Honolulu Calling: A Tapa Barkcloth Binding for a 1930 Phone Book from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries recently acquired a telephone book. Big deal, you say? Ah, but this is a telephone directory for the territory of Hawaii, issued for the winter of 1930. For that reason alone, it’s fun to browse through, to see the old advertisements and daydream about living in the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands, back in the days when the entire list of businesses and households in the territory which owned telephones could be recorded in one slim volume. But this isn’t just any old phone book. This particular copy belonged to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, which opened in February 1927 on the spectacular Waikiki beachfront. Known as “the Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was one of the earliest luxury resorts established in this tropical paradise. The stylish décor featured at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, inspired partly by the native crafts of the South Sea Islanders, exerted a lasting influence upon tourists from the mainland, who came to associate the good life in Hawaii more »

Cozy Tile Oven Designs from the Gmundner Keramik Company

On a chilly January day with snow all around here in the Washington, D.C. area, it’s easy to dream of stretching out next to one of these lovely ceramic tile ovens (also known as Kachelöfen or masonry heaters).

Poor Kitty Popcorn, or The Soldier’s Pet

The life of a soldier can be lonely, alternating tedium with terror, and the affection of a pet can offer much solace and amusement, creating a bond that can continue long after deployment is over (for instance, there have been recent stories in the news about some U.S. Marines who have adopted pet cats in Afghanistan, detailing their efforts to bring these beloved animals back home with them). The notion of a pet cat accustomed to riding along perched on a soldier’s knapsack hardly seems so fanciful.

American Indian Language Bibles in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has been collecting texts written in the languages of various Native American peoples since the late 19th century, when the United States Congress established the Bureau of Ethnology (later known as BAE, or the Bureau of American Ethnology) at the Smithsonian.

The Russell E. Train Africana Collection: An Archival Safari

On October 22, 2010, the Libraries participated in the Smithsonian Archives Fair to celebrate American Archives Month. Special Collections Cataloger, Diane Shaw, delivered a presentation about the archival materials of The Russell E. Train Africana Collection.

Miniature Books in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Because of their size, miniature books present special challenges for shelving, preservation, and exhibition, but this fact only adds to their appeal as curiosities and collectibles.

What It’s Like to Be a Cataloger

A good way to make someone’s eyes glaze over at a party is to tell them that you write and edit the information that appears in online catalog records—but you should tell people this with a twinkle in your eye, because you know that as an archival or special collections cataloger, you get to work directly with the coolest of the cool materials. You’re often among the first at your archives or library to have the privilege of looking through the new acquisitions, and you’re also the one who examines the old treasures when it comes time to upgrade their catalog records.

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