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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

California: A Modern Eden

The famous Adeline Kent sculpture in the 
middle of the pool at El Novillero, 
Sonoma, California. 
Photographer: Marion Bottomley, 1994.
To me, postwar California conjures up images of verdant orange groves, movie stars, swimming pools, and barbecues on the patio.  Many men and women who served in World War II passed through California on their way to deployments in the Pacific Theater, and after the war California was booming in both business and housing starts. Suddenly returning to snow in Ohio may not have seemed so appealing to young families in search of the good life. As Americans turned away from the bungalow and the front porch and embraced the ranch house, they looked to private gardens and backyards as retreats for family leisure and entertaining. Relaxation seemed hard-won after war and shelter magazines responded to the demand with articles about the California way of life and advertisements for everything from aluminum patio furniture to tiki torches. 

Soon the people back home in Ohio and the eastern part of the country were living as if they, too, were in California. The outdoor lifestyle was cultivated much earlier in twentieth-century California--lanais, ranch houses, and swimming pools had been popular since the 1930s if not before--but it was not until the confluence of postwar prosperity and widespread acceptance of modern design that outdoor living truly took off on a national level. 

View of the kidney-shaped pool looking towards the San Francisco Bay at El Novillero. 
Photographer: Marion Bottomley, 1994.

Two of my favorite mid-century gardens in Archives of American Gardens (AAG) are located in California. The Donnell Garden is an icon of modern design. Along with George Rockrise and Lawrence Halprin, landscape architect Thomas Church designed the garden in 1948 for the Donnell family in Sonoma. For over sixty years the family has enjoyed and preserved the garden; the pool house walls are still clad in the original mid-century wallpaper, and the garden plan has remained true to Church’s design. The focal point of the garden is the famous swimming pool surrounding an abstract sculpture by Adeline Kent. The pool, writes historian Wade Graham, “was the amoeba that launched tens of thousands of kidney pools.” Sprawling lawns, curving pathways, oak trees, and a patio complete the picture of a landscape for true outdoor living.

A modern, Japanese-inspired garden surrounds 
the tea house at Shangri-La in Carmel, California. 
Photographers: John and Mary Alice Roche, circa 1960.
Shangri-La, a less-known modern California garden,  with a different vision of relaxation, was photographed by John and Mary Alice Roche and is part of the Roche Collection at the AAG. We know little about the garden itself, except that was designed by George Hoy and an associate by the name of Solomone (most likely Joseph Solomone, a Monterey-area nurseryman). The cement patio adjacent to the teahouse echoes the sinuous curves of the Donnell pool. Designed by architect Walter Burde of the architectural firm Burde, Shaw, & Kearns in the mid- to late-1950s, the tea house was constructed to be a retreat for owner Dana Rood, Jr. 

View of the gate to the Shangri-La garden. Designed by George 
Hoy, the entrance is planted with Pfitzer junipers pruned in a 
pompon style planted in a bed of crushed stone. 
Photographers: John and Mary Alice Roche, circa 1960.
With views of the Carmel River and the rolling landscape, Rood could entertain friends in a peaceful manner. Shoji-style screen windows provided views of the Japanese-inspired garden design. According to one article about the tea house, Rood banned radio, television, and telephones from his quiet retreat. Hoy also designed another garden with Japanese elements for the famous actress Jean Arthur. Both El Novillero and Shangri-La take full advantage of the “borrowed” scenery of California mountains and water to create private, relaxing gardens.

Search for more images of California and mid-century gardens in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System, SIRIS

-Kate Fox

Kate Fox is a guest blogger who is currently working on an upcoming SITES exhibition for the Archives of American Gardens at Smithsonian Gardens

Monday, June 25, 2012

Remembering Freedom Summer

Shahn's screenprint from playbill for In White America
Forty-eight years ago this month Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were murdered in the dead of a June night near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

On June 21, 1964 the three young men, who had joined the Freedom Summer campaign to register as many African Americans voters as possible in Mississippi, were arrested for allegedly driving over the speed limit and were held at the county jail until nightfall. While driving away from town after their release, they were accosted by county police and delivered into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. A lynch mob took them into the woods, beat Chaney, shot the others, killing all three men, and buried them in an earthen dam.

While preparing the papers of artist Ben Shahn for digitization, I came across several reproductions of screenprints that Shahn had made of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner in 1965. Later, a letter in a folder labeled “Miscellaneous-G” caught my eye. Dated June 1965, it was written to Shahn by Andrew Goodman’s mother, Carolyn. Shahn had sent her a print of the drawing of “Andy” and inscribed it with a line from the Stephen Spender poem, “I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great.” Goodman felt that the words in the poem’s last stanza so aptly expressed the meaning of her son’s life, that they should be used for his epitaph.

Goodman's letter to Shahn, Ben Shahn papers.
It was over forty years before a Mississippi jury convicted ringleader Edgar Ray Killen of manslaughter in the murders of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. Carolyn Goodman was alive to witness Killen’s conviction in 2005, but I wonder at the anguish she must have felt in waiting so long for justice.

Yet this letter, written less than a year after her son’s death, transcends the horrendous act of violence that ended his short life. In the face of unimaginable pain, her words are a testament to the resilience and generosity of the human spirit—and a reminder that through such strength and grace the cycle of hatred can be broken.

For more on the civil rights movement in the Smithsonian collections, click here.

Stephanie Ashley is a processing archivist at the Archives of American Art. This post was originally published on the Archives of American Art blog in June, 2011.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summertime: Artists Outdoors

As is bound to happen when researching an artwork for our photo archives, I managed to veer off topic and stumbled upon a series of photographs in the Juley Collection that depict summer art classes at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, MA. While many of the Juley photographs that feature studios and art schools are based in the New York area, photographers Peter and Paul Juley would also document art and artists in other parts of the country as well as those on summer retreats. The artist colonies at Woodstock and Taos were popular destinations, as were the summer art schools in New England and Maine.

Henry Hensche teaching at the Cape Cod School of Art, 1935
The Cape Cod School of Art (pictured above) was founded by Charles Webster Hawthorne in 1898 and was inspired by the Impressionist concept of painting en plein air. It’s also noted as being the first American art school to teach outdoor figure painting. After the school's opening, Provincetown became a well known artist colony; the school is still in operation today, holding summer sessions every year.

Other photographs that I found are of Robert Brackman’s class taught Noank, CT, and classes held at the Ogunquit School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

Reminded of the arrival of the first official day of summer this week, I really enjoyed discovering these
images and many others in our photo archives
that feature artists enjoying the great outdoors.

Sneak Peek From The Stacks: The Check That Started A Museum Collection

Studio portrait of the family of George Gustav Heye. From left:
Marie Antoinette Lawrence Heye (sister), Carl (or Charles)
Friederich (or Frederick) Gustav (or Gustavus) Heye (father),
and Marie Antoinette (Nettie) Lawrnce Heye (mother),
ca. 1880. NMAI, P37561.

In honor of father’s day, this week’s sneak peek into the stack highlights the relationship between George Gustav Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation, and his father Charles Gustav Heye.  Were it not for Heye senior, and his generous allowance to his son (detailed in the letter below), George Heye may never have had the means to purchase many of the items that eventually became the foundational collection at National Museum of the American Indian.

Letter (page 1) from Charles Frederick Gustav Heye
to his son, George Gustav Heye, on his 16th
birthday in 1885; MAI/Heye Foundation Collection, 
Box 2, Folder 14 

September 16th, 1895
My dear Son,
 This being the day when you become of age, it is but natural that you should desire to become more independent, and wish to attend to matters yourself, which so far have been looked after for you by parents. To place you in a position to do so, I am quite willing to grant your request, to make you an annual allowance, subject however to the proviso herafter stated. For this purpose I shall keep especially invested a sum of not less than $25,000 and pay you as income thereof not less than $1250 a year, in equal monthly installments. Out of this allowance you are to clothe yourself properly and suitably and are to pay for all your other personal expenses, except for board, lodging, washing, while you live with us, and expenses, while at College. The allowance to be continued until you reach your 25th year when securities of a market value of not less than $25000 shall be turned over to you and become your personal property, with the distinct proviso however that you do not become engaged or married contrary to our wishes and without our consent before reaching your 25th year, or commit any act disgracing your family. In case you disregard the above proviso, then the allowance shall cease and you shall not receive the securities.
 I am sure you will feel convinced that we are only activated [?] by the desire to do for your welfare what in our judgement is best and trust that you will do your utmost to make us happy and proud of you.
Your loving father,

Letter (page 2) from Charles Frederick Gustav Heye
to his son, George Gustav Heye, on his 16th
birthday in 1885; MAI/Heye Foundation Collection, 
Box 2, Folder 14 
~Rachel Menyuk, NMAI Archive Center

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Folkways Roadtrippin': Dispatches from the Field

What do you write when you send word home when traveling?  Do you describe that memorable meal you had after aimlessly wandering some extremely quaint city street? Do you mention the beautiful view from where you're sitting (which could involve a veranda with a breeze or a boulder in the middle of a canyon)?  Or do you spin an epic tale of your hunt for a bird call? Whatever story you choose to commit to paper (or screen), you're trying to send a bit of this other place to those who haven't seen it.

Folkways Records, the label founded by Moses Asch in 1947, issued many albums that evoke a lush sense of place. Perhaps because so many of them were recorded "in the field," by anthropologists, scientists, or people who just loved recording. Asch released albums that transported listeners all over the globe, from the American Southwest to London to a South African homestead.

Some of Asch's most prolific correspondence was with the people who recorded these albums. The Asch Collection is brimming with travel stories, each box containing postcards and airmail from a seemingly endless list of cities and towns and places far away from either. Field recorders climb mountains and brave long, empty stretches of road in search of music and nature sounds to send back to "Mr. Asch." The letters detail their struggles with weather, noise pollution, and unreliable tape recorders, as well as their excitement in capturing unique acoustics.

Since yesterday was the summer solstice--the sun's way of telling those of us in the Northern Hemisphere that it's time to leave the comforts of home and drive down a road somewhere--I've selected some "road trip" letters that provide a particularly interesting perspective on the process of field recording. These materials were scanned as a part of our ongoing Save America's Treasures grant-funded digitization project for the Moses and Frances Asch Collection. [click images to view larger display]

Charles Bogert recorded all around the American Southwest as well as Mexico. I love the images of animals hiding from the wind, and that the forecast for rain brings with it the promise of a rich array of wild activity. In the second postcard, Bogert expresses relief that the area where he was recording bird calls was "amazingly free of calves bawling, cars, planes, or other human noises." Someone send me to the White Mountains!

David Barry braved a blizzard in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho to record "conies, marmots, and an eagle." His tape recorder came away from the ordeal with some battle scars, and no animal sounds to show for it--apparently, wildlife is not so wild when it comes to inclement weather.

While I hope you don't wake up lost in any snowstorms in the near future, I do wish you adventure this summer-- and be sure to write!

-Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Friday, June 15, 2012

Countdown to the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

Visitors at the 2002 Folklife Festival (Photo by Jeff Tinsley, from Flickr)
The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival is one of Washington D.C.'s favorite attractions during late June and early July. This year the Festival runs from June 27-July 1 and July 4-8, 2012 on the National Mall between the Smithsonian Museums. The three themes for the Festival include Campus and Community (on public and land-grant universities and the 150th anniversary of the United States Department of Agriculture), Citified (about arts and creativity east of the Anacostia River in Far Southeast D.C.), and Creativity and Crisis (on the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt).

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has been collaborating with the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to make programs from past years' Festivals available online.You can browse programs dating back to 1968 from records on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.

What are some of your favorite memories from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival? We hope to see you at this year's Festival!

Diane Shaw
Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sneak Peek from the Stacks: John Philip Sousa and the Cherokee Songs

Manuscript 2283 Transcription of two Cherokee songs by John Philip Sousa  
John Philip Sousa, nicknamed the "March King," is best known for composing "Semper Fidelis," "Washington Post," and "Stars and Stripes Forever." In 1890, he lent his services to Smithsonian anthropologist James Mooney by transcribing two Cherokee songs traditionally performed during the Cherokee ball play dance. Sousa's musical notations were published that year in Mooney's article, "The Cherokee Ball Play" (American Anthropologist 3(2): 105 - 132).  

Listen to the melody, sung by Andrew J. Sikora in 2008.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Many Jobs of Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry by T. W. Smillie, 1873,
SIA, SIA2009-1254
Joseph Henry, the first Smithsonian Secretary, served on many committees as one of America’s leading scientist during his lifetime. Among some of the more interesting committees Henry served on was a committee tasked with the challenge of preventing the counterfeiting of the national currency in 1863. A problem since the release of coinage and paper money, counterfeiting became even more of an issue for the United States Treasury Department during the Civil War. The commission investigated ways to prevent counterfeiting, and by 1865 was officially appointed the Committee on Prevention of Counterfeiting.

This interesting factoid is just one of the many stories that can be learned on the Smithsonian Institution Archives‘(SIA) new web resource exploring the life, science, and Smithsonian career of the Institution’s first Secretary, Joseph Henry.  One of the main goals of the new Henry pages was to make original collection materials more accessible for our researchers. SIA staff, interns and volunteers scanned and catalogued over 1300 documents, letters, and photographs relating to the first Secretary and the early years of the Institution. The new pages help highlight these wonderful collection materials in a new way. In order to provide researchers with the ability to feel like that they had the documents physically in front of them, we chose to display the letters and documents in a dynamic viewer. The viewers, constructed by the wonderful staff who manage the SIRIS database and Collections Search Center, allow researchers to zoom in and out and move from one page to the next with ease. Additionally, the pages, highlight the various Henry materials in other archives and libraries around the Institution.

So from counterfeiting, to electromagnets and the founding of the Smithsonian, check out all of the great resources that can help you write a paper or look even smarter at your next dinner party.