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Archive for '- Exploration'

Free Film Festival in honor of Steven Spielberg

film festival

Now is your chance to ask Steven Spielberg a question on Twitter using the hashtag #askspielberg!

Over the next few weeks, Ken Burns will handpick several tweets and share the questions with the movie director. Spielberg will answer the questions at the at the Foundation for the National Archives 2013 Gala and Records of Achievement Award ceremony at the National Archives.

So tweet your question to @archivesfdn and use the hashtag #askspielberg.

The director is being honored by the Foundation for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival!

Presented in association with DreamWorks Studios, this free public film festival will showcase:

Free tickets will be distributed at the Special Events entrance to the National Archives at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, beginning 60 minutes prior to showtime. Seating is limited and first-come, first-served.

For more information about the Spielberg Film Festival, visit http://www.archivesfoundation.org/programs/steven-spielberg-film-festival/

Spielberg is receiving the Records of Achievement Award, given to an individual whose work has fostered a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the … [ Read all ]

The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online

Today’s post comes from Keith Donohue, communications director for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

What was the original intent behind the Constitution and other documents that helped shape the nation? What did the Founders of our country have to say? Those questions persist in the political debates and discussions to this day, and fortunately, we have a tremendous archive left behind by those statesmen who built the government over 200 years ago.

For the past 50 years, teams of editors have been copying documents from historical collections scattered around the world that serve as a record of the Founding Era. They have transcribed hundreds of thousands of documents—letters, diaries, ledgers, and the first drafts of history—and have researched and provided annotation and context to deepen our understanding of these documents.

These papers have been assembled in 242 documentary editions covering the works of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, as well as hundreds of people who corresponded with them. Now for the first time ever, these documents—along with thousands of others that will appear in additional print volumes—will be available to the public.

The Founders Online is a new website at the National Archives that will allow people to search this archive … [ Read all ]

Herman Melville: A Voyage into History

The Acushnet's crew list, December 1840. Herman Melville's name appears sixth from the bottom. (Records of the U.S. Customs Service, RG 36, National Archives at Boston)

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Prologue magazine.

Herman Melville’s classic American novel, Moby-Dick, was first published in the United States on November 14, 1851. In Moby-Dick and his earlier books, Melville called upon his own experience aboard whaling ships, most notably his 18 months spent aboard the Acushnet, sailing out of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The 21-year-old Melville signed on in December 1840 but never completed the journey with the ship. After rounding Cape Horn and sailing across the Pacific, Melville and another crew member deserted in July 1842 while the ship was stopped at Nukahiva, one of the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Their departure was not an isolated incident; 11 of the original complement of 26 officers and men deserted at various times during the voyage.

The crew list was signed by Capt. Valentine Pease on December 31, 1840. Two days later, Pease had to amend the list to note the first two deserters from the crew and the late signing of a replacement. The collector of customs for New Bedford, Massachusetts, retained a copy of the crew list as required by an 1803 act of Congress governing merchant ships … [ Read all ]

It’s a bird, it’s a beard, it’s Audubon!

John James Audubon, ca. 1860-1865. ARC 528730

If you are planning to attend our event next week on crowdsourcing, you will hear a presentation by Jessica Zelt from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Bird Phenology Program.

My colleague here in the office was editing the text for this event. She thought her husband, an avid bird watcher, might be interested in the “Bird Phrenology Program,” so she e-mailed him the description she was editing.

He e-mailed her back, saying “I think it’s phenology, not phrenology.”

Yes, phenology is the study of recurring life and plant cycles. Phrenology is the highly questionable Victorian practice of using the shape of skulls to intepret personality traits.

Editing for a living has many such dangerous pitfalls.

I like to look at this picture of John James Audubon, whose paintings made American birds into works of art, and imagine him feeling the skull of a woodpecker and then making pronouncements like “This bird suffers from melancholia, quickness of temper, and an overabundance of mirth.”

Perhaps there is a phrenology for beards that we could apply to Audubon?

Do the sideburns indicate standoffishness? Does the lack of mustache indicate a deficiency in calculation and therefore “an inability to understand the most simple numerical relations.” Perhaps his lack of chin covering betrays a lack of tunefulness?

In honor of crowdsourcing, I must pass on … [ Read all ]

“The pole at last!”

Marie Peary Stafford poses with the plaque at the base of the monument.

Marie Peary Stafford poses with the plaque at the base of the monument. (Peary Family Collection, 401.001.02, Donated Materials in the National Archives)

When Robert Peary wrote “The pole at last!!!” into his diary on April 6, 1909, he had no idea that his claim would be disputed for the next several decades by experts who doubted that he and Matthew A. Henson were the first men to reach the North Pole.

Marie Peary Stafford had no such doubts, but her mission was equally difficult to complete. In 1932 she headed to a remote part of Greenland to erect a monument to her father’s accomplishments.

Marie had been born in Greenland while her father was on an expedition there, and she was now returning to the remote country with her two sons. She had raised the money and had the plans for the monument—56 feet high with decorative marble Ps at the top—created by a Boston firm. They charted the schooner Morrissey, and when they sailed away from the dock, Matthew Henson was on the shore to wave them off.

The expedition was recorded by a cameramen hired to film the events, but Marie’s diary revealed that she struggle to maintain control over mounting problems.

In a her Prologue article detailing Marie’s journey, National Archives preservation specialist Audrey Amidon notes that the five … [ Read all ]