Celebrating Georgia O’Keeffe’s Birthday with New Discoverability in the O’Keeffe-Stieglitz Digitized Papers at the Library of Congress

This guest post is by historian Barbara Bair, curator of literature, culture, and the arts in the Manuscript Division.

Thanks to the recent implementation of crowdsourced transcriptions in the Manuscript Division’s digitized Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz collection, researchers can choose to read the online letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz in either original (handwritten or typed) form or explore transcribed textual versions. Users can also search the full collection in a more creative and granular fashion.

The By the People Artistic Trio: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz letters to Henwar Rodakiewicz crowdsourcing transcription campaign was launched and completed by volunteer transcribers and reviewers during Women’s History Month in March 2022.  Recent integration of the 584 transcriptions into the existing O’Keeffe-Stieglitz digital collection, using an ETL process of “extracting, transforming, and loading” data from multiple sources into a single, centralized location, provides enhanced opportunities for users to read and search the texts online.[1]

Close-up portrait of Georgie O'Keeffe, with sky in background

Georgia O’Keeffe, New Mexico. Photograph by Malcolm Varon, 1977. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Many individuals are mentioned in the letters written by O’Keeffe and her husband, the fine art photographer Alfred Stieglitz, to filmmaker Henwar Rodakiewicz between 1929 and 1946.[2] The correspondence represents a kind of creative convergence of painters, filmmakers, photographers, writers, editors, producers, benefactors, reformers and other fellow travelers in O’Keeffe and Stieglitz’s world. The newly added transcriptions aid researchers in discovering references to specific individuals and also provide a chance for a deep dive into other aspects of the primary texts that align with their interests.

Researchers exploring the digitized O’Keeffe-Stieglitz correspondence can continue to select folder-level digital content links in the O’Keeffe-Stieglitz finding aid or browse through the digitized collection directly. Now they also have the option to click on the “Image w/Text” tab in a digital display to view pages of the scanned primary documents side-by-side with volunteer-created and reviewed transcriptions. Additionally, keyword searches previously limited to the folder or series headings will now reveal embedded words, names, and references in the transcriptions. At a future time, there will also be the opportunity to work with the transcription texts as electronically archived data sets.

Photo of O'Keeffe House at dusk, adobe home with grass in foreground and hills in background

Georgia O’Keeffe House, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Balthazar Korab Studios, Ltd., photography, 1965. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

From her youth in Wisconsin, through her later time teaching in Texas, and her travels in the West, O’Keeffe was a lover of open spaces and the colors and shapes of the natural world. In 1929, she began splitting her time between the varied landscapes of the desert, canyons, and mountains of the Southwest; the angular lines of skyscrapers and streets of New York City; and the crimsons, greens, and blues of Lake George. The enhanced searching made possible through the transcriptions makes discoverability of passages about her sensibility of nature—and perceptions and feelings about many other things—more pronounced. Keyword searches on specific colors, for example, return results from the texts of her letters.  A search for the word “red” leads to O’Keeffe’s November 2, 1946, description of the deepening redness of chilies as they dried hanging on ropes on her patio. She reports to Rodakiewicz that she has been painting a big yellow cottonwood at Mary Wheelwright’s house in the valley, and notes how good she felt about things in New Mexico. [3]

The enhanced transcription and search capability of the digitized collection helps researchers more fully appreciate and discover in their own ways how O’Keeffe penned her letters with an artist’s eye and the expressive intimacy of a talented writer.

O'Keeffe letter with transcription text on left, handwritten original on right

Georgia O’Keeffe to Henwar Rodakiewicz, Nov. 2, 1946. Box 2, O’Keeffe-Stieglitz Correspondence, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. 

 

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[1] See Todd Harvey, “ETL: Searching the Lomax family papers through the magic of crowdsourcing.” Folklife Today, May 9, 2022.

[2] Henwar Rodakiewicz (1903-1976) was an independent filmmaker who had a long career primarily in New York and California as a cameraman, screenwriter, editor, director, and producer. His avant-garde Portrait of a Young Man in Three Movements (1931) was shown at the gallery An American Place in New York. He collaborated with his close friend Paul Strand on the critically acclaimed film Redes, filmed in Mexico and later distributed in the United States (1936), and with Ralph Steiner in the production and editing of The City (1939). He worked behind the camera in Hollywood and also made government-sponsored short-film documentaries on education equity, mental health, and other social welfare issues. He came to New Mexico to film Georgia O’Keeffe for a documentary highlighting the cultural and tourism value of the state in 1947. O’Keeffe first met him in Taos in 1929, when he was married to poet, arts patron, and Alcalde, N.M., ranch owner Marie Tudor Garland, who is mentioned frequently in O’Keeffe’s correspondence, as is his second wife, Peggy Bok, who visited with her children at Ghost Ranch and whom O’Keeffe visited in California. See: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/229720536/henwar-rodakiewicz.

[3] Mary Wheelwright (1878-1958), founder of what is now the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, owned the Los Luceros Ranch near Alcalde, N.M. She was, like Georgia O’Keeffe, a friend of aspiring writer Maria Chabot (1913-2001). Chabot played an important role in assisting both women in the management of their New Mexico properties. Chabot oversaw the renovation of O’Keeffe’s home at Abiquiú and arranged regional camping-painting excursions for the artist mentioned in the Library of Congress letters. See Barbara Buhler Lynes and Ann Paden, eds., Maria Chabot-Georgia O’Keeffe Correspondence, 1941-1949 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press; Santa Fe: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, c. 2003).

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