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.

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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!

 

6 thoughts on “In the Archives: My Senior May Experience

  1. Having been intimately involved in the decision to remove the Milles statue of “Lee, Educator,” I know quite a bit about these events. Milles was a great admirer of Lee, and created the statue at a time when the myth of the “noble lost cause” was dominant. Progress in our historiography and deeper thinking about the catastrophe of slavery and the causes of the Civil War have made most of us (I hope) less sanguine about these matters. I believed then and still believe that the statue was inappropriate for its time and especially for our 21st century school. It was insensitive, historically misleading, and in any case had been arbitrarily placed in Gordon Science by people other than upper school faculty or students. It was a good time to move it to the vault. But the faculty did not decide to remove the statue, as Aya reports; the Director of Schools, Arlyce Seibert, did. This came after a lot of hard thinking and conversation, some of it with me–I was the faculty adviser of the Crane, which was campaigning to remove it–about the meaning of symbols and monuments, and what kind of environment we wanted to create for our students and families. There was some grumbling, but I think most of our students and faculty either supported removal or were not committed to the statue. As I said at the time, we have the right the change our decor, along with our values. Looking back, I am very pleased that we got it out of there when we did. In 2015, after a self-described white supremacist neo-confederate massacred nine African Americans in Charleston, SC as they prayed, and the issue of confederate symbols became a national debate, I was glad at least that Cranbrook Kingswood had acted sensitively and sensibly when we did. I was grateful not to be arguing about the statue then. The decision was a tribute to the idealism of our Crane editors and the pragmatism and good sense of Arlyce Seibert–a proud Cranbrook moment, and also one of my proudest as a Cranbrook teacher.

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  2. Excellent article ! Well written and interesting.

    I think it would be worth approaching Clarion-Crane editorial staff to see if either or both of the articles she mentioned would be a good, thought-provoking reprint, maybe with new interviews in those relevant topics.

    Thank you, Patricia Batey

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: New Discoveries in Old Collections | Cranbrook Kitchen Sink

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