Indiana Jones and the Search for the Pergola Picture: My Senior May Experience

Growing up so close to the Henry Ford Museum, or watching my family’s favorite go-to movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, I knew that I was interested in history from an early age. Yet, I never stopped to think about Cranbrook’s own fascinating and world-renowned past. To me, this community was just “home”, and the only history I thought of was of my family’s connection with the school. Nevertheless, for my Senior May project, I wanted to learn more about the inter-workings of the educational community as a whole. With this in mind, I chose to intern at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and the Archives for my last senior assignment.

Elizabeth Fairman, CKU ’17

The purpose of Cranbrook’s Senior May project is to give soon-to-be Upper School graduates a taste of a “real world” job for the month of May in their field of interest.  Initially, I assumed I would be either in Art Museum storage moving art pieces or doing research on the computer every day, but I could not have been more wrong.

Over the course of my three weeks, I had behind-the-scenes tours of Cranbrook’s many historic landmarks, firsthand looks at restorations, handling and moving donated art pieces, and countless hours of both digital and primary source research. I met many people who are tasked with adding to and preserving this living historical landmark, no small task given the expansive campus. My perspective of the community, initially as the place of my education and a source of livelihood for my family, was altered, and I began to see it as an operational historical site.

In short, I had a very full, albeit whirlwind experience of almost everything that being an archivist or registrar entails.

Organizing original Kingswood School silverware in Heaven.

My favorite experiences were the tours of campus. Although I have attended this school for 14 years, very rarely did my classes study the history of Cranbrook or take field trips to different buildings on campus besides Cranbrook Institute of Science. In fact, I had only visited Saarinen House and Thornlea once before Senior May, just three weeks before I am set to graduate. My supervisor, Mrs. Mio, added another element of the visits, a look at them through the eyes of a registrar who is tasked with upkeep and restoration of historic sites. Through tasks such as cataloging Booth dinner plates at Cranbrook House, identifying historic bookbinding tools used at the Academy of Art, and even checking mouse traps at Thornlea, I developed a deeper appreciation for the amount of work it takes to showcase the history of this community, as well as a chance to see rooms or storage out of the public’s eye.

Clothing collection at Cranbrook House storage.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the research itself, like searching through “the stacks”, where many of the important archival files are kept. It is a place where you can find both important and unexpected things. For instance, one afternoon while searching for photos and records of the Cranbrook House Pergola for Ms. Edwards, I came across security reports from the 1960’s detailing the dangers of “hippie types” on campus. I was also able to piece together more of the history of Cranbrook firsthand through organizing and filing other primary sources created by prominent figures in the Community’s past.

Elizabeth Fairman, CKU ’17

Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Fairman is a “lifer” at Cranbrook, having attended school here since Kindergarten. In addition to that, her father Andy is the upper school baseball coach and physical education teacher at Brookside School. Both of Elizabeth’s grandmothers (Sue Tower and Marilyn Sutton) taught school at Brookside for many years. We thank Elizabeth for her exemplary work ethic and positive attitude and wish her the best of luck in her new adventure at Bates College in Maine.

Thank You, Volunteers!

April is National Volunteer Appreciation month and Cranbrook Archives is incredibly grateful for the wonderful group of volunteers who donate their time to help make the Archives shine. From college students to retirees to Cranbrook school parents, our volunteers offer a wide array of skills and knowledge.

Volunteers in the Archives reading room, Mar 2011.

Archives volunteers work on a variety of projects, including sorting slides, indexing scrapbooks, and identifying photographs. Although some projects are short- term, we have several members of our core team who have worked with us for years (including one person who has donated her time for more than 20 years!) We are forever grateful to all of our amazing volunteers- their contributions help us grow our collections and preserve Cranbrook’s rich history.

Working on a slide project, Aug 2016.

Thank you to all of our volunteers – we could not do our work without you!

Cranbrook Archives Staff

Going Green: LED Lightbulbs at our Historic Houses

Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d talk about one way the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is going green.IMG_7957In January 2014, there was a crisis among fans of incandescent light bulbs when the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 went into effect, banning the manufacture of incandescent 40- and 60- watt light bulbs. Some house museums were in a tizzy, and many purchased large stocks of incandescent bulbs to use in their historic fixtures with exposed bulbs—no one wants to see a distracting, spiraling fluorescent light bulb in a period room!

The feared depletion of our national stock of pretty light bulbs didn’t happen (there were lots of loopholes and legal challenges), but one intent of the ban—to force the lighting industry to make more efficient bulbs—was realized. Impossible just a few years ago, today there are energy efficient LED light bulbs that are completely satisfactory for use in exposed-bulb situations. After decades of using incandescent lighting, the Center has switched Saarinen House and parts of Cranbrook House over to LED.

LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs are most praised for their energy savings, but being such an aesthetically minded place as Cranbrook, we have a few more concerns than the utility bill for our lighting:

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Maintaining the visual warmth of Saarinen House was vital; we wouldn’t have gone LED if it altered the aesthetic. Jim Haefner, photographer.

First is the color. When I told a coworker I was about to change the lightbulbs in George Booth’s Office in Cranbrook House to LED light bulbs, she was crestfallen. “They’re so blue and cold!” she lamented, something a lot of people fear with LED. It’s true, early LEDs were very blue and a far cry from the incandescent bulbs most people are used to (and prefer). But technology has changed, and now we have a range of light warmth to choose from. The spectrum of warmth is measured in kelvins, and incandescent bulbs are around 2400 K, while fluorescent tubes are 5000 K, and sunlight is 7000 K and up. We’ve chosen 2550 K bulbs for Cranbrook. As far as wattage goes, the lighting industry labels LEDs with their watt equivalents to incandescent, as that’s what we know. I used 25-watt incandescent equivalent bulbs in the office that actually use just 4 watts of power (and last, supposedly, 13+ years).

 

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From left: Incandescent bulb removed from Saarinen House fixtures; clear-style LED bulb used in exposed fixtures; LED bulb used in covered fixtures.

The next concern revolved around the look of the bulbs. You may be familiar with the energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb (CFLs) that have a spiral-type bulb—I don’t think anyone would want those in a chandelier. Even earlier LEDs were bulkier than standard incandescent bulbs because of the need for large conductors within the bulb to reduce heat gain—usually in the form a large white base between the glass and the screw threads. Today, you can buy a LED bulb in practically any shape or style with an internal conductor. The main difference between the LEDs we chose and the incandescent bulbs: when the bulb is off, the LED is a visible golden strip instead of a tiny metal filament, so you see a small yellow marking in the center of the bulb.

 

Beyond aesthetics and energy savings, there is the cost of the bulb itself. LEDs are getting constantly cheaper, but there’s a fairly big difference between the cheapest LEDs and the prettiest ones. Here at Cranbrook, when a bulb is not visible (for example, hidden by a solid lampshade), we’ve used cheaper LEDs in the same temperature and wattage as the fully clear bulbs we put in chandeliers and exposed fixtures. Either way, the energy savings should offset the costs within just a few years!

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Saarinen House aglow with LED bulbs inside and out, February 2017. Jim Haefner, photographer.

By switching to LED, we’re doing our part to help realize Cranbrook’s dedication to the environment laid out in the Cranbrook Educational Community’s most recent Strategic Plan; it states that “we commit to the well-being of future generations through our actions and behaviors.” Energy conservation is one simple way we’ve done this!

Kevin Adkisson, Center Collections Fellow

Special thanks to Assistant Registrar Leslie S. Mio for leading the LED Lightbulb conversion.

Craft in Time: Oscar Bach and the Cranbrook School Dining Hall Clock

For nearly ninety years, diners in the Cranbrook School dining hall have marveled at the clock that hangs high above the fireplace. Designed and fabricated by New York metalsmith Oscar Bruno Bach, the clock is a tribute to George Booth’s beloved Arts and Crafts Movement. Each hour is represented by an art or craft, ranging from metalworkers to woodworkers.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Oscar Bruno Bach (1884-1957), who was born in Germany, came to the United States in 1913 and established a metal design studio with his brother in New York City. As they built up their reputation and the business grew, Bach exhibited his work through The Architectural League of New York and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. His work graces numerous churches, industrial buildings, and residences primarily in New York but also in the Midwest. His first known work in Michigan was ornamental metalwork for the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit (1915).

Bach was known for incorporating a variety of metals and metal techniques in his work. Cranbrook’s clock (1926) is made of four concentric iron rings with a center element (two male figures at an anvil) of repoussé brass surrounded by three brass “flame” rings. Each of the twelve figures representing arts, crafts, and trades are also made of brass, surrounded by floral elements made of iron. Copper was used for the rivets and for the small fleur-de-lis elements on the outer rim. Finally, the hour and minute hands are made of aluminum with brass rivets.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

The clock however was not Bach’s first contribution to Cranbrook. In 1919, he fabricated lead “conductors” for the exterior of the east and west wings of Cranbrook House. George Booth also acquired a smoking stand (1922) and two table lamps (1929) for Cranbrook House, and commissioned Bach to fabricate Cranbrook School’s Peacock Gates (after Eliel Saarinen’s drawings) and the Treasury Door (1928) at Christ Church Cranbrook. Other local commissions include The Detroit Players Club (1925), Moulton Manor (1926), the estate of William Scripps (Ellen Booth’s brother) in Lake Orion, and the First National Bank (1927) in Ann Arbor.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the most interesting discoveries I made in writing this post was that the clock used similar elements as doors Bach designed for the new wing of the Toledo Art Museum (1925). They both feature arts and crafts figures – a potter, sculptor, glassblower, draughtsman, metal worker, and bookbinder. In January 1926, Bach received the “Medal of Honor in Design and Craftsmanship in Native Industrial Art” from the Architectural League for his design for the doors so it’s no wonder that he incorporated some of the same elements in the Cranbrook School dining hall clock. I may be a bit partial, but I think our clock is even more magnificent than the doors and I imagine you will too!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

From the Outside Looking In

In the fall of 2015, one of the leaded glass windows in the Cranbrook Dining Hall was damaged. The window, one of many designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1927, is known as a lancet – a tall, narrow window, usually with a point at the top. The extent of the damage required that the window be removed and restored offsite by Thompson Art Glass in Brighton, Michigan. Yesterday, the window was returned and reinstalled.

The window, ready for reinstallation.

The window, ready for reinstallation.

Glaziers from Thompson Art Glass reinstalling the window.

Glaziers from Thompson Art Glass reinstalling the window.

An interior view of Charlie from Thompson Art Glass puttying the window. Photo by Giuliano N. Stefanutti, CKU '15.

An interior view of Charlie from Thompson Art Glass putting in the window. Photo by Giuliano N. Stefanutti, CKU ’15.

A putty knife and a steady hand completed the finish work.

A putty knife and a steady hand completed the finish work.

Watching Matt and Charlie from Thompson Art Glass work on the glazing made me think of all the craftspeople, artisans, and contractors who worked hard to create Cranbrook. You can find some of their stories archived on The Kitchen Sink.

Leslie Mio, Assistant Registrar

Photo Friday: Archival Preservation

Since it is Preservation Week, today’s Photo Friday features an image from one of the collections we have been working to stabilize. For the past few weeks my colleague, Belinda Krencicki, and I have photographed and captured metadata for the watercolor paintings, pen and pencil drawings, and pastels in the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. This information will be used to catalog the items in our Collections Management system. In addition to documenting the works, we re-housed all of the items–placing them in archival folders and interleaving each work to protect it.

Pencil and pastel sketch of the exterior of the Detroit News building, James Scripps Booth, 1917.

Pencil and pastel sketch of the exterior of the Detroit News building, James Scripps Booth, 1917.

The artwork ranges from pastel landscapes, to portrait studies, to automobile racing. The image above is one of my favorites – a sketch of the Detroit News building. I hope you enjoy it too!

Gina Tecos, Archivist

The Case of the Bogdani

The other night I saw the most interesting show on PBS called “Fake or Forgery.” An investigative journalist and two noted art sleuths joined forces with cutting edge scientists to discover the truth behind a painting the owner thought to be a Degas. They thoroughly searched the provenance of the painting, and used scientific methods like X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine if the pigments used in the painting were compatible with Degas’ known palette. It made me think of the many works of art across the Cranbrook campus that could benefit from in-depth scientific research like this. And, it prompted me to relay the story of a discovery the archives staff made several years ago.

The painting we fondly refer to as “The Bogdani” was originally purchased by George Booth for Kingswood School for Girls, where it hung in the Domestic Science Dining Room. Purportedly painted by noted Hungarian Jakob Bogdani (1658-1724), the still life was found in a storage room badly in need of cleaning and restoration.

The painting was conserved by Ken Katz of Conservation & Museum Services in Detroit. During the several months of conservation, we were able to visit the studio in order to see the work in process, and the results were amazing.

during

During conservation.

As I looked closely at the work, my heart almost stopped beating. Bogdani’s signature was gone, and in its place was another name! My first thought was how hard I had lobbied to get the painting conserved and now it was a forgery!  However, after doing additional research, I discovered that the artist, Tobias Stranover (1684-1731) was actually Bogdani’s son-in-law and former student. Phew! Although this meant the still life was painted around 1810 instead of 1790, at least we still had an original painted by an artist who, with his father-in-law, provided the finest exotic bird and animal paintings in England. The painting currently hangs in the reading room of Cranbrook Archives.

Before conservation.

Before conservation.

after

After conservation, details in the painting can be seen can be seen more clearly, and the brilliance of the colors pop.

 

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

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

Rocks That Teach: Cranbrook Institute of Science and the Sanilac Petroglyphs

Some say there are no coincidences in life, and in my many years of genealogical and historical research, I have found that perhaps a better word for these types of experiences is serendipity.  Often I find myself researching a certain topic and “by chance” I run into an expert standing next to me in line at the grocery store.  The other day just such a happenstance occurred.  I was invited to a lunch and who should sit next to me but Stacy Tchorzynski, an Archaeologist for Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office and Department of Natural Resources.  She asked me if the Cranbrook Archives had any materials on the Sanilac Petroglyphs and we launched into a discussion about the importance of documenting and preserving Michigan’s only known prehistoric rock carvings.  Located in an historic state park covering 240 acres, the petroglyphs, which were carved into very soft sandstone, have eroded over time and weather exposure.   In addition, 19th and 20th century vandalism and graffiti have further degraded the carvings.

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Sanilac Petroglyphs, Cass City, MI, 1945. Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook has had a long interest in the petroglyphs—in the 1940s, the director of Cranbrook Institute of Science (Dr. Robert Hatt) worked with the DNR and University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropology to develop a preservation plan for the rock carvings.  In fact, Hatt’s 1942 report even suggested that the site would make an “excellent State Park” and that the main group of petroglyphs should be fenced off.  In 1958, the Institute of Science published a monograph on the petroglyphs followed in 1965 by a collaborative meeting between the Institute, the Michigan Archeological Society, and the Sanilac County Historical Society.   This meeting resulted in the acquisition of the 80-acre site by the Michigan Archeological Society.

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Cranbrook Institute of Science Educational Field Trip at the Sanilac Petroglyphs in Cass City, MI, circa 1968. Cranbrook Archives.

The site of the Sanilac Petroglyphs is also an important ceremonial site for the Anishinabek – the petroglyphs are very powerful places of learning and spirituality for them and are referred to as “rocks that teach.” 

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Cranbrook Institute of Science sponsored field trips to the site for its members.   Drawings of the petroglyphs, part of the collection of the Institute of Science, will soon be on display as part of the exhibition My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

~Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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