I arrived in DC on Monday after a long drive from Boston and am working on getting my bearings straight. It is amazing to be here, but there is no doubt it is a significant change for me. No more rolling out of bed and into the studio for the day. I now actually have an office – a corner office, no less! – and I have been joking about my new “job”.
That’s not entirely a joke, of course, since I am down here for a specific purpose (link to pdf of my proposal?), but I doubt that it will really feel like a job, or at least not like any of the jobs I have had in the past. The similarities will likely stop at the fancy office building, the supply room and the long easily-confused hallways.
I am being housed in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian as one of my fellowship advisors is located here and a significant chunk of the oral history archives at SI are housed here. And those, not surprisingly, are what I am interested in.
My first task is going to be to try to figure out what oral history archives exist in the entire Smithsonian and then figure out how to access them. I started this task today with a visit to Mark Taylor, the moving picture archivist at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). I got a tour of that building, which was pretty amazing, and then Mark told me about the archives that they have.
Sadly, it seems that the majority of their audio archives are on open reel 7″ format and they do not have the ability to play such media at this point. So either I need to find a player or those are off limits. But they do have a bunch of historical interviews, conference recordings and documentary soundtracks all of which are somehow related to “things that blast off or have propellers”, both of which are pretty cool in my book.
I am very excited about some of the film/video material they have as well. Much of it does not include audio, unfortunately, but some does, including some really interesting sounding documentaries/infomercials on things like how your missionary activities could be enhanced by owning a new Cessna and what to do if your single jet engine exhaust system overheats (usually, it’s best to “nose up and eject”).
I learned that the big caveat with all this material is that it is currently not available as the NASM archives are in the middle of a big move. But when I come back in January, they should be all set to go and probably more easily accessed in the new digs.