265 Articles
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Medium 9781442265790

Survivor(s)! Historical Peregrinations of New Orleans’s French Superior Council and Spanish Judicial Records

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Howard Margot

Curator, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130; howardm@hnoc.org

Abstract The city of New Orleans is home to extensive notarial and judicial manuscript records that document, often in minute detail, economic and legal activity in the Lower Mississippi Valley during the French (1699–1768) and Spanish (1769–1803) colonial periods. The legal custodianship of New Orleans’s largest colonial period archive has changed hands quite often over the last three centuries. This article recounts the peregrinations of these documents and their insertion into the collections of the Notarial Archives Division of the Orleans Parish Clerk of Civil Court’s office (NONA) and Old U.S. Mint of the Louisiana State Museum (LSM).

In addition to the considerable parochial archives of its Catholic Archdiocese (baptisms, marriages, deaths) and a modest but very important archive held in its main Public Library (the records of the Spanish Cabildo), the city of New Orleans is home to extensive notarial and judicial1 manuscript records that document, often in minute detail, economic and legal activity in the Lower Mississippi Valley during the French (1699–17682) and Spanish (1769–1803) colonial periods. Taken together, these three sets of records bear the names and witness to the lives of virtually every colonist who was propertied, and of many or most who were not, and of virtually every enslaved person who was ever publicly bought or sold or freed in New Orleans and environs during that span of time. But whereas the ecclesiastical and Cabildo (city hall) records have been continuously curated by the respective institutions that generated them in the eighteenth century, the legal custodianship of New Orleans’s largest colonial period archive—its notarial acts and judicial records—has changed hands quite often over the last three centuries, the most recent occurrence having been in 2007. Most often, the changes in custodianship have entailed changes in physical location, with the records’ having been transported a distance of anything from a few city blocks to a hundred miles. These peregrinations have for over two centuries compromised both the coherence of this priceless archive and the public’s ability to access it, and on too many occasions they have threatened its very existence.

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Medium 9781442265790

Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Edward M Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 294 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8108-8712-1

Reviewed by Kristin Condotta, Adjunct Instructor in History, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO; condotta@wustl.edu

Digital preservation is a leadership issue. This is the key and convincing argument of Edward M. Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison’s Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives, & Museums. Their book—which explores “preserving curating and preserving digital content for long-term access” in the arts and sciences—offers a reflective look at the digitization process from two scholars well experienced with web technologies (xix). Its stance is more “I wish I thought of/planned for that before starting” than “how-to,” and purposefully so. This big-picture approach allows their suggestions to be applicable across systems and institutions.

Corrado and Moulaison particularly promote a proactive approach to artifact and research digitization. They emphasize that such projects are long-term and need to be defined as clear yet flexible organizational, technological and financial commitments early in their inception. More centrally, the authors expand on the concerns of subject forerunner Michael Lesk as expressed in the book’s forward, that too much attention has gone to the IT aspects of digital preservation. They instead argue for a “triad of interrelated [and interdependent] activities,” or those relating to management, technology and content (17). They identify management, or the ability of project leaders to make transparent decisions about their digital collection’s access, composition and authenticity during its life-cycle, as the most valuable of these three commitments. As a result, Digital Preservation is geared towards a specific audience of librarians, archivists and curators—as opposed to collections specialists, cataloguers and systems technicians—who typically are charged with shaping the long-term trajectory of digital projects. It points out the ways that digital media share many issues with physical collections (i.e., fitting organizational missions, copyright and preservation), yet have their own challenges (i.e., rapidly changing formats). Above all, it provides the insight needed for these professionals and their institutes to craft forward-looking Memorandum of Understanding for their own digital preservation projects.

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Medium 9781442271197

Chemical Analysis of the Dust on a Historically Important Collection The W. B. Carpenter Eozoon Collection at the Natural History Museum, London

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Maria Consuelo Sendino

Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK; c.sendino-lara@nhm.ac.uk

Javier Cuadros

Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK; J.Cuadros@nhm.ac.uk

Lu Allington-Jones

Core Research Laboratories, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK; l.allington-jones@nhm.ac.uk

Jane A. Barnbrook

Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK; J.Barnbrook@nhm.ac.uk

Abstract The Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, houses an important historical collection: the W. B. Carpenter collection of Eozoon, which is of great significance in the history of science, specifically with regard to a nineteenth-century controversy about the presence of fossils in rock of Precambrian age. After providing a history of the Eozoon Collection, we then give an overview of its care and cu-ration up to the present before describing new research on the history of the specimens and the origin of the thick black dust which covers them. Chemical and morphological analysis of the dust using SEM-EDX (scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) allows identification of one silicate and one sulphur-calcium phase. The silicate may derive from the Eozoon specimens themselves, whereas the sulphur-calcium phase may indicate gypsum from plaster. It is possible that the gypsum dust may have come from collapse of the ceiling during the fire in November 1885 at Carpenter’s home that led to his death.

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Medium 9781442265790

Archivist Meets Historian

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Greg Lambousy and Emily Clark

The guest editors of this issue, Emily Clark and Greg Lambousy, thought that the best way to close this issue would be to give readers a direct experience of the give-and-take that has come to characterize their professional interactions over the years. Late last year, they sat down together in a corner of the Old U.S. Mint on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans for the conversation below.

Emily Clark: Today is the day before Halloween, October 30, 2014. It’s an appropriate time to be in an old building in New Orleans.

Greg, we know each other really well now. We collaborate on projects and it’s hard to remember a time when that wasn’t the case. I feel like the Louisiana State Museum and especially the Colonial Documents Project has become a big part of my professional life, but that hasn’t always been the case. Academic historians, people who manage collections, and archivists have not always been in close contact with each other. We haven’t always understood what one another did. Sometimes we’ve felt like we’ve been at cross purposes. So I thought it would be fun to talk about early experiences when we each encountered the person who did the other job, and what that was like and what that first impression was like. I am happy to go first because I think I’m older!

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Medium 9781442265790

“The Books of the Office of My Charge”

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Jenny Marie Forsythe

Graduate Student in the Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Los Angeles, 450 Humanities Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095; jmforsythe@gmail.com

Abstract Heloise Hulse Cruzat and Laura Louise Porteous spent decades of their lives feeding the quill and ink symbols scratched onto eighteenth century Spanish and French colonial judicial records to their typewriters. Cruzat worked for the Louisiana Historical Society (LHS) from 1917 to 1931 as a translator of French colonial records, and Porteous worked from 1920 to 1948 on the Spanish records. Translation was a central part of the process that transformed the colonial notarial and judicial records into historical documents. In this case study, one Spanish judicial record is compared to Porteous’s corresponding English “Index” entry. Examining such work closely allows us to spotlight what Porteous chose to omit; moreover, her “Index” entry becomes a tool for reading between the lines of one Spanish colonial judicial record.

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Medium 9781442276147

More Than Merely Transcription

Decker, Juilee Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

More Than Merely TranscriptionAn Analysis of Metatasks and Twitter ChatChristine RosenfeldPh.D. candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, crosenfe@gmu.eduAbstract This article seeks to understand the practices that digital volunteers of the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center (TC) engage in aside from transcribing. A thematic analysis of the Twitter feed @TranscribeSI demonstrates that volunteers are doing much more than just transcribing; they are additionally engaging in critical archival practices regarding reflexivity and filling in gaps in the historical record. Museums that hope to foster deep engagement among volunteers and to create a sustained community of virtual museumgoers may wish to model their digital initiatives on those of the TC. Doing so will ensure that museums move beyond mere data extraction toward building complex relationships with audiences through online initiatives. As a result of Web 2.0 technologies, museums in the 21st century are undergoing a transformation in the way that they produce and disseminate knowledge. Mancini and Carreras (2010) write that “new [museum] users do not only consume, they also want to be involved and to model their environment, creating social and cultural values for themselves and rejecting hierarchical structures” (60), which requires museums to decide whether to integrate user-generated knowledge into their archive, mission, structure, and workflow. For the purposes of this article, Web 2.0 refers to “the practice of getting users to add value to a website by having them build its content, thus accelerating the cycle of media production so that sites become dynamic, constantly updated sources of new material” (Gehl 2014, 47). Web 2.0 has exerted pressure on museums of the 21st century to switch from being institutions of memory to dynamic social spaces (Kelly 2010; Mancini and Carreras 2010). The Smithsonian Institution (SI) is beginning to embody the dynamic social space that characterizes contemporary museums (Kalfatovic et al. 2008). This movement is demonstrated by the Transcription Center (TC), an online digital space where volunteers transcribe and review other volunteers’ transcriptions of historical materials.

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Medium 9781442276147

Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Decker, Juilee Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Jennifer Morris

Archivist, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, morrisj@si.edu

Abstract Crowdsourcing cultural heritage materials presents opportunities and challenges for archives and museums. Successful engagement with collections through crowdsourcing initiatives requires mindful planning and careful selection of materials. This article presents the Anacostia Community Museum’s experience with the Smithsonian TC and details the museum’s efforts to gather and highlight additional data pertaining to its collection. After providing a brief history of the museum, the article describes the processes undertaken by the collections and curatorial staff for selecting projects, which were informed by exhibitions, reference services, and the museum’s mission. Next, the workflow and challenges faced by the museum are discussed before turning to recommendations for improvement.

In recent years, museums, archives, historic societies, and other repositories of cultural heritage began using their digitized collections to engage with the general public, special interest groups, and their core constituencies by means of crowdsourcing. Regardless of the methods employed by organizations—such as transcription, tagging, indexing, or identifying content—crowdsourcing initiatives present “a powerful platform for audience interaction with museums, offering truly deep and valuable engagement with cultural heritage” (Ridge 2013, 446). These projects offer opportunities for cultural heritage institutions to tackle backlogs, provide access to minimally processed collections, and increase discoverability of unique and rare resources (Zastrow 2014, 21). Some challenges for repositories considering crowdsourcing include implementing and maintaining a functional technological infrastructure, management of digital volunteers, and assuring the quality of the data being generated (Zastrow 2014, 23). Additionally, repositories may have a mismatch between the human capital, on the part of staff, to sustain a crowdsourcing initiative and how to meet institutional goals. The Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) considered these issues before deciding to become a participating unit in the Smithsonian Transcription Center (TC).

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Medium 9781442276147

Great Expectations

Decker, Juilee Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Great ExpectationsMeeting the Needs of Online Audiences at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American HistoryJoe HurseyArchivist, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, hurseyw@si.eduRobert HortonChair, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, hortonr@si.eduAbstract The Archives Center of the National Museum of American History collects, preserves, and provides access to archival documents that support the museum’s mission, exhibitions, research, and collecting programs. The Archives Center holds more than 1,350 collections that document the history of technology, innovation, business, consumer culture, American music, and popular culture as well as many other topics. In addition, it supports the Smithsonian’s digital initiatives by digitizing collections and making them available online, which in many ways is a challenge. This article outlines the Archives Center’s involvement with the Smithsonian Transcription Center, the creation and evaluation of a pilot project, and the construction of an effective digital workflow.

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Medium 9781442267930

Preserving and Accessing the Howard D. Beach Photography Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Cynthia A. Conides

Associate Professor and Director Museum Studies, SUNY Buffalo State, Department of History & Social Studies Education, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY; email: conideca@buffalostate.edu

Abstract    In 2011, the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society (now The Buffalo History Museum), acquired a significant but environmentally challenged collection of dry gelatin glass-plate negatives from the former Howard D. Beach Photography Studio, located in downtown Buffalo, NY. Numbering over 57,000 individual plates of varying sizes, the collection comes from the last extant commercial portrait studio that operated during Buffalo’s golden era (1880-1950). In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Beach held an international reputation as a portrait artist and made significant contributions to the field of photography, including the invention of soft-focus portrait lenses that are still in use today. Yet, his work remains relatively unknown. The glass plates were stored in less than ideal conditions for nearly eighty years. The cost and time involved for staffing, cleaning, re-housing, and storing a collection of this size poses a significant challenge to a museum with limited personnel and resources, yet wishing to preserve and present an extensive though significant historical collection relevant to the community and to the institution ’s mission. Presented is a brief history of the studio, and current efforts to salvage this collection. It outlines strategies for preservation and highlights the advantages of collaboration with an institution of higher education in this effort.

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Medium 9781442267886

NOTES FROM THE FIELD Do You Feel Your Museum Is Becoming a Dinosaur?

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Independent Contractor,. Collections Management, 110 Bland Drive, Indian Head, MD 20640; email: sourdoughcreek@earthlink.net

Over the centuries, humankind has honored and attempted to reconnect with the past. Charlemagne, for example, tried to recreate the great Roman Empire in the eighth century and strove to revitalize its intellectual legacy by creating centers of learning and scholarship. Americans in the mid-nineteenth century with the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876, sought tell the story of our nation’s founding. This event sparked such an interest in our Colonial and Revolutionary past that it led to the creation of the Colonial Revival movement and with it active, community-centered historic preservation.

Those of us who work in historic house museums enthusiastically carry on this legacy by providing the public a place where they can receive that much-needed tangible link to the past that seems to be such a vital part of our human DNA. We watch people every day come through our doors and leave changed. They carry with them the important understanding of the how and why we became the country we are today.

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Medium 9781442271340

Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub
by Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, and Mark Nesbitt, editors. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens. 2014. 250 pp. ISBN 978-1-84246-498-4 Reviewed by Rose Kubiatowicz, Museum Consultant & Owner of Have Gloves Will Travel, LLC; rosekubi@earthlink.net In the past I worked with seed collections, ethnographic collections and ethnobio-logical products at the Science Museum of Minnesota where I developed Oh No! Ethnobotany, a program for the safe handling and storage of potentially hazardous ethnobotanical materials. Today, I work with a number of small history museums and private collections that contain ethnographic, ethnobiological products and ethnozoological collections. Thus, with great interest, I read Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook. Based upon my experiences, I have concluded that this book would be a valuable addition to any professional’s shelf of resource books. This volume illuminates a world of work, tradition, insight and foresight. It is a “go-to” book for both young professionals, who can turn to Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook for lucid, practical advice on the essentials of effective biocultural curation, and for experienced colleagues who will find it a rich compendium to enhance and refresh their knowledge, and rethink their assumptions. See All Chapters
Medium 9781442267923

Fossils, Federal Lands, and the Public Interest: Legal Issues and Challenges Facing Collectors, Scholars, and Museums

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Susan E. Leib

3026 Sycamore Lane, Milan, IL 61264; email: leib.susan@gmail.com

Abstract    One of the greatest challenges of fossil collecting relates to location. Recent issues regarding the discovery, sale, and donation of fossils (particularly dinosaur fossils) have led to the realization that better laws must be put into place to protect paleontological specimens. As many natural history museums contain unique paleontological specimens, understanding the rules and regulations of ownership currently in place may help to dispel future problems.

As one of my geology professors used to say, “The rocks are where the rocks are.” The rocks you are looking for are never in a convenient place; they cannot come to you, you must go to them. Of course, it is always more convenient when the outcrop of choice is located on public land, easily accessible to anyone who is interested in further study. However, issues arise when fossil hunters, both amateur and professional, do not obtain a permit for collecting fossils, or simply do not realize the repercussion of collecting illegally in a certain area.

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Medium 9781442267923

From the Editor

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

On June 17, 2014, William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868) was sold at Christie’s for $4.25 million. The sales catalogue noted that the proceeds were to “benefit the Delaware Art Museum.” Such a purpose seems altruistic: who wouldn’t want the sale of a painting to benefit an art museum? A problem arises when the current owner of the painting is the museum that the painting’s sale would ultimately benefit. Specifically, the funds raised from the sale of Isabella were intended to repay $19.8 million of debt from a 2005 facilities expansion of the Delaware Art Museum and to replenish the institution’s endowment. Bringing in only a half of the estimated valuation, other works would clearly need to be sold so that the debts could be paid and cash could be shored up.

Perhaps the subject of the painting itself foretells of the museum’s own fate: Isabella, the tragic heroine of John Keats’ poem on which the painting is based, is depicted by Hunt as tending obsessively to a pot of basil that contains the remains of her beloved. Has the museum, with its handsome collections, though humble financial standing, ultimately been killed just as Lorenzo was murdered by Isabella’s brothers who sought a more stable foundation for their sibling?

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Medium 9781442267886

Different Approaches to Caring for Historic Collections Case Studies from the National Trust

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Barbara Wood

Curator (South West), Devon Office, Killerton House, Broadclyst, Exeter, EX5 3LE England; email: Barbara. Wood@nationaltrust.org.uk

Abstract The “National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty” (NT) is called upon daily to address such questions at over 300 historic houses which form part of its holdings of buildings, countryside and coast. This paper will consider five case studies which demonstrate different methods of presentation and conservation of collections in the historic house context. None are traditional museums, but all are places that are exploring new ways of thinking and may perhaps appeal to less traditional historic house audiences or be relevant to different communities. All have been the focus of internal discussion to define management and interpretative processes relevant to the individual property which place conservation and interpretation at the core of the visitor experience. All use the “real thing” as the foundation for the offer that they make, yet have been required to debate and identify what the “real thing” actually means in the context of their property.

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Medium 9781442267916

Archival and Genealogical Cultures: French and Spanish Colonial Records Across Three Centuries in New Orleans

Collections Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Susan Tucker

Newcomb Archives, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University, 62 Newcomb Place, #203, New Orleans, LA 70118; email: susannah@tulane.edu

Abstract    This article looks at the French and Spanish colonial judicial records of Louisiana and uses these records as a prism into the history of genealogy. The trajectory of the records’ creation and care over three centuries takes readers on a journey of varying archival cultures, ephemera, philosophies, and economies of care and neglect. This is also an essay about the city as a main character—as a symbol for the foundation of an archival and genealogical culture. Records are at the center of the practice of family history for many people, and thus their stories tell us about a significance beyond a specificity of place. Nevertheless, specific cultures represent varying archival and genealogical practices, and New Orleans especially has a distinctive recordkeeping past worthy of study.

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