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Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse Collections at the Smithsonian

Are you excited about the eclipse today? So are we! Over the centuries, people have long been fascinated by solar and lunar eclipses. The Smithsonian Institution has many eclipse related and inspired collections. Check some of them out on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.

Here are a few highlights:

This National Portrait Gallery photograph from 1869 depicts John A. Whipple (center, left) and the Harvard Observatory team photographing a rare solar eclipse. An inventor and photographer, Whipple was also the first person to photograph the moon's surface in great detail in 1851.
John A. Whipple and the Harvard Astronomical Expedition to photograph a rare solar eclipse (1869). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Larry J. West, NPG.2007.127.
Astronomical Photographer and Professor Henry Draper took this photograph of a total solar eclipse on July 29, 1878. You can read more about Draper and his scientific family in the National Museum of American History’s Draper Family Collection finding aid on the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA).

Photograph of the Corona 1878, [photograph reprint], National Museum of American History, Archive Center, AC0121-0000001.
In 1901, future Smithsonian Secretary Charles G. Abbot, then working at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, traveled to Sumatra to study a solar eclipse. Though cloudy weather prevented a perfect viewing for Abbot, but colleagues stationed in other locations were able to gather data. Read more about Abbot's adventures from the Smithsonian Institution Archives: The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Astronomers

1901 Sumatra Eclipse Expedition, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image Number 94-12603

If you want to learn more about how to view the solar eclipse safely, check out the National Air and Space Museum’s website for some great videos including this one on fun ways to view the eclipse.

Stay safe everyone and happy eclipse viewing!

Emily Moazami, Assistant Head Archivist

Friday, August 18, 2017

August 1939: National Aviation Day and the 30th Anniversary of Army Aviation

August 19 marks National Aviation Day in the United States.  Prior to 1939, aviation was frequently celebrated on December 17, the date of the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903, and, in 1937, “National Aviation Day” had been held on May 28.  In 1939, having received authorization from Congress in a May 11 joint resolution, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that August 19, Orville Wright’s birthday, would officially be designated National Aviation Day in the United States.

Text of the Joint Resolution Designating August 19 of each year as National Aviation Day from Public Laws Enacted during the First Session of the Seventy-Sixth Congress of the United States of America.  U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Council, United States Code.
Throughout the United States, communities planned aviation-related events.  In the Washington, DC, region, five airports—Capital Airport (Bladensburg, Maryland), Beacon Field (Fairfax County, Virginia), Hybla Valley Airport (Alexandria, Virginia), Congressional Airport (Rockville, Maryland), and College Park Airport (Maryland)—scheduled “50-cent” flights over the city.  The East Hartford divisions of United Aircraft Corporation’s Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and Hamilton Standard Propeller held an open house for employees and their immediate families.  Major Al Williams, acrobatic pilot, was scheduled to be the star of an aviation show at the World’s Fair.

A crowd watches formation flying at [Army Air Corps] 30th Anniversary Celebration at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, August 2, 1939.  NASM WF-64774.
The military participated in National Aviation Day as well.  The War and Navy Departments arranged open houses at their air fields.  Although several Army Air Corps fields hosted open houses, the biggest aviation event for the Army had already taken place a couple of weeks before.  On August 2, the Army celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Army’s purchase of the Wright Military Flyer on August 2, 1909—the birth of Army aviation.

Photo exhibit at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, in celebration of Army aviation’s 30th anniversary, August 1939.  NASM WF-64695.
All air stations hosted open houses and 2,000 aircraft participated in flyovers.  The largest of the anniversary celebrations took place at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers. The Army estimated that over 48,000 visitors attended the event and 20,000 watched from outside the gates.  Brigadier General George H. Brett served as the Master of Ceremonies.  Major General H.H. “Hap” Arnold spoke at the luncheon for special guests, highlighting the history of Army aviation, presenting visions for the future, and awarding Distinguished Flying Crosses to four officers.

Boeing XB-15 (s/n 35-277) on display at Army Air Corp 30th anniversary celebration at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, on August 2, 1939.  NASM 92-4006
Visitors to Wright Field had the opportunity to view approximately fifty of the Army’s “most modern aircraft.” Some of the larger airplanes had platforms from which guests could enter the airplane through one door and exit from another.  One of the aircraft on display at Wright Field was the Boeing XB-15, which on that very day had set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 5000 Kilometers With 2000 Kilogram Payload.  Throughout the day, aircraft flew in formation over the field.

Here's a list of National Air and Space Museum events for Saturday, August 19.  What do you plan to do for National Aviation Day 2017?!

Elizabeth C. Borja, Reference and Outreach Coordinator
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Public anthropology and the Millennium film project: Cinema of Advocacy or Contradiction?

During my summer internship at the National Anthropological Film Collection (formerly the Human Studies Film Archive) in the National Anthropological Archives. I worked on rehousing and processing the Millennium trims and outs collection. This collection consists of the film edited into a 1992 television series hosted by Harvard anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis.
Small index cards representing footage removed for inclusion in final cuts of episode.
This is typically one of the final steps in production.
 To process the materials, the film rolls were rehoused in archival film cans, which were placed in the National Anthropological Film Collection (NAFC)’s state-of-the-art environmentally controlled sub-zero vault, located at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. In total, the collection comprises 1336 rolls of double-perf camera original rolls that have been rehoused into 399 cans. In addition to preserving the film rolls, the other major goal when processing the collection was to keep valuable contextual and technical information associated with each film roll. Happily, the Millennium trims and outs collection is now safeguarded for future researchers, preserving high quality ethnographic film that portrays a diverse collection of subjects.
Millennium outs and trims collection in sub-zero storage vault.
In addition to handling the collection, I also had the opportunity to learn something about the Millennium film series. What I discovered is that the film collection is particularly fascinating because it reflects some of the methodological and humanistic transformations that were occurring in anthropology during the end of the 20th century. These transformations, I think, display some of the contradictions between ethnographic film and the burgeoning discipline of public anthropology.

In the last few decades of the 20th century, anthropology underwent a transformation as applied anthropologists and academic researchers began to converge on a form of anthropology today known as engaged, or public anthropology (Lamphere 1053). As a result, the discipline became more self-reflexive about its ethics and the politics of its work (Hart 7). This new branch of anthropology called for an increase in collaboration and partnership with the particular communities in which anthropologists worked, as well as increased engagement by anthropologists in the public and political spheres in an attempt to influence policy (Lamphere 1053).

At the forefront of the changes to the discipline was David Maybury-Lewis (Borofsky; Lamphere 1052). Maybury-Lewis strived to counteract negative feelings and popular disdain for indigenous groups, or the so-called “Other,” and to advocate for the interests of these small-scale societies (Hart 1041). Perhaps the largest contribution to his legacy was his creation of the organization Cultural Survival, an NGO dedicated to collaboration that would strengthen the ability of indigenous people to operate their own organizations and advocate for their own rights, including land rights, health care, education, and political power (Lamphere 1051). The 16mm films from his Emmy award-winning 1992 ethnographic film project, Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, which are now processed and housed in the Millennium trims and outs collection at the NAFC is another key piece of Maybury-Lewis’ legacy.

The Millennium documentary film project aired on television in ten 60-minute episodes before being released on VHS in 1992. Holistically, the project challenged the morality of the state (in their various particulars) and attempted to generate broader appreciation for forms of indigenous knowledge that had been amassed over millennium. In short, the series sought to illuminate “tribal” values and knowledge that could “contribute to the transformation of public ethics” in the coming millennium (Hart 1037). The series examined large universal topics, such as love, marriage, politics, wealth, spirituality, power, identity, and art, while looking at specific ethnographic examples from at least 15 distinct countries. Among the indigenous societies filmed by Maybury-Lewis and his crew were the Xavante of western Brazil (the society where he did his original fieldwork), the Mashco-Piro of Peru, the Wodaabe of Niger, the Nyimba of Nepal, the Gabra of Kenya, the Makuna of Colombia, the Dogon of Mali, the Weyewa of Sumba (Indonesia), the Huichol of Mexico, and the Navajo of the southwestern United States. As a way to drive home the universality of themes that it considered, the series contrasted this footage of “tribal” communities with the challenges faced by individuals in Western societies. Examples included an artist dying of AIDS, a teenage suicide-attempt survivor, and a New York City garbage man. Interwoven among these stories is a reflection on the positive and negative impact anthropological pursuits can bring to indigenous societies, as well as an attempt to advocate on the behalf of such communities.

Maybury-Lewis’ goal for the Millennium project was to shed a light on the importance of cultural diversity and to advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples. The project, however, still received critique from his fellow anthropologists. Although self-reflexive about anthropology, Millennium represented indigenous people similarly to earlier ethnographic cinema and revealed in visuals of the exotic “otherness” of indigenous people (Rony 220). Television’s entertainment model did not allow such a project to fully break free of ethnographic cinema’s traditional conventions because it called for dramatic storylines and mystery, clashing with anthropology’s late 20th century critique of exoticism, essentialism, and objectification (Hart 9). While the Millennium series often focused on important socio-political issues, such as the Canada’s Oka Crisis of 1990, it also employed dramatic English voices-overs imagining deeply personal stories of indigenous individuals from a Western perspective.

Regardless of the contradictions of the series, the project is rich in documentary value because of the exceptional footage captured by Maybury-Lewis and his crew, as well as its demonstration of the philosophical tensions in anthropology during the late 20th century. In the National Anthropological Film Collection in the National Anthropological Archives you can now find the original outtakes and trims from the Millennium project.

Caroline Waller, Intern
National Anthropological Film Collection 
National Museum of Natural History

Works Cited
Borofsky, R. (2000), COMMENTARY: Public Anthropology. Where To? What Next?. Anthropology News, 41: 9–10. doi:10.1111/an.2000.41.5.9

Hart, Laurie Kain. "Popular Anthropology and the State: David Maybury-Lewis and Pluralism." Anthropological Quarterly 82, no. 4 (2009): 1033-042.

 Lamphere, Louise. "David Maybury-Lewis and Cultural Survival: Providing a Model for Public Anthropology, Advocacy, and Collaboration." Anthropological Quarterly 82, no. 4 (2009): 1049-054.

Rony, Fatimah Tobing. The Third Eye : Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle. N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Omo: Expressions of a People, Photographs by Drew Doggett

Finding Aid Now Available at the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Omo aims to help viewers gain a greater visual understanding of the creative expressions of traditional peoples in Ethiopia and beyond, and subsequently encourage an appreciation of the world’s cultural diversity – one that develops into a genuine shared humanity. 
-Drew Doggett

EEPA 2015-009-0002: Untitled 2, Karo Tribeswoman with Pierced Lip, Wearing Necklaces, Karo Village, Omo Valley, Ethiopia 

Twenty of Drew Doggett's visually arresting black and white photos are now open for research at the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives (EEPA), National Museum of African Art. This vibrant collection documents the indigenous people of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, including the Suri, Hamar, Dhassanac and Karo peoples. Taken in February 2011, the photos were used in Doggett's series, Omo: Expressions of a People (2012). 

EEPA 2015-009-0001: Untitled 1, Suri Boy Surveying his Cattle, Suri Village, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Emphasizing the roles of art and creativity in traditional cultures, Doggett depicts body decorations and adornments, including headdresses, ear plates, necklaces, loin coverings, body painting and scarification and lip piercings. There are also several photographs of village scenes, cattle herding and rites of ceremonies, particularly the Hamar peoples' Jumping of the Bulls.

Take a look for yourself at the EEPA’s finding aid to learn more about Doggett’s vision and artwork.

EEPA 2015-009-0015: Untitled 37, Karo Boy with Painted Face, Karo Village, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Biography of Drew Doggett:
Photographer and filmmaker Drew Doggett (b. 1984 in Maryland) received his BA from Vanderbilt University (2006), majoring in Human & Organization Development. In addition to working from 2006-2012 under prominent fashion and portrait photographers, including Steven Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Ruven Afanador and Craig McDean, Doggett has photographed remote regions in the Himalayas, Africa, France, Canada, and other areas. Solo exhibitions include Slow Road to China (2010-2011), Omo: Expressions of a People (2012), Discovering the Horses of Sable Island (2013), Dunes: Landscapes Evolving (2014-2015) and Sail: Majesty at Sea (2015). His work has garnered awards at the Px3 Prix de la Photographie Paris (2014, 1st place in Culture Photography category), Px3 White Color Trilogy Photography Competition (2015, 2nd place in Nature category) and the Nikon Photo Contest (2015, 3rd prize for the film Dunes: Abstract Expressions). In 2016 he was honored as an Associate from the Royal Photographic Society. His work is held in private collections globally and is also in the permanent collections of several museums.

For more information about Drew Doggett, see his website

EEPA 2015-009-0008: Untitled 21, Dhassanac Woman Holding Tree Branches in Village near Omorate,
Dhassanac Village, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Accessing the Collection:
Drew Doggett is the owner of copyright and other intellectual properties of this collection. Permission to reproduce images requires written consent from Drew Doggett. Any commercial exploitation of any of the works in the collection that include a person identifiable in the work is explicitly prohibited unless Drew Doggett grants a publicity release. Contact the Archives staff at for more details.

To make an appointment at the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, please email Our research hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 AM to 4 PM.

Eden Orelove, Photo Archivist
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art