Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spooky Archives at the Clarke

by Casey "Graveyards" Gamble

Everyone knows October is the spookiest month of the year, and special collections libraries can be full of eerie and mysterious things to celebrate the spine-tingling season. I explored the stacks of the Clarke Historical Library and dug up some of our spookiest* archival treasures.

As a student assistant, nearly every day I am asked to pull a manuscript, a map, or other deeply hidden documents in the stacks. This means I am required to walk past the portrait paintings. Two, in particular, always give me the heebie-jeebies; one is of a young lady, the other of a young man. Neither one of them look particularly pleased to be kept waiting in the back of the stacks, their memories forever trapped in wooden frames.


I don’t know who they are, and I don't know what they want,
but I can feel their judgmental stares as I walk past,
though I have yet to catch them laughing to each other.

Sometimes, our research requires that we delve into birth and marriage records, and in particular, death records. Although these records would have been used for statistical purposes, they tell the stories of those who once lived and how their lives came to an end. The first time I discovered these in the manuscript collection, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these people were remembered beyond these books of records.

While working on the current exhibit, Photography: Process, People & Preservation, we had to do our fair share of digging through old photographs. Some of this research revealed a few unexpected photos labeled "necro-photography.” While these final photographs are a thoughtful way to commemorate the deceased, the images carry an unearthly feeling.

My favorite part of our whole collection occupies about a half of a shelf, and contains books about Michigan ghosts and haunted places. In another section of shelves, we have books that explore the histories of Michigan's mental institutions, from Traverse City to Kalamazoo. There are many more books just like these for you to dive into if you’re like me and are interested in Michigan’s spooky past.

It is likely that there are many more strange things waiting to be uncovered in the stacks of the Clarke Historical Library, and I'm looking forward to more discoveries. Am I proposing that the stacks are haunted? I am not in a position to say. Do I believe that there are memories that stay with some of the historical items that we collect in the back of the stacks? It is certainly possible. This library was, after all, designed to keep the collections safe, including their secrets.

*Level of spookiness may be relative to viewer of item

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Importance of Archives and the Les O. Carlin Collection

by Marian Matyn

October is American Archives Month! It is a time for archivists to highlight what we do to link the present to the past. This means finding, acquiring, organizing, describing, learning about, and making accessible materials and documents that could, one day, be invaluable to a researcher. Central Michigan University has a long history and preserving that history is one of the missions of the Clarke. The information that we hold can paint us a better picture of how students interacted with Central in the past.

For example, one of the collections I processed, created finding aids for, cataloged, and encoded the finding aids for (which should be Google-searchable in a month) this week was the Les O. Carlin collection, a CMU counselor for whom the Carlin Alumni House is named. You can see the CENTRA catalog record for more information about him and the collection.

One of the coolest things, in my opinion, in this collection is the Central State Normal School/CMU SATC photograph album, 1984, in the Carlin collection. The SATC (Student Army Training Corps) was active at Central from September 1918 to about November 20, 1918, shortly after the Armistice was declared. The entire company consisted of four platoons of 250 men. Private Carl W. Dalrymple (Central class of 1919) noted on one photograph that 200 of the 250 had “flu” at the same time, using the gym as a hospital. Whether they actually had flu or pretended to as a medical exercise is unclear.

There were SATC programs at other universities and colleges in the United States. These Central men were lucky that their training was delayed because they were in college, and then they were never sent overseas due to the Armistice.

The album includes mostly copies of portraits and some original group photographs of students enrolled in the SATC at Central practicing with guns, attacking targets, and one with a bugle. Three of the group photographs are laminated and identified as the entire company (four platoons of 250 men) and one image is of the 4th platoon.

These photographs are identified by Private Carl W. Dalrymple of the 4th Platoon. The album also includes two 1984 color photographs of senior men who were once SATC members. It is the largest collection of SATC images in the Clarke.

Here are some images from the photograph album:


 Target training and practice, 1918, and 1984 reunion

Laminated group image of 4th platoon

Unit in "mess hall" in the old gym

Individual portraits: one is a bugler, the others have guard duty

We have other Clarke collections with names of SATC men, or a few images of the Central SATC. They can be found via a CENTRA subject search for Central Michigan University Student Army Training Corps. For more information about the collection or anything archival, please contact Archivist Marian Matyn at marian.matyn@cmich.edu

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keith Widder Speaks About His Book, Beyond Pontiac's Shadow

On Thursday, October 23, Keith Widder, former curator of history for Mackinac State Historic Parks, will visit Central Michigan University to speak about his book, Beyond Pontiac's Shadow: Michilimackinac and the Anglo-Indian War of 1763.

On June 2, 1763, the Ojibwe captured Michigan’s Fort Michilimackinac from the British. Ojibwe warriors from villages on Mackinac Island and along the Cheboygan River had surprised the unsuspecting garrison while playing a game of baggatiway. On the heels of the capture, Odawa from nearby L’Arbre Croche arrived to rescue British prisoners, setting into motion a complicated series of negotiations among Ojibwe, Odawa, and Menominee and other Indians from Wisconsin. Because nearly all Native people in the Michilimackinac borderland had allied themselves with the British before the attack, they refused to join the Michilimackinac Ojibwe in their effort to oust the British from the upper country; the turmoil effectively halted the fur trade. Beyond Pontiac’s Shadow examines the circumstances leading up to the attack and the course of events in the aftermath that resulted in the regarrisoning of the fort and the restoration of the fur trade. At the heart of this discussion is an analysis of French-Canadian and Indian communities at the Straits of Mackinac and throughout the pays d’en haut.

This presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium. A reception will follow in the Clarke Historical Library.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Antarctica Expedition Presentation



Join us Tuesday, October 14, for a presentation by Professor Andrew Mahon of the CMU Department of Biology. Professor Mahon and colleagues who joined him on his expeditions will speak about their research trips to Antarctica. You will learn what they did and why it was so important. Following this event will be a reception in the Baber Room where you can view the photographs taken by the team during their 2014 CMU expedition to the beautiful continent of Antarctica. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear from those who made this extraordinary journey!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners meeting at CMU

by Marian Matyn

Central Michigan University hosted the third Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners (MMDP) regional meeting in the Park Library on September 18, 2014. Fifty people attended. We enjoyed meeting, networking, collaborating, and sharing digital project experiences and information. The attendees are mostly archivists and librarians behind the scenes who are responsible for the various technical and digital efforts involved in getting information in various formats into searchable digital repositories, developing project processes for converting reel-to-reel tapes or microfilmed newspapers for digital repositories, dealing with storage and access issues of digital information, or the conversion of data, or changing from one major storage/access system to another, and numerous other issues and concerns.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

CMU Homecoming Traditions... With a Spin

by Casey Gamble and Bryan Whitledge

We are all familiar with the excitement that Homecoming week brings to campus. Students have fun building up to Homecoming weekend by decorating their dorms. Student organizations put the finishing touches on their floats. Alumni and CMU fans begin gathering all the maroon and gold they can find to wear for game day. The people of Mount Pleasant enjoy the parade in the morning, the tailgating and football game in the afternoon, and dances and other social events later on. These tend to be the usual festivities planned for the Homecoming, except one year, 1971, when things were shaken up.

The Student Alumni Association decided to get rid of the parades, dances, dorm decorations, and even the Homecoming court. It was reported that students didn’t particularly care about the court and that there were simply not enough parade participants to make that tradition worthwhile. The Student Alumni Association wanted to try something new that all students and alumni could enjoy, so they organized a carnival, a bazaar, and a "style show" instead. The only traditional aspects they held onto were the pep rally, the snake dance, and the football game.

But this idea did not turn out to be such a hit. According to an editorial in CM Life following Homecoming weekend, returning alumni were unimpressed with “coming home” to a ferris wheel ride, and many people felt there was a lack of school spirit. They suggested that the next time big changes were to be made for an event such as Homecoming, those changes should be voted on by the student body to see just how many people care what weekend festivities might be enjoyed.

This would seem like a fair compromise, but in a rebuttal editorial post published two days later, the Co-chairmen of the Homecoming Steering Committee had many answers and explanations for the series of complaints. They felt that the Homecoming queen did not really represent CMU in its entirety, and that Miss CMU, who took the place of the queen and her court, would be a better fit. They also found that “at least 50 groups requested to build a booth for the bazaar,” which seemed to mean that there was more interest shown for the bazaar than previous parades. The Homecoming Steering Committee also noted that they did not intend for students to refrain from decorating their dorms, only that students should decorate lightly and donate to charity the rest of the money that they normally would have spent on decorations.

The experiment of the alternative Homecoming of 1971 was a one-time event that did not quite resonate with all the attendees. But the spirit of updating some of the traditions of Homecoming to better reflect the University has lived on. Since that time, the Homecoming Ambassadors have replaced the queen and her court, the dances are not as popular as they once were, and the medallion hunt, which was developed in 2003, has become a campus favorite. As long as Homecoming is a tradition at CMU, there will always be students and alumni reinventing the traditions to make them their own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Janice Harrington Speaking Thursday


Professor Janice Harrington, storyteller, poet, and author of children’s books will speak this Thursday, September 25, at 7:00 p.m. in the Park Library Auditorium on the subject of children’s books and her own work.

Janice Harrington’s first children’s book, Going North, was published in 2004. The book won several awards and drew upon her memories of rural Lamar County, Alabama. The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County, published in 2007, was one of Time magazine’s top ten children’s books of the year. Her 2008 book, Roberto Walks Home, continues the stories of Ezra Jack Keats, a now deceased white writer who was among the first to publish stories using African American and other children of color as central characters.

Currently a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she was for seventeen years the head of children’s services at the Champaign Public Library. She has performed as a professional storyteller in a variety of settings, including the National Storytelling Festival in Washington, DC.

The presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow to talk in the Clarke Historical Library.

Professor Harrington’s presentation is made possible by the David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess Endowment.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Exhibit Opening Thursday


The Clarke holds thousands of photographs in dozens of formats. Generally, these images are used to study a subject: a discussion of early lumbering in Michigan can be bolstered with a daguerreotype of a lumber baron, researchers studying Michigan Civil War soldiers will come across tintype portraits of servicemen, and the history of Central State Normal School (CMU's previous name) in the 1920s is brought to life with historic silver-gelatin prints.

In the Clarke's new exhibit, Photography: Process, People, and Preservation, photographs are displayed and explained for their own sake, not the content or subject of the images. To guide visitors through the history of pre-digital photography, the exhibit explains the processes involved in producing photographs, from the toxic and labor intensive early days to the time when a roll of color film could be dropped off at a lab and picked up a few days later. The chemistry, the equipment required, and the challenges of producing a variety of photographs are explored.

In addition to the processes, the exhibit examines how photography played a role in the careers of various people, including an itinerant daguerreotypist, a commercial portrait photographer, and a team of university photographers. The exhibit also points out how photographs can be damaged and how they naturally deteriorate over time. Realizing the degradation of these images is essentially losing a piece of history can be discouraging, so the exhibit details the measures that museums, archives, libraries, and even individuals can take to preserve their images for generations to come.

An exhibit on photography would not be complete without the tools used to produce photographs. Fortunately, the CMU Department of Art and Design is a wonderful resource for consulting on this subject, particularly Professor Al Wildey. He has loaned several of his historic cameras, some pieces of old photographing equipment, and many rare images that illustrate the processes explained in the exhibit.

Beyond consulting and loaning materials, Professor Wildey is also opening our exhibit with a presentation on Thursday, September 18 at 7:00 pm. He will discuss the history of photography before the digital age. The event takes place in the Park Library Auditorium followed by a reception in the Clarke to give attendees the chance to look at examples of the historical processes mentioned in the presentation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Central Marching Band

by Casey Gamble

In September 1923, the students of the Central Normal College were hustling around in a frenzied attempt to register for classes (Central State Life, 9/25/1923, p. 2). The only peace to be had on campus was coming from the marching band. It was the band’s duty to lighten the atmosphere and remind students that their first days in Mount Pleasant were the start of an exciting chapter of their lives. This past week, with freshmen moving into residence halls, students buying their books, and friends meeting up after three months of summer vacation, the CMU marching band can still be heard playing in the background during an otherwise chaotic time.

CMU’s first football game isn’t far away, coming up this Thursday, August 25th, but the football players aren’t the only ones practicing every day. During band week, which happens right before the start of classes, the Marching Chips are on the practice field all day, every day, whether in the blazing heat or the pouring rain. Throughout campus, the Marching Chips work on the songs and routines that will be on display for thousands of fans throughout the fall.

The cadence of the drums can be felt across the Warriner Mall, the trumpets blare the high notes that will be the highlight of their performances, and the members of the woodwinds work in numbers to create big volume that will support the whole band. All of these musicians put in hours of work to learn about eight songs for football halftime shows in addition to the dozens of pregame tunes, stand times, and of course, the CMU Fight Song.
 
But the work doesn’t stop after band week. It should be remembered that the members of the Marching Chips are first and foremost CMU students. Once classes start, many of the music majors will be taking 10+ classes and they combine that with marching band practice a few hours in the afternoon, except for game days when some sections will be practicing by 7:00 am. Graduate students and senior section leaders will help the mostly freshman marchers keep each foot together and each note in sync until the formations are performed to perfection.

And what does all of this hard work bring? It brings cheer to the students of CMU when they need an upbeat song to get them through their studies. It brings life to football game halftimes. It brings traditions that have been handed down through generations of Marching Chips. And it brings the experience of discipline and perseverance to the musicians who are a part of the Central Marching Band.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Not everything needs to be retained forever!: An appraisal lesson

by Marian Matyn

This is a deed between Orrin Harmon and his wife, Camilla, to Adam Yarck for 25 acres of land in Ravenna Township, Portage County, Ohio, 1835. The property sold for $81.25. It is signed by Orrin, Camilla, and two witnesses. On the back is a note that Camilla agreed to the sale of the property, separately from her husband, before Judge Elias Harmon, a process required to protect her rights. Another note states that the deed was recorded July 25, 1835 in Portage County, Book V, on pages 324-325, by the Recorder, a Mr. Skinner. The deed is now in six pieces, broken along the fold lines, with a few acid stains.

This manuscript is outside of our collecting scope. This deed is from 1835, after Ohio gained statehood, so it should go to Ohio. However, none of the Ohio archives want it, because it is a personal deed and they already have the information recorded in official volumes.

I will probably add this to my Archives Administration class examples to discuss deeds, early paper, wear and tear on documents, collecting policies, and appraisal.

What is archival appraisal? A process of deciding the value of a primary source (manuscript or archival collection) using various archival appraisal theories to determine whether or not to retain it. Some of the appraisal points I consider are:

What is its evidential value? Is it information necessary to document the organization and function of an institution or department?

What is its informational value? What does the information tell us about people, places, things, events?

What is the intrinsic value? For example, a letter with blood or tear stains on it has intrinsic value that is more powerful than a transcription of the letter.

There are some of the other points to consider as well.
Does it fit our collecting policy?
Does another institution already collect material on this subject or generated by this creator?
Are there special requirements for access, storage, duplication, or conservation?
Are there political reasons to retain it?
Do we have the resources to acquire, process, catalog, house, and provide access to it?

If you have questions contact Marian the Archivist at marian.matyn@cmich.edu