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Friday, March 30, 2012


Inventors draw and sketch as part of their “process” of working out an idea. Drawing moves the idea from the inventor’s mind to the paper, making it seem more possible. Sketches and drawings also convince.  They convince us to imagine what something will look like, or how it might work before actually building or manufacturing it. The pencil sketch here represents the “process of working it out” at its very best.  Drawn by Joseph Friedman (1915-1982), this sketch from the 1930s is the first record of Friedman working out his “flexible straw”  idea. These pencil lines were drawn quickly on the reverse side of a scrap of paper, but with purpose-- to show that he wanted his straw to flex or bend.  The sketch is whimsical too, and at quick glance reminds me of a flower wilting in a vase.  Friedman eventually patented his flexible straw work (U.S. Patent #2,094,268) which was called a Drinking Tube, on September 28, 1937. 

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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Will Digital Data be Around as Long as Fragile Bark Cloth Collected in 1838?

Archives are no longer passive receivers of materials.  In this “born digital” world, archives can be collaborators in creating digital documentation that almost immediately becomes of archival concern because without an intentional effort to maintain the material over the long-term, it will be lost.

Currently, the Collections and Archives Program, Department of Anthropology, is engaged in a Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation funded project to stabilize and make accessible fragile and damaged bark cloths (tapas) from the South Pacific collected by the 1838 U.S. ExploringExpedition under Charles Wilkes.  As part of this conservation project two Hawaiian community scholars, both contemporary bark cloth makers, have joined the conservation team to share their indigenous knowledge of what the bark cloth designs mean, the techniques by which they were produced and the meaning/value of museum objects to contemporary communities.  This, in addition to the techniques used to conserve these one-of a kind artifacts from Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti and Samoa, is being documented with digital video.

Moana K.M. Eisele, a Hawaiian community scholar, is using a traditional tool,
i'e kuku, to beat bast fiber from the inner bark of the māmaki, a small Hawaiian tree,
as research into long forgotten techniques to create Hawaiian capa (bark cloth)

Because, really, we do not yet know the full meaning of archiving “born digital” over the long-term (and here I mean just 10 years rather than the 100 years of long-term care for film) we are striving to organize the materials as much as possible through metadata created at the time of recording and, then, metadata that will be associated with the digital moving images when they are ingested into the Smithsonian DAMS (data asset management system).  To this end, we are drafting best practices for moving image and audio data collection, tagging and archiving.  Of course, other museum researchers who are creating digital content are tackling the same issues and may have already established their own protocols—and learned some valuable lessons--for minimal and ideal metadata for digital scientific and museum moving image and audio data.  Certainly, this is the time to share our efforts and engage in a community discussion so that we are not all re-inventing the wheel, as it were.  Please feel free to post a comment or contact us at

For those of you who are now curious to know more about bark cloth 
and the Wilkes expedition please continue to read:

Bark cloth was traditionally made and used for a variety of purposes in many Pacific cultures,
most notably in ceremonies and rituals.  Both the material available (various plants such as the paper mulberry, breadfruit, and banyan) and the mode of production varied from region to region.  The Smithsonian’s collection of bark cloth is large, with important and unique pieces from the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), the U.S.’s first international scientific survey.  The squadron of ships, under Captain Charles Wilkes, circumnavigated the globe, surveyed and charted nearly 300 islands of the Pacific, mapped 800 miles of the coast of Oregon, and confirmed the existence of Antarctica as a continent. The thousands of ethnological objects and botanical and zoological specimens were brought back to the U.S. by the Expedition’s team of scientists and are among the founding collections of the Smithsonian.

Existing archival records are also data that can support object collections. In the case of bark cloth, the Human Studies Film Archives has a 1985 film, Visiting Samoa, made by ethnomusicologist Laura Boulton that includes a ceremonial presentation of bark cloth and a demonstration of how bark cloth is made and decorated.

Pamela Wintle
Human Studies Film Archives

Sneak Peek from the Stacks

At the inauguration of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory, this first group of scientists and guests visit the nature preserve and biological laboratory established on Barro Colorado Island. SIA.

Eighty-eight years ago today Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory opened in Panama as the Institute for Research in Tropical America. The laboratory, run by a group of private foundations and universities under the auspices of the National Research Council, sought to investigate the tropical flora and fauna of the Americas. More than thirty scientists from the United States took the arduous journey to the laboratory in its first year of operation. In 1946, the Canal Zone Biological Area was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution and renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 1966. Today, the Institute’s research is conducted throughout the Isthmus of Panama, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Our long history in Panama has helped us amass wonderful photos, oral histories and paper collections. Peek inside the stacks and see what we have!

The People of India - Deena and his Nephew Husseini

The People of India series was researched and written by School Without Walls student, Cal Berer.   Cal was an intern at the Freer|Sackler Archives from January 2011-June 20011 where he was then sponsored by the State Department to learn Hindi while spending the summer in India.

Deena and his Nephew Husseini
    Of all the stereotypical occupations in 19th century India, Deena and Husseini surely occupied one of the most well known.  They were snake charmers.  At that time, bands of wandering charmers would form makeshift tribes, and move throughout the subcontinent, “going from place to place during the hot and cold months of the year, and remaining in one spot during the rainy season.”  The tribe Deena and Husseini belonged to was Sunni Muslim, and, after Mecca and Medina, they believed the most important place in the world was Mukunpore, in Kanpur, the burial site of a venerable Fakir named Madar Shah.  Shah was said to have lived for 596 years, and each year there is an enormous festival around his tomb, celebrating his life and deeds.  Pilgrims from all around the world visit to pay their respects to the deceased saint.  When they weren’t praying, Deena, Husseini, and the rest of their fellows would perform on the street, handling, charming, catching, and taming snakes, as well as juggling, dancing, and singing.  These and most other snake charmers were considered “great liars”, and shunned by their fellow Muslims, both for the meanness of their profession and because the ritual of snake charming has its precedent in aboriginal snake worship, an practice considered heathenous by devout Muslims.  Despite their ostracism from the rest of society, Indian literature and folklore is replete with stories of snake charmers, and, according to POI, “interesting anecdotes of the astonishing feats of these snake charmers will be found in nearly every narrative of travels in India."

To see all text and images of the Deena and his Nephew Husseini as they are represented in the People of India, go to our catalog in the Collections Search Center

The People of India series will be published once a month highlighting the various tribes as they're covered in the People of India. 

Cal Berer, Intern

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Tell him I was flyin'"

Odetta, "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement," performs at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, February 16, 1958.
Photograph by Robert C. Malone.

Odetta (1930-2008) was one of the most iconic voices of both the civil rights movement and the folk revival of the 1960s, performing at the 1963 March on Washington and influencing the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. However, she was not always a folk singer--she was classically trained throughout her teenage years to be a concert singer, but realized that the vicious discrimination at the time would never allow her to follow her dreams to the Met. Drawn to the musicality, historical roots and social commentary folk music provided, she made a home for herself there, becoming one of the revival's most prolific and inspiring leaders. A self-described "Musical Historian," many of the songs she sang were long-forgotten until she unearthed them herself at the Library of Congress.

The Robert C. Malone Photographs document the performances of folk singers. The collection dates from 1957 to circa 1961. Photographic materials include 16 rolls of negatives, contact sheets made from the negatives, and 14 prints. Additional photographs from the collection are available for viewing here.

-Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Modern Comes to International Flower Show

Traditionally held during the week of the first day of spring, The International Flower Show in New York City was a huge draw for many years. 1971 marked the last year for this giant flower show; now the annual Philadelphia International Flower Show is the largest event of its kind in the United States.

The flower arrangement for the "California Modern" room that won Mrs. Even Graves first place at the 1946 International Flower Show. F.W. Cassebeer, photographer.(NY208301)
The Garden Club of America Collection at the Archives of American Gardens includes a selection of hand-painted glass lantern slides of exhibition displays that were showcased in the International Flower Show from the 1940s and 1950s.  I always thought the brightly-colored glass lantern slides of the floral arrangements were so strikingly strange, and set out to find out more about them. Most of the inside “garden rooms” created as displays for the exhibition were in the traditional Colonial Revival vein, but a few stood out as being distinctly modern. Some of the more abstract flower arrangements look like tropical flora from another planet (you can read more about science fiction flowers here).

In 1946, a reporter for the Gardeners’ Chronicle of America described the annual International Flower Show as “a wonderland of gardens, floral arrangements, rare and familiar blooms, garden furniture, outdoor living rooms, tools and equipment.” Four floors were dedicated to changing displays of trees, flowers, and garden furniture by landscape architects, craftsmen, garden clubs, and hobbyists. Despite wartime restrictions on building materials and the fact that European flower stock was virtually unavailable due to the war, the exhibition was immensely popular with the public--a bright spot for dark days.  The chairman of the 1946 show remarked that attendance “broke all records.” 

An exhibit entitled “Four Centuries of Furniture with Flowers” displayed modern and antique period rooms paired with floral arrangements. Each day featured a different color scheme, and the accessories and flowers would be swapped out to match. The furniture was lent by private collectors and museums, including an original Duncan Phyfe card table. Representing the twentieth century was a modern California interior. The first place winner of the modern floral arrangements was Mrs. Even Graves of Fairfield, Connecticut, for her stark display of Calla lilies with Strelitzia and dracaena leaves against a white wall. 

--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, March 19, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

A:shiwi (Zuni) Waffle Garden, 1919 (P11433)

Spring has certainly sprung in the Washington, DC region over the past week, which brings with it the excitement of longer days of sunshine, the arrival of beautiful blooming flowers and trees, and, after being couped up for so long, the desire to begin work in our yards and gardens for the growing season. The above image shows a group working in a fenced-in waffle garden in Zuni Pueblo in 1919. The waffle gardens, which are divided into sunken depressions like a waffle iron,  were utilized to capture and maintain as much moisture as possible and to help maintain warm temperatures during cold night-time temperatures. The image provides a glimpse into the daily activities of Zuni people working together and the preparations taken to prepare and cultivate their gardens for their community. This image was captured by Jesse L. Nusbaum, who was employed by the Museum of the American Indian from 1919-1921 and participated in the Hendricks-Hodge Hawikku expedition (1917-1923) to explore and excavate the historic Zuni village.  As you embark on this spring season, enjoy the extended sunshine, blossoming trees, and quality time outside in your yard and garden.

~Jennifer R. O'Neal, NMAI Archive Center 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Artists and Models

Francis Vandeveer Kughler in his studio with a model standing beside "Charles II and the Lord Proprieters", 1960, J0001771

I recently came across the above Peter A. Juley & Son photograph which made me do a double take. At first glance I thought the photo depicted artist Francis Vandeveer Kughler in his studio standing next to one of his paintings. After looking over the photograph and catalog record more closely, I realized that there is also a model (dressed as a Lord Proprietor) standing between Kughler and the painting. Something about the lighting of the photograph (and my vivid imagination) reminds me of what might have been (or should have been) a Twilight Zone episode where a painting comes to life.

Fun to imagine for a moment... okay, back to reality.

Since I love these types of behind the scenes photographs, I did a keyword search in SIRIS for similar Juley images and came up with these other wonderful photos of artists and their models or sitters.

Molly Guion in her studio at work on "Pearly Queen"
Paul Trebilcock with sitter Oscar Tschirky

Selma Burke at work in her studio with sitter   
Sergei Konenkov in his studio with sitter

Want to see more?  Check out more artist and model/sitter photos here.

Emily Moazami, Photograph Archives, Research & Scholars Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Saga of Andrew Carnegie's Tiffany Memorial Window (1913), or, Does an Art Nouveau Landscape Belong in a Medieval Scottish Abbey?

The Carnegie window, in the 1913 Tiffany catalog
Andrew Carnegie, the Scots immigrant to the United States who became an extremely wealthy and powerful industrialist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a man who could certainly recognize and afford products of the best quality, made to his most exacting standards. Therefore, it is not surprising that when Mr. Carnegie decided to have a stained glass window created in memory of his family, to be installed in the abbey church in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, he commissioned the renowned New York City firm of Tiffany Studios to do the job.

The memorial window, an exquisite landscape scene with trees, hills, and flowering rhododendrons depicted in the brilliantly iridescent, colored Favrile glass patented by Tiffany in 1880, was probably designed either by Agnes Northrup, the principal designer of landscape and floral windows for Tiffany Studios, or perhaps by the visionary founder of the firm himself, master craftsman Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Carnegie’s window, shaped for a long, narrow opening topped by a rounded arch, is featured in a printed catalog that was published in 1913 as an advertisement for Tiffany’s Ecclesiastical Department: Memorials in Glass and Stone: Tiffany Favrile Glass, Tiffany Windows, Tiffany Mosaics, Tiffany Monuments, Tiffany Granite. The landscape window, designed in the fashionable Art Nouveau style, was to be accompanied by a Tiffany Favrile glass mosaic panel, bearing the following inscription:

In loving memory of Father, Mother, Sister and Brother
born in Dunfermline
erected by the sole survivor
Andrew Carnegie
and his wife

The family members whom Andrew Carnegie wished to honor included his mother Margaret (died 1886), his father Will (died 1855), his brother Thomas (died 1886), and his sister Anne, who died in early childhood before the rest of the family immigrated from Dunfermline to the United States in 1848. Andrew Carnegie, who postponed marrying until the age of 51 apparently out of deference to his late mother, took Louise Whitfield to be his wife in 1887.

It must have been quite a feat to create this large and exceedingly fragile stained glass window in New York, transport it by ship across the Atlantic to Dunfermline, and install it in the medieval Abbey, parts of which date back to the 11th century. A letter now in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s library, handwritten on Tiffany Studios stationery, dated April 11, 1913, from Harold Harrisson to Carnegie, notes, “Your window is progressing rapidly and we expect to have the same completed and set up in our show room about the middle of May. If you are in the city at that time, I trust I may have the pleasure of meeting you here, if you desire to inspect it before it is shipped.”

Page one of Harrisson's letter

Page two of Harrisson's letter

Nevertheless, Carnegie’s plan to have the Tiffany memorial window installed at the Abbey was blocked by the Dean of Dumfermline Abbey and His Majesty’s Commission for Ancient Monuments, on the grounds that it was "unecclesiastical and too modern,” as described in the British newspaper, the Independent (volume 77, page 9, January 5, 1914). While Carnegie apparently believed that the beautiful landscape depicted in the window expressed the glories of God with a sense of religious emotion, the administrators of the Abbey complained that the window was “an anachronism and inharmonious with the rest of the edifice.”

Carnegie’s exquisite Favrile glass window became something of an embarrassment to the city of Dunfermline, where it was kept packed away in a cellar until 1937. In that year, it was installed in an auditorium in Dunfermline's newly built Carnegie Hall. However, a translucent window, even one as gorgeous as Carnegie’s, was considered a nuisance in the auditorium because most theatrical productions wanted to be able to manipulate artificial lighting for the stage, and the window was covered over in the 1970s and left to deteriorate.

Added title page for the 1913 Tiffany catalog
The residents and friends of Dunfermline developed a renewed appreciation for the window in the 1980s and raised funds to have it moved to a display case in a restaurant located within the Carnegie Hall. However, by that time, the window was judged to be in need of major restoration work costing tens of thousands of dollars. In September, 2007, the City of Dunfermline Area Committee of the Fife Council outlined three options for the future of the window, including returning it to a display in the Carnegie Hall, moving it into a new Dunfermline Museum at that time under construction, or transferring it to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust. Finally, after the restoration of the window was completed in 2008, it went on display at the headquarters of the Trust, where it can be viewed by the public upon request.

This copy of the 1913 Tiffany catalog featuring the Carnegie family memorial window, and the letter to Carnegie from Tiffany Studios employee Harold Harrisson, are now part of the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum library, located in a newly renovated townhouse adjacent to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Andrew Carnegie's former home) at 2 East 91st Street, New York, New York. These items were formerly owned by the Museum of the City of New York and were transferred by deed of gift to the Cooper-Hewitt in 2011.

Tiffany Studios (New York, NY). Memorials in Glass and Stone. (New York: Tiffany Studios, 1913) NK5198.T5 A4 1913 CHMRB

Harold Harrisson letter to Andrew Carnegie, New York, N.Y., 1913 April 11. NK5198.T5 A4 1913b CHMRB

--Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eliza Scidmore's Cherry Trees

Photo lot 139, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

We’ve reached the month of March, and this means it’s almost time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival here in Washington, DC.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the nation's capital.  The first two trees were planted on March 27, 1912 and would never have happened without the persistence of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore.
DOE Asia: Japan: General: NM 31224 04633300

Eliza was an extensive traveler in addition to being a journalist, photographer, and geographer.  Beginning in the 1880s, she lived for long periods of time in southern and eastern Asia, particularly in China, India, Japan, and the Philippines.  She is credited with having the idea in 1885 of planting cherry trees in Washington, DC, though the idea did not gain much support until 1909.

The National Anthropological Archives has hundreds of photographs taken by Eliza.  One collection consists of lantern slides, many of which were collected by Eliza, and negatives that were most likely taken by her.  The lantern slides are of China, Japan, and South America, and all of the negatives are of Japan.  Her other photographs are dispersed in different collections and include photographs of China, Macao, and Indonesia from 1896.

--Rose L. Chou, Reference Archivist
National Anthropological Archives

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hawaii's Cowboys

The Human Studies Film Archives is one of the Smithsonian’s most significant collections for the Institution’s Valuing World Cultures grand challenge. This ‘challenge’ is a call to action as one of four overarching priorities set by the Smithsonian to guide its work.  As we at the HSFA strive to do our work  preserving and providing access to film and video that documents the global diversity of cultural expression  we come up against a different kind of challenge:  that of “discoverability.” It is no longer sufficient for archives to prepare and make available collections but, rather, they must now actively promote these collections.  The web, a revolutionary — and unanticipated tool — for archival access, has changed how archives must perceive themselves.  And, there is now so much information on the web, how does an archives become visible to potential users? 

From our limited experience in using these new tools to promote HSFA’s collections, we have learned that effective and efficient use of media-sharing sites and social media is not only necessary for discoverability but that it could also be an advocacy tool for sustainability of archives and cultural heritage collections.  Throughout this year we will experiment with discoverability and the archives.  Being novices we invite others — both novices and voices of experience — to share their thoughts and experiences with both effective and disappointing efforts in discoverability.  Now the first story in this series:

Serving on my ninth jury trial in Washington DC this past November I learned that one of my fellow jurors grew up in Hawaii.  Always taking every opening as an opportunity to promote the HSFA, I mentioned that we had footage of “Hawaiian cowboys.”  He enthusiastically responded that they must be the Paniolo cowboys of the Parker ranch on the Big Island.  Suddenly we both had discovered something!  Effective promotion, maybe, but not efficient. 

It just so happens that this footage is some of our favorite and is part of a longer intriguing amateur film shot in Hawaii, ca. 1937. There is already a short video clip attached to the SIRIS record, so we decided to post a longer video clip of the Paniolo cowboys on HSFA’s YouTube channel and to upload the entire 20 minute film to the Internet Archive (our first posting to this wide-ranging and fascinating site).  We will announce this news via NMNH’s Twitter account and Facebook page and on NAA and HSFA’s Facebook page.

But, even so, how does a user DISCOVER that this video is online?  Will use statistics during the year provide any clues?  Should we consider additional media-sharing sites such as Vimeo?  Can we link to the Wikipedia entry on Paniolo cowboys?  How do we find and then link to other websites or blogs?   Can we mass together an army of “invisible” volunteers to assist the process of discoverability?  Where and how do we find them?  What are your thoughts?

Short clip of the Paniolo cowboys on SIRIS 

Longer clip of the Paniolo cowboys on YouTube  

Complete film, Charles Boys’ Footage of Hawaii, ca. 1937, on Internet Archive  

The silent color amateur 16mm film was shot by a medical doctor, Charles Boys.  Interestingly there is another amateur film shot in Hawaii in the late 1920s on Internet Archive, but the two films are very different from each other demonstrating that, as is commonly believed, amateur films are not replicas of each other but are, in fact, unique views as individual as their creators. 

We look forward to your comments.