Dispatch for the Archives: the Joys of Processing

Although we live in an age of technology, databases, and the digital representation of collections, one of the most interesting and rewarding jobs for an archivist (at least this one!) is still the processing of a collection.  What does this encompass? It is the way in which an archivist takes the paper records of an individual, group, or institution and sifts through them, weeding out duplicates, sorting, organizing, and  rehousing in acid-free folders and boxes, all to make it accessible for you, the user!.  To some this may seem a tedious task (and it certainly can be depending on the nature of the collection) but the rewards are usually worth it.  Finding that one gem that tells a new story, or that group of documents that sheds new light on an old story—this is the stuff archivists dream of!

I am currently processing the Swanson Associates Records that document the partnership between architect J. Robert F. Swanson and interior designer and textile artist Pipsan Saarinen Swanson.  Right now I am looking at the project files that relate to the firm’s architectural commissions from 1926 to 1977.  So, as a sneak preview (the collection is not yet open for research), here a couple of interesting discoveries:

 

1)      A 1936 letter from industrial designer Russel Wright answering the Swansons’  request for information on his modern line of furniture for Gordon Mendelssohn’s Bloomfield Hills residence “Quartermore.”

Russel Wright's response to J. Robert F. Swanson's request for information on his furnishings for Quartermore. 1936, Cranbrook Archives.

Russel Wright’s response to J. Robert F. Swanson’s request for information on his furnishings for Quartermore. 1936, Cranbrook Archives.

2)      A house designed in 1957 for Edward Rothman and his wife Ruth, daughter of Albert Kahn. The architect was the Swansons’ eldest son, Robert Saarinen Swanson.

The patio for the Rothman residence, designed by Pipsan and J. Robert F. Swanson's eldest son Robert. 1957, Cranbrook Archives.

The patio for the Rothman Residence, designed by the Swansons’ eldest son Robert Saarinen Swanson. 1957, Cranbrook Archives.

3)      The opening invitation for The Stockholm Restaurant, which was located at the corner of Jefferson Ave and Rivard in Detroit.  Established in a historic house, the Swedish Smorgasbord restaurant was designed by Swanson Associates in 1939 and featured five dining rooms with a penthouse apartment above  it.

Invitation to the opening of The Stockholm Restaurant in Detroit. 1939, Cranbrook Archives.

Invitation to the opening of The Stockholm Restaurant in Detroit. 1939, Cranbrook Archives.

Leslie S. Edwards, Archivist

4 thoughts on “Dispatch for the Archives: the Joys of Processing

  1. So much local history right here in our Bloomfield-Birmingham backyards! so interesting and enjoying the diversity of information that you have available to share with us through the archives. I so enjoy these treasures of history!

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    • Oh – thanks Craig – that color photo is even better than the black and white one I posted! FYI: Cranbrook’s Clifford “Bud” West’s first mural commission was for that restaurant – he also did the one in the old Fox and Hounds Restaurant, another Swanson Associates project.

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