Thursday, May 20, 2010

Antiques Roadshow at the Hoover Archives

What's it like hosting a camera crew from a major television show? At Hoover we've dealt with them before, including a team from Phoenix TV in China who taped the Stilwell diaries at Hoover for a documentary about Joseph Stilwell. Even so, we were excited when a crew from PBS's Antiques Roadshow was scheduled to tape a segment at Hoover. The show highlighted a few political posters chosen from the more than one hundred thousand in Hoover's poster collection. The segment is scheduled to air on Monday, May 24th 2010 as part of three hours of programming from San Jose; nearly ten million people watch each episode.

As you might expect, many hours of staff time were invested in what will be a clip lasting just a few minutes. That process began months in advance, when we were initially contacted by Roadshow staff, who already knew they wanted to focus on our posters. After the go-ahead was given, our reference staff assisted the Roadshow people. A production scout team visited during the week of the shoot. They looked at possible taping locations in the archives and provided the final list of three posters for the shoot. Their focus was the "pointing finger" motif in World War I recruitment posters.

The day of the shoot was a long one, with the production team at Hoover from 8:30 to 4:30. Much of the morning was spent setting up; the final footage was taped just before lunch. After lunch a smaller Roadshow crew remained to shoot B-roll footage in the stacks and other locations. Two of our staff members signed waivers before being taped in action shots such as typing at a keyboard and opening a poster drawer. We had to deal with some last-minute changes, such as moving the shoot location to a different room. (If Roadshow ever visits your facility, you'll need a room where the air conditioning can be turned off so that its noise does not affect the sound quality.)

Of course, what you're really interested in is the appraisal. The appraiser, Nicholas Lowry, specializes in posters. He said that our poster of Lord Kitchener pointing his finger is the earliest instance of this motif in a recruiting poster. In all Lowry's years of work, he had only seen reproductions of this poster; ours was his first original. Its appraised value? Watch on May 24th.

Political Poster Collection, Italy 17,
Hoover Institution Archives

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to Turn Eight Hours into Three Minutes over Nine Months

Last August, as part of their field trip segment, the crew from PBS’s Antiques Roadshow descended on the Hoover Archives to look at a few of the 120,000 posters we have in our Political Poster Collection. We’d spent time prepping the Roadshow’s advance team with descriptions of some of the most vivid and famous posters, their dimensions, and their histories. They narrowed their search to three.

A film crew of a dozen or so, including series host Mark L. Walberg and appraiser Nicholas Lowry, showed up at 8:30 on a Friday morning. The sound techs and camera operators checked out locations throughout the archives, looking for the right combination of lighting, acoustics, and authentic archival aura.

Then the fun began: as Mark and Nico discussed and appraised the three posters, the director repositioned the stars, the posters, and the cameras to achieve just the right camera angle. Simple, right? They shot film until 4:00 in the afternoon! Then we were cautioned not to get our hopes up—that the Hoover portion of the program would be edited down to about three minutes.

Nine months later, on Monday, May 24, 2010, the Antiques Roadshow episode containing the Hoover segment will air on most PBS stations at 8:00 P.M.

Be sure to watch and see this World War I poster (featuring British Lord Kitchener) and more next week on your local PBS station.

Political Poster Collection, UK 473,
Hoover Institution Archives

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Working at Hoover: An Intern's View

Our student interns, often from San Jose State's library program, bring fresh perspectives and energy to the Hoover Archives. Some interns process archival collections, and others catalog audio recordings. This year Oanh Tran, a capable
and enthusiastic cataloger, has been working with us. She wrote this guest entry:

"If I ever conduct a survey asking my friends and relatives what they know about archival institutions, I am sure their answers would be very simple and short. How do I know that? I know that because I was one of them. I also had an extremely limited knowledge of what an archive really was. I knew the definition of the term ‘archive’ and that archives were where historical materials were stored. I did not know how the work was done on those materials in order for them to be usable. I did not know how archival materials were stored, and neither did I know there were archival collections in different languages. There were so many things I did not know about archives.

"Luckily for me, I was accepted to do my internship at the Hoover Institution Archives. It has been an eye-opening experience for me to be able to learn so many things I did not know about. On the first day of my internship, I was taken on a tour to be introduced to the staff. As I listened to the title of each person, I realized the survival of this archive not only depended on the administration but also on many people with different skill sets and specialties. I realized that everyone at the archives worked well together to create its current success. Then I was even more amazed to have a tour in the basement, where I could see how the archival collections were stored. It was a pleasure for me to look at the types of collections available, the types of materials and how they were carefully taken care of by the staff at the archives. I felt very happy after that tour because it helped broaden my knowledge.

"My main task as an intern at the archives is to catalog the audio recordings in the Commonwealth Club of California records, something I have enjoyed doing very much. By reading the summaries of the recordings, I am actually learning about the issues that were important to our country back in the 1980s. In addition, I have become more experienced with cataloging. Sometimes I would encounter certain small problems such as choosing the appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. That is when I turn to my supervisor and the archives’ cataloger for guidance. They have been a great resource in helping me do my job more successfully.

"I am still doing my internship at the Hoover Institution Archives. Each day of my internship is still as exciting and another great learning experience for me. I am proud of having finished cataloging the last half of the Commonwealth Club's audio recordings for 1980. I am currently working on the recordings for 1981, and I have set as my goal cataloging all of them before my internship ends. I am looking forward to achieving that goal and making my experience at the archives a great asset for my future career.”

Accessing the Catalog of the Commonwealth Club of California Records, Hoover Institution Archives