Friday, February 27, 2015

Asbestos in the archives!

by Marian Matyn

One Tuesday night a couple of weeks ago, in my History 583 Archives Administration class, one of my students found an asbestos tile in the Bliss Lumber Company records that they are all processing for the final project. It is clearly labeled as ASBESTOS. Why is it there? Asbestos was used in roofing tile and insulation for decades. There were lots of fires in lumber yards, mills, and camps. Asbestos tiles helped protect your roof. They were widely used for decades. This was a manufacturer's example sent to the Bliss Co. to solicit business. The manufacturer was H.W. Johns of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It dates from 1897-1898. It was still in one solid piece with attached label and original rusting paper clip.

Now, what to do with it? I can't keep it in the archives. I sent an email to our hazardous waste people to report it and learn how to get rid of it. I specifically asked about what I should tell my students.

After discussion with Jeff, CMU's Environmental Coordinator, we agreed that it is probably pretty non-threatening to me and my students and he will dispose of it and I do not have to do paperwork.

Then, in discussion, I remembered last year a student found a paint sample that was advertised as "Burn it," but it would not burn.

I thought what could the composition be? Jeff said, and I quote (I hope he doesn't mind) "That sounds suspicious." So I got that paint sample out of the stacks, and Jeff decided he had better take that as well. Here's a photo. It's made with asbestine. For some reason it just did not occur to me last year that this was some form of asbestos. It probably gave off asbestos vapors when Bliss employees tried to test it by making it burn, in 1897. Both examples are solid and non-life threatening.
So I made a note that the paint sample has been removed. I photographed both so we have a record of it. I notified my student who found the tile and will explain to my class next week about my discussion and how to handle them.

Now this makes me wonder what else may turn up in the Bliss records?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Susan Stan Speaks About International Children's Books

by Frank Boles

On February 19, retired CMU Professor Susan Stan opened the Clarke Historical Library’s newest exhibit, International Children’s Books: Celebrating Recent Gifts with a presentation on the value and importance of international children’s literature. Professor Stan, a noted scholar in the field, began her presentation with a provocative question – why should the Clarke Historical Library devote funds, space, and energy to collecting international children’s books? Why does it matter?

Over the course of the next 45 minutes, Professor Stan made a persuasive case for the importance of studying international children’s literature because of the cultural insights it gives us. International children’s books show us both what we share in common, but also how different cultures see the world very differently.

For example, Professor Stan compared Japanese author Taro Gomi’s, My Friends with Americans Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell’s, I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. Reflecting a culture that places a high value on interdependence, Gomi’s unnamed young protagonist says “I learn to study from my friends the teachers.” In contrast, Curtis and Cornell’s protagonist, when thinking about school, proudly announces, “I’m gonna like me when I’m called on to stand. I know all my letters like the back of my hand.” In a nod to American culture’s love of personal independence, this young lady seems to have learned her letters like the back of her hand without the help of anyone else. One author stresses interdependence. The other co-authors highlight self-accomplishment. Both reflect cultural priorities and beliefs.

In a second example, Professor Stan compared the American book Knuffle Bunny to the French book, Loopy. The story told in both books is essentially the same. A young child forgets a favorite stuffed animal somewhere away from their home and the parents respond. It is the parental response that notes the cultural differences. In America, the entire family goes running down the block and through the park to the laundromat where Knuffle Bunny has been left. In France, “Mommy said I should sleep with another toy tonight.”

French adults would likely find Knuffle Bunny an amusing read -- American parents overreacting to a minor problem in their child’s life. American adults would likely find Loopy a bit offputting. How could parents make their daughter suffer through the night when a quick trip could solve the problem? The answer is that each culture has a different sense of how a child’s needs should be evaluated and met. Loopy will come home in due time, and a child needs to learn patience and consideration for others’ time and needs. Knuffle Bunny has to be retrieved immediately, lest a child suffer anxiety. The stories share two ways of raising a child, and neither viewpoint necessarily right or wrong.

Comparisons like these point to the importance of children’s literature in a broader context. As Professor Stan noted, children’s books are not just for children, but for anyone interested in finding basic cultural similarities and differences across the globe, by reflecting upon to stories, morals, and values that children’s literature shares with the very young.

The exhibit, International Children’s Books: Celebrating Recent Gifts will be on display in the Clarke through the summer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Professor Stan to Open New Clarke Exhibit

Join the Clarke Historical Library Thursday, February 19th as internationally recognized expert on children's books and CMU Professor Emeritus, Susan Stan will kick off the Clarke Speaker Series and open the Clarke's new exhibit, International Children's Books: Celebrating Recent Gifts.

Her most recent publication, Global Voices: Picture Books from Around the World, was published in 2014.

Professor Stan will speak at 7:00 p.m. in the Park Library Auditorium. Following the presentation, tour the new exhibit and enjoy a reception in the Clarke Historical Library. This event is free and open to the public. If you are unable to join us in person, we invite you to watch the presentation live at

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day - CM Life Personals Edition

by Casey "Chase me" Gamble

The Clarke Historical Library wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day! We LOVE being able to share historical documents with patrons from all different places! CMU students also have a "history" of showing love to each other through the CM Life Newspaper.

It seemed to begin in the 1970s, with only one or two submissions to the paper, like this one that we found particularly sweet:

The idea grew quickly, with dozens of people sending their love. We liked this column from 1975 - being worth more that a Volkswagen is pretty special...and 9 zillion years - that's a long time:

Soon the paper was inviting students to send more, filling up multiple pages worth.
It may be more convenient nowadays to express love for your significant other through Facebook or Twitter (#ValentinesDay #dinnerwithbae #ILYSM), the newspaper tradition clearly has not died down (see today's personals in the CM Life, pictured below), and we think it's more of a grand gesture. Some things have changed. The colorful print, the handcuffs. But it's all the same kind of love, isn't it?

We wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 John Cumming Isabella County Historical Preservation Award Winners

In 2009, as part of the Isabella County sesquicentennial celebration, the Clarke Historical Library staff joined with other historical groups in Isabella County to create the John Cumming Isabella County Historical Preservation Award. The annual award was named in honor of retired Clarke Library director John Cumming, who led the library from 1961 to 1982. The award recognizes “an individual who has made exemplary contributions to preserving, recording, or disseminating the history of Isabella County.” Appropriately, John Cumming was the first recipient of the award.

At the annual Isabella County Founder’s Day celebration on Saturday, February 7, the 2015 Cumming Award was presented by Frank Boles to Joyce and Larry Noyes of Shepherd.

In 1978, Larry and Joyce became charter members of the Shepherd Area Historical Society. They became active members and both have held offices in the Historical Society. They are also both active in genealogy and are members and active in the Genealogical Society of Isabella County. As part of their commitment to genealogy, Larry has presented programs to various groups on how to do family history and serves as a delegate to the Michigan Genealogical Council. Joyce is presently Vice President of the Genealogical Society of Isabella County. Joyce is also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They both have assisted countless people with their family histories and have located lost relatives, families, and homesteads. Larry is a member of the website Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, where he conducts court house and cemetery research requests for people for free.

Joyce and Larry have shared their knowledge of the community by leading countless tours for community members. Joyce’s specialty is the Little Red School House, where visitors often find her wearing period 1850s clothing and teaching lessons from that era. She has lent her expertise in this area to the Michigan One Room Schoolhouse Association, of which she has been a member. Larry’s specialty is the Shepherd Area Historical Society Power House tours. And when not leading tours of the school or the powerhouse, they have conducted cemetery tours, again often in period dress.

Larry and Joyce have assisted in the publication of several genealogical and historical related calendars and books. The couple has researched many historical sites and businesses. For example, at the request of the DAR they did research that led to the relocation of the historical marker noting the site of Isabella County’s first one-room schoolhouse. Larry & Joyce also assisted in acquiring historical information and pictures found in the historical murals which are now in the new Shepherd Branch of the Chippewa River District Library.

Joyce and Larry have lived all their lives in the Shepherd and Mt. Pleasant area. Larry is a Vietnam War veteran serving in the Marine Corps from 1966 to 1968. Joyce is a graduate of CMU and was a teacher in the Mt. Pleasant Schools for 31 years. She taught second through fifth grades at Ganiard and Pullen Elementary Schools where she is remembered as a compassionate teacher who cared deeply for the children and families that she worked with. They are both active members of St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Shepherd. Joyce has served on the St. Vincent DePaul School Board for the former Catholic School and other committees.

The Clarke Library staff is pleased to have played a part in recognizing the devoted work of Larry and Joyce in preserving and interpreting local history and genealogy.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Groundhog Days of Yesteryear

By Bryan Whitledge

CM Life - Feb. 1, 1980
Waiting with bated breath on the morning of February 2 for the prognostication of the meteorological marmot has become an American tradition. In this day and age, Punxsutawney Phil and his ilk have Facebook pages and people can stream the reports of the rodents live on their tablets and smartphones. But generations of whistle-pigs past have not had the social media infrastructure to publicize their prophecies. Despite the lack of real-time coverage and live feeds from reporters on the ground to cover the ground squirrels' statements, there has been one source for all the details of the woodchuck's words - the newspaper!

In the digital newspaper holdings of the Clarke (made available via the CMU Libraries Digital Collections), we find mentions of our furry friend as far back as the 1880s. Some, such as the article in the Cheboygan Democrat of February 10, 1894 (p. 1, col. 1), give very detailed accounts and weigh the facts regarding the accuracy of relying on the rodent for a meteorological forecast.

Others are more succinct. The editorial comment of the Cheboygan Democrat of January 28, 1886 (p.1, col. 4) reads just like a 21st century tweet - "If this hog has any influence on the weather, we hope he gets stuck in his hole if it happens to be a fine day."

The following year, on February 4, 1887 (p. 1, col. 3) the Clare Press assumed that winter was over - "As near as we can ascertain, he came out but could not see his shadow." It is clear that nobody on staff spoke to an actual groundhog about his or her true and verified prediction. Why they didn't have a first hand account of this major weather-related story is beyond us. We can only hope that a reader of the Clare Press held the paper accountable for this oversight.

No oversight for the lack of a quality prediction was to blame in 1929. The reporters of the Clare Sentinel (February 8, 1929, p. 4, col. 4) went to Hatton to get the scoop, but they should have brought a shovel with them because "The Hatton hog was so completely covered with snow he did not try to look for shadows although he could be heard to grunt."

Sometimes, the papers gave a bit of history about the event, such as the Isabella County Enterprise of February 3, 1888 (p. 1, col. 2). This item in the newspaper notes that the celebration has its roots in the Germanic tradition of celebrating Candlemas.

Whether there was in-depth coverage or just a one-line mention, for over 100 years communities throughout Michigan and America have given the groundhog a forum to voice his vision for the future - are we to remain cold and frozen for six more weeks or will we see an early spring?