Artists in the Archive – Remix

Here is my remix of Jaekook’s tree project.

Despite many things gone awry in the demo (not a fan of CSS at the moment), it does demonstrate the main features of my concept: slowly fading images in conversation with each other, and the ability to submit a word that changes the images.

Below you can see an illustration of my concept. The title is: Design Prototype, Our Lives In Trees”, an outdoor installation by the Muir Woods National Monument and the Library of Congress (LOC).

See below for more description.

Illustration as described in blog post.

The installation aims to explore what trees represent to us, through comparison of photographs that also speak to the surrounding environment of the awe-inspiring Muir Woods National Monument. Perhaps the installation might also expose a strange contrast between how humans use trees in their own lives, and the incredibly critical role trees play without us in the history of the planet’s ecosystems.

Along the main walkway and entrance to the park, projection screens are installed. On each, two images are slowly fading in and out in an opposite pattern, according to my my demo. One image is of a tree from the Library of Congress’ collections, and the other is chosen based off a previous visitor’s word associated with trees, also taken from the LOC collections.

Dawn and Dusk installation, when the light is low and magical.

  1. Entrance to park: The main walkway is installed with projections that display two changing images, one of a tree, and another based off a word submitted by the previous visitor.
  2. At the end of the walkway: A kiosk is in place for visitors to submit their own word.
  3. The projection screen right next to the kiosk shows the visitors submission to themselves.
  4. Traveling Submissions: Images slowly move back down to the start of the pathway for visitors entering the park to see.

Artists in the Archive – In a Haystack

IN A HAYSTACK: Using only the search mechanisms available on loc.gov, find one item or collection of items and write a short ‘portrait’ of the object. What is it? How was it made? Who created it? How did it end up in the Library’s collection?

You can read my initial impressions of using the Library of Congress’ (LOC) site here.

Here is my portrait of one item in the LOC.

Letter from Wilbur Wright, of the Wright Brothers, to Octave Chanute.

This letter was the very first item I found. I couldn’t believe it. What a first sentence to read!

“Dear Sir; For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible by man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life.”

Wilbur Wright

Wilbur Wright, one of the ‘fathers of modern aviation,’ wrote this to Octave Chanute. Chanute was an aviation pioneer who supported the Wright brothers.

… I found this written correspondence because I thought the name “Octave Chanute” in the category of the letter “O” sounded interesting, when I was perusing the LOC’s Finding Aids.

At the time Wilbur Wright wrote the letter, he did not know Chanute. Wright is convincing Chanute that he knows enough about aviation to be taken seriously. The letter became one of many from the Wright Brothers kept by Chanute, despite the Wright brothers apparently keeping nothing.

Without these letters, we would know very little about the invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers. Chanute donated 10,121 items to the LOC.

The power of written correspondence is palpable in the LOC collections. Do emails today collect the same sentiments as written letters?

Also, this letter was written in 1900 — a nice round number! In 1900, the U.S. population was 75 million. Now it is 325 million. Ford Motors was founded three years later. The year before in 1899 the country’s first juvenile court was founded.

Helpfully, this item is listed as part of the American Memory category, which led me to this series “Today in History“.

Artists in the Archive – Initial Research

When I look through the Library of Congress’ (LOC) website, I am mostly struck by how much life in the United States has changed.

The act of combing through the LOC forces me to expand my mind’s eye to encompass it all, and somehow it feels alienating. Where are we today in 2019, and what does it all mean?

The website tossed me around the collections, link by link. The experience created a cognitive dissonance as I flipped between the massive national narratives we tell ourselves, and the unexplained randomness of other items and people.

Below are some of the highlights that spoke to me.

One Room School House, South Pass Avenue near Jefferson Street, South Pass City, Fremont County, WY

This photo was the 7th or 8th item I looked at, and I immediately felt like everything in the LOC started to hang together. This one room school house created a sense of place, whereas the catalog’s links left me feeling unmoored.


Brian Diskin from IWU Local #380, Urbana-Champaign, IL. Diskin was interviewed and photographed at the 2011 IWU National Iron Workers Convention at the Sheraton Hotel on the Chicago River in downtown Chicago.

I found it to be refreshing to see a real person in the collections.

This man Brian Diskin was interviewed in 2011 as part of the Occupational Folklife Project, which documents the culture of contemporary American workers during an era of economic and social transition.

A Recipe for Project-Based Learning, a blog post for teachers about cook box recipes. It would be fun to make a project about recipe instructions.

Lomax Collection, 400 snapshot photographs made in the course of sound recording expeditions carried out by John Avery Lomax, Alan Lomax, and Ruby Terrill Lomax, between 1934 and ca. 1950.

I didn’t know the Lomaxes also took photos when recording American musical life!

Horned Owl|Josh, John (performer), Seminole Indian Reservation, Florida

It was hard to find audio in the LOC that I could actually listen to. Maybe I missed a link here or there.

The Great Train Robbery, Edwin Porter, 1903

Fun to see early film : )

Quilts from three contests in the 90s in the United States. I’m surprised the image aren’t online. But there are images from the “Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978 to 1996” collection held by the American Folklife Center.

Birthday related images, might be fun to make a chrome extension or website for people to send birthday images.

Could be interesting to make a project around food, by searching for dishes. Here are returned images for the search term “salad”.

Images with no title are intriguing. Many come from the Farm Security Administration’s collection of photos from the 30s.

There are worker’s rights songs from Bakersfield, California in the 40s.

Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database

Library Offers Largest Release of Digital Catalog Records in History. 25 Million Free Records of Bibliographic Metadata.

Not at LOC, but cool: 52,000 index cards of jokes from the Phyllis Diller Gag File.

Not at LOC, but cool: 8,000 documents from Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” columns

Brighton Beach photos.

ACLU Hate Map for US.