The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
- That thing must weigh a ton! A vault door will great visitors to the new Numismatics Gallery at the National Museum of American History. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- Putting the pieces together - A curator's journey to find pieces of the history of the Art and Technology Program of 1967-1971 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The program was an initiative that paired artists with corporations in the areas of aerospace, entertainment, scientific research, and other industries. [via Unframed blog, LACMA]
- Ever evolving - Lessons in research instruction from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. [via Unbound blog, SL]
- Bibliophiles rejoice - More than 100 lectures from the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia are now available online. [via InfoDocket]
- Between a microfibre cloth, lambs' wool duster and HEPA filter vacuum cleaner, the dust removal winner is . . . [via The National Archives UK blog]
- 5 things you probably didn't know about the 'ukulele. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- The British Library announced this week their plan to digitize and make available online 500,000 "at risk" rare and unique sound recordings. [via InfoDocket]
- Start your Memorial Day Weekend with the following video from the National Archives and Records Administration which tells viewers of the importance of the holiday. [via Prologue: Pieces of History, NARA]
- And now you see it - The oldest microscope at the National Museum of American History. [via O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- A previously misfiled fossil leads to the revelation that the prehistoric reptile, known as a mosasaur, gave birth in the open ocean rather then lay eggs. [via Smithsonian Science News]
- From the Archives of American Art - A look at how the life and work of artist Miné Okubo was affected by being detained in the Topaz internment camp in Utah during World War II. [via Archives of American Art Blog]
- It's official - It was announced this week that President Barack Obama's Presidential Library will be located in Chicago. [via InfoDocket]
- Happy 50th Anniversary to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center! This Saturday, May 16, they are hosting an open house at their location in Edgewater, Maryland. [via SERC]
- There's an app for that - Yale University released an app that builds on the Map of Life’s integrated global database of everything from bumblebees to trees, which tells users which species are likely to be found in their vicinity. [via Yale News]
- Congratulations to the University of Pennsylvania who recently acquired a copy of Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg’s Petit Code de la raison humaine, a book printed in France by Benjamin Franklin in 1782. One of only four known surviving copies, its acquisition by Penn adds to its collection of more than 330 works printed by Franklin. [via InfoDocket]
- New from the National Museum of African Art - Its first graphic novel, The Song of Lionogo, which is based on a Swahili mythological figure from East Africa and was inspired by the cultural connections between the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean. [via NMAfA]
- My how far we've come - A new website allows you to see when your digital images would lool like rendered on an old Commodore 64 computer. [via PetaPixel]
- In their own words, oral histories at the Archives of American Art shed light on the artistist, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, in their exhibition, Artist Teacher Organizer: Yasuo Kunioshi in the Archives of American Art. [via Archives of American Art Blog]
- Watch out manuscripts, the next step: Handwritten Text Recognition! [via InfoDocket]
- This week the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced the winners of the 16th Annual Desgin Awards. [via Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum]
- Four basic steps - Archiving the Arthur C. Clarke Collection. [via AirSpace Blog, NASM]
- Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, spoke with Smithsonian Magazine about the Baltimore protests, the role of museums during times of upheaval, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s plans for the future. For more from Lonnie Bunch about the museum, please see the video below. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- For the first time - The National Air and Space Museum lowers the Bell X-1 to the floor for the first time since the museum opened in 1976. [via SI Newsdesk]
- From the National Postal Museum - The 10 most common and preventable problems that can damage collections, both in a museum and at home. [via Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- In 2008, photographer Anita Cobin embarked on a 10-year project to take portraits of women in the United Kingdom who were the first to achieve something in their field to celebrate in 2018 the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the UK. [via PetaPixel]
- Everyone needs some guidance - Helping Congress archive their personal digital records. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LC]
- No available as Link Open Data - The Getty's Union List of Artist Names. [via The Getty Iris]
- May is Asian Pacific Heritage month and the Smithsonian will kick off the month with "Korea Day: A Family Festival" which will be hosted by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, on Sunday, May 3, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. [via SI Newsdesk]
- The University of Virginia in partnership with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, will embark on a project to publish Martha Washington's letters in fully edited and annotated volumes. [via InfoDocket]
- Opening today at the Whitney Museum of American Art is it's inaugural exhibition in its new home: "America is Hard to See." [via Cool Hunting]
Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) organizes events and initiatives designed to promote preservation-minded activities amongst the general public, known as Preservation Week. According to ALA's website as of 2005, nearly 5 billion items are stored in U.S. museums, archives, and libraries, and while many of them have staff to care for them and are provided for in disaster planning, all are susceptible to damage. In addition to simply advocating for preservation, ALA further "encourages libraries and other institutions to use Preservation Week to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections."
As a small contribution to Preservation Week, the conservation staff at the Smithsonian Institution Archives wants to share some of our recent forays into practical applications of preservation-mindedness.
Innovations for Safe Display of Collections
At the beginning of April 2015, Archive conservation staff attended a symposium presented by the Folger Shakespeare Library entitled "Don't Rock the Cradle: Books in Exhibitions - Mounts, Materials, and Economy." The importance of safely displaying any museum or archive collection cannot be overstated. When exhibitions are planned, much thought is put into the environmental controls, the duration of the display to account for possible light damage, and security. With books, it is exceptionally important that its structures be properly supported.
Born from a German master's student research, "Don't Rock the Cradle" was a sequel to a similar conference held in Berlin in 2013 that presented and evaluated strengths and weaknesses of various types of exhibition-appropriate book supports, focusing mainly on the cradle format. Leading conservators and exhibition experts from institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, among others, were invited to present their methods of supporting and displaying books with the goal of sharing expertise and inspiring innovation, with an added emphasis on improvements that could be beneficial to the wider preservation community. A "marketplace" was also set up to demonstrate solutions presented during the conference, and proved a fruitful opportunity to exchange ideas. Postprints describing the contributions are forthcoming, including that of Archive's own Nora Lockshin, whose development of collapsible magnetic book cradles and magnetic strapping was of great interest to the attendees. Nora's work will also be uploaded to the American Institute for Conservation (AIC)’s Book and Paper Group Wiki during AIC's annual conference in May 2015 - look for it in the exhibition section and gallery.
Initiatives to Promote Safe Handling
With the innovations of others fresh in our minds from "Don't Rock the Cradle," we wanted to carry forward this momentum and take a look at collections care in action in our own space - specifically that of our reading room, where patrons come and use our materials. We plan to refresh demonstrations for staff and patrons in order to successfully promulgate the best conditions for our documents and build awareness among our researchers of the importance of safe handling. With the steady stream of researchers making use of our collections, it can be difficult to ensure that all who consult our materials do so with the highest standards of handling. In addition to providing basic reading room guidelines that patrons must agree to follow, we encourage staff to speak to patrons who can use a gentle reminder of best practices, and speak up when appropriate based on observation. Alongside refreshed in-person training and demonstrations, we plan to prepare visual reminders and tip sheets to reinforce best practice and act as a resource for visiting researchers. We are also considering creating video demonstrations of our handling practices, like this one from Harvard on handling special collections, or Duke University Libraries' video demo of a book futon.
With the right training and tools - like adequate book supports - researchers and staff contribute to our mission to preserve the records of the Smithsonian for the future. We hope this inspires you to take part in Preservation Week! Have a look at the links below for ideas, tips, and events near you.
- Preservation Week, Facebook
- Harvard Libraries' online resources on care and handling
- Preservation Resources, American Institute for Conservation
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