Friday, August 10, 2007

You Say Provenance, I Say Provenience



Otherwise titled This Week’s Preoccupations. The internet can be a wonderful research tool. Over the past few years, it has offered some great leads for my ethnohistoric research. Archival collections, genealogies, photographs, and finding aids are being digitized and uploaded daily; what is completely elusive one day, may the next be right at the tip of one’s fingers. The same can be true for material culture. I have three projects for which I have repeatedly turned to the internet over the course of the last few years (and yet again this past week), in an effort to slowly edge them forward. One involves an antique Trailways bus sign that my father gave me almost 15 years ago. It is enamel and likely dates to the late 1930s or early 40s. It seems to be pretty rare. I know that I could send a photo to Trailways and they might (might) be able to tell me more about it, but I sort of doubt it. I’ve browsed their on-line museum for a couple years and also visited another cyber-site run by bus transportation aficionados/collecting buffs. (Who would have thought there was such a group?!; it seems most of them are retired motor-coach drivers.) Especially in its early years, Trailways signage was regionally influenced and produced. Both the chevrons and black and red graphics of this sign place would seem to place it in the West/Southwest. What I want is to find a bus station/motel advertisement, postcard or photograph that shows my sign in situ.

One of the Museum’s oldest accessions—a late 19th and early 20th century traveler’s collection—is comprised principally of Asian and Oceanic material. Old tags and most accession records identify the collector simply as “G.F. Beardsley.” For the past umpteen years I have assumed this was a male. But recently, I found a letter to the donor/descendant (no longer at the given address or seemingly alive and/or with easily identifiable issue), thanking them for Mrs. G. F. Beardsley’s collection. Thanks to the digitization of old issues of Ecology and some engineering/mining journals from the 1930s, I have finally tracked down a reference to G.F. Beardsley (not Jr.) , an American who worked for a time in Australia and seems also to have been affiliated with Stanford. Still, the mystery persists as to how this old and diverse collection came together and landed in our hands. Fortunately, one of my graduate students is going to take on this collector/collection for her thesis project. Given its diversity of form and integrity as a collection, I suspect it is going to provide a fascinating portrait of late 19th century travel and souvenir collecting.


Finally, I’m still searching for the artist “Ave” or “Avenida Moya" who produced this piece (above), one of about six paintings (same artist) that were donated to us by a family whose grandparents were missionaries in the Southwest during the first half of the 20th century. I suspect this is boarding school artwork—from Zuni, or perhaps the Albuquerque Indian School. That means RG 75 research at the Denver branch of the National Archives.

2 comments:

AKANEDA said...

No, I just say "where?"

Camiseta Personalizada said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso.(If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada.If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).