Archive for April, 2009

Who’s on First?

Posted by zyrcster in Articles

Strike three
Ball four
Walk a run’ll tie the score
Fly ball
Double play
Yankees win again today

Those damn Yankees
Why can’t we beat ‘em?
He’s out, he’s safe, he’s out, he’s safe, he’s out, he’s safe, he’s out

Yer blind, Ump,
Yer blind, Ump, you must be out of yer mind, Ump

Portrait of Vic (?) Willis, baseball player
George Eastman House

April means baseball! This week, the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art met on Field 5 at Prospect Park for a softball game, apparently the first time many Met staffers had ever been to Brooklyn (where’s the love?). We followed the pre- and post-game tweets:

@brooklynmuseum says: [re-tweets] @metmuseum 14 @brooklynmuseum 10. Great game all around! 1st time 2 Brooklyn 4 many Met staffers (not surprisingly)

@metmuseum says: Thank you to @brooklynmuseum for a great softball game yesterday! This bronze by August Saint-Gaudens sums up our mood:

@brooklynmuseum says: @metmuseum we’ll see you that and raise you one:

It doesn’t get better than two venerable institutions throwing bronze sculptures at each other via Twitter! Better luck next time, Brooklyn! Meanwhile, catch all the great baseball photos on the Commons! Batter up!

Library of Congress

State Archives of Florida

Lyrics from “Damn Yankees” by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

The 1860s across the Commons

Posted by zyrcster in Across The Commons

One neat thing about the Flickr Commons is the ability to see what a decade in time looked like across the world. I went on a little mission to gather up photos across the Commons from a particular era: the 1860s. Why the 1860s? Because by then, photography had more or less taken off, as explained here by the University of Houston, and because there was a wider representation of 1860s photos across the Commons than earlier decades.

The U.S. underwent one of the most significant milestones in our history in the 1860s, the U.S. Civil War. This war is quite well documented in photos. One photo that stood out is this photo of Lincoln on the battlefield at Antietam in 1862.
Library of Congress
Sadly, here is Lincoln’s funeral procession in Chicago, 1865.
Library of Congress
Venturing away from the agony of war, we find so many interesting items about the 1860s: dress, transportation, architecture, even style of photography (think sepia!). This photo is of a rural scene in Australia.
State Library of New South Wales
And here we see the view over Lysekil old harbor, Sweden. I love the outfits.
Swedish Heritage Board
Here’s an intriguing tourist shot of León de San Marcos, Venice, Italy. Again, the outfits catch my eye.
National Galleries of Scotland
It’s great to see a woman photographer in that era. Here’s one from Julia Margaret Cameron.
George Eastman House
Here are containers of pottery being shipped along the Nile River, Egypt.
New York Public Library

The gelatin process was developed in 1871 — stay tuned for photos from the 1870s next time!

Recent Uploads: Happy Birthday, Queen Juliana

Posted by zyrcster in Recent Uploads

Recent uploads from the Commons:

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Dutch Queen Juliana’s birth on April 30! The Nationaal Archief honors this occasion with a set of photos of this beloved queen.
Koningin Juliana, 100ste geboortedag
Last week, Australians and New Zealanders celebrated Anzac Day. The Australian War Memorial posts photographs of this year’s ceremonies in Canberra.
ANZAC Day, 2009
A timely Sam Hood Photo: 12,000 Australians died of the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-19.
Compulsory mask
The State Library of New South Wales honors International Book Day. Get your read on!
International Day of the Book, 23 April 2009
The Bibliothèque de Toulouse adds more bridges and aqueduct photographs from France.
Ponts et aqueducs
The State Archives of Florida informs us,

In 1898 national attention focused on Florida as the Spanish-American War began. The port city of Tampa served as the primary staging area for U.S. troops bound for the war in Cuba.

Spanish American War from the Florida Shore
Enjoy more interior and architecture scenes from the Biblioteca de Arte–Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
Instituições bancárias
They’ve also posted a wonderful set of images of the Concelho de Vila do Conde in Portugal. Lots of possibilities for a Then and Now series!
Concelho de Vila do Conde, Portugal
Delve into more charming Carl Curman photographs, courtesy of the Swedish National Heritage Board.
Carl Curman – Sweden
Here are 50 new images from the Bain News Service at the Library of Congress’ photostream, featuring big ships, the London Bridge, and the charming Lady Constance Stewart Richardson.
News in the 1910s
See Installation shots of Tavares Strachan’s The Distance Between What We Have and Want We Want (Arctic Ice Project), 2004-08, at the Brooklyn Museum.
Arctic Ice Project Installation

Happy Birthday, Samuel Morse!

Posted by zyrcster in Across The Commons

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born on April 27, 1791. He was the American inventor of a single-wire telegraph system and Morse code. The Library of Congress has a photograph of the first message sent by Morse code here.

Morse allowed Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a friend, to choose the words of the message, and she selected a verse from Numbers XXIII, 23: “What hath God wrought?”

Samuel Finley Breese Morse
Smithsonian Institution

Amateur wireless station
Library of Congress

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Posted by zyrcster in Then and Now

Built in 1629, the Our Lady of Guadalupe church at the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico still stands today. On the left is a photograph taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan in the 1870s. On the right, the same scene as shot by Tony Klesert in 2008. See here for more information on the restoration efforts on this building and on the amazing Zuni murals inside.

New York Public Library


A Winter’s Morning

Posted by zyrcster in Best of The Commons
'A Winter's Morning'

Peter Henry Emerson
A Winter’s Morning, 1900
National Media Museum

view + comment on Flickr

Carnival of the Commons: around the world, and beyond

Posted by zyrcster in Carnival of The Commons

Heard around the Commons:

  • Anzac Day across the Commons. The Australia War Memorial has an excellent tribute and a report on the Simpson Prize awarded for Anzac Day.
  • The John Oxley Library (State Library of Queensland, Australia) records responses on the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples and also reports on the Anzac Day presentations.
  • The Library of Congress reports that the World Digital Library received 14 million page views between Tuesday and Wednesday its first week.
  • For Earth Day, the Oregon State University Archive recommends “The dawn of the color photograph: Albert Kahn’s archives of the planet” by David Okuefuna. Check out more of the OSU’s Earth Day resources here.
  • Opposing viewpoints laid out at the Smithsonian 2.0 Forum.
  • The WaPo reports on the 77 American self-portraits now on display at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution: ‘Reflections/Refractions: Self-Portraiture in the 20th Century
  • We Are What We Photograph: an article by Merry A. Foresta, Smithsonian Photography Initiative.
  • Lincoln’s Other White House: a podcast from the D.C. Public Library.
  • The Spider and the Web: an online experiment by Dan Cohen. He posts an item from the Smithsonian Institution to Twitter, asking for it to be identified. I’m anxious to see the results.
  • Smithsonian Institution Facebook Page Fans: How to add their updates to your newsfeed.
  • Let Freedom Ring: an article by the Smithsonian Photography Initiative on what’s legal to photograph.
  • How stuff happens: H.R.586 – Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009: to direct the Librarian of Congress and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution to carry out a joint project at the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of individuals who participated in the Civil Rights movement, and for other purposes.
  • The Powerhouse Museum describes the assembly of the astrographic camera.
  • Meet the conservator at the Brooklyn Museum: Carolyn Tomkiewicz explains the process of arranging the debris.
  • The Brooklyn Museum approves an API key for an iPhone app.
  • A study by Simon Tanner at the Mellon Foundation on the cost and policy models adapted by US arts museums in arriving at pricing structures for delivering imaging and rights services.
  • Don’t miss the Friday wrap-up of digital news and notes that the National Library of New Zealand puts out weekly.
  • The Telegraph and Argus discovers hidden treasures at the National Media Museum.

More Info from the Museums and the Web 2009 Conference:

Shelley at the Brooklyn Museum says,

Paula Bray and Seb Chan from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum came to visit us on Monday. They just produced a Blurb book from their materials on the Flickr Commons and Brooklyn had done a Blurb book for Click! so we made a trade!

Brooklyn Museum
  • Thank you for being a friend – helping the Brooklyn Museum out.
  • Museum Pipes: A blog to augment a suite of Yahoo! Pipes that work with museum website and public collection information.
  • Avoiding the Participatory Ghetto: Are Museums Evolving with Their Innovative Web Strategies? by Nina Simon.
  • Make Museums Like: The New Curator plays a bit with something learned at Museums and the Web 2009. Check out why they think museums ought to pay attention to social media, also.
  • Brad Hemminger muses on an outsider looking in at MW2009.
  • Angelina Russo’s notes from the MW2009 conference.
  • Here’s an interesting Flickr-Yahoo Maps mash-up for museums from Ideum.
  • With the Powerhouse peeps (Seb and Paula) at dinner with the dinos in the Australian Museum.
    Shelley Bernstein

    Go Visit!

    23-25 April 2009 – The Rochester International Film Festival at the Dryden Theater, George Eastman House Celebrating the festival’s 50th year, this event hosts films from around the world.

    Through April 26 Photographs by Andy Lock at the George Eastman House.

    27 April An EPA official discusses global approach to environmental challenges at the Whittall Pavilion, located on the ground floor of the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building this event is free.

    28 April The Federal Writers’ Project will be the focus of an excerpted film screening and panel discussion, “Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project,” in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress.

    Starting 30 April Directions by Walead Beshty, at the Hirshhorn Museum (Smithsonian Institution). “Beshty’s mesmerizing photographs blend an enduring fascination with modernist visual culture and an astute inquiry into the nature of photography.”

    Anzac Day across the Commons

    Posted by zyrcster in Across The Commons

    Courtney Johnston, National Library of New Zealand, explains the joint uploads in the Commons today that honor Anzac Day:

    Kia ora everyone

    On 25 April New Zealanders and Australians mark Anzac Day, the anniversary of the 1915 landing of Allied troops at Gallipoli / Gelibolu Yarımadası in Turkey, and the beginning of the nine-month long Gallipoli Campaign.

    This year, Australian and New Zealand members of The Commons are marking Anzac Day by making a joint upload of photos either taken in Gallipoli, or relating to Anzac Day celebrations. (Thanks to Ellen at State Library of New South Wales for sparking this idea off.)

    First up is the National Library of New Zealand. Courtney points out two photos from this set that illustrate life in the trenches, ‘the interior of George Denniston’s dug-out‘ and ‘the interior of Captain Withers dug-out‘.

    The photographs in this set depict the Auckland Battalion landing at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I, incredible wartime images in the moment of action.

    National Library of New Zealand
    Next up is the State Library of Queensland, Australia, with images of Gallipoli landing and Anzac Day celebrations throughout the years in Brisbane, Mackay, and on the Victoria Bridge.

    Brenda Anderson notes of ‘Australian soldier in a dug-out at Gallipoli, Turkey‘,

    Could just be a photo of an ordinary bloke outside until you notice the artillery that he’s handling.

    State Library of Queensland, Australia
    The State Library of New South Wales offers a series of poignant portraits of people killed in action on Anzac Day and crowd scenes of Anzac Day events.

    Courtney says of ‘Australian Sisters on board Mooltan‘,

    It’s great to see some servicewomen included here too, in this photo of Army sisters en route to the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos.

    State Library of New South Wales
    The Australian War Memorial offers images of the troops arriving at Anzac Beach.

    Courtney and Brenda both picked ‘The first field dressing station of the 7th Battalion, AIF‘ to highlight from this set. Brenda says,

    I’m starting to think that pipes were very popular!

    Australian War Memorial

    You can find out more about the Gallipoli Campaign & Anzac Day on the NZ History website. Visit each set above by clicking through the photos or try this tag search on Flickr for AnzacDay.

    Slap It on the Scanner

    Posted by dwythe in Articles
    On March 3, 2009, the building housing the Cologne Municipal Archives collapsed, crushing or drowning 50,000 charters dating back to the Middle Ages, documents salvaged from buildings bombed in the Second World War, the private papers of Nobel-winner Heinrich Böll, and much more. Among the comments on news articles at the time were many along lines of “Well, why wasn’t it all just digitized?” Digitization underpins The Commons, so we’ve asked just that question within the Commons community. Here’s one answer.


    Why isn’t everything digitized yet?

    Epson V700, by Ryner12

    (by Ryner12)

    Archivists hear this question a lot, usually in conjunction with “Can’t you just slap it on the scanner?” And the quick and dirty approach may work for a few things, or even a few hundred, but it doesn’t really scale. Say you’ve got a collection of 1,000 photographs — you can scan them, give them some sort of file names, and create a web page to display them. It kind of works if they’re all related in some way, you give them tags or let others tag them, and you have some sort of organized way of storing the masters. That’s the way a lot of archives started digitizing their collections.

    But then you digitize a second collection, and a third, and a fourth, and suddenly you’ve got five or ten thousand images to manage. And maybe (hopefully) you’ve got a database with metadata that describes the images and the files. And in addition to the collections, which have some kind of internal logic, you’ve also got those miscellaneous things that you scanned for special projects or individual requests.

    Brooklyn Museum's ScanLab

    Brooklyn Museum's ScanLab

    At that point, you’re thinking about implementing a digital asset management software system — expensive, time-consuming, but really necessary after you hit a certain volume. And you’re working with your IT staff to make the flow of images to your website happen automatically without custom coding and design, and to make it easy for people to find things. And, if you’re really thinking volume (which you’ll have to be, if your goal is to digitize everything), you’re adding staff and designing efficient workflows to move from analog to website smoothly.

    OK, so this is all doable (I know, because we’ve been doing it). But what’s it going to take to get everything digitized? First of all, photographs and museum objects (where a lot of us started) are easy: each one is a unique item and, while there may well be relationships with other images (context, in archives speak), the interrelationships are less critical than for other archival materials.

    Aerial Mosiacs Case, OSU Archives

    Aerial Mosiacs Case, OSU Archives

    Think, for example, of a folder of letters. One letter is of interest, but you really need to read the entire flow of the correspondence and read it in chronological order to get the most out of it. A letter may have multiple pages and it may have attachments like drawings or notes. The folder may be related to other folders and you may need to know something about who the players are and why the files were created. All the standard business of archives and archivists – who have great ways of dealing with these things in the analog world — but translating that into digitized collections is difficult. Most software packages don’t deal with the hierarchies (“this item is part of this larger thing which is part of this even larger group and they all share these common elements”) or interrelationships well at all.

    Archivists have been working on the issues for several years and have come up with ways to deal with “complex digital objects” — the METS standard, for example, lets you create XML “wrappers” around related digital files — but this is far from “slap it on the scanner.” We’re all getting very friendly with our technology folks … and if we don’t have them, we’re either spending lots of money on consultants, learning it ourselves, or just sticking to the simple stuff.

    The scale of “getting everything digitized” is just mind boggling. In our small archives at the Brooklyn Museum, we have about 1,600 feet of documents, photographs, negatives, ledger books — just about any analog format you can imagine, covering the Museum’s history from 1823 to the present. Here’s the math: at an estimated 3,000 documents per foot, that’s 4.8 million items. Even if you could scan, describe and process 30 per hour (highly unlikely), that’s 160,000 hours of work, or 20,000 eight-hour workdays.

    If you saved a 20 Mb master file (or even half that size) for each of those 4.8 million documents, that’s serious storage and backup, not to speak of long-term management and preservation. And that’s just for a really, really small repository!

    So, we all have to make choices. We look for the things that are most interesting to our community; most fragile and in need of a digital version to reduce handling; that relate to other things we’ve digitized or others have; and (frankly) that funders are likely to support.


    Deborah Wythe is Head of Digital Collections and Services at the Brooklyn Museum, in Brooklyn, New York.

    Earth Day across the Commons

    Posted by zyrcster in Across The Commons

    April 22 is Earth Day, marking the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Across the Commons, we bring you the beauty of our Earth from times past in hopes of inspiring you to think green for our future.

    We begin at the foot of our planet, with a photograph taken on the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914, by Frank Hurley.
    State Library of New South Wales
    From there, it’s a short hop to the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, ca. 1879-1892, photographed by James Ring.
    National Library of New Zealand
    Journey to the vast continent of Asia in the 1890s. Here is Shiraitono-Taki, near Mount Fuji.
    New York Public Library
    The sweeping deserts of the Middle East are the next stop — Egypt at the turn of the last century.
    New York Public Library
    Cool off with a dip in the rapids at Ringerike, Norway, in the 1890s.
    Library of Congress
    Then, it’s off to the Americas and the splendor of the west, Yosemite Valley. Photographed by Carleton E. Watkins, ca. 1865-66
    New York Public Library

    We’re unable to bring you images of South America, so a challenge to all our Commons institutions: Please, upload some stunners of the Galapagos, Brazil, the Dutch Antilles or Suriname, French Guyana, Bolivia, the Andes, Chile and the Patagonias — one of you needs to represent!

    In the DC area? Check out the Smithsonian’s Earth Day events.