Friday, June 22, 2018

John Coltrane's Lost Album

Recorded in one day by the John Coltrane Quartet at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, New Jersey on March 6, 1963, the long-overlooked album will finally be released as Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album by Impulse! Records on June 29, 2018. Coltrane gave the reference tape for the original session (the master tapes are presumed lost) to his first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, shortly after it was recorded, but only recently was it rediscovered by her and brought to the attention of the label.

The album contains seven tunes, including two new compositions never before heard, as well as the first recorded versions of several earlier songs. The quartet features Coltrane on saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison on double bass, along with several guest musicians. Jazz great Sonny Rollins has observed that the present album "is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid." The video above previews "Untitled Original 11383," and is accompanied by a graphic visualization of the audio track. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout

Registration is now open for the 38th annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout to be held July 20-21, 2018. The event will feature speakers, tours, and other activities on the grounds of Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Program speakers and topics include: Marilyn McHugh & Chris Kennedy (Life in the Soil--A Journey); John Whitman (On Cold Climate Gardening); Rosalind Creasy (Edible Landscaping); Jovan Savage (The Migration of Southern Foodways); and, Rowan White & Lee Buttala (Keeping Seeds Where They Belong--in situ and ex situ Preservation). A full schedule as well as registration details can be viewed on the conference website.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Whistler's Mother" Rearranged


President Franklin D. Roosevelt, himself an avid philatelist, took a strong interest in stamps as a means to communicate. He had a close working relationship with the Postmaster General James A. Farley, and contributed several design ideas for stamps issued during his time in office (1933-1945).

Among these was Roosevelt's suggestion that "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1," the iconic painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, be used as the basis for a stamp commemorating Mother's Day. Also known as "Portrait of the Artist's Mother," or simply, "Whistler's Mother," the subject of the painting was prominently featured on a 3-cent stamp that was issued in 1934, just 20 years after Mother's Day became an official national holiday.

Though a seemingly faithful representation, the stamp drew criticism both for the manner in which the painting was cropped and for the addition of a vase of flowers. The American Artists Professional League went so far as to telegram the Postmaster General, stating the stamp was "a mutilation of the artist's original picture, robbing it of much of its charm." The painting is currently held by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and today's viewers can make their own aesthetic judgement.

More of Roosevelt's stamp designs can be seen as part of the National Postal Museum's online exhibition, Delivering Hope: FDR & Stamps of the Great Depression.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Support Net Neutrality Today


Take Action today by contacting Congress to show your support for Net Neutrality.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

MayDay 2018: Saving Our History

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) has designated May 1st as MayDay, or a day of action for both individuals and organizations such as archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies to improve their capacities to deal with emergencies that can threaten or destroy historical collections. The ravages of natural disasters such as the tornadoes and hurricanes of recent years are just some of the physical risks facing cultural heritage institutions.

Although the landmark study, A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America's Collections (2005), systematically documented that most institutions lack an adequate disaster preparedness plan, the SAA has worked to mitigate these deficiencies. The SAA web site provides recommendations for MayDay activities, as well as a compilation of resources, including technical literature and tools, disaster plan templates and examples, tutorials and courses, bibliographies, and other resources.

In recent years, the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) has undergone severe cuts to both collections and services, which are documented in detail in a recent White Paper produced by the Save Iowa History Alliance. Leading historians on both a state and national level have addressed their concerns directly to Governor Branstad and to Mary Cownie, Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the SHSI.

Further details on these efforts, as well as contact information for key decision-makers, is available in the previous Common Curator posts: Save Iowa History and Save Iowa History 3. The complete White Paper on the State Historical of Iowa can be downloaded as a PDF.

Old Capitol Criterium 2018

Long a springtime tradition in Iowa City, the annual Old Capitol Criterium was held on Sunday, April 29, 2018 on the classic one-kilometer course that encircles the University of Iowa's Pentacrest and includes a short section through downtown Iowa City. The race began in 1977, and was originally spearheaded by Dan Nidey and Bill Casey. Results for all classes of riders at this year's race are available at the USA Cycling website. The Iowa City Cycling Club hosts the Old Capitol Criterium along with the Iowa City Road Race that together constitute the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup Race Weekend.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

For Earth Day, Plant a Tree or a Forest

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Founded by former US Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, Earth Day is now coordinated by Earth Day Network, with extensive programming and events around the world. In 2009, the United Nations also declared April 22 to be International Mother Earth Day, an observance that "recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity."

To commemorate both Earth Day and the upcoming Arbor Day, check out The Forest Where Ashley Lives, an educational book about the value and care of urban forests. Written by Mark A. and the eponymous Ashley L. Vitosh, and illustrated by John L. Smith, it is intended for elementary school readers. The book has won an Arbor Day Foundation Education Award, and was published by Iowa State University Extension; a PDF version is available for download from Urban Forestry South.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Peace Sign at Sixty

Now nearly universally recognized as a symbol of peace, the above logo (sans "60," of course) was designed by George Holtom in February 1958 to support the cause of nuclear disarmament. Varying accounts exist regarding its precise origins, but it was quickly adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the U.K., and has been used by countless millions in various contexts ever since.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Republication of Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian


Edward S. Curtis [1868-1952] published The North American Indian [Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska] during the period 1907-1930. It comprised 20 volumes of narrative text accompanied by 20 portfolios of photogravures; the text tallied over 5,000 pages, and the photographic images numbered over 2,200. Less than half of the projected 500 sets were ultimately produced.

The original prospectus described this project as "The most gigantic undertaking in the making of books since the King James edition of the Bible . . . ." Curtis both authored the text and photographed the images, and was supported in his field work by the patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan. Frederick Webb Hodge, who worked at the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1905 to 1918 and later at the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, served as the editor for the series. Theodore Roosevelt contributed a brief foreword.

In the course of his research, Curtis took over 40,000 photographic images of some 80 tribes, recorded over 10,000 wax cylinders of Native American languages and music, and observed and described many aspects of Indian traditions, customs, and ways of life. As valuable as Curtis' documentation is--and in many cases, it is the only such historical information available--it also reflects certain attitudes and mindsets no longer current among scholars and historians. Among other criticisms, the staging of some photographs raises important questions of representation and interpretation in Curtis' work.

To mark the sesquicentennial of Curtis' birth, Christopher Cardozo Fine Art is republishing Curtis' magnum opus in its entirety, with meticulous attention to reproducing the quality of the original set. The video above gives a brief overview of the process and rationale for the undertaking. Further details as well as ordering information is available at the publisher's website.

An online edition of The North American Indian is also available as part of Northwestern University's Digital Library Collections. The digitization of the set was largely funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Library of Congress holds more than 2,400 silver-gelatin photographic prints by Curtis that were acquired through copyright deposit from about 1900 to 1930; of these, 1,608 were not included in The North American Indian. Over 1,000 prints in the Curtis Collection have been digitized and individually described.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, 50 years ago today. The day after his assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Presidential Proclamation 3839 declaring a national day of mourning for April 7, 1968 and that flags were to be flown at half-mast at governmental and military facilities both within the United States and abroad until King's internment. Johnson begins the Proclamation by stating: "The heart of America grieves today. A leader of his people--a teacher of all people--has fallen."

For previous Common Curator posts related to King's life and work, see: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence; The Quest for Peace and Justice; and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The New York Times has also recently republished its original obituary for King, which was first published April 5, 1968.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

All Fools All the Time


What? Don't Worry! MAD magazine, founded in 1952, is being rebooted after 550 issues, and will recommence later this month with issue No. 1 of its new series. Stay tuned for more satire from Alfred E. Neuman and the Usual Gang of Idiots.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The March for Our Lives against Gun Violence

Hundreds of young students and adults from the Iowa City community marched from College Green Park to the Old Capitol to demand an end to epidemic gun violence in schools and society at large. Organized by local student groups, the rally featured a number of speakers who addressed the urgent need for gun policy reform. The event on March 24, 2018 was one of more than 800 held across the U.S. and globally as part of the March for Our Lives movement that started after 17 students were recently killed in a mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

One participant's sign at today's protest commemorates the tragedy of November 1, 1991, when a mass killing perpetrated by Gang Lu occurred at the University of Iowa. It began in Van Allen Hall and ended in Jessup Hall, which can be seen immediately to the right of the Old Capitol in the photo above. For related information, see also the Common Curator post, Twenty Years After.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen covered the March for Our Lives, including publishing the text of a sixth-grade student who spoke at the rally. For further research into the problem of gun-related violence, the Gun Violence Archive has compiled extensive statistical data from the entire United States.

As a measure of the political influence of the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.), the New York Times has published a list of the top ten members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who have received N.R.A. contributions. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain leads all politicians, having received over $7.7 million, and the first-term Republican Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst, has received over $3.1 million. One of Ernst's campaign videos for the 2014 election, entitled "Shot," featured her shooting a weapon while a voiceover narrator states: " . . . once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni's gonna unload."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Recording Registry Now at 500 Titles

Now in its sixteenth year, the National Recording Registry has grown to 500 entries with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden having just announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2017, stating: This annual celebration of recorded sound reminds us of our varied and remarkable American experience. The unique trinity of historic, cultural and aesthetic significance reflected in the National Recording Registry each year is an opportunity for reflection on landmark moments, diverse cultures and shared memories—all reflected in our recorded soundscape.”

Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.


Spanning the years 1911-1996, the selections for 2017 are as follows:

  1. “Dream Melody Intermezzo: Naughty Marietta” (single), Victor Herbert and his Orchestra (1911)
  2. Standing Rock Preservation Recordings, George Herzog and Members of the Yanktoni Tribe (1928)
  3. “Lamento Borincano” (single), Canario y Su Grupo (1930)
  4. “Sitting on Top of the World” (single), Mississippi Sheiks (1930)
  5. The Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas (album), Artur Schnabel (1932–35)
  6. “If I Didn’t Care” (single), The Ink Spots (1939)
  7. Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (4/25–6/26, 1945)
  8. “Folk Songs of the Hills” (album), Merle Travis (1946)
  9. “How I Got Over” (single), Clara Ward and the Ward Singers (1950)
  10. “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” (single), Bill Haley and His Comets (1954)
  11. “Calypso” (album), Harry Belafonte (1956)
  12. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (single), Tony Bennett (1962)
  13. “King Biscuit Time” (radio), Sonny Boy Williamson II and others (1965)
  14. “My Girl” (single), The Temptations (1964)
  15. “The Sound of Music” (soundtrack), Various (1965)
  16. “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (single), Arlo Guthrie (1967)
  17. “New Sounds in Electronic Music” (album), Steve Reich, Richard Maxfield, Pauline Oliveros (1967)
  18. “An Evening with Groucho” (album), Groucho Marx (1972)
  19. “Rumours,” (album), Fleetwood Mac (1977)
  20. “The Gambler” (single), Kenny Rogers (1978)
  21. “Le Freak” (single), Chic (1978)
  22. “Footloose” (single), Kenny Loggins (1984), remake released in 2011
  23. “Raising Hell” (album), Run-DMC (1986)
  24. “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” (single), Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (1987)
  25. “Yo-Yo Ma Premieres Concertos for Violoncello and Orchestra” (album), Various (1996)
The full National Recording Registry can be viewed online here. The Registry solicits nominations annually for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations for 2018 is available at the Registry website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

International Women's Day: #TimeIsNow

March 8th marks the 107th anniversary of International Women's Day. The United Nations' theme for International Women's Day 2018 is "Time Is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives." The video above features remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

First celebrated on March 19, 1911 by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland after a proposal by Clara Zetkin [1857-1933] in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, International Women's Day is now observed in many nations throughout the world.

The United Nations first began celebrating March 8 as International Women's Day during International Women's Year in 1975, and in 1977 approved a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace for member states.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

WFMU Marathon 2018: Support Freeform Radio

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs March 4-18, 2018. WFMU first hit the airwaves sixty years ago on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz in New York and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in the Hudson Valley. WFMU has also long been an Internet pioneer, and an extensive archive of past shows is available for easy access.

What is free-form radio you might ask? WFMU describes itself as follows:
WFMU's programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country and western music. 
And because the station is listener-supported, WFMU DJs have for years maintained complete autonomy and control over their own programming, which is extraordinarily eclectic. Check out the current WFMU audio smorgasbord, and see for yourself!

Note: The poster shown above was designed by Dave Cunningham for a previous Marathon. The premiums for this year's marathon can be viewed here.