Friday, September 23, 2016

Campaign for New Seed Vault at Seed Savers Exchange



Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), one of world's leading organizations dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds, has launched a fundraising campaign through Indiegogo's Generosity platform to raise $80,000 for an upgraded and enlarged facility to house its growing collection of over 20,000 varieties of seeds. The current storage space has developed structural issues that could potentially compromise the integrity of the collection. To learn more about the project, or to make a contribution, please visit SSE's campaign webpage.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dr. Carla Hayden Sworn in as Librarian of Congress

Dr. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. on September 14, 2016. Nominated by President Obama on February 24, 2016, Dr. Hayden was confirmed by the U.S. Senate after her confirmation hearing on April 20, 2016. She is both the first woman and first African American to serve as Librarian of Congress since the Library was established in 1800.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The National Book Festival: Journey to the Unknown

The 16th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, September 24, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

More than 120 authors, poets, and illustrators will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens, Books to Movies, Contemporary Life, Fiction, Food & Home, Graphic Novels, History & Biography, International, Poetry & Prose, and Science. Keynote speakers on the main stage include Stephen King, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shonda Rhimes, Bob Woodward, Raina Telgemeier, and Salman Rushdie. 

Further information, including a schedule of events and a map of the festival grounds, can be found at the festival website. Mobile apps are also available for the Festival. This year's poster was designed by Yuko Shimizu; a gallery of all Festival posters from 2001 to 2016 can be viewed here

Thursday, August 25, 2016

National Park Service Centennial

One hundred years ago on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation to create the National Park Service (NPS), with the mandate "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

In 2015 alone, more than 300 million people visited the 412 different areas in the park system, which covers over 84 million acres in every state, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. To help plan future visits, the NPS website provides a Find a Park tool that offers information about the many sites of interest.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NPS, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of 16 stamps with images of various well-known parks. The oldest park in the system is Yellowstone National Park, which was created through a bill signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. The Yellowstone stamp features the silhouettes of two bison, which coincidentally became the national mammal when President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law on May 9, 2016.

Once numbering in the tens of millions in North America, bison were hunted to near extinction in the nineteenth century. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt and William Hornaday formed the American Bison Society in an attempt to help save the species. Today, bison herds on public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior support around 10,000 bison; Yellowstone has the largest of these herds, with a population estimated at 4,900 as of last summer.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Olympic Opening Ceremonies: London 1908 to Rio 2016

A medley of opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics since 1908. The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin were the first to be televised, although only to local Berlin audiences; the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, were the first to be televised internationally. The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 in Athens.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What Kind of Movies Are Your Children Seeing?

Today is the 50th anniversary of the horrific mass shooting that took place on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin on August 1, 1966. The perpetrator, Charles Whitman, killed 17 and wounded more than 30 others. Today is also the first day of the so-called Campus Carry law (S.B. 11) in the state of Texas, which will allow licensed holders to carry concealed handguns at public universities.

The issue of gun violence in the United States has long predated the tragedy at the University of Texas. The cartoon above, which expresses a concern over how weapons are depicted in the new art form of the cinema, was originally published in 1927. Its author, incidentally, was Norman Woodlieff, a musician and founding member of the North Carolina Ramblers.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Amber Waves of Rye


The Declaration of Independence


Currently on exhibit in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives Museum, the Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776. A transcription of the complete text can be read online. The original document is badly faded today largely due to poor preservation techniques of the 19th century.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Equal Rights Amendment: Yesterday and Today



There have been more than 11,000 attempts since 1787 to amend the U.S. Constitution, with only 27 successes. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced into every session of Congress between 1923 and 1972, when it was finally passed by Congress. Ultimately, however, it failed to be ratified by the required three-fourths of the states to be become part of the Constitution. Written in 1921, the proposed text reads:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The video above features a panel discussion, The Equal Rights Amendment: Yesterday and Today [note that the speakers begin at 5:12], that was sponsored by the National Archives in partnership with the National Woman's Party. Held at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument on June 16, 2016, the event was part of the programming that is accompanying the exhibition, Amending America, which runs through September 4, 2017 at the National Archives Museum.

For further historical information on the constitutional amendment process, see the dataset created by the National Archives: Amending America: Proposed Amendments to the United States Constitution, 1787 to 2014.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 Seed Savers Exchange Conference

Registration is now open for the 36th annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout to be held July 15-17, 2016. The event will feature numerous speakers, workshops, and other activities on the grounds of Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Dr. Carol Deppe of Fertile Valley Seeds will be the keynote speaker; other speakers include Southern heirloom experts Dr. David Shields and Glenn Roberts; The French Laundry garden chef, Aaron Keefer; and community seed activist Rowen White. A full schedule as well as registration details can be viewed on the conference website.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Solstice


Monday, May 30, 2016

A Living Service Flag


In honor of Memorial Day, above is shown a living (or formation) photograph circa 1918 depicting the service flag of the U.S. Armed Forces. It was produced by Arthur Mole and John Thomas with the assistance of hundreds if not thousands of troops of the 164th Depot Brigade stationed at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas. Technically complex to stage, the pair created around 30 such photographs on patriotic themes at various military camps during World War I.

As defined in the U.S. Code at 36 USC § 901:
A service flag approved by the Secretary of Defense may be displayed in a window of the place of residence of individuals who are members of the immediate family of an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States during any period of war or hostilities in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged.
Service flags are also known as service banners, and Blue Star Service Banners depict a blue star for each family member who is serving during war or hostilities. Gold Star Service Banners depict a gold star (with a thin blue border) for each family member killed during wartime service.

Further information on the work of Mole & Thomas and other photographers who created similar large-scale images can be found at the Library of Congress' Picture This blog in the post: Formation Photographs: Lining Up to Salute the Flag. The original photograph above is held in the Library of Congress' Prints & Photographs Division.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Iowa Governor Visits Smith Farm on Conservation Tour



Iowa Governor Terry Branstad visited the Tim Smith Farm on May 4, 2016 as part of on ongoing tour to learn about soil conservation practices and strategies that are being used by environmentally concerned farmers to improve soil health and mitigate the effects of agriculture on water quality in the state. The video above was produced by Joe Murphy of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), and includes interviews with Governor Branstad, Kirk Leeds (CEO of ISA), and Smith, as well as scenes of conservation practices on several different farms. The ISA web site also features a recent article on Smith's work.

Previous Common Curator posts about conservation practices on the Smith farm include: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Iowa Soil Conservation Farmer of the Year; Cover Crops Reduce Nitrogen Run-Off, Improve Water Quality; and The Boone River Watershed: Why Strip-Till and Cover Crops Matter.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

MayDay 2016: Saving Our Archives

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 (2004 & 2014 follow-up report), 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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Librarian of Congress Confirmation Hearing

Dr. Carla Hayden is shown here on April 20, 2016 delivering her opening statement at the Senate confirmation hearing on her nomination to become Librarian of Congress. The entirety of the hearing can be viewed via C-Span. Hayden was nominated to become the 14th Librarian of Congress by President Obama on February 24, 2016.