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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hello Halloween, Farewell American Archives Month

Swampee, the USCGC Northland ship mascot, would like to wish you a Happy Halloween and last day of the American Archives Month! Photograph from the Leuman Maurice Waugh collection, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, L02029.
On this Halloween day, we say farewell to American Archives Month and the Collection Search Center’s blog-a-thon.

Over the past month, we explored the theme of the Power of Collaboration which included stories of “volunpeers” transcribing Smithsonian collections, artists collaborating with museums, an initiative to train community members to preserve religious records, collaborative partnerships between museums and Native communities, and the importance and value of these community collaborations. We also explored stories of cultural resilience in times of catastrophe, memories of an old (but not dead) photographic technology, a travelogue film shot in the American South, and the Archives Fair celebrating performance and preservation. We encourage you to read (or re-read!) all the stories from this past month.

Although American Archives Month technically ends today, it does not mean that our collaborative efforts will end as well. Collaboration is deeply ingrained in the work of archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. Collaboration has made such online initiatives as the Smithsonian Transcription Center, Collections Search Center, and the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA) a reality. And it is through the power of collaboration- with colleagues, scholars, artists, and social and cultural communities- that we will continue to fulfill the Smithsonian’s mission to ‘increase and diffuse knowledge.’

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Role of Portraiture in the Alliance of the United States and France

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and after the American Continental Congress had chosen the “United States” as the name for the new nation, the Congress adopted a model commercial treaty for France on September 17, 1776. One month later, Benjamin Franklin, one of the seven Founding Fathers, traveled to France with this model treaty, aiming to secure assistance in the war against Britain. After negotiations, in March 1778, King Louis XVI presented Franklin with the trade and defense alliance treaties, which had been signed in Paris on February 6 of that year. Through these treaties, the French extended their support to the Americans in the Revolutionary War.  Portraiture celebrated and strengthened the relationship between our two countries.

Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, c. 1785, oil on canvas,
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (NPG.87.43)
Franklin’s fame as a philosopher, scientist, and statesman brought attention to the American cause, and he drew admirers among the French court at Versailles and in various intellectual circles. He served as minister to France from 1778 until 1785, and his likeness was captured in formal portraits as well as pieces made for popular culture by French artists. Joseph Siffred Duplessis, court painter to King Louis XVI, depicted Franklin’s strength of character in a series of paintings and pastels, with the earliest version garnering public attention at the 1779 Salon du Louvre exhibition. Leading artist Jean-Antoine Houdon, who created sculpture busts of several Founding Fathers, including Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, portrayed these subjects in neo-classical robes or historical costumes relating to democratic ideals.

In 1784, Houdon was commissioned to create a full-length marble statue of Washington for the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, which led him to accompany Franklin on a trip to America. He visited George Washington at Mount Vernon in October 1785 and cast a life mask of him, which he used for his sculpture bust series, and in turn influenced other artists’ depictions. Although Washington never visited France, his image was celebrated in numerous portraits as president and military leader.

Thomas Jefferson, by Mather Brown, 1786, oil on canvas,
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (NPG.99.66)
Statesman and philosopher Thomas Jefferson was portrayed in 1786, during his tenure as an American Minister in Paris, in a refined and formal manner by artist Mather Brown. This oil painting went to his friend John Adams and descended in the Adams family. Adams and Jefferson were brought together as trade negotiators in France, and they exchanged portraits as tokens of their friendship. In the portrait’s background, there is an allegorical sculpture of the figure of Liberty, holding a pole with a Phrygian cap at the top. Jefferson admired French culture and supported the country’s political ideals. From 1840 to 1848, King Louis-Philippe commissioned artist George Peter Alexander Healy to create a portrait series of American presidents and statesmen for the historical collection at the Château de Versailles, which included John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, George Washington, and Daniel Webster.

Several important group portraits documented the battles of the Revolutionary War and the following American treaty meetings with France and Britain. Around 1825, John Vanderlyn painted an oil portrait of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette that places them at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777.  Washington was impressed by the valor of young Lafayette who was wounded at this battle and recommended him for the command of a division in a letter to Congress. Lafayette was a heroic figure, who provided his own support and influenced state officials to send more French aid and forces to fight alongside the American military. King Louis-Philippe commissioned artist Auguste Couder to create the 1836 oil portrait of the Siege of Yorktown for the Château de Versailles (Galerie des Batailles). Generals George Washington, Comte de (Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur) Rochambeau, and Marquis (Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert) de Lafayette and other military officers are depicted with the Siege of Yorktown on October 17, 1781, in the background. This battle was a critical victory when the British General Earl Charles Cornwallis surrendered to Generals Washington and Rochambeau and the combined American and French military forces. Benjamin West portrayed the principal American Peace Commissioners John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin in two unfinished oil studies from 1783 for a larger painting, which was never executed of the Signing of the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty of Paris was signed by representatives of the King George III government of Great Britain and the United States of America on September 3, 1783, in Paris, thereby ending the American Revolutionary War. This treaty and the separate peace treaties between Great Britain and the nations that supported the American cause—France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic—were known collectively as the Peace of Paris.

George Washington, by Jean-Antoine Houdon, c. 1786, plaster,
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (NPG. 78.1)
Historic American portrait collections are at the Musée Carnavalet, Musée du Louvre, Musée National du Château de Versailles, Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur, and the Musée du Château de Blérancourt in France. Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris has created a special exhibition area to feature the portraits of honored American recipients of the order. On August 8, 1929, Anne Morgan presented a museum to France, which became the Musée National de la Cooperation Franco-Américain du Château de Blérancourt. This museum’s collection showcases the historical, cultural, and artistic relations of our two nations from the seventeenth century to the present. In America, the Society of the Cincinnati was founded in May 1783, and a French branch of the Society was established in January 1784. The two associations honor the military officers of our two nations who fought in the American War for Independence and seek to maintain the friendship between the United States and France. The Society of the Cincinnati Museum in Washington, DC, has a notable portrait collection of leading American and French officers who participated in the American Revolutionary War.

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

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

Figure of Louis XVI and Benjamin Franklin, by Charles-Gabriel Sauvage, called Lemire Pere, c. 1780–85, porcelain,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (83.2.260)

John Adams, by Mather Brown, 1788, oil on canvas, Boston Athenaeum, MA, (B.A.UR.72)

George Peter Alexander Healy portrait collection, Musée National du Château de Versailles, FR

Washington and Lafayette at the Battle of Brandywine, by John Vanderlyn, c. 1825, oil on canvas, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK, (0126.1018)

Siege of Yorktown, 17 October 1781, by Auguste Couder, 1836, oil on canvas, Musée National du Château de Versailles, FR, (MV 2747)

American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain, by Benjamin West, c. 1783–1819, oil on canvas, Winterthur Museum, DE, (1957.0856) 

General Editor Valérie Bajou et al. Versailles and the American Revolution. Versailles: Palace of Versailles and Montreuil: Gourcuff Gradenigo Publisher, 2016.

Ferreiro, Larrie D. Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It. New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

Taylor, Alan. American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Flashback Friday: Smithsonian Hauntings

Joseph Henry, first Smithsonian Secretary
Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # MAH-10603. 
As Halloween approaches, the mind wanders to ghostly hauntings and where better than a museum to find a ghost? There are plenty of skeletons in Smithsonian closets and rumors of hauntings abound.

Though several people have claimed sightings of Joseph Henry, our first Secretary, haunting the Smithsonian Institution Building, or Castle, it’s unlikely he would walk those grounds. Henry was so deeply skeptical of spirits and hauntings that he once offered $1,000 if someone could levitate a table into the air. In addition, Henry never particularly liked the Smithsonian Institution Building, considering the maintenance of a building a hindrance to the work of furthering scientific research.  It’s highly unlikely that his spirit would take up residence in a building he though was “a fantastic and almost useless building.

Fielding Meek's Cat, Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # 92-15019.
Another Smithsonian Scientist, Fielding Meek, happily called the Smithsonian Castle home. He lived with his cat in a tiny room under the stairs in the North Tower of the Smithsonian Institution Building from 1858 until his death. An extremely introverted and deaf paleontologist, he became increasingly isolated as he lost his hearing in his later years. His isolation can be felt in his caption for a sketch of his cat “This is all the family I have.” Perhaps he haunts his former home in search of company?

Spencer F. Baird,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # MAH-10735
Many rumors swirl about Smithsonian staff who loved their collections so much they could not bear to part with them, even in death. Perhaps none is as persistent as Spencer F. Baird, the Smithsonian’s second Secretary and founder of the U.S. National Museum. In 1900, The Washington Post reported that most of the night watchmen had reported seeing Secretary Baird supervising the collections to which he was so devoted.  Night watchmen, as you can imagine, have seen more than their fair share of strange sightings at the Smithsonian, but some are more otherworldly than others. Donald, one of the night watchmen, turned a corner in the museum and had a run-in with a fearsome Japanese warrior who towered above him, spear and all. After fleeing to higher ground on the second level of the building, in the morning he discovered that his warrior ghost was just a mannequin removed from his case so that it could be photographed. 

Robert Kennicott in his Field Outfit,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # SIA2011-0145
Around the Smithsonian, it is not unusual for an old mystery to come back to haunt us. Here at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Robert Kennicott, one of the Smithsonian’s earliest explorers, was the most recent to raise goosebumps.  Kennicott died mysteriously on an expedition in Alaska. Our colleagues over at the National Museum of Natural History have analyzed his bones to understand how he lived and died.  While many researchers have scoured his personal papers and Smithsonian records in search of an answer, our archivists made a serendipitous discovery that sheds a little more light on his death. This Halloween, the Smithsonian has taken Kennicott's skeleton out of our closet and you can visit him yourself in the Objects of Wonder exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Science of Language Revitalization

Recovering Voices aims to make the Smithsonian’s collections more accessible and create opportunities for language and knowledge revitalization. We host workshops, symposia, seminars, and public events on a variety of topics, in collaboration with our partners within the Smithsonian and around the world. One of the largest programs we organize is the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages.

Over the past four iterations of the National Breath of Life, participants have contributed towards shaping the concept of a community researcher. They come from various professions, trades, and academic backgrounds, traveling together from their home communities to work on revitalizing or reclaiming their native language. They are, at the same time, cultural experts and advocates of language and cultural conservation. They are scholars of their language. After 2 weeks of linguistics instruction, they demonstrate a sound understanding and command of a number of linguistic tools and methodology, naturally draw on them, and actively utilize this science throughout their research projects.

The fourth National Breath of Life, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and the Myaamia Center, successfully concluded on Friday June 9, 2017. The workshop ended with each group of community researchers presenting their final projects, demonstrating what they had learned and discovered, and what their research plans would be beyond Breath of Life. The 2-week institute and the final project presentations were evidence of the high caliber of knowledge, expertise, and scientific rigor acquired by Breath of Life participants.

Photographs held by archives are sometimes/many times/just as important as the manuscript materials. The Haida language group took some time to study photographs of historic Haida villages. Photo by James Di Loreto.

For their final project, the Hupa group chose a seemingly simplistic project to translate the meaning of a number of the Breath of Life participants’ names into the hupa language. The project turned out to be everything but simplistic! To achieve this, the researcher carried out an analysis of sociocultural particulars (death taboos, sociocultural roles), cultural values and equivalents across cultures (ethnographic analysis), community origins and archeological evidence for it (i.e. carved writing on stone at community house dated 10,000 years), as well as cross-linguistic etymological research. The project required knowledge of specialized vocabulary and sentence structure in the Hupa language.

For their final presentation, the Haida language group told a story in Haida. Photo by Ashleigh Arrington.

The Haida participants presented a Haida narrative from the archives, connecting it to new learnings about Haida grammar and culture, which they in turn presented with the help of photos from the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) collections. To do this, the research team determined that they needed to jointly transcribe into Haida the practical orthography in a text from the J.R. Swanton 1900-1901 materials in the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) collection - (Stiidgaa Ḵ’amaalaa #22), and identify grammatical forms of particular interest that are not commonly known. Finally, they highlighted interesting cultural contexts of the story as it relates to place, artifacts, and knowledge. This project demanded analysis of orthographic representation in archival documentation and an understanding of current orthographic practices, as well as careful analysis of syntax and semantics across two very structurally distinct languages. All of this accomplished in just a few days’ time.

Getting down to business, Myaamia Center and Recovering Voices staff meet with the Tututni group working on the RVIDA pilot. Photo by Judith Andrews.

One important mission of BOL is setting the researchers up for success post-BOL. After four years of workshops and follow up with participants, Directors Gabriela Pérez Báez and Daryl Baldwin recognized a need for a very precise tool that community researchers could use beyond BOL to manage the copious data that emerges from the archival research. In response to this need, this year BOL piloted the Recovering Voices Indigenous Digital Archive (RVIDA). Baldwin and Pérez Báez are now actively planning a roll out of RVIDA to be available to communities across North America.

Classroom instruction makes up only part of what the Breath of Life Community researchers learn during the Institute. Photo by Ashleigh Arrington.

It could be said that Breath of Life represents a snapshot of a growing trend in language reclamation and revitalization in North America and globally. Tribes and communities are seeking opportunities and support, and seizing them to both prevent further loss of culture and language, and to rebuild their communities and the language they share. Breath of Life is one program, held every two years, attempting to meet this growing demand and provide the training groups need to get to the next level. It is the hope that the Breath of Life model will continue to serve language revitalization and inspire the next generation of community research scientists.

Sarah Baburi, Recovering Voices Program Assistant
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Confronting Asymmetries of Power through Collaboration

Collaboration is at the heart of the National Museum of the American Indian. As stewards of a vast number of archival and object collections of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, our role as museum employees is not solely to preserve these materials, but to actively seek out, develop, and hopefully repair sometimes strained relationships with the Native peoples of North, Central, and South America.

As evidenced by the many other blog posts this month, collaboration is nothing new to the Smithsonian Institution. Since its establishment in 1846 the Smithsonian has regularly worked with various local, state, and federal government agencies, diverse communities around the world, and sovereign nations in its mission to promote the “increase and diffusion of knowledge” among humankind.

Examples of a few of the NMAI Archive Center’s many collaborative projects include hosting the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages, working with Crow (Apsáalooke) community members to re-describe photograph collections, and partnering with representatives from the Poeh Cultural Center at Pojoaque Pueblo.

Anthony Gchachu, Octavius Seowtewa, and Jim Enote viewing Zuni object and archival collections at NMAI for inaccuracies in descriptive information, August 2017. Photograph by NMAI Conservation Fellow Megan Doxsey-Whitfield.
One of the more recent collaborative projects undertaken by the NMAI Archive Center has been working with members of the Zuni community and the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center in New Mexico. Jim Enote, Anthony Gchachu, and Octavius Seowtewa- three Zuni community members- visited the NMAI in August, working closely with the NMAI Archive Center staff.

Partnering with the Zuni community, and with Jim Enote in particular, has helped our staff to better define what collaboration actually entails. As noted in various writings and guidelines by Enote, collaborations between cultural heritage institutions and source communities represent a joint effort to “set the record straight” through co-labor on equal terms. Such collaborative endeavors not only confront and challenge the asymmetries of power which have existed for centuries, but also simultaneously aim to correct the historical records and underlying power imbalances.

A Zuni bowl related to the Hawikuh pottery ink drawing below. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (06/7670). Photograph by NMAI Photo Services
Hawikuh pottery ink drawings, such as the image above, can convey inaccurate or misleading information depending on the artist’s use of hash-lines, which represent different meanings for Zuni community members. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.
Working together, Zuni members and NMAI staff commenced several projects to better describe and understand Zuni archival materials in our stewardship. These include:

• Creating an inventory of Zuni materials to share with community members (these consist of archival films, photographs, maps, manuscripts, ink drawings, and anthropological field notes); 

• Analyzing and reinterpreting archival descriptions of materials in order to correct inaccuracies or completely false information which exist in the records;

• Creating and defining different levels of access for particular archival materials, such as photographs or items relating to ceremonial knowledge, which may be deemed unsuitable due to cultural sensitivity restrictions

Many images in the NMAI Archive Center collections, such as this one depicting Zuni pottery work, can reveal much greater information via collaboration with source communities than would otherwise be known by museum staff alone. Photograph by George H. Pepper, 1918. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (N02277).
These projects represent just the beginning of an ongoing process of exchange and partnership between NMAI Archive Center staff and Zuni community members. Collaboration, or true and equal co-labor between all parties involved, is something that takes time and trust.

Nathan Sowry, Reference Archivist
National Museum of the American Indian

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Preserving a Spectacle: The 1909 Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne

Last week, archivists from the DC area celebrated American Archives Month with the 2017 Archives Fair. Taking advantage of the theme of “Performance and Preservation,” the National Air and Space Museum Archives tapped materials from our numerous collections on air shows, the ultimate aerial performance spectacle. And what better air show to highlight than the first true international air meet—the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne, August 22-29, 1909?!

The Grande Semaine took place on the plains of Betheny near Reims, France. Contestants included some of the top flyers in the world:

· Louis Bleriot (first to fly the English Channel)
· Glenn Curtiss (member of the Aerial Experiement Association, leader of group of demonstration pilots)
· Hubert Latham (first to attempt to fly the English Channel)
· Henri Farman (first cross-country flight in Europe).

(Interestingly, the Wright brothers had been asked by the Aero Club of America to represent the United States at this meet, but declined the invitation. Curtiss attended for the United States.)

Poster for the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne, August 22-29, 1909, Reims, France. NASM 93-654.
How does one preserve a spectacle such as the Grande Semaine? While some motion picture film exists of the event, most of the material we have are photographs. But we also have ephemera, such as programs, entry forms, rule booklets, and maps, in our collections. From these documents, we can try to recreate what it was like to be a spectator in 1909 Reims!

View of the grandstand with the buffet area in the foreground.  NASM 78-11939.
Five hundred thousand spectators witnessed the air meet in person over the eight days of competition. Famous attendees included Armand Fallières, the President of France, and David Lloyd George (British Chancellor of the Exchequer and future Prime Minister).

The President of the Republic of France, Clément Armand Fallières (1841-1931), standing in the grandstand at the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne.  NASM 00139389.
Aviators needed to complete a “Formule d'Engagement” [Commitment Form] to enter the meet. Once there, entrants needed to comply with the “Règlements” in the rules booklet.

Blank "Formule d'Engagement" [Commitment Form] for entry into the "Semaine Aéronautique de la Champagne."  NASM 9A13989

Front cover of the rule booklet (32 pages) issued by the Comité d'Aviation de la Champagne for the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne.  NASM 9A13988.

Spectators throughout Reims could keep track of the action in many ways. Signs on the streets of Reims indicated wind speed and the probability of flying. A signal mast on the course showed the places of race contestants. Onlookers could use the program to read the symbols.

Passersby on a street in Reims, France examine a sign indicating wind speed and and the probability of flying during the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne.  NASM 00139388.
Signal mast showing the places of race contestants on the left, judges stand at right. NASM 00139387.
Page 9 of the event program provides a guide to reading the signal mast.  NASM 89-19709-12.

Event photos were mass-produced immediately into postcards. Spectators could purchase and mail postcards featuring the previous day’s action right from the post office onsite!
Front view of crowded stand (boutique) selling books and post cards during the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne.  A banner advertises postcards of the previous day's flights.  NASM 00139414.

Postcard featuring Sánchez Besa No.1, with an inset photo of pilot Henri Péquet.  NASM 00085717

Balloonist Edgar Mix served as a judge for the Grande Semaine He was also an amateur photographer. The NASM Archives have his stereograph collection and with the help of a stereoscope viewer, all of the action of Reims can be brought to life in 3-D!!

Stereograph image by Edgar Mix.  Roger Sommer’s Farman in flight, August 26, 1909.  NASM Mix-93-15

Aviation enthusiasts in the United States could follow the action through daily newspaper updates. America’s own Glenn Curtiss won the premier event—the first ever Gordon Bennett Trophy (for the fastest 2 laps of a 10 km circuit)—just edging out Frenchman Louis Bleriot. In October 1909, the excitement of France was brought directly to Americans when Philadelphia department store Wanamaker’s celebrated Glenn Curtiss’s victory with a display of a replica of his award-winning Reims Racer.

Brochure issued by John Wanamaker promoting the display of the Curtiss-Herring No.1 "Reims Racer" at his flagship department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 1909.  NASM 9A13990-01.
The 1909 Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne was just the first of many international air shows in the past century. Many of these are represented in the collections at the National Air and Space Museum Archives. Has your area ever held an air show? How has it been documented?!

Elizabeth Borja
Reference Services Archivist
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Monday, October 23, 2017

Giving Back: Sharing what is Lost with a Nation

“A nation stays alive if its culture stays alive.” 
-Nancy Dupree, obituary, New York Times, September 12, 2017

Nancy Dupree, founder of the Afghanistan Center of Kabul University (ACKU) passed away September 10, 2017. Shortly before her death, the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Film Center and Norman Miller, Director of the American Universities Field Staff Documentary Film Program, sent 22 hours of digital video files from a 1972 film project to our colleagues in Kabul at the Afghan Center. The project focused on documenting the town of Aq Kupruk, about 320 miles northwest of Kabul in Balkh Province.

Aq Kupruk, Smithsonian National Anthropological Film Collection, (sihsfa_2006_05_op_001)
These digital video files join over 100,000 items at ACKU documenting the history and diverse cultural heritage of the Afghan people.

Five films were edited from the project but few ever anticipated that the full 22 hours would ever be of significant interest. But that was before the conflicts that began with Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan and which continue to this day. Looking back over the past 45 years so much has changed and so much has been lost. This put the documentation of local life in places like Aq Kupruk in a much different perspective. But let’s start at the beginning.

In the early 1970s Norman Miller engaged documentary filmmakers Herbert Di Gioia and David Hancock in a series of innovative film projects based on comparative examination of particular cultures focused on themes related to variables such as social organization, modes of subsistence (e.g., pastoralism, agriculture, etc.), as well as factors influencing social change. The Afghanistan film project was one of these in addition to projects done in Bolivia, Kenya, Taiwan and China. The series—entitled Faces of Change —represented a high point in U.S. funding for anthropological filmmaking based on the educational value and presumed capacity of such films to foster broad understanding of cultural differences around the world.

On May 1, 1975 the series premiered at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn’s auditorium where Smithsonian Secretary, S. Dillon Ripley and anthropologist Margaret Mead provided remarks. Mead, then regarded as anthropology’s leading public intellectual, stressed the urgency of documenting non-Western cultures around the world before they ‘disappeared’ or their traditional lifeways were irretrievably lost. The event marked the formal launch of the Smithsonian National Anthropological Film Center (NAFC). While the promotion that Margaret Mead gave the Center as a place to carry forward documentation and preservation of indigenous and non-Western cultures might today appear somewhat naïve, the Faces of Change series was very much on the cutting edge of an ethnographic genre and in line with the mandate of the Center. What Mead and others also recognized on that occasion was that however important the filming of other cultural worlds might be to us, we—as ethnographers, photographers and filmmakers—could only acquire access to these worlds through the grace of local people like the Afghan villagers in Aq Kapruk. Moreover, the film records that were created through such projects were held not only for our own purposes, but held very much in trust for the peoples who opened their doors and lives to us.
Smithsonian National Anthropological Film Collection  (sihsfa_2014_02_image_001)
Thus began a collaboration between Norman Miller and the National Anthropological Film Center to archive all the films in the series and related materials resulting from this project. Over the past several decades the NAFC has archived the complete unedited film projects (uncut 16mm workprint with 16mm synchronous magnetic film sound track) for Afghanistan and Bolivia, the film elements for all the edited films, the camera original negative film “outtakes,” the original sound recordings, still photographs, paper records and study guides. The 26 edited films continue to be distributed by Documentary Educational Resources [hot link:], a non-profit company with which the NAFC has a long and intertwined history. In 2017, Norman Miller, along with DER, completed a project to digitally remaster nearly all the edited films. The remastered edited films were also sent to the Afghanistan Center. These digital video files will be held in the Smithsonian’s digital asset management system; but this is merely the technical story.

What of the village of Aq Kupruk and those individuals who allowed the filmmakers into their homes and lives? What is known of them? We know that the Afghanistan people have continued to live through decades of wars. Not only have many been killed but their cultural heritage and that of their nation is imperiled. Norman Miller, the producer of the series, told us that the town of Aq Kupruk was badly damaged during the Russian war and Naim and Jabar, the boys in Naim and Jabar, one of the best known films of the five-part Afghan project were killed along with the translator who worked with the filmmakers. Undoubtedly, the lives of many other individuals and families have been lost or tragically altered.

Smithsonian National Anthropological Film Collection (sihsfa_2005_05_op_003)
We know also that Nancy Dupree—as someone who made it much of her life’s work to cultivate respect for and understanding of the Afghan people and their culture—was profoundly grateful for the digital video files that we transferred to the Center in Kabul. This, after all, was an essential part of the process of “giving back”—a process with which archives and archivists are now increasingly involved. Having done that, we can only hope that the 22 hours of digital film now at the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University will become a valuable resource for engaging reflections on what survives, what has been lost and how it might be regained.

Pam Wintle, Senior Film Archivist

Friday, October 20, 2017

Flashback Friday: A Sacred Trust

Sarah Stauderman, former Collections Care Manager at Smithsonian Institution Archives discussing preservation techniques at the "Lecture" portion of the workshop. ACMA_01-005.20140. Photo courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
For this Flashback Friday, we highlight A Sacred Trust: Religious Archives. This initiative consisted of a series of workshops hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum in September 2004 and 2005. The sessions provided encouragement and hands-on archival training for community members and historians working informally to preserve the records of religious institutions. Smithsonian archivists, historians, librarians, and conservators offered guidance in the techniques and practice of establishing and maintaining archival programs and history projects.

The workshops launched a multi-layered initiative to support archival projects and heritage preservation programs by small institutions and to share museum knowledge and expertise with members of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan community.

Workshop participants on the steps of Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., during the "Tour" portion of the workshop. ACMA_01-005.20172. Photo courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. 
Jennifer Morris, Archivist
Anacostia Community Museum

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday: October 19, 1923

Young Austin H. Clark, 1910. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image Number SIA2007-0009. 
On October 19th, 1923 local Washington, DC radio station WRC, of the Radio Corporation of America, began broadcasting a series of talks on the Smithsonian. The talks were so successful that a regular series on scientific subjects was initiated on April 9, 1924, with Austin H. Clark who gives a talk on "The Giants of the Animal World."  The series runs for more than four years.

Austin Hobart Clark (1880-1954) came to the Smithsonian in 1908 as a Collaborator in the Division of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, and in 1910 he became Assistant Curator of the Division. In 1920, the collection of Echinoderms was removed from Marine Invertebrates to form a new Division of Echinoderms, with Clark as its Curator, a position which he held until his retirement in 1950.

Click here to explore more about Austin H. Clark at the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Pamela Henson, Historian
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Changing The Narrative of History: The Enduring Value of Community Collaborations

The pursuit of social justice is an important part of NMAI’s mission, and we work towards it in many ways. The most visible means of addressing issues of prejudice, racism, and injustice are public programs such as our symposium on racism and sports mascots or Nation to Nation, our major exhibition about treaties and sovereignty.

But perhaps the most enduring and transformative moments of change at NMAI are quite small and intimate. Native visitors to our collections often share with museum staff memories of their ancestors in photographs or knowledge about how an object in NMAI’s collection was made or used. This information is entered into our collections database and becomes part of the object’s catalog information. This sounds like mundane museum work, but in fact this personal, family, and community knowledge is crucial for transforming how the history of the Native people of the Western Hemisphere is told and studied. And that transformation – from a “museum-voice” narrative about Native Americans to a collaborative narrative by Native Americans – is at the heart of NMAI’s social justice mission.

I was fortunate to have an experience last March that beautifully illustrates how personal knowledge can change the narrative of history. Several visitors representing the Poeh Cultural Center (PCC) at Pojoaque Pueblo were at NMAI’s Cultural Resources Center to participate in a conservation workshop for our Community Loans program. Through this initiative NMAI is working collaboratively with the PCC to loan 100 ceramics representing the pueblos of Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Nambe, Tesuque, and Ohkay Owingeh. The PCC representatives were at NMAI’s CRC to discuss and make decisions about the conservation treatments of the ceramics with collections and conservation staff. The workshop demonstrates something fundamental about NMAI’s thinking – while our curators, conservators, archivists, and other staff are extremely knowledgeable, we are not the only experts. The people who make, grow up with, and live within the cultures that create these objects, such as Tewa pottery, have deep expertise. NMAI staff are aware that we have much to learn from the people whose cultural heritage it is our privilege to steward.

Among the community scholars, artists, and museum professionals who came to the CRC for this visit was John Garcia, a citizen of Santa Clara Pueblo and a remarkable individual who already has years of experience working with NMAI. He was a community curator on NMAI’s inaugural exhibition Our Universes. Mr. Garcia has played a major role in reintroducing traditions to Santa Clara Pueblo that had not been practiced in decades. If all of this wasn’t enough, he’s one of the kindest and most friendly people one could ever hope to meet.

As is the case with most Native visitors to the CRC, the staff of NMAI’s archives offered to run database reports of photographs for our guests. I was handing Mr. Garcia a report of the Santa Clara Pueblo photos in our collection when I overheard him discussing Edward S. Curtis with another NMAI staff member. This caught my attention because NMAI has an important collection of unique Curtis photogravure plates and proofs. These plates were used to print the many copies of Curtis’ massive 20 volume Indians of North America. Hopefully without sounding too nosy I asked how Curtis came up in their discussion, and Mr. Garcia said that Curtis has photographed one of his ancestors. The possibility of NMAI having the printing plate and proof of this photo was too exciting to pass up, even if the likelihood was low. Our collection of 184 printing plates is less than 10% of the total number of images in Curtis’ huge publication. But it was worth a look.

I will forever be so glad I stumbled into that conversation because not only does NMAI indeed have the printing plate of Oyi-tsa (or Duck White), Mr. Garcia’s great-great-grandfather, we have the big, folio-sized plate. And we have the accompanying proof – the very first print made from the plate.

Oyi-tsa (Duck White), summer cacique of Santa Clara. Photogravure plate #601; 1905;
Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs for The North American Indian, Box F42.National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by NMAI Photo Services.

Oyi-tsa (Duck White), summer caciqe of Santa Clara. Photogravure proof #601; 1905;
Edward S. Curtis photogravure plates and proofs for The North American Indian, Box F42. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by NMAI Photo Services.

The only thing more exciting than finding these photos was sharing them with Mr. Garcia. He had, of course, seen the photograph before, but did not know about the photogravure process. Seeing the unique printing plate, and the proof print was clearly a very special experience for him.
Left to Right: Lynda Romero (Pueblo of Pojoaque), Poeh Cultural Center Assistant Director of Programs, John Garcia (Pueblo of Santa Clara), and Michael Pahn discussing the proof of Edward Curtis' photograph of Oyi-tsa, March 2017. Photograph by NMAI Photo Services.
What came next, however, is the most exciting and most enduring part of this very special shared moment. Mr. Garcia talked about Oyi-tsa – how his family remembered him, that his baptized name was Jose Maria Naranjo, that he was the cacique, or leader, of the Santa Clara Pueblo’s summer moiety. Even by the time Oyi-tsa was cacique the leadership of the Pueblo had transitioned to a governor-based system. But the cacique was still an important ceremonial position, and one that a person was appointed to for life. Oyi-tsa served for an unusually long time – about thirty-five years – until his death in 1917. Mr. Garcia noted that many of Oyi-tsa’s descendants have honored his legacy by serving in leadership positions in the tribal government to the present day.

Mr. Garcia next flipped through the database report of photos I had given him earlier and told us about how other photos in NMAI’s collection were connected to Curtis’ photo. This is a photo of Oyi-tsa’s house, which is still standing. The two story section is the original building.

National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. P07082. Photo by Charles Morgan Wood.
This is a photo of Salvador Naranjo, Oyi-tsa’s son. Pictured with him is his first wife, Perfilia Naranjo. Salvador Naranjo’s second wife, Celestina Tafoya, was a noted pottery maker from a family of noted pottery makers. There are many vessels in the collection of the NMAI that were made by members of the Tafoya family.

National Musuem of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. P26018. Photograph by Ethel S. Tichenor.
And this is Cleto Tafoya, Oyi-tsa’s grandson, Salvador Naranjo’s nephew, and John Garcia’s grandfather. His parents were Juan Pablo and Clara Tafoya. While John Garcia’s father was serving in the South Pacific during WWII and his mother was working to support the family and the Home Front, he was raised by Cleto Tafoya.

National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. P07747. Unidentified photographer.
I can’t overstate how exciting it was to learn all of this new information. Mr. Garcia’s deep personal connection to the photograph of Oyi-tsa and knowledge of his family’s history revealed relationships between photographs and objects in our collection that NMAI staff could never have made on our own. Now that information will be available to researchers because it will be part of the catalog records for these materials. This is how we are changing the way history will be told in the future. Typical Western scholarship looks to cultural institutions like the Smithsonian to be the authorities on the past. Mr. Garcia, and all of the many other Native experts and scholars who have contributed their knowledge about the collections we steward, are helping to set the historical record straight by putting their Native voices where scholars – non-Native and Native alike – look for authoritative information.

It is impossible to reflect on this moment with Mr. Garcia and the photograph of Oyi-tsa without taking into account the legacy of Edward Curtis. While he did often record the names of the people he photographed, Curtis was not really depicting his subjects as individuals. Through his photos, they became abstractions or archetypes of the “noble savages” that supported the narrative of the dying race that Curtis and much of the field of anthropology was promoting in the early Twentieth Century. This is a topic that NMAI has explored at length in past exhibitions and publications.

Anonymity is powerful tool of racism. Stereotypes work when all members of some group are thought of as being essentially the same and individuals are stripped of their unique identity and character. This abstraction allows prejudices to take root. Consequently, the personal remembrances that NMAI’s visitors share are much more than charming stories. They return individuality to the people documented in our collection. They transform images of archetypes into pictures of human beings. History is ultimately the stories of human experiences, good and bad. By providing the historians of the future with greater context and detail about the Native people – actual people – of the Western hemisphere, the histories they tell will become increasingly just.

Michael Pahn, Head Archivist
National Museum of the American Indian

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Come Join Us at the 2017 Archives Fair!

As an archivist, ethnomusicologist, and musician working at the Smithsonian, I feel inspired when I have opportunities to work with colleagues within and beyond the Institution to provide public-facing platforms for dialogue. I get particularly enthusiastic when these events relate to the power of archival collections to provide context for the customs and traditions that shape the cultures in which we live. On Saturday, October 21, 2017, I will be participating in such an event at the National Museum of American History in the Coulter Performance Plaza and the SC Johnson Conference Center.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the public is invited to celebrate American Archives Month at the 2017 Archives Fair with the theme Performance and Preservation. As described on the National Archives webpage, participants will explore “the ways in which the preservation of archival collections translates into the preservation of culture through the performance and artistry of individuals and communities across the United States and around the world.”

The Fair has four main features. First, a diverse range of musicians, dancers, singers, and performers will take the stage throughout the day in the Coulter Performance Plaza to illuminate the ways in which the archival record informs their work as artists. Second, a series of panel discussions in the SC Johnson Conference Center will reveal how archival documentation influences artistic expression, dance (bodies in motion), and access. Third, we will have representatives of over 20 archives and organizational repositories exhibiting at tables set up throughout Coulter Performance Plaza, sharing information about their archival work in a wide range of institutional, regional, and community contexts. Last (but definitely not least), visitors will have the rare opportunity to participate in a behind-the-scenes archives tour at the National Museum of American History’s Archives Center, home to some of the country’s most valuable archival collections.

Ultimately, this year’s event would not be happening were it not for the vision and collaboration between members of the National Archives Assembly, the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference DC and Maryland Caucuses. For more information about the schedule-of-events and a full list of the Fair’s participants, please visit the Archives Fair website and plan on arriving at the National Museum of American History when it opens at 10 a.m. The official welcoming and opening remarks will begin at 10:45 with the first performances and panel discussions taking place at 11!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Greg C. Adams, Assistant Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife ArchivesSmithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bryson Jones’ Deep South Travelogue: A Glimpse into Tourism’s Impact on Southern Landscapes and Identities

As a summer intern at the National Anthropological Film Collection (formerly known as the Human Studies Film Archives) in the National Anthropological Archives I digitized clips from the documentary film Bryson Jones Travelogue: Deep South, ca. 1940. This film was used by an amateur travel-lecturer and documented his travels through the American South, focusing on popular tourist destinations. I believe the footage captured in this documentary is particularly valuable for anthropologists and historians alike because of its footage of southern tourism.

Florida oceanarium, likely Marine Studios, St. Augustine, Florida (frame grab sihsfa_1995_11_008_fg_1), National Anthropological Film Collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

But why should we care about southern tourism? Well, because the tourism industry is not only one of the South’s most powerful economic forces, tourism is also an incredibly important actor in the creation of southern imaginaries and landscapes and has played a significant role in shaping a unified and easily identifiable “southern” identity (Starnes; McIntyre). In the half-century after the Civil War, northern tourist writers marketed the South as an exotic, anti-modern, and picturesque escape from modern industrial society to the North’s “affluent urbanites” (Cox; McIntyre). Aiding the growth of southern tourism were rapidly improving and expanding transportation systems and an emerging northern middle class (Cox). Although the South was not the only region of the United States popular for travel during this time period, it was more accessible and less expensive to those Americans living in the North and Midwest who wanted to experience a change in landscape (Cox). The influx of tourists to the region aided in reimagining the South and transforming major cities while southern attractions began promoting a highly romanticized version of a mythic “Old South” and other contrived regional mythologies (McIntyre).

By 1940, tourists were flocking to popular southern tourist areas, many of which are captured in Bryson Jones’ travelogue. This film includes footage of New Orleans, Miami, Jamestown, Appomattox, and the Florida Keys. Each of these locations are examples of tourism’s pronounced impact on southern culture, identity, and landscape. For instance, New Orleans, previously cast as a dangerous “moral escape hatch,” was culturally white-washed and rebranded as a festive city with a romantic, foreign past during the interwar years (Stanonis; Souther). As tourism transformed New Orleans, Miami “burst upon the national consciousness” and its defining values of leisure and luxury appealed to tourists (Schrum). In Bryson Jones’s travelogue you can observe how the tourism industry and the rapid changes in the decades after the Civil War had manifested in both cities by 1940.

Also included in the travelogue are what appear to be two of Florida’s most popular tourist attractions, Marine Studios, popularly known as the “World’s First Oceanarium,” and Silver Springs State Park, a popular tourist destination that offered glass-bottom boat tours and the Ross Allen Reptile Institute. Although a small portion of Bryson Jones Travelogue: Deep South, the footage of Silver Springs State Park is a fascinating window into Florida tourism because of the ways in which this attraction and other similar ones invented a mythic history of Florida’s Everglades and Seminole people. Until the end of the 19th century the Seminoles were cast as “craven mixed-race killers” central to the view of Florida as a “forbidden land” (Knight). Around the turn of the century the Seminoles were recast as “benign specimens of moral and racial purity and saleable symbols of the state’s unique appeal” (Knight). In addition to the recasting of the Seminole Indians, south Florida’s growing popularity and real estate boom in the 1920s caused drainage canals to permeate deeper into the Everglades and erode the resources previously relied upon by the Seminoles (Knight). Thus, Seminoles were more and more likely to work at tourist sites. Tourist sites, such as Silver Springs, capitalized on the draw these newly recast Seminole Indians had on tourists and set up commercial Seminole tourist camps, where the inhabitants would sell crafts as souvenirs and wrestle alligators, as seen in Bryson Jones’ travelogue (Mechling). Alligator wrestling became synonymous with Seminole manhood, yet in reality was inauthentic and violated Seminole taboos about mistreatment of spiritually powerful animals (Frank). Regardless, the image of Seminole Indians constructed by Florida’s tourism industry entered popular culture and the larger southern imaginary.

Possibly Ross Allen or a Seminole Indian employed by Allen at the Reptile Institute, Silver Springs, Florida (frame grab sihsfa_1995_11_008_fg_2), National Anthropological Film Collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Bryson Jones’ Deep South travelogue is not the only of his travel films housed at the NAFC. The NAFC received eight travelogues documenting his travels to all corners of the world during the late 1930s and early 1940s. These travel films can be found in the NAFC in the National Anthropological Archives, located at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. You can also find clips from Bryson Jones Travelogue: Deep South on the HSFA YouTube channel.

Caroline Waller, Intern
National Anthropological Film Collection,
National Museum of Natural History

Cox, Karen L., ed. Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History. University Press of Florida, 2012. Florida Scholarship Online, 2013. doi: 10.5744/florida/9780813042374.001.0001.

Frank, Andrew K. "Authenticity for Sale: The Everglades, Seminole Indians, and the Construction of a Pay-Per-View Culture." In Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History, edited by Karen L. Cox. University Press of Florida, 2012. Florida Scholarship Online, 2013. doi: 10.5744/florida/9780813042374.003.0014.

Kelly Schrum, Gary R. Mormino; Travel, Tourism, and Urban Growth in Greater Miami: A Digital Archive, Created and maintained by the Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami, Fla. Reviewed Feb.–April 2007. J Am Hist 2007; 94 (3): 1045-1046. doi: 10.2307/25095307

Knight, Henry. "'Savages of Southern Sunshine': Racial Realignment of the Seminoles in the Selling of Jim Crow Florida." Journal of American Studies 48, no. 01 (2014): 251-73. doi:10.1017/s002187581300128x.

McIntyre, Rebecca Cawood. "Introduction." In Souvenirs of the Old South: Northern Tourism and Southern Mythology. University Press of Florida, 2011. Florida Scholarship Online, 2011. doi: 10.5744/florida/9780813036953.003.0001.

Mechling, Jay. Florida Seminoles and the Marketing of the Last Frontier. Westview, 1996.

Starnes, Richard D., ed. Southern Journeys : Tourism, History, and Culture in the Modern South. Tuscaloosa, US: University of Alabama Press, 2014. Accessed July 10, 2017. ProQuest ebrary.

Stanonis, Anthony J.. Creating the Big Easy : New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918-1945. Athens, US: University of Georgia Press, 2006. Accessed July 12, 2017. ProQuest ebrary.

Souther, Jonathan Mark. New Orleans on Parade : Tourism and the Transformation of the Crescent City. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.