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Archive for 'preservation'

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 ]

Aloha treatment for a 1954 Hawaii petition

Petition signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood, presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954.

This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

The work the National Archives Preservation staff does every day is hardly “everyday.” A recent post about Hawaii’s petition for statehood on the Preservation Program’s Facebook page demonstrated this fact. This preservation project stemmed from a request from our Center for Legislative Archives. Each archival unit creates annual and long-term preservation plans, and the Center’s list named several petitions to Congress. One of these presented a challenge—a massive wooden spool 68 inches wide containing a roll of paper 16 inches in diameter.

This mammoth petition contains the names of 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood. Hawaii had been annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a U.S. Territory in 1900. Attempts at statehood over the next 60 years met opposition from both native Hawaiians and Congress. In the 1950s, the statehood movement gained momentum, and Hawaii became our 50th state on August 21, 1959.

This giant scroll came to the National Archives by way of the U.S. Senate. The Governor of Hawaii had presented the petition to the Vice President of the United States, who then (as President of the Senate) brought it before the Senate on February 26, 1954.

As … [ Read all ]