“Any fool can make
history, but it takes
a genius to write it.”
••••» Oscar Wilde
I enjoy doing things for people. It makes me feel good to help others when I’m needed. Recently I was asked by two friends to help them preserve some newspapers. One had an awesome newspaper that is close to 120 years old. The other is former journalist with an accomplished record who is looking to preserve a historical first.
I take pride in being an archivist and I’m glad that my professional knowledge can extend beyond the confines of a repository. I spent the day preparing for preservation endeavors by picking up the supplies I need. Since newspapers are highly acidic, it is good to do whatever can be done to preserve them.
I had an idea last night with regard to the digitization of the newspapers. Hopefully the idea is successful. I will try a new technique to make an access copy. Indeed I was born to be an archivist. I do love what I do.
Archive for the ‘Historic Records’ category
First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to all of those
in the military who have sacrificed blood, sweat and tears for
our freedom. Thank you to the brave men and women
who are there to protect this great country.
On Independence Day (the Fourth of July), we take
time to remember the importance of being free by
celebrating history and tradition nationally
here in the United States.
I couldn’t think of a better historical symbol of freedom today than a black heavyweight boxer named Jack Johnson (1878-1946). I wrote about this fighter in August of 2011 in a post titled Focus: A Cornerstone of Fitness. My home state (New Mexico) became an official part of the United States in 1912. That was 100 years ago. The New Mexican struggle for statehood ended in January of that year, while Jack Johnson prepared for a physical and mental fight here. Johnson was the first American black heavyweight champion. On July 4, exactly one century ago Johnson faced a fight with the critics of his physical fitness as well as racism. At the time he was married to a white woman. The heavyweight lived in New Mexico for a bit while in training to fight Jim Flynn (1879–1935). Flynn was labeled a “white hope” by the media and was favored to take the fight. Though many criticized Johnson’s shape for that fight, I think he was in good shape. He won the fight! There are historical accounts of bleachers being added to his outdoor gym in Las Vegas, New Mexico, because Johnson charged onlookers to watch him train. We are lucky to be free. There are still some who are fighting for their own freedom. If that is the case, you should keep up the fight. Jack Johnson’s explosive fists, symbolic of the fight for freedom, and his tenacity secured him a TKO in that very fight on Independence Day in 1912. You can see the video below!!
The census rolls for the 1940 United States Census of
New Mexico are now available in Southwest Collections!
Bless the National Archives and Records Administration
for all of their digitization efforts, but sometimes we still
need to feel (microfilm and books) right? I had a
heck of a time attempting to locate my family electronically
(and I am a CDIM). Unfortunately, the online database and
project still need some work, but until then- use the film!
I can’t wait to check them out!! These rolls are hot off
processing, and cost thousands of dollars. Today marks
the first day the rolls are available in Southwest Collections.
There are 18 rolls for New Mexico. Yeaaaaah!
Happy researching rockers!!!!!
May 29, 2012, would have
been President John F. Kennedy’s
95th birthday. The United States Military held an
official wreath laying ceremony in his honor at
Arlington National Cemetery. A wreath was
placed at his graveside near the JFK Eternal Flame
(I love that it’s “eternal” ). The Eternal Flame
is the permanent presidential memorial.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
on November 22, 1963. The National Archives
and Records Administration has also released
commemorative footage of Mr. President, which
is available through a Creative Commons license
and is now in the public domain. The film is titled
John F. Kennedy: 1,000 Days.
It is an archival documentary from the United States
Information Agency, which celebrates
JFK’s time in office from 1961-1963.
I have recently been intrigued by the life and death of Marilyn Monroe. It seems she has forever been an iconic face worldwide, but I actually believe she was more than that. I hate stereotypes, and frankly I think that stereotypes played a major role in her ultimate demise. I am on a mission to uncover more. I want to track down actual primary source documents relative to Mz. Monroe. If I can find archival collections, I would like to derive my own conclusions, and write about what I conclude.
Letters and diaries would be a great source of first hand information. If you look around online or in books, you will notice that her story is often rehashed with no primary source document citations. Where are the records? Are there any? Are they in private hands? There must be something…
I know Mz. Monroe was likely deeper than people thought she should be. Unfortunately, a beautiful woman must fight for the respect of intellectuals. Who can blame Mz. Monroe for playing into those stereotypes which the entertainment industry still so foolishly projects? Money talks, and with her outstanding body, and stunning beauty she was desired by both men and women. No doubt, movie producers and media moguls could taste the high finance that would bring.
I would like to learn more about Mz. Monroe when she was a student. At one time she had her heart set on the study of art and literature. In the early 50s Monroe was enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). This will be the first place on my list to search for archival collections. Why did she leave education behind? There is also a 2004 book by Marie Clayton titled Marilyn Monroe: Unseen Archives that I will attempt to track down.
I love a good mystery, so I am particularly interested in some key figures in conspiracy theories surrounding her death. She had what appears to be a clearly unclear relationship or non-relationship with President John F. Kennedy. It is all so fascinating. Some say she was simply his play toy, and that he didn’t feel she “was First Lady material.” Hum? Why not? Oh yes— because she was sexy. Thank God for women like Michelle Obama who can rock non-First Lady like attire, fit arms, sex appeal and still get respect.
After work on Friday I went to look for a new book. Of course Hastings was sold out!!! Recently I watched an interview with Clint Hill on his book Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir. Hill was the former Secret Service Agent and “special” friend of the First Lady Mz. Kennedy. USA Today reported that it was “clear from his book that Hill (who was married) loved” the First Lady. So while JFK was with Mz. Monroe, apparently his First Lady was with her Secret Service Agent.
A few months after singing a very public birthday song to Mr. President in 1962, Mz. Monroe was gone. On August 5, 1962, a star faded when Monroe’s lifeless body was discovered. She was not even 40 years old. Was Mz. Monroe killed by: mafia hit men; the CIA; the Kennedy brothers; a jealous First Lady and-or her possible Secret Service lover; or was it simply by her own hands? At first I thought Mz. Monroe was killed by the Kennedy brothers. The problem is that her lover (Mr. President) was assassinated (November 22, 1963) not long after her questionable death. Strange… It has been reported that the last person Monroe spoke to before her death was the President. Where are the records, or is that final conversation between star crossed lovers simply hearsay?
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As a little girl, one of the many things my family did was visit the New Mexico State Fair. The fair has been marketed as the Biggest Show in New Mexico, which takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September. The New Mexico State Fair has been a fair since 1910, though this is curious, since New Mexico didn’t officially became a state until 1912. “The fair blew into New Mexico in 1854” as a Territorial Fair. From 1854 through 2011, the fair has featured: horses, carriages, and sulkies; gazebos; runners taking their mark; balloons; baseball; vegetable displays; quilts; soldiers; parades; bouquets of white roses; marathons; tightrope walkers; native dancers; cowboys and cowgirls; pageants; adobe making; movie stars and rock stars; horse races; rodeos; hot rods; giant pumpkins; bungee jumping and skycoasters; diving mules; snow cones; and old time photos.
In 1968, the Premium List publication formally laid out the official rules and regulations of the fair. The rules included: admissions; exhibitor and concession permits; racing admissions for the grandstand; and rodeo admissions for Tingley Coliseum (oh I do have many memories of many events I attended there over the years). OMG- Fess Parker (the star Daniel Boone from an old TV Series) appeared at the rodeo one weekend. It was interesting to see what New Mexicans were growing locally in 1968 for the agricultural exhibits. Some of the agricultural awards were for the best: beans (of course); eggplant (hum?); lettuce; muskmelon (what the?); onion; peppers (of course); potatoes; pumpkin; squash; and watermelon. In 1968 there was a competition for honey combs, extracted honey, bees and beeswax. At the end of the Premium List, there was information on the villages (to highlight New Mexico’s various cultures) and the arts and crafts exhibit information. Arts and crafts are probably the main reason I like to visit the New Mexico State Fair now that I am grown and culturally edified. There is always so much to see and learn.
Over the years, I explored the fair in waves. When I was a child, the fair was simply about food, fun, rides, and laughter. As a young adult, all I really cared about was the Midway. The Midway was best to frolic at night, and “grew mightily over the years, evolving from a gritty little side show into the largest fair carnival in the nation.” I would go with friends or maybe cousins with my hair all teased up and my lips puckered. We would: people watch; ride the scariest rides; laugh until we felt like throwing up; buy bootlegged music CDs; then eat cotton candy, caramel apples, and big ole turkey legs. With the loud rock n roll music from the Avalanche ride blaring in our ears we were happy. There were bright, flashing lights in the Midway. The lights were accompanied by catcalls from strange looking men and women begging you to pop a few balloons with a dart, and win the greatest prize. The “greatest prize” was usually some fluffy stuffed thingy I would hug all night, and then forget about by daybreak. Now that I am a woman, I can go to the fair and take time to learn and visit all the things I missed in my youth. I could spend hours looking at art, or attempting to figure out how the hell some kid built a Lego castle bigger than me.
In 1999, the official program of the New Mexico State Fair read “For the Fun of It!” Some things captured in that program guide for “the last New Mexico State Fair of the Nineties” were interesting. The marketing staff for the fair called the publication a “survival guide” and promoted the “ethnic villages” as a celebration of “culture diversity.” The Rodeo Queen that year was Juliane Baish, and it would have been nice to see her photograph in living color. Oh and I had a tear in my eye when I got to page 22 of the “survival guide” and realized that Monica and Tyrese performed together on September 10th, 1999 at Tingley Coliseum. Really?? How did I miss that? I wondered where I was that night? On the final page of the program was a full page color advertisement for Garduño’s Restaurant and Cantina. Members of my paternal family line were the original owners of Garduño’s, and it made me sad to think that in 1999 they were celebrating their 30th anniversary. The advertisement noted five locations in Albuquerque in addition to one Yester-Daves Grill (which they also owned). There was another restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada and one here in Santa Fe at that time. The ad read “we are proud of our rich New Mexico heritage and strive for authenticity in our culinary masterpieces.”
I am glad that I can now appreciate different aspects of the New Mexico State Fair. It is our fair, and the fair of future New Mexicans. Looking back tonight, I know I will forever treasure the memories from when I was young. Nothing can replace those days when I could sit under a beautiful tree with the twins. Our biggest decision back then was likely if we wanted watermelon or bubblegum syrup on our snow cones. Who could forget about the fun we had playing dress up for our old time photo shoot. I remember having so much fun that day. Now it is time to make new memories by making it a tradition to take my son regularly to the Biggest Show in New Mexico.
Sources from the New Mexico State Document Program include:
State Fair! The Biggest Show in New Mexico (1995)
New Mexico State Fair Official Program (1999)
New Mexico State Fair Premium List (1968)
This weekend I attended a lecture in Albuquerque sponsored by the New Mexico Genealogical Society. The lecture was on Saturday, February 25, 2012, and was focused on the New Mexico DNA Project. This presentation was delivered by Ángel de Cervantes, who now resides in Albuquerque, but was originally from Las Vegas/Montezuma, New Mexico. Ángel is the New Mexico DNA Project Administrator, and is also part of the Iberian Peninsula DNA Project. Ángel is currently a History Instructor, however, he was once a archivist with the State Archives. Since he was once an archivist, he understands the importance of primary documents relative to research, and encouraged the audience to “take the time to do the research” and not just do “the online thing.” The lecture was Part 1 in a series, and was titled Castas, DNA, and Identity: Who are we? What did our ancestors say about themselves? What does DNA tell us about Identity? Ángel explored “the connection of the Castas system in colonial New Mexico” and discussed how “DNA studies compare to the Spanish Castas system and the ramifications on modern identity.” So following is what I have come away with…
Identity… What is identity? Some online sources define identity as: the condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the sameness of essential or generic character in different instances, and all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing; and the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. What does that mean? Well… I think identity is very complex. It is rooted in: psychology; oral, familial, and social history; and of course genetic connections. How do you see yourself? Where do you stand in society- socially, economically, and from a religious perspective? How do others see you? It is all complicated. If it was up to me (and it is not), I would say that none of it really matters. Well maybe how we see the man in the mirror is important? The notion of a “correct analysis of identity over time” is critical according to the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The encyclopedia also mentions a “notion of identity across possible worlds.” But what are “worlds?” Is there more than one world we live in? No, but I think it is referring to the multiple worlds that we can socially and psychologically place ourselves in. Of course our familial ties, and oral histories play a major role in the identity we choose to seize.
I have taken a look at the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society put forth by Hartford Institute for Religion Research. According to this encyclopedia, “identity is a characteristic defining one’s sense of self,” and the term was “popularized by Erik Erikson” through the 1950s and 1960s, “as a central psychoanalytic concept.” Some of this definition, incorporates “a sense of uniqueness” or “completeness” with regard to identity. Ángel de Cervantes opened his lecture with a clip of Jessica Alba. Alba was a special guest on George Lopez Tonight in 2009. For his show, Alba and her father both agreed to take a DNA Test. Alba submitted for an mtDNA (maternal) and her father for both Y-DNA (paternal) and mtDNA. I think it was a great clip to open with because Ángel set the scene for his lecture on the historical and contemporary problems each of us have faced, or face with regard to identity. As an advocate of DNA testing he said that one reason he likes Y-DNA testing is because “it is what it is if you like it or not.” Alba’s test results were returned to her by Lopez with percentages of 87% European and 13% Indigenous or Native American. You can see that even she did not fully understand her “identity” in that moment.
So what does “casta” mean in terms of identity? A caste system is comprised of an intermixture of race and social class (ethnic, economic, religious). My tiny New Webster Dictionary defines caste as “an inherited socioreligious rank.” Really? Rank? Funny… Personally, I feel that this was more of the case in the Colonial caste system, and not in the contemporary. In 1995, Stuart B. Schwartz published a paper titled Colonial Identities and the Sociedad de Castas in Colonial Latin American Review (Volume 4, Issue 1). In his paper, Schwartz “framed” castas “in terms of race and class” for “multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies of colonial Latin America.” This may still be the case today, though I am not sure that caste is always maintained by an individual even if it can be seen as inherited and ranked? Maybe a number 1 on the ranking system would see me as a number 10? But since I don’t care what others think of me, it would be irrelevant. The Spanish doctoral program in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a website with pictures of the historical castas or caste system called Cuadro de Castas. The images provide an interesting look at the system.
Ángel’s study of New Mexico records, as well as the records of the Archivos Enpañoles, allowed him to put together a list of the Spanish Castas he has been able to identify. Some of the castas in Spanish genealogical records include: Chino; Español Criollo; Mestizo; Pardo; Prieto; Negro; Mulato; Tresalvo; Trigueño; and Zambo. Each casta has applicable fractions of race, and may include one, two, or more mixtures. I found it funny when Ángel talked about how his grandmother from Las Vegas called the “dark complected kid in the neighborhood” a “trigueño.” The audience was at odds over that title, and what it means, but that is always the case when dealing with scholars, historians, and genealogists.
So even if I find caste systems irrelevant to my identity today, why should it be important to me as a genealogist and a lover of history? Well of course the main reason is because it is part of history. It is also important because a caste can reveal the status of a person in his or her community at a given point in time. A person in what was a historically higher caste may have: been more educated; could have owned more land; may have traveled more; or may have had royal blood. I think a down side to this is that some of those individuals from a higher caste likely married only those in the same caste, or of a higher caste to stay elite. So much for real connection!? Maybe poor folk married for the right reasons ha?
To sum it all up, I guess I learned that identity really can’t be defined or bottled. I believe identity can be explained to a certain extent, but will always remain a perplexing concept. Since we are humans, we are constantly changing, evolving, growing, learning, and so our identity changes. Identity changes or morphs with time. Personally, I do not wish to be pegged by caste systems. In the end, I know that others will likely classify me with no regard for those complexities which truly define my identity whether I like it or not.
From: Public Affairs [mailto:Public.Affairs@nara.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 6:31 AM
To: Public Affairs
Subject: National Archives Announces Website for Free 1940 Census Release Online on April 2, 2012: 1940census.archives.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2012
National Archives Announces Website for
Free 1940 Census Release Online on April 2, 2012: 1940census.archives.gov
Tomorrow Starts the Countdown of ‘40 Days to the ’40 Census’
Washington, DC. . . Today the National Archives, with its partner Archives.com, launched its new website 1940census.archives.gov in preparation for its first-ever online U.S. census release, which will take place on April 2, 2012, at 9 a.m. (EST). The public is encouraged to bookmark the website now in order to more quickly access the 1940 census data when it goes live. No other website will host the 1940 census data on its April 2 release date.
The National Archives has teamed up with the U.S. Census Bureau to celebrate “40 Days to the ’40 Census.” Using social media channels to post videos, images, facts, and links to workshops nationwide, the National Archives is getting its researchers ready for the online launch on April 2. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (using hashtag #1940Census), Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, and subscribe to our blogs: NARAtions and Prologue: Pieces of History.
On April 2, 2012, users will be able to search, browse, and download the 1940 census schedules, free of charge, from their own computers or from the public computers at National Archives locations nationwide through the new 1940 census website: 1940census.archives.gov.
A National Archives 3:13 minute video short on its YouTube channel (http://tiny.cc/1940Census) and on 1940census.archives.gov provides a “behind-the-scenes” view of staff preparations and gives viewers tips on how to access the data once it is launched on April 2. This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages the free distribution of it.
Background on the 1940 Census
While the original intent of the census was to determine how many representatives each state was entitled to send to the U.S. Congress, it has become a vital tool for Federal agencies in determining allocation of Federal funds and resources. The census is also a key research tool for sociologists, demographers, historians, political scientists and genealogists. Many of the questions on the 1940 census are the standard ones: name, age, gender, and race, education, and place of birth. But the 1940 census also asks many new questions, some reflecting concerns of the Great Depression. The instructions ask the enumerator to enter a circled x after the name of the person furnishing the information about the family; whether the person worked for the CCC, WPA, or NYA the week of March 24–30, 1940; and income for the 12 months ending December 31, 1939. The 1940 census also has a supplemental schedule for two names on each page. The supplemental schedule asks the place of birth of the person’s father and mother; the person’s usual occupation, not just what they were doing the week of March 24–30, 1940; and for all women who are or have been married, has this woman been married more than once and age at first marriage.
For the release of the 1940 census online, the National Archives has digitized the entire census, creating more than 3.8 million digital images of census schedules, maps, and enumeration district descriptions.
About the National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives is a public trust upon which our democracy depends, ensuring access to essential evidence that protects the rights of American citizens, documents the actions of the government, and reveals the evolving national experience.
Archives.com is a family history website, owned and operated by Inflection a data commerce company headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley. Inflection was chosen by the National Archives to host the 1940 census website. Learn more at www.archives.com/1940census.
# # #
For press information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at: 202-357-5300.
Today is the birthday of the Vatican’s Secret Archive, which dates back to January 31, 1612. The archive is full of amazing documents. Despite the colorful comments that can be found tied to the fact that the archive remains “secret,” this archive houses some of the most fascinating documents in the world. Documents in the archive have been made available with the pre-approval of authorities (of course) to academics and historians over the years. My guess would be that preference is given to scholars whom convey a positive image of the church. There are more than 50 miles of shelves in this archive. The records contained in the archives span 12 centuries of history. As an archivist who loves history, science, and the stars, my favorite documents housed in the archive would likely be those associated with the Trial of Galileo. He was a bit of a thorn in the side of the Roman Inquisition, and details of his 1633 trial are among the “secrets” this archive keeps. Galileo Galilei battled with the Catholic Church until his death in 1642. The church did not like him mainly because he was against the Aristotelian theory of the universe, and he favored astronomy and the Copernican theory. Artists have rendered interpretations (in various media) of his inquisition for centuries. It is a very interesting case! When you get a chance, check out this video footage about the anniversary of the archive at http://youtu.be/8naSnSysKmg.
Vatican’s Secret Archives turn 400 years old
Originally published online on 1.31.2012 by http://www.romereports.com/
Within the walls of Vatican City is stored one of the most important treasures in the world, the Vatican’s Secret Archives.
Only a limited number of people can access documents kept here by the Catholic Church. It’s free to gain access, but only academics and historians are allowed and they must request authorization from the Vatican.
In 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte took over 3,000 documents to Paris. After his fall from power, the files over time made their way back to the Vatican. Although during these transfers, many valuable documents were lost, some of which were from the fifth century.
Today, 400 years after its creation, the archive has over 50 miles of shelving, filled with books, papal bulls, decrees and encyclicals that cover twelve centuries of history. Among its corridors, one can find documents like the parchment of acquittal of Clement V to the Templars, from August of the year 1308, and details from the trial of Galileo, as well as the request for a marriage annulment by England’s King Henry VIII.
To celebrate it’s 400th anniversary, the exhibition “Lux in Arcana” has been created. From March to September, visitors to Rome can find 100 documents from the Vatican’s Secret Archives on display in the Capitoline Museums.
Vatican’s Secret Archives turn 400 years old
I have always been fascinated by stories of geisha. I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997) many years ago. When the movie based on the novel by Golden was released (2005), I also liked that. The film director Rob Marshall did a great job on that movie. Both the American novel, as well as the film are somewhat bound to the idea that geisha origins are rooted in red light districts. This ideology came from stories of World War II era soldiers. These women of the red light districts were, and still are undoubtedly imposters of true, classically trained geisha. Technically, geisha are traditional female artists who specialize in dance, singing, playing instruments, and entertaining. For the record, the word geisha literally translates to “art person” (gei=art and sha=person). The following piece was composed as my tribute to the geisha. I have included some interesting photographs from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition which was in Buffalo, New York. The exposition was obviously before WWII, and featured Fair Japan, in the form of a mock Japanese village. Historic accounts of this village state that when “entering the Japanese village, through the gate of the Nikkil Temple, one can easily imagine himself to be in Fair Japan. Native girls in native costumes serve the tea, and geisha girls entertain you with dancing.” President William McKinley was assassinated during his second term while visiting this expo. Other historic photographs are from American Memory- Library of Congress and include and image of two geisha, the entrance to Fair Japan, and a cherry blossom branch. On the left hand side, I have inserted a digital composite I created using three historic photos. The main photo is an 1893 image of “a geisha or professional entertainer or musician.” The original photos are black and white an have been digitally colorized.
Memoirs of a Geisha the movie
Queen of Geisha
Her dressing room is armored with remnants of war paint, ornate bottles with seductive fragrances, old photographs and memories waiting to be cherished. She still has the rose. It is a single long stem, now dry and fragile. This was a memento of her first performance. As she recalls the introductory appearance, her psyche takes a vainglorious bow. Her kimono is waiting. It is an exquisite black gown. The traces of intricacy were carefully stitched in red. For each pattern, she can evoke a story. She slips on the silky vesture, and can feel powerful softness against her skin. Brushing away fear and wrinkles comes natural. Her hand smooths the garment. She usually wears the obi on her back. For tonight, she will tie the obi in a Taiko box bow to the the front. Pulling her long black hair to one side, she slowly twists into tradition. With one more stroke of her icy fingertips, her face is now entirely white. The paint smells fresh and makes her eyes look small. She adds a pinkish touch to interrupt the paleness. Outlines which match her kimono are added to each eye. The mirror tells her that she is very close to ready. An assemblage of her followers start an airy chant to encourage her appearance. With a closing touch of crimson, she marks her lips in full. She knows her audience is waiting for yet another extraordinary performance. Before she leaves, she glances at her parched long stem rose. She understands the rose will expect her return. She reaches toward a nearby vase of alive and lovely flowers. Taking a sprig of cherry blossom, she adds the pink crown to her dark hair. Making her way to the door she takes in a deep breath of inspiration. Now she is divine and ready. Tonight- she is Queen of Geisha.
Using the latest DNA analysis methods, the team confirms that a anonymous female mummy in tomb KV35 is Tut’s mother.
“O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick, thus with a kiss I die.”
“True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy.”
Possession was released in 2002. The movie is based on A.S. Byatt’s 1990 novel Possession: A Romance, and stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Aehle, and Lena Headey. The movie has so much that I have passion for with history, poetry, scholars, archives and libraries, museums, a crystal ball, and symbolism. It is also filled with intellectual enigmas. I would now like to read the novel, but have not yet attempted to secure a copy. I have read that in this novel the author uses epigraphs to start each chapter. I find this interesting, as I tend to do the same thing when I write. This story line centers on two post-modern scholars who retrace the footsteps of two Victorian Era writers. The scholars do so in an attempt to learn more about the relationship between these two writers, and in effect themselves.
Roland (Eckhart) is a post-grad working in the British Museum. He uncovers long forgotten letters in an old book in the London Library, which raise more questions than answers. The discovery could forever change what scholars have believed about the life of two poets. In asking for advice from a stern professor of Gender Studies named Maud (Paltrow), the two embark on a mysterious investigative journey. When Roland approaches Maud with the letter, she is skeptical about the discovery, and scolds him for removing the original from the library. The letter may confirm an illicit affair, and so the scholars are drawn to seek the truth. They decide to trace the steps of these poets, and discover their own passions along the way.
The fictional Victorian Era writers being analyzed by Maud and Roland are the star-crossed lovers, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Each is in a respective relationship, still they discover a profound connection which brings an intimacy through correspondence. Maud and Roland become intrigued and discover written hidden messages from LaMotte in her old family home, which lead to a treasure trove of old letters, poetry, and of course more clues. The documents are hidden away in a childhood keepsake. Once the scholars discover the letters and poems, they sit amazed and stay reading them together, learning on the floor of LaMotte’s old room.
The word “possession” reflects a dual significance in this story by A.S. Byatt. This can be seen when the possession of diaries, letters, poetry, collections, and rights to a collection exude power in the cutthroat world of academia. Maud is a LaMotte scholar, and is a direct descendant of the LaMotte family. There is also a mention of the LaMotte genealogy in the movie. Possession is also integrated into relationships, where the condition of physically owning a partner and maybe the psyche of that partner aids in self-definition. Additionally, possession is tied to sexual ideology, and this movie challenges the pigeonholes of sexuality. Star-crossed lovers, with common interests share literary expressions in an attempt to pinpoint their underlying identities.