. Oxidation is the chemical process where oxygen is absorbed, and the leaves’ oxidation level determines the type of tea it becomes. Black tea is fully oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized, and green and white tea are not oxidized. [Assamese Tea Withering Room NAA INV 04423201] After the leaves for black tea have been fully oxidized, they are dried to remove excess moisture. [Gibbs & Barry's Tea Dryer NAA INV 04424001] Black tea leaves are then sorted by size and graded accordingly. If you've ever heard terms such as Orange Pekoe and Flowery Pekoe, they refer to the grade of black tea. [Assamese Women in Costume, Sorting Tea NAA INV 04423202] Finally, the tea leaves are weighed and packed.[Assamese Men in Costume, Packing and Weighing Tea NAA INV 04424002]

-Rose Love Chou, Reference Volunteer
National Anthropological Archives

Friday, April 8, 2011

John Moyer in India: Expect the Unexpected

Still frame from John Moyer's Footage of India, ca. 1965
“Hey there, you desk bound nine-to-fiver! Are you really an adventurer at heart? Would you gladly give up your two week vacation at Lake Wach-a-ma-callit for a rigorous but exciting three month trip to India?” The Smithsonian’s Human Studies Film Archives cannot send you to India, but you can certainly enjoy the beauty of the country through our footage from John Moyer’s India and Her People lecture series.

Moyer was the U.S. consul in Calcutta from 1951 to 1955 and had filmmaking experience going back to the late 1930s. In 1965 he decided to return to India to record motion picture footage for what would become a touring lecture series. The Human Studies Film Archives now holds the original 16mm footage he used in these tours, showing a fascinating and surprisingly well shot look at the country.

Brochure for "India and Her People"

During Moyer’s return to India he “filmed at Porbundar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi; at Udaipur, the Venice of India; at Jaipur, the 'pink city'; at Chandigarh, the modern city built by the famous French architect, Le Corbusier.” All of this footage is silent, since Moyer would have projected it while lecturing to the audience live during his touring series. Moyer’s films show more of an emphasis on the people of India than the places, though, with highlights on cultural traditions such as regional dances.

John Moyer with film camera
Still frame from John Moyer's Footage of India, ca. 1965
The most famous person in Moyer’s footage is undoubtedly the Dalai Lama, who had started his exile in India six years earlier. While Moyer was allowed to shoot film outside of the Dalai Lama’s bungalow, he was only allowed to take still photos inside the dwelling during his interview. Moyer inserted these still photographs into the film to give spectators of his lecture tour a feel for the event. Moyer stated in the brochure for the lecture series that, “I explained at the outset that this interview was strictly personal, that I did not represent my government or any other organization. I told him that I would not ask questions about religion or politics since I am no expert in these areas.”

The Dalai Lama will be preparing for and conducting a Kalachakra for World Peace in Washington, DC, USA from July 6 to 16. This blog is the first in a series to highlight HSFA’s holdings on Tibet and Buddhism.

Brian Real
Intern, Human Studies Film Archives

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Scurlock Photography Studio: A Look into Black Washington during the 20th Century

Miss Lewis Johnson's wedding, 1940s
During this semester as an intern at the Archives Center, my primary task is rehousing negatives from the Scurlock Studio Records. These records consist of photographic negatives and prints, and business records. The Scurlock Studio was a family-run photographic business founded by Addison Scurlock. Born in 1883, he started his own business in 1904 at his parents’ home on Florida Avenue, Washington, D.C., and opened his studio on U Street, N.W., in 1911. His sons George and Robert continued the business after his death in 1964 until it closed in 1994.

Representing ninety years of African American history, the collection documents the studio’s operations. Most of the studio’s clients were African Americans who lived in the U Street area, and Shaw and LeDroit Park areas of Northwest Washington D.C. During the past six weeks, three of my fellow interns and I have worked on this vast and wonderful collection. We have specifically handled the numerous black-and-white and color negatives, which we rehouse in acid-free paper enclosures for long-term preservation. We then enter each client name, job and box number into an Excel spreadsheet, which I personally enjoy doing.  Recording Scurlock’s clients on the spreadsheet makes the collection more accessible to researchers.

Major Charles H. Fearing, ca. 1945

The first negatives I rehoused were black-and-white negatives dating from the 1940s and 1950s. The clients’ names are sometimes extremely hard to decipher. Much of the penmanship on the earlier negatives is in cursive and hard to read, so my fellow interns and I would look up the client’s name according to job number and date in the studio’s registries. I have developed an admiration for the different hair and fashion styles of the era. An individual looking at the negative could get a clear idea of the time period by observing styles of clothing and hair. The same thought extends to the color negatives I have handled.  These negatives start around 1960, and at this point we are rehousing negatives from the 1970s. Again, I enjoy looking at the clothes people wore during these decades. I was especially amused by the number of clients who showed off their Afro hairstyles and colorful business suits and dresses.

Scurlock not only served as a photographer of black Washington D.C. but as the official photographer for Howard University. Among the many negatives I have rehoused are images of graduates from its different schools, including the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Engineering and Architecture. I believe Scurlock was on a mission to capture the educated African American in his photographs, demonstrating to the world that blacks are an important part of society. In addition, I have seen negatives depicting the many special occasions that were photographed by the Scurlock Studio, including weddings, debutante balls, and christenings. With respect to planning a wedding, I recall a quote from an individual who knew Scurlock: “If a couple did not hire Scurlock as their photographer, they were not considered married.” This statement exemplifies how the studio evolved into a business that was very much entrenched in D.C.'s
Mrs. Ann Waller and family, 1950
African American community.

In early February, my fellow interns and I walked the U Street Heritage Tour to acquire a sense of the community Scurlock served in his studio. As we walked, we soon came across the actual Studio site, which is now a local sports bar. I noticed that the area still has some of the historic places we have come across, including the Lincoln Theatre and Lincoln Colonnade. The Lincoln Theatre served as U Street’s first movie house and hosted vaudeville acts. The Colonnade served as a public hall for social gatherings and entertainment.  
Dr. G.H. Shumate, ca. 1950
Two other places we saw were the Howard Theater and Howard University, which also provide a good representation of the African American history embedded in the community. Over the weeks of handling the collection, I can conclude that the Scurlock Studio Records reflects on the
accomplishments and affluence of D.C.’s African American community. The affluence is shown
by the variety of clientele the Scurlocks photographed, including physicians, lawyers, judges, clergymen, and college graduates. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Samarra 1911: Clashes with Authority led to Sabotage

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): al-Qāṭūn, House XI?, View of Wall with Ornamentation, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Freer|Sackler Archives
April 1911 brought much suffering to Ernst Herzfeld's excavation of Samarra.  To avoid duplication, I will be using excerpts from Thomas Leisten's publication: Excavation of Samarra, Volume 1 Architecture. Final Report of the First Campaign, 1910-1912, Part 1.2 "The Campaign 1910-1912," to chronicle the hardships Herzfeld came up against.  Leisten draws his evidence of the events from several letters and diaries Herzfeld wrote at the time and are now held at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Image to the Right: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): al-Qāṭūn, House XI?, View of Wall with Ornamentation, 1911-1913 [graphic].

"In the first week of April, Herzfeld split his groups of workers to be able to examine three more sites simultaneously.  In a two-day campaign he cleared House XI at Qatun which lay directly west of the modern city on the narrow bank of the Tigris overlooking the river.  The place had previously been burrowed through by hopeful scavengers but Herzfeld, as he expressly states in one of his letters, wanted to prove that he could find ornamented stucco walls even in those areas."

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): al-Qāṭūn, House XIa, Panoramic View Facing Courtyard from Room 1, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Freer|Sackler Archives

Image Above: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): al-Qāṭūn, House XIa, Panoramic View Facing Courtyard from Room 1, 1911-1913 [graphic].

"At the same time, excavation began on a residential complex situated to the west of Sur Isa palace and north of the Great Mosque. Finally, two baths were discovered west of the Great Mosque adjacent to one of the three parallel boulevards that connected the Shari Abi Ahmad with the Great Mosque.  Activity at all three sites ended between April 9 and 11. Herzfeld spent the third week of April documenting the results of the excavations in the Great Mosque and registering small finds."

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): West of Ṣūr Īṣā, House XIII, View of Room 11, West Wing, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Freer|Sackler Archives.
"During the first phase of the excavation, Herzfeld faced numerous obstacles from a quite unexpected quarter.  The first clashes with the local authorities occurred when Jemil Effendi, a lieutenant, and deputy of the police detail in Samarra, suddenly denied Herzfeld's team access to one of the buildings that were still being rebuilt to house the staff. Claiming 'that the time of the isibdad was over now and the time of the Abd il-Hamid had returned,' the officer himself occupied the house.  Complaints at the Qa'immaqam produced no results although Herzfeld was assured that Jemil Effendi was not insane.  In another incident the frescoes of Bath II near the Great Mosque were destroyed by policemen and their friends.  Herzfeld promptly installed three boys in the exaction area to protect the remnants of the paintings, and Jemil Effendi was asked why he had acted so against the excavators and their workers, he maintained the workers had declared themselves to be German subjects - an outright lie, according to Herzfeld."

Image Above: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): West of Ṣūr Īṣā, House XIII, View of Room 11, West Wing, 1911-1913 [graphic].

"The attacks against the German activities at Samarra and the people involved continued. Workers on their way to the excavation-house to get their work booklets stamped were beaten up by police.  Locals rushes to the Great Mosque and started to smash its newly excavated pavement to pieces.  When the excavation guard got hold of the two of them he was pelted with stones and manhandled, again by police.  Only when Herzfeld arrived on the scene was the poor man saved from suffering more serious injuries.  Gaining more and more attention from the populace while his superiors did nothing, Jemil Effendi finally boasted that he would make an end of the excavations and drag Herzfeld out of the area in chains.  The situation became threatening when, after being brainwashed by the police commissioner, the workers testified that Herzfeld had talked them into believing they were German subjects.  Other accusations said that he had beaten a policeman, and that the representative to the German expedition had insulted the Qa'immanqam."

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Inside View of the Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil, 1911-1913 [graphic]. Freer|Sackler Archives.

Image Above: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Inside View of the Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil, 1911-1913 [graphic].

"Herzfeld finally stopped the excavation and attempted to contact Friedrich Sarre, the German vice-consul, and the Ottoman authorities in Baghdad via telegraph to resolve the continuing a problems in Samarra.  Looking for a scribe to render his letter into Turkish he learned that, for fear of the Qa'immaqam, nobody was willing to help him.  The telegraphist simply declared the perfectly calligraphed telegrams unreadable. This left Herzfeld with the option of sending somebody to Baghdad to dispatch his several letters of complaint. He himself stayed at the site in order to be able to finish the work and leave the modern city of Samarra as quickly as possible, refilling the areas that had already been dug, and registering and packing up finds."

"Unfortunately the messenger he sent to Baghdad by steamer with the letters and telegrams had to return to Samarra because the Tigris had flooded and was not navigable.  Herzfeld, now almost in despair, decided to go by himself. He left Samarra on April 24th and met with Hesse, Bedri Bey, the representative of the Imperial Ottoman Museums, and representatives of the Wali to demand protection for the excavation Cables were sent to Constantinople.  The German ambassador advised Herzfeld to ask the Wali to remove the Qa'immaqam from his post. A committee of inquiry was formed in Baghdad to investigate the incidents and Herzfeld returned with this committee to Samarra. After two weeks of investigation it became clear that, besides the Qa'immaqam, two more highly ranked officials, the Ra's al-baladiyya and the head of the Municipal Council, had been involved in sabotage against the excavation.  But the only one who finally lost his job turned out to be the representative of the Imperial Museums to the expedition, Salah al-Din Effendi."

"The demands of the harvest season and the more troubling conflicts between Herzfeld and the authorities in Samarra had left the excavation with only a handful of workers still willing to work for the Germans."

To See Previous Samarra Posts:
Samarra 1911: Excavation of the Great Mosque Finishes, al-Quraina Begins
100th Anniversary of the Samarra Excavation by Ernst Herzfeld

And don't forget to use the Samarra Resource page.

The Freer|Sackler Archives will see you again mid-May, as Herzfeld and his team are finally able to get back to work!

Rachael Cristine Woody

Freer|Sackler Archives