Cimbalom (Hungarian Dulcimer)
Materials: Wood, metal, wire
Music has always been important and a great influence to all of the cultures around the world. Many of these cultures have influenced the people and culture of Texas, including those who immigrated from Hungary. Music and the arts are a large part of the culture in Hungary. They have musical entertainment all year round including symphonies, ballets, chamber orchestras, operas, etc.
One of the musical instruments we have in the Institute of Texan Cultures collection is a cimbalom. This is a Hungarian Dulcimer which is a flat table-shaped instrument that sits horizontally, similar to as a piano would. There is a Cimbalom Association that seeks to popularize the cimbalom and similar instruments all around the world. It is played by using two mallets to strike the strings which are stretched out over the top of the instrument. The mallets can be made of metal, leather, or other materials depending on the desired sound. It is the national musical instrument of Hungary and has a long history there since around the 6th Century.
It is believed that the Roma were the first to widely use the cimbalom. The Roma/Romani have a long history in Hungary and one of the ways that they gained position and standing in their communities was through their music. The Hungarian Romani are the largest minority in Hungary. They arrived in Hungary after fleeing the Turks and Balkans in the 14th and 15th Centuries.
The Roma began immigrating to the United States in the 1800′s, some as forced deportees from Europe, while others immigrated voluntarily along with the larger wave of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. There are groups of Roma in Texas and they host several festivals throughout the year. [Abby Goode, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
Here are a couple of videos of a cimbalom being played:
Grandchamp, A. (1957) Hungarian refugee group settles in texas. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/509549065?accountid=7122
People visit museums to learn more about topics that interest them. Museums showcase a wide range of rare, and unique items from all over the world. Museum collections staff are specially trained in how to preserve and protect these items so that future generations of visitors can enjoy the same experience. They also typically have an academic background that is closely related to the topics featured in their museum, so they can be great resources when you have an item you’d like to learn more about. Here at the Institute of Texan Cultures we frequently get questions from our guests looking for more information about objects that they have discovered. Sometimes when the story of “what is that?” gets lost, and museums can help.
One of the questions that I often get asked, when people find out where I work, is: “How do you know if the objects are real?” By which, I assume, people want to know how museums do object research to know things like…when was it made…who made it…what was it used for…where did it come from. This type of research can be time consuming, but is definitely something that most people (even non-museum experts) can learn to do. In fact, it can be one of the most exciting parts of acquiring a new collections object.
So, what are the basic steps in researching an object?
Investigation: First, I spend some time talking to the person who brought me the object, to see what they might already know about it. Like a detective, I’m looking for clues about what it might be and where it came from. Sometimes, the person knows parts of the story already and I just need to find the evidence to either confirm or disprove what they already know. Other times, the person bringing the object may have information that can be useful but not even realize it. It is important to know where the item was found, and any previous owners, as these can sometimes be the clues you need to point you in the right direction.
Examination & Documentation: Next, I like to thoroughly examine the item. Are there any makers marks or writing on it? What types of materials is it made of? How big is it? How is it put together? During this step it is important to document any clues that I find. Taking photos and notes will help you refer back to these clues later.
Research: Depending on the type of object, and what you’re wanting to know, some museums may be able to tell you immediately about your item after just these first steps. However, some objects and inquiries need a little more thought and research, even for someone with a museum background. Museum professionals will then use a variety of written and online resources, along with consultations with subject matter experts, to help discover more about your object. However, even a non-expert can sometimes turn up a wealth of information, just through some basic internet searches and a little patience.
Just like the professionals, start by investigating your item’s history and examining it for clues. These steps should give you some basic information to start your search with. Begin by searching for any names that you discovered. Today there are a number of genealogy and public records focused websites that can help you to find: obituaries, probate records, census records, military service records, newspaper articles and other documents related to these names. Business names, patent numbers, and makers marks can also be searched on the internet with great success, and foreign language inscriptions can be roughly translated using a number of free internet based translation tools. The results of these types of searches can often help tell you where your item came from, and when it was made.
If your investigation and examination did not turn up any names or marks, try to learn more general information about the type of object you have. For instance, if you are researching a wooden trunk, you can use the internet to find out what type of trunks there are. Were certain shapes manufactured, or more popular, in certain areas or at certain times? Sometimes you will discover that your item belongs to a recognizable type, that can be dated or linked to a specific company or maker. At this stage, it is also helpful to use the internet for image searches. These can help you find other similar items, that might have already been identified by someone else.
Hopefully, after these steps you will have discovered what type of item you have, where it was likely made, and roughly how old it is. To find more specific details you can sometimes find collectors guides or books written about your specific type of item. These resources can help you compare how your item is constructed and what it is made of with other similar items, to give you more information about your piece.
If you still weren’t able to find any information about your object, please feel free to seek expert help. Museums are often willing to do some identification research for our visitors, even when they aren’t interested in donating the item. However, do remember that museums are not able to provide any appraisal information. University departments are also sometimes willing to help research objects, and (for a fee) you can contact an appraiser to find out more about your item. [Kathryn S. McCloud]
Have you ever researched a family heirloom? What did you discover?
This book is entitled “A Pocket Guide to Vietnam,” and was written in 1966 for the United States Military forces that served in Vietnam. As the title suggests this book is about Vietnam and the culture of the people who live there. The United States Department of Defense published this guide to help soldiers going to Vietnam to better understand the people and politics of the country. The book contains sections on the geography/climate of Vietnam; as well as a short history of the country and region. Their is also a section on the government and political situation during that time period. There are also some helpful directions on how to navigate while in the cities and countryside, their monetary system and some other useful hints. There is also a great deal of information about Vietnamese culture. There are sections that discuss their social structures and social customs. There are explanations of important customs and religious practices and holidays/festivals. Vietnamese clothing style is also discussed, along with food practices and normal dishes that would be served at the different meals. These sections are typical of what you would find in most travel guide books for a country, however there are other sections that really make this stand out as a military resource.
There is a section of “Do’s and Don’ts” for the soldiers while they are in the country, such as “Do appreciate what the South Vietnamese have endured; Don’t give the impression the U.S, is running the war.” There are diagrams that show how to identify the ranks of Vietnamese servicemen in the Vietnamese Army, Navy, and Air Force. There is a list of specific rules for the military forces while they are in Vietnam, such as “Always give the Vietnamese the right of way,” and “Don’t attract attention by loud, rude, or unusual behavior.” There is a section about the legal status of United States soldiers while serving in Vietnam. The language used throughout the guide and the way it is written is what you would find in other military documents.
The United States military was present in Vietnam to assist South Vietnam in the war against North Vietnam. This conflict was known as the Vietnam War, and lasted from 1955 until 1975. The United States’ goal was to prevent North Vietnam from gaining control of the South and creating a unified communist state. The United States eventually withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, and in 1975 South Vietnam fell to the North in what is now known as The Fall of Saigon.
Vietnam is part of Indochina, which is in Southeast Asia and is bordered on the western side by China, Laos, and Cambodia and on the eastern side by the Gulf of Thailand and the Gulf of Tonkin. Vietnam was once part of Imperial China, but gained its independence in the 10th century. Vietnam had several successful royal dynasties that ruled and they spread politically and geographically until the French took control of Indochina in the mid 19th century. The French were pushed out on Vietnam in 1954, but the country split into two, forming North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The country was unified in 1975 and is now officially called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
With the Vietnam War and the social unrest that took place in Vietnam afterwards, their was an influx of Vietnamese immigration into the United States and many came to Texas. Most of these people were businessmen and well-educated who fled because of the new communist government. Those Vietnamese who made Texas their home settled in cities such as Dallas, Houston, Austin, and along coastal cities. The coastal cities in Texas were similar in climate, geography and employment (fishing) to the towns and cities they had come from. There were several waves of Vietnamese immigration into Texas, with the first wave was primarily made up of educated professionals, later waves were of predominately blue collar workers. Houston was a major hub for Vietnamese immigrants due to its growing economy and location near the ocean. Also the climate was very similar to that of Vietnam so it was an easier adjustment for many. Today Vietnamese culture is seen in many parts of Texas. [Jennifer McPhail]
San Antonio Quilt Guild
San Antonio, TX
Materials: Cloth, thread, batting
The first Texas Folklife Festival was held at the Institute of Texan Cultures in September of 1972. The event was modeled after the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held in Washington, D.C. In 2015, the Texas Folklife Festival, will be celebrating 43 years of cultural celebration in Texas! Each year more than 40 different cultural groups from around Texas come together to celebrate their culture and heritage through food, dancing, crafts and music. To commemorate the festival’s success, the Texas Folklife Festival periodically issues a commemorative poster for the event. Artist’s from around the state submit their designs for the poster and an image is chosen by the Institute of Texan Culture’s Director and staff to represent the festival that year. In 1983, the design selected was by San Antonio artist and illustrator, Chris Moroney. The painting showed a beautiful and elaborate star quilt, with a border of national flags representing the many cultures featured at the festival and in the Institute’s many exhibits.
This quilt, now a part of the permanent collection at ITC, was made to replicate the poster. After the image was chosen for the poster, the artist contacted the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild, with the idea of converting his image into an actual quilt. The quilters and staff at the ITC were so excited by the idea they decided to turn the making of the quilt into a Folklife Festival event in itself. The broken star pattern that forms the center of the quilt was set up in a quilting frame on the festival grounds and visitors were encouraged to help with the quilting. Members of the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild were on hand to assist the visitors with the design, and demonstrate how to quilt. By all accounts, quilting the TFF quilt was a hugely popular activity at the festival, though the guests weren’t able to completely finish the quilt by the end of the event. Luckily the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild members were able to complete the quilting and add the flag border, in time for the finished quilt to be displayed at the 1984 Texas Folklife Festival. This quilt has been on display at the ITC many times since, and can be seen today on the exhibit floor, hanging outside the Texas Art Quilts and Modern Masterpieces exhibit.
Below is a short video showing some of the other great crafts that have been demonstrated over the years at the Texas Folklife Festival. [Kathryn S. McCloud]
The Exhibits and Collections staff here at ITC is keeping busy this week installing the fifth annual Distinguished Artist Veterans art show. This exhibit is coordinated by VSA Texas, the state organization on arts and disability, and includes a wide array of artworks made by disabled American veterans from Texas. The show officially opens on November 6th, but you can get a sneak peek of what’s in store below.
Halloween is this Friday, which means it will be a night of costumes and, of course, Trick or Treating. Trick or Treating is an integral part of Halloween celebrations for most children in the United States. For most Texans today, Trick or Treating is a normal tradition for anyone born during the 1940′s and after. Even though it has been going on for some time, the practice as we know it is less than 100 years old. Today’s version of Trick or Treating developed during the early part of the 20th century as a way to keep youths from playing tricks and vandalizing different parts of the city. Children and older youths were encouraged to dress up in costumes and go to the different houses in the neighborhood to receive candy or other goodies.
Trick or Treating may have some origins in a tradition associated with the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day. In England there were special cakes made for the souls which were called “soul cakes” and people would go “a’ soulin” for these cakes. It was usually the poor who went to wealthier homes to collect these “soul cakes,” which they would be given as long as they agreed to pray for family’s dead relatives.
Besides Trick or Treating, there are other traditions that take place around Halloween. Carved pumpkins, or jack-o’-lanterns, are a popular holiday decoration. Many families in Texas will go to a pumpkin patch and select a pumpkin or two for carving. The pumpkin is carved to resemble a ghoulish face or other holiday inspired image. In recent years people have also started carving designs based off their favorite cartoon or movie characters. To carve a pumpkin, the top is cut off and then the insides are scooped out. Once everything is cleaned out then the design is drawn on the the outside of the pumpkin. Knives or special carving tools are used to cut out the sketched design. Once the design is complete a candle or other light source is placed inside and the top is placed back on. The light shines through the cutout of the carving and there you have a jack-o-lantern.
This tradition has its origins in Ireland, but instead of pumpkins, which were not grown there, turnips were used. The tradition is based on the old tale of Stingy Jack who was able to trick and trap the Devil twice. Jack would only release the Devil if he promised not to collect Jack’s soul when he died. The Devil agreed and was set free, but when Jack died he was not allowed into Heaven and he was barred from Hell because the Devil had promised not to collect his soul. The Devil cast Jack into the darkness with an ember from hell that would never go out. So Jack carved a turnip and placed the ember inside and became known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack O’Lantern. People started carving turnips and creating jack-o’-lanterns so they could see on All Hallows Eve night. When the tradition came to America it was found that pumpkins were easier to carve and so the switch was made from turnip to pumpkin.
This Friday while everyone celebrates in their own way, please remember to be safe and watch for the children while they are out and about Trick or Treating! From the Collections staff here at the ITC, have a fun and safe holiday! (Jennifer McPhail)
European or Latin American
Materials: Cloth, metal & plastic
This doll shows a bullfighter, leaning out of the way of a charging bull. Originally introduced to the Americas by the Spanish, bullfighting has long been a popular sport throughout Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico and Latin America. There are many different styles of bullfighting performed in different areas of the world, not all of which include injuring the bull. However, in most traditional bullfights seen in Spain and Mexico the death of the bull is the climax of the event. In these traditional events professional bullfighters, called matadores or toreros, perform a variety of death-defying moves to encourage the bull to charge at them. Depending on where the fight is taking place, and the stage of the fight, there could be a number of fighters in the ring with the bull. The fighters use a number of items in the fight. The doll above demonstrates how two of these items were used. In this example, the fighter is using a piece of red cloth, called a muleta or capote, to encourage the bull to charge. As the bull charges past the fighter, he attempts to a jab colorful lance, or pica, into the bull’s neck.. The metal tips of the lances are sharpened to form small hooks that catch in the bull’s flesh and remain sticking out of his neck throughout the fight. The repeated charges, small injuries from the picas, and the resulting blood loss, slowly exhaust the bull. At the end of the fight, the fighter’s goal is to kill the bull with a single, perfectly placed, sword between his shoulder blades and into his heart.
Bullfights are often the main attraction at larger events including a number of other shows and activities. Thousands of bullfighting events occur annually around the world. Despite their popularity, bullfighting is now seen by many to be cruel and inhumane. Bullfighting is now banned from National Spanish Television, a number of areas in Europe, and there are a number of movements working to expand these bans worldwide. The following link will connect you to a National Geographic video with more information on the bullfighting tradition in Mexico. Viewer discretion is advised however as this video includes footage of actual bullfights. http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture-places/sports/mexico_bullfighting.html
While bullfighting is illegal in the United States, there are other sporting events that use bulls such as the charreada, which is an event similar to today’s modern rodeo. The charreada developed when area ranch hands would compete to see who was better at various animal husbandry skills. The charreada incorporates equestrian (horse) competitions and demonstrations, special costumes for the horse and riders, music, and food. Several competitions take place during the charreada, including a bull riding event called, Jineteo de Toro. The bulls used for the Jineteo de Toro are smaller than those used by Professional Bull Riders, Inc. Jineteo de Toro bulls typically weigh from 900lbs to 1300lbs, where bulls used in American rodeo-style bull riding can weigh up to 2200lbs. Another difference between these two types of bull riding is the length of time the rider has to stay on the bull. In PBR events, the rider is trying to stay on for 8 seconds, in Jineteo de Toro the rider tries to stay on until the bull stops bucking. The charreada is still popular in Mexico and parts of the United States.
Both the charreada and bullfighting have taken place here in Texas. Bullfighting was legal in Texas up until 1891, when there was a push to move away from blood sports. Jineteo de Toro was, and is still, an active event here in Texas, but with the introduction of Wild West Shows, American cowboys started riding larger steers instead of the smaller bulls. Steers were used because they were easier to move from place to place. Steer riding was not a popular event until the 1920′s when bull riding came back into fashion. In 1936 Cowboy’s Turtle Association was founded, and began setting rules and regulations regarding bull riding. With the Association and the regulations, bull riding became much more popular on the rodeo circuit. In 1945 they changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboy’s Association, and became the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) in 1975. In 1992 several professional bull riders broke away from the PRCA and founded Professional Bull Riders, Inc. which is the only professional organization for American-style bull riding. Bull riding has been a part of rodeo since its beginning and is considered the most popular event in rodeo. [Kathryn S. McCloud and Jennifer McPhail]
This object is a single cavity bullet mold for a .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle. According to the donor this mold was used during the American Civil War by a man named John Jacob Thomas. According to family tradition, Thomas immigrated from Switzerland and served with the Refugio Home Guard, and also served as a Refugio County constable in 1864.
In the spring of 1861 the first shots of the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter. Although, Texas had worked hard to join the Union in 1845 they were concerned by the election of Abraham Lincoln and believed he was a threat to slavery. Texans tried to get Sam Houston to call a convention but Houston was devoted to both the Union and Texas and refused to take any steps that would aid secession. A convention was eventually held and Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861. The war would last until 1865 and result in more 600,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest war ever fought by the United States.
Bullets like the ones made from this mold were called minié balls and were one of the reasons why the causality number was so high. The minié ball was one of many technological innovations during this time period. The minié ball was invented by a Frenchman named Claude-Etienne Minié. However, the French never adopted the bullet design. It was James Burton a man from Harper’s Ferry, Virginia who perfected the bullet in the United States. “Burton simplified the design…and developed a hollow-based, .58-caliber lead projectile that could be cheaply mass produced.” One person could manufacture about 3,000 bullets an hour. Different from a regular musket ball the minié ball was cylindrical in shape with a hollow base that expanded when fired. “By the mid-1850s, the fully evolved minié bullet made it possible to build an infantry weapon as easy to load as the old smoothbore musket but with the accuracy and range of a rifle. The term rifle-musket was used to show the weapon’s lethal combination.” A soldier using one could fire up to six shots a minute, and with more time to aim could hit a four square-foot target at 500 yards. The minié ball was used by both the North and South.
Although, the minié ball was a new ground-breaking invention, musket fire was responsible for a large amount of the casualties. Because of the relative softness of the bullets, they would flatten and deform on impact, creating a larger wound and more severe injuries. With a regular musket ball the entrance wound was usually the same size as the exit wound. However, with the minié ball the exit wound was much larger. Minié ball bullets were also more likely to break and splinter bone than a traditional musket ball, and in turn cause more damage to muscle and tissue. Almost all direct hits from a minié ball were deadly, though some soldiers did survive.
The soldiers who survived being hit by one of these bullets would be taken to army surgeons, typically encamped near the battlefield. Cleaning contaminated wounds was time consuming and sometimes did not work. In a battle environment and a mounting number of injured men, amputation was sometimes the only option. An amputation was more successful if done before the wound became infected. With the poor sanitation available at the front, infection was a common problem during the war and caused twice as many deaths as the battle wounds themselves. One reason rate of infection was so high was because it was not yet common practice to sterilize medical equipment prior to surgery, and the concept of germ theory had not been completely accepted. Even though Civil War surgeons saved more lives than not, they had a bad reputation amongst the soldiers and were often called butchers. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
The following video shows how soldiers made paper cartridges for the .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle.
Howey, A. W. (1999, 10). The widow-maker. Civil War Times Iillustrated, 38, 46-51+.