Showing posts from November, 2010

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.