Friday, March 13, 2009

-- the National Archives "BIG" exhibit, opening today

A lot of people know the National Archives houses the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. But Shaquille O'Neal's sneakers? Yes, the old sneaks were given to pres Bush in 2001 as a gift by the mayor of L.A.

These and other unusual items are now on display in their new exhibit "BIG," opening today in celebration of their 75th anniversary.

So I went downtown with a girlfriend to see it. Appropriately enough, the first thing we saw was a very BIG door.

The Archives is the nation's record-keeper. That means it's like a giant filing cabinet housing stuff from our various government agencies (like NASA, FDA, CIA, etc.).

Not all the gov's papers are saved -- they have to go through a process (maybe not unlike your own) to figure out what to keep. It's pretty extensive and they talk about it on their website so I won't go into it here. Still, they've got enough stuff to circle the earth 57 times.

I don't think I even know how to even picture that much paper. But thinking it's all paper would be a misleading as they've got much more: videos, photos, maps and lots of other stuff (like Shaq's shoes, as you'll see below).

Anyway so we went to downtown DC. For this new exhibit, they've pulled out BIG stuff. The theme is "Big Records, Big Events, Big Ideas."

So here are a few pics from the exhibit.

Map of the Battle Field of Gettysburg,
surveyed and drawn 1868-1869, revised 1873.

American Prisoners of War, Southeast Asia.

Caption: Flags represent live-sighting reports of missing American servicemen. This map was prepared for the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1992. Each of the 928 flag pins on this map represents a live-sighting report. This is considered a "cluster analysis map," a tool devised by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to determine if live sightings would cluster at certain locations.

(A "live sighting" included firsthand or heasay reports that Americans had been seen alive after 1973 "in circumstances not readily explained.")

After more than a year of investigations, the committee found no compelling evidence that American POWs remain alive in Southeast Asia. Today, nearly 1,800 Americans remain unaccounted for.

Blue flags: sightings in the 1970s

Red flags: sightings in the 1980s & 1990s

Yellow flags: date unknown but after Operation Homecoming.

Square flags: firsthand sightings

Triangle flags: hearsay reports.

General Douglas MacArthur, 1932. He served as the chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1930-1935.

Somehow I doubt he'd be asking my favorite question: "Do I look fat in these pants?"

Relief globe of the ocean floor

Replica of planet Earth, made in 1969, showing the contours of the ocean floor including undersea mountain ranges, continental shelves, and oceanic ridges.

This must take up a lot of space in storage! How cool is it that this place is not just full of old papers but artifacts that seem to be practically living and breathing on their own. This alone was worth the trip. When I used to work at a scuba store way back when, good contour maps of the ocean floor were highly coveted but not easy to find.

From the caption: The globe is now part of the National Archives' cartographic (or map-related) holdings along with 15 million maps, charts, aerial photographs, architectural drawings, patents, and ships' drawings.

It was gifted from the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation to honor Antarctic explorers Finn & Edith Ronne. Awesome gift. Thx, Foundation.

Behind the globe: yes, the National Archives has lots of pictures, this one is from the Hubble.

Caption: "Star-Forming Region LH95 in the Large Magellanic Cloud," image taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, created for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), March 2006.

Taft's tub

The largest tub ever manufactured before 1909. Made for President Taft's journey on a naval vessel, it was 7 feet one inch long, 41 inches wide and weighed one ton. (This is a replica of the bathtub, not the original tub itself.)

His journey to inspect the Panama Canal construction required other accommodations to the ship as well, including an extra-long and extra strong bed. Honestly, he's not THAT big compared to today's record-holders so it's hard to be impressed by "only" 340 lbs but it was still interesting that this much planning and care had to go into his journey.

Caption: Even in an era before obesity became a national health concern, President William Howard Taft seemed larger than life. During his Presidency, 1909-13, the 340 pounds on his 5-foot-11 1/2-inch frame made him an imposing figure and, at times, the subject of ridicule. Once, while serving as the first civil governor in the Philippine Islands, he cabled the secretary of state, reporting on a 25-mile horseback ride in the mountains, only to receive in response a cable inquiring, "Referring to your telegram . . . how is horse?"

Continuing snippets from caption: Biographers speculate that his obesity, which peaked during the Presidency (340 pounds), was linked to his emotional discontent with occupying the office. Kind, good-natured, and eager to please, he detested the rough-and-tumble of Presidential politics and was not a good politician. In spite of the personal difficulties he faced during his years in the White House, his administration initiated 80 antitrust suits, strengthened te Interstate Commerce Commission, and improved the national postal system.

More snippets: Less than a year after leaving the Presidency, Taft achieved a weight loss of 70 pounds, which he maintained throughout the remainder of his life.

See, even the Prez is vulnerable to stress-eating.

Caption, continued (about how he lost weight): "I can truthfully say that I never felt any younger in all my life. Too much flesh is bad for any man. I have dropped potatoes entirely from my bill of fare, and also bread in all forms. Pork is also tabooed, as well as other meats in which there is a large percentage of fat. All vegetable except potatoes are permitted, and of meats, that of all fowls is permitted. In the fish line, I abstain from salmon and bluefish, which are the fat members of the fish family. I am also careful not to drink more than two glasses of water at each meal. I abstain from wines and liquors of all kinds, as well as tobacco in every form."

Way to go, Taft. Today's advice is not much different than 100 years ago. (Except you should eat salmon [wild], and not be so afraid of potatoes, so long as they're not fried or swimming in fattening spreads.)

Arsinoetherium drawing

Arsinoetherium, an enormous prehistoric animal drawn for the National Zoo's Elephant House in 1936. This rhino-like creature lived millions of years ago and weighed anywhere from 8,000 pounds to 36,000 pounds.

Huge painting of huge ship: the SS Leviathan

Painting (on one continuous sheet of paper) of the SS Leviathan, 1924.

From the caption: (This) ship was advertised as "the largest ship in the world." She was 950 feet long and 8 stories high. As a troop transport during World War I, she once carried 14,416 people, more human beings than had ever before sailed on a single vessel. After her 1922-23 reconditioning that included a shift from coal to oil fuel, the Leviathan burned 2,811,522 gallons of oil in a single transatlantic crossing.

Whoa! That's a lot of oil.

Shaq's shoes

Shaquille O'Neal's sneaks: size 22 (no, that is not a typo!), these giant shoes are 16 inches long. (But what do you expect from a 7 foot 1-inch man?)

In 2001, G.W. Bush made his first visit to California as president and was welcomed by LA mayor Richard Riordan with Shaqille's shoes, signed by the LA Laker star himself. The mayor handed them over to Bush, saying, "You can use them as skis or carry-on bags when you travel on Air Force One."

Although I loved the shoes for the shock factor -- I did not expect to find sneaks among the National Archives' holdings -- this next piece was my personal favorite because I'm from NJ and I also love science.

Fiberglass cast of a 200-million-year-old dinosaur track.

This was gifted to President Nixon in 1972 (the National Archives hangs onto gifts given to presidents -- they're kept with their appropriate Presidential Libraries) because Nixon personally recognized the NJ teenagers that found it.

Caption: This track, named Eubrontes Giganteus, was made by a theropod (beast-footed) dinosaur. The Eubrontes giganteus would have stood approximately 9 feet high. In 1968, when the discovery of dinosaur tracks in an abandoned quarry in Roseland, NJ, made the local news, two teenage boys in a nearby town jumped on their bicycles and went to investigate. Working on their own, they uncovered thouseands of fossilized dinosaur tracks, which experts later described as "something of a milestone in the history of these animals because of the large number of tracks." When the teenagers launched a successful campaign to preserve the site as an educational park, they earned an official commendation from President Richard Nixon. One of those boys, Paul Olsen, is today one of the nation's foremost paleontologists, recently elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He recalls that he "went ballistic" when he learned about the discovery of the tracks near his home, and that the experience opened up a world of scientists and scientific resources that determined the course of his career.

Continued from the caption: Since the footprint itself has been lost, this casts remains the only non-photographic record of this particular track. It was made by Paul Olsen in 1970.

It is now thought to be from the early Jurassic period, 206-144 million years ago.

One single law needs 4 boxes to hold all 1,056 pages

Behemoth 1,056 page law describing the Federal budget process of Fiscal Year 1988. Dag! If you wanted to pore through this, you will have to delve into all these boxes. The basis of the law was to help reduce the Federal deficit. This is something I don't want to think about right this moment....

Lengthy telegram

Long telegram from the U.S. to Moscow, February 22, 1946, asking why the Soviet Union was refusing to join the World Bank. That's a pretty long message, yo. I wonder if countries can now text eachother instead of telegramming it all the time. ;)

Anyway, so the BIG exhibit opens today. Go see it! (Or read all about it in Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives.)


talkingtostones said...

You are a hero! How did you get them up so fast?!?! I'd still be thinking about getting to downloading them off the camera. :>

I'm so glad we went, despite the bus issues both coming and going! :>

You caught the full scale of that door perfectly. Love that photo.

Actually, you caught all of it pretty well. Really good shot of the flag map, in particular. I definitely need to get copies. :>

Anonymous said...

Very informative review with good content a touch of humor; nice job. It makes me want to check out the exhibit. rjr

spleeness said...

Hey, anyone can grab copies of the images; just right-click on the photo and select "save as." Thanks for the positive feedback!

AndreaLeigh said...

the pictures are awesome! thanks for sharing!

geekhiker said...

I wanna go! I wanna go!

Dolores Haze said...

If I could, I'll absolutely would go...but Washington is a little too faraway :-(

but thanks for the photos, there's some awesome items there.

gosh, I really wanna go...

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