historical archives

Yet Hamilton shows how historians’ reliance on documents can make telling history precarious. In a pivotal scene after Hamilton has betrayed his wife, Elizabeth (called by her nickname Eliza throughout the play), she burns the letters he has written to her over the years. It’s an imagined scene that nonetheless demonstrates powerfully how fragile the historical record can be. She sings, “Let future historians wonder how Eliza reacted when you broke her heart,” deliberately asserting her agency over what is remembered. Miranda ends the production with Eliza, too. The cast joins in song to explain that after Hamilton’s death it was Eliza who collected his papers for preservation. The lesson is clear: the sources historians rely on to craft historical narratives exist not by some consequence of nature, but because people like Eliza Hamilton worked to preserve them.

Relics of the World’s Fair: Chicago

From exploring what remains of the World’s Fair in Paris, we continue in our World’s Fair series by looking at what survives from the fairs in Chicago. The Windy City sports relics from just two World’s Fairs — compared to the six in Paris — but they’re two of the most famous fairs in history, with many relics.

CHICAGO: Host to two World’s Fairs — 1893 and 1933

For the full photo gallery of the Relics of Chicago’s World’s Fairs, keep going to Atlas Obscura…


Some of the many faces of 20th century Haitian women’s activism. From left to right: Emmeline Carries-Lemaire, Leonie Coicou-Madiou, Janine Lafontant-Nelson, Lydia Jeanty, Yvonne Hakime Rimpel and Madeleine Sylvain-Bouchereau. Dates Unknown. images: Courtesy of CIDIHCA.

While their contribution is often forgotten and/or neglected, these women (and others) shared a similar commitment and worked, in their own fashion, for greater justice in Haitian society.

To provide few blatant examples, though the popular demonstrations in many cities during the Forbes Commission of 1930 are often discussed, rarely is there a mention of women who also seized this opportunity to protest and demand more rights within Haitian society. Similarly, while the “Revolution of 1946” is usually regarded as an event putting together protagonists of the Noirisme movement and members of the Haitian left, the role of women, who frequently assisted their male peers, is often obscured and rarely studied independently. Additionally, by 1957, despite the threat of violence (and often, at the risk of rape) many women dared to defy the Duvalier dictatorship by speaking openly against the regime. Although not every women embraced the word “feminist,” the few figures included in this post are only among the many who have attempted to challenge Haitian society’s systematic sexism in the earlier decades of the 20th century. 

Oyster dredging
December 1, 1953
A. Aubrey Bodine (1906-1970)
Bodine Collection
Baltimore City Life Museum Collection
Maryland Historical Society
B998 .4


Relics of the World’s Fair: Paris

Say “World’s Fair” and many think of grand culture shows that happened once in a great while, at some time in the past. However, these celebrations of artistic and technological achievement have been going on nearly every year since 1851, in scores of cities on five different continents. While most World’s Fair organizers opt for cheaper, temporary buildings, some permanent structures and monuments still exist from these grand events — so many, in fact, that we’re posting a series on the cities where the fairs most guided their character today. 

Here we start with Paris, home of the most fairs (six — 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900, and 1937) and one of the most-visited relics. 

For the full photo gallery, click through to Relics of the World’s Fair: Paris, on Atlas Obscura!


Historical Cats

We may have just missed #MuseumCats day, but you might still enjoy some stories of historic felines in our holdings. We recently received feedback on our archives.gov website survey asking for historical photos of cats in the National Archives. I was reminded of the fact that when Robert Connor, the First Archivist, was assessing the records situation in Washington, he came across the records of the one “depository crowded with archives of the Government the most prominent object to one entering the room was the skull of a dead cat protruding from under a pile of valuable records.” (From an editorial entitled, “Our National Archives”, The Nation, February 1931.)

While we obviously don’t want actual cats roaming our stacks, we consulted our online catalog and found this selection of photogenic archival felines.

Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.


Élite Haitian women in the late late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 
Images Courtesy of: CIDIHCA Collections.

Photography, History and Race: The importance of preservation

These images representing élite Haitian women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are rich sources for historians. While most scholars have abandoned the idea that photographs represent “objective” depictions of the past, and rather, embrace the notion that they might be political objects and statements in and of themselves, these not only assist in imaging the lives of the women they represented, they also help raise questions about the particular intentions of each woman and their photographers. Were these pictures solely intended as portraits for the consumption of close kinship or did they serve to showcase the sophistication of élite Haitian women to a foreign audience at a time when European immigrants were interacting with well-to-do Haitian families?

As black women, Haitian women’s bodies were political terrains. With rampant pseudo-scientific understanding of blacks women’s sexual degeneration since the mid decades of the nineteenth century, these images contrast sharply with what most observers would have imagined when thinking of women in an “exotic” island. Aside from their aesthetic value, these photographs depict female civility in accordance with Western values of the period. If we understand these pictures as political statements, historians may ask: were these photographs attempting to challenge popular discourses of the day regarding black womanhood and if so, does it follow that black individuals, on a global scale, began to view themselves in accordance and with an implicit acceptance of Eurocentric understandings of race? Similarly, what could a study on images of the Haitian élite reveal about what 1920s Haitian intellectual Jean-Prince Mars called “collective bovarism(Ainsi parla l’Oncle, 1928) when reflecting about Haiti’s upper crust?

To this date, perhaps due a lack of material sources, few historians have attempted to answer these questions in relations to Haiti. With their various expositions the CIDIHCA (Centre International de Documentation et d'Information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-canadienne [International Haitian, Caribbean and African-Canadian Center for Documentation and Information]) – has tried to speculate on these interrogations. In the past decade or so, the organization doubled its efforts to recover long lost photographs of Haiti. Much work still needs to be done with a close collaboration between archivists, historians, but also elements of the civil society (in and out of Haiti).

Regardless of these difficulties, every little visual fragments of Haiti’s past, as these images make clear, can help us re-image Haitian society and its élite.

Night street scene
Bolton Street from Dolphin Lane, Baltimore, Maryland
Hughes Company
8x10 inch glass negative
Baltimore City Life Museum Collection
Maryland Historical Society

The LGBTQ Map Your Inner Nerd Has Been Waiting For

Welcome to Quist 2.0! Our new features include:

  • The option for daily push notifications
  • A tutorial
  • Choice of language (only Spanish is live so far, but sign up for our email list to find out as others are released)
  • Dozens of new historical events, mostly from outside the U.S.
  • Improved accuracy in keyword search
  • Released for Windows phones for the first time (updated on iOS/Apple and Android devices)
  • And a geotagged global map of LGBT historic sites as well LGBT/HIV-related archives, museums, and memorials

The first three features are easy to find. Simply tap the Menu button in the top right corner of any screen and select “Settings” at the bottom of the list to get this screen (below) to toggle any of your options.

Now to the juicy stuff – the unprecedented map!

Originally posted by hogwartsfansite

From that top right right menu button, choose “Browse by Location.” A Google map that is zoomed out a bit above your current location (if you allow us to know your location) will appear.

There are five types of locations on this supermap:

means that something related to LGBTQ/HIV history happened at this location. It could be the site of a protest, wedding, murder, etc. Places like parliaments have multiple related events. For our U.S. historic places, many are from a partnership with the U.S. National Park Service, who shared their research with us. There are already 0ver 300 of these on the map and we add many more every day.

is for a museum related specifically to the history of sexuality or has another connection to LGBTQ/HIV history. You’ll find erotic art museums, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the World AIDS Museum and over 20 more.

represents an archives location. Most are stand-alone LGBT archives but there are also notable university collections, LGBT libraries, and a few AIDS-related archives. There are around 50 of these so far.

is for a LGBTQ monument or memorial. This could be a pink triangle memorial plaque or a statue of a LGBTQ person, for example. There are about 60 of these on the map to start.

means that an AIDS memorial is at the location. There are about 120 of these in the world and we partnered with AIDSmemorial.info who provided us with the locations, images, and descriptions of each one.

So as you zoom in and out by pinching the screen like with any mobile device, give the map a second to load the hundreds of markers in that area. You can tell certain cities in the California example below have multiple locations in them.

At a closer level you’ll be able to see where those multiple markers actually are.

When you click on an icon (from any level of zoom), you’ll see a pop-up like one of the two below. It will either show you a description or related historical events. If you click on a related historical event it will take you to that event’s page, not the location page.

When you tap on the hyperlinked name of the location, you’ll come to the location’s full page with reference, related Quist events, description, and more.

When you tap on the top image banner, you’ll to see the full photo with the credit information and caption.

Whenever you tap on space on a country that isn’t a marker, you’ll get a list of all the historical events Quist has for that country like the example below.

Et voilà! Share the good news with your friends and enjoy.

Questions? Email info@quistapp.com.