Friday, July 31, 2015

The Clarke Hosts Upward Bound Summer Intern

by Bryan Whitledge and Casey Gamble

This summer, for three weeks in July, the Clarke Historical Library had the opportunity to host an intern from Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern (DCP), Victoria Spencer. Students from DCP participated CMU's Upward Bound program, an initiative "to support and encourage promising students to prepare for successful college careers​." During their time here at CMU, students took classes, engaged in volunteerism, relaxed and enjoyed student life at Central, and worked in a CMU campus job.

Victoria looking through historic CMU building photographs
Victoria originally hoped to be placed in a job with the Multicultural Academic Student Services Office or with Study Abroad. Instead, she was placed with the Clarke. She was not disappointed with the placement because she liked the idea of working with books. Little did she know that during her time at the Clarke she would not touch one book; rather, she would work with historic images of the buildings of CMU's campus.

Victoria’s job at the Clarke was to scan historic photographs of CMU buildings -- both those that no longer exist and those that stand today. She also was asked to write up brief descriptions of the images so they can be added to a database in the future. Her work is a major piece of a larger project in the Clarke to make information about the history of every CMU building available on-line. While working with the historic photos, Victoria became skilled with the scanner and scanning software. She also gained experience manipulating the photos in Photoshop.  And, most importantly to the archivists and librarians in a historical library like the Clarke, she quickly learned the histories of buildings and could identify both past and present buildings and well as approximate dates of the images based only on the photographs!

Drawing of the New Administration
Building, now known as Warriner Hall,
circa 1925
As Victoria noted during the closing event for Upward Bound, “With this opportunity, I have learned skills that I can use in my future career. Because of this opportunity, I have learned that small roles can prepare you for bigger roles later. My experiences this summer have made an impact on my future endeavors.”

We enjoyed having Victoria around this summer, not only for her excellent work, but her wonderful personality. We wish her the best in her senior year at Detroit College Prep.

Photos of Victoria courtesy of Jessica Thompson and the Upward Bound staff

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tips and Tricks for CONDOR Featured in Saline Newspaper

The Clarke Historical Library and the CMU Libraries have worked hard over the past several years to make historic Michigan newspapers freely available on-line. We will continue to add more titles to CONDOR, our historic document database, in the future. As CONDOR continues to grow and become more complex (there are now over 15 titles from seven different Michigan counties - not counting all of the historic Central Michigan University documents!), using CONDOR can be a little tricky. Fortunately, Tran Longmoore of the Saline Post wrote a helpful piece full of tips and tricks to make searching in CONDOR as efficient as possible. Here is a link to Tran's article.

With these helpful ideas, CONDOR can be an even more powerful tool for all of your historical research. If you have any other helpful suggestions for using CONDOR, let the Clarke know and we might be able to share them on the Clarke News and Notes blog in the future.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Presentations

by Frank Boles

This summer, the Clarke Library sponsored two very different and both very interesting talks. The first, on June 20, was given by Al Declercq, a professional sail-maker and sailboat racer who told the story of Bernida, the first ship to win the Port Huron to Mackinac Island race. The second presentation, given July 14 by Professor Nancy Auer, shared with the audience the fascinating story of one of the Great Lakes natural treasures: the lake sturgeon.

Bernida was built in 1921 to race on salt water. It was originally named Rueida III. In 1925, the ship was purchased by Russ Pouliot, given his wife’s maiden name, Bernida, and shipped on a flatbed railroad car to the Great Lakes. Bernida found a new home at Detroit’s Bayview Yacht Club. Pouliot liked to race, and when the first Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race was announced in 1925, he planned to be in it. Twelve boats sailed in the inaugural race. Bernida led the fleet upon the arrival at Mackinac Island. Two years later, sailed by a new owner, Bernida again won the Port Huron to Mackinac race.

Ships like the Bernida are specialized, expensive, and not really built for day cruising or family outings. The vessel went through many owners and eventually fell on hard times. In 2000, the badly decayed boat was discovered at The Old Junk Shoppe (you can’t make up names like that!) in Pentwater, Michigan. A group of enthusiasts saw something other than a deteriorating boat never likely to sail again. They saw a legacy that could be restored, and set about doing just that.

With the financial help of a generous donor, in 2004, the Mackinac Island Boating Heritage Association bought the ship for $10,000. In 2008, restoration began. The Foundation was perpetually short of money, but eventually an estimated $220,000 was spent on the project, much of it in kind donations of material and approximately 4,000 hours of labor.

Al Declercq was long aware of the project. He served as an unpaid consultant and also made a gift-in-kind of sails for the ship. In 2010, he was surprised to learn that the ship was for sale, listed on Ebay for $10,000. Restoring an old racing boat may be a first class historic endeavor, but it is anything but a first class financial investment. Consider it charity work. Al purchased the ship, and brought it back to Detroit’s Bayview Yacht Club. Even more work went into the boat, this time volunteered by Mr. Declercq and his friends. Finally, in 2012, he entered it into the Port Huron to Mackinac race. Three fathers, including Mr. Declercq, and their sons, crewed the vessel.

The boat had a tough go of it. The weather turned nasty and part of the mast broke. But the crew improvised a fix and kept in the race. The deck cracked and for awhile there was concern that the stern might literally break off. But after deploying smaller sails the stress on the hull lessened, the cracks became manageable, and the ship pressed on toward Mackinac.

Despite the bad weather, in one respect nature was kind. Bernida sails best in a particular kind of wind. With the right breeze in its sails, Bernida remains a very fast boat. That hoped-for wind was blowing almost continuously throughout the race. When it finally entered the Island’s harbor, a cannon was fired – the traditional salute given to the first ship across the finish line. Eighty-seven years after the boat had won the first Port Huron to Mackinac Race, the battered old ship had done it again.

In 2013, Mr. Declercq donated the vessel to the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Michigan. The gift did have one string attached — if he wishes, Al can sail the ship one more time to compete in the Port Huron to Mackinac race. Mr. Declercq is uncertain if he will do it, but the idea of the boat which won the first Port Huron to Mackinac race running in the 100th competition in 2025 is one he can’t quite put aside.

The story of the Bernida is told in a charming children’s book, Bernida: A Michigan Sailing Legend, written by Al Declercq and Tom Ervin, with Gloria Whelan (Ann Arbor: Sleeping Bear Press, 2014). An adult version of the story, Bernida: A True Story That Can’t Be True, also written by Mr. Declercq and Mr. Ervin, was self-published by the authors in 2012.

Professor Nancy Auer is one of the nation’s leading experts on the Great Lakes sturgeon. Her talk centered on efforts to ensure that this struggling fish continues to survive in the Great Lakes.

Sturgeon are relics of prehistoric times. They are closely related, and similar in size and shape, to sharks. Unlike sharks, however, they lack teeth. Sturgeon use a vacuum-like mouth to suck up organic material from lake and river bottoms. The lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) is long lived and large sized. A lake sturgeon can live for 150 years and can grow over seven feet in length. The largest recorded sturgeon, found in Lake Superior in 1922, weighed 310 pounds. Sturgeon weighing 100 to 150 pounds are today still fairly common.

The sturgeon, however, has often been considered a “nuisance species” and as such has suffered from neglect and unintended habitat destruction. Most troublesome to sturgeon are the many small hydro-electric power dams placed on Great Lakes rivers in the early years of the twentieth century. The dams had two effects. Sturgeon spawn inland in rivers and lakes and are very specific about their spawning territory. Prof. Auer made the point by telling the story of the sturgeon she has caught repeatedly when doing studies in the same river, in the same location, and on the same date. The dams created impenetrable barriers keeping the fish from their spawning grounds.

The way hydro-electric dams were operated also created problems. Because these small dams wanted to ensure sufficient water for power generation when it was most needed, it became customary to close the dam and stop all water flow in the river during periods when electric demand was less. This usually occurred during the evening hours. Although the practice guaranteed a good flow of water the next morning to make electricity, the impact on the fish population, including sturgeon, of literally turning the river off at 9:00 at night was devastating.

Professor Auer was one of the first biologists to participate in longitudinal studies of lake sturgeon. She and other pioneers began tagging sturgeon so that their movements could be studied. Her first efforts, however, were a little less organized than today’s radio-transmitting micro-chips that are implanted into the animal’s skin. Her first small grant to tag sturgeon involved external tags attached to the fish. As she planned for her first tagging experiments, Professor Auer ran into a problem that can occur when nature and bureaucracies come into contact. The money she had been given to buy the tags had not appeared when the fish began to swim upstream.

Being resourceful, Professor Auer made a trip to a local cattle coop and obtained a supply of the small plastic tags used to identify cows. The tags are relatively tough, designed to be inserted through the animal’s flesh, and include the name and contact information of the cow’s owner. All that said, using cattle tags to identify sturgeon led to some very strange phone calls. She still remembers the day a commercial fisherman from Munising called her to report he had pulled up one of the tags in his net and commented, “I don’t know what you do lady, but I’m pretty sure you don’t have any cows down there.”

Although Great Lakes sturgeon today number only about one percent of their historic population size, they are not legally an endangered species. Fishing for sturgeon, however, is usually prohibited and if one is accidentally caught legally, it is to be returned to the water. With the help of people like Nancy Auer, these great fish will hopefully continue to inhabit the Great Lakes.

To learn more about sturgeon, read The Great Lake Sturgeon edited by Nancy Auer and Dave Dempsey (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nancy Auer to Speak about the Great Lakes Sturgeon

On Tuesday, July 14, Nancy Auer, co-editor of The Great Lake Sturgeon, will speak about the book. The collected volume captures many aspects of the remarkable Great Lakes sturgeon, from the mythical to the critically real. Lake sturgeon is sacred to some, impressive to many, and endangered in the Great Lakes. A fish whose ancestry reaches back millions of years and that can live over a century and grow to six feet or more, the Great Lakes lake sturgeon was once considered useless, and then overfished nearly to extinction.

A professor at Michigan Technological University with a doctorate in biological sciences, Nancy Auer has dedicated much of her career to the study and restoration of the lake sturgeon. She is one of the region's leading experts on the fish.

This presentation will be held in the Park Library Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm. It is free and open to the public. An author's reception in the Clarke Historical Library will follow the presentation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Clarke Historical Map Database Now Available

Detailed view of a John Farmer map
in the Clarke's Historical Maps Database

The Clarke Historical Library has a wealth of historical maps from Michigan, the Great Lakes, and beyond. Maps of areas as small as a single township to the entirety of the world can be found at the Library.

Clarke's Historical Maps Database showing thumbnail
images and brief descriptions for each map
Recently, staff of the Clarke and the CMU Libraries systems staff, particularly student assistant Lindsay Gabriel in the Clarke and Eric Cronstrom in systems, created a searchable database that allows any researcher anywhere in the world to find a brief description, low-resolution image, and citation to a bibliography for maps in our holdings.

Currently, information and images are available for 340 maps in the William Jenks Collection and five additional maps of the African continent from the Wilbert Wright Collection of Africana and Afro-Americana. As more maps are inventoried and images are taken of them, the information will be added to the database. 

Using the database is simple. Researchers can browse through all of the maps or use the search bar to search for a word (e.g. Detroit) or a simple term (e.g. Lake Huron) to find all of the maps in our holdings that match those search terms. When possible, we have linked the citations to bibliographies to the digital editions of those bibliographies so researchers can have access to even more information.

To view the map database, click on this link or look for "Historical Maps" in the "Resources" dropdown on the Clarke Historical Library webpage. We look forward to the expansion of this database and welcome any comments about edits or changes that need to be made.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th of July and Michigan Cookbooks

[the Clarke Historical Library with be closed on Friday, July 3 in observance of the Independence Day Holiday. We will resume normal hours Monday, July 6.]

4th of July and Michigan Cookbooks

by Bryan Whitledge and Casey Gamble

The Fourth of July is a wonderful American holiday. Michiganders like to think we have a little more fun on Independence day seeing that we tend to have milder July temperatures and thousands of beautiful lakes where people can enjoy the long weekend. Whether people celebrate with fun Independence Day traditions like watching the fireworks festival in Bay City, attending the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, or just staying home and enjoying the company of friends and family, food - and usually the variety cooked on a grill - is part of the celebration.

Here at the Clarke, holidays that feature good food hold a special place because of our vast holdings of Michigan cookbooks. And it happens that 1976 was a big year for Independence Day cookbooks in honor of Bicentennial celebrations. Communities across the state, including Hillsdale, Jonesville, and Morrice created Bicentennial cookbooks that are in the holdings of the Clarke. Some of the recipes included in the Bicentennial cookbooks are from former US first ladies and the first ladies of all of the states in 1976. For instance, in the Morrice cookbook there are recipes for Martha Jefferson's Monticello dressing and Helen Milliken's Cheesecake. And of course, there were favorite dishes of Morrice residents included like the lemon drops of Margaret Kittle (click on the images of the recipes for an enlarged view).

But on the Fourth of July, most people think about the smell of charcoal and the sizzle of the grill. That's where BBQ Cooking by John Farris of Lansing, Michigan comes in handy. It includes the usual fare - grilled meats, marinades, and the accompanying sides and salads. But it also has some dessert ideas on the grill including skewered pound cakes with dipping sauces and fruit kabobs.

Whether you travel, stay at home, go to a fireworks show, or enjoy an afternoon baseball game, the Clarke wishes you a happy Fourth of July. May it be filled with great food and beverages shared with family and friends.