To Sit or Not to Sit

Chair design at Cranbrook has always had its own special niche and fascination among artists and patrons alike. George Booth altered chair designs for his own use at Cranbrook House. Eliel Saarinen designed unique chairs for Cranbrook School and Saarinen House. Ralph Rapson conceived of his chair design for what became known as the Rapson Rocker while a student here. Most of us are familiar with the famous chair designers, but what about projects by less famous designers?

During the war years, Academy of Art students were encouraged to experiment with modern design and new and unusual materials. In 1944, Academy students Gloria Bucerzan and Jean Roberts designed and constructed a chair born of war shortages, by eliminating the use of springs and creating webbing using “non-critical” materials.

Gloria (left) and Jean with woodworking instructor Svend Steen, 1944. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

For more on chair design in general, check out the 2012 Year of No-Chair-Design and the Guide to Great Chair Design which features links to chair blogs, the history of chair design, museums, galleries, and books that all feature what else? Chairs!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: Autumn Traditions

With foliage nearing its peak color, there are many reminders of fall here on campus. The image below is yet another tribute to the season—the Kingswood School Autumn Festival. The first Athletic Association Carnival was held in December, 1932, and was the precursor to the Autumn Festival. By 1934 the annual event had been renamed by Headmistress Margaret Augur.

Themes varied, for example, the 1936 festival was fashioned after “modern” America and included an Apache dance and a skyscraper dance by the juniors with the sidewalks of New York as the background set. The 1939 theme was the Old South and ended with a rousing version of “Dixie” as the grand finale. The November 1939 Clarion reports, “Cranbrook as usual was well represented. After their hectic day of soccer, football, tea-dance, etc., we managed to wear them out, so that it was finally decided that bed at eleven was necessary for all. Thus ended the autumn festival.”

Autumn Festival, Oct 1944.

Autumn Festival, Oct 1944.

The 1944 theme (as shown above) simulated South America. Entertainment included costumed students singing “Down Argentina Way” and “Besame Mucho.” In addition to rumba and samba dancing, the night ended with a lively conga to “Cui Cui .” Wouldn’t it be fun if we could revive this tradition?

Gina Tecos, Archivist

A Treasure Hunt in the Archives

I have had the pleasure of spending much of my time over the last year going through the Cranbrook Archives in search of information about Pewabic Pottery.  This is in preparation for the upcoming exhibition Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: The Gerald W. McNeely Pewabic Pottery Collection opening December 12. Through the Archives’ amazing resources, including inventories, architectural drawings, correspondence, receipts, historic photographs, and even meeting notes from the founding of Cranbrook School, one of the most awesome discoveries was regarding one of the Pewabic Pottery vases in our collection.

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276 Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Cranbrook Educational Community Collection, CEC 276
Photographers: Tim Thayer and R. H. Hensleigh

Through inventories we can trace the placement of this vase from during its life in Cranbrook House. It was located in the Living Room in 1921, and by 1933 had been relocated to the Sunset Room. In 1937, George Booth notes the work by its size and a brief description, “14 inch vase- luster- Pewabic.” Cranbrook has 15 Pewabic works purchased during Booth’s lifetime which now reside between the collections of the Art Museum and the Cranbrook Educational Community. While I am still working to place the pieces of the puzzle together to see if we can do this for other work, it may not be possible as some of the receipts and notations are much more cryptic including only “Pewabic Vase” with no dimensions, or description.

It’s treasure hunts like these that make the Archives such a great place to spend my time as you never know what you might find and where it will take you!

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

The Story of a Sweater: 1930-1953

As fall fast approaches and the nights are cooler, all Michiganders are pulling out their jackets and sweaters. Cranbrook School for Boys (as it was once known) had, over the years a variety of sweaters made for the boys to wear, particularly if they were involved in athletics. Although Cranbrook Archives primary collects manuscript collections and institutional records, sometimes we are lucky enough to acquire objects that relate to our past, particularly that of the schools. The Cranbrook Sweater is one such object.

First featured in a team photo for the 1930-31 basketball team, it was a signature uniform for the basketball team photo for the next 22 years. Throughout Cranbrook School’s sports history, athletes on the basketball team, golf team, wrestling team, hockey team, football team, and baseball team all wore the sweater.  Beginning in the 1934-35 season, members of the golf team wore the sweater.

As time passed, the sweater gained increasing momentum in its popularity and peaked among the athletes in the 1940s. However, aside from the basketball team and golf team photos (where the sweater was worn by the entire team), most of the other team photos show only one or two members wearing the sweater for the team photo.  This could be due to the fact that the sweater is made of 100% wool!

Gradually, the sweater lost popularity and by the end of the 1953 school year, it faded out altogether. We are lucky to be caretakers of such a great piece of history, and the type of object that current school students love to see on their visits to the Archives.

Donald Leighton (far left in the photo below) is shown wearing the sweater in our collection.

Golf team 1935-36.

Golf team 1935-36.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Welcoming Our Two Archives Assistants!

Prior to volunteering at Cranbrook Archives, I had been studying history and had become aware of the importance of primary sources for historiography, and the value of preserving heritage for the wider community. I began volunteering in 2012 which helped me decide to pursue a career in archives, and I began studying for the MA Archive Administration with Aberystwyth University in Wales (distance learning) in 2013. As part of a university assignment, I processed the HUB (Horizons-Upward Bound) Records, and am currently researching George Gough Booth’s interest in tapestries, which he purchased and commissioned for Cranbrook institutions and family members. I am interested in Booth’s involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the way in which the movement used medieval themes and techniques as a response to the social experience of the time. The Edgewater Looms, Herter Looms, and Morris & Co. tapestries are an ideal focus for exploring these ideas. I am looking forward to learning more about scanning/digitisation/digital preservation/cataloguing. The university modules emphasize access as the flip-side of preservation. I tend to have the latter foremost in my mind, so it will be great to see how the archive is used.

Laura MacNewman, Archives Assistant

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

As a graduate student mid-way through the Library and Information Science master’s program at Wayne State University, I’ve been given a healthy dose of libraries, archives, and the world of information over the past year. My interest in archives administration began while I was volunteering at the Cranbrook Archives last fall (2014). Here, I was introduced to the process of digitizing manuscripts, taking inventory of donated artist materials, and sifting through photographic negatives for future digital preservation and storage. I’ve also been working on the Cranbrook Archives’ Oral History Project. Much of my work at Cranbrook corresponds to my studies at Wayne State. In fact, this past week Head Archivist Leslie Edwards spoke about Cranbrook Archives’ oral history project in my oral histories course. As a new employee, I am keen to expand the number of digital images available online, help preserve the negative photograph collection, and understand what it really means to be an archivist.

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

Both Laura and Danae are working for us as part-time Archives Assistants, an entry-level archival position for graduate students. They will be working on a variety of projects during the coming year while gaining experience to propel them in their careers. Look for future blog posts from them in the upcoming months!

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