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Archive for August, 2013

Facial Hair Friday: Sir Frederick Bruce

Today’s blog post comes from Katrina Wood, a summer intern with the Public Affairs Office.

As I took a self-guided tour of Embassy Row in Washington, DC, and paused at the statue of Winston Churchill at the British Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, I thought of all the diplomats and representatives who have made homes in Washington.

Sir Frederick Bruce was a highly valued diplomat in Queen Victoria’s service. Somewhat surprisingly, he seems to be portrayed in a fashion slightly more casual than his lengthy political and diplomatic career would suggest.

Sir Frederick held posts from colonial secretary and consul-general to envoy extraordinary and chief superintendent of British trade in China. He was a native of Scotland, born in Broomhall, Fifeshire.

In 1865, when Sir Frederick was the British Minister in China,  he received a new assignment as Minister to the United States. He arrived in New York only one week before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and never officially met the President.

The diplomat did not survive the President  very long. Sir Frederick died in Boston on September 19, 1867. His obituary in the New York Times praised him for performing his ministerial functions “faithfully and earnestly, but with no needless demonstration and no extra-official zeal. . . . His genial hospitality will long be remembered by those who had the opportunity of … [ Read all ]

Edith Lee-Payne: Accidental civil rights icon

This post comes to us from summer intern Hannah Fenster.

When Edith Lee-Payne stepped into the lobby of the National Archives last week, she came from a morning full of press interviews and national monument visits.

But the whirlwind of her recent rise to fame slowed when she entered the Rotunda to view a photograph of her 12-year-old self. Her hand rested on her heart as she bent over the glass case containing the original image.

On August 28, 1963, Lee-Payne attended the March on Washington, where photographer Rowland Scherman snapped her picture without her knowledge. While Lee-Payne went on to face constant struggles against still-prevalent racial discrimination, her image lived a life of its own, growing into an iconic symbol of the historic day.

Discovering herself in the photograph this year has allowed Lee-Payne the opportunity to harmonize her actual life with her archived existence as a symbol of a national movement.

She feels like the photo—and her recent fame—has afforded her new responsibility. “It gives me an opportunity to share with others what Dr. King shared with this country,” she said.

Just as she became a picture for the March on Washington, Lee-Payne says, “The March in 1963 was a picture of America. People from all walks of life came together for King’s message.” Her favorite quote comes from Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter … [ Read all ]

Death Takes No Holiday: Full Military Honors at Arlington in 2014

[Today's post comes from Rod Ross, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives. While researchers come to Rod every day to learn from his knowledge of congressional records, he recently had to consult an Archives colleague for an unusual task outside the office.]

Sometime in 2014—because Arlington National Cemetery has a substantial backlog, causing delays of eight or nine months—I expect to attend a funeral of someone I barely knew in life, Odis Frederick Quick (1916–2013).

I live in an apartment house in Southwest Washington, DC. Not long ago, I received an email asking me if I knew Odis Quick, who “lives or lived” in the building. The writer was renting an apartment in the coop but wanted to buy. She had seen mail piled up in front of a unit and wondered if it might be available.

On Saturday, August 17, I asked at the front desk if they knew the status of the Quick apartment. The woman there did indeed know.

Odis Quick had died in a hospice in mid-May, and his body had been taken to a funeral home, where it remained. Mid-May to mid-August—that’s unbelievable, I thought. The woman at the desk said that a fellow resident in my building, Bob McIntosh, had been with Odis in the hospice when Odis died and knew the story.… [ Read all ]

Documerica: Seeing the Seventies More Clearly

Today’s blog post comes from Hannah Fenster, summer intern with the Public Affairs Office.

Ever wonder why your photographs of the 1970s are slowly changing color? Hint: They don’t want makeovers or need more fuchsia in their lives. More likely, their aging appearances come from the original film type and from years of storage at room temperature.

The National Archives used an elaborate process to produce top-quality, fully restored photographs for the exhibit “DOCUMERICA: Searching for the Seventies,” which runs through September 8. The National Archives stores the original images as slides in cold storage to minimize the color shift.

I spoke with Michelle Farnsworth, digital imaging technician at the National Archives, to discuss the process of resurrecting the photos for exhibition.

To transfer the images from stored slides to shiny exhibit frames, technicians began by scanning the slides into a digitized format at the Digital Imaging Lab at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

The scanned versions underwent some preliminary color editing. “We weren’t trying to make them look punchier,” says Farnsworth, “we were trying to make them neutral, to match what we saw on the slides or the documents.”

Amanda Perez, exhibit and graphic designer, then enhanced the color and contrast, cleaned up dust spots and scratches, and further neutralized what color shifts had occurred over the years. Editing to this extent … [ Read all ]