Showing posts from 2010

Architectural Records-Sometimes it takes two

I received a large box of architectural records (211), 1961-1963 mostly,  of a Midland County architect, mostly of homes, churches, and local government buildings in Midland County but also in Roscommon County and of a Jewish temple in New York State. There was also a blueprint from Stockholm, Sweden. Did you know sorum means bedroom in Swedish? There is quite a variety including blueprints, tracings, notes, plans for planting greenery, presentation pieces for display, elevation views, and other architectural records. Architectural records are often difficult to handle as they are rolled and so large. It took two of us, me and my wonderful student, Cynthia, to unroll them all.   Then we piled boxes of folders on them to flatten them out. Hopefully, by January they will prove easier to handle.  It will take two of us again to organize them, folder them, measure them, and finally put them into oversized drawers. Sometimes it takes two.

This is my last 2010 posting. See you in January.

Ike's Speech found in a boat house

The Dec. 20, 2010 New Yorker has an article on "Ike's Speech," about President Eisenhower's famous "Farewell Address" of December 1960 in which he warned Americans about   a future "scientific-technological elite" who would dominate public policy and a "military-industrial complex" that would consume all our resources.  The speech, or rather multiple drafts of it, all carefully edited by Ike, were found in a boat house of Ike's speech writer, Malcolm Moos. Moos' son's wife made him get rid of the boxes, finally, which had been stored in the boat house in Minnesota for decades. The drafts show that Eisenhower suggested the speech and he and his brother, Milton, overhauled the original draft by Moos nearly 30 times. The Eisenhower Presidential Library had 8 drafts. The boat house had 21. The boathouse drafts have been processed at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, shedding new light on Pres. Eisenhower and has concerns and…

Manipulated Electronic Records A Future Challenge

Historical data being changed or stolen is a major fear of archivists. How to deal with this problem? We can see if a box is empty, but what if the data is gone from a disc or has been changed? We all know photos can be manipulated and look real. Stalin's minions inserted images of  Stalin into photos with Lenin to establish Stalin's legitimacy before computers existed. Stalin also had images of his ex-friends removed from images, once he killed them. Or, less scary example, have you removed red eye from your family e-photos or deleted a butt shot from your family e-album? In the old days you could destroy a legal paper, but the microfilmed copy remained unless you opened a reel and scratched, or expunged, the matching section off it with a razor. This legally occurred when people were found not guilty after conviction. Data manipulation and its effect on information now and in the future is a huge issue affecting and that will affect archivists, records managers, IT people, e…


We all know that Wikileaks has recently leaked a huge amount of classified US government info., some of which is available online, some of which is not. This is now a major international news story promoting much discussion in information circles, government, security, and international diplomatic channels across the world. It has and will affect our information policies in the future.

What have we learned? 1) Our government info is not well protected in today's tech savy world. Time to step up, US and reevaluate who has access to what and when and how,  improve ways to deal with high tech info, viruses, hackers, and realize that information and access issues have changed dramatically. Actually, all governments need to understand this and act accordingly. 2) Assange is a egomaniac. 3) Information must be studied in context to be fully understood especially the long-term results.

Now sites such as Mastercard (good thing I finished my Christmas shopping), Swiss Postfinance, and Pa…

UM Presidential papers story- hilarious and unnerving

Recently, while reading  the Fall 2010 issue of the UM LSA alumni magazine, I particularly enjoyed a story taken from the life and papers of UM President  Ruthven. The reason his hilarious and sometimes unnerving adventures are able to be published by the UM and appreciated by many today is because he RECORDED them. One of  the main issues archivists worry about today is that people are not recording their thoughts or ideas, adventures, or mishaps on a permanent medium. Electronic information is not permanent! Our last CMU president left the archives NOTHING. All we have are materials I copied from e-notices or the newspapers. The reality is that this lack of permanent recording of leadership will continue. At CMU the records schedule is voluntary, so nobody is required to donate his/her papers (or e-files or photos or anything) to the archives when s/he leaves or retires. By the time the e-files get to the archives, if they ever arrive, the software and hardware will likely be obsole…

Stolen Art, Possibly Stolen Art, Radiocative Art and Manuscripts

In the last few days there has been quite a bit of press on stolen, or possibly stolen, art turning up. A Frenchman admitted he had 271 Picasso drawings, prints, and watercolors, determined to be authentic, in his car trunk. He says he received them in exchange for work over time from Picasso and his widow. Even if this is true, wouldn't the man been smart enough to store them in a locked room? Why in the trunk? Picasso's heirs say he stole them. We shall see.  Meanwhile, a Polish masterpiece entitled Jewish Woman with Oranges, badly damaged, stolen by Nazis during WWII turned up an an auction house outside Hamburg. Nazi special units stole all types of art-paintings, documents, rare books, silver, sculpture, fine china, church bells, religious and ritual pieces, etc. Poland lost 43% of its entire cultural heritage. What a staggering statistic. Poor Poland! Paintings by big name artist always get good press when they turn up. I hope more manuscripts turn up. They do,  periodic…

Why you shouldn't be an archivist video

All I'm going to say is this is hysterical and it was written by real archivists. The terminology and arguments are right on.  It's like you talking to your parents about your career choice. Enjoy! I'd love to hear from some other archivists about this video!

Volume of Lincoln's murders incarceration

One of the most interesting collections I ever was privileged to access and describe in an archives was a single volume written by the federal officer in charge of guarding the imprisoned group that plotted to help kill President Lincoln. It records what each prisoner did, said, requested, ate, all general orders received, which were extremely strictly followed, and ends with the bills for laundering the prisoners' clothes, building the gallows, and shrouds for their bodies after they were hung. Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold were hungon July 7, 1865.  Until that moment, they were kept chained with hoods over their heads in solitary confinement. Except for a clergy man, no visitors were allowed. I remember that if any prisoner even attempted to speak to the guard, the guards reported it and were switched to another duty. They hated the prisoners. They weren't taking any chances for sympathetic guards to assist the murderers of the pre…

What was the most interesting collection you ever processed?

This is question I'm asked nearly every time I make a public presentation to non-archivists. I have been privileged to work with an amazing variety of collections. Some of the most interesting have been the following: Poor School Children Bills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, between the American Revolution and Civil War. Education was not free and people paid, sometimes by supplying the schoolhouse with wood and coal. If you were too poor, you remained illiterate.  The Chester County Poor House records were also interesting. The poor, sick, dying, petty thieves, epileptics, mentally ill, deaf, dumb, and blind, men, women, children, and babies were all thrown together. How terrifying and awful that must have been. Counties fought over bills for the poor-nobody wanted to pay for them. Also, the records of people, particularly very young children and even babies who were apprenticed out, or bonded, to families. Families would agree to supply them with some food, clothes, shelter, t…

Dead things in archival collections

I'm beginning to process a collection that has a lovely collection of gorgeous, dead, laminated Taiwanese butterflies in it. I am hoping to transfer them to the museum for teaching purposes. This reminds me that there are dead things we archivists find in collections. Some are there intentionally and others unintentionally. Sometimes over the years birds or rodents or snakes climb into boxes and die there. These are the unintentionally dead items. Other items are intentional: jewelry made of hair, lockets full of hair-mourning jewelry it is called, clips of a baby's hair kept as a loving memory, not necessarily because of death; and displays of dead insects. Sometimes there are photographs of the dead. These are referred to as necrophotography. Often the dead are children. Photographs were rare then so parents would call one after the child died to have their only photograph taken as a lasting memory. We have examples of necrophotography from the late 19th century and early 20…

Oral History Interviews

Today I conducted an oral history interview with Steve Holder, Chair emeritus of the English Dept. He came to campus in 1958 and earned a B.A., M.A., and taught and chaired while still earning his Ph.D. from MSU. Steve recently retired after many years of teaching and 9 as dept. chair. Pres. Anspach met him on the first day and walked with him to what was then Central Michigan College.  There have been 8 presidents since then. What a great memory and lots of interesting and thoughtful stories. I have been trying to collect the papers of senior faculty and administrators when they retire, but most of the papers are gone before I can get to them. I'm so glad Steve was willing to share his memories which will now become a permanent part of our collections.

Introducing another one of my fantastic ex-students, Julie Paveglio

Julie worked at the Clarke from 2004-2007 as a student assistant/work study. Here are her thoughts.
 I still brag to others about my experience and memories of working there---I loved it that much and considered a one-of-a-kind "job," more "experience" or "internship."  I loved the native american arts and crafts that we (The Clarke) were elected to store.  Also, the topographical maps of the area, the lines and abstract arrangements, were always visually interesting to me.  To be honest, I love anything old!  Any old, rare, tattered book, document, handwritten letter, notes from someone's cataloged collection, the old postcards, the images of the old foundries and industry buildings of Bay City, Michigan, my home town, the Arthur Rackham collection which I helped store and setting up the exhibition---His work is so beautiful, stunning and original!!!!  Moreover, working at the Clarke made me more aware and proud of where I've come from, geographic…

Walk Them Home-My impression

Yesterday morning I was privileged to participate in the "Walk Them Home" event. Over 200 tribal members, CMU administrators, staff, and students, and members of the public, including children, carried 41 large plastic tubs of partial human remains and funerary objects, from CMU's museum to the tribe's campground. The walk totaled about 5 miles. We had good weather. When we walked past the high school, at least several hundred students were standing silently and respectfully. What a teaching moment! That was so powerful to me personally. Terrible atrocities were committed against native peoples in North America. This was a chance to show respect and acknowledge that pain and to try and heal some of it. This is a moment those students and the rest of us will always remember, a once in a lifetime experience.  During part of the walk I helped carry tub #36. There were 3 generations of a Saginaw Chippewa family marching in front of me, carrying remains of their ancestor…

Introducing one of my archival processing students, Jaclyn Trainor

Jaclyn Trainor: When I worked for the Clarke Historical Library, January 2008-March 2009,  I leaned a ton about organization! I worked with Marian in the archives department and I dealt with many different collections that were new and needed to be cataloged or old collections that need to be updated/reorganized. I carted around many boxes to and from the stacks! It was a great experience working at the Clarke and it really did help my organizational skills. I am currently in my last year at CMU, I am a Commercial Recreation Major and Hospitality and Event Management minor. I am on the hunt for a year long internship so I can graduate by December 2011. I also work at an after school program called Partners Empowering All Kids (PEAK) at Ganiard Elementary.

So what is an archivist anyway?: the perpetual question from non-archivists

No, an archivist is not an anarchist nor a builder of arches, although I have been accused of being both. We work with information of permanent historical research value. We are trained professionals with a degree in library or information studies (or both) with graduate history classes and specific classes and training on archival collections in all formats. Instead of published materials which librarians work with, we work with diaries, travel journals, presidential papers,  letters, emails, treaties, videos, home movies, speeches, drawings, drawn maps, music, verse, photographic materials, and negatives. Some archival collections are composed of  metal, rock, linen, animal skins, glass, film, or wampum. Archivists organized archival collections, rehouse them in acid-free containers, inventory and describe them, catalog and encode them so they can be searched online, house and protect them, and make them available to researchers. Archivists may create exhibits, conduct workshops and…

Your Friendly Archivist

While talking to an esteemed colleague, who is also the prof of a graduate history class I'm currently taking, he told me that he loves talking to the archivist when he conducts research in an archival collections.  The archivist has in-depth knowledge of the collection from processing it, as well as the ability to recommend other relevant collections, having processed them as well.  It warms my heart and is so gratifying when someone understands and recognizes what I do and what I'm there for. Your friendly neighborhood archivist is in fact one of your best research tools. He sent one of his undergrad. students to me and together we came up with a plan for his research paper, and a quality list of primary and secondary sources. I will say that this colleague has an attachment to microfilm, which is not shared by all, but which I can appreciate since I worked before digitization. As more collections are digitized, he'll be able to enjoy collections online as he once viewed…

Repatriation- In honor and respect Nov. 3-5 Mt. Pleasant, MI

The public is invited to attend repatriation of ancestral remains events on Nov. 3-5  co-sponsored by CMU and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe. A roundtable discussion of repatriation will occur 5-6:30pm in the Park Library Aud. led by Dennis Banks, co-founder of AIM, the American Indian Movement. On Thrs, I will participate in the Walk Them Home event from CMU's Special Olympics building to the Tribe's Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery. Lunch and shuttle service back to CMU is provided. On Fri at noon there will be a Returning to the Earth ceremony officiated by Curtis Hopkins and other Anishinabe spiritual leaders. On Fri Nov. 5th at 6pm there will be a spirit feast. For more info you can call 989-774-2508 or email  This is such an important event. These remains and funerary objects have been kept in boxes in an office for years. It is time for them to be buried with honors and prayers. This is part of the many acts of repatriation of remains from museums and excavat…

Student Processors

Today I have a new student processor student! This is the first one assigned specifically to me in several years. Students are such an important part of the Clarke. This term we will have 12 student employees. They help process new and old published and archival material, sort, photocopy, inventory, label, shelve, reshelve, assist patrons, put up and take down exhibits, staff the reading room, help scan materials, enter data and metadata,  microfilm and sort newspapers, and recycle, among other duties. I have been very fortunate to have wonderful students work for and with me over the years. I will be highlighting some of them soon. My experience is if you train and supervise students well, and have high expectations for them, they can do a lot well. Is anyone else successfully using students for a myriad of purposes?

Dead Sea Scrolls to be published online by Google

Yesterday the BBCNews announced that the 2,000-year old Dead Sea Scrolls will be scanned by researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority, assisted by Google scientists, and become available online in a searchable database. Every fragment, and most of them are small fragments, will be scanned. I am so excited to read this! The scrolls were found in the mid-1940s above the Qumran caves by a Bedouin shepherd. They are written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, and include some of the earliest texts from the Bible and Ten Commandments. Thus far, only a small number of scholars have had access to the scrolls, which is an ongoing point of contention in academia.  I am fascinated by the Scrolls, their age, survival, importance in historical and biblical research as well as spirituality, and I wonder about the ancient scribes who copied them and the courageous people who hid them. What a treasure trove! What an archives! This will increase scholarly research access and hopefully result in many …

October is American Archives Month

SAA has declared Oct. to be American Archives Month. If you would like more information about it, SAA's website is a good place to begin. Here's the url: We have never officially celebrated American Archives month.  I wonder how many MI archives really celebrate American Archives month. I hope others are doing something. I did locate my Archives month poster, which is quite nice of the Lincoln Memorial, including  images of Lincolnalia and Marian Anderson singing in front of the Memorial with all the big microphones. If you are a MI archivist and you are celebrating in a real way, please let me know how. Give the rest of us some ideas to implement next year! Thank you!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

No, this is not something invented by Hallmark, so you don't have to go out and buy a $4 card. I did not know there was such a month until I received a recent posting. This is the month to be cyber aware and safe. Especially with all the identity breaches in government records and online today, we should all try to be safer with our settings and careful when we respond to emails.  CMU is offering a presentation  on Weds Oct 20 on staying safe from online threats. I wonder how many institutions are offering such presentations? Does anyone else know this month exists?

Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review Process

According to a recent New York Times article of this title by Patricia Cohen on Aug. 25, 2010, the humanities have lagged behind the sciences in using blogs and wikis to access, learn, and debate research. Who doesn't know that. Publish (in peer-reviewed journals) or perish has been the call at universities for generations.  I don't think it matters what the format is, if the forum is peer-reviewed. You have to have publications to earn tenure and promotion at universities. Scholarship in peer-reviewed journals versus information exchanged on the web is "the most pressing intellectual issue in the next decade.", according to Dan Cohen, Director of the center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Scholars maintain that only scholars in a particular field are capable of property evaluating originality and intellectual significance of research, not the general internet population. Yes, that makes sense. Just because it is on the web does not mean the inf…

Missing records turn up eventually sometimes

I'm always amazed at historic materials that turn up in the news. In this weeks news there is a story about a supposed Michelangelo painting "The Pieta with the Two Angels". The piece's authenticity is, at this point, debatable. In July 2010 documents from Hitler's time in prison in 1924 went to auction. His book Mein Kampf was written in prison. According to the newspaper article the documents were originally purchased at a Nuremberg flea market. I don't supposed Hitler would have appreciated that. Another example is a long-lost letter by Rene Descartes discovered in Haverford College in Feb. 2010. It was stolen  from Paris's Institut de France about 170 years ago and will be returned to France. I wonder if I will ever find anything in the Clarke that will need to be returned to Europe.

RDA Resource Description and Access Cataloging Standards coming

For decades AACR I or II have been used by catalogers of printed and  non-printed sources (books, manuscripts, maps, periodicals, records, tapes, websites, etc.). AACRII was in full effect when I was a mere library studies student at the UM. In 90 days, the RDA trial at the Library of Congress will end and RDA will become the national cataloging standard, and probably soon the international cataloging standard. Am I the only archivist nervous about the switch? It will be an adjustment for those of us who had spacing and punctuation standards drilled into us. One space off on homework, you receive a negative point on your homework. The new standards, designed to accommodate electronic materials no doubt, seem pretty loose and creative. I wonder if those who developed it actually catalog?

Ansel Adams photos found at garage sale worth $200 million

An article in cnn on July 27, 2010 noted 65 Adams photos (actually glass-plate negatives) were found at a garage sale. There is some debate as to if they are his or not, but it seems likely. There are so many archaic forms of images in archival collections. I have worked with most of them which is quite an education and an experience at the same time. Too bad more of them can't have a value attached. Images recording a way of life that is now lost to the past, or someone's perspective or life are hard to value. Some we can value for the name of the photographer or the beauty or searing quality of the image, but others are of value only to the creator. Meanwhile, archivists work with them all.

A person's entire life in a box

We archivists document a person's life. A recent collection I processed consisted of 1 cubic ft. and it was sufficient to document a person's life, marriage, higher education, family, career, and research interests. How many more lives can be documented in a mere folder? How many lives are never documented at all? And then, there are a few, whose lives generate gigantic collections. This doesn't mean they were more loved or lived longer, it simply means that their careers generated materials of permanent historic research value. I am also very interested in how some 19th century housewives were more astute observers of humanity than those who generate large collections today.

Excellent quote

"history should be more than just a documentation of dates and events; it should include the experience and personalities of those who lived it. " Marshall Tirimble Arizona's State Historian, 2004 How true and archives make that a possibility for historians, students, and decedents.

Renovated Vatican Library reopens

I love learning about libraries abroad. After 3 years, the Vatican library has new climate-controlled rooms for its historic materials, and security measures. There are so many wonderful items there that most of us do not know about, for Ex. King Henry VIII's love letters to Anne Boleyn. Manuscripts, books, drawings, engravings, coins, medals, statues, and paintings are among its treasures. I hope to visit someday soon. I envy its scholars.

Yoopers plan to raise $75K for museum

An article in notes that in the U.P., history buffs plan to raise $75K for a new museum to house a WWII glider and other memorabilia near Iron Mountain. Good for them! $ is tight everywhere in MI and many libraries have had to close or limit hours or fire staff. I hope this attempt works.  Is anyone out there trying to start a new museum? Mount Pleasant has a hands on museum for kids underway.