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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Entries are now being accepted for the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Begun in 2005 by the Fine Books & Collections magazine for young bibliophiles, the competition is now jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, as well as the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

A number of contests are currently held at colleges and universities around the U.S., with Swarthmore College's competition being the first in the 1920s. College-level students from all educational institutions, however, are encouraged to participate. Entries for this year's competition are due by May 31, 2016. Contest rules and further information are available at the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website. Winners of the last several years can be viewed here: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mahler's Symphony No. 9 and Coltrane's A Love Supreme among Latest Entries to the National Recording Registry

In the fourteenth year of the National Recording Registry, Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao has announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2015, stating: "These recordings, by a wide range of artists in many genres of music and in spoken word, will be preserved for future listeners. This collection of blues, jazz, rock, country and classical recordings, interspersed with important recordings of sporting events, speeches, radio shows and comedy, helps safeguard the record of what we've done and who we are."

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 1911-1986, the selections for 2015 are as follows:
  1. Let Me Call You Sweetheart—Columbia Quartette (The Peerless Quartet) (1911)
  2. Wild Cat Blues—Clarence Williams' Blue Five (1923)
  3. Statesboro Blues—Blind Willie McTell (1928)
  4. Bonaparte's Retreat—W.H. Stepp (1937)
  5. Vic and Sade—Episode: Decoration Day (June 4, 1937)
  6. Mahler Symphony No. 9—Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bruno Walter (1938)
  7. Carousel of American Music—George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Arthur Freed, Shelton Brooks, Hoagy Carmichael, others (Sept. 24, 1940)
  8. The Marshall Plan Speech—George C. Marshall (June 5, 1947)
  9. Destination Freedom—Episodes: A Garage in Gainesville and  Execution Awaited (Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, 1949)
  10. Original Soundtrack from A Streetcar Named Desire—Alex North, composer (1951)
  11. Cry Me A River—Julie London (1955)
  12. Mack the Knife (singles)—Louis Armstrong (1956); Bobby Darin (1959)
  13.  Wilt Chamberlain's 100-Point Game, Fourth-Quarter Coverage (Philadelphia Warriors vs. New York Knicks)—Bill Campbell, announcer (March 2, 1962)
  14. A Love Supreme—John Coltrane (1964)
  15. It's My Way—Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964) (album)
  16. Where Did Our Love Go (single)—The Supremes (1964)
  17. People Get Ready (single)—The Impressions (1965)
  18. Mama Tried (single)—Merle Haggard (1968)
  19. Abraxas—Santana (1970)
  20. Class Clown—George Carlin (1972)        
  21. Robert and Clara Schumann Complete Piano Trios—The Beaux Arts Trio (1972)
  22. Piano Man (single)—Billy Joel (1973)
  23. Bogalusa Boogie—Clifton Chenier (1976)
  24. I Will Survive (single)—Gloria Gaynor (1978)
  25. Master of Puppets—Metallica (1986)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 450 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations annually for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations for 2016 is available at the Registry website

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sunshine Week 2016

March 13-19, 2016 marks Sunshine Week, an annual event which serves to raise awareness of the need for transparent and open government at all levels. Freedom of Information Day is also being observed on March 16, which coincides with James Madison's birthday. In 1822, Madison stated:
A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.
Sunshine laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and open meetings laws provide essential legal rights and remedies for citizen access to government records and information. FOIA, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect one year later, created a "right to know" as the basis for access whereas previously citizens needed to demonstrate a "need to know." As Johnson observed at the time:
This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.
On March 15, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Bill 337 which contains a set of amendments to FOIA that would create a specific presumption of openness as well as other enhancements to government access if signed into law by the President. Further details can be found at the Fix FOIA by 50 Clearinghouse. The need for updates to FOIA is well illustrated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's compilation of "the worst government responses to public records requests" during the last year.

For further information, the following resources may be of interest: The National Freedom of Information Coalition; The National Security Archive; The Center for Effective Government; The American Civil Liberties Union; The Electronic Frontier Foundation; and, for news of international freedom of information advocacy, FreedomInfo.org.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day: Step It Up for Gender Equality



March 8th marks the 105th anniversary of International Women's Day. The United Nations' theme for International Women's Day 2016 is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." 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 6, 2016

WFMU Marathon 2016

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs March 6 through March 20, 2016. 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, as is ten year's of the station's Beware of the 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!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Grant Wood at 125

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of artist Grant Wood [1891-1942]. Pictured above is the house in Eldon, Iowa that is portrayed in the background of his most famous painting, American Gothic. An iconic work that has been parodied countless times since its execution in 1930, Wood based the taciturn farm couple on his own sister and dentist. The painting won a bronze medal in a competition sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained as part of their permanent collection.

Further information on Grant Wood can be found in previous Common Curator posts: Grant Wood Sketchbook Returns to Figge Art Museum and 120th Anniversary of Grant Wood's Birth.