Photo Friday: Pleasures of Life

Close-up of page 104 of Pleasures of Life, Volume 2. Cranbrook Archives.

Close-up of page 104 of Pleasures of Life, volume 2. Cranbrook Archives.

For this week’s Photo Friday, we’re showcasing an image from Henry Scripps Booth’s epic photographic undertaking, Pleasures of Life. A series of photographic albums documenting his life from 1911 to 1940, Pleasures of Life follows Booth through experiences at Cranbrook, boarding school in Asheville, NC, and travels domestic and international.

This photograph, found on page 104of Pleasures of Life, volume 2, features a “Mrs. Scranton and Mrs. Brixton” dressed in angels’ wings and halos and labeled “Cranbrook’s guardian angels.” Taken during a nativity theatrical performance at Cranbrook’s Greek Theatre in 1916, the photo provides visual documentation for what are likely the same wings as those that appear in the Center’s newest exhibition,Cranbrook Goes to the Movies: Films and Their Objects, 1925-1975, now open at Cranbrook Art Museum.

Wings, circa 1916, featured in the exhibition Cranbrook Goes to the Movies.

Wings, circa 1916, featured in the exhibition Cranbrook Goes to the Movies.

Evening Post: Summer Exhibitions Are Almost Here!

Posting on a Thursday night is a rare activity for this blog, but it’s worth staying late in the office to help install the upcoming shows. Cranbrook Art Museum will kick off its summer exhibition season this Saturday with six all new exhibitions. Two of those are Center for Collections and Research projects, and we are so excited to show them off!

Two selections of ephemera from the exhibition highlight the variety of documents that fall under this important archival category. Cranbrook Archives.

We’ve already highlighted one exhibition on the blog, but it is worth mentioning again. Officially opened on April 22, Cranbrook Archives’ Ephemera: Fragments from Cranbrook’s Social Life went into hibernation with the rest of the museum during the changeover from the Academy of Art Graduate Degree Show in May. Re-opening along with the rest of the galleries, it presents an exciting opportunity to explore Cranbrook’s diverse history through the campus’ ephemera – the paper material (fliers, invitations, notices, tickets, etc.) that populate our daily life yet are so often discarded rather than saved. Called “the transient evidence of everyday life,” ephemera collections are ripe for exploration, which is what the Archives will be doing as it launches this first show in a series of exhibitions that mine the Archives’ rich collection of ephemera.

Films and objects come together in Cranbrook Goes to the Movies. Left: Tea urn and tray, Eliel Saarinen, 1934 (or earlier). Right: Still from Cranbrook Academy of Art Experimental Films, circa 1941. Cranbrook Art Museum/Cranbrook Archives.

The second Center exhibition opening at Cranbrook Art Museum on Saturday, June 21 features an under-explored medium in Cranbrook’s history: film. Cranbrook Goes to the Movies: Films and Their Objects, 1925-1975 takes Cranbrook Archives’ incredible collection of historic film as its jumping off point, using footage from multiple time periods and many distinct parts of Cranbrook’s community to provide a fresh look into the past. Incorporating objects that appear in films and remain within Cranbrook’s various collections, the show reunites the ephemeral with the physical to activate the historic film and provide context to objects that are still considered some of Cranbrook’s greatest treasures.

On loan to the exhibition from Cranbrook Institute of Science, this stuffed duck finds many of his friends in a 1960s film that details the attractions of the early Institute.  Shoshana Resnikoff/Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

On loan to the exhibition from Cranbrook Institute of Science, this stuffed duck finds many of his friends in a 1960s film that details the attractions of the early Institute. Shoshana Resnikoff/Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

We can’t show you the completed gallery, but enjoy this sneak peek into the installation. And be sure to visit Cranbrook Art Museum on opening weekend! Besides these two shows, CAM will be opening four other exhibitions that are sure to impress – Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries and Crafting Modernism, Warhol on Vinyl: The Record Covers, 1949-1987+, Modern/Moderna:Amie Siegel and Terence Gower, and Culture Breakers: The Living Structures of Ken Isaacs. Also exciting is Sunday’s PNC Family Fun Celebration day, featuring live music, silk screening activities, and tours of the exhibitions!

Alright, enough blogging – back to putting the finishing touches on our shows!

 

Reel-to-Real: Archives and the Challenge of Obselete Technology

While new advancements in technology can certainly make remembering history easier, it is important not to forget what has already been done and make sure it is still accessible in the future. All organizations concerned with the preservation of culture must at some point address the problem of obsolete technology, archives chief among them.

The oral history collection at Cranbrook Archives holds fifteen recordings made on reel-to-reel magnetic audio tape that are in danger of being lost unless their content is migrated to another media source. The recordings were made between the 1950s and 1980s, with the oldest being a 1956 interview of Robert McMath, the solar astronomer who served as Cranbrook Institute of Science Board of Trustee from its founding in 1930 until 1962. Other interviews capture the wide breadth of life at Cranbrook and feature the voices of artists, craftsmen, administrative staff, teachers, and clergy, telling the story of Cranbrook’s history as it happened.

These are just a few of the reel-to-reel tapes from the collection. Justine Tobiasz/Cranbrook Archives

These are just a few of the reel-to-reel tapes from the collection. Justine Tobiasz/Cranbrook Archives

In partnership with Wayne State University’s Digital Media Projects Lab, we are now in the process of converting audio from the reels into digital files. The machine we’re using for this process is the Ampex ATR, which has been refurbished and modified with the record head removed to avoid accidental recording. The reels will continue to be preserved, but having another format ensures that these pieces of Cranbrook’s history will continue to live on.

Digital Media Projects Lab at Wayne State, complete with Ampex ATR.

Digital Media Projects Lab at Wayne State, complete with Ampex ATR. Image courtesy Wayne State University Digital Media Projects Lab.

Thank you to Wayne State for assisting us on this project, and stay tuned for future updates from the conversion process!

– Justine Tobiasz, Archives Assistant

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