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Monday, October 31, 2016

Farewell to American Archives Month

William J. Rhees, first ‘Keeper of the Archives’ for the Smithsonian Institution in 1892.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2011-1379
As we come to the end of American Archives Month – and our blog-a-thon – we at the Smithsonian Collections blog want to give a big thank you to everyone who has joined us. As we explored the theme of transitions, our posts have looked at how archives look to the future as well as the past and explored how an archive celebrates new beginnings. Posts from interns speak to the future of the profession and how the collections we steward connect us to our own past.  Researchers explored changing community dynamics and transitions in portraiture.  Collections span topics from aerospace to gardens, World War I to scientific field notes, Bob Dylan to indigenous languages.

Explore them all by clicking on the 2016 Archives Month tag!

I hope these posts have given you a glimpse of some of the many meanings transition has to archivists, librarians and museum professionals all around the Smithsonian. As archives across the Smithsonian have grown from their earliest form in 1891 they have seen much transition: from paper to audio, video, and now digital files. Just in the last year, the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives was launched, transforming how finding aids, collections, and digital assets are available to the public. The Smithsonian Transcription Center has had an amazing year and thousands of volunpeers spanning the globe are transforming the research possibilities for hundreds of our collections. These transitions are making Smithsonian collections more accessible and making our mission of the increase and diffusion of knowledge possible every day.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Whatever Follows the Age of the Dinosaurs": Lee Hays, Bob Dylan, and the Folk Revival

Given the theme for this month is transitions, it makes sense to note the ever-morphing artist, and the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan. In a career noted for transitions, Dylan has adeptly moved across musical genres, from protest singer, to rock and roller, and country crooner. With a career spanning 56 years, it’s easy to forget Dylan’s early shift from topical protest music to rock and roll reflected not only a shift in his own artistic expression, but a generational shift that rocked the folk revival scene of the mid-twentieth century.

The generation of artists before Dylan were closely connected with the leftist politics of the 1930s and ‘40s. Groups such as the Almanac Singers saw their work not only as a revival of old time music, but as an instrument for social change. [1] With an amorphous membership that at various times included Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Josh White, Bess Lomax, and Lee Hays, the Almanac Singers performed music that was unabashedly topical and political. Performing at union halls, and leftist meetings, their repertoire included such songs as “Talking Union,” “Which Side Are You On,” and “Union Maid.” While not officially connected to the Communist Party, most of the members were at the very least sympathetic to its concerns, and counted friends among the party. [2] Though Pete Seeger and Lee Hays moved into a more radio friendly direction in the 1950s, forming the Weavers with Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert, these connections would later come to haunt them. Seeger and Hays were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and the group was blacklisted and harassed. While the Weavers work was tame in comparison to the Almanac Singers, with a stronger focus on timeless lyrics and tight harmonies, the political element never left. Songs like “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Which Side are You On,” were still counter-cultural enough to provoke a reaction during the Red Scare.
The Weavers perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, January 13, 1968. Photograph by Robert C. Malone, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives.
One of the main intellectual forces behind the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, was the writer and singer, Lee Hays. The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives is fortunate to house his works and papers, which have recently been digitized and are now available online. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1914 to a Methodist Minister, Hays rejected his father’s faith and politics after reading Upton Sinclair, and experiencing the hardships of the Great Depression. [3] In the 1930s, Hays joined Claude Williams, the leftist radical and preacher, and worked to help organize the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. While working for Williams, Hays discovered that art, and particularly music, could be enlisted in the struggle for social justice, and began to write what he called “zipper songs.” [4] Using hymns familiar to southern sharecroppers, Lee would “zip” in a few union phrases, transforming them into something subversive and powerful. For example, the refrain from “Old Ship of Zion,” a spiritual about the imminent Kingdom of God, was turned by Hays into a song of protest, replacing “old ship” with “union train”: “It’s that union train a-coming—coming—coming; It will carry us to freedom—freedom—.” [5] In the 1940s and ‘50s, Hays would find a home within a music scene which shared his political sensibilities, and his belief in the power of music to affect social change.
Lee Hays and Pete Seeger. Lee Hays Papers, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
As the folk revival exploded in popularity in 1958, with the hit single “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio, a new generation of revival artists had arrived. While some artists affected a “folk” aesthetic, hoping to profit on a new fad, others shared their forebears’ counter-cultural concerns, seeking an authenticity in a post-war boom that seemed only to offer a vacuous consumerism. In 1961, Bob Dylan arrived in New York looking every bit the part of a new Woody Guthrie, with a constructed biography mirroring his idol. Dylan’s first two albums were much a piece with the earlier generation, comprised of folk standards and protest songs. However, by 1965 Dylan was moving in another direction. Dubbed “the voice of a generation,” Dylan was restricted, and unnerved by such heightened expectations. [6] Feeling used and constrained, Dylan was increasingly suspicious of institutions, movements, and parties, with a growing sense of the naiveté surrounding protest music. At the height of the folk revival, in a perceived betrayal of its aims and sensibilities, Dylan debuted at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with an electric set, stunning the crowd into angry taunts and jeers. In a story that that is largely apocryphal, it was said that Pete Seeger was so incensed that he threatened to take an axe to the speaker cables, whether out of protest over the music’s volume or content, will forever be in dispute. [8] Regardless of what actually happened that day, what was clear was that what had been that generation’s best and brightest star, carrying the mantle of Guthrie and Seeger, had become a type of “Judas,” as one concert-goer famously shouted.

Shots of Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Photographs by Diana Davies, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.

Lee Hays’ correspondence offers a fascinating window into this transition, as the older artists attempted to get a handle on this new generation. In an open letter from February 1964, Hays writes:
The question of the day is, what do you think of Bob Dylan? I’d be more sure if I knew what he thinks of himself. There is a lot of cynicism in his songs; but if he contradicts himself, he is entitled to it. There’s a lot of desert ground in many a young artist before you get to the occasional mountain peak. In whatever follows the age of dinosaurs, the ones who give thought to meanings and origins and who sing with respect for the songs will do the most. I am impressed by the songs of Ian and Sylvia for those reasons.
Coming just on the heels of Dylan’s album, The Times They Are a-Changin’, Hays is likely reacting to the more introspective and darker material, though much of his songs remains topical and political. Even before Highway 61’, Dylan’s concerns were already departing from the parent generation, with more introspective and existential themes. [9]

While Dylan may have left the topical protest songs behind, it’s not clear that Hays and Dylan moved apart on a more fundamental level. While Hays hoped for “people’s songs” that would serve as “battle hymns” against “the powers of evil,” he also felt that above all it should be “true.” [10] Moreover, Hays was wary of those who would see folk music as a “static” genre, relegated to fiddles, banjos, and old country melodies:
Who am I, or who is anyone, to say that the music of the juke box, the beetle organ, which the millions of Americans listen to, and drink their beer to, and dance to, and argue by, and make love by, and relax by, and make up their minds who to vote for by, is trash? […] if the only real music were the pure ‘folk music,’ this would be a darn dead country, and I for one would have to leave it and go back to Arkansas […] I believe in creativeness and experiment, in Picasso as in Woody Guthrie, in Bach as in Pete Johnson, in Verdi as in Blitzstein. [11]
While Dylan’s career moved beyond the topical protests of Hay’s generation, there’s no denying that in drawing from “the jukebox” of American song, he has written songs that are true. It is Dylan’s “respect for the songs,” as Hays writes, that continues to bind him to the previous generation, and earned him the rightful place as one of America’s greatest songwriters.

Adrian Vaagenes, Intern

[1] Cohen, Ronald D., and Dave Samuelson. Songs For Political Action: Folkmusic, Topical Songs and the American Left 1926-1953. Bear Family Records, 1996. (pgs. 9-11);

[2]  Ibid. (pgs. 15-20).

[3] Willens, Doris. Lonesome Traveler: The Life of Lee Hays. W.W. Norton 7 Company, 1988, (pgs. 9; 20-21)

[4] Ibid, pgs. 56-59

[5] Hays, Lee. “Sing Out, Warning! Sing Out, Love!”: The Writings of Lee Hays. Edited by Robert S. Koppelman, University of Massachusetts Press, 2003, (pgs. 63-64).

[6] Petrus, Stephen and Ronald Cohen. Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival. Oxford University Press, 2015. (pgs. 286, 289). 

[7] Ibid. (pgs. 288-289); Dunaway, David King, and Molly Beer. Singing Out: An Oral History of America’s Folk Music Revivals. Oxford University Press, 2010. (pg. 151).

[8] Dunaway, David King. How Can I Keep From Singing: The Ballad of Pete Seeger. Villard Books, 2008. (pgs. 306-308).

[9] Folk City. (pg. 288).

[10] “Sing Out, Warning! Sing Out, Love!” (pgs 89-90).

[11] Ibid. (pgs. 148-149).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Floating gardens of Mexico

This Throwback Thursday, takes us back to 1930s Mexico. This photograph of the canals of Xochimilco (place or garden of flowers) just outside Mexico City are part of a larger series of photographs that document a trip that Garden Club of America members took to the country in 1937. The canals and chinampas or floating gardens were recognized as a popular tourist destination in the 1920s and were described in European guidebooks as "the Venice of Mexico."

Kelly Crawford, Museum Specialist
Archives of American Gardens

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Depictions of Transitions: Alexander Gardner photographs

We find evidence of transitions in the archival profession all the time. Sometimes transitions are seen in the physical format form, such as a shift from paper prints to born-digital photographs.  Other times, transitions can be found in the content of archival materials that have captured and contextualized moments of historical change. The William T.  Sherman collection of Alexander Gardner photographs, recently processed at the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, provides many examples of historical transition, though this post will just focus on one series of prints.

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) was an American photographer best known for his portraits of President Abraham Lincoln, his American Civil War photographs, and his photographs of American Indian delegations. In 1867, Gardner also served as the chief photographer for the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (renamed the Kansas Pacific Railway in 1868). The survey team led by General William Jackson Palmer (1836-1909) traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, Calif. to determine the best railroad route. They passed through Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona enroute to California. He later compiled these images into the books entitled, Across the Continent on the Kansas Pacific Railroad (Route of the 35th Parallel) and Across the Continent on the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division.

Laying Track in Kansas, 300 Miles West of Missouri River, October 19, 1867. Photograph by Alexander Gardner. [P10134William T. Sherman collection of Alexander Gardner photographs, National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. 

While in Kansas, Gardner photographed between Kansas City to Fort Wallace, resulting in some of the earliest images shot in the state. In this photo, Gardner captured railroad workers laying down tracks outside Hays City, Kansas for the new line. His photographs documented a time of considerable transition in the U.S. as people had more mobility and options for transportation around the country. Many western states and territories after the Civil War, experienced similar transitions when railroad construction enabled a greater influx of people into and through the area, increasing pressure on Native American lands, and transitioning the area to farming, ranching, and resource extraction.

United States Overland Stage starting for Denver from Hays City, Kansas, 289 miles west of Missouri River, 1867.Photograph by Alexander Gardner. [P10133William T. Sherman collection of Alexander Gardner photographs, National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. 

This photo shot by Gardner depicts the U.S. Overland Stage couch with soldiers, including Buffalo Soldiers, departing from Kansas for Denver, Colorado. Once the railway was established, fewer stage couches made this trek.

Mushroom Rock on Alum Creek, Kansas, 211 miles west of Missouri River, 1867. Photograph by Alexander Gardner. [P10132William T. Sherman collection of Alexander Gardner photographs, National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. 

Moreover, photographs depicting unique western landscapes played a major role in increased tourism to the region. In this photo, Gardner himself poses on the far right next to a rock formation named ‘Mushroom Rock’ on Alum Creek in Kansas. While Gardner is credited as the photographer, this image many have been shot by one of the other photographers on the expedition including Dr. William A. Bell (1841-1921), William Redish Pywell, and Lawrence Gardner (Alexander Gardner's son).

The Kansas Pacific Railroad photographs are just a small portion of the Gardner collection at NMAI. To learn more about Gardner and see all the photographs from this collection, head over to the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) where the full collection is now viewable online.

Emily Moazami, Assistant Head Archivist
National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sneak Peek: Freer Gallery of Art

While we are awaiting the Freer Gallery of Art’s re-opening in October 2017, let’s take a peek at some recently digitized photos of the Freer though the years. Arriving at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2002, these photos come from a collection that documents early building plans for the Freer and how the building has changed over time.  The collection spans nearly 100 years, from photos of the Freer’s groundbreaking ceremony in 1916 to the various changes and renovations over the years.

Groundbreaking for Freer Gallery of Art, 1916, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2015-000823].
Showing the staff of the museum gathered in front of a grove of trees for the ceremony, you can see how much the National Mall has changed in the century that has passed.  A later photo below shows the Gallery just after it had been completed. The Department of Agriculture building can be seen to the right, while trees and row houses are also visible in the neighborhood.

Aerial View of Completed East and North Front of Freer Gallery, by Unknown, c. 1923,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2007-0170.
In the 1920s, three peacocks lived in the Freer Courtyard. Donated by the National Zoological Park as a fitting complement to James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, they moved back to the Zoo each winter and returned to the courtyard in the Spring.

Peacock and Babies in the Freer Gallery of Art Courtyard,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2014-07070]. 
A building needs care and attention to last 100 years.  A previous renovation in the early 1990s did just that, expanding as well as renovating the existing space. Construction workers are shown through a partially constructed interior wall with the library still ready for research in the background.

Renovation of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2015-000821].
Additional renovations include the addition of the Sackler Gallery of Art in the 1980s, and, of course, the current renovations to upgrade the Freer's infrastructure. While the Freer is closed, you can still visit the Sackler and visit the Freer online, either through their digital collections or through Google Art Project.

To see more historic photos of the Freer Gallery of Art, click here and explore accession 02-082 or visit the Smithsonian Institution Archives' history page on the Freer Gallery of Art.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Monday, October 24, 2016

Portraiture in Transition

Muhammad Ali, Cat’s Cradle (1942–2016) by Henry C. Casselli, Jr. (born 1946), oil on canvas, 1981. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (NPG.2002.2)
Portraiture has been in transition since the early twentieth century and has evolved into new means of expression in contemporary art. In 1912–13, Man Ray created a dynamic, cubistic oil portrait of the notable photographer Alfred Stieglitz, now at Yale University in New Haven. Stieglitz was an influential editor, publisher, and owner of a succession of galleries in New York City, which were gathering places for artists to view the latest avant-garde American and European art and photography from 1905 to 1946. In 1918, Katherine Sophie Dreier painted an abstract, symbolic oil portrait of the artist Marcel Duchamp that is now in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection in New York. Dreier was a leading patron of modern art and noted, “Instead of painting the sitter as seen ordinarily in life, the modern artist tries to express the character . . . through abstract form and color.” In 1920, Dreier, Duchamp, and Man Ray founded the Société Anonyme in New York City, as the first “experimental museum” in America for contemporary art, which grew to have a large following of international members. Alexander Calder used this organization to exhibit his “mobiles,” as Duchamp named his moving sculptures. Calder also created whimsical, moving wire portraits of leading figures. One of his most popular series was of the celebrated dancer Josephine Baker, who performed in Paris during the late 1920s.

At a recent visit to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum in Philadelphia, I was taken by Brian Tolle’s 2012 conceptual mixed-media sculpture of George Washington, No. 1 (First Inaugural Address). The artist created a clear acrylic resin cast of Washington, with a string of glass beads emerging from the president’s mouth and spilling onto the pedestal base, each bead representing one word from his first inaugural address. This portrait is strikingly similar to the French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon’s original life bust of Washington created at Mount Vernon in 1785. Tolle has begun a “Commander-in Chief” series of mixed-media presidential busts that feature symbolic aspects of each president’s public persona. When I walked into another gallery space at this museum, I found an artist portraying a live model in various poses, part of the Fernando Orellana: His Study of Life exhibition, which honors the centenary of the death of the Academy’s influential art teacher Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins. Eakins’s teaching program led to a greater emphasis on the study of human anatomy. He included nude models in his classes, a practice new to American art schools in the nineteenth century.

At the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Henry C. Casselli Jr.’s 1981 oil portrait of Muhammad Ali, entitled Cat’s Cradle, is a dramatic depiction of the strength and power of this famous athlete, as visible in his towering physique. Per author Donald Hoppes, the cat’s cradle of string “became the central motif of the Ali portrait,” referring to the ropes of the boxing ring and Ali’s unique boxing style. Ali commanded public attention as a 1960 Olympic gold medalist and three-time winner of the heavyweight crown. He also was a dedicated spokesman for social and humanitarian concerns.

Esperanza Spalding, a Portrait (born 1984) by Bo Gehring (born 1941), time-based media, 2014. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (NPG.2014.83)
Commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Bo Gehring’s mesmerizing, monumental digital video portrays jazz musician Esperanza Spalding at close range, lying down. The camera starts at her feet and slowly moves upward to her head, accompanied by Wayne Shorter’s Tarde (1974). Gehring notes that “minute actions like breathing and pulse are living, vibrant elements” of the portrait image, which “captures emotional response over time.” Meanwhile, video artist Bill Viola believes the camera is the keeper of the soul. This November, the Portrait Gallery’s first media art exhibition, Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait, will bring a new dimension of color and kinetic energy to images of the human figure.

In 1966, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery founded the Catalog of American Portraits (CAP), a national portrait archives of historically significant subjects and artists from the colonial period to current times. The public is welcome to access the online portrait search program of more than 100,000 records from the museum’s website at

Patricia H. Svoboda, Research Coordinator
Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Fortune, Brandon Brame, Wendy Wick Reaves, and David C. Ward. Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in association with D. Giles Limited, 2014.

Gross, Jennifer R., ed., with contributions by Ruth L. Bohan et al. Société Anonyme: Modernism for America. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with the Yale University Art Gallery, 2006.

Reaves, Wendy Wick, et al., Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in association with University of Washington Press, 2002.

Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2013.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Flash Forward Friday: National Breath of Life Institute Coming this June!

2015 National Breath of Life participants. Photo by Judith Andrews, Recovering Voices, Smithsonian Institution.

In June of 2017 the National Breath of Life institute for indigenous languages will be coming back to our nation’s capital for the fourth time! The two week, hands-on workshop provides native community members access to archival materials that can help revitalize lost and endangered languages.  Along with the National Anthropological Archives (NMNH) and the Library of Congress, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archive Center has been happy provide access to the language and cultural materials in our archival collections as a part of this program.

Breath of Life not only brings to the forefront the importance of maintaining and making accessible archival collections, but for us at NMAI has also been a jumping off point for communication and collaboration between the archivists at NMAI and the native researchers who come to DC as a part of this program. Since 2011, when the National Breath of Life institute was first held, we have discovered language materials in our collections, particularly in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records, that we didn’t even realize we had. Following the 2015 program, the NMAI Archive Center sent out over 2000 pages of digitized documents from the MAI, Heye Foundation records to native researchers for further study and use in their community projects.

Sky Campbell doing research  at the NMAI Archive Center as part of the 2013 Breath of Life archival institute, 2013. The records he is viewing are part of Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records. Photo by Rachel Menyuk, NMAI.

I would highly recommend reading further about the program on their website. Applications for the two week program are currently available online and the deadline is November 1st, just in time for the end of American Archives month!

2017 Breath of Life Applications Available

You can read about Sky Campbell’s (Otoe-Missouria Language director) experience in the NMAI Archive Center during the 2013 Breath of Life program here:

Otoe–Missouria Language Director Sky Campbell shares his experience at the NMAI Archive Center

Rachel Menyuk, Archives Technician
National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Field Notes of M. Moynihan

The field notes of Martin Moynihan, first director of Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, have been a source of fascination for the Field Book Project since they were cataloged in 2013.  Moynihan was an evolutionary behaviorist who studied birds, primates, and cephalopods.  He had a unique way of recording observations that has inspired blog posts, a hand writing contest, Flickr set, and even an article during 2016 in Hakai Magazine.

Field notes on gulls, November 13, 1955, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-03311. 
A flamboyant and distinctive individual, Neal Griffith Smith, a colleague of 36 years, described him:
“When I first met him, he looked like Salvador Dali, for he sported an almost 5-inch waxed mustache, wore a Bond street suit, and carried a proper British umbrella. He remained an elegant though less dandy figure for the rest of his life…He had a reputation for rages and sudden changes of mood. In the early years he was always firing off his resignation because things were not going his way. It was pure theater. Martin was a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and perhaps the most intelligent person I ever met.” (p. 758)
Primate, 1960, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-0118. 
Thanks to a grant the Field Book Project received last year, Smithsonian Institution Archives is now digitizing and making Moynihan's and numerous other collections available online through Smithsonian Collections Search Center, Internet Archive, and Biodiversity Heritage Library, with more being made available each week.  New digitized content is made available on Smithsonian's Collections Search Center each month.  These are just a few examples of his photographs and field notes.  We encourage you to check out as more become available online.

Field notes on Alouatta palliata [South Pacific Blackish Howling Monkey] with drawing, August 30, 1961, by Martin Moynihan, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2014-03780. 
To learn more about Field Book Project's other field book collections, we encourage you to check out Smithsonian Collections Search Center that holds records for 628 field note collections covering the natural sciences.

Lesley Parilla, Cataloging Coordinator
Smithsonian Field Book Project

Neal Griffith Smith. (July 1998). “In Memoriam: Martin Humphrey Moynihan, 1928-1996.” American Ornithologist’s Union. Published by University of California Press. Accessed December 1, 2011 at

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Archives and Manuscripts Collections in the Smithsonian Libraries

In 1992, I was hired to be the rare book cataloger for the Smithsonian Libraries (SIL), and almost all of my work for the first dozen years or so was focused primarily on monographic cataloging of printed books. But over the years since then, my work has been experiencing a noticeable transition encompassing a wider variety of formats, including archival materials and manuscript collections. Trend forecasters have been talking for years about the convergence of the LAMs (where LAMs = Libraries, Archives and Museums; this catchy phrase was used by Kiersten F. Latham and John E. Simmons in their 2014 publication, Foundations of museum studies: evolving systems of knowledge). I can attest that this is happening on a broad scale: internationally, nationally, within the Smithsonian Institution, and in the Smithsonian Libraries, library stuff is mixing with museum stuff, which is also mixing with archival stuff. There are fewer bright lines separating these formats in our daily work and collections, regardless of how our units identify themselves. To cope with all these changes, library, archival and museum workers need to be flexible and open to creative thinking and learning on the job. More than ever, it is crucial to collaborate with colleagues beyond the traditional boundaries of one’s profession to derive the greatest benefits from shared knowledge and experience.

Postcards from Ernst Mach to E. Kulke
The Smithsonian Libraries, which currently encompasses 21 branch libraries and a central administration, grew, at first informally, as the Smithsonian Institution itself grew. During the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, various curatorial offices developed in-house book collections acquired from the personal libraries of staff members and scholarly exchanges and donations over the years. SIL’s Director, Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn, has written an overview of the haphazard early development of the Smithsonian’s library collections, which were viewed ambivalently by the first Secretary, Joseph Henry, and which were just one part of a complicated nexus of collections competing for priority and precious resources. The Smithsonian Libraries, as it is known today, was formally created as a unit by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley in the 1960s.
So what kinds of archival and manuscript materials have become part of the Smithsonian Libraries’ collections over the years? I’ll outline some examples here, many of which I have been personally involved with as a cataloger. I’d also like to note that several other staff members here at the Libraries also have archival training and responsibilities, with skills that are being put to good use as our collections continue to expand beyond the usual library formats.

The Smithsonian Libraries’ first major foray into the stewardship of manuscript collections was launched in 1974, with the gift of over 10,000 rare books and manuscripts from the Burndy Library, the private collection of industrialist and philanthropist Bern Dibner. The Burndy donation became the core collection of the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. Bern Dibner’s printed book and manuscript collections document the growth of European and American scientific and technological advances between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries, featuring correspondence, drafts, sketches, and ephemera by luminaries including Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein, among others. The Dibner Library currently has approximately 2,000 manuscript groups, having acquired additional items from other Smithsonian units and curators as well as gifts received from outside the Institution.

In 2006, the Smithsonian Libraries received its second major collection of archival and manuscript materials with the acquisition of the Russell E. Train Africana Collection for the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. Featuring approximately 6,000 archival and manuscript items, including handwritten and typed correspondence, draft novels, photographs, sketch books, diaries, original artwork, ephemera, and both man-made and natural artifacts, the Train Africana Collection highlights the adventures of explorers, missionaries, conservationists and other travelers in Africa between the late seventeenth and twentieth centuries. The manuscript and archival materials of the Train Africana Collection are a rich trove of insights into the lives and activities of David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Ernest Hemingway, and Theodore Roosevelt, among others. Thanks to the help of contract archivists and the Smithsonian’s EAD coordinator, a detailed finding aid of the Train Africana Collection, including digitized content, is available on the Smithsonian OnlineVirtual Archives (SOVA) website.

Chandeliers from Caldwell & Co.
Other branches of the Smithsonian Libraries also contain archival and manuscript collections of diverse themes and formats. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library in New York City has the papers of industrial designers such as Belle Kogan, Donald Deskey and Henry Dreyfuss, and the photographic archives of both Edward F. Caldwell & Company (one of the major lighting designers of the first half of the twentieth century) and fashion photographer Thérèse Bonney. The National Air and Space Museum Library has archival and manuscript materials ranging from a scrapbook of early aeronautica to the Bella C. Landauer collection of United States aeronautical patents. The National Postal Museum Library has the Hugh McLellan Southgate archival collection on postal history. The American Art and Portrait Gallery Library has an album of cartes-de-visite portraits of nineteenth century artists. And those are only some of the highlights.

The National Museum of African American History & Culture Library, the newest unit of the Smithsonian Libraries which opens to the public in late fall 2016, is embracing archival materials as a focal point of its collections: in addition to the head librarian, the NMAAHC Library staff includes an archivist and a genealogy specialist.

The National Collections Program’s Collections Digitization Reporting System (CDRS), a Smithsonian-wide initiative to get a grip on documenting significant materials that have not been described adequately even at the collection level in the various online catalogs of the Smithsonian, has spurred the Libraries’ staff over the past couple of years to identify and describe various pockets of archival and ephemeral materials scattered across its locations, in an effort to make these formerly hidden collections (as the Council on Library and Information Resources would refer to them) findable and properly preserved, and, where appropriate, eventually digitized.

Several recent Smithsonian-wide developments are helping the Libraries to transition into a unit where its archival and manuscript collections are nearly as accessible as its printed and digital materials:

We have multiple options for online discovery of collections: At the Smithsonian, the Libraries’ holdings are available through its dedicated SIRIS catalog, the Collections Search Center with over 10 million records of museum objects, archives and library materials from across the Institution, and the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA), which came online in 2015 and contains finding aids for more than 8000 diverse collections of primary resources from more than a dozen repositories at the Institution. The Libraries’ collections are also indexed in OCLC’s Worldcat, a global union catalog of library resources in all types of formats, and some of our digitized materials are available through the Internet Archive and the Digital Public Library of America, as well as more specialized thematic web projects like the the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Livingstone Online. To take full advantage of these various outlets, the Smithsonian Libraries has been prioritizing efforts to upgrade the description and access points for its archival and manuscript materials and, where possible, make them available in digitized form, since these unique collections hold the greatest interest for researchers who would otherwise be unaware of their existence.
Aeronautica scrapbook page
We collaborate with other units at the Smithsonian, which generously share their expertise and advice through forums such as the SIRIS Members Group, which provides discussions and training about Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) and other cataloging standards like Describing Archives: a Content Standard (DACS) and Resource Description & Access (RDA) that shape the content and structure of collections data in our online catalogs; the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council (SIASC) which addresses concerns of the collecting units and supports projects that benefit them; the Smithsonian Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Users Group which has been instrumental in launching the SOVA database and training staff in the use of Archivists' Toolkit; and pan-Institutional initiatives like the Field Book Project, a partnership of the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Smithsonian Libraries and the Smithsonian’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

We have the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers Transcription Center, which went online in 2013 and has now had over 1,000 projects transcribed from fourteen participating museums, archives and libraries. The Smithsonian Libraries has so far contributed fourteen of its manuscript and archival holdings for transcription, including the commonplace book of a late eighteenth century English woman interested in scientific topics; a scrapbook of papers related to physicist Ernst Mach; a notebook of pressed butterfly specimens collected in East Africa during the second half of the nineteenth century; and a parallel vocabulary of the English and Potawatomi Indian languages, to name a few. Currently, the Transcription Center is featuring a fifteenth century Latin manuscript of Boethius’ De institutione arithmetica, complete with intricate palaeographical markings and abbreviations. The international community of Smithsonian Volunpeers, or digital volunteers, has diligently and accurately transcribed the various works made available through the Transcription Center, and thanks to their efforts, these texts are now keyword-searchable in the Collections Search Center.

Cropped section from page 125 of Boethius' De Institutione Arithmetica
Twenty-first century library, archival, and museum work here at the Smithsonian and elsewhere is continually subject to transitions: in organizational structure, workflows, formats, priorities, staffing, budgets and technological developments. Regardless of our job titles, we have to be flexible and continually learn new skills to deal well with the changes, since the tasks and policies that have traditionally defined our collecting units are not always things we can, or need to, sustain. While this ever-changing working environment is challenging, I welcome the opportunity to collaborate more closely with my colleagues across the Institution –archivists, conservators, researchers, curators, information managers, social media officers, exhibition designers, and others – to improve the ways we present our collections to the world.

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger
Smithsonian Libraries

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sneak Peek: Newly Digitized Photos in the Collection

Every day photos are being digitized and made available online across the Smithsonian.  Anyone can find thousands of these photos in the Smithsonian Collections Search Center or on the Smithsonian’s Flickr page.  At the Smithsonian Institution Archives, our newly digitized materials reflect our focus on the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Jeannine Smith Clark and Judith Wragg Chase, by Unknown, June 5, 1986, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2016-011425a.
Just recently digitized and newly available online, this photo shows Jeannine Smith Clark, a member of our Board of Regents, representing the Smithsonian Institution at a conference of the African American Museum Association. She is seen here speaking with Judith Wragg Chase, then director of the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

Smith Clark came to the Smithsonian as a volunteer and docent in 1968 and became a member of the Board of Regents.  As a Regent, she became the founding chair of the Cultural Education Committee, a multi-cultural, multi-racial committee of citizens in the Metropolitan-Washington area that solicited community support for the Smithsonian’s outreach activities. With Jeannine Smith Clark at the helm, the Cultural Education Committee was an important force for broadening outreach and diversity at the Smithsonian.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant

Monday, October 17, 2016

Journals and Diaries: A Window into the Past

As a member of the Archives Center staff, I have worked with numerous hand-written archival materials over the past four years. Most of my work with hand-written documents has been for the purpose of digitizing them to be uploaded into the Transcription Center for transcription by public volunteers. While the Archives Center staff has digitized a wide array of materials, many of these handwritten documents are diaries or journals.

The majority of these diaries and journals provide a first-hand detailed account of a specific time and place, like the journals in the Leo H. Baekeland Papers, 1863-1968.  Leo Baekeland was a chemist and inventor, credited with the development of an early form of plastic called Bakelite. His journals, which spanned 35 years, 1907-1942, preserve much of his ideas and work in the development and production of plastic and his research. While this may be fascinating to some researchers, what I find most valuable about these journals is not the specifics of his work. I am more interested in his details of day-to-day American life and historic events.

Pages 142-143, Volume 25 of Leo Baekeland’s journals from the Leo H. Baekeland Papers, Archives Center, NMAH
Baekeland’s journals, 65 in all, cover not only his work with plastic, but some of the most important events in American history.  As an example, he wrote on November 7th, 1918, “WAR IS OVER and GERMANY SURRENDERS” and describes the celebration on Broadway in New York City. Later in his diaries, October 29, 1929, Baekeland writes about the fall of Wall Street and how he did not lose his money, but many did due to speculation and inflation of the stock market. In December 1941, he wrote of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Journals like this are an invaluable resource for the day-to-day activities of their author, but also the insight they provide on the American experience from that period of time. When researched alongside other journals and diaries from other collections, on the same dates of important events or time periods, these manuscripts can assist the researcher in seeing a snapshot in time.  This can be an important aid to the understanding of a specific time period or experience.  For myself, this is why these types of manuscripts are so important to us and our researchers.

Joe Hursey
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Friday, October 14, 2016

Flash Forward Friday: Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian

Looking to the future comes as naturally to the Smithsonian as looking to the past. From scientists studying changes in our environment to preservationists making sure cultural heritage survives for the next generation, the future is as present in our daily lives as our history. This has been true from our earliest days, when Joseph Henry’s Meteorological Project was seeking to understand and predict our weather.

Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian, by Unknown, 1927, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 82-3349.
In 1927, the Smithsonian decided it was time to think seriously about our own future and convened a Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian. Setting out “to advise with reference to the future policy and field of service of the Smithsonian Institution,” Secretary Charles Walcott invited people from across the country – scientists, academics, politicians, and private citizens – to learn about the Smithsonian’s many activities and establish our first strategic plan since 1847.  In the middle of a capital campaign, the Smithsonian also hoped that attendees would contribute monetarily to the endeavors they were setting out on.

Astrophysics Exhibit, Conference on the Future of the SI, by Unknown, 1927, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 17886-D or MNH-17886D.
To this end, staff were asked to create exhibits featuring their current research and collections. They emphasized the ways in which Smithsonian research benefitted the nation and the economy. Highlighting how many Smithsonian projects grew into their own government bureaus, like Joseph Henry’s Meteorological Project which grew into the U.S. Weather Bureau, now the National Weather Service. Exhibits represented all corners of the Smithsonian: from the Herbarium featuring plant specimens and botanical drawings, to Vertebrate Paleontology with fossils elephants to mammoths, and Astrophysics with the tools of their trade.

Vertebrate Paleontology & Geology Exhibit, Conference on Future of SI, by Unknown, Febuary 11, 1927, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 17883-A or MNH-17883A.
Sadly, two days before the conference Secretary Walcott passed away, never seeing his plan come to fruition.  Assistant Secretary Charles Greeley Abbot stepped in and hosted the conference with William H. Taft, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Smithsonian Chancellor, giving opening remarks. Taft asked attendees to “see the broad and comprehensive scope of the Institution, competing or interfering with nobody, cooperating with all, reaching the basic problems of mankind and of the time, with a view to furnishing the information through which alone they can be solved. They wish you to see what the future possibilities of the Institution are.”

Herbarium Exhibit, Conference on Future, by Unknown, 1927, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 17883-K or MNH-17883K.
Further Reading:
The Bigger Picture: A Twofer

Proceedings of Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian Institution, Book 1, February 11, 1927

Fourth Smithsonian Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott, 1850-1927

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Throwback Thursday: October 13th, 1917

For this throwback Thursday, let’s take a look back in time to see what was happening at the Smithsonian on this day in 1917.  The nation was preparing for war as Europe sunk deeper and deeper into the stalemate of the First World War.  When the United States officially declared war, there was a mad scramble to build and equip an army to fight on such an international scale and the Smithsonian was no exception.

Letter from Woodrow Wilson to Charles D. Walcott, October 13, 1917, by Wilson, Woodrow 1856-1924, October 13,1917, Smithsonian Archives, SIA2014-06989.
On October 13, 1917, Smithsonian Secretary Charles D. Walcott received a letter from President Woodrow Wilson requesting space in the Natural History Building for the Bureau of War Risk Insurance. The Natural History Building had been open for just seven years at the time and curators were reasonably worried about moving the collections safely when the building was already quickly filling. The Bureau of War Risk Insurance, which provided life insurance to soldiers and sailors fighting abroad, rapidly moved into 15,000 square feet.

President Wilson made the point that the Bureau of War Risk Insurance was a newly legislated part of the Treasury Department. With the requirement of a minimum of five hundred employees, they needed significant office space much faster than anyone could hope to build it. The Treasury Department didn’t have five hundred desks sitting empty, and they found what they were looking for just a few blocks away in the modern, fireproof Natural History Building.

National Museum Closes for WWI Work, by Unknown, 1918, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 23905 or MAH-23905.
The state‐of‐the‐art fireproof building was especially valuable to an insurance bureau that needed to protect its records from as many dangers as possible. By July of the following year, the Bureau’s rapid growth eventually took over the entire building, closing the last exhibit halls to the public to be turned into office space. The Natural History Building was quickly returned to the Smithsonian and reopened to the public in 1919 just months after the war ended.

To find out more about the Bureau of War Risk Insurance at the Smithsonian, click here.

To learn more about the Smithsonian in World War One, check out the Smithsonian in Wartime exhibit.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Presidents in Flight

George, Tom, Abe, Teddy, Bill, and Herbie--the "Racing Presidents" for the hometown Washington Nationals baseball team feature large-headed versions of past Commanders-in-Chief. Can you imagine what these presidents could accomplish as the "Flying Presidents"? The National Air and Space Museum Archives' collections feature documents and images of the United States presidents, as they relate to aviation and space flight, going back to the first man to hold the office.

1 - George Washington

Mounted ephemera includes a ticket to a lecture on pneumatics presented by Doctor John Foulke on May 17, 1784 accompanied by a letter to Foulke from George Washington stating that he regrets he cannot attend. Also includes an explanatory note and brief description of the lecture.
NASM 9A11729
In 1784, Dr. John Foulke thought it must be nice to have Washington on his side, so he invited the General to a lecture on ballooning in Philadelphia. In a letter held by the Archives, Washington sent his regrets.  Washington’s response reads: “Genl. Washington presents his compliments to Doctr. Foulke — thanks him for his polite card and ticket — and would with great pleasure attend his Lecture on Pneumatics, but the business which brought him to the city does not leave him at Liberty, as the Members of the Cincinnati are anxious to bring it to a close Monday Morning.”

Later, as President, Washington not only viewed but also assisted with the first American ascent of the famous French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard on January 9, 1793 in Philadelphia.

16 - Abraham Lincoln

Letter written July 25, 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln regarding a proposal to use Thaddeus S. C. Lowe's  balloons for observation of enemy positions during the Civil War.  Text reads: "Will Lieut Gen. Scott please see Professor Lowe once more about his balloon?  [signed] A. Lincoln. Jul. 25, 1861."
NASM 99-40777
The Archives holds a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to Lt. General Winfield Scott, commander of Union forces, regarding a proposal to use Thaddeus S. C.Lowe's balloons for observation of enemy positions during the Civil War.  Lincoln writes: "Will Lieut. Gen. Scott please see Professor Lowe once more about his balloon? [signed] A. Lincoln. July 25, 1861."

26 - Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and pilot Arch Hoxsey (right) seated in Hoxsey's Wright (Co) Type AB (head on view, close-up) prior to making a flight at Kinloch Field, St. Louis, Missouri, October 11, 1910; this was the first flight of an American president.
NASM 93-9672
Theodore Roosevelt (left) was the first American president to fly in an airplane.  On October 11, 1910, the former president was at Kinloch Field, St. Louis, Missouri, campaigning for the state’s Republican party. Pilot Arch Hoxsey (right) asked him to fly in his Wright (Co) Type AB.  At first Roosevelt refused, but eventually accepted the flight, during which Hoxsey put the aircraft into three steep dives.

27 - William Howard Taft

View of President William Taft, Senator Bourne and Archie Butt in a car.
NASM 95-8465
William Howard Taft (center) attended the July 1909 trials of what would be known as the Wright Military Flyer at Ft. Myer, Virginia.  He was accompanied in his car by Senator Jonathan Bourne Jr. (R-OR) and military aide Archie Butt (right), who would later die on the Titanic.

Wilbur (left of center) and Orville Wright (right of center) posed on either side of U. S. President William Howard Taft (center), with Katharine Wright is to the right of Wilbur; others in group are unidentified.  Portico of the White House, Washington, D. C.
NASM 2003-12098
President Taft (center) also met with the Wright brothers--Wilbur (left of center) and Orville Wright (right of center)--at the White House.  Sister Katharine Wright was to the right of Wilbur.

28 - Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson (left), speaks with Major Reuben H. Fleet, pilot of the first regular air mail flight, at Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.; May 15, 1918.
NASM 2004-51807
President Woodrow Wilson (left) presided over the opening ceremonies for the first regularly scheduled air mail service.  On May 15, 1918, he met with Major Reuben Fleet (right), who had organized and assembled the pilots and aircrafts for this service.

30 - Calvin Coolidge

World Flight crewmembers are welcomed by the President upon their arrival in Washington, D.C. (left to right): Lt. Leslie Arnold; Lt. Lowell Smith; President Calvin Coolidge; Secretary of War John Wingate Weeks; Lt. John Harding; Lt. Odgen and Lt. Leigh Wade posed standing in front of the Douglas World Cruiser DWC-2 "Chicago" (s/n 23-1230) at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., 9 September 1924.
NASM A-17047
President Calvin Coolidge welcomed the crew members of the Douglas World Cruiser first flight around the world upon their arrival in Washington on September 9, 1924.  The crew successfully circumnavigated the globe in 175 days.  (left to right): Lt. Leslie Arnold; Lt. Lowell Smith; President Calvin Coolidge; Secretary of War John Wingate Weeks; Lt. John Harding; Lt. Odgen and Lt. Leigh Wade posed standing in front of the Douglas World Cruiser DWC-2 Chicago.

The Chicago is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum and Arnold’s diary and scrapbook are in the Archives collections.

31 - Herbert Hoover

One-half left front view from slightly below of Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro (r/n NC 10761; c/n B-7) taking off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
NASM 92-13609
On April 22, 1931, President Herbert Hoover presented the 1930 Collier Trophy to HaroldPitcairn and associates for the development and application of the autogiro while standing on the lawn of the White House. Though not visible in the photograph, President Herbert Hoover, his wife, and grandchildren then witnessed the Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro taking off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower shown with scale model of Jupiter C Missile nose cone during speech given from the White House, November 7, 1957.
NASM 82-11962
President Dwight D. Eisenhower shown with scale model of Jupiter C Missile nose cone during speech given from the White House, November 7, 1957.

36 - Lyndon B. Johnson

President Lyndon B. Johnson in a discussion with Air Force Colonel Daniel "Chappie” James.  In 1975, James became the first African-American to achieve the rank of four-star general.
President Lyndon B. Johnson in a discussion with Air Force Colonel Daniel "Chappie”James.  In 1975, James became the first African-American to achieve the rank of four-star general.

37 - Richard M. Nixon

Apollo 11 flight crew members Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), being greeted through the window by President Richard M. Nixon; July 24, 1969.
NASM 2004-29402
President Richard M. Nixon greets Apollo 11 flight crew members Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), July 24, 1969.

38 - Gerald R. Ford

President Gerald R. Ford and NASM Director Michael Collins attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of National Air and Space Museum (NASM) building in Washington DC, on July 1, 1976.
NASM 76-13966-12A
President Gerald R. Ford and NASM Director Michael Collins attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of National Air and Space Museum (NASM) building in Washington DC, on July 1, 1976.

41 - George H.W. Bush
In 1941, George H.W. Bush became the youngest aviator in the US Navy at the time.  He is pictured in the cockpit of his General Motors (Eastern) TBM Avenger during World War II.
NASM 7B01223
In 1941, George H.W. Bush became the youngest aviator in the US Navy at the time.  He is pictured in the cockpit of his General Motors (Eastern) TBM Avenger during World War II.

Elizabeth C. Borja - Reference and Outreach Coordinator
National Air and Space Museum Archives