Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Joan Baez, and Radiohead among Artists Added to National Recording Registry

In the thirteenth year of the National Recording Registry, Librarian of Congress James Billington has announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2014, stating: "Congress understood the importance of protecting America’s aural patrimony when it passed the National Recording Preservation Act 15 years ago. By preserving these recordings, we safeguard the words, sounds and music that embody who we are as a people and a nation." Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.

In chronological order, the selections for 2014 are as follows:
  1. Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings at University of California, Santa Barbara Library (c.1890-1910)
  2. The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection, recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago (1893)
  3. "The Boys of the Lough"/"The Humours of Ennistymon" (single)—Michael Coleman (1922)
  4. "Black Snake Moan" / "Match Box Blues"(single)—Blind Lemon Jefferson (1927)
  5. "Sorry, Wrong Number" (episode of "Suspense" radio series, May 25, 1943)
  6. "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" (single)—Johnny Mercer (1944)
  7. Radio Coverage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Funeral—Arthur Godfrey, et al. (April 14, 1945)
  8. "Kiss Me, Kate" (original cast album) (1949)
  9. "John Brown’s Body" (album)—Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey; directed by Charles Laughton (1953)
  10. "My Funny Valentine" (single)—The Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Chet Baker (1953)
  11. "Sixteen Tons" (single)—Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)
  12. "Mary Don’t You Weep" (single)—The Swan Silvertones (1959)
  13. "Joan Baez" (album)—Joan Baez (1960)
  14. "Stand by Me" (single)—Ben E. King (1961)
  15. "New Orleans’ Sweet Emma Barrett and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band" (album)—Sweet Emma and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band (1964)
  16. "You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’" (single)—The Righteous Brothers (1964)
  17. "The Doors" (album)—The Doors (1967)
  18. "Stand!" (album)—Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
  19. "Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues" (album)—Lincoln Mayorga (1968)
  20. "A Wild and Crazy Guy" (album)—Steve Martin (1978)
  21. "Sesame Street: All-Time Platinum Favorites" (album)—Various (1995)
  22. "OK Computer" (album)—Radiohead (1997)
  23. "Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky" (album)—Indian Bottom Association (1997)
  24. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (album)—Lauryn Hill (1998)
  25. "Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman" (album)—Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor; Joan Tower, composer (1999)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 425 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations is available at the Registry website

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WFMU Marathon 2015

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs March 8 through March 22, 2015. WFMU first hit the airwaves 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 and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. WFMU has also long been an Internet pioneer, streaming its programming 24/7 in multiple formats, including iPhone and Android. Past shows are archived at the station's website, which also features WFMU's entertaining and content-rich blog.

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!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kickstarting CursiveLogic



At a time when cursive writing is being dropped from the curriculum of countless schools around the United States, Linda Shrewsbury has developed a simplified teaching methodology that significantly reduces the amount of time necessary for mastery of this fundamental literacy skill. Her Kickstarter campaign ends shortly, but it has already surpassed its fundraising goal, thus ensuring that the teaching materials will be produced for broad dissemination. More information on the method can be found at the CursiveLogic website.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tour of the Mississippi River Valley 2015

Sponsored by the Quad Cities Bicycle Club, the 38th annual Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (TOMVR) will take place this year on June 13-14. A tradition since 1978, this year's bicycle ride offers two different distance options, with the longer ride covering 106 miles on the first day (from Bettendorf to Dubuque), and 90 miles via a different route back to Bettendorf on the second day. The longer option also involves approximately 6,000 feet of climb on the first day and 4,000 feet on the second. Registration is currently open, and further information can be found on the QCBC web site.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

RAGBRAI 2015 Overnight Towns Announced

The eight overnight towns for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa XLIII were just announced at the annual Route Announcement Party: Sioux City > Storm Lake  > Fort Dodge > Eldora > Cedar Falls > Hiawatha > Coralville > Davenport. The starting and ending points, which are always on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, respectively, are for the first time both the same as for the inaugural ride in 1973.

This year's seven-day ride takes place July 19-25, 2015, and will be 462 miles in length with 15,948 feet of total climb, making it the 19th shortest and 13th flattest route since RAGBRAI began. Registration for the world's oldest, largest, and longest recreational bike touring event is currently open, with a deadline of April 1, 2015 for online applications. Lottery results will be announced May 1, 2015.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015

Just over 50 years ago, on December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Peace, concluding:
". . . I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners--all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty--and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
The complete text of Dr. King's speech can be read on the Nobel Prize website. The text of King's Nobel Lecture, "The Quest for Peace and Justice," is also available on the site.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Plant the New Year with Heirloom Seeds

The tantalizing 2015 Catalog from Seed Savers Exchange marks the organization's 40th anniversary, and is now available online; alternatively, a copy in print can be requested free of charge.

Founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, Seed Savers Exchange is now the largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind in the United States. With over 13,000 members, SSE conserves and maintains heirloom seeds for thousands of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Its mission is:
. . . to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
Located on the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, SSE is open to visitors from April to October, and sponsors special events such as seed starting, grafting, and gardening workshops. It also hosts an annual conference and campout. To learn more about Seed Savers Exchange and the benefits of membership, visit its website.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

From Billions to None: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

The last known passenger pigeon, called Martha, after Mrs. Washington, the first First Lady of the United States, died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Although the murmurations depicted in the trailer for the documentary, From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, are not particularly convincing simulations of the long-gone massive flocks, the story of the extinction of a superabundant avian species is nevertheless a fascinating if unfortunate one. It is estimated that the passenger pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, had attained a population of several billion at its peak in the 19th century. Project Passenger Pigeon, organized by scientists, educators, conservationists, and others, seeks to provide "lessons from the past for a sustainable future."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wapsipincon Almanac 21 Ready for Delectation

The latest annual installment of the eclectic Wapsipinicon Almanac is now available. Published and letterpress printed since 1988 by Timothy Fay of Route 3 Press, the present issue, as with previous numbers, features an engaging mix of essays, reviews, fiction, poetry, art, wit and wisdom.

Number 21 can be purchased at bookstores and other establishments or by writing the publisher directly at Wapsipinicon Almanac, 19948 Shooting Star Road, Anamosa, Iowa 52205. Single copies are $9, plus $2.50 for postage; Iowa residents should also include 63-cents for sales tax.

The front and rear covers shown here were designed by Will Thomson. A brief history of the publication can be viewed at the Almanac's website, and a video of "Linotype Operator Emeritus" Eldon Meeks in action can be viewed here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Cohort of 25 Films Added to National Film Registry

Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the National Film Preservation Board is an advisory body for the Librarian of Congress. The Board helps shape national film preservation planning policy, and also recommends films for the National Film Registry.

Chosen for their cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance, the Board's 25 selections for 2014 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day and The Power and the Glory to such later works as Little Big Man and Into the Arms of Strangers.  The full list is as follows:

2000s
13 Lakes (2004)
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)

1990s
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Big Lebowski (1998)

1980s
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Moon Breath Beat (1980)

1970s
Please Don't Bury Me Alive! (1976)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Little Big Man (1970)

1960s
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Felicia (1965)

1950s
Rio Bravo (1959)
House of Wax (1953)

1940s
The Way of Peace (1947)
V-E + 1 (1945)
The Gang's All Here (1943)
Down Argentine Way (1940)

1930s 
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
The Power and the Glory (1933)
State Fair (1933)

1910s
The Dragon Painter (1919)
Unmasked (1917)
Shoes (1916)
Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)

Further information on the Registry as well as the films themselves can be found on the Library of Congress' web site. All 500+ films selected for the Registry since 1989 can also be browsed online. In addition, the public is encouraged to make nominations for next year's selections to the National Film Registry.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#Rights365: Human Rights Day Is Every Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year's theme is Human Rights 365, for which United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon exhorts: "I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account."

The Declaration was proclaimed on December 10, 1948 through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III):
. . . as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Although not itself a binding legal document, it has "inspired more than more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights."

The Declaration has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects, from Abkhaz to Zulu. The English version is available here, while other versions are available via an online database. A guide to UN Human Rights documentation as well as various related UN databases are also accessible on the UN Human Rights website.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Library at UK's Imperial War Museum Facing Elimination

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) in the UK is facing substantial cuts to collections and services, particularly its Library. Founded in 1917, the IWM maintains significant research collections related to "all aspects of twentieth- and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries." Over 11,000 supporters have so far signed an online petition urging a reversal of the proposed closure of the Library, reduction of educational programs, and job losses.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Tomatoes and Proclamations

Although not without detractors, President Washington on October 3, 1789 signed the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, employing the language of the resolution passed by the First United States Congress, and further expressing gratitude for "tranquility, union, and plenty." Presidents Adams and Madison later issued similar proclamations, as did President Lincoln, who on October 3, 1863 finally and definitively established Thanksgiving Day as the third national holiday (after Independence Day and Washington's Birthday), to occur on the fourth Thursday of every November.

To commemorate this year's Thanksgiving, the above photo depicts a sampling of Abraham Lincoln heirloom tomatoes raised by the Common Curator using seeds harvested during a 2013 workshop at the Seedsavers Exchange's Heritage Farm.

For those who have had an especially prosperous 2014, one of only two known copies of Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation is currently on offer from the antiquarian bookseller, Seth Kaller, Inc. Asking price? 8.4 million dollars, plus $3.50 for shipping.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sex and Broadcasting: A Film about WFMU



The long-awaited documentary about freeform radio station WFMU by filmmaker Tim K. Smith will be having its world premiere at the DOC NYC film festival on November 15 & 17, 2014. Originally entitled Freeform or Death for its Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $81,000 from 736 backers during the summer of 2012, the film is now called Sex and Broadcasting, after the book of the same name by community radio pioneer Lorenzo Milam.

WFMU first hit the airwaves 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 and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. The station has also been a leader for years on the Internet, streaming in multiple formats and archiving all shows online.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Iowa City Book Festival 2014

One of just seven UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world, Iowa City, Iowa is hosting its sixth annual Book Festival, October 2-5, 2014. In partnership with the University of Iowa's International Writing Program and Writers' Workshop, FilmScene, the Mission Creek Festival, as well as other organizations and individuals, the four-day event will feature a Book Fair, readings by numerous authors, and non-stop programming at many venues in and around downtown Iowa City. The 2014 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grant Wood Sketchbook Returns to Figge Art Museum


Missing for several decades, a sketchbook by world-renowned Iowa artist Grant Wood [1891-1942] was recently reclaimed by the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Part of a collection acquired in 1965 from Wood's sister, Nan Wood Graham, the sketchbook contains notes and plans for the stained glass window he designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids in 1928.

The window depicts soldiers in privates' uniforms from the six major U.S. wars up to that time: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the First World War; the soldiers are surmounted by a large female figure said to represent the Republic. To oversee the fabrication of the window directly, Wood travelled to Munich, Germany, one of several trips to Europe he made early in his career.

The recovered sketchbook is thought to have been stolen shortly after its acquisition by the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, the Figge's predecessor. Andrew Wallace, the Figge's current Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, was instrumental in researching the loss of the sketchbook and in negotiating its return after it was slated for auction. More information on this fortunate turn of events can be found in an article in the Quad-City Times.

Much of Grant Wood's personal archive has been digitized. The University of Iowa hosts the Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection and several dozen images have been digitized by the Archives of American Art in their Grant Wood Collection, 1930-1983.

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is home to the world's largest collection of Grant Wood artwork, and features the Grant Wood Gallery. Curious individuals can discover more about Wood's life and times by visiting stops along Iowa's Grant Wood Trail. American Gothic, Wood's iconic masterpiece painted in 1930, is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Note: Top image is from the Quad-City Times; bottom image is from the Veterans Memorial Building. A previous Common Curator post of related interest is the 120th Anniversary of Grant Wood's Birth.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: An Iowa MOOC



The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa is offering a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, entitled "How Writers Write Fiction: Talks on Craft and Commitment." The course is the IWP's third MOOC, and will run from September 26 to November 21, 2014.

Lead instructors will be Christopher Merrill, Director of the IWP and Professor of English at Iowa, and R. Clifton Spargo, author of Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Dixon Professor of Creative Writing at Wittenberg University.

The course is free, but requires registration. Information about the Writing University as well as other MOOCs is also available online.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making a Case for Books

Architect and fine craftsman Frank Howarth portrays in the above stop-motion video the manifold steps it takes to create beautifully functional bookcases out of walnut veneer plywood. The video comprises approximately 6,400 frames selected from some 11,700 frames that Howarth shot of the process. More woodworking projects can be viewed at Howarth's YouTube channel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 National Book Festival

The 14th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

As in prior years, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators, will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life and Poetry & Prose.

Schedules are available online for the Author Pavilions and the Library of Congress Pavilion. Further information on the Festival can be found here, and a map of the festival grounds can be viewed here.

The Festival website features an archive of photos, video webcasts, and audio podcasts. The 2014 poster, shown here, was designed by Bob Staake.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The British "Light Up" the Library of Congress


Two hundred years ago today, on August 24, 1814, British troops burned the U.S. Capitol, which then housed the books of the Library of Congress. Rear Admiral George Cockburn is said to have asked his men, "Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it shall say 'Aye'". The resulting fire destroyed the Library's entire collection of some 3,000 volumes, but Thomas Jefferson soon thereafter offered his own substantial library for sale to Congress, writing:
"I have been fifty years in making it, and have spared no pains, opportunity or expense, to make it what it now is. While residing in Paris I devoted every afternoon . . . in examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hands, and putting by everything which related to America . . . ." 
Jefferson's 6,487 volumes, which constituted the largest personal library in the country at the time, were appraised at $23,950, and on October 10, 1814, the Senate unanimously approved its purchase. Some in the House of Representatives expressed strong opposition, however, noting that the library contained many titles in foreign languages, as well as philosophical works by such authors as Voltaire, Locke, and Rousseau. Daniel Webster suggested buying the whole collection, but then returning to Jefferson "all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency." The measure eventually passed by a 10-vote margin, and the library was purchased intact, thus seeding the rebirth of the Library of Congress.

A catalog of Jefferson's library arranged alphabetically by title was issued by the Library of Congress in 1815. At Jefferson's request, Nicholas Trist in 1823 restored the intellectual classification scheme that Jefferson had used to arrange his collection at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order, edited by James Gilreath and Douglas L. Wilson, can be viewed online. Although unaffiliated with the Library of Congress, LibraryThing also offers an online "Legacy Library" devoted to Jefferson's various collections

The history of Jefferson's library is further complicated by another fire in the U.S. Capitol in 1851, which destroyed two-thirds of his former books. In 1998, Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, commenced an effort to restore the lost books through the purchase or donation of identical editions. Today the Library of Congress ranks as the world's largest, and owes much to the breadth and depth of Jefferson's intellectual pursuits.

Note: The image above is from "The Library of Congress," an article by Ben Perley Poore in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. XLVI, no. CCLXXI, December 1872, pp. 41-50, at p. 44.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Scenes from the Seed Savers Exchange's Annual Conference at Heritage Farm

The above photographs were taken at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa during the 34th Annual Conference and Campout at Seed Savers Exchange held July 18-20, 2014.

From the top: View of barn and tents; painting by Valerie Miller of Steel Cow Studio; Diane's Garden adjacent to the barn with Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at rear; a workshop session in the Diversity Garden; Professor Susan McCouch of Cornell University delivering her keynote address, "Gene Flow and Genetic Isolation: A Case Study in Rice"; taste-testing of SSE produce; several photos of pollinators in action; Ancient White Park cattle at pasture.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Risking Everything: The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964

1964 was a critical year for the Civil Rights Movement, seeing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-352) and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It was also the year of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, which was a campaign to register African-American voters and support equal rights.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project, the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) has launched a new digital collection, which draws upon its substantial archival holdings of civil rights organizations, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), as well as activists, including Amzie Moore, Mary King, and Howard Zinn. The collection contains over 25,000 pages of manuscript material and images, and offers complementary resources for educators.

In addition, WHS Press has published Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader, an anthology of documents from the project. Its editor, Michael Edmonds, is featured in an interview in the video above. To learn more about the Wisconsin Historical Society, visit its website, and peruse its many online collections.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

People for Bikes: Join Today


People for Bikes began as Bikes Belong in 1999, and currently advocates for greater safety and opportunities for bicyclists throughout the United States. At the state level, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition also works to improve safety and develop transportation and recreation networks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Buck Starts Here

The United States Mint issued a new commemorative one-dollar coin for Herbert Hoover in its presidential series on June 19, 2014. Herbert Clark Hoover [1874-1964] was the 31st American president and served from 1929-1933. The only president from Iowa, Hoover hailed from West Branch, where the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The new coins are being minted in Philadelphia and Denver, and are currently available for sale via the U.S. Mint's online shop. A first day of issue coin cover will be available July 10, 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Conference

Registration is now open for the 34rd annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout to be held July 18-20, 2014. The event will feature numerous speakers, workshops, and other activities on the grounds of Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. A full schedule can be downloaded here [pdf]; early registration ends June 15.