The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: What Gets Saved
Holiday family traditions are some of the things that people look forward to throughout the year. For my family, that would be the annual Christmas party. This is an unusual tradition in a Jewish family that emigrated from Russia at the turn of the 20th century.
That's my Grandmother, Sally, on the lower left, her 4 brothers and sisters and her mother. It was her younger sister, Frankie, on the upper left, who started the family tradition that lives on today. As an adult, Aunt Frankie lived in New York City and before she got married she shared an apartment with a roommate from Chicago. As the story goes, one year the roommate could not get home for the holiday. Aunt Frankie decided to throw a party for her and invited her own extended family, which at that point lived in New Jersey and New York. The party has been held each year since then.
I'm not sure in exactly what year that first party took place, but it was probably in the early 1930s or late 1920s. In 1939, my mother attended the party. She is the second on the left in the first row.
And at the 1940 party this picture was taken of my Grandma Sally, her 4 brothers and sisters and their spouses in front of the Christmas tree.
Grandma Sally is in the middle of the back row with her husband, David, to her right. Aunt Frankie is wearing the pinafore and her husband, Wally, stands behind her. Nearby is the piano which was part of the entertainment at the party for many years.
In 1982, this picture was taken of Aunt Frankie's extended family. Aunt Frankie is in the middle row on the left with her children, grandchildren and in-laws. Frankie's eldest grandson, sitting on her lap and making a silly face, now has a child of his own as does his brother on the far right. Cousin Francie, one of Aunt Frankie's daughters, on the right with her arm around the boy in red pants, now hosts the party. Even after the passing of Sally and Frankie's generation, we still celebrate on Christmas Day along with the four generations of family that live in an ever-widening circle from Massachusetts to Virginia to California and points in between.
There are many traditions that are part of this family gathering. For example, we always have a Christmas tree and when Hanukkah and Christmas coincided, we light the candles on the menorah. The menu has remained fairly unchanged over the years. The feast includes turkey, stuffing (with and without nuts), beef tongue (don't knock it till you've tried it), baked beans, a chopped cabbage salad (served in the same huge bowl), cranberry sauces of various kinds, and of course a variety of delicious desserts.
There are other elements that make this tradition so rich including shared stories of past parties, family recipes and cooking rituals (the preparation of that chopped salad begins days in advance). Cousin Bill, Aunt Frankie's son, wrote and recorded a story for a public radio station one year that we listened to together during the party. We have also heard music, poetry and comedy records and there were even a few years where some of the cousins performed magic tricks. All these things are part of the history of a family tradition. There have been many photos and videos taken over the years to record the parties and we love to look back at images of past gatherings. Sharing our memories brings great pleasure to us all.
Preserving these traditions takes some effort in collecting and organization. The Archives has written about this before and it seems timely again.
Here are a few ideas about saving stories, recipes and video/audio recordings:
- Create a journal. Tell the story of an event. Share it with other members of the family to capture more details. Including information about who, where and when comes in handy when you want to recall some detail from a previous event.
- Write down and share recipes. Take pictures of food (tablets and smart phones are great for doing this). Write down a recipe and save it on your computer. Include information about who made that dish, its origins and family memories and stories associated with it.
- Make video/audio recordings of people singing, telling stories, reading poetry, or in the case of my family, doing magic tricks. It is easy to download these files from a camera/smartphone/tablet to your computer.
- Scan paper documents/pictures. Today's all-in-one printers make it easy to scan a document. And there are hand-held scanners that allow you to copy images/documents from a book or album.
- Save these files on a computer and organize them. It is good to name and group files by date, location or name so that you can find them later.
- Make backup copies in a different place, for example on a hard drive, flash drive, CD/DVD, or the cloud.
- Save hard copies of select files. Pick the best, or most favorite and print them out. Create a scrapbook that can be shared.
Taking a little time and effort will help to preserve family traditions and create a legacy to share. Remembering the sounds, smells, tastes, laughter and warm feelings bring us together again over the miles and the years. So, pass the turkey and the beef tongue and don’t skimp on the chopped salad!
- Clean Sweep in the New Year: Organizing Digital Photos, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Last chance . . . The Renwick Gallery will be closing to the public after this Sunday, December 8 for renovations and will not open again until 2016. [via Eye Level, SAAM]
- With the holidays imminent, take some advice from the Library of Congress on how to best preserve your digital memories. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Speaking of the holidays, the Smithsonian Gardens staff are busy working away at getting the Smithsonian's gardens and buildings decorated to celebrate the season. [via Smithsonian Gardens blog]
- It's official, the new panda cub at the National Zoological Park is named Bao Bao, meaning "precious or treasure" in English. [via Around the Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- Recently opened at the National Museum of Natural History is a new space called Q?rius, a first-of-its-kind interactive environment for teens that allows them to connect science with the everyday teen experience. [via The Torch, Smithsonian]
- The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, in cooperation with Marist College and IBM, just launched FRANKLIN, a free virtual reading room and digital library with 350,000 pages of documents and 2,000 photographs related to FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. [via Jennifer Wright, SIA]
- A new report out by the Library of Congress and the Council on Library and Information Resources takes a look at the American silent feature films from 1919-1929. [via InfoDocket]
- America's love affair with movies can trace its roots perhaps to The Great Train Robbery, which made its debut in December 1903. [via Media Matters blog, NARA]
- A video conversation 'Thank You" from Lesley Parilla and the Field Book Project for its Digital Volunteers who helped transcribe a field book on Honeycreepers by Martin Moynihan. [via Field Book Project blog, NMNH]
- In time for World AIDS day on December 1, a massive online archive of AIDS posters is now available. [via InfoDocket]
- This past week people around the country celebrated Thanksgiving with their friends and family. Find out how the holiday was celebrated from a soldier during the Civil War to those serving in the military away from home, as well look at the strangeness of the presidential turkey. [ via The Torch, SI; O Say Can You See?, NMAH; and Raw File, Wired]
- Europeana celebrated its 5th anniversary and the arrival of its 30 millionth cultural object, two years ahead of schedule! [via InfoDocket]
- In a remarkable coindicence, a new book of self-portraits by Vivian Maier comes out the same year that "selfie" was named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. [via Colossal]
- Instant access! Check out the National Museum of American History's Founding Fragments - a new series of short videos that delves into the storage cabinets and drawers to find an interesting object that illuminates a small piece of the American story. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Just in time for Thanksgiving, the National Archives has digitized and made available online 5 Thanksgiving related videos. [via InfoDocket]
- More action going on at the construction site of the National Museum of African American History and Culture as a 1920s 44-seat Southern Railway segregated train car and a 1930s guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary were lowered into place in the future museum. [via The Washinton Post]
- You've built it, now how useful is it to users . . . A look at the scholarly uses of digital collections. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is Jonathan Hennessey's new book, The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation, which presents the story of the Civil War in graphic novel form. [via Library of Congress Blog]
- What is a November without talking about moustaches and facial hair, the Archives' Courtney Bellizzi, explores this very topic over at the Smithsonian Collections Blog.
- That looks a little wrinkled . . . Learn about the process of unrolling, flattening, and conserving a piece of airplane fuselage fabric from World War I. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Last weekend the Smithsonian American Art Museum hosted a hackathon to reimagine the digital interpretation in the museum's visible storage facility, for a look at the people's choice winner, see the video below. [via SAAM]
- I want my SI 3D! This week saw the release of the Smithsonian X 3D Collection and state-of-the-art 3-D explorer.
- Come join the Smithsonian this weekend at the Innovation Family Day at the National Museum of the American Indian for Innovation Explorations in Sound! You can make music with world rhythms, play with the science of sound, listen to the calls of frogs, and participate in hands-on activities that invite you to be innovative and interact with sound artists, inventors and other creative thinkers.
- American Archive of Public Broadcasting - a historic collection of American public radio and television content - will be preserved and made available through a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH Boston. [via InfoDocket]
- Going to the hardware graveyeard. Visiting forgotten and obsolete hardware of the past. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- Among other announcements this week are: The Seth MacFarlance Collection of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive is open to the public at the Library of Congress and a collection of World War I and II propaganda posters is available at Washington State University. [via InfoDocket and Jennifer Wright, SIA]
- Also coming from across the pond, the National Archives (UK) launched a new First World War portal that allows researchers to access the official UK government records of the First World War, including a vast collection of letters, diaries, maps and photographs. [via InfoDocket]
- For more information about Smithsonian X 3D check out the following video.
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