Archive for July, 2011

Conservation Challenge: The Magna Carta

Written on: July 22, 2011 | 2 Comments

A career-long fascination and appreciation of the work of those involved in conservation and preservation can be traced to my very first job in the MIT Humanities Library. There I learned about the special needs of vellum and leather bindings, the temperature and humidity requirements of paper, and the principle of never doing anything which cannot be undone. So it is with some special interest and pride that I brag about the effort that our conservation staff consistently puts forth on often difficult and delicate conservation tasks.  Their recent work on the Magna Carta is a great example of what they can do.

In a project funded by the document’s owner, David Rubenstein, the staff provided weeks of intensive treatment to the parchment and seal and eventually revealed previously illegible writing to the Magna Carta using ultra-violet photography.

The Rubenstein Magna Carta, before treatment, in an ultraviolet fluorescence photo of the parchment. Ultraviolet reveals obliterated text in damaged areas. Click on the image to see the full document and the damaged area in the bottom right side. (Photo by Sarah Raithel.)

The treatment completes the first phase of a project to re-encase and display the document publicly.  This copy of the Magna Carta, written in 1297, will eventually become part of a new permanent exhibit at the National Archives, documenting the expansion of human rights … [ Read all ]

Grog and Flog

Written on: July 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

The coincidence of reading James E. Valle’s Rocks and Shoals:  Order and Discipline in the Old Navy, 1800-1861 and the opening of the America Eats Tavern which is serving grog for the first time is the inspiration for this post.  Rocks and Shoals documents punishments in the form of flogging meted out for such infractions as drunkenness, fighting, disobedience, skulking, theft, sleeping on watch, etc.  These charges and punishments are well documented in quarterly reports housed at the National Archives.

Quarterly Report of Persons Punished on board the U.S. Frigate United States, November 18, 1847-February 18, 1848
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Of particular interest to me was “doubling the grog tub” which resulted in 12 lashes!  Grog comes to us from the Royal Navy, introduced by British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740.  Vernon’s nickname, “Old Grog,” came from the grogram cloth coat he wore.  The drink was rum based, watered down with beer and/or water.  Citrus juice was added to cut the bad taste of the water and, unknowingly, addressed the scurvy problem aboard ships at that time.  The Continental Navy and then the U.S. Navy also served grog—twice a day—until September 1862 when the practice was discontinued.  And that was many years before my tour of duty, alas!  So…”doubling the grog tub” or getting back in … [ Read all ]

Fireworks, Floats, and Food!

Written on: July 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

This 4th of July, the National Archives celebrated the 235th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of July program in Washington, DC.  The celebration included patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors, and of course, the National Archives float in the Independence Day Parade!Historical reenactorsHistorical reenactors read the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the National Archives.

This year, I had the privilege of welcoming Chef Jose Andres and his family aboard the National Archives’ float, which was decorated with images from our new exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”

National Archives float
Chef Jose Andres and Archivist David Ferriero aboard the National Archives float in the Independence Day Parade.

National Archives float
The National Archives float featured images from our newest exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”

Chef Andres is the Culinary Advisor to the exhibit, and July 4th marked the opening of his new restaurant, America Eats Tavern.  This “pop-up” restaurant is a complement to the exhibit, featuring a menu of classic American dishes served up with Chef Andres’ signature style.
Andres and FerrieroChef Jose Andres and Archivist David Ferriero at the National Archives Independence Day Celebration

Recently, I had the pleasure of sampling some of America Eats’ menu items, and I know you’re going to love it.  If you’ve already tried it out, let me know what you … [ Read all ]