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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.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Flashback Friday: Lantern slides of the Florida Everglades

Lantern slide depicting Alanson Skinner's expedition to the Florida Everglades in 1910. National Museum of the American Indian, L00300.
For Flashback Friday, let’s go to Florida in 1910. This hand-colored lantern slide depicts three men following behind an oxen team pulling a cart through the waters of the Florida Everglades. The man on the left is possibly Alanson Skinner (anthropologist), the Seminole man in the center is wearing a foksikco bi, or 'big shirt', and the man on right may be their guide Frank Brown.

This photo was probably shot by Julian A. Dimock. In 1910 the American Museum of Natural History in New York sent anthropologist Alanson B. Skinner to conduct ethnographic field research on the Seminole people of the Florida Everglades. Both Skinner and professional photographer Julian A. Dimock photographed the expedition.

In 1916 Skinner joined the staff of the Museum of the American Indian. He probably used this and other lantern slides for public lectures. He may have donated the images to the museum, or they may have been found among his things following his death in an automobile accident in 1925 while he was on a collecting trip to South Dakota for the museum.

To see more photos from this expedition, check out the set on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.

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