New Discoveries in Old Collections

Today, the Archives is pleased to announce the completion of a photographic negative rehousing project funded by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. The first part of this grant-funded project ran from March 2017 through February 2018, when thousands of negatives were rehoused by Veronica Wood and Kaitlin Sharra Eraqi. The success of this first part allowed us to extend the grant project, and from November 2018 through June 2019 Veronica rehoused many more negatives. We are grateful to Veronica for her many hours of hard work and, as of today, over 20,000 Cranbrook School negatives have been rehoused.

Alongside this effort, we are thankful for the work of our steadfast volunteers—Lois Harsh, Judy Pardonnet, and Ellen Vanderkolk—who have been rehousing other collections. These have included the Portrait series, the Institute of Science series by Harvey Croze, Kingswood School, St, Dunstan’s Theater, the Summer Theater, the Cranbrook Community/Foundation negatives, and the Pleasures of Life. We also currently have two new volunteers, Aya and Brandon, who have completed rehousing of some smaller collections, including Marianne Strengell, Swanson Associates, and Carol Waldeck.

Why all of this rehousing? Many of the photographic negatives are made of acetate cellulose or nitrate cellulose, both of which have a plastic base which deteriorates over time. Cranbrook employed a professional photographer from 1933 to 1970, and their images were maintained by the Cranbrook Press Office before they were transferred to Cranbrook Archives. Here, they have been stored in their original plain paper envelopes or, more detrimentally, in plastic sleeves. As they age, we must stabilize the negatives for future generations by rehousing them in acid-free paper envelopes.

CR3182-2

Mr. and Mrs. Price at the Cranbrook School Store, April 1963. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg.CR3182-2. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The twofold goal of any archive is preservation and access of its holdings, and to this effect, much is achieved through arrangement and description—how the materials are stored, in what order, and how they are described. While the primary goal of the rehousing project was to address the physical preservation needs of our photographic negatives, it has also been advantageous for their intellectual control. As we work through thousands of negatives, photographs have been found alongside their negatives, as well as ephemera such as Summer Theatre playbills. These discoveries have helped us to enhance the descriptive metadata (the who, what, when and where) for the negatives. More detailed descriptions will help us, and our researchers, know what exactly is available within Cranbrook Archives.

The numbering system for Cranbrook photographs was developed by Richard G. Askew, Cranbrook photographer from 1933-1941. There were several short-term photographers until Harvey Croze became the photographer from 1943-1970. Each collection has its own index, which records the negative number given to each photograph, the content of the photograph, when it was taken, and by whom. However, sometimes the content field may only record an event without giving any details of who is in the photograph.

An unexpected outcome of the Erb Foundation negative rehousing project has been to enhance the metadata in the indexes, whether by seeing the photographs with the negatives and being able to identify the people or places, or by cross-referencing with the collections to establish the context of the content. By adding in more information to the metadata in this way, the usefulness of the negative collection is improved and the relationships between collections are also strengthened. I would like to share with you some examples of these discoveries that will help us to know more about the people, places, and things of Cranbrook.

The following are examples of images that were recorded by only their event name. Now, the index contains the names of the individuals and objects, enabling us to better utilize the negatives:

FD84

Henry Scripps Booth photographed during an Editors visit to Cranbrook, 1958. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD84-22. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

CC201

“Formal Garden Opening” 1951. Unknown (Roman Warrior) by Unknown (Italian).
Bequest of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth to the Cranbrook Foundation. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. CC201. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

As another example, before our negative rehousing project, a researcher looking into Lillian Holm would have been highly unlikely to discover this picture of her. The image was previously indexed only as “Founders’ Day 1965”:

FD244-85

Henry Scripps Booth, Josephine Hodges Waldo, Lillian Holm and Carl G. Wonnberger on Founders’ Day 1965. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD244-85. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Another interesting find was a series of photographs for which the index simply noted “Jack Speohr, Cranbrook School alumnus.” Wanting to know more, I looked up Speohr in the Cranbrook Institute of Science newsletter index. I learned Jack Spoehr, who graduated from Cranbrook School in 1949, and went on to study ethnological studies at Harvard. In 1950, he visited a remote part of Mexico called Cuauhtémoc, which about 75 miles southwest of Chihuahua City, where he studied the native peoples there, the Darámuli, (also called Tarahumara), who often crafted violins both for trade and for use in religious ceremonies. A short article, ‘A Visit to the Tarahumaras,’ about his observations there, is published in the Cranbrook Institute of Science Newsletter, Vol. 21 No.1, of September 1951. The first photograph, below, shows a member of the Darámuli just as Spoehr describes on page 3 of his article.

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A member of the Darámuli (Tarahumaras). Photographer, Jack Spoehr, neg. CC277-9. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

CC277-13P

A member of the Darámuli (Tarahumaras) crafting a violin. Photographer, Jack Spoehr, neg. CC277-13. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

For those who have not been delighted by the weather recently, you will see that it was much worse in June of 1969, when there were floods at Brookside and Kingswood:

FD290-29

View of the old Meeting House during flooding at Brookside, June 1969. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD290-12. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

FD290-22

View of the Japanese Garden bridge during flooding at Kingswood, June 1969. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD290-12. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Filed among the negatives, we have found numerous playbills from both the Summer Theatre series and the Ergasterion performances in the Cranbrook School series. These relate to their respective manuscript collections as well as the poster collection, which was completely digitized in 2015. It is interesting to see Sara Smith as Director of some of the plays as the Smith House Records are currently being processed and will be open for research later this year.

Seven Sisters Flyer

The playbill for the Summer Theatre performance of Seven Sisters, 1950. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

ST218

Seven Sisters Dress Rehearsal, 1950. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. #ST218-3. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

We are very pleased to have made these new connections across existing collections within Cranbrook Archives, and are grateful to the Erb Family Foundation for enabling us to better preserve these important images.

– Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

In the Archives: My Senior May Experience

I went into my Senior May Project hoping to find the “secrets” of Cranbrook. On the second or third day, Mr. Adkisson asked Desai, another Senior May student, and me why we chose the Archives. I said because I wanted to learn more—and because I thought it would be easy. What I meant to say is that I thought it would be low stress. Even though I didn’t uncover any “secrets,” I learned a lot about the history of Cranbrook Schools and had a very enjoyable (and low stress) Senior May experience.

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Aya Miller, CKU ’19, at work in the Archives Reading Room. Photo Kevin Adkisson.

My project was primarily scanning copies of The Cranbrook Kingswood Crane-Clarion to create a database of The Crane and moving the archival files to different shelving units. Along the way, I helped out with other Archives related tasks that came up. These included transferring larger files to and from Thornlea Studio, preparing displays for small tour groups, and picking out photos that could be used on the Center for Collections and Research Facebook page.

One of the high points of my experience was a task we did on the first day. Laura MacNewman, my supervisor, Mr. Adkisson, Desai, and I went to Christ Church Cranbrook in search of a friar within the Women’s Window. The friar was an insignia from the designer and glassmaker who constructed the window. We took a very narrow staircase, hidden in the wall, up to the bottom of the window. The area was so small that Mr. Adkisson could barely walk over with his tripod to take the picture. While we were up there, they turned the lights out in the main sanctuary. The daylight filtered in through the stained-glass window and gave the church a faint pink tint. I was awe struck; it was simply stunning. I felt like I was in a picture from National Geographic. That view and many other small things I learned helped make my time in the Archives memorable.

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A view from the Women’s Window at Christ Church Cranbrook. Photo by Aya Miller, CKU ’19.

As for scanning, I learned a lot about stories that were covered in the past. In the March 2006 issue of the Crane-Clarion there was a two-page article called “The Problem of ‘Self-Segregation’ at Cranbrook.” The article covered how minorities often group together and how white students don’t notice that the majority of their friends, as well as the majority of the school, is white. It takes editors that find these issues important to bring them to the forefront. Although for many it may be an uncomfortable subject, it is a necessary one to discuss.

I also read interesting articles about the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue that used to stand in Gordon Hall of Science. In reading the articles, I was surprised that the students had many contrasting opinions. Some people quoted were against the statue’s removal because they saw Lee as an American hero in terms of his post-War accomplishments and his fight for states’ rights in the Civil War. In the end, the faculty choose to remove it because Lee’s role as a leading general in support of slavery during the Civil War was offensive to many students and families. The coverage opened my eyes to different opinions and reaffirmed my belief that there are always many sides and opinions to a situation.

No. 3, February 2004, Opinion, Pg.2

Opinion section of The Cranbrook Kingswood Crane-Clarion, February 2005. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

To put it simply, Senior May was great. The Archives was a relaxing and enjoyable place to work for the last three weeks of my Senior Year. I’m proud that I was able to help and make a difference, even if it was a small one. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be staying on throughout the summer to continue working as a volunteer. I’d like to thank those who work at the Center for Collections and Research as well as my supervisor, Laura MacNewman, for welcoming and hosting me.

Aya Miller, Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School 2019

Editor’s Note: The Senior May Project is a school-sponsored activity that encourages Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School seniors to acquire work experience in a field they are considering as a college major, a potential profession, and/or as a personal interest.

Aya Miller is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and has been a boarding student at Cranbrook since 2015. Aya will be enrolling at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo this fall. The Center thanks her for her tireless efforts scanning important documents about Cranbrook’s history, and her volunteering to continue with us this summer. We know she will be a success as she embarks on the next phase of her education!

 

Revel in the Clutter of Edward Fella’s 1972 Cranbrook Map

On the inside cover of the 1973/1975 Cranbrook Academy of Art Catalog is a hand-drawn, fold-out map of the campus. I’ve always liked this map, with its witty labels like “Brookside School for Little Kids” and “Another Famous Statue.”

Map of Cranbrook from 1973 Catalog by Edward Fella.jpg

Map of Cranbrook drawn by Edward Fella (CAA Design 1987), 1972. Printed on the inside cover of the 1973/1975 Cranbrook Academy of Art Course Catalog. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

On the top left, you’ll see “Athletic Fields (Detroit Lions practice here).” The map also documents the neighborhood: on the far right, “Houses of the Bloomfield Hills wealthy” and on the bottom left, “Used to be orchards here, now houses.” If you look nearby, you’ll see “Map drawn by Edward Fella 1972.”

There are other labels that help expand our understanding of Cranbrook in 1972. The Old Water Tower (a thorn in Saarinen’s side) is still standing, and Cranbrook House is listed as “Booth Estate, Cranbrook House, now Institute for Pastoral Studies.” There are still tennis courts where the New Studios and Middle School for Girls would be built. There’s no label for Saarinen House, instead, sandwiched between the “Foundry Studio,” “Architecture,” “Ceramics,” “Fabrics,” and “Metalsmithing” reads a label for “President’s House.” (Wallace Mitchell was the Academy’s president at the time). Although there are lots of cars and some people—I spy football players, an entrance guard, and a life guard—the only proper name I see is “McCoy Studio.” This makes sense: Ed Fella was a frequent collaborator with, and later a student of, Katherine and Michael McCoy.

Edward Fella is a native of Detroit who graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1957. There, he studied lettering, illustration, paste-up, and other commercial-art techniques. He went directly from high school into advertising work as a commercial artist, working primarily for automotive and health-care clients. He had a successful career in advertising for almost three decades in Detroit.

In the early 1970s, the period in which Fella drew our map, he was working on freelance work between more conventional assignments. These pieces were often whimsical collages of photocopied materials with hand drawing and lettering additions. In 1970, Fella met Katherine McCoy (future Artist-in-Residence at Cranbrook) at Designers & Partners, his employer, in downtown Detroit. As McCoy recalled to Design Traveler last year, “I interviewed with the senior design partner, Al Evans, who offered me a job that day and introduced me to Ed Fella as I left. I recall a 32-year-old Ed sitting at his drawing board smoking his usual cigarette in his studio space right by the studio’s front door. I was 25 and very impressed by his wall of books, stacks of magazines, and graphic ephemera pinned up everywhere.” She noted that Fella was “already a Detroit advertising design celebrity.”

McCoy only worked at Design & Partners one year, leaving in 1971 to head Cranbrook’s design department with her husband Michael. There, she would often invite Fella to present his work to students and offer critiques. As McCoy told the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), “If anyone is meant to be a student and teacher in a rigorous educational environment, it’s Ed Fella. He was a powerful influence on our students.” It would have been around this time Fella was commissioned to produce the Cranbrook map for the 1973/1975 course catalog.

Cranbrook Academy of Art Cover for 1973 Catalog by Katherine McCoy

Cover, 1973/1975 Cranbrook Academy of Art Course Catalog, designed by Katherine McCoy. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

After over a decade “hanging out” in the “hippie” and “loosely structured” atmosphere of Cranbrook (Fella’s words), in 1985 at the age of 47 Fella entered into the MFA program at Cranbrook. Although older than his fellow students (and his department heads), Fella didn’t view his years of professional practice as an advantage: “At Cranbrook, I really was fortunate to be in such an amazing class dynamic…I used to say, experience never trumps a great idea; a 20-year-old can have one as easily as a 40- year-old…and it was certainly the case in that class!” He immersed himself into the era’s discussions about the postmodern movement. At Cranbrook, he also studied photography with Carl Toth and attended discussions with architect Daniel Libeskind (meanwhile, Fella’s two daughters babysat Libeskind’s young children).

Throughout his career, Fella produced work for local art cooperatives and events, like the Detroit Focus Gallery, Detroit Artist Market, and Cranbrook. Over 100 of these posters were donated in 2012 to Cranbrook Art Museum. It is in the experimental nature of these posters where we can see how Fella perfected his art of distorting text and collaging high and low imagery.

SONY DSC

Practice and Preach and Theorize and Teach! Edward Fella, American, 2004. One-color, offset-print on bond paper, 17 x 11 in. Gift of the Artist, Courtesy of Cranbrook art Museum.

In 1987 Ed Fella left Michigan to begin teaching design at the California Institute of the Arts. He recently retired from the school after a long career of mentoring and producing experimental works of graphic design. In 2014, he was awarded Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Distinguished Alumni Award. You can read and see more about Fella’s life, work, and education here in this excellent biography by Design Traveler.

Fella’s 2007 AIGA medal biography summarizes Fella’s career as: “prodigiously mashing up low-culture sources with high-culture erudition, Fella’s work—perhaps more than that of any other contemporary designer—makes visible the postmodern concept of deconstruction, which recognizes that behind every articulated meaning is a host of other, usually repressed meanings, some antithetical. By battering and mixing fonts, engaging in visual puns and generally violating the tenets of ‘good design,’ Fella lets a thousand flowers bloom. His designs don’t cut through the clutter—they revel in it.”

I think this quite aptly summarizes the joy I find in Fella’s Cranbrook map of 1972: reveling in the mashup of landscape, architecture, activity, and text. Fella captures the diversity and beauty of this unique assemblage we call Cranbrook.

– Kevin Adkisson, 2016-2019 Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Minks in the Rainforest

The week of May 19, the Center for Collections and Research hosted the Eastern Michigan University Historic Preservation Program as they conducted their annual Field School. The EMU Historic Preservation Program is among the largest graduate programs in Historic Preservation in the United States, and this was their third year working at Cranbrook.

Two groups worked on documenting the exterior and landscape of Lyon House.

Lyon House Site Plan with Landscape Features, documented May 19-24, 2019 by Eastern Michigan University Historic Preservation students.

Lyon House Site Plan with Landscape Features, documented May 19-24, 2019 by Eastern Michigan University Historic Preservation students.

The third group once again tackled Tower Cottage. The cottage started its life as a simple Tudor Revival cottage that was designed by Albert Kahn, who also designed Cranbrook House. Built in 1908, it mimics the style and design of Cranbrook House. The cottage itself has seen many changes but over time it has retained its original character and style. Tower Cottage, along with Cranbrook House, is among the original structures belonging to the Booth family.

Tower Cottage circa 1915 with water tower behind.

Tower Cottage circa 1915 with water tower behind. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Long unoccupied, the building’s historic window sashes required rehabilitation, painting, and replacement of missing pieces. The students restored a number of windows and worked on a paint analysis of Tower Cottage with Ron Koenig of Building Arts Conservation.

Ron Koenig of Building Arts Conservation discusses paint sampling with the EMU students.

Ron Koenig of Building Arts Conservation discusses paint sampling with the EMU students. Photo Desai Wang, CKU ’19.

What they discovered was far more colorful than the simple brown paint that adorns the house now. Koenig took various samples of the trim, stucco, and window sashes. He did preliminary examinations on site, looking through a special magnifying glass to see where best to sample.

Desai Wang, CKU '19, the Center's Senior May student, looking at the sample on the window sash.

Desai Wang, CKU ’19, the Center’s Senior May student, looking at a sample on a window sash of Tower Cottage.

In his workshop, Koenig used a microscope to see the various layers (or campaigns) of paint. From this microscopic sample, he was able to determine the color of paint used on the house in the 1920s  – the era when the additions to the house were completed by architects J. Robert F. Swanson and Henry Scripps Booth.

Microphoto of the color campaigns of the Tower Cottage sashes, South Elevation. Courtesy Building Arts & Conservation.

Microphoto of the color campaigns of the Tower Cottage window sashes, south elevation. Courtesy Building Arts & Conservation.

Koenig matched the sample to a color on the Munsell color system (a system to visually identify and match color using a scientific approach) and from the Munsell color to a Benjamin Moore paint color. Our colors were Mink (#2112-10) for the trim and Rainforest Foliage (#2040-10) for the window sashes. The secret to historic paint colors is that while a company such as Benjamin Moore, founded in 1883, may change a color’s name, the reference number stays the same. If you know the identification number of a paint that you had in 1949, you could find the same color in the catalog today.

We couldn’t keep this great color combination to ourselves. We decided to paint a sample of it on some of the windows at Tower Cottage.

Rainforest Foliage green sashes and Mink brown trim at Tower Cottage, June 2019.

Rainforest Foliage green sashes and Mink brown trim at Tower Cottage, June 2019.

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Close-up of the green sashes and brown trim on Tower Cottage, June 2019.

Next year, should our friends form EMU return for their field school, the rest of the cottage’s trim and windows can be painted with its historic colors.

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

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