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.

Monday, June 15, 2020

International Childrens Book Reading

In February, the Clarke Historical Library held its sixth annual “Children’s Book from Around the World” event. During the six-hour event, 190 people stopped by the Park Library’s Baber Room to listen to over 35 volunteers from all corners of the globe read children’s books in 20 languages other than English. For the Clarke, this event is always a great opportunity to showcase the library’s collection of award-winning international children’s literature, with books from over 75 countries in over 50 languages.

For our readers, many of whom are affiliated with the Office of Global Engagement or the Department of World Languages and Cultures at CMU, the event offers other opportunities. For those who are native speakers of the language, this event is a chance for them to share a bit of their language and culture. For those who are learning the language through their courses here at Central Michigan University, they can demonstrate the language skills they have acquired through their studies. And for the whole campus, it is an excellent chance to highlight the rich diversity of languages found on the CMU campus.

In a twist this year, and to coincide with the Clarke’s exhibit, The Surprise and Wonder of Pop-up Books several readers read pop-up books in languages other than English. There were other memorable moments, such as when the Japanese 202 class took turns reading from their book so that all seven students from the class would have a chance to read. Or when one reader read in five different languages found in the same South African book – Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, Setswana, and Sepedi!

The Clarke appreciates the support of the Office of Global Engagement and the Department of World Languages and Cultures in bringing this event together. To view an “Art Review” segment from MAC TV about the event, take a look at their Vimeo page.