October is American Archives month and the archives around the Smithsonian campus will celebrate with the first-ever Smithsonian Archives Fair on Friday, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the S. Dillon Ripley Center concourse at 1100 Jefferson Drive SW in Washington, D.C. The fair will feature a series of talks on projects and research based on Smithsonian collections and informal displays from the Institution’s different archives. Visitors can also “Ask the Smithsonian” for preservation and storage tips and hands-on consultation about their own treasures that may be tucked away in attics, closets or basements.
Preregistration is required for the “Ask the Smithsonian” review portion. Attendees seeking to have archival materials reviewed may bring in one or two (if the items are related) easily transported archival items no larger than a shopping bag. Archives include everything from letters, diaries, maps and scrapbooks to photographs, films, recordings and computer disks. In addition to this fantastic opportunity, guest speakers will be presenting lectures on myriad topics throughout the day. A complete schedule of the lecture series can be found at here.
The Smithsonian’s archival holdings are among the nation’s largest—collecting, preserving and making available for study the voluminous and varied original documentation of America’s rich cultural, commercial, scientific, native and artistic heritage.
“Archives Month is a time to celebrate the American record and serve American society,” said Stephanie Smith, an archivist for the Center of Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Smith, who is serving as the 2010 chair of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council, added that “many staff may not realize the richness or scope of our archives. These resources strengthen the nation’s collective memory by providing the raw materials for research and use in public education, scholarly and commercial publications, exhibitions and public and commercial broadcasting.”
The Archives of American Art has been digitizing entire archival collections and making them publicly available on the web with Collections Online. Users can enjoy a “virtual reading room” with access to the entire collection via an electronic search aid, box and folder listings. Funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, AAA has digitized more than 100 individual collections, including the records of the Betty Parsons Gallery, the largest and most recently digitized collection.
The National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives collect and preserve historical and contemporary archival materials that document the world’s cultures and the history of anthropology. Together they form one of the largest and most significant repositories of photographs, field notes, organizational records, audio recordings, artwork, maps, moving image media and personal papers relating to indigenous cultures and anthropological study. The NAA and HSFA staff will be presenting “Documenting World Cultures,” as part of the lecture series at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.
The American Art Museum’s Photograph Archives will be highlighting the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection. During their 70 years in business as one of the most respected fine-arts photography firms in New York, Peter and Paul Juley covered American art from Realism to Impressionism to Abstraction. In addition, the Juley Collection holds some 4,700 photographic portraits of artists, including some of the most well-known of the 20th century: Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Jacob Lawrence, Barnett Newman, Diego Rivera and Grant Wood. Many portraits depict their subjects at work in their studios or at home with their families and offer glimpses into the artistic and social climate of the period.
The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives of the National Museum of African Art will showcase a new collection of historic photography from Nigeria at the Archives Fair. The Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge Photographic Collection spans six decades (1926 – 1989) and represents a dynamic, continuous record of the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria. Chief Alonge was the Royal photographer to the Oba of Benin, Akenzua II (1933-1978), and for more than half a century documented the ritual, pageantry and regalia of the Obas, their wives and retainers. In 2009, Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF) allowed the Archives to rehouse, preserve and duplicate more than 2,000 images in the collection. An illustrated presentation by Senior Archivist Amy Staples will focus on highlights of the collection and the conservation of glass plate negatives and large-format film negatives. In 2010-2011, CCPF funds will allow the Archives to conserve Alonge’s photographic albums and vintage photographs, including a number of original hand-colored prints. Some of these vintage prints will be showcased in a major photographic exhibition on Chief Alonge’s photography at the National Museum of African Art in 2012.
The National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center documents the historical and contemporary lives of Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere through Native art, culture, knowledge, politics, events, and social movements. The museum’s head archivist, Jennifer O’Neal, will be giving a presentation at 11:30 a.m. entitled “Cultural Stewardship at the National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center”. This talk will include an overview of the history of the archive collections and highlights of current projects underway, including digitization and preservation. The NMAI Archive Center takes an active role in fostering collaborative relationships with the tribal communities whose materials they hold and curate. The presentation will also provide examples of how they have implemented culturally responsive care of indigenous archival material through respect, reciprocity, and consultation.
For the first time, The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is participating in the Archives Fair. It is a little known fact that the Libraries have archival materials such as original photographs and manuscripts in its collections. The fair is a great opportunity to publicize some of the most interesting items, such as the Dibner Library’s manuscripts on the history of science and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library’s files documenting the work of various American industrial designers. There will be an SIL information table, and staff members (including rare book librarians and a book conservator) will be offering feedback to members of the public who bring in treasured books and documents to learn about the historical context of the artifacts and recommended practices for their preservation. From 10:30-11:00 a.m. on Friday, SIL Special Collections Cataloger Diane Shaw will be doing a presentation on the Russell E. Train Africana Collection of manuscripts, photographs, newsclippings, maps, and artwork housed in the Joseph F. Cullman III Library of Natural History.
Posted: 21 October 2010