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

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.