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A Collaboration

National Museum of American History

A Fashionable Collaboration

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Subtle monochrome pattern in grays gives impression of color unevenly applied due to folding of the substrate. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.In celebration of Women’s History Month, March Object of the Day posts highlight women designers in the collection. Knoll Luxe was launched in 2008 as a luxury fabric division of Knoll Textiles. The brand utilizes a global network of specialized and highly skilled textile mills to realize fabrics that combine classic modernism with a strong...

The Power of Collaboration

Smithsonian Institution Archives

This is the AV equipment that we have here at the Archives which we make available to other units who may need it.

Collaboration. It's the one word that during almost every conference and pan-institutional discussion, everyone says, and hears, a lot. In fact, it's the theme of this year's Archives Month! But why is it so important to collaborate? Because collaboration allows for people with different knowledge and skill sets to come together to solve a common problem. At the Archives, we often work with other Smithsonian divisions and outside groups to solve complex problems in the field of audiovisual (AV) digitization and preservation.

A perfect example of collaborative work at its best is the AV Hack Day from this year's Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) annual conference in Savannah, Georgia. During Hack Day, programmers and archivists came together to create open source tools that tackle common preservation problems that have been identified in the field of AV archiving. Some of the tools created include Hack Day Capture, a tool that works with a Blackmagic capture card and ffmpeg to digitize analog video, Video-Sprites, which eases the process of making web video more accessible, and Characterization Compare, which allows the user to see the outputs from EXIFtool, MediaInfo, and ffmpeg side by side. These tools and all of the others created during Hack Day are available on the AMIA Open Source Github page.

This is a screenshot of output from the Characterization Compare tool that was created during AV Hack Day 2014.

For the past several years, members of the Archives have worked with other government agencies to form a group called the FADGI (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative). The primary goal of this group is to create guidance for the digitization of still image and audiovisual materials that other archives, public  or private, can use when making decisions on how to best preserve their materials. Last month, FADGI released file format comparison charts for still images and analog videos, as well as a set of case histories contributed from eight different units that detail how they are dealing with born digital audio and video content within their collections. The comparison chart for analog audiovisual materials provides information on sustainability, cost, and system implementation for the various codecs and wrappers that are currently being used to create preservation files.

Smithsonian divisions often collaborate with each other as well. Since the majority of the equipment in analog AV archiving can be hard to find, the AV archivists group (AVAIL) here at the Smithsonian created an internal registry of the different equipment owned by each of the divisions, so that we can work together to share resources. The list includes information on the number of decks of a particular type owned by a given division, as well as whether or not they are currently in working condition. This makes it so that when I come across a Hi8 tape in our collections, a format that we do not have a deck for, I can simply consult the registry and contact the appropriate division to see if their deck might be available for me to use. Through the AVAIL listserv, we have also shared our knowledge of different migration errors to help each other solve unusual problems.

Ultimately, it's important to collaborate with others in and outside your field because the knowledge of the many is often more comprehensive than the knowledge of few. Additionally, we are all working towards the same goal of preserving our collections in the best possible way, so working together allows us to optimize our resources and our time. How has collaboration helped you in your field of work?

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Rainbow: Chronicle of a Collaboration

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Spring 2010: Music of Central Asia

Festival Audio: Kenyan Percussion Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

In a workshop about traditional percussion instruments of Kenya, performers representing the neighboring Luo and Luhya people compared their ohangla and isikuti drums, respectively. Concluding the session, moderator Tabu Asusa, founder of Ketebul Music, asked for a collaboration. "Maybe this is the first time for the Luo and Luhya to play together?" he wondered. "And here in America!"

The Lost Bird Project: A Wonderful Collaboration

Smithsonian Institution Libraries
This post was submitted by Susan Frampton, program coordinator, Smithsonian Libraries. Serendipity: happy chance; lucky chance; happenstance; and good fortune. Any and all of those words could be used to describe my encounter, collaboration and friendship with Andy Stern, executive director, and Todd McGrain, artist, sculptor and creative director, of The Lost Bird Project. My more »

Mail art collaboration sent to John Evans

Archives of American Art
1 mail art : various media ; 21 x 24 cm.

Richard C, Edgardo Vigo, and other unidentified artists collaborative mail art sent to and completed by John Evans, consisting of an envelope illustrated with stamps, ink drawings of the heads of ducks, and watercolor.

Project Row Houses—Rice Building Workshop Collaboration

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Cross-Continental Catifa Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Over the weekend, artists from both side of the Atlantic collaborated to create a new—and very short-lived—centerpiece on the National Mall. In the shadow of the Washington Monument, the Catalan catifa (flower carpet) added a burst of color to the gravel pathway across the Folklife Festival.

This detailed scene, composed of dyed sawdust and flowers, was the work of Catalonia program participants Vicenta Pallarès i Castelló and Angel Gallart Portas—but they had help from some locals. Guatemalan American Ubaldo Sánchez practices the same tradition with a different name: alfombra de aserrín. Festival regulars may remember his installment last year as part of the On the Move program, created along with the Viajeros de las Americas.

While planning this year’s Festival, we enlisted the help of Sánchez and alfombra coordinator Yolanda Alcorta. We knew we wanted to bring representatives of the Federació Catalana d’Entitats Catifaires, but we knew it would be easier to use materials from the United States. Communicating primarily with WhatsApp, Pallarès was able to ship their special mineral-based dyes from Barcelona to Sánchez’s team in Virginia, where they mixed it with local sawdust in time for the Festival.

Under an unforgiving sun, both teams worked side by side on top of a paper outline. Pallarès and Gallart were joined by fifteen members of their federation back home. As hours passed, as hundreds of handfuls of colored sawdust were patted down, a central image emerged: Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

“We wanted to show off the best that we have, and that is Catalan Modernism,” Pallarès explained through a translator.

Folklife Festival catifa
Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Folklife Festival catifa
Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Folklife Festival catifa
When the artists finished the catifa on Saturday night, they gathered together to pose for photographs and sang “Els Segadors,” the anthem of Catalonia.
Photo by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The architectural designs are their way of bringing Catalonia to the United States—plus their way of inviting us to Catalonia, she said. At the end of a discussion session with all the catifaires (flower carpet makers), Pallarès invited Sánchez and Alcorta to an annual conference in Europe of artists who share the tradition. If they accept, they will be the first group to represent North America.

Originating in Europe likely as a Catholic practice, especially around the Corpus Christi celebration, the ephemeral art form made its way to the Americas by the Spanish. They are still common in Catalonia and across Central America—whether for Corpus Christi, spring festivals, or now secular events.

As discussion presenter Olivia Cadaval stated simply, “With the movement of people, we have the movement of traditions.”

It turns out, the traditions don’t deviate too much across the ocean and generations. When it comes to the materials used, both teams have learned to be resourceful.

“You use whatever you have around you—in the forest, in the street, in your home,” Gallart said. “If you have a carpenter on your street, you use sawdust.”

With the same mindset, Sánchez gets his sawdust for free from a cabinet maker in Virginia. Sometimes it’s more coarse, sometimes more fine, sometimes almost too dark to dye, but he always finds a way to use what is provided. The Catalan team quickly adapted to their Virginian materials as well.

Just as they share methods of creation, so do the two teams share the catifa’s destruction. Last year, when the On the Move alfombra was completed, Honduran band members led Festival visitors in a procession through the sawdust. The precise outlines blurred, the materials scattered back into the earth. This year, at the end of Sunday’s festivities, the cercavila (parade) of Catalan giants, devils, beasts, and musicians led the way through, with the audience following behind.

It brought the first week of the 2018 Festival to a bittersweet close, to see something so beautiful so quickly obliterated. But in its three short days, it brought people together across continents: a true art of collaboration.

Folklife Festival catifa
Photo by Stanley Turk, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The Federació Catalana d’Entitats Catifaires will be with us for the remainder of the Festival, July 4 to 8, working on a (smaller, shadier) catifa in the Flower Carpet area of the Catalonia program. Come see and try your own hand at this living tradition.

Elisa Hough is the editor for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Beer Yeast Is a True International Collaboration

Smithsonian Magazine

For thousands of years, humans have been using Saccharomyces cerevisiae or brewer’s yeast to make beer. In turn the yeast, considered humanity’s first domesticated organism, has journeyed around the world, moving and mixing with other specimens. Fittingly, new research has found that beer is cross-cultural even on the microscopic level. As it turns out, S. cerevisiae has origins that span both Asia and Europe.

Researcher Justin Fay of the University of Rochester and his team set out to peer back into the history of brewer’s yeast by sequencing the genomes of four commercially available yeast strains (two ale, or top fermenting, varieties, one yeast strain that produces lager beer and one strain used in both beer brewing and baking) and comparing those genomes to yeast DNA sequenced from around the world. What they found is that modern beer yeast is combination of ancient yeast used to make European grape wine and yeasts used to produce rice wine in Asia. The findings appear in the journal PLoS Biology.

It’s likely the yeasts met somewhere on trade routes between Europe and Asia. “This finding points to the emergence of beer yeast from a historical East-West transfer of fermentation technology, similar to the transfer of domesticated plants and animals by way of the Silk Route,” a press release states.

Among the findings, the team spotted unusual variations in the genome not seen in other yeasts, suggesting the domesticated beer yeast got some traits from microbes that no longer exist. They also found the domesticated yeast strains used to make beer don’t all share the same genes, either, as Linh Anh Cat at Forbes points out. That means it’s likely that several types of yeasts hooked up along the Silk Road, producing various strains of yeast that became the basis for different beer styles. Or, as the team concludes, "modern beer strains are the product of a historical melting pot of fermentation technology.”

Finding exactly where the original S. cerevisiae came from as well as the other yeasts it has combined with over the centuries, remains a much harder mystery to crack. So far, no one has found a wild progenitor of brewer's yeast. But they have found some of its buddies. We’ve previously reported on evidence that suggests a yeast variety called S. eubayanus, which combined with S. cerevisiae to create lager beer yeast, may have originated in the beech forests of Patagonia. In 2017, residue in ancient brewing vessels boosted earlier 2011 research, revealing that people in the region may have been using it to make an alcoholic beverage over a thousand years ago, making the origins of modern beer even more global still.

Antonio: 25 Years of Creative Collaboration

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Virtual exhibition highlighting works of two influential fashion illustrators of the 1960s, �_�70s, and �_�80s: Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos. Bilingual English/Spanish.

a collaboration between Allan Fish and Tom Marioni

Archives of American Art
1 exhibition announcement ; 13 x 21 cm.

Addressed to Lucy Lippard in New York, N.Y.

Harlem Focus | Public Monuments: Art in Collaboration with Landscape Design

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
After winning a public competition, artists Algernon Miller and sculptor Gabriel Koren collaborated with landscape architect Mark Bunnell of Quenell Rothschild & Partners to design and execute the public circle and monument to African American abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. Join Algernon Miller and Mark Bunnell as they discuss their collaboration and how landscape design informs site-specific art, and vice versa. About the Harlem Focus series: John Reddick, architectural consultant and Harlem historian, will curate and lead a series of talks featuring designers, architects, and artists whose work engages and affects the local community. From public art and landscape architecture, to rooftop farms and urban woodland restoration, the Harlem Focus series will highlight design issues in Harlem, and how design reflects how this unique neighborhood continues to evolve, change and inspire.

An Afghan and Basque Musical Collaboration: "Chachme Sia Daare"

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Day two of the Folklife Festival ended with a welcome surprise of cross-culture. Homayoun Sakhi and Salar Nader from Sounds of California invited Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera, along with Sorginak member Eneritz Aulestia, on stage for the conclusion of the concert.

Despite a language barrier and no time to rehearse, the blend of Afghan and Basque music seemed to be a natural combination. During their one song together, the two duos traded improvised solos as well as verses in their native languages, Dari and Euskara. The collaboration proved that sharing and experiencing cultures is a positive, worthwhile mission.

Videography: Andrea Curran, Joshua Davis, Caleb Hamilton, Lillie Schneyer, Ryan Shank, Abby Sternberg
Editing: Ryan Shank

Ryan Shank is a video production intern for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He studies telecommunications and history at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

This concert was presented in collaboration with Aga Khan Music Initiative, a program of Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Collaboration and Facilitation: The Road to Cultural Democracy (Presentation)

Smithsonian Education
Presentation by Felicia McMahon and Benjamin Virgilio, with an introduction by Philippa Rappoport. Dr. Felicia McMahon discusses her experiences as a “public folklorist” working with a group of DiDinga Sudanese refuges to preserve their culture and to convey the meaning of their rituals through public performance. Benjamin Virgilio, a student at State University of New York at Oswego and a member of the DiDinga community in Syracuse, New York, discusses the impact of this collaboration on him and his community. August 11, 2009 National Museum of African Art

Wu Man and Friends: Chinese Tradition and Musical Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Wu Man, a master of the Chinese lute (pipa) was joined by fellow musicians Yang Yi (zheng) and Haruka Fujii (percussion) for an evening concert at the Moonrise Pavilion during the 2014 Folklife Festival. The music of Wu Man is featured on two Folkways albums; she has performed with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, and has spent the last thirty years promoting Chinese traditional and contemporary music through performance and composition. Video by David Barnes, Nicholas Mangialardi, Max Lenik, Abby Sternberg Edited by Nicholas Mangialardi [Catalog No. CFV10660; Copyright 2014 Smithsonian Institution]

Wu Man and Friends: Chinese Tradition and Musical Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
"Music of Central Asia Vol.10: Borderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route" available here: Wu Man, a master of the Chinese lute (pipa), was joined by fellow musicians Yang Yi (zheng) and Haruka Fujii (percussion) for an evening concert at the Moonrise Pavilion during the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The content and comments posted here are subject to the Smithsonian Institution copyright and privacy policy (/ Smithsonian reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove any content at any time.

Wu Man and Friends: Chinese Tradition and Musical Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Wu Man, a master of the Chinese lute (pipa) was joined by fellow musicians Yang Yi (zheng) and Haruka Fujii (percussion) for an evening concert at the Moonrise Pavilion during the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The music of Wu Man is featured on two Smithsonian Folkways Recordings albums, Music of Central Asia Vol. 10: Borderlands and The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan. She has performed with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble and has spent the last thirty years promoting Chinese traditional and contemporary music through performance and composition.

Videography: David Barnes, Nicholas Mangialardi, Max Lenik, Abby Sternberg
Editing: Nicholas Mangialardi

A German Composer Uncovered a Collaboration Between Mozart and Salieri

Smithsonian Magazine

Does the name Antonio Salieri ring a bell? If you watched the 1984 Best Picture winner Amadeus, it probably conjures up images of Mozart’s tortured, scheming rival, a man so disconcerted by the prodigy’s success that he went insane, possibly even killing one of history’s greatest composers. But a recent rediscovery could put a nail in the coffin of their supposed rivalry: A long-lost collaborative composition penned by both men has been unearthed at a Czech museum.

The news was reported by Reuters, which says that the arrangement was found in the Czech Museum of Music’s reserve collection. A German composer and musicologist searching for compositions of Salieri’s students uncovered the joint work, “Per la Ricuperata Salute di Ofelia” (“For the recovered health of Ophelia”), which celebrates an English singer. A recent digitization effort revealed the short piece, which Reuters reports was performed on a harpsichord Tuesday.

Rumors of a rivalry between the composers has swirled since they first brushed elbows in the 1770s. Salieri, an Italian, was the court composer of Emperor Joseph II and was already known for his operatic achievements when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was five years his junior, burst onto the music scene. Historians speculate that any enmity between the men may have come more from Mozart than Salieri—the Austrian complained about the Italian influence in the court and may have seen Salieri as an obstacle to his success.

Gossip that Salieri hated Mozart or even tried to poison him seems to have originated after Mozart’s death in 1791. Though Salieri mourned Mozart at his funeral and even later taught Mozart’s son, he was soon linked with ugly accusations that he had caused the composer's demise.

In 1824, attendees of a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony were handed anonymous leaflets that described Salieri forcing Mozart to drink from a poisoned cup, and the rumor was so deliciously suggestive that it inspired a dramatic dialogue from Pushkin, which was later turned into an opera. Amadeus, which was adapted from a stage play by Peter Shaffer, carried the rumor into the present day. All this despite the fact that historians can’t really find any evidence for any ongoing personal hatred between the men.

So the supposedly epic rivalry may not have been that epic. But was the song they composed together any good? Apparently not: A Mozart expert tells Reuters that the piece is “...short, not great.” The men may not have snubbed or plotted against one another in real life, but perhaps it’s best that they didn’t make more music together.

Y Dynfa Lés: A Welsh Animation Collaboration

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
<em>Y Dynfa Lés</em> is projected within a specially built sculpture, giving off a gauze effect as if looking back through time. Photo courtesy of Sean Harris
Y Dynfa Lés is projected within a specially built sculpture, giving off a gauze effect as if looking back through time. Photo courtesy of Sean Harris

As a longtime Folklife Festival curator, I am always happy to hear from former Festival participants about how the event “lives on” in creative projects. We recently heard from Sean Harris, one of the animators in the 2009 Wales Smithsonian Cymru program. Sean’s animations, often resulting from collaborations with traditional artists and Welsh school children, bring cultural material to life in amazing and delightful ways.

Over the last year, Sean has been working with several other 2009 Festival participants to produce an animation called Y Dynfa Lés. This Welsh title, as Sean explains, is a little difficult to translate: Y Dynfa is “The Draw” or “The Lure.” Lés comes from glas (an elongated sound in the Maldwyn accent), often translated as “blue” but is in fact a distinct blueish, greenish, silvery color. So here, “glas” is the color of the lush Montgomeryshire landscape, the rivers that flow through it into the Severn, and the Atlantic Ocean at its mouth.

In this animation, the theme of “coming home” is symbolized by the salmon, a fish that is dwindling in Welsh rivers but makes an incredible trans-Atlantic journey of around 14,000 miles. Sean formatted it to project onto a sculpture based on a traditional River Severn putcher, or fish trap, crafted so that it could be set up in parks, near rivers, and elsewhere to interact with the Welsh landscape.

“The piece takes the migration of the salmon as narrative focus—and their unerring return to the very same pools in which they were spawned as metaphor for the powerful call of the home ‘nest’ (i.e. land, language, and culture,” Sean explains. “I love that it all came about as a result of our own salmon-like trans-Atlantic journey to the Folklife Festival!”

The work includes Arwyn Groe Davies’s poem “Grym y Lli’” (The Power of the Flow), which takes the departure of the salmon in the Banw river as metaphor for the steady bleed of young people away from rural Mid-Wales. Siân James, one of Wales’ foremost folk musicians, set Davies’ words to music for the Parti Cut Lloi choir, who also performed at the 2009 Festival.

At the suggestion of fellow Festival artist Christine Mills, Sean, Arwyn, and Siân gathered at the iconic Cann Office pub, spiritual home of Parti Cut Lloi, to work the poem into the soundtrack. On the recording, Christine plays the triple harp and John Neilson (Sean’s hotel roommate during the Festival) plays a ship’s harmonium—fitting the animation beautifully.

“Whilst it’s very much about ‘home,’ a significant part of what has emerged has its roots in the coming-together that was Wales Smithsonian Cymru,” Sean says. “I’m pretty sure that without it, the relationships that enabled it all wouldn’t have been formed. As well as a means of presenting global culture to Americans, it’s a powerful catalyst for those that are fortunate enough to participate in it.”

At an event in Newtown, Mid-Wales, commissioned by the Severn Rivers Trust, the community created lanterns inspired by the migration of the salmon which they paraded across the town before placing them in the River of Light. Photo courtesy of Sean Harris
At an event in Newtown, Mid-Wales, commissioned by the Severn Rivers Trust, the community created lanterns inspired by the migration of the salmon which they paraded across the town before placing them in the River of Light. Photo courtesy of Sean Harris

Find more of Sean Harris’s films on The Wild Boar Press.

Betty Belanus curated the Wales Smithsonian Cymru program at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival and still feels hiraeth (homesickness) thinking of her time in Wales and all the friends she made there.

Educational Activities for Antonio: 25 Years of Creative Collaboration

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Educational activities related to online exhibit of works by two fashion illustrators.

Collaborative Etching

National Portrait Gallery

Earth Works - A collaboration between the National Museum of African Art and Smithsonian Gardens

National Museum of African Art
In a first-ever installation of land art on the National Mall, three artists have been invited to create site-specific earthworks in the historic Enid A. Haupt Garden. Strijdom van der Merwe of South Africa, El Anatsui of Ghana and Nigeria, and Ghada Amer of Egypt have each turned to the land as a canvas to explore such diverse and interrelated issues as memory, history and land use; spirituality, materiality, and environmental sustainability; and gender and the interconnections between hunger and political corruption. These works also challenge the absence of African artists from the discourse on land arts and reinforce awareness of how the earth works, as a medium and as a message.
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