Love in Every Language

This week’s Monument Lab proposal (from the Monument Lab records which documents a project that asked a city-wide question, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”) :Where should this monument be?  “Everywhere in Phila.”  Love it!  Here is a little info on the LOVE statue! If you are wandering around the city, don’t miss the AMOR statue, already in place in the Sister Cities Park along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Budgets, big and small

  It is possible, if you read this blog faithfully, that you will know that I have a tendency to fall in love … with collections, with best friends, and of course, with historical boyfriends.   You may also know that Clem Winston is one of my all time favorite historical boyfriends–he was a budget guy, so he probably doesn’t sound all that exciting to you; and I will be honest in telling you that I did not expect to love Clem.  But I do … and for so many reasons. Continue reading

For Julian Abele

This week’s Monument Lab proposal (from the Monument Lab records which documents a project that asked a city-wide question, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”) :

If you think of the truly iconic buildings that make up the beautiful city of Philadelphia, one that probably comes to mind is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Julian Abele was the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Arts in 1902 and he designed some pretty amazing stuff, beyond the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Next time you look around Philly and see the the Free Library of Philadelphia or the Land Title Building, think of this extraordinary architect!  And should you visit Duke University, you should know that even though he designed the beautiful campus, racial prejudices deterred him from visiting.  There is lots of good info out there about Abele … including a mini-biography of him, written by our colleagues at the University Archives.

Welcoming a new cast of characters into the archives: Wire recordings


“Wire recording”: 1. Magnetic wire spool; 2. Magnetic wire, itself, spooled


“Wire recorder/player”: 3. Uptake reel; 4. Magnetic wire spool

Dating back as early as 1898, inventor Valdemar Poulson introduced the first magnetic audio recording technology in the magnetic wire and its corresponding recording device, called the telegraphone. The wire itself appears as a thin (4mm) wire usually wrapped around either a 2.75-inch or 3.75-inch diameter reel. Produced primarily from 1939-1955, magnetic wire was made of stainless steel alloy and could reach lengths of up to 7,200 feet depending on the size of the reel. A predecessor of magnetic tape, wire recording occurs when the wire is rapidly pulled across a recording “head” supplied with an electrical signal at the instant of recording. To play back the recorded material, the wire is once again pulled across the “head,” but this time, the head is no long supplied an electrical signal, and the varying magnetic field of the wire “recreates” the original signal, or in other words, the sound of the recording.


Maguire, Marsha. “Description of Audio Recordings.” In ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation, edited by Sam Brylawski, Maya Lerman, Robin Pike, and Kathlin Smith, 22. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2015.

Underground Railroad

This week’s Monument Lab proposal (from the Monument Lab records which documents a project that asked a city-wide question, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”) :

Based upon the Monument Lab proposals, Philadelphians have long been extremely conscious of the story that SHOULD be told throughout the city.  Here we have an amazing play on an underground railroad … both literal and historical.  William Still, “father of the Underground Railroad, is someone all Philadelphians AND all Americans should know about!  Colleagues at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are doing some pretty amazing stuff telling the story of William Still and the Underground Railroad.

Welcoming a new cast of characters into the archives: 16mm film



When we whip out our smart phones to capture a precious family moment on video, it is easy to forget that the task of taking a video used to involve actual film!

Motion picture dates back at least to the mid-19th century, when photographers interested in documenting events and places such as the Civil War and its battle fields developed a simple device capable of displaying the illusion of movement through a succession of pictures in rapid motion, called the zoetrope.

In 1879, English photographer Eadward Muybridge developed the first projector capable of displaying photographs taken in rapid succession, essentially paving the way for the motion picture film development.


“16mm film”

16mm acetic plastic film and the Cine-Kodak amateur film camera were introduced in 1923 by Eastman Kodak. The film merited the nickname “safety film” due to its non-combustible chemical properties, a reference to its predecessor, the extremely flammable cellulose nitrate chemical compound used in the ubiquitous 35mm film used since its introduction in 1889. Not only was this film safe to store without the worry of catching fire, the film yielded a positive image onto the camera original, eliminating the laborious task of creating a negative and having to print a positive from it, adding its convenience of use.

In 1932, the 16mm film was challenged by the introduction of the 8mm film and the subsequently smaller and simpler cameras that supported the new film size. However, 16mm film cameras and projectors were used in in homes in classrooms for decades to come.


Pickford, Mary. “The Early History of Motion Pictures.”

Rogge, Michael. “More than 100 Years of Film Sizes.”

Wallace, Dillon. “History of 16mm Film.”

Welcoming a new cast of characters into the archives: Audiovisual and born-digital materials


Compact disc (CD) of Plays Standards by Kieran Daly (Madacy Jazz, 2019)

Every new archival collection poses a set of challenges for the archivist. Some of these challenges are familiar and within reach. Others are foreign, whether it’s due to the subject matter or the type of material. For instance, if a manuscript document is found within a collection, you, the archivist, have to use your experience to figure out what kind of document you’re holding: a letter between colleagues, a family recipe, a love poem. If an audiocassette shows up in the collection, you can’t immediately determine what the information is without the use of a cassette player. Sure, there may be a label that clarifies what the content is–that it is a recording of a lecture on poison dart frogs, or a performance of the Brandenburg Concertos–but the sound of the audiocassette remains hidden behind a barrier.


Hard drive (Iomega) and flash drive (SanDisk)

And such is the case for all other audiovisual and born-digital materials that the archivist unearths. The media objects themselves–CDs, VHS tapes, computer hard drives, and floppy discs, to name a few–while interesting artifacts in their own right, contain archival information, and the information, as well as the artifact, need to be preserved.

The goal of the archivist is to provide the researcher with the information contained within a collection and to make it easy to find in the first place. In order to do this with audiovisual and born-digital materials, the media objects and the archival information stored on those objects need to go through a rigorous process of identification, description, rehousing, storing, and migration in order to provide long-term preservation and access.

While much research and many standards, manuals, and guides exist to prepare the archivist for an encounter with audiovisual and born-digital objects, the process of handling these materials is in its infancy. Institutions across the world are in different stages of implementing their own strategies for addressing the challenges posed by these media, which are coming through the doors at an increasing rate.


Video Home System (VHS) tape

Over the last several years, we at the SCPC and throughout the University of Pennsylvania have been forming methods to provide long-term preservation and access to our cherished collections that contain audiovisual and born-digital media. While we continue to work on addressing these challenges, we will introduce you to the cast of characters, from wax cylinders to computer hard drives, wire recordings to VHS tapes, and more!

No Place for Hate

This week’s Monument Lab proposal (from the Monument Lab records which documents a project that asked a city-wide question, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”) :Again, out of the mouths of babes … here Melaney, aged 8, proposes a monument called “No Place for Hate.”   The fact that an 8 year old even knows that such a monument is necessary is tragic, but let’s make it so … people of Philadelphia, Melaney has spoken! Our city should be a place without hate!


This week’s Monument Lab proposal (from the Monument Lab records which documents a project that asked a city-wide question, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”) :

I am not 100% certain what is hanging from the right side of this pretzel, but I am going to go with a hoagie or a cheese steak … which is clearly as important as the Liberty Bell!  I am happy to see that the LOVE statue is included–we Philadelphians do love our foods!

A Song of Spring

It is the last Friday in National Poetry Month, and it is a rainy one at that … here is a poem by Mamie A. Jones in 1880.  She is one of many hidden “poets” who we discover as we process collections in the Special Collections Processing Center.  Mamie’s handwriting, though pretty, is nearly illegible to me–I can only read a couple of lines–so I don’t think we are celebrating the poem, but instead the poet. Because in the end, is poetry for the masses or the person who expressed themselves in verse?

But even if this was the worst poem in the world, her illustrations make up for it!

Mamie, like so many ladies of the 19th century, is a mystery.  We suspect that she was a Quaker, and that Mamie was a nickname for Mary or Margaret, but we know almost nothing about this talented lass with a delightful sense of humor.  She left behind both a sketchbook and an autograph album–but we would love to know more about her and what her life was like!