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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  November 25, 2016 10:07am-10:36am EST

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other types, basically taught all the military aviators, army, air corps and navy how to fly. the first airplane they saw was the boeing steerman. >> for our complete american history tv schedule, go to we have a special web page at to help you follow the supreme court. go to and select supreme court near the right-hand top of the page. you'll see four of the most recent oral arguments heard by the court this term and click on the view all link. in addition, you can find recent appearances by many of the supreme court justices or watch justices in their own words, including one-on-one interviews in the past few months with justices thomas and ginsberg.
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there's also a calendar for this term. a list of all current justices with links to quickly see all their appearances on cspan as well as many other supreme court videos available on demand. volume the supreme court at housing roughly 2.5 million archaeological objects, the national parks services museum resource center catalogs and maintains items from sites in the national capital region. seminar director bob sonderman showed american history tv objects from civil war battlefields, historic homes, ford's theater and the massive collection of items gathered daily from the vietnam veterans memorial. >> good morning. my name is bob sonderman. i'm the director of the national parks service museum resource center here in landover, maryland. at this facility we house museum collections that are not
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currently on exhibit at various historic homes that we administer throughout the region. that also includes average -- archaeological collections, collections from the interior museums and the collections on display at the parks, from maryland, virginia, west virginia, and the district of columbia. so that would you artifacts that are associated with the statuary on the mall, lincoln memorial. that includes in the district of columbia ford's theater, the house where lincoln died, the frederick douglas home, and on the other side of the river you take a look at robert e. lee home overlooking the city of washington. that comes in our juries dix, the claire barton home, a number of historic homes and okay large call sites and storm, associated with the events and times, associated with the settlement of this part of the country. this is a map of the national capital region and the parks that we administer in the national capital region in the greens space are national parks service units. here's the canal, the park and where camp david is.
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monoxy national battlefield, monassas battlefield, another civil war engagement, harper's ferry. famous locations around the region. piscataway park down here in ft. washington. piscataway park is a beautiful park right on the potomac river. early historic settlements as early as 1630, we have pre-historic indian sites all along this location. if you look at washington itself, you'll see an incredible amount of d.c. is green, that means it's administered by your national parks service. rock creek park is one of the largest urban parks in the united states. it's the third oldest national park service unit, i believe, so you have lots of wonderful little green spaces that are parks here in washington and the washington metropolitan area. what i think is most amusing is within our region you could put our region inside yellowstone
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national park about 500 times, but at the same time one of the things that makes it significant and important region is right there. we are in the nation's capital. this is a basic floor plan of our building. one of the things that you can see is you have office spaces around the exterior wall. this is the main storage space, and what these offices around this wall basically provide a buffer, an environmental buffer, to help stabilize the environment inside the main storage area. when the building was built out, there is a gsa-leased building. this exterior wall and this exterior wall were built in, and there's a vapor barrier inside that wall to protect the collections inside. one of the most important parts about this facility is its security. the location is not necessarily well known because we're not open to the public. we've entered now into the main storage -- storage area for the facility. you'll see that we have a number of different storage techniques
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as we walk through the facility. you'll see this beautiful robin egg's blue floor. this is an epoxy resin floor that seals the floor, prevents dust or reduces the amount of dust from what would be an open concrete slab and helps to control the environment in here because you have a vapor barrier on the floor, you have vapor barriers along the wall. it helps you control the main environment within this main storage area. this is roughly a football field enclosed. all of this material here is archaeological material, give or take 2.5 million objects. we have a tremendous collection of furnishings from the various historic homes. this cute little crib right here is from arlington house. that is the home robert e. lee and his wife mary custus. you can see from the acronym, arho is the acronym for the arlington house and this is the catalog number. so if any of us wanted to get specific information about this little baby crib, we could get that information from right
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here, but can you tell it's a nice -- it's a nice 19th century baby crib. the arlington house is currently undergoing a major renovation, so many of the collections from the arlington house were moved from the house to be stored temporarily here until the renovations can be completed at the house, and then they would go back on display and exhibit at the house. the same thing happens to many of our house site. they periodically go through renovations and improvements. douglass home has undergone a tremendous renovations a couple of years ago. those collections came out here, and then they moved right back into the home once they finished the renovation. one thing that's difficult to see though is if you look at this large, avoid the tub-looking thing. that is indeed a tub, a bathtub from the arlington house, that you would like to envision that perhaps robert e. lee took a bath in that bathtub. perhaps conjecture, but still keeps us interested. in addition to the historic
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furnishings that we have we also have things associated with the monumental architecture on the mall. we have -- right here are the fiberglass mockups of the korean war memorial soldiers, and if you visited the korean war memorials you'll see this same group of soldiers marching through what is, you know, in the memorial a field of battle, and these guys are on a patrol and these are the original mockups. and if you're in here at night they can be kind of creepy. their features are melancholy, so it's kind of a sad thing if you're in here and it's dark and you come out here on the main floor and you see these guys. some of us actually think they move periodically, but they -- they evoke a period and america's efforts during the korean war. in addition to the korean war
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memorial material, we also have the original plaster casts for the three soldiers at the vietnam veteran's memorial. you may recognize there's three soldiers in relation to the american flag. those three soldiers, we have the original plaster casts here and in the case -- an unfortunate event that someone vandalized or damage one of the soldiers, that section could be recast from the original mold we hold here at the facility. there's a drum. september 1862. this particular object is a drum carried by a young drummer boy. drummer boys during the civil war were young. they were 12 to 14, barely teenagers, and these young men were marching into battle with the seasoned troops with drums to beat cadence for soldiers moving into battle formation. this particular drum i believe is from antietam.
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many of these things were donated to the park service, and in some cases they were in really beautiful condition, and some cases they were donated in rather rough condition, but in the past many of our parks would accept donations. they were donated and they wanted to be gracious and accept these objects on behalf of the american people. as can you see, some are in really beautiful condition and some are in not such great condition. this is a nice statue of stephen douglass, from the famous lincoln/douglass debates. one of the difficulties we have with storage is objects are in varying sizes and shapes, and at one point we hoped to put all the things from arlington house in one location, but as it turned out from an organizational standpoint it became a little easier for us to just do things by basic form and
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shape so we have -- obviously we have a large collection of chairs, and the chairs are all in one location. and although maybe some of these objects don't look like they are "antiques road show" material. these objects are associated with prominent figures in american history. this particular piece of furniture is a chest of drawers, clba, clara barton, national historic site and it's just a simple chest of drawers. she probably had multiple sets of chest of drawers, so in some cases this particular object might have been on exhibit at an earlier time and they changed the furnishing plan and now it's out here. this is mary mcleod bethune, a friend of eleanor roosevelt, and she was a great educator. for young african-american people in washington, but she was also the founder of the
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national association for negro women. an amazing character. a beautiful statute here at lincoln park, that everybody in washington, it's an iconic piece of culture in lincoln park in the center of washington. where we are right now is this is a painting rack in which we can use to store paintings and framed objects, so this is a beautiful framed object of abraham lincoln reading. these are associated with ford's theater. again, things that are gifted to the national parks service that might necessarily go on exhibit all the time. here's a picture of sherman. sometimes you wonder why we have these things. this cabinet has material from antietam national battlefield.
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this is obviously a bayonet used in the battle. artifacts of this type were picked up in the field either as souvenirs or relics after the battles. ooh, fun stuff. this was a cartridge case. i'm not going to touch it, but you can see, this is gorgeous. it's a leather cartridge case. as you open it, civil war period cartridges would have been -- this would have been worn around the shoulders and on the hip, and the soldier would have reached into the cartridge case to pull out a mini ball wrap. these things were in paper. they don't have cartridge cases like they have today, and they would be stored in here, and if you look over here this is a breast plate. it's a beautiful eagle breast plate. locally. wow.
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this is a piece of what is called canister from antietam, probably found in the archeological context. this is a solid round iron ball and canister is -- is the artillery shell is essentially a can full of things like this, and they would explode above or at troops. they would be on a time fuse, and can you imagine something this size flying through the air and striking you? damage was horrific. obviously many of the battlefield deaths were associated with things like this. if you got hit with this, if it was a limb, you would lose your limb, and then chances are you would die of infection at a later day if you didn't die on the field. this is a portrait of an unknown soldier from antietam national battlefield. if you can orient yourself. this is the dunker church right
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here, one of the center points of the battle. one of our most active collections is the material left at the vietnam veterans memorial. it's an astounding collection. it's a living collection of museum objects that are left at the wall by visitors, and -- and it's the only place on the mall where we actually collect objects associated with a memorial. we don't collect at the world war ii memorial. we don't collect at the korean war memorial, but a decision was made about 15 years ago to collect the objects that are left at the vietnam veterans memorial, and behind me you see hundreds and hundreds of boxes of material -- of objects that were left at the wall. we process and catalog those objects. we do not curate objects that are perishable like flowers, but we have a very clear collection statement on the types of objects that we would -- that we recover from the wall.
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this is the processing room for the objects that are left at the vietnam veterans memorial. what these folks are doing. they are all employees. they are processing, cataloguing identifying, sorting all the things required of a collection with the national parks service. this material is the material that's left at the vietnam veterans memorial. laura here is cataloguing. we use -- we use a standard paper form, and then it gets data entered into the database, so what she's doing is she's describing a particular object that was left at the wall. this particular object is a motorcycle that was left at the vietnam veterans memorial. it was left by a group of vietnam veterans from wisconsin to honor fallen colleagues from the vietnam conflict. it's a beautiful thing. and as -- as you take a look at it, it has been decorated with artistic motifs and that evoke a feeling of the vietnam war.
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these veterans left this bike about 15 years ago, and -- and here is -- on the collar of the bike is a set of reproduction dog tags of the soldiers that are missing in action from the state of wisconsin. this motorcycle has been on exhibit at a number of locations. it was just most recently in lambeau field in wisconsin as part of a veterans ceremony honoring veterans of america's wars at lambeau field. these guys handmade this motorcycle. they created -- i mean, it's basically a harley-davidson motorcycle, but they have done all this beautiful artwork, beautiful leather work on the seat, and it's not to be ridden until all the pows have returned, and all of the missing in action have been returned. now for the most part people that leave things at the wall, they're more like school groups or individuals who will leave spontaneous things, or in some cases they make pre-conceived
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things like the motorcycle. in the past when the memorial was first opened, many of the objects that were first left there were very cathartic. simple things that a soldier or a veteran or a mother or a son would just reach in their pocket and find something personal, and they would leave that at wall. one of the first things that we started to find were what is called a p-38. it's a can opener. would see spontaneous kinds of things left at the wall but over the years as it became clear that the national park service would recover things left at the wall. people started creating things to be left at the wall and this motorcycle is one of those -- those items, and this is one of the iconic pieces that we have in the collection. it's a beautiful evocative piece that speaks to everyone about the vietnam war. we have approximately ten staff. it's a very small -- we actually like many federal agencies, we
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have not as many staff as we would like to have, and a lot of work that we must do, so we work very diligently. a lot of the staff works many long hours. we have a pride in our obligation here. these collections come from our parks. we are the stewards for our parks, for their collections, so our job is to maintain and preserve their collections for the benefit of all the public, and that's one of the things we'd like to remind everyone. these are the people's collections. these are not ours, the national park service. they belong to the people. hi. i'd like to introduce you to marian creveling. she is the archaeological collections manager for this facility, and what marian is going to show us real quick is the database that we use to manage our collections. it's called the icms. it's called the interior collections management system, and it's a huge database that allows us to catalog and put into a database the things we have here.
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>> the way it works is the objects are sorted by animal, vegetable, mineral type of thing and within that metal, ceramics, glass. we have a standardized object name so that everything within the national capital region that's collected archeologically is named the same way. so that a mini ball is a mini ball whether it comes from monassas or from another database that i have up here. it goes through, and it talks about the different attributes, a manufacturing date, the material, the condition the object is in. >> so it's a real handy research base tool but also a management tool so that we can manage our collections because these things are property of the american people, so we -- we are responsible for the long-term care and understanding where they are in the facility so we can manage them better.
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>> if a researcher came in and wanted to look at all of the dropped mini balls, i could go in and pull up only the dropped mini balls and then print out a list. from there i can go out to the floor, into the storage area and go to the box where this artifact is, retrieve it, put in a pull slip, and bring it out for the researcher to look at. >> all the boxes are labeled with catalog numbers, and marian can go to the database, pull a catalog number, come right on to the floor and take an object directly out of box because the locational information is all in the database, so she can come directly to a spot, identify an object and pull it for a researcher. or even in-house research.
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and we take off the box lid, and inside the box you'll see an inventory of the objects that are in this box, and you'll see that the artifacts have been individually wrapped and in a very stable material. this is the -- the white is a tissue paper, an inert paper, and we have a plastic bubble-type wrap to protect the object. this is the acronym for ford's theater, f-o-t-h, and the catalog number. if a researcher were looking for a particular object we can search through the catalog or search through the database. this is the processing lab for the archaeological collections here. they are working on artifacts recovered in the national capital region. this is wa -- a working lab, as you can tell. things are laid out. they are cataloguing, washing and labeling takes place here. it's a very active location. they are both interns through
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cooperative agreement we have with the university of maryland. gena and lisa are both employees of the national parks service here at the facility, and they are in the process of processing these diacetate negatives. if you were in here you might smell a slight acidic smell in the room. we have an air handling unit, we call it an elephant nose. it removes the smell and they wear masks to protect them. because long-term exposure is probably not so good. these are very fragile negatives, and they are going into acid-free envelopes. each one of these negatives has already been digitized so this is the original. we have a digitized -- we have a disc version of all of these images. these are images of our parks. as early as the late 19th century. these will ultimately, once they
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are finished processing these objects, these will go to a cold storage unit, basically it's a gigantic refrigerator. a temperature of about 36, 37 degrees, and that will preserve these objects for -- in perpetuity. one of the concerns that national parks service archaeologists have across the country and in particular in our country is we have occasionally we -- our parks get looted by illegal relic hunters, and these people essentially steal from the american public. they come under the national park service land. they might use a metal detector or whatever type of tool, and they take artifacts from the field. and in the case of the civil war battlefield site a person would use a metal detector using a belt buckles or mini balls or other military accoutrement and they would dig it up illegally and remove it from the park with their own personal use or for their own private collection. this is against the law. it can be a felony, and in some
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cases we can -- they get caught, and they can be convicted, and in some cases they -- there have been prison sentences in certain parts of the country. in this part of the country we haven't had anybody go to prison, but we've had people make restitution to the park. in this particular case, the perpetrators were compelled to put advertisements in the local newspapers talking about what they had done and how what they had done was bad. and this was a way to get the word out to the public that what they had done was inappropriate and illegal on national park service property. the way the archaeologists in the national capital region operate is we try not to do any more excavation than we absolutely have to. archaeology is a destructive science. once you dig it up, you can't put it back, and so we do archaeology projects in a very systematic manner geared towards research or compliance which is -- and compliance refers to
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when an archaeological site might be threatened by the construction of a visitors' center or a new trail system, but in those cases we can oftentimes are in a position to say no. this is a very sensitive resource right here and you'll have to move the location. one of the beauties of working at the national park service, we can make those decisions. we've seen a large 2.5 million archaeological specimens. we have an ever growing collection of national history material which could include paleontological specimens from the region, dinosaur bones. we also have other natural history collections such as butterflies or small insects. we also have floral collections, and they are all stored in these specially designed cabinets to preserve and protect the objects. to keep out pests and control the environment, basically creating an environment within this greater environment. mike antonioni is a curator for national parks east. they cover a series of parks,
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sort of the southeast section of the city down to as far south as piscataway park in southern maryland, to parks in the northeast section of the city like the frederick douglas home. but mike has sort of developed into the guru of national history collections for the region. one of the things about the national capital region is we're not considered the hotbed for paleontological collections but we do have a small collection of paleontological material here at the national resources. and mike can tell us more about those. >> most parks in the national capital region, piscataway park, green belt and ft. washington and some of the civil war defenses, we have found fossils. most of these fossils date to the same period of 55 million years old after the dinosaurs went extinct to the date of the
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micenine. what you see here is from the parkway, our fossil balloon whale. this portion here would be his bottom portion of the jaw, and this part and, excuse me, this part would be part of the back portions of his skull, and he was found in 1997 during construction of the metro on the parkway. >> in addition to the three-dimensional objects you've seen throughout the facility we have the repository for the archival objects within our parks and regions. these archives are the primary documentation associated with our parks, natural resource, cultural resource records. basically records about the history of our parks, and in this particular -- here's a box from rock creek park, and you see that these are in archivally stable storage boxes, and within here are a series of folders.
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all, are you know, archivally stable folders with various records associated with the creation and development and activities of our parks. one of the philosophies that we have is the collections are important to all of us, but what good are collections if they are not being used, if they are just in a blank warehouse and no one has the benefit of understanding what they are there for or what they have been used for -- who they were used by, the information is meaningless, so we like the artifacts to talk to everyone. so to me the artifacts speak, and when they speak they can tell us stories about what took place in america in the past. >> you know, we see all of these blue boxes here. is there a limit to what the national park service can collect? what's the future? >> one of thea


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