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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice


Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice is this year's Obermann Humanities Symposium at the University of Iowa, and will be held at campus and downtown Iowa City venues on March 1-3, 2018. The symposium is an initiative of the Provost's Global Forum, and will offer a full schedule of lectures, panels, film screenings, and exhibitions.

The organizers note that "practicing archivists, engaged scholars, and interdisciplinary artists will share projects from creating 'data refuges' of climate date to mining corporate records for evidence of organized violence." Experimental filmmaker, Bill Morrison, honored as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor, will be delivering a talk, "Consider the Source," and presenting his most recent film, "Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)."

Further information can be found at the symposium website, which includes biographies of speakers, resources on archives and activism, and a listing of numerous, diverse archives in the area.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Sesquicentennial of W.E.B. Du Bois' Birth


Civil rights advocate, scholar, educator, and global activist, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born 150 years ago on February 23, 1868, and died August 27, 1963.

Among his many outstanding contributions were his roles in founding, in 1905, the Niagara Movement, an African American group of scholars and professionals that challenged racial discrimination, and in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also the founder and editor of The Crisis, which was the NAACP's monthly magazine.

Du Bois earned his doctorate from Harvard in 1895, the first African American to ever do so. His dissertation, "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870," was the inaugural publication of the Harvard Historical Series. In 1899, he published a major sociological work called The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Du Bois authored many other works over the course of his career, notable among them, The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903) and Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (1935).

As a global citizen, Du Bois was long committed to Pan-Africanism. He attended the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900, and later organized a series of Pan-African congresses around the world. In 1961, at the invitation of its president, Du Bois received citizenship in Ghana, where he worked as director of the new Encyclopedia Africana, which was devoted to the African diaspora; he died in Ghana in 1963 at the age of 95.

For additional information on the life and work of Du Bois, check out the online guide to resources held by the Library of Congress. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has a very substantial collection, the W.E.B. Du Bois Papers, 1803-1999, containing nearly 100,000 digital items. Other resources include the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Du Bois was born and raised, and the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, where an instrumental meeting of the Niagara Movement took place at Storer College in 1906.

Note: The photograph above was taken by Cornelius Marion Battey on May 31, 1919, and is in the collections of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

#FundLibraries #FundMuseums #FundArchives

The American Library Association's President Jim Neal has issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration's proposed elimination of the Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) and the gutting of $183 million dollars for the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA):

“The administration’s FY2019 budget is out of touch with the real needs of Americans and the priorities of leaders in Congress who represent them. The president miscalculates the value of more than 120,000 libraries across America, just as he did in his FY2018 budget proposal.

“There is bipartisan support for libraries in Congress, where decision-makers know that to cut funding for libraries is to undercut opportunity for their constituents.

“Thanks to its Grants to States program, IMLS funding provides services that benefit everyone in our communities, including:
  • Veterans in California who receive assistance claiming well-earned benefits to further their education, get medical treatment, start a business and transition to civilian life.
  • Students in Arkansas who prepare for today’s competitive job market by participating in coding classes taught by trained school and public librarians.
  • Entrepreneurs in rural North Carolina who received business development assistance from an IMLS-funded business and technology outreach librarian.
  • Adults in Kansas who take GED courses and use otherwise cost-prohibitive exam preparation tools to advance their education and improve career prospects. 
“This administration’s new budget also decreases resources for children. Cutting federal support for programs like Innovative Approaches to Literacy comes at the cost of early literacy and improved student achievement, especially in the most underserved areas of our nation.

“Withholding federal support for libraries means withholding services that foster achievement, develop the workforce, and contribute to local economies. ALA members will continue to highlight the value of libraries to our elected leaders in every US congressional district. And we are confident that our congressional leaders will continue to protect the federal programs that invest in our communities.”

Res Ipsa Loquitur: The Thing Speaks for Itself


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Happy Year of the Dog / 狗 年 旺 旺 !


The Year of the Dog is now underway, the new lunar year having begun on February 16, 2018. The image above is a woodcut from Edward Topsell's bestiary entitled The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents . . . , which was published in London in 1658. A digitized copy of this text is available online via the Internet Archive. For a modern take on the life of canines, check out artist Laurie Anderson's contemplative film, Heart of a Dog (2015).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass' Birth


Born into slavery 200 years ago, on February 14, 1818, Frederick Douglass represents one of the most consequential figures in American history. His life's work as an abolitionist, social reformer, orator, author, publisher, and statesman are without parallel.

To learn more about Douglass, there are a number of significant research collections to explore. The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress contains approximately 7,400 items, with the bulk of the material dating from 1862 to 1865. Many of Douglass' early writings were destroyed when his house in Rochester, New York, burned in 1872.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has created a digital edition of the Frederick Douglass Papers, and at the University of Rochester, the Frederick Douglass Institute, in conjunction with the Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections, is seeking to digitize all of the Douglass-related materials at the University Library. The National Archives has deep collections in African American history generally.

The National Park Service maintains the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which preserves and interprets Cedar Hill, where Douglass lived from 1877 till his death in 1895 at age 77. The Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Community has a number of online resources that are also of interest.

Note: The photograph above was taken by George Francis Schreiber on April 26, 1870, and is in the collections of the Library of Congress.