WPA poster, 1938, available from the U.S. Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division with digital ID cph 3b49049.
URLs for Web sites mentioned in column.
Computer Column #289
by John P. Reid, email@example.com
It has been a while since we took a break from software and hardware to talk about interesting antiques Web sites. Web site URLs referenced by the numbers in parentheses are listed in the sidebar.
The collections of the U.S. Library of Congress are a great resource that we have mentioned before. Its collection of WPA posters (1) gives a picture of life during the Great Depression. In 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Works Projects Administration, to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work, including artists, musicians, actors, and writers. Among many other items, the Library of Congress has over 900 posters by WPA artists published between 1936 and 1943. They may be viewed on line. A student of poster design will find many ideas in them.
The American Folk Art Museum in New York City was founded in 1961. Financial problems forced a move to smaller quarters in 2011, but the quality of the collection remains high. On the museum's home page (2), click "Collection" then "Image Gallery." A list of categories will be displayed, including portraits, land- and seascapes, trade figures, furniture, pottery, needlework, and self-taught artists. Dozens of thumbnail images are shown when a category is selected. A click on a thumbnail expands it to a large picture accompanied by a detailed description.
Most works are from the 18th and 19th centuries. As a bonus, the museum has a collection of the works of the celebrated mid-20th-century self-taught artist Henry Darger (1892-1973), including the manuscripts for the stories that his art illustrated, two dozen large paintings, and thousands of pieces of ephemera that he used as models. A scholarly article on the transgender aspect of some of his art can be downloaded. The rest of Darger's art is spread among a dozen museums.
It is an accepted truism that an antique is hard to sell if it will not fit in a modern living room with an 8' ceiling, but steam tractors are actively collected in our hemisphere, Great Britain, and Australia. These iron-wheeled monsters of up to ten tons were used from the 1850's to the 1920's for plowing and harvesting and as portable power for threshers and sawmills.
The Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers, Pennsylvania, is one of many steam tractor clubs. Attending one of its outdoor meets is a thrill, but it has a vast Web site (3). It is a little difficult to navigate but worth the effort, that is, if you like big, old, smoky machines. There are pictures of field days and traditional "steam schools" that teach tractor operation. The organization has added events for garden tractors and children's pedal tractors for broader appeal.
We have all seen an old window with the panes replaced by mirrors hung as a decoration. The base of a treadle sewing machine turned into an end table is a cliché. These so-called repurposed antiques are common in antiques malls and roadside shops. They are even more ubiquitous on the Internet. A varied display is found on Pinterest (4), a bulletin board for posting pictures found on other sites. Several videos can be found by searching YouTube (5), including one on repurposing spring scales, shipping containers, and sleds (6).
Perhaps the ultimate is a manual typewriter converted to a computer keyboard by hidden switches and circuitry (7).
Searching for "cute antiques" turns up lots of Web pages. One page on Pinterest (8) is typical. What makes an antique cute is not explained, but one common item is furniture with battered paint that is not original. Nostalgia may play a part. White-on-white helps, and anything related to babies is a sure thing. Replacing "cute" with "glamorous" and "sexy" turns up little.
The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia (9) showcases 200 years of traditional alkaline-glazed stoneware manufacture. A dozen or so videos can be found on line. The video URLs are too cumbersome to type, so go to YouTube (5) and enter "folk pottery Georgia" in the search box. One video gives a concise history of the museum and the industry. It tells how the thriving industry was nearly destroyed by prohibition (no need for whiskey jugs), cheap glass jars, and refrigeration. It survived because workers switched to products such as garden pottery and decorative face jugs. Family names such as Meaders will be familiar to Maine Antique Digest readers.
The Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, specializes in American business and industrial history. An ambitious project for making the library collections available on line is underway but not completed. At the home page (10), click "Digitized Collections." There is a search box, or the many categories can be browsed. Some of the items are photographs, and others are business documents. Pictorial items depicting the Civil War and several categories for the DuPont company are of special interest.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has one of the largest on-line collections anywhere of high-quality art (11). The collection is so vast, about a quarter of a million images, that it is hard to classify. But search provisions are good. If you enter "Pablo Picasso," hundreds of works will be found. When "chavin" is entered, 13 objects from the first millennium B.C. in Peru are shown.
If there is a problem with the search provision, it is that it is too broad. Searching for "Georgia O'Keeffe" produces over 100 results-some show her paintings, some show her as the subject of an Alfred Stieglitz photograph, and some are where she is merely mentioned in the description. The advanced search feature can reduce the ambiguity, but it is not easy to use. Most illustrations can be zoomed to full screen. There are detailed descriptions and notes to indicate whether the object is actually on display. If so, the museum gallery number is shown.
The Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute site (12) has more than 75 articles on conservation and preservation of a wide variety of objects. Most articles have a bibliography. This site would be a good first stop for anyone facing a conservation challenge. The site also offers scholarships, internships, and volunteer opportunities.
Colonial Williamsburg has a great on-line pictorial exhibit (13). There is an effective search facility, but the collection is organized into categories representing past exhibitions. (Go to "Museums," scroll to "Collections," and select "Highlights from Selected Exhibitions.") For example, the category "Furniture of the American South" includes 50 items, each with a picture expandable to high definition and an often lengthy description. Both formal objects and folk art are included in the categories.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2012 Maine Antique Digest