Thursday, June 18, 2020

Piecing Together History

Archives, museums, and libraries are sometime seen as stodgy, but most are actually highly creative organizations that engage the public with all sorts of fun and interesting programming. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, institutions large and small across the world have gotten even more creative to connect with people. During a meeting with CMU Libraries staff, Marian Matyn, the Archivist at the Clarke, mentioned that some institutions are using images from their holdings to create virtual jigsaw puzzles.

That suggestion sparked an idea for Janet Danek, the CMU Libraries’ Coordinator of Art, Exhibits, and Projects: are there any images from past exhibitions that we might be able to give the “jigsaw” treatment? Janet worked with Bryan Whitledge, the Archivist for University Digital Records, to transform images from the Shaping Memories through Three Lenses exhibit into virtual puzzles. This exhibit, from the fall of 2019, featured the photography of three of CMU’s photographers: Robert Barclay, Peggy Brisbane, and Steve Jessmore. Over the course of nearly forty years, these three documented the history of the Central Michigan University, from big events with nationally known guests to quiet moments of studying, and everything in between.

By transforming their work into puzzles, people have a new way to interact with the Clarke’s holdings and the history of CMU. If you loved seeing the photos before, focusing on detail while piecing the images together will give you a new appreciation for the art of Barclay, Brisbane, and Jessmore. Iconic pictures, like the toilet paper toss, CMU’s Baja car flying over a dune, or Jeff Daniels’ performance in downtown Mt. Pleasant (pictured above) are available to anyone at the click of a mouse. The puzzles have been created to offer up a range of difficulty levels: from breezy, forty-piece breaks that might take five minutes to 200-piece stumpers that could occupy a couple hours.

Each week, the Clarke will upload a new puzzle. So, check back regularly to piece together the history of CMU, one iconic image at a time.