Creating a Family Archive at the Thanksgiving Table

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we begin to anticipate a day filled with family, friends, food, celebration, sharing, and gratitude. Our Thanksgiving Day traditions are largely centered on family history, whether it is a special dish served every year, or a large gathering in a relative’s home.

The week leading up to Thanksgiving includes recipe planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. This Thanksgiving, in addition to bringing food to the table, we seek to include a serving of family history.

We challenge you to join us in establishing a new family tradition by creating a family archive this holiday! Perhaps you’ll get inspired by the following fun ideas:

  • Bring out the photos! Dig out some old photos to pass around the table. This is a great way to spark memories and perhaps identify some of the unknown people in your photos! Afterwords, make sure to use archival quality albums or Boxes for your family treasures. Check out our Heritage Scrapbooks, Album Pages, and sleek Portfolio Binders.
  • Ask your relatives to share stories! Begin by asking elders at the table if they can remember what they typically ate for Thanksgiving when they were younger. Bring a small digital voice recorder and tape the conversations! Check out the Smithsonian’s Interview Guide for more ideas of questions to ask relatives!
  • Bring your camera and take new pictures! Invite your family to join a photo sharing website, or create a traditional Photo Album. Add new snapshots every year! These pictures can even serve as great holiday greeting cards or Postcards!
  • Time CapsuleIf you’ve inherited a family recipe, ask around the table and see if anyone wants to create an informal family cookbook. Our archivally safe Albums &  Pages can help collect and safely store the collected recipes and complete your project!
  • Create your very own family Time Capsule and decide on the date in the future to open it. Perhaps, Thanksgiving dinner in 10 years? Or even 20! Collect personal “artifacts” from all family members in presence and don’t forget to request something to be sent from the absentees.
  • Save information about items of sentimental (and/or monetary) value, by working on the Heirloom Diary together – the book contains space for detailing family heirlooms as well as the story behind them.
  • For the children at the table, create a family genealogy game by challenging them to match baby pictures to adult pictures. Or, make a personalized memory game using your own photos. Use their creative talents to build a family tree (2- or even 3-dimensional!) The children will become very familiar with their relatives, especially those they may not see very often.

These simple steps can help make your Thanksgiving a time of sharing family history and working to create a unique family archive. You may just discover information you have never known and learn something about your ancestors that you never imagined. You may even be surprised how your family traditions today have carried on or evolved between generations. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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Celebrate American Archival Month!

American Archives MonthSince 2006, October has brought a unique opportunity to display the importance of the work that archivists do. This month is American Archival Month!

Pioneered by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and the Society of American Archivists, the celebration involves various themes, exhibits, and events in archives, libraries, museums, corporations, historical societies, and organizations around the country.

South Carolina ArchivesThis year, South Carolina’s Archival Association also celebrates its fifteenth birthday, with the theme of the natural environment. Archivists and libraries across the state are hosting exhibits, lectures, open houses, and tours to highlight the landscape, conservation, flora, fauna, agriculture, natural resources, and outdoor recreation of South Carolina. Events include a display of the 1989 Hurricane Hugo at Hollings Library, a viewing of Maria Martin’s butterfly and insect sketch book at Charleston Museum, and a talk by National Geographic photographer Vincent J. Musi at Charleston Library.

Another large celebration is occurring at the 9th-Annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar, hosted by L.A. as Subject. This day features talks by archival experts from the Autry National Center of the American West and the Los Angeles Public Library. The bazaar will also feature an archives roadshow, a discussion on the monsters that lurk Southern California, and a screening of the documentary Monomaniacs.

Archives Month PhillyAnother archival hub – Philadelphia is featuring a series called Archives Month Philly including tours, workshops, screenings, exhibits, and lectures throughout Philadelphia’s various institutions. Specific events include a personal digital archiving day at Bryn Mawr College Libraries, a special tour of the John Bowman Special Collections Library at Batram’s Garden, a historic tour of the Curtis Institute of Music buildings and archives, and much more.

Despite the many events and celebrations across the country, archival month is more than viewing collections and hearing speeches. It is expanding our knowledge of people, stories, and experiences through records of another time.  It is truly appreciating the work of this country’s archivists. For a comprehensive list of events by state, click here or search for hashtag #archivesmonth on Twitter!

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Preserving New Hampshire’s Past for the Future

One of America’s earliest and most successful operetta composers, George W. Stratton (1830-1901), was one of the few to compose and self-publish operettas entirely for children. He and his wife never had children, but instead brought joy to youth through their widely performed showpieces with chimerical plots and advanced choruses, solos, duets, and even recitative. Mrs. Stratton worked with her husband to write lyrics and draw cover artwork. In 1885, they sought a final resting place for their legacy, and gave to their native town of West Swanzey, New Hampshire, the “Stratton Free Library and Art Gallery.”

Stratton provided the library some 2,000 of the best books in the English language, over 200 pictures selected in Europe to be educational in the lines of art, history, or architecture, and music volumes by the finest classical composers to that date. His family trust maintained the library until 1914, when it was given to the town. Alas, much of the artwork was sold in the 1920s to raise funds for the library. At the moment, library has 5 of Lucy Stratton’s oil paintings, and as it happens, they have just heard from someone, whose parents bought one of the paintings by Lucy and he is going to return it to the library.

Upon visiting the Stratton Free Library, one would find only two rooms with minimal belongings. A marble bust of Stratton stands in the main hallway along with neat rows of brown leather-bound books arranged in glass cases. The once-filled gallery is now left with only two landscape paintings. An old trunk contains various operettas and sheet music with exquisite detail. Every booklet includes specific stage directions, costume descriptions, and previews of new operetta releases. One of Stratton’s most notable works, Fairy Grotto, written in 1872, has a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with a whimsical musical overtone.

Anne Meyer, a “generalist” conservator with a wealth of knowledge, works in the library taking care of the remaining artifacts of the library’s benefactor and his wife. She began as a curious child with an interest in antiques and personal history, and now focuses mostly on restoring textiles, costumes, and period pieces. Her work at the library includes removing over a century worth of dust, finger oils, improper storage damage, and mold with Groom-Sticks, Hydrophilic Sponges, and Wishab Dry Cleaning Sponges. She also spends a lot of time advising visitors on how to preserve their own historical treasures.

Along with the collection of operettas found in the library, many works have also been donated or purchased by the town or Stratton trust. The music that once brought joy to countless children and adults is now being restored in hopes of continuing Stratton’s legacy of great American children’s music.

For more information on the life and works of G.W. Stratton please call (603) 352-9391 or visit the Stratton Free Library, 9 Main St, Swanzey, NH

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Custom Mount Making for Books

There are so many ways to display books, and by using Vivak® Polyester Sheets, you can create a unique design that safely shows off your book’s best features.

In our How-To: Mount Making using Vivak Polyester Sheets tutorial we have instructions to create a basic mount out of Vivak. For cutting any mount out of this material it is best to use the Swivel Blade Acrylic Cutters or Heavy Duty Blade.

The great thing about Vivak is that it becomes soft and pliable when heated, making it easy to form into almost any shape. Once it cools it retains in the shape it has been given and offers superior impact strength. To create creases, you can save time, effort, and obtain better results by using an Acrylic Sheeting Bending Strip. This will heat only the narrow area that is being formed. For a wider, more gradual bend, it is best to use a Heat Gun.

Besides the style of book mount shown in our How-To, there are many ways to create one specifically for your needs. You can experiment with combining boards and Vivak, and using display accessories like Clear Polyester Strips. Here we have examples of other styles thanks to Tim Corlis at Rutgers University, Special Collections & University Archives.

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An Elephant in the Room or a Whale in the Painting

When people say “Elephant in the Room”, they usually mean something huge and obvious that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. But what do you say when there’s a Whale in the Painting and nobody has a clue that it’s there? This past June was a month of such discoveries in the art world, when unexpected objects were found on 2 very different paintings:

Beached Whale Painting

Image Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

The first painting with a hidden agenda turned out to be an unassuming 17th century Dutch painting, depicting a serene beach scene. However, right in the middle of it, discretely painted over was… an enormous beached whale, which was covered up sometime in the 18th or 19th century. Whether the whale offended somebody’s sensibilities or simply didn’t fit one’s decor is a mystery. There’s no record of it being altered and the discovery was purely accidental, made by Shan Kuang, a conservation student at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum during cleaning and restoration effort.

Picasso The Blue Room Mystery

Image Credit: The Phillipps Collection

The second discovery was much more public, because it was hiding just under the surface of one of the Picasso’s first masterpieces – “The Blue Room” which has been part of The Phillips Collection for almost 90 years.  Young struggling painter, has been known to “recycle” his canvas. It has been suspected since 1950s that there might be something underneath the odd brushstrokes of the famous painting. But only during the last 5 years, with the help of recent advancements in imaging technology, the underlying image of a bearded man in a bow tie was finally reveled in relative clarity. Experts are still working trying to recreate the original colors Picasso used. Who is the man in the picture remains a mystery, for now… Let the detective work continue!

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May is the National Photography Month

National Photo MonthEvery May since 1987 the United States has celebrated National Photography Month. Throughout the country, this month is marked by photography contests, festivals, exhibits, and other activities. It also represents a time of reflection on the history of photography and how far it has grown. In 1827, Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first photographic image with a camera obscura. His heliographs, or sun prints, allowed the light to draw his pictures. In 1829, Louis Daguerre partnered with Niepce to improve the process and develop a method known as the daguerreotype. This ‘fixed’ the images onto a sheet of silver-plated copper. In 1889, George Eastman invented film with a flexible, unbreakable base. The 1940s brought color and Polaroid photographs, which eventually gave way to digital and disposable cameras in the 1980s.

The Big Photo ShowOne of the biggest celebrations of the month takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from May 17-18. This Big Photo Show offers photo enthusiasts an opportunity to see, touch, try, and buy photo equipment from top manufacturers, learn picture taking tips from professionals, discover the newest ways to display images, and more. The event even includes a photography contest open to all photo enthusiasts.

Celebrating National Photography Month can take many forms. Whether you are entering contests, or simply cherishing everyday moments, don’t forget to appreciate the history of this wonderful art.

ApresfotoAprèsfoto, the premier supplier of archival presentation and storage products will be exhibiting at the Big Photo Show, May 17-18 at the LA Convention Center, booth #435. Stop by and see a variety of products from portfolios, archival boxes and photo bags to interleaving tissues and frame supplies.  Get a sneak peek at some new products and don’t forget to pick up a show special coupon!

For special discounted show tickets just use code 2014TBPS to get $15 off the ticket price courtesy of Aprèsfoto. Go to: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-big-photo-show-2014-tickets-9930374016

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Preserving Pension Records in Ireland

Images courtesy of The Military Archives

Images courtesy of The Military Archives

In June 1923, the Oireachtas of Saorstát Éireann (Irish Free State) decided to recognize and compensate the wounded members, and the widows, children and dependents of deceased members of the Irish National Army, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army that had active service during the Easter Week of 1916, the War of Independence, and the Civil War.

An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Various pieces of legislation allowed applicants to consider themselves eligible for gratuities, allowances, or pensions. In determining the accuracy of these applications, supporting material was gathered by a committee. These materials included membership rolls, reports of activities carried out by the military formations, detailed information on the course of events during the time period, and about 68,896 military medals.

Today, the Military Service Pensions Collection is being made available online through a series of releases ending in Easter week 2016. Project leaders want to enable the long term preservation of the original records, and allow the public to access the complex collection of about 270,000 to 300,000 individual files. The materials have suffered from poor storage conditions, use of poor quality paper, rusting of the pins, staples and fasteners used, and bad handling.

The preservation process began with the documents being physically cleaned, including the removal of metal, treasury tags and other ties. Files were then reorganized using acid free archival standard supplies. A lab was established on-site for the conservation of badly damaged material. Due to their poor physical state, some files were microfilmed and digitized in order to minimize the handling of the material. Other sources were scanned in color directly as TIFF files and backed up and stored. To allow the public and relatives of former participants in the 1916-1923 period to obtain high quality copies of relevant files in the collection, PDF files were created, and photographs taken of the very fragile material.

One of the Pension Documents, image courtesy of the Military Archives

One of the Pension Documents. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Next, an online database was created with the digitized original documents through a Military Archives website to maximize the access to the collection. A suitable collections management software package was identified, and then customized to suit the military nature of the files and records. The entire collection was divided into searchable databases, reflecting the vast bulk of the individual applicant’s files in the collection. All files relating to an individual are co-located to fit the various reference codes and have a unique file code as a primary key for reference and sourcing.

The release of the Military Service Pensions Collection comes at a critical time. In 2016, Ireland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin. This marks the most significant uprising in Ireland, and the start to the independence movement. Following the rebellion, the Irish Republican Army launched a war against the British government that ended in a July 1921 cease-fire and an eventual treaty that established the Irish Free State. The fully independent Republic of Ireland was formally proclaimed on Easter Monday in 1949. With the release of the pension records over the next two years, Ireland can continue to celebrate its independence and remember those who fought to gain it.

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The Angels Project

2013 Angels Project, Hoover Dam/Boulder City Museum, Boulder City, NV. Photos by Connie Frisbee Houde

The Costume Society of America was founded on March 23, 1973 to advance the global understanding of all aspects of dress and appearance. In 1978, it began forming regional groups, now encompassing six throughout the United States and Canada, and one international group. CSA promotes its goals with annual national symposia, and publications, including an annual journal, a quarterly newsletter, and a monthly electronic newsletter.

This year’s 40th annual meeting is to be held from May 28th to May 31st in Baltimore, Maryland. The week’s activities include keynote speakers Jay McCarroll and Dominique Streater from Project Runway, presentations, panel discussions, professional development sessions, silent auctions, visits to historic sites, and social hours for participants.

Since 2006, CSA has hosted a special volunteer event, the Angels Project, in conjunction with its National Symposium. This one-day project provides conservation, storage, and curatorial assistance to a costume collection at a small institution. This year, The Angels Project will take place on May 27th at the Historical Society of Baltimore County. Angels will be cleaning, photographing, labeling, documenting, and re-housing the costume and accessory collection to help the small staff of the museum.

Historical Society of Baltimore County building (an old alms house), site of the 2014 Costume Society of America Angels Project. Photo courtesy of CSA

Corrugated Textile Storage Boxes To assist in this deserving conservation effort, University Products is donating archival storage supplies to this year’s Angels Project. Donated items include Unbuffered Interleaving Tissue, Archival Textile Storage Boxes, and Polyester Label Holders. These items will assist in the Historical Society’s renovation goals as it looks to develop new and exciting exhibits to display Baltimore’s unique and diverse history.

University Products is honored and excited to once again participate in this significant cause and donate to the Costume Society of America’s Angels Project 2014.

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Introducing: Kristen Hodge

Kristen Hodge, University ProductsUniversity Products is pleased to announce that Kristen Hodge has joined our staff as an Account Manager within the Archival Materials Market.  Kristen has worked with members of the museum and library community for more than five years and has an expansive knowledge of archival storage materials.  In her new position, Kristen will be visiting key accounts in an effort to understand individual institutional needs and requirements, and assisting in finding products to meet those needs.  Her responsibilities will also include sourcing and developing new products and attending various tradeshows to exhibit and promote University Products’ complete line of museum supplies.  Please join us in welcoming Kristen to the University Products family.  You can reach her in her office at 413-493-2342 or on her mobile phone at 315-247-7193, or email her at kehodge@universityproducts.com.

University Products is the leading supplier of archival storage materials for conservation, preservation, restoration and exhibition.  The company’s 400+ page full color catalog features the most comprehensive offering of archival storage supplies, conservation tools and equipment, and museum and gallery mount-making and display products.  University Products provides photographers with a full line of photographic storage and display products through its ApresFoto brand.  In addition, the company also manufactures the LINECO brand of framing and craft products

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War and Art

Moscow’s Central Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art is named after Andrei Rublev, a great medieval painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes. Located in the buildings of Andronikov Monastery, where the master died sometime in late 1420s, museum is home to a vast collection of Russia’s most important religious art treasures. Peaceful and beautiful, the icons and paintings grace the walls of the monastery since the museum was opened after the WWII. in 1947. There’s also a large collection of hand-written and printed books.

When they packed a large exposition of XV-XVII century icons to travel to Kiev, Ukraine last year, the museum workers had no idea, how sudden and uneasy would be their return. But despite the tremulous events of the last few weeks, the entire collection was carefully packed and safely delivered back to Moscow, with great assistance from the workers of Ukraine’s National Sanctuary Complex “Sophia of Kiev” where the exhibit was supposed to be open through March. Once again, as art overcame war, there’s hope…

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