The WNYC Commissions Volume One

Original CD liner notes published in 2002.

Writing music seems a straightforward enough proposition: you have an idea for a piece, you write it, and then some musicians play it. But few things are as simple as they seem. The birth of a piece of classical music usually requires a midwife – the person or organization who commissions the work. In the old days, this meant a local prince or wealthy patron paying a composer to write a work for his court ensemble or for a group of musicians he supported. The 20th century, with its relative paucity of princes, saw the rise of the private foundations as a leading source of commissions. In Europe, state-run radio stations often commissioned works; the BBC in particular has a notable history of requesting works from a who’s who of English composers. In American radio, however, that idea was almost completely unheard of.

WNYC has bucked that trend by trying to be proactive, instead of reactive. American classical radio stations have traditionally reacted to music, by waiting to see what is performed or recorded and then, after due consideration of the music’s timeliness and potential importance to its audience, ditching it in favor of another recording of The Four Seasons. WNYC, though, has a long heritage of supporting living composers and live music, and a wide view of what the words “classical music” might mean. And so, for the 50th anniversary of WNYC’s FM station in June of 1994, we decided to embark on a program of commissioning music from diverse American composers to celebrate the occasion. Acting on a terrific idea from composer John Corigliano, we asked the noted poet John Ashbery for a poem, and then sent it to 12 composers. Their instructions were simple: write a piece based on the poem –it did not have to be a typical voice-with-piano setting; it could use some of the text, or none of the text. 

But there’s another part to commissioning music: finding performers to premiere it. This was quite a chore when juggling twelve different pieces at once. Fortunately, the event was one the music community in New York was eager to embrace, and in the end, a splendid concert took place on June 13, 1994, when thirteen pieces by the twelve composers (the explanation for the discrepancy is below) had their world premieres at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and live on the air at WNYC 93.9 FM.

Morton Gould

Morton Gould was an obvious choice when WNYC began commissioning music. A versatile musician, a tireless champion of other American composers, and a native New York mensch, Gould was a longtime friend of WNYC: one of his most popular pieces, Spirituals For Orchestra was premiered on WNYC’s annual American Music Festival in 1941. Gould’s Anniversary Rag, for WNYC was the only one of the WNYC FM anniversary pieces that did not use the John Ashbery poem, No Longer Very Clear. It’s not that Morton Gould couldn’t follow directions: he dutifully set the poem in the classic voice/piano combo.  But weeks before our anniversary concert in June of ’94, he sent an additional work – along with a letter saying he’d written it as a sort of anniversary gift. “I hope you’ll let me play it,” he wrote; “I’ve been practicing like mad.” Well of course we let him play it. And he charmed the Lincoln Center crowd with a performance that used both hands and feet.

Anniversary Rag, for WNYC. Morton Gould, piano and foot stomps. World premiere June 13, 1994, Alice Tully Hall, Engineers: Edward Haber (technical director & mix engineer), Christine Bronder, George Wellington, Miles B. Smith.

Philip Glass

Philip Glass is arguably the most popular composer alive today. And we knew him way back when… Glass’s music has long been part of WNYC’s programming- sometimes a very controversial part, especially in the late 1970s/early 80’s, when we began playing his works frequently. Now So Long After That Time is a piano solo whose title comes from the John Ashbery poem, No Longer Very Clear. A New York Times review of the piece at its world premiere performance in June of 1994 likened it to the piano music of Rachmanioff – an unusual comparison, to be sure; but not, surprisingly, as crazy as it might seem… Pianist Christopher O’Riley’s effortless performance convinced us to commission a bigger work from him later; the result was the Ralph Towner piece listed below. This piece, by the way, has gone on to a second life as the Etude #6 for Solo Piano, part of Glass’s two decade long process of composing two books of piano etudes. It has been recorded under that title numerous times.

Now So Long After That Time. Christopher O’Riley, piano. World premiere June 13, 1994, Alice Tully Hall, Engineers: Edward Haber (technical director & mix engineer), Christine Bronder, Goerge Wellington, Miles B. Smith.

Richard Einhorn

Richard Einhorn took over two years to write A Carnival of Miracles, and if the group Anonymous 4 had taken another two years to learn it, you could hardly blame them. The piece, scored for four female voices and two cellos, uses texts in English, German, French, Polish, Italian, and ancient Coptic. In Richard Einhorn’s marvelous oratorio, Voices of Light, written to accompany the classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, the “voice” of Joan is sung collectively by Anonymous 4, so when we began exploring composers to work with, Einhorn seemed a good choice. His piece, the longest WNYC has yet commissioned, is in six parts, each dealing with a specific kind of freedom. Einhorn provided the following notes:

Enigma (religious freedoms) is extracted from an extremely strange incantation found in the Nag Hammadi codices from the 3rd century.

The Scientist (scientific freedoms) is a single sentence which Galileo is said to have murmured after he was forced by Church authorities to deny that the Earth traveled around the Sun.

The Genius (artistic freedoms) is drawn from Beethoven’s asinine response to criticism of his string writing.

The Court (freedom of speech) is taken from writings by Supreme Court justices, and tries to answer the hoary question, “Does freedom of speech give anyone the right to shout ‘Fire!’ in public?”

Mrs. Satan and the Divine Marquis (sexual freedoms) combines texts by Victoria Woodhull, a 19th century feminist, with some remarkably similar (and characteristic) excerpts from the 18th century libertine, the Marquis de Sade.

Miracle Fair is taken from the 1986 poem of the same name by the Nobel Laureate Wizslawa Szymborska.

The texts often drive the music; Galileo’s “and yet, it moves” is sung in unison at first, but then the four voices steadily move away from each other while repeating the line. The text for The Court is a collage of words from various important Supreme Court decisions, and coincidentally, one of those words is “fire,” given great prominence in the music. “Eloquence may set fire to reason, but we have staked upon it our all,” wrote the Court. It’s a sentiment worth remembering, and it’s the only complete sentence to emerge from this particular text collage. (Complete texts at

Carnival of Miracles. Anonymous 4, vocals; Christine Gummere and Julie Green, cellos. World premiere November 19, 1999, The Arts At St. Ann’s. This recording, revised version, June 26, 2001, Corpus Christi Church, Engiineers: George Wellington (technical director and mix engineer), Scott Strickland.

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson was perhaps the most unconventional composer in our 50th anniversary concert. Her works are as much stories as songs, and those stories revolve around her own texts. In this case, though, she was working with the John Ashbery poem, No Longer Very Clear. Like Philip Glass, she took a line from the poem for her title; unlike Glass, though, she set the entire text, delivering it in her unmistakable style. Ashbery’s work is an oblique, evocative meditation on memory, perception, and darkness. But it is shot through with color, and that provided the inspiration for Anderson’s This House of Blues. It is a tape piece: the accompanying music consists of instrumental tracks produced by Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno.

This House of Blues. Laurie Anderson, vocals and keyboards; Cyro Baptista, percussion; Joey Baron; drums; Greg Cohen, bass; Brian Eno, drum treatments. World premiere June 13, 1994, Alice Tully Hall. Recorded by Laurie Anderson.

Ralph Towner

Ralph Towner has amassed a worldwide following over the past 30-plus years. He is best-known for his work with the group Oregon, which began blurring the borders between classical, jazz, and non-Western music in the early 1970s. He also wrote the Paul Winter Consort’s most famous song, Icarus; has made dozens of solo recordings as a guitarist and occasionally as pianist; and has worked with jazz greats and symphony orchestra. Simulacrum is essentially a one-movement piano sonata, with a rhapsodic, almost improvised sound (it is, however, fully notated), and a modal flight in the third section that gives Christopher O’Riley ample opportunity to display his keyboard chops.

Simulacrum. Christopher O’Riley, piano. World premiere May 20, 1999, Miller Theatre. Engineers: Edward Haber (technical director and mix engineer), Irene Trudel, George Wellington, Wayne Shulmister.

Steve Reich

Steve Reich is not only one of the most important and influential composers of our time, he’s also a neighbor. Living literally a block away from the WNYC studios, he has been a regular visitor. Anonymous 4, whose albums of medieval music have all been best-sellers, has been performing in the WNYC studios almost since its inception. As a result, this commission practically fell into our laps. Know What is Above You is a short piece, a setting of the old admonition to “know what is above you: an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your deeds recorded in a book.” Far from the Big Brother aspect that one might read into this statement, Reich interprets it as a reminder that someone is watching over us, and that our actions, however, insignificant they might seem, have repercussions that are noted. As with his larger piece called Proverb, this work augments the sounds of the four voices with two of Reich’s own percussionists.

Know What Is Above You. Anonymous 4, vocals; Thad Wheeler and Jim Preiss, percussion. World premiere November 19, 1999. The Arts At St. Ann’s. Engineers: Edward Haber (technical director), George Wellington (mix engineer), Irene Trudel.

Derek Bermel

Derek Bermel is the youngest composer we’ve commissioned. He was thirty when this piece was premiered; and shortly after said premiere, it was announced that Bermel had won the coveted Rome Prize. This meant that he had to give up his regular weekend gigs with his jazz/funk band in the clubs of downtown Manhattan for a while. See, Bermel is not just a composer: he’s also a singer, bandleader, and a songwriter who moves easily between pop, funk, jazz, and classical music. In addition, he’s a fine clarinetist (he takes a solo here), and plays keyboards. This piece is written for an unusual band in residence at The Kitchen, one of New York’s most important new music venues. The group, called Kitchen House Blend, was the brainchild of composer/guitarist John King and includes players who are adept at both composed and improvised works. It seemed perfect for Bermel, and he responded with Three Rivers, which refers to the three rivers that meet in Pittsburgh as well as the three independent streams of music that meet and blend in this piece. It’s a fiendishly difficult piece to play, and draws on a typically electic range of sources like Thelonius Monk, R&B (the opening passage is marked “Lugubrious funk”), and American postmodernism.

Three Rivers. Kitchen House Blend; Derek Bermel, conductor. World premiere March 1, 2001, The Kitchen. Engineers: George Wellington (technical director and mix engineer), Wayne Shulmister, Scott Strickland, Edward Haber, James Williamson.



Preventing FOIA Disputes

In addition to providing services that help Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesters and Federal agencies in resolving disputes, one of the goals of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is to prevent FOIA disputes from arising in the first place. In line with this goal, OGIS recently issued its first advisory opinion, providing agencies with useful advice on effective communication with requesters to help them navigate through the FOIA process and the resources available to them.

OGIS is the Federal FOIA Ombudsman. The office, created within the National Archives, opened its doors in 2009 to educate the public about FOIA, resolve FOIA disputes, and assess agency compliance with the statute. OGIS’s advisory opinion is based on its observations through its now robust mediation program. OGIS’s mediation program brings the office into contact with a broad range of Federal agencies and requesters at various points throughout the FOIA process. This unique lens enables OGIS to identify common causes of FOIA disputes and identify practices that can help avoid disputes.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires that agencies let requesters know about the availability of dispute resolution services from agency FOIA Public Liaisons and OGIS at several points in the FOIA process. After the law’s enactment OGIS’ caseload increased significantly.  A common trend noted among several cases was the need for better communication between the agency and the requester.

OGIS’s first advisory opinion takes the communication issues OGIS noted in its individual cases and gathers it together to provides agencies with advice to help better communicate with requesters about the FOIA process: how to preserve their administrative rights to challenge an agency’s decisions, the kinds of assistance they can expect from an agency FOIA Public Liaison and OGIS, and the next steps to take if they need additional assistance with a request. The advisory opinion also provides agencies with specific examples of language and format.

This advisory opinion is a starting point. OGIS intends to use its authority to issue advisory opinions to address the most common disputes, complaints, and trends it sees in its dispute resolution practice that are likely to lead to litigation. Over time, OGIS intends to build a body of advisory opinions, available for online consultation by both requesters and agencies that OGIS believes will help head off disputes before they fester or lead to litigation.

Patrick McGrath, Doctor of the University of Stirling

On a sunny afternoon in June the University Of Stirling presented the writer Patrick McGrath with an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding support for research and learning at Stirling. In 2015 Patrick deposited his literary papers with the University Archives, a fantastic resource for researchers of contemporary fiction, and in particular the students of the university’s MLitt course on The Gothic Imagination.

Patrick McGrath with his Honorary Degree, University of Stirling, 27 June 2018

The University Archives was delighted to welcome Patrick on the morning of his graduation and show him how his papers are being cared for at the university, the visit captured in this lovely video.

Later, at the afternoon’s graduation ceremony Patrick’s laureation was given by our University Archivist, Karl Magee. The speech, reproduced below, provides further information on Patrick’s work as an acclaimed novelist and the importance of his literary archive:

Laureation presenting Patrick McGrath for the award of Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University Of Stirling (28 June 2018):

Chancellor, Principal, Members of the University, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honour to introduce Patrick McGrath today, a critically acclaimed novelist whose work consistently stages and interrogates both psychopathology and psychiatry. His novels include The Grotesque, Spider and Asylum. His most recent novel The Wardrobe Mistress was published last year. Patrick grew up in the grounds of Broadmoor Hospital where his father was the medical superintendent. Well-versed in theories of psychiatry and psychoanalysis Patrick’s works are often narrated by psychiatrists, or those suffering from mental ill health themselves. He is a writer who is fascinated by the human mind and by those spaces where both trauma and healing may take place such as the institutionalized asylum, the analyst’s office, or even the family home.

In 2015 Patrick deposited his literary archive with the University of Stirling Archives. The University runs a highly regarded MLitt course on ‘The Gothic Imagination’ which teaches his work and Patrick was keen for his archive to go to an institution where the material would be of direct benefit to academics and students.

The archive provides a comprehensive record of the author’s creative process from rough writing notebooks, to early drafts of novels, to proofs and published editions and on through promotional material, press cuttings of reviews, correspondence with publishers and material relating to film adaptations of his work. The collection will continue to grow as Patrick is committed to continuing his relationship with the University of Stirling. Indeed the manuscripts and drafts of his most recent novel have already been transferred to the archive.

The deposit by Patrick of his literary archive with the University is an act of great generosity and commitment to academic research. In doing so Patrick has chosen to support a university which teaches Gothic fiction – the critical field in which his work is often read and considered – at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Over the last few years our students have gained a unique opportunity to work with the archives of a contemporary writer. They have assisted the archives team in the sorting, arrangement and cataloguing of the collection, with a number of students going on to use the archive as the subject of their academic research. Throughout this process the University Archives has benefited from Patrick’s continued support and engagement, creating a stimulating research environment for everyone involved in the project.

This award of an Honorary Degree recognises Patrick’s support for the inclusive and ambitious academic aims of the University of Stirling. He is a writer whose outlook particularly suits Stirling’s principles and goals as he strives endlessly to understand the human mind and the human condition. This is evident in his many meditations upon Broadmoor Hospital in London, this work complementing our NHS Forth Valley Archive which includes the historical records of a number of local institutions including the old Stirling District Asylum.

Patrick’s work is of global importance, as can be seen in the international editions of his work which have been translated into many languages present in the collection, and his standing amongst contemporary critics of Gothic literature is of the very highest calibre.

Patrick’s mother Helen dreamed of opening a bookshop in Stirling. While she never fulfilled this dream I am delighted that we have welcomed her son to the city to formally recognise his most generous gift to the university.

In the name and by the authority of the Academic Council, I present to you for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University, Patrick McGrath.

Patrick McGrath being awarded his Honorary Degree by James Naughtie, Chancellor of the University of Stirling.


Pages from the Patrick McGrath Archive, University of Stirling.

White House Reform Plan Incorporates NARA Recommendations

On June 21, the White House published “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” endorsing goals in the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to stop accepting paper records by the end of 2022, and to achieve fully electronic records management and public access across the federal government.

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (AOTUS), writes in his blog (AOTUS Blog):  “The result is a reform plan that complements our Strategic Plan, puts records management at the forefront of other agencies’ reform agendas, and will help drive greater efficiency and effectiveness while making the Federal government more responsive to the American people.”

As incorporated by the White House, the recommended “Transition to Digital Government” seeks to reduce the costs and inefficiencies of paper-based records management and public-access services by:

  • Ending NARA’s acceptance of paper records by December 31, 2022, to force agency resources into implementing the fully electronic environment;
  • Coordinating between NARA and executive-branch agencies to develop guidance, technical assistance, and services required for the digital transition;
  • Engaging the General Services Administration (GSA) to support implementation by connecting agencies with commercial digitization services available in the private sector.

In addition to input from NARA, the White House reform plan supports expanding the implementation of e-records management processes begun by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The PIDB looks forward to any next steps that NARA must take to implement digital solutions affirmed by the White House reform plan, as costs and inefficiencies mount, and outmoded analog systems struggle with the unrelenting deluge of electronic records at every executive-branch agency.

Florida State: Traditions through the Eras

Florida State: Traditions through the Eras is an exhibit that traces back some of Florida State University’s most well-known traditions through the institution’s long history. What we now know as FSU has gone through many changes over the years: beginning as the Seminary West of the Suwannee River, then the Florida State College, Florida State College for Women, and finally Florida State University. Many of the symbols and practices we know today, like the school colors or the university seal, have been carried over through these iterations, evolving with the institution itself.

Cover of a 1930 Memory Book from Florida State College for Women

The exhibit is divided into four main categories: Seals, Torches, and Owls; School Colors & Honors Societies; Music & Marching; and Camp Flastacowo & the FSU Reservation. The digital exhibit further separates the School Colors and Honors Societies into two groups. More information regarding each category can be found on their respective digital exhibit pages.

The materials in this exhibit were curated in collaboration with Women for FSU. As part of their Backstage Pass program, members get a behind-the-scenes look at how things are done at FSU. Because of this collaboration, the process of putting the exhibit together was somewhat unique: instead of researching a wide number of potential materials and only gathering a select few, we gathered a wide number of materials, from which the members would be able to pick and choose their favorites. The exhibit you see today is made up of those choices. Gathering dozens of items from all over Special Collections and Archives was quite an undertaking, but getting a glimpse into the development of FSU over its existence made it a worthwhile one.

A page from a Color Rush Scrapbook

After the event, the time came to put together a digital version of the exhibit. While the physical version is ultimately limited by space, the digital exhibit could incorporate basically every item that we had initially gathered. That being said, incorporating all of those items digitally meant a lot of digitization. Through a combination of scanning and photography, the digital exhibit now contains approximately fifty of the items gathered to reflect FSU traditions past and present.

Florida State: Traditions through the Eras is currently on display in the Florida State University Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall and accessible online here. If you have any questions regarding the exhibits or the museum, visit the Special Collections & Archives website or feel free to contact us at

Post was written by Dylan Dunn, Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistant 2017-2018.

Big Changes in the Works …

Here at the Amherst College Archives, we love sharing with our readers all the fascinating (and sometimes hidden) stories we find in the archives. But we also love sharing with you how we make it possible for researchers to find those stories themselves. It’s important to take our researchers behind the scenes to understand how the archives profession works. The department has been working on a strategic plan to better improve access to our archival material, and we’d like to share a small but crucial section of that plan. In short, our processing team is preparing to take stock of our entire collection and ensure that any hidden collections are made visible to the public.

What’s a hidden collection? Basically, any collection that the researcher does not know of – because there is no online presence to signal that it exists. Because of past professional practices emphasizing highly detailed archival processing, institutions often accumulate extensive backlogs of material to be processed.

Archival practice has moved steadily away from the practice of describing collections in exhaustive detail. Greene and Meissner’s seminal article “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing” appeared in 2005, issuing a challenge to “many of the assumptions archivists make about the importance of preservation activities in processing and the arrangement and description activities necessary to allow researchers to access collections effectively.” Ten years later, Daniel Santamaria published Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collections: Reducing Processing Backlogs (ALA, 2015), taking the More Product Less Process (MPLP) approach even further: “Extensible processing offers an alternative, allowing collection managers to first establish a baseline level of access to all holdings, then conduct additional processing based on user demand and ongoing assessment. Adhering to archival principles and standards, this flexible approach emphasizes decision-making and prioritization.” What both of these approaches have in common is a focus on users and access, rather than descriptive work by archives staff.

Here at Amherst, we are inspired by these monumental shifts in our profession. And we’re looking to overhaul and systematize our internal practices to better reflect these recent developments in archival theory and practice.

One immediate goal for the department is to conduct a shelf-by-shelf review of our holdings to ensure that a minimal record exists for every collection in our care, in line with the principles of extensible processing mentioned above. A minimal record means that we’ll offer a description of the collection online – it might take the form of a short finding, an abstract on the Archives’ Collections and Holdings page, or a library catalog record. Once we have a handle on this fundamental aspect of collections management, we can determine priorities and establish timelines.

We intend for the survey to accomplish the following goals:

    1. Identify hidden collections. Ensure that a minimal record for every collection exists and is publicly available.
    2. Assess each unprocessed (or reappraised) collection to determine ideal minimal processing level.
    3. Assign a high/medium/low processing priority to each collection.
    4. Look for preservation issues. Identify issues that could be addressed and investigate how to tackle these issues.
    5. Determine recommendations for digitization priorities.
    6. All collections that currently have only paper finding aids will be moved into our archival collections database (which is keyword-searchable).
    7. All accessions will be recorded in the collections database.

In the end, even if we accomplish half of these goals, the result will be a stronger archives program based in consistency and transparency for the researcher.

And what does that mean for this blog? Simply that our posts will mostly focus on highlights of the reappraisal survey – but that certainly means that we’ll be unearthing more stories to share!

“Interspecies Smalltalk” Smalltalk: David Behrman on New Sounds

David Behrman, New Sounds, March, 7, 1985

Minimalist composer David Behrman is in town this week, playing  ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn on July 20 and 21 with the Sonic Arts Union. On March 7, 1985, Behrman visited New Sounds to discuss his work with host John Schaefer. At the time, the composer was working on a piece for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, “Interspecies Smalltalk,” with violinist Takehisa Kosugi, himself an important composer and the leader of the Japanese experimental ensemble Taj Mahal Travellers.

For Behrman, writing music is less about putting notes onto paper than it is about designing systems that allow sounds — timbres, tones, and sonorities — to emerge from improvised and chance interactions between acoustic and electronic instruments. As the composer says of “Interspecies Smalltalk,” “That’s really the idea of the piece: to stress the acoustic character of an instrument in relationship to an electronic system.” The personality and attitude of the performer is a crucial element of the composition. For all the emphasis on the “system,” the music itself is warm, expressive and conversational, a chat across a digital language barrier.

Schaefer and Behrman also chat (with no apparent language barrier) about the composer’s role in the Sonic Arts Union (SAU), a collective of heavyweight minimalists who came together in the late 1960s as part of the scene surrounding the legendary ONCE festival. Comprised of the late Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, and Behrman himself, the SAU were known for their anarchic and occasionally abrasive performances, each composer presenting a piece, with the others providing for technical and musical support. Describing his music from that period, Behrman tells Schaefer that “it was more in the noise family of things. I was interested in interactive systems, but in those days, I remember using little flashlights that would make sounds and whirl around in space, and analog electronics that weren’t so involved with steady pitches … It was the discovery of those electronic sounds that hadn’t been used much by composers, but were available with the transistors in those days — it was kind of a fresh resource.”

The conversation also touches on Behrman’s time as a producer for the “Music of Our Time” series at Columbia Masterworks — where he worked on the legendary first recording of Terry Riley’s In C — as well as a “collaborative installation” he’d been working on with composer George Lewis. This project, which would later be called “All Thumbs,” was recently included on an archival release from Alga Marghen records titled Music With Memory. The piece resembled an interactive video game, with participants using a kalimba, or thumb piano, to interface with an electronic system. Like Behrman’s other work, “All Thumbs” is playful, but there’s also something radical and even transgressive about the way it erases distinctions between professional and amateur performers. Schaefer notes: “It seems almost as if the performer is the machine. You have a person standing up there playing an instrument, but once you set the process in motion, it just sort of creates the music itself.” To which Behrman replies: “Part of the idea is to make sort of game-like situations for the performers. They might be experts or they might novices.”

The two Brooklyn shows this week are being billed are as a reunion of the three surviving members of SAU, and as a tribute to the late, great Robert Ashley. Mumma, Lucier, and Behrman will all be performing, with support by like-minded musicians including Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi, Cleek Shrey, and others. Listeners will have an opportunity to experience the playful, transgressive, and possibly flashlight-induced music of David Behrman and the Sonic Arts Union.


Intersession Intermission at Special Collections

Special Collections & Archives Research Center Reading Room, the Claude Pepper Library, and the Norwood Reading Room will be available by appointment only during the dates of August 6-17. Our faculty and staff will use this “downtime” during FSU’s intersession to complete projects and prepare for the upcoming semester (as well as spruce up our spaces!).

If you need to access our collections during this time, please contact us at or (850) 644-3271 to schedule an appointment. We will resume our normal hours on Monday, August 20, 2018.

“The Way to Peace”

We were honored to partner with our friends of the State Records Management and Archives Department of Vietnam in the creation of the exhibit “Paris Peace Accords: The Way to Peace” which opened today in Hanoi. The exhibit uses textual records, film, photographs, and artifacts to tell the story leading to the negotiations which ended a war that divided the peoples of both countries.

Archivist David Ferriero at the opening of the “Paris Peace Accords: The Way to Peace” exhibit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Alice Kamps

We contributed facsimiles from the records of the State and Defense Departments and the Presidential Libraries of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, including film footage.  A poignant letter to President Nixon by a child in 1970 urged him to “stop the war in Vietnam my cousin is in.  And I want the United States to settle down.”

As a veteran of the war myself, this was also a personal pilgrimage. It is my first time back in the country since early 1971 when I left Da Nang as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman. In my year there I came to appreciate the beauty of the country and the kindness of the people.  And the common desire to end the fighting. So, for me, it was an emotional and joyful return.

After almost 50 years I am tremendously proud of our new friends in Vietnam as we explore collaborative opportunities beyond this exhibit.  We have much to learn from each other as we share access to our records; we are in the same business–collecting and protecting the records of our countries and, most importantly, encouraging the use of those records to learn from our past.

ISOO Report Recommends Government-wide Technology Strategy to Address Inefficiencies in Information Security

Today, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) released its 2017 Annual Report to the President on security classification and implementation of the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program.  ISOO’s report highlights the high cost and inefficiency of using outmoded systems to protect America’s classified information, and recommends that the President implement a Government-wide technology strategy for the management of classified information to combat inaccurate classification and promote more timely declassification.

Based on data collected from executive agencies, the call for a common technology solution and risk management strategy to coordinate necessary improvements in the classification system complements additional findings, recommendations and judgments in the ISOO report.

ISOO also prescribes that the Office of Management and Budget consider reforming the budget process to include security classification as a line-item, as well as to prioritize dedicated funds for research and development activities and to transform acquisition practices.

ISOO’s report notes that CUI program implementation remains challenging, with too many agencies providing only limited support.  ISOO believes that robust agency implementation of compliant CUI policies designed to better protect and facilitate the sharing of sensitive information would further advance the President’s management initiatives.  However, the sluggish rate of agency progress toward this goal requires immediate White House intervention.

See ISOO’s Annual Report to the President for FY 2017, for the complete set of findings, recommendations, and judgments, based on quantitative data gathered from executive branch agencies, as required under Executive Order 13526.

Celebrate July 4 with the National Archives!

This year, the National Archives celebrates the 242nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with special events in Washington, DC, and at Presidential Libraries nationwide.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence, declaring the United States independent of Great Britain. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved. On August 2, 1776, delegates began to sign the engrossed Declaration of Independence penned by Timothy Matlack. For a detailed history of the founding document, be sure to read “The Declaration of Independence: A History” on

As the trustees of our nation’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights—the National Archives and Records Administration is a natural place to celebrate this national holiday.

For those of you in Washington, DC this July 4, stop by Constitution Avenue at 10 a.m. for a Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony, then head inside for family activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also join us for celebrations at our Presidential Libraries around the nation, or join the Washington festivities through Facebook Live, which will broadcast the events live. Watch last year’s celebration for a taste of the festivities.

Learn more and find a celebration near you on our July 4 Celebration events page. Wherever you are on July 4th, share your celebrations on social media using the hashtag #ArchivesJuly4.

 Independence Day Records at NARA

We can often take our founding documents for granted. I encourage all of us to take time during our Independence Day celebrations to read these documents and to pause and remember the difficult choices our nation’s Founders made and the meaning of these documents today.

I wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day!

Bob, Where Do You Keep Your Grammys®?

You could see them coming from miles away. By car, by plane, by automobile—hundreds of music producers, engineers, librarians, and archivists were descending on a small town in the Virginia hills. They met at the airport, hugged at the train depot and waved at each other on the street. For three days at the end of June, the town of Culpeper, Virginia (pop.17,000) surely had the highest concentration of Grammy®-award winners in the world.

The location was not arbitrary: many of the original recordings responsible for those awards are lovingly stored nearby, at the Library of Congress’ National Audiovisual Conservation Center (NAVCC), a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s most prized recordings are kept, distributed, and promoted. That building was where the Audio Engineering Society was holding its second-ever International Conference on Audio Archiving, Preservation & Restoration—a subject that deeply concerns many passionate souls, from content creators to those in charge of preserving the content for future generations1. They descended on the town, coming from near and far, to hear talks and exchange ideas on everything from tape chemistry to metadata displays on smartphones.

This is where those of us lucky enough to attend witnessed keynote speaker Bob Ludwig (27 Grammy Nominations) speak about the audio formats he has encountered in his storied career; the Library of Congress’ Andrew Davis show amazing microscopic pictures of magnetic tape; Jamie Howarth demonstrate his astonishing Plangent Processes on music which you thought already sounded pretty darn good; European experts present advances in retrieving sound from analog records with light, not styli; engineers from Indiana and elsewhere expound on making wax cylinders sound (much) better than ever; and iZotope’s Alexey Lukin give a taste of what may be coming for sound restoration (hint: it involves big data). Among many others, stirring panels on multitrack archiving (where George Massenburg and Toby Seay dissected the supreme craft of recording engineers such as Joe Tarsia and musicians such as Stevie Wonder, and Steve Rosenthal highlighted some of his excellent reissues) and sobering accounts of the challenges posed by a lack of standards across several aspects of the music industry contributed to a rich experience for all those who attended, who could also take tours of this facility which excels not only in its physical plant but, more importantly, in its committed and passionate staff.

While at the Conference, it transpired that Nadja Wallaszkowits, long term audio preservation champion, will become the Audio Engineering Society’s next president. We applaud that step, and are confident that the audio legacy of our culture will continue to gain exposure through efforts such as this conference.

1 The first Audio Engineering Society Conference on Audio Archiving, Restoration & New Methods of Recording was held in Budapest in 2001.

PPL Renovation: It’s Here!

Those of you who follow us on Facebook or Twitter have already heard, but for blog-reading purists: PPL is beginning a major building renovation this week! We’re excited for all the changes this will bring, and the ways in which it will improve how we serve the public.

The 12-18 month renovation will affect our general circulation, as well as access to Special Collections. Notably: we are no longer holding weekly open hours, but Special Collections is still open to researchers by appointment. This Building Transformation page on the PPL website will have up-to-date information throughout the renovation. (It also has cool architect’s renderings of the new space.)

The last few weeks in the life of a Wikipedian-In-Residence

For the last three months, I have been a Wikipedian-In-Residence at the University of Stirling Archives. The last few weeks of the project have flown in, and I have been continuing to edit and create new articles for the collections in the archive.

In the last few weeks, my focus has been on Sam Black, Peter Mackay and the William Simpson Asylum which each now have an article on Wikipedia dedicated to them. The Peter Heatly and Norman McLaren articles had time dedicated to adding more information to them as well.

I have been uploading images from the Peter Mackay Collection on to Wikimedia Commons, it has been fascinating looking through the photos of Peter’s life in Africa, and I hope other people will enjoy looking at them as well. I also uploaded images from the University of Stirling Collection, an image of Forsyth Hardy and some images for Howietoun Fishery.

I worked on a #DYK (Did You Know) on Twitter to show the wonderful programs from the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) that the archive holds, but also give some interesting facts about the EIFF.

It has been a wonderful experience working with the archive, I have enjoyed learning how to add articles to Wikipedia and hope to continue to add or edit pages in the future.

Lucy Rodger is completing a Masters in Environment, Heritage and Policy at the University of Stirling.

Strathcona redevelopment files easier to find in the Archives

The Archives’ on-going inventory project has revealed some gems, including records that would be well served with enriched metadata in our AtoM database. This blog post focuses on one such body of records: appropriation and demolition files from the City’s Strathcona redevelopment projects of the 1960s. These records form part of the Property Division series COV-S305 Redevelopment files subsequent to the 1957 Vancouver Redevelopment Study.

City of Vancouver redevelopment : project 2, part of area “A”. Reference code: COV-S305: LEG1353.03

The above key plan shows the various redevelopment sub-areas in Project 2 and Project 1, which were spread across Strathcona. The bounded and numbered areas on the map above denote the various sub-areas for Project 2; the shaded areas are the sub-areas for Project 1. The detail below shows the pre-demolition land configuration of Project 2, sub-area 6, and Project 1 sub-area 3 as of August 1963. These properties were purchased or appropriated, and the buildings demolished, in order to construct the Maclean Park housing project.

Detail from City of Vancouver redevelopment : project 2, part of area “A”

The appropriation files document, by individual property, the acquisition and demolition of approximately 300 residences, commercial and industrial buildings on over 200 properties across Strathcona for Project 1, sub-area 1; and Project 2 sub-areas 5, 6 and 7. Some files document more than one property, if they were adjacent and had the same owner.

Exterior photos, site plan, and site usage notes from file 308 East Georgia Street/734 Gore Avenue. Photo: Sharon Walz

The files include pre-demolition photographs of the exteriors (and sometimes the interiors) of the properties and information about site usage for non-residential buildings. For residential properties occupied at the time of acquisition, the file also contains information about the residents and owner (if different).

Some of the appraisal and acquisition documentation from file 308 East Georgia Street/734 Gore Avenue. Photo: Sharon Walz

Many of the properties had multiple structures on site, and the files relating to them often contain a sketched site plan of the buildings.

Photographs and a site plan from file 918-930 Keefer Street, part of project sub-area 1; photo: Sharon Walz

Previously, these files had been described collectively, by sub-area. We felt that enriching the metadata about these records would make them more accessible to researchers, who most frequently search for property information by address or legal land description. So we re-described the files by address, as the records were originally created by the Properties Division.

Please note that some of the files are restricted in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as they contain non-published personal information about the residents of the properties. Researchers wishing to review these files must c0mplete the Archives’ Access to Restricted Records form.  Files that contain personal information otherwise available (such as names and occupations of residents already available in published City directories) have not been restricted.

We hope that easier access helps you make use of these records, which uniquely document the past of one of Vancouver’s most interesting and altered neighbourhoods.

Wikipedia project: month 2

Another four weeks in the life of a Wikipedian-in-residence…

For three months there will be a new addition to the University of Stirling Archives, a Wikipedian-In-Residence. The second month went just as quickly as the first; I have been editing and creating new articles for the collections in the archive.

In the second month, my focus has been driven by how many people view certain collections on the archive website. The Royal Scottish National Hospital, Forsyth Hardy and Howietoun Fishery now have an article on Wikipedia dedicated to them. Lindsay Anderson, Innerpeffray Library and the Musicians Union have all had time dedicated to adding more information to their Wiki articles.

I attended a Wiki training course on the 24th of May, and while there I edited the pages of two Scottish suffragettes Arabella Scott and Ethel Moorhead.

It is scary how quickly the weeks have flown in; however, in my last few weeks, I will be focusing on Sam Black, Peter Mackay and the William Simpson Asylum.

Lucy Rodger is completing a Masters in Environment, Heritage and Policy at the University of Stirling, her residency will run until the end of June 2018.

National Archives updates progress on ICE records disposition

The proposed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records schedule for records related to detainees held in ICE detention facilities (DAA-0567-2015-0013) has received significant attention in the media and by concerned individuals. Because of the ongoing interest in this schedule, NARA is providing this update on the status of the review.  The draft schedule includes files documenting cases of sexual abuse and assault of detainees, as well as detainee death investigation files. This schedule was proposed to NARA in October 2015 and posted to the Federal Register on July 14, 2017. The proposed schedule was a new request for disposition authority for unscheduled records, not a request to revise an existing records schedule.

All federal agencies propose series of records to NARA for review by NARA staff and approval by the Archivist of the United States. NARA considers each submission, or records schedule, carefully, typically meeting with agency subject matter experts, before recommending which records created are permanent and which are temporary. This determination is made by NARA through the records schedule review process. During this review, NARA determines whether records warrant preservation in the National Archives (permanent retention) and whether records lack permanent historical or other research value (temporary retention) in accordance with NARA’s appraisal policy.

NARA also reviews the retention periods proposed for temporary records to ensure the period protects the legal rights of the Government and private parties. Identified permanent records will be transferred to NARA and temporary records may be legally destroyed by agencies after a specified period of time. The opportunity for public input is mandated by law through the Federal register and is integral to the scheduling and appraisal process.

As part of the regular process of reviewing the submission from ICE, NARA received an unprecedented number of comments. Comments under review by NARA include three congressional letters with a total of 36 signatures (29 house members, 7 senators); a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with 23,758 comments, a petition from UltraViolet with 1,475 signatures; written comments from 187 individuals and six organizations; and phone calls from seven individuals. Comments were received via and postal mail, and gathered from other sources such as the main National Archives email address, web inquiry forms, the National Archives Office of Inspector General, and from NARA employees who received comments directly from concerned citizens.

NARA staff have been reviewing these comments and working with ICE to address them and revise the schedule accordingly. In addition, the Archivist of the United States has directed NARA subject matter experts to conduct a comprehensive review of all ICE schedules that relate to deaths and assaults of detainees in ICE facilities.

After the public comments have been assessed and the comprehensive review is complete, NARA will require ICE to make all changes to the proposed schedule. Our plan is to publish a public notice via the Federal Register responding to all comments. We will make all reasonable efforts to notify interested individuals, such as media outlets that previously contacted us, the ACLU, and commenters who directly provided substantive comments.

Tattoo Ideas from the Updike Collection

Our Updike Collection on the History of Printing contains a tremendous number of type specimen books, many of which have sections of cuts–small, reusable illustrations that printers could purchase to illustrate books, newspapers, broadsides, and the like. (We often describe them as “historic clip art”.)

More often than not, first-time viewers of these cuts will point to one and exclaim, “Wow, that would make a great tattoo!” Which brings us to two points:

  1. If you own a tattoo shop and want to work out a deal, get in touch;
  2. We have a LOT of fun ideas for tattoos.

We’d like to present a few recent inspirations, all from a recently cataloged specimen book from the G. Schildknecht type foundry in Brussels.

Religious tattoos are always popular, but does anyone really need to see another bicep graced by a sacred heart? Why not get a unique religious tattoo, like this image of St. Nicholas with three babies in a wooden tub?


(If you don’t know the story of St. Nicholas miraculously resurrecting three babies who were chopped up and salted by an evil butcher, well, now you do.)

If that’s too tame for you, you could also get this image of an apparition of Mary in a… tree? Is that a mushroom cloud? Why don’t Mary or baby Jesus have limbs? If you know more about what this image is depicting, please let us know.


If a religious tattoo isn’t for you, may we suggest an animal? Such as…

…totally stoked cat, disheveled porcupine, maned sloth with a weird face, or side-eye sheep?

For the truly fun-loving tattoo-getter, there’s always Dionysus, which is my preliminary identification of the fun-loving and wavy-eyedbrowed gent shown here:


And finally, for those looking for a unique twist on the traditional “Mom” tattoo, how about this stylized face situation, with “Mom” on the banner?


Eileen Press Kairys

Contralto Eileen Press was born in New York City. She began her musical training at the age of three learning to play the violin eventually moving to the cello and piano. Majoring in music she graduated from NYU’s Washington Square College and sang leading roles with the Greenwich Village Light Opera Company and as a soloist in New York City churches. At the time of her July 1947 recital appearance on WNYC, she was a soloist at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El. Press had also sung in solo ensemble with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra under conductor Artur Rodzinski.

Eileen Press married Dr. David Kairys in 1960. She later provided services to medical students at Mt. Sinai Medical Center’s Recreation office in the 1980s. Eileen never lost her love for playing the piano. To her last days, she was a devoted and beloved mother to her son, Stephen.

The note below was written just after the April 28, 1947 concert at the top of this page. 

Thank you note from Eileen Press to WNYC Music Director Herman Neuman.
(Courtesy of Stephen Kairys/WNYC Archive Collections)

Eileen Press also performed “Songs From the Oratorios” over WNYC on July 13, 1947 below. In both of her WNYC performances she was accompanied by her sister, Alice M. Press, on piano.

Song listing for the July 13, 1947 WNYC broadcast.
(Courtesy of Stephen Kairys)


Eileen Press Tchaikovsky and Saint Saens

Eileen Press sings Carmen

Eileen Press sings Aida

A compilation track of all of the above performances.


All audio courtesy of Stephen Kairys.

White House Transformation Plan

Last week President Trump released his plan to reform and reorganize the Federal government. I am pleased to announce that the President’s plan includes NARA’s reform proposal, “Transition to Electronic Government.” The Summary of Proposal states:

“This proposal would transition Federal agencies’ business processes and recordkeeping to a fully electronic environment, and end the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) acceptance of paper records by December 31, 2022. This would improve agencies’ efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to citizens by converting paper-based processes to electronic workflows, expanding online services, and enhancing management of Government records, data, and information.”

The Government Reform Plan endorses NARA’s Strategic Plan goal to stop accepting paper records by December 31, 2022, and adds new expectations for Executive Branch agencies to support the transition to fully-electronic records management.

I am proud that NARA has an opportunity to contribute to the President’s plan, and I am encouraged that the Administration recognizes the importance of records management. Records management is an essential function of government, and the President’s plan allows NARA to leverage our records management policies, standards, and leadership to help streamline the Federal government.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the NARA staff for their contributions that have led up to today’s announcement. NARA’s reform proposal is the direct result of suggestions and contributions from NARA staff.

Our reform plan proposal was based on ideas contributed by staff in a staff survey, “Ideas to Improve NARA.” We also used the FY 2018—2022 Strategic Planning process to develop and refine these ideas, and collected staff feedback in a series of town halls, surveys, and participation in our internal collaboration network. The result is a reform plan that complements our Strategic Plan, puts records management at the forefront of other agencies’ reform agendas, and will help drive greater efficiency and effectiveness while making the Federal government more responsive to the American people.

Again, I want to thank our staff for their participation and contributions to this important moment for NARA. I encourage everyone to review the full report so that you can see the entire scope of the proposed changes and review NARA’s proposal.


Bad Children of History #35: Squalid Swedes

Today’s bad children of history aren’t naughty, per se; they’re just very, very, very unkempt. They wear floppy bucket hats, they don’t brush their hair, and they even [whispering] ride around on pigs.


These children eat with their dirty hands, spilling food onto their smocks, and their table manners leave more than a little to be desired.


(Isn’t that framed pig portrait on the wall a nice touch?)

Luckily for these grubby children, Pelle Snygg soon arrives in his sparkling white clown suit to shame them with threats of cleanliness and a promotional flag. Yikes!


After laying eyes on these mucky moppets, Pelle Snygg realizes that the task is immense, and he needs to recruit help. He calls up his close friends, Intimidating Sponge Lady, Scary Anthropomorphized Pitcher Guy, Boar Who Makes Brushes From His Own Bristles, and someone who I think might be a bar of soap in a friar’s robe.

The yucky youth are NOT delighted to see their new extreme makeover team, although Pelle Snygg seems nothing short of jubilant (and immaculate).


Pelle Snygg begins the beautification process with a healthy dose of shampoo and smart, new summer hairdos for all.

For the transformation to be complete, Pelle Snygg implements lifestyle changes for the yucky children, with a vigorous lake swim and some laundry-washing lessons:


In a surprising turn of events, these children now seem to be fully under the sway of Intimidating Sponge Lady and her cohort. “I feel like a new person!,” they chime. “I thought it was impossible to love the skin I’m in. I can’t believe the difference! Thanks, Pelle Snygg!”


Improving the Administration of FOIA

Just last month the second term of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee wrapped up its two years of work by unanimously approving its Final Report and Recommendations. The Committee brings together FOIA requesters and agency FOIA professionals to develop consensus solutions to some of the greatest challenges in the administration of FOIA.

During this term, the Committee wrestled with several critical issues and issued recommendations aimed at promoting the proactive disclosure of records, improving agencies’ ability to identify responsive digital records, and reinforcing that FOIA is everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of full-time FOIA professionals. The report also includes a number of best practices that will be published by the Office of Government and Information Services (OGIS) as part of the office’s statutory responsibility to identify procedures and methods to improve FOIA compliance.

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, welcomes attendees to the final meeting of the 2016-2018 term of the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2018
David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, welcomes attendees to the final meeting of the 2016-2018 term of the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2018. National Archives photo by Jeff Reed

As the nation’s record keeper, we are tasked with identifying, protecting, preserving and making publicly available the historically valuable records of all three branches of government. We help agencies meet their Federal records management responsibilities through regulations, policies, training and oversight.  Strong records management is the backbone of an efficient, compliant FOIA program and smoother FOIA process. Our role in records management, combined with our role as the Federal FOIA Ombudsman, means that NARA has a critical role to play in pushing forward many of these recommendations. I also look forward to working with counterparts at other key agencies and entities to evaluate and find effective ways to move forward on the Committee’s report.

I look forward to working with OGIS to implement these recommendations. I am also looking forward to announcing the appointment of members to the Committee’s 2018-2020 Term later this summer, and seeing the challenges that the Committee tackles in its next term.

What They Fought: Resistance to Integration and the Path to the 1956 Tallahassee Bus Boycott

In the spring of 1956, after students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson from Florida A&M University, were arrested and jailed for refusing to leave the “whites only” section of a Tallahassee bus, the African-American community of the city rallied together to boycott the city bus service and take a stand for their civil rights and the belief that the color of their skin should not leave them subject to discrimination and fear. Those who participated in the boycott, including Rev. C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed, Jakes and Patterson and many others from the then 10,600 African-American residents of Tallahassee, were met with resistance from bigoted members of the Tallahassee community that felt racial segregation should remain the law of the land. What factors contributed to a mindset that would allow for one group to so poorly treat another?

A new exhibit now open at the Claude Pepper Library seeks to illustrate the kind of resistance that the Bus Boycott participants faced in their endeavors to secure fair and impartial treatment in a city that they too, called home. Guests are invited to visit the Claude Pepper Library and explore the exhibit on the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 which is open to the public now, through the early fall of 2018. Using primary source documents, ephemera and photographs that provide a deeper context for the events that began to take place in May of 1956, Special Collections & Archives provides a look into the social and political climate in the State of Florida leading during the time of the Bus Boycott. Guests are also able to listen to audio recordings of boycott participants and witnesses, including the Reverend C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed and Governor LeRoy Collins. The Claude Pepper Library and Museum are open Monday through Friday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, call (850) 644-9217 or email Political Papers Archivist Robert Rubero ( with any questions.

Tea, Talk and Treats: An Exclusive Summer Evening in Vancouver’s Chinese Garden

The City of Vancouver Archives is the repository for the early records of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society and on July 5, at 6pm, the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives is hosting an evening entitled “Tea, Talk and Treats: An Exclusive Summer Evening in Vancouver’s Chinese Garden” at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Friends of the Vancouver City Archives invitation for the July 5th event

The event will support the Archives’ digitization work and will offer Chinese tea and pastries, a presentation given by Professor Alison Bailey regarding the traditional concepts and artistic and poetic representations of the Chinese garden, and a tour of the Garden led by docents that will highlight the Garden’s architectural and horticultural elements.

The records held by the Archives were donated by the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society in 1991, 1992, and 2011. They span from 1981-2009, with the majority from 1981-1991, and consist of approximately 1700 photographs, 22 videocassettes, 139 architectural drawings, 1 technical drawing and 2 maps.

Garden’s 5th anniversary edition newsletter showing images of the construction of the Garden by the Chinese artisans. Reference code: AM1068-S16-F12

In 1981, the Society, whose mandate was set to act as a cross-cultural bridge for greater understanding of the Chinese culture by establishing and operating a classical Chinese garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown, was incorporated under British Columbia’s Society Act. The construction of the Garden began in 1984. Textual records of the Building Committee (series 3), and the Documentation Committee (series 4), document the building process of the Garden in words, while photographs (series 4), moving images (series 16) and the architectural drawings (series 19) document that process visually.

Back cover of promotional booklet from 1984 with a detail drawing of the Garden. Reference code: AM1068-S8–

The Garden was the first classical Chinese garden to be constructed outside of China. The level of cooperation between the Canadian and Chinese governments to build the Garden was relatively rare in the 1980s, adding to the special nature of the establishment of this Garden. The plans were drawn up by the Suzhou Classical Garden Administration, who worked closely with the firm Joe Wai Architect/Don Vaughan Associates Landscape Architects. The Suzhou Classical Garden Administration worked to prepare the construction materials that were imported from China, and also sent Chinese artisans to build the garden.

The artisans used ancient methods and tools, with the exception of the plastic hard hats, which they were required to wear by the Workers’ Compensation Board, as highlighted in the 1987 production of People Will Talk.

Joe Wai and Don Vaughan were responsible for coordinating the work and overseeing the design and construction of the surrounding park. Records in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society fonds also include news clipping footage from the official opening of the Garden in April 1986, just prior to the start of Expo 86.

Other series that make up the fonds consist of minutes, reports, and correspondence relating to the various committees that oversee the running of the garden. Some of these committees include the Administration Committee (series 1), Board of Trustees (series 2), Education Committee (series 5), and Finance Committee (series 7).

The evening with Professor Alison Bailey at the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on July 5th, promises to be informative and interesting. We hope to see you there.  Tickets are on sale now.

Making Access Happen through the Digital Public Library of America

Providing public access to Federal Government records is central to the mission of the National Archives. Open access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.

Collaboration with stakeholders, the public, and private organizations to make historical records available has long been a priority for the National Archives. It is clear that collaboration is the path to the future, and nowhere is this more apparent than through the efforts of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to connect people to our nation’s shared history.

DPLA provides a single online access point for anyone, anywhere to search and access digital collections containing America’s cultural, historical and scientific heritage. This collaborative effort has united leaders and educators from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums of all sizes working together to ensure that all people have access to information they need.

Screenshot of DPLA Browse by Topic page

We’ve been involved with DPLA from its earliest stages. In October 2010, I was in the meeting room at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study when DPLA was born. We hosted the first Plenary Session back in 2011, where more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologists, makers, students, and many others gathered at the National Archives to share their visions for DPLA and open access.

DPLA has now grown to include more than 21 million records from over 3,000 cultural heritage institutions across the United States. The National Archives is the largest participating Content Hub: nearly 3.8 million NARA records are currently available on DPLA, making up 17.5% percent of the content.

The volume of records that we’ve been able to share over the years has allowed DPLA to test the scalability of their ingestion infrastructure. Testing with such a large data set provides the opportunity to see how large numbers of records affect search and retrieval algorithms. This is an important step, as the goal of DPLA is to provide users with the most accurate search results without overwhelming records from other institutions in their index. We are continuing to work together to share more of our data with DPLA.

The National Archives’ participation in DPLA over the years has been an opportunity to share our content more broadly, open new doors for research and discovery, and engage and connect with users from across the United States and around the world. I am especially proud of the work done collaboratively by the National Archives and participating institutions to expand access to information through DPLA. The ability to seamlessly search across the collections of major cultural, historical, and research institutions alongside the holdings of local museums and libraries improves democracy through education, and furthers the principles of open government.

Becci Davis Artist’s Talk at PPL 6/13

We’re very sad to say that our 2018 Creative Fellow’s time with us is coming to a close at the end of June. We’ve had a delightful time working with her, and it’s been energizing and exciting to see the new work that she’s created based on our collections.

First, we’d like to say that Becci Davis gave an astounding and well-received performance on the library’s Washington Street steps this past Saturday as part of PVDFest, complete with large-scale banners bearing images of items from our Special Collections. Below are a couple of photographs of her performance:

If you missed Saturday’s performance, or if you loved it so much that it left you wanting more, you’ll be happy to hear that tomorrow (Wednesday, June 13, 2018), you’ll have TWO opportunities to see Becci!

First, she’ll be bringing her Beacon Beauty Shop (as seen at our HairBrained opening) to Burnside Park in downtown Providence from 11:00 – 2:00. A description from the artist:

Beacon Beauty Shop is an interactive art performance. Becci Davis had her first appointment in a beauty shop when she was ten years old. Since then, she has been a patron in numerous beauty salons and found that elements of Black salon culture are widespread. That alone is something beautiful. These institutions are beacons of Black culture and the setting to countless intimate interactions between stylist and client. Join her as she examines beauty shop culture through performance. Share good, bad, and awkward moments in an intimate, 5 minute, one-on-one exchange.


Then, later that same day, Becci is giving an artist’s talk at the library, where she’ll reflect on her research and creative process, show documentation of Saturday’s performance of Private Proclamations, and answer questions. (Thank you to Matthew Lawrence of Law and Order Party for a lovely shout-out regarding this talk!)

We hope to see you there!

A Visual Tour of Florida State University History: The Historic Photograph Collection

Heritage & University Archives is excited to present a newly reprocessed collection: The Florida State University Historic Photograph Collection. An initial inventory, which took a project archivist roughly four months to compile, indicated that the collection included nearly half a million images in both print and negative format. Former graduate student Dave Rodriguez then spent a year organizing and reprocessing the original several small collections and new accessions into its current state. The collection is now housed in over 200 boxes in the Special Collections & Archives stacks.

The collection during reprocessing.


The images cover a wide time span, from FSU’s earliest iteration, the Seminary West of the Suwannee River, to the present. While the photographs date back as far as the 1800s, the bulk of the material is dated between 1920s to the 1970s.

The Platonic Debate Society, 1903.


Student reading, undated.

The images themselves depict every facet of life on campus, from construction and special events to students relaxing on Landis Green and action shots of athletics contests. Some notable items in the collection include prints from the Flying High Circus, Homecoming, and various theatrical performances. In addition, a series dedicated to buildings, faculty, and university presidents help give a complete view of what campus was like at any decade.


Andrews Brothers, undated.


Additionally, some images from the collection have been scanned and entered into FSU’s Digital Repository, Diginole.

The Flying Circus, undated.

For more information about Heritage & University Archives and the Florida State University Historic Photograph Collection, please contact Sandra Varry at or visit

Truth, Lies & Videotape: Digital Video Archivists Gather at MoMA

We live in a video age. Make that a digital video age. And all those digital video files flying around on the internet or downloaded onto your phone not only provide entertainment or inspiration to current viewers, but could be one of the best windows into our world for future historians. However, files designed to capitalize on the ever-changing whims of digital distribution may not be built for longevity, so archivists worry about their ability to stand as historical artifacts for the long term. Many of those archivists are part of an organization called The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), which held its annual Digital Asset Symposium (DAS) on June 6, 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art.

As the name suggests, DAS examines the shared challenges of managing and preserving digital media content across different sectors. The one-day conference assembles content creators, system designers, archivists, editors, and asset managers to compare experiences, share expertise, and offer creative solutions. Through a combination of case studies, key notes, and panels, DAS examines the full lifecycle of digital content.

DAS 2018 focused on the story of media assets—how they are created, maintained, shared, managed, and assembled to form the stories about the human condition. The program also highlighted the emergence of data science in the field: indeed, the conference started with a thought-provoking keynote called “Truth is a Lie,” in which data scientist Lora Aroyo and research scientist Chris Welty examined the concept of truth as not a single notion but a spectrum of opinions, perspectives, and context. Aroyo and Welty pointed out that data analysis often yields ambiguity and contradictions —so, instead of embracing a binary yes/no approach, they advocate the use quantum intelligence (based on the principles of quantum mechanics) as a new way of analyzing data. The goal is to create descriptions of online AV collections that incorporate a spectrum of truth.

Following that mind-expansive talk was a presentation from Nicole Martin of Human Rights Watch, an organization that has pioneered the use of video footage to highlight worldwide human rights abuses. In “Archiving Human Rights Video,” Martin discussed how daily production demands are balanced with the organization’s critical need to preserve evidentiary data. She discussed how the production team embraced digital preservation best practices to make its day-to-day tasks easier, while likely helping the relevance and longevity of these very significant documents. Later, Gian Klobusicky and Dalia R. Levine from HBO and metadata architect Sally Hubbard explored the relationship between information science and data science in “Smart Stacking of Data and Information Science.” The panel outlined how these two disciplines can partner together to solve problems that arise when dealing with media content.

The afternoon featured two cases studies. In “Bringing a Century of NHL Content to Life,” the director of the NHL’s Digital Asset Archive Dan Piro recounted the challenge of digitizing the NHL’s entire archive (250,000 hours of AV content, a half-million still images, and over a million documents) in 18 months (!) so that it could be used to create content celebrating the league’s centennial. That was followed by a look at the very high-tech Montreux Jazz Digital Project in “Object Storage and the Modern Media Archive,” in which Dr. Alain Dufaux, described the collaboration between the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and the Claude Nobs Foundation The project includes over 5,000 hours of broadcast-quality live concert footage preserved digitally and transformed into an archive of “raw material,” which the university’s “Metamedia Center” uses to create such slick projects as its Jazz Heritage Lab.

Finally, the session wrapped with a special keynote panel called “The Making of Netflix’s Bobby Kennedy for President.” On the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy, four key members of the production team discussed how this four-part documentary series came together. Led by moderator Matthew White, co-producer of The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, the panel traced the collaboration between the director, editor, and producers: how they sourced new archival material, how the search for this material served as inspiration, and how large-scale documentary series are performing critical preservation functions.

It was a fitting finale for a one-day conference that seemed to span continents, as well as the fruitful interrelations between science and art, politics and personal responsibility, and —especially— past and future.


International Archives Day

On Saturday, June 9, the National Archives joins with archives around the world to celebrate International Archives Day, a commemoration of the day the International Council on Archives (ICA) was created in 1948. This day is dedicated to promoting the great work of archives and archivists in preserving and providing public access to our communities’ historical records and promoting access to government records for transparency and accountability.

The National Archives is an active participant in the ICA. I am proud to stand beside our colleagues in the worldwide archival profession as we share and learn from each other, address common issues, and promote the value of archives and their importance to our society and democracy.

On International Archives Day, archives all over the world host special events to show off their collections or the work that they do, and share stories with each other and with fans of archives worldwide. You can see an interactive world map of International Archives Day events on the International Council on Archives website, along with a special online exhibition highlighting the history and activities of the ICA from 1948 to 2018.

Join the National Archives in this worldwide celebration for a special event in Washington, DC this Saturday, June 9, 2018, from 10:00am to 5:30pm. There will be hands-on activities in the Boeing Learning Center exploring the work of the National Archives and some of the important records protected here. Peruse the National Archives Museum and see some of the ways that American Memory is protected for current and future generations. This event is free and open to the public.

You can learn more about the history of International Archives Day and the involvement of the National Archives on our Pieces of History blog. We look forward to welcoming you at the National Archives Museum on June 9.