Posts tagged ‘Archives Month’
Archives can be intimidating. The first time I truly spent any time with an archive was graduate school, researching Gilded Age costume balls in New York City as part of an internship. Flipping through the folders of hundred-year-old photographs inspired both a sense of awe and terror. I was so conscientious, never laying a finger on a photograph, turning the photos just the way I had been told to by the nice (but firm) archivist, and making sure not one thing was out of place when I returned the boxes. Having the opportunity to be so close to history, and the physical trail of documents, photographs, and objects that comes along with it, was both thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time.
It can be hard to see how archives connect to our everyday lives, or even to see how our very own stories and lives could be important enough to be included in a museum. The Smithsonian Institution is home to amazing and Important (with a capital “I”) treasures, such as a letter from Galileo and Thomas Jefferson’s Bible. But also hidden in these archives and collections vaults are small gems, such as a promotional flower seed box from the mid 1800s to family photo albums.
Our family histories—and our gardens—can seem like just the tiniest, most ephemeral seeds in the vast forest of history, but our memories of “everyday” history have the power tell big stories. A story of grandma’s Victory Garden during World War II and her recipe for sweet canned peaches is also a tale of perseverance and making-do during a time of adversity. Memories of backyard barbecues and Tiki parties on the patio in the 1950s speak of a time of newfound prosperity for the middle class in the postwar years. Your story of the tiny herb garden and cucumbers growing on the balcony of your city apartment? Someday, it could show future historians how individuals contributed to the greening of America’s cities in the early 21st century.
October is American Archives Month, and the theme for 2015 is the “Power of Collaboration.” Our Community of Gardens digital archive depends wholly on collaboration to exist—we are collecting your stories and memories about gardens and gardening! Anyone can submit a memory, story, photograph, or video about a garden in America. You can help us preserve garden history and become a part of the Smithsonian by sharing your story with us on the website.
Here are a few of our favorite family stories submitted by the public from the Community of Gardens digital archive. From left to right:
- Four Generations of Gardeners. This story spans three centuries, and many bountiful crops of ripe tomatoes: https://communityofgardens.si.edu/items/show/54
- Grandmother’s Garden. A granddaughter shares her memories of her grandmother’s love of roses and gardening: https://communityofgardens.si.edu/items/show/12119
- Camy and Larry’s Backyard Wedding. Recollections of a 1970’s hippie backyard wedding in a woodland setting, with Super 8mm footage. Check out those vintage dresses! https://communityofgardens.si.edu/items/show/12203
What is your family’s garden story? Get inspired by Archives Month and interview a family member about their garden memories or share your own. It’s a great excuse to dig into those family photos and videos and start asking questions! Share your story this month, or any month of the year.
-Kate Fox, Smithsonian Gardens Educator
As a continuation to the National History Day post, we wanted to offer ways to find credible primary sources for any research projects. There is an infinite amount of information available to students today, but it is also infinitely important to know how to search for credible sources. Resources are available both online and in-person if you know where to look.
If your student is looking for something available online these are great starting points:
- The National Archives and Records Administration’s hub for primary sources and learning activities with primary sources in the NARA collection: docsteach.org
- A page which NARA gears towards the NHD theme each year: docsteach.org/home/national-history-day
- Curated sets of primary sources by the Library of Congress ranging on topics spanning America’s history: loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/
- A site detailing how to find information from Presidential Libraries, which are a subsidiary of NARA: archives.gov/presidential-libraries/research/
- For artwork and other cultural pieces check out the Google Cultural Institute (google.com/culturalinstitute/about/) and digitized artworks from internationally renowned galleries and museums: www.google.com/culturalinstitute/project/art-project
- Search your state’s archive for any digitized material: http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html
- The Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center is a catalog for all materials across the Smithsonian’s many institutions: http://collections.si.edu/search/
However, not everything in an institution is available online. If your student has the ability to do so, visiting an archive is a great way to find primary and secondary sources. Local courthouses and city offices hold historical records such as property deeds or census records and registries. Art museums and galleries are also a great source. There may be local colleges or universities in your area with historical collections waiting to be explored. Don’t forget to look for historical societies, churches, and of course libraries which all may have primary sources about your area. All it takes is a phone call or e-mail stating your interest to find out what material is available to you!
-Catherine Bell, Archives of American Gardens intern
During a recent conversation, a parent of a high school student brought up the question of how to find primary sources to use in National History Day projects. That got the Archives of American Gardens staff thinking; maybe we have items that could help students find interesting and exciting ideas for projects. The 2015 theme for NHD is “Leadership and Legacy in History,” and a further description for the theme can be found here: http://www.nhd.org/images/uploads/Theme_2015_5-7.pdf.
NHD encourages participants to develop their understanding of history using both primary and secondary resources, finding new stories beyond what is generally taught in the classroom. While the NHD website offers some great ideas for topics, the staff at AAG have a few of our own to offer. Each of the topics listed are ideas or starting points for an NHD project, and we have included places to find further information and resources beyond AAG collections.
Legacy of the Redwoods: How the Garden Club of America saved a Forest:
- Primary source from the Archives of American Gardens’ Garden Club of America Collection: http://tinyurl.com/ltrszno
- Secondary Source giving background information: http://www.savetheredwoods.org/wp-content/uploads/GCA-Grove-FAQs.pdf
Milton Hershey’s Legacy: Public Spaces at the Hershey Rose Gardens:
- Primary sources- catalog link to images of the Hershey Rose Garden from the Archives of American Gardens: http://tinyurl.com/mxpvfaj
- Primary sources- records from the Hershey Community Archives relating to the Hershey Rose Garden: http://media.hersheyarchives.org/archon/index.php?p=core/search&subjectid=426
- For more information on the Rose Garden and Milton Hershey see the Hershey Community Archives: http://www.hersheyarchives.org/
The Leadership and Legacy of Charles Sprague Sargent:
- Primary sources- images connected to Sargent from the Archives of American Gardens: http://tinyurl.com/pojn46l
- Primary sources- catalog link to images and documents on the Arnold Arboretum from the Archives of American Gardens: http://tinyurl.com/mxrzbhr
- For more information on Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum: http://arboretum.harvard.edu/about/our-history/
The Leadership and Legacy of Frederic Law Olmsted: (Note: Materials listed are extensive)
- Primary sources- catalog link to images pertaining to Olmsted and his works including Arnold Arboretum, Rusty Rocks, Central Park, and Franklin Park in the Archives of American Gardens collection: http://tinyurl.com/od8vjwr
- The Olmsted Archives at the National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/frla/olmstedarchives.htm
- For more information on Olmsted and his specific projects: http://www.olmsted.org/the-olmsted-legacy/frederick-law-olmsted-sr
- For more information on the “Emerald Necklace:” http://arboretum.harvard.edu/about/emerald-necklace/
Leader in Conservation: The Legacy of J. Horace McFarland:
- Primary sources- images of parks in the J. Horace McFarland collection at the Archives of American Gardens: http://tinyurl.com/kwk869r
- Information on collection materials at the Archives of American Gardens: http://gardens.si.edu/collections-research/aag-mcfarland-collection.html
- Information on McFarland and materials relating to him at the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library: http://specialcollections.nal.usda.gov/j-horace-mcfarland-collection
- The Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission holds materials pertaining to McFarland and the American Civic Association: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/mg/mg85.htm
Other ideas for further research include:
- The Leadership of the W. Atlee Burpee Company
- Legacy of Gardening in America
- Changing the Landscape: the Legacy of Women in Landscape Architecture and Design
- Public Parks: the Legacy of Public Spaces in American History
Whatever topic your student may choose, we hope these offer some unique opportunities to create an interesting project for National History Day. The Archives of American Gardens staff welcomes any questions regarding these ideas or collection materials and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-5840.
-Catherine Bell, Archives of American Gardens intern
Here at Smithsonian Gardens we are celebrating American Archives Month throughout October. In August 2013, we participated in the first of a series of pilot projects, funded by the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, to create high resolution images of archival, museum and library collection items at a rapid speed. The pilot project included a week-long open house for Smithsonian staff, fellows, interns, volunteers and contractors, to showcase the rapid digitizating of over 900 historic glass-plate negatives from the Thomas Sears Collection at the Archives of American Gardens. The open house demonstrated all stages of digitizating a glass-plate negative collection, from moving each fragile plate in a custom carrier, capturing it, and performing quality control on the resulting image, to making the digitized output accessible to the public online. The overall process involved an outside contractor performing the image capture and image processing and two staff members from the Archives of American Gardens prepping the images, handling the glass-plate negatives, ingesting the images into the Smithsonian’s Digital Asset Management System and linking them to pre-existing catalog records in the Smithsonian’s online catalog, SIRIS.
The 8×10 negatives, which had previously been digitized in the 1990s on a video disc at 640 pixels on the image’s longest side, were obviously pixelated in SIRIS. New scans of the negatives created by the vendor through rapid capture were digitized with an 80 megapixel camera. The quality of the new scans, measured at roughly 10,000 pixels on the longest side, ensures that the Archives will likely never have to scan the glass plates again. Rapid capture is not new, but the tools to measure the quality that can be achieved through rapid digitization are. For any large scale digitization projects of like materials, the Archives of American Gardens hopes to secure funding to digitize archival images through the rapid capture process instead of its current method of digitizing on a flatbed scanner.
To put it into concrete terms, the time that it takes to scan one image on a flatbed scanner is roughly 12 to 15 minutes. To digitize one image using rapid capture, it takes less than one minute. Rapid capture has opened our eyes to a highly efficient method that enables an entire collection to be digitized in a quantifiable time frame. The piece of the puzzle that remains to be addressed is the time-intensive process of cataloging that is needed to make the collections readily searchable online.
Background on Thomas Sears
Thomas Sears graduated with a degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University’s Lawrence Scientific School in 1906, where he also studied photography. He worked for Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects in the 1910s out of their Brookline, Massachusetts office before establishing his own landscape design office.
A set of images scanned during the rapid capture digitization project included the Edgewood estate in Baltimore, Maryland, photographed by Thomas Sears and designed by Sears and Wendell of Philadelphia.
Learn more about the Thomas Sears Collection.
Click here to learn more about the Archives of American Gardens.
-Kelly Crawford, Museum Specialist