August 2008


I just registered.  There are no ribbons to identify bloggers, although they do have a “SAA Cyber Cafe” with a few laptops available (and hardly anyone’s around to use them yet), hence this unexpected blog post.  A notice by the computer mentions that there will be “an informal focus group aimed at measuring user satisfaction with SAA’s website navigation” on Friday, between 1:00-2:00.  Also, one is invited to drop by SAA’s Website Working Group (didn’t know there was one) “to share your questions and feedback,” although apparently only between 3:00-4:00 on Friday in the Exhibit Hall.

Well, it’s a beautiful day.  My plane arrived on time and I was able to check in early.  Now I must get something to eat.  See you kids later!

At the very beginning of his quest to discover the “truth” in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo, the main character, Scottie, asks his friend Midge’s advice:

Scottie: Not that kind of history. The small stuff! About people you never heard of!

Midge: Oh! You mean the Gay Old Bohemian Days of Gay Old San Francisco. The juicy stories? Like who shot who in the Embarcadero August, 1879?

She directs him to Pop Leibel, the owner of the mythical Argosy Book Shop, where he receives an answer that may be helpful or not.

While I can’t guarantee that all of your burning questions will be answered, I do predict you will have a good time if you come to the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable meeting this Wednesday at 1:00 at San Francisco’s Museum of Performance and Design.

For now, this blog takes a brief nap. But all too soon we shall return with fresh reports from the 2008 SAA Annual Meeting.

And if I don’t run into you at the meeting, you probably can find me lurking by the Shubert Theater.

Image credit: Book Harbor exterior, San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, San Francisco Library, Photo ID# AAC-6432.

Here’s yet another international story we managed to overlook until now — the discovery last year at the Library and Archives Canada of what is believed to be the earliest document printed in Australia — a 1796 playbill of a performance featuring Jane Shore–and its subsequent presentation to the National Library of Australia. There’s an excellent story about it on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Book Show Web site, complete with transcript, but no audio file. The National Library of Australia also offers additional information.

Apparently they’re still up for celebrating it in Canada as well. You can read about the most recent festivities (timed for IFLA?) on the CBC site (check out the comments too!)

My question: What else was in the scrapbook?

Image credit: Front of 1796 playbill, Collection of the National Library of Australia, RBRS N 686.2099441 F 692.

While I don’t believe that the esteemed Ms. O’Day ever covered Pictures of Lily (but you never know), mrs. meshbesher’s last post on the NYPL Kenn Duncan exhibit sent me back to the NYPL Digital Gallery to see if the Arthur Mitchell shot mentioned in that review is included on the site. Unfortunately it is not, but the two fab images of Anita O’Day that are up there also reminded me that the outstanding documentary on her life and art, Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (which has been making the rounds on the festival circuit for some time) finally opened today in New York and Los Angeles to generally excellent reviews.

It being the weekend and all, I’m not up for writing a review, but if you are lucky enough to be in one of those two cities, I would urge you to see it. I caught it at the Tribeca Film Festival last year–where it truly came across as a labor of love–and would eagerly watch it again. And if someone did want my opinion, I would call it simply the best performing arts documentary since Ballets Russes (but, then again, I don’t get around much anymore). Those of us in the smaller markets can only hope it will hit the theatres in our respective towns some time in the future (or wait to order the dvd).

But, speaking of small markets, I also was reminded of a post that I had been meaning to write about a tidbit that appeared in the nearby Olympian newspaper last month promoting the online presence of the University of Idaho’s International Jazz Collections. Apparently, however, the Olympian does not “archive” all of its articles; the link is now broken. A similar story is still available here. While the IJC site does not contain “all” of that repository’s remarkable holdings, a wealth of material has been made available digitally (through the efforts of hardworking archivists), including this wonderful autographed publicity photograph of a younger Anita O’Day.

Image credits:

(Top) Kenn Duncan portrait of Anita O’Day. NYPL Digital Gallery ID #1752308

(Bottom) Associated Booking Corporation portrait of Anita O’Day. MG 02, Box 58, Folder 5, Leonard Feather Jazz Collection, International Jazz Collections, University of Idaho Library.

Just had a chance to see one of the two exciting shows at NYPL’s Performing Arts Library, as mentioned by elssler1: “Focus on the 70s: The Fabulous Photography of Kenn Duncan.” Fabulous, indeed. The photographs are quite stunning and capture the fun and carefree, sometimes tacky beauty of my favorite decade. Seeing almost iconic images of many of the almost completely forgotten major (and minor) stars of the period, as well as glamor shots of young, up-and-comers who wound up turning into industry giants, is enough to keep one smiling throughout the gallery stroll. Arthur Mitchell’s shot, with dapper fedora and New York backdrop, is especially wonderful.

My big complaint, though, is the decided lack of information provided in the exhibit and the decision that was made by the curator to provide nothing but photographs or copies of photographs and reproductions of magazine covers. A display case featuring actual magazines and some other Duncan and period ephemera would have been a nice addition. And more detailed information about Duncan’s life and work, as well as some pieces written by friends and colleagues, would have made the exhibit feel less impersonal. I am thinking of the vast array of material and the general care that was displayed in the Jerome Robbins exhibit and cannot help but feel a little let down about this one. Also, let’s face it, an exhibit that highlights the 70s really needs to be as wild and silly (and outlandish) as possible. Why was the design team not given more liberty to go a little crazy?

In the very short program that is provided for the exhibit, there is a paragraph that reads: “Kenn Duncan’s reputation as a photographer has undeservedly lain dormant for 20 years. Now is the time to open up his world of singular beauty for a new generation.” To me, this paragraph demonstrates the exhibit’s essential disparity. The unnamed writer of these lines is absolutely correct that a celebration of Duncan and his work is way long overdue; however, why does the writer feel that “now” is the time for this celebration? Of course, I do know what the writer is getting at, but it is clearly not expressed as well as it should be. Accordingly, while the images in this exhibit are extraordinary, the curator has failed to provide substance or context and has not succeeded in adequately affording Duncan the full celebration that he deserves.

Please, though, go and see it! The photographs are a joy to behold.

Subscribing to the digest version of the Archives & Archivists list, I sometimes feel left out of the discussion by receiving the posts the following day. But frankly, I can no longer cope with being bombarded by its often seemingly ceaseless flow of messages in real time. The RBMS electronic discussion list, on the other hand, is (except for certain predictable times of the year) fairly low traffic and manageable. Recently, however, a discussion has been raging about the growing pains of the RBMS Preconference and the future of conference-going as we have known it–some of it even quite eloquent.

Would utilizing existing and emerging technologies increase participation in our professional organizations? Is there something intangible to be gained by physically attending conferences (other than a greater appreciation of David Lodge novels)?

You can test drive some changing concepts of “interactivity” for yourself a bit this year whether you are planning to attend the SAA 2008 Annual Meeting or not. At least two groups have created areas on the unofficial Wiki in which you can post questions to (and presumably receive answers from) the panelists at various sessions. These include the Manuscript Repositories Section, which is featuring a presentation on Archives 2.0 Projects as part of its business meeting on Friday, August 29th, and the EAD@10 Symposium, which takes place after the Annual Meeting technically ends.

Image credit: Motion picture poster for Quo Vadis showing Nero playing lyre while citizens of Rome flee the fire. Library of Congress P & P Online Catalog Digital Image ID # ppmsc 03509 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.03509

Well, sort of.

As the dog days of August drag on, we’re all in need of a feel good story. Into the breach steps the Museum of London. As widely reported, a team of archaeologists from the Museum is excavating the site of an open air playhouse (reputedly the theatre in which Shakespeare’s first plays were performed) in the Shoreditch area of London and making some fantastic discoveries. You can read the Museum’s official press release here.

Image credit: The Shakespeare monument in Central Park, New York (From Harper’s Weekly, May 7, 1864). NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID #800893