House of the Poet

In 1995 a project was initiated to create a living monument to honor Cranbrook’s dedication to poetic imagination. The project, House of the Poet, was to be built on the ridge overlooking Lake Jonah and would honor works of imagination in art, sciences, and letters. Architect and educator, John Hejduk (1929-2000), was commissioned to develop plans for the building.

Hejduk largely abstained from conventional practice, but is known for his drawings that were combined into poetic and often highly personal narratives. Despite completing relatively few buildings, Hejduk is considered one of the most influential architects and theorists of the twentieth century. In an essay about Hejduk, architect Andreas Angelidakis states, “His drawings and writings, his essential approach to architecture, continue to function as a blueprint for a practice without clients, commissions, or even realization. What he built was a world of images and words.”

Exterior drawing, House of the Poet. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Exterior drawing, House of the Poet. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Hejduk designed a house built on stilts that included a bedroom, bath, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The plan was to create a space where “esteemed visitors” to the campus could stay. The exterior consisted of stucco in green, red, blue, and gunmetal, with a zinc roof.

Sketch of Scheme 1: interior paneling.

Sketch of Scheme 1: interior paneling.

In the fall of 1995, architects Dan Hoffman and Jennifer Lee of the Cranbrook Architecture Office (CAO) worked towards the project’s completion. Faculty and students from the Academy of Art’s Department of Architecture would provide the majority of the labor for the construction of the building, continuing the tradition of the integration of arts and crafts in the original buildings on campus. The CAO created extensive cost estimations and budgets, and thoroughly researched available materials for the construction of the house.

Digital model of the House of the Poet - view from Academy Way with the sculpture of Jonah and Whale in the foreground.

Digital model of the House of the Poet – view from Academy Way with the sculpture of Jonah and the Whale in the foreground.

Project correspondence indicated plans to complete the building in time to coincide with a 1997 exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum honoring the work of John Hejduk. The project seemed set to move forward, however, due to lack of sufficient funding, was canceled.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Special thanks to Rebecca Kallen (CKU ‘08) who contributed to the research of this blog.

Paris Calls: Cranbrook and Marcel Duchamp

Occasionally we post blogs that we hope will illustrate and educate about the work that we do here, both as archivists and registrars. One of my greatest pleasures is answering interesting research queries, so I thought I would share one from today.

I received a phone call from Paul B. Franklin, an independent art historian and one of the world’s experts on Marcel Duchamp. Born in Detroit, he received his doctorate from Harvard where his dissertation was on Duchamp. He now lives in Paris, where he edits the journal “Étant donné Marcel Duchamp.”

Exhibition card, 1959

Exhibition Announcement Card, 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Today, Paul was seeking clarification about the exhibition “Art and the Found Object” (which was held here at Cranbrook in April 1959 in what was then known as the Galleries of Cranbrook Academy of Art) for his catalogue essay in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition “”Marcel Duchamp: Porte-bouteilles” to be held in Paris in the fall.

News clipping, Detroit News, 9 Apr 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

News clipping, Detroit News, 9 Apr 1959. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In an email exchange with Paul, he told me the Paris exhibition “is centered on the version of “Bottle Rack” that Duchamp exhibited in “Art and the Found Object” and which Robert Rauschenberg purchased for a mere three dollars.” (Rauschenberg’s work “Odalisque/Odalisk” was also in the exhibition.) “Duchamp signed his readymade for Rauschenberg in March 1960, and Rauschenberg retained possession of it his entire life.”

What a great story! And the fact that we had materials in the collections of Cranbrook Archives to add to the story is even better. Thanks, Paul, for allowing me to share this story with our readers.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

It’s a New Collection!

The Archives to Launch Our Poster Collection Online!

Over the coming summer, Cranbrook Archives will release a brand new collection into its online digital database! While building our digital archive is a perpetual process, we are working steadily to upload images and manuscripts so that you, our remote users, can browse and search through our collections no matter where you live. This summer we will be celebrating a new addition: the Cranbrook Poster Collection!

Over the past eight months, my colleague, Laura MacNewman, and I collaborated to upload this collection for online access. The posters date back to the early 1900s with topics covering the scope of the entire Cranbrook Educational Community, emphasizing exhibitions from the Academy of Art and the Institute of Science, and theatrical performances from Cranbrook Kingswood Schools, St. Dunstan’s Guild, and the Summer Theatre.

Cranbrook Institute of Science poster, n.d. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook Institute of Science poster, n.d. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

We created nineteen different series for the Poster Collection based on locations or departments on campus. We identified nearly 500 unique posters in our collection, and each one was given a distinct identifying number. Once the unique identifiers were established, we merged all the various poster inventories  into one master inventory spreadsheet, and arranged them in chronological order by series.

The next step was sorting through the physical posters folder by folder in order to take a reference photograph of each one for the database, record their dimensions, and describe them  in the master inventory spreadsheet. This was the longest stage of the process, lasting several weeks. After the data was entered into the spreadsheet, we renamed the individual images to match the posters’ unique identifiers in order to match the photograph.

Exhibition poster, 1973. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Exhibition poster, 1973. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While every step has been a learning process, my favorite part was working in Thornlea Studio and physically handling the poster collection for measurements and photographs. Laura and I were able to take a previously unorganized collection and make it discoverable online, which was rewarding and gave me a sense of accomplishment. I loved the huge diversity of the posters, too. Not only were they historically valuable, they were also aesthetically stunning. I can’t wait for the collection to be released for everyone to enjoy!

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

Editor’s Note: Thank you Danae and Laura for your hard work on this project! Congratulations also to Danae who recently graduated from Wayne State University’s School of Library Science! We wish you all the best as you embark on the next journey of your archival career.

New Center Logo & A Fond Farewell

The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research has officially launched our new logo! What follows is a description of where each of the letters comes from in the history of Cranbrook or the location on the campus!

The (first) C in Cranbrook is from the logo George Gough Booth created for the Cranbrook Press in 1901, three years before he and his wife Ellen established their estate in Bloomfield Hills.

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The Cranbrook Press (1900-1902) was founded by George Booth in the attic of the Detroit Evening News Building.  Booth emulated the work of William Morris and his Kelmscott Press, not just in design but also in the level of hand-craftsmanship.

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Three Women and a Conservator

One of the interesting components of our jobs as collections managers, registrars, and archivists is that we get to interact and learn from conservators in our fields. On Friday, three of us went down to Detroit and met with Giogio Ginkas of Venus Bronze Works. A non-descript warehouse building sported a gray metal door which led us into the lobby gallery where Giorgio has displayed art from his personal collection of metro-Detroit artists, including Cranbrook’s Gary Griffin. Then we walked into the “shop” where his tools and equipment are interspersed with numerous sculptures (primarily metal) in various stages of repair, restoration, and conservation.

Giorgio Ginkas explaining the conservation process for the Wishing Well. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Giorgio Ginkas explaining the conservation process for the Wishing Well. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Currently, Venus Bronze Works has three of Cranbrook’s works in his shop – two are awaiting reinstallation on the grounds, while the metal “arch” from the Wishing Well at Cranbrook House is just undergoing restoration.

Parts of the Wishing Well “arch” removed for restoration. One element was missing so a replacement piece had to be fabricated. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Parts of the Wishing Well “arch” removed for restoration. One element was missing so a replacement piece had to be fabricated. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Orpheus figure, restored and waiting to be reinstalled at Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAM 1931.9). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Orpheus figure, restored and waiting to be reinstalled at Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAM 1931.9). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

For more on Venus Bronze Works, including Detroit’s own RoboCop statue, see: http://www.dailydetroit.com/2015/08/24/remember-robo-cop-statue/

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Opulence and Splendor

In the spring of 1927, Cranbrook founders George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth traveled to Egypt. In addition to visiting Cairo and having their photograph taken after an hour long camelback ride, the Booths visited the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun (King Tut).

Letter from Cairo, Mar 1927.

Letter from Cairo, Mar 1927.

In a letter to his son Henry, Booth describes in detail the opulent beauty of the tomb: “When in Luxor we went to the Valley of the Kings and saw the tomb – that is we saw one room where the King lay. He is there still in one of the gold coffins – the mummy had over it a gold mask covering head and shoulders and many jeweled ribbons of gold covering the joints of the mummy cloth. Thimbles on each finger and toe… this lay inside a gorgeous solid gold coffin inlaid with stones. This was all in the finest carved sarcophagus and that inside a splendid wooden shrine – and this inside of a beautifully decorated room.”

Replica created by Egyptian artisans and purchased by George Booth in 1927. The original chair is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photograph courtesy of Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Replica created by Egyptian artisans and purchased by George Booth in 1927. The original chair is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photograph courtesy of Cranbrook Institute of Science.

The Booths also visited the Egyptian Museum while in Cairo. Booth writes that although there is still a great deal in the actual tomb, he is in awe of the exhibition’s craftsmanship and value. He was particularly interested in a chair that at the time was believed to be the State Chair of Queen Taia, wife of King Amenhotep III (grandfather of Tutankhamun). Booth writes to Henry, “I would cheerfully give $10,000 for the throne –  which is an ordinary sized chair, but beautifully wrought.”

Exhibition poster, 1973.

Exhibition poster, 1973.

As the original chair was not for sale, Booth commissioned a replica to be made for the Art Museum collection. The chair, of carved wood with relief decorations covered in gold leaf, was later determined to be the chair of Sitamun, an Egyptian princess (and thought by many scholars to be the mother of King Tutankhamun). The chair was lent to the Institute of Science for a 1973 exhibition titled, “Ancient Egypt and the Tomb of Tutankhamen”. In 1984 the chair was transferred from the Art Museum to the Institute of Science, where it still resides today.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Photo Friday: Posters Tell a Story

The Cranbrook Archives exhibition, Designs of the Times: 100 Years of Posters at Cranbrook, opens this weekend. The exhibition documents events and performances that have enhanced and enriched the Cranbrook community for more than a century. The image below is just one of many that will be on display through March 20th, 2016.

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Performing Arts poster, 1955

This poster, signed “M.W.” was  designed by Michael Justin Wentworth (Cranbrook School ’56). In addition to designing posters, Wentworth was the art editor for both the Brook and the Crane, and designed the sets for the Ergasterion productions and the scenery for the bi-annual Operettas. He received his MA and MFA from University of Michigan, and his PhD from Harvard where he wrote his dissertation on the artist James Tissot, a lifelong interest.

The posters in the exhibition represent all areas of campus – we hope you come check it out!

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Princess Di’s Dresses in the Archives?

At Cranbrook Archives, much of the work we do—processing manuscripts, arranging documents, scanning photographs—all have a rather similar procedure: repeat.

There is plenty of magnificence to be found in the mundane though. We don’t mind the monotonous details because it’s this repetitive process that wins us the occasional gem. Today, while going through Cranbrook’s historic exhibition brochures printed between the 1940s and 1990s, I came across an image of Princess Diana.

“Five Dresses from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales” was an exhibition held at the Cranbrook Art Museum from March 10-15, 1998. The royal dresses were premiered at Cranbrook before becoming part of a worldwide tour that traveled to Russia, Japan, Australia, and England through 1999. This selection from the Princess’s wardrobe was shown in conjunction with the “Art on the Edge of Fashion” exhibition held at Cranbrook at the same time.

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Cranbrook Art Museum exhibition brochure, 1988. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The five dresses were from the private collection of Ellen Louise Petho, a commercial interior designer who, incidentally, was the parent of a Kingswood School alumna. Susan Whitall’s press release in the Detroit News explained how the princess sold dozens of her dresses to benefit AIDs charities just months before her death in 1997. She wrote, “Petho scooped up the five frocks for what became, after Diana’s death, a bargain basement price—less than $100,000.”

The collection included a pleated pink silk tunic dinner dress that Diana wore at the Gala Evening for the English National Ballet and the long jade and black evening dress worn to a dinner at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in 1986. Four of the five dresses were designed by Catherine Walker and the “piece de resistance,” designed by Bruce Oldfield, was the red dress the princess wore at the premiere of the motion picture “Hot Shots” in 1991.

The Archives are a trove of Cranbrook history. We love rediscovering the hidden materials—it’s what makes the repetition meaningful.

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

Alphabet Soup

This morning I was looking for an image from our collection to relate to the Cranbrook Art Museum’s newest exhibition “Read Image, See Text” to post on our Facebook page. I would hazard a guess to say that most, if not all, archivists love books almost as much as historic documents.  Though archives usually do not seek to collect books, and certainly are not lending libraries, books can often comprise part of a collection. So my search for a single image led me to think about the range of books we have in our collection.

The first was written by William O. Stevens, nearly 25 years before he became the first headmaster of Cranbrook School.  After receiving his doctorate at Yale, Stevens taught English at the U.S. Naval Academy for 21 years. The book, which satirized early 20th century Annapolis using twenty-six limericks and illustrations, became an instant success. Find out why it also became controversial.

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

The first edition poetry book below illustrates beautiful text and the tooled binding of the times. It is inscribed: “Ellen W. Scripps, a Christmas present from her Father [James E. Scripps], Detroit 1879.” The editor of the compilation, Henry T. Coates joined the publishing firm of Davis & Porter in 1966; Davis retired the following year and the company became Porter & Coates which became famous for creating Home and Garden magazine and publishing the Horatio Alger Junior titles.

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Gustaf Strengell, the father of Cranbrook’s textile designer Marianne Strengell, composed and designed this handwritten analysis of the Swedish poet’s writings as part of his graduate thesis. Franz Michael Franzén’s (1772-1847) work expressed the romantic conception of nature as both idyllic and divine, and was influential in the development of Finnish poetry.

Gustaf Strengell., Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

Gustaf Strengell, Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

For a really great blog post about related collections, see: Graphic Arts Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

The Golden Anniversary of Horizons-Upward Bound at Cranbrook

The Archives new exhibition, “50 Years Strong: The Evolution of HUB at Cranbrook,” opens this Saturday, April 25th, in the lower level of Cranbrook Art Museum. Horizons-Upward Bound, known as HUB, has its roots in a partnership with Cranbrook Schools that began in 1965. Over the past fifty years, HUB has evolved into a year-round program which prepares both boys and girls with limited financial opportunities to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

HUB Theme Day, 1971

Horizons-Upward Bound Theme Day, 1971. Photographer, Jack Kausch. Cranbrook Archives.

The exhibition sheds light on the history of the program and its continued affiliation with Cranbrook Schools and highlights key individuals and events that have helped make it the successful legacy it is today. Through news clippings, program invitations, brochures and newsletters, student publications, and historic photographs, the exhibition presents a chronological history of the multi-faceted academic enrichment program known as HUB.

News Clipping, 1966.

News clipping, The Birmingham Eccentric, 1966. Cranbrook Archives.

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