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National Archivist Tells SMU Grads It's All Good

Guess what was said at the SMU Commencement this weekend?

National Archivist Allen Weinstein, who oversees America's 12 presidential libraries, assured 2008 graduates of Southern Methodist University that the 13th (The George W. Bush Presidential Library) will be an asset to their alma mater – despite being the greatest controversy during their time at the school.

More on the event and Weinstein's comments from The Dallas News.

Where A Picture Is Worth Innumerable Words

One of the world's most enduring stories, The Ramayana has been told and retold throughout India and South East Asia for more than 2,000 years. Today, a collection of lavishly illustrated 17th-century manuscripts of the Sanskrit epic, hidden away in the archives of the British Library since 1844, goes on public display for the first time.

The Ramayana follows the quest of Prince Rama, exiled from his kingdom of Ayodha, to rescue his beautiful wife Sita from the demon king Ravana, with the help of an army of monkeys. Dating to somewhere between 500 and 100BC, and traditionally attributed to the sage Valmiki, the story originated in northern India, but quickly spread throughout the whole subcontinent, crossing religious as well as geographical boundaries. Story and, of course, pictures from The Independent UK.

A Sad Anniversary...History Up in Smoke

A report from The Galesburg Register Mail, recalling the big fire of 1958 started by an exhaust fan in the attic of the Galesburg Public Library. Family documents and letters from Abraham Lincoln were among items lost in the classic Carnegie library fire 50 years ago.

“The whole history of the city has gone up in smoke,” lamented C. Russell Carlson, a library director, in the May 10, 1958, edition of The Register-Mail.

While early estimates were that the library had lost everything, about 40,000 books were salvaged, although many were water damaged. Some of the rarest books in the library’s collection were spared because they had been kept in a vault.

But what did go up in smoke, according to Galesburg Public Library archivist Patty Mosher, was around 200,000 books worth about $500,000 at the time, the only existing copies of Galesburg newspapers dating to the mid-1800s, 60 oak chairs and 28 oak tables, 600 stereo optic view cards and 30 to 40 percent of the library’s archival material, including several letters signed by Abraham Lincoln.

It’s not known how many photographs, papers, letters, local family histories and artifacts were lost — but to Mosher, those were the most valuable items destroyed by the fire because those documents told the story of Galesburg’s founding.

Report backs PDF variant for long-term archiving

The UK's National Archives has welcomed a report that backs a variant of Adobe's portable document format standard as a reliable way of preserving documents for future use.

However, the organisation has warned that other file formats will need to still be monitored and considered, as the PDF/Archive (PDF/A) standard can only be one part of a long-term archiving policy.

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

Attention DeadHeads: It was announced today that the University of California Santa Cruz will house the archives of one of America's best-loved rock groups, The Grateful Dead.

Three decades worth of archival materials - from business records to stage backdrops - has been donated by the band to the school's McHenry Library , where a room called Dead Central is being dedicated to a beloved band dubbed "the largest unofficial religion in the world."

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal joined Dead drummer Mickey Hart and guitarist and singer Bob Weir in a buoyant press conference this morning at San Francisco's aging Fillmore Auditorium, the Geary Street birthplace of the San Francisco's psychedelic scene and the site of 51 Dead concerts. In honor of the event, Blumenthal was given a tie-dyed T shirt.

"All of this stuff doesn't belong to us - it belongs to the culture that spawned us," said the graying Weir, dressed in a sports jacket, T shirt and Birkenstocks. "It seemed like getting it into a campus archive, with access to the people in the community that gave rise to this, was the right thing to do."

Pittsburgh City libraries guard books worth millions

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Takes A Peek At the special collection rooms at The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library.

"Things that are easily identifiable as valuable, they are removed from the general collection," said Lance Lugar, a librarian and archivist in Hillman's special collection department. "We want them to be seen. We just don't want them to be stolen."

Document Traffickers

This Smithsonian Magazine article tells the stories of people who stole historical documents from libraries and archives, and how they were eventually caught. It is interesting to see that eBay is not only an easy way to sell the stolen goods, but also the means by which many thieves are tracked down.

Histories: When the internet was made of paper

"Histories: When the internet was made of paper" 22 March 2008 From New Scientist Print Edition.
Many libraries have the print edition of New Scientist. If your library is one of these, you will enjoy this article.

"For some, the highlight of a trip to Belgium is a visit to an ancient brewery or a demonstration of diamond cutting. When Australian Boyd Rayward travelled to Brussels in 1968 there was only one sight he wanted to see: a disused university anatomy theatre. Unusual? Perhaps, but Rayward was a graduate student in library science, and the cobwebby old theatre with leaking skylights housed something he had to see before it vanished forever. Inside the gloomy theatre, Rayward found piles of papers and archives that had remained untouched since 1944. These were the last remnants of the Mundaneum, a vast and visionary attempt at an immense proto-internet made from the most unlikely of materials: 3-by-5-inch index cards." -- Read More

Oldest human voice recording!

We all hear growing up that the first recording of a human voice is Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb." However, this may not be true. Audio historian David Giovannoni, has discovered a recording that predates Edison's by 17 years. Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville used a phonautograph to create this artifacts.

Helen Keller photograph

This is from last week, but still very cool. Researcher's have uncovered what they believe to be the earliest known photograph of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. It was donated to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, by a man whose mother had played with Keller one summer. An interesting piece of history rediscovered!

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