Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Sound of Eisenhower in the Digital Collections

Up to this point, we have highlighted various texts and images in the Digital Collections. This week we are going to look at some of the sound recordings we have in the Digital Collections.

In particular, this post showcases the Eisenhower Receives Life Fellowship Award collection, which contains sound recordings captured on April 2nd, 1946. They were then digitized in 2010 through a grant from the Monuments Men Foundation.  As the museum celebrated its 75th anniversary, an honorary life fellowship was awarded to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. This award was bestowed on him for his role in helping the work of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, better known as the “Monuments Men”, during their efforts to safeguard and repatriate works of art threatened during World War II.

Great Hall and balconies filled with spectators

Great Hall and balconies filled with spectators

Over 10,000 people crowded in to watch the ceremony.  Although not all could fit in the Great Hall, loudspeakers were installed throughout the museum so that everyone could hear. 

There were several different speakers. Here is a recording of Cardinal Spellman, then the archbishop of New York:


We also have four recordings of Thomas J. Watson, who our library is named after, speaking at the event, all of which can be accessed here.

Thomas J. Watson addressing the gathering

Thomas J. Watson addressing the gathering

Francis Henry Taylor, director of the museum, declared that the award was “in a sense, more than a gesture by the entire academic world to the man who, more responsible than any other, has made it possible for the world of great civilization in the past to continue for future generations”:


Jarmila Novotná, the famed soprano of the Metropolitan Opera, sang the Star Spangled Banner:


Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke (the file is too large to embed, so follow this link to access the audio), expressing his appreciation: “I am grateful to the directors of the Metropolitan Museum for their generosity in having accorded me an honorary membership for my small part in protecting these monuments. The credit belongs to the officers and men of the combat echelons whose veneration for priceless treasures persisted even in the heat and fears of battle”:

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower addressing the gathering

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower addressing the gathering

The original analog sound recordings are contained on 78rpm aluminum-based 12″ lacquer discs and were transferred to digital files by Seth B. Winner Sound Studios in an effort to preserve and provide ongoing access to these valuable artefacts.  While the transcripts of and quotes from these speeches are moving to read, nothing quite conveys the feeling as well as the sound of the people themselves, their voices, accents and intonations, and the applause and laughter of the audience.

Cartoons: They’re Not Just for Saturday Mornings

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters are likely familiar with our collection of tapestries.  These splendid objects are very impressive to Museum visitors, who may already know that tapestries are woven on giant looms.  But how do the weavers get the desired images to appear on a tapestry?  The answer is cartoons.

A cartoon is a full-scale drawing, which is placed behind the vertical warp threads of a loom.  Cartoons can also be used when designing frescoes.  For hundreds of years, when producing tapestries, weavers closely followed the cartoon to ensure that the tapestry design came out the way the artist intended.  The quality of the cartoon has to be high, because its appearance directly impacts the tapestry’s final outcome.  Modern weavers still use cartoons to create their tapestry’s design.

Comedies of Moliere…

Comedies of Moliere…

One of the rare books in Watson Library’s collection is The Comedies of Moliere: Tapestries with Subjects from the Comedies of Moliere, Executed Under Louis XV at the Royal Manufactory of Beauvais After Cartoons by Jean Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755) and Woven Under the Supervision of N. Besnier.  This book was requested from Watson Library by the Getty Museum through interlibrary services, but due to its age and condition, we were unable to loan it.  However, we were able to digitize it on demand, and then made it available electronically to researchers around the world.  Although this book was printed in a limited run of one-hundred, only eighteen are listed as being available on WorldCat.

Watson Library’s copy is number six of one-hundred

Watson Library’s copy is number six of one-hundred

This book features three photogravures which give researchers a good idea of what a tapestry cartoon would have looked like, followed by additional information about Moliere, his plays and the creators of the tapestry set.  The tapestries based on these cartoons were at one point acquired by J.P. Morgan, but were later sold to an unknown collector. 

A scene from Moliere’s "Le Malade Imaginaire," or "The Imaginary Invalid"

A scene from Moliere’s “Le Malade Imaginaire,” or “The Imaginary Invalid”

The cartoons in this book were designed by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, a French painter.  Some of Oudry’s other works are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

For more information on the creation of tapestries, the essay How Medieval and Renaissance Tapestries Were Made, by Museum director Thomas P. Campbell, is an excellent resource.


The First Decade of Met Publications

Watson Library has digitized the catalogs of the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from its very beginnings in 1870 through 1949, with a selection of later titles.  The collection is being added to and will ultimately include collection catalogs through 1964.

There are 71 catalogs published between 1870-1879. The range of items published in this first decade of the Museum’s history includes official Museum documents, such as the Museum constitution and by-laws, lists of Museum trustees and members, annual reports, and a list of subscriptions to the fund for the establishment of the Museum. Also included are guides to the Museum’s collection, catalogs of the first loan exhibitions held at the Museum, and clippings which contain some of the first mentions of the Museum in the contemporary press.

Some of the catalogs published in this decade, such as the Guide to the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities, show the collection when it was housed at 128 West 14th street, the Museum’s location from 1873-1879.  Here is a floor plan of the ground floor at this location.

Image 1

Though most of these early catalogs are not illustrated, some contain critical or historical commentary on the objects, as well as reproductions of the artists’ signatures.  For instance, here is an entry describing Adriaan de Vries’s Portrait of a Dutch Gentleman from the Catalogue of the Pictures belonging to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Image 2

Among the exhibition catalogs published in this decade is the Catalogue of the New York Centennial Loan Exhibition, which was held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design in 1876.

Image 3

Another item of interest is a Handbook published by the Museum for visitors wishing to learn more about the pottery and porcelain collection.  In addition to highlighting the collection, the handbook provides a brief explanation and history of the medium.

Image 4

The first decade of the Museum’s publication history also includes an Address, published in 1871, from the Museum officers to the people of New York outlining the purpose of the Museum and commending the institution to “… all who care for the fine arts.”

Image 5 These are part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection.

Dolls in the Digital Collections

1830 Doll

1830 Doll

In 1949, a train arrived in the USA from France with forty-nine boxcars for each state.  Termed the “Gratitude” or “Merci” train, this festive locomotive was sent in response to a large-scale American relief package sent to France in 1947.

The boxcars arrived on the ship Magellan in New York Harbor in February 1949.  The celebration was attended by over two hundred thousand people and included a ticker-tape parade as the New York boxcar traveled up Broadway.

Filled with gifts of gratitude, the treasures included a collection of forty-nine dolls dressed in French fashions designed by prominent couturiers of the time reflecting French dress from the early seventeenth century through the early twentieth-century.  Each doll, measuring approximately 24″ tall and made of open wire, was outfitted by a different designer to represent the evolution of French fashion.  The figures, which are in the Costume Institute collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, have been photographed by the Museum and have accompanying descriptions for each figurine summarizing the designers and their influences.

We also have thirty-two photographs of the dolls in our Costume Institute collection.   The full story of the Gratitude train and the boxcars can be found on the museum’s website here.

The design of the doll itself, originally created for Théâtre de la Mode, was conceived by Eileen Bonabel.  The head, made of plaster, was created by the artist Rebull; and the hairstyles are made of human hair. Each designer selected a year between 1715 and 1906 to fashion their doll.  Their sources of inspiration included art, literature and historic fashion plates.  As summarized on the Met’s website: “The Gratitude Train fashion dolls represent a unique moment in the history of couture as they represent not only creative interpretations of historic fashions by the greatest designers of the period, but also are infused with the unparalleled skill, care, and attention to detail that would have been applied in their full-size counterparts.”

1715 Doll

1715 Doll

For example, the 1715 Marcel Rochas doll was inspired by Jean-Antoine Watteau’s (1684-1721) painting L’Enseigne de Gersaint (1720) featuring a particular style of dress – a gown arranged in the back with loose box pleats which became known as Watteau pleats.

1779 Doll

1779 Doll

Jean-Michael Moreau le Jeune‘s (1741-1814) painting “Le Rendez-vous” was the inspiration for the 1779 doll designed by Lucille Manguin.  Moreau le Jeune was best known as an illustrator capturing “fashionable dress and interiors in the ‘Monument de costume physique et morale’ published by L.F. Prault in 1776-1783.  The original etching and engraving is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection” (see more on this doll here).

1892 Doll

1892 Doll

The Germaine Lecomte 1892 doll, adorned in black lace, was inspired by a painting by Leon Bonnat (1833-1992).

The dolls are part of the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Syndicat de la Couture de Paris, 1949.