Photo Friday: Field Trip!

Today the staff from the Center for Collections and Research hopped into a fancy van and headed off to Lansing to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archives of Michigan. We really enjoyed our visit with State Archivist, Mark Harvey, and his staff. Here are few photos from our day away.

A view of just one of the storage areas at the Archives of Michigan.

A view of just one of the storage areas at the Archives of Michigan. Photographs courtesy of Leslie Edwards.

State Archivist, Mark Harvey, talks with our staff about processes at the Archives of Michigan.

State Archivist, Mark Harvey, talks with our staff about processes at the Archives of Michigan.

The Archives of Michigan is responsible for preserving the records of Michigan government and other public institutions. One example is the prison record of the notorious "Gypsy Bob."

The Archives of Michigan is responsible for preserving the records of Michigan government and other public institutions. One example is the prison record of the notorious “Gypsy Bob.”

Captivating "log marks" from early logging days in Michigan.

Captivating “log marks” from early logging days in Michigan.

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

It’s all in the details: Cranbrook’s Homestead Property

In 1914 George Gough Booth commissioned the Coats & Burchard Company to complete an appraisal of the “Homestead Property” which included a full inventory of Cranbrook House and its outbuildings. This was not uncommon, and Booth continued the practice several times during his life as the Cranbrook campus and its buildings grew and changed.

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Selection of Cranbrook House flooring materials. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Since Cranbrook House was constructed in 1908, the 1914 appraisal ledger is the first in our collection, and is markedly different from the subsequent ones. The biggest difference is that in addition to the furnishings and artwork, all building materials, down to every last detail including number of bricks used, cubic feet for flooring, and even all of the hardware was judiciously and meticulously cataloged.

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Selection of “Bill of Materials” for Cranbrook House. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

This ledger and the others (which were taken in 1921, 1933, 1937, and in 1944) have been immensely helpful in historic research of the home and properties. They can be used to help locate objects in their original location in the house, and often point to the year they were purchased and even original purchase invoices. Using this ledger in conjunction with the original drawings and blueprints have been assisted campus architects and project managers with restoration projects on campus as well as projects which determine the structural integrity of buildings for building use and preservation.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Lost and Found in a Sea of Cranbrook History

Ye Triumphe Ship

Ye Triumphe Ship, CEC 1918.1

Every day at the Center for Collections and Research brings new adventures and discoveries. During a visit to one of the storage spaces on Cranbrook’s campus, I stumbled upon a curious object, which inspired me to research it and its past. Like most things around here, the object has a great lineage throughout the campus with connections to George Booth, the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, and Cranbrook School.

The Ye Triumphe model ship was crafted by Henry Brundage Culver (1869-1946), and although it is a model, it is a large one: about 40 inches long and 32 inches high. George Gough Booth purchased the Ye Triumphe in September 1918 from the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The model, which was advertised in the Detroit Sunday News, had been on display in the window of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts shop during that same year.

Henry Brundage Culver worked as an attorney and also served as secretary for The Ship Model Society in New York. He participated in building ship models, and contributed to scholarship on the art of model-making. He produced several publications including Contemporary Scale Models of Vessels of the Seventeenth Century (1926) and The Book of Old Ships: Something of their Evolution and Romance (1924). In the introduction to Contemporary Scale Models Culver compares the art of ship-model building to that of painting.

The finest examples of these miniature vessels are, in the eyes of those best fitted to judge productions of the highest artistic quality, appealing in general composition, line, mass and technical execution, to the aesthetic susceptibilities of those, who have eyes to see, in a no less degree than do the best examples of pictorial art.”

­—Henry B. Culver, Contemporary Scale Models of Vessels of the Seventeenth Century, New York: Payson and Clarke Ltd.1926, pg.ix.

Originally, the ship was placed in the reception hall of Cranbrook House, and was later loaned by Booth for display in the library at Cranbrook School for Boys. Each of the photographs show the ship on display and its presence throughout Cranbrook.

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Cranbrook House reception hall, ca. 1920. Cranbrook Archives

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Cranbrook School for Boys, Library interior, ca. 1945. Cranbrook Archives.

The Ye Triumphe will be returning to view at the Cranbrook Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition The Cranbrook Hall of Wonders: Artworks, Objects, and Natural Curiosities opening November 23rd, 2014. Come and check out the Ye Triumphe and many other fabulous objects from across the Cranbrook campus including works from the Center for Collections and Research, Cranbrook Art Museum, and the Cranbrook Institute of Science!

—Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Center for Collections and Research, Collections Fellow

Letters Left Behind: Advertising Local History

In pulling together the final selections for the Cranbrook Archives’ exhibition “Ephemera: Stories that Letterhead Tells,” I had many difficult choices to make. We have so many fantastic examples of letterhead that span 150 years. It was hard to choose which stories to tell in the exhibition!

That said, I have to say that some of my favorites are the ones that document Michigan history, and specifically, local area history. Numerous businesses including retail stores, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, industries and civic organizations, are no longer in existence and the letterhead is the last bit of evidentiary proof of existence. This post is an opportunity to spotlight a few of these.

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lumber001

paper007

women006

flag002

Beginning this Thursday, the Archives, as part of the Center for Collections and Research, will be host to a lecture series about Michigan history. In each of the three lectures, the speakers will highlight letterhead from their own institution’s archival collections that relate to the stories they are telling. Please join us this Thursday October 16th for the first in the series: “Boom Town: Detroit in the Roaring ‘20s” by Joel Stone, Senior Curator of the Detroit Historical Society. The lecture will be held in DeSalle Auditorium, Cranbrook Art Museum, from 7-8:30pm and include a tour of the exhibition “Ephemera: Stories that Letterhead Tells.”

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Object in Focus: Travel with Saarinen

Full Trunk

Trunks in storage. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

While organizing and re-arranging some of the cultural properties late last week, Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki and I came across an exciting surprise. Tucked away in a corner of one of the many storage areas across the Cranbrook Campus, we found a pair of steamer trunks. (Steamer trunks are traveling trunks that were used when steamships and ocean liners were the best way to travel overseas.) Upon further inspection we realized that they had many stickers bearing international hotels and transatlantic ocean liners. Painted on one of the trunks we found the initials ES.

E.S. Initials. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

E.S. Initials. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

Trunk interior. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

With a bit more digging and some research we found that these trunks were purchased by Eliel Saarinen from The J.L. Hudson Company in Detroit shortly after his arrival to Michigan in 1923. These trunks traveled with the Saarinens back to Finland, and to other European and international destinations. Check out the inside of the trunks. This is a wardrobe trunk, which you can see from the drawers and hanging section with hangers still inside! Although I don’t think it is practical for travel today, I imagine all the exciting places it voyaged while accompanying Eliel Saarinen on his journeys.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Photo Friday: Plans Set Sail!

The Alura II from the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. Cranbrook Archives

The Alura II from the James Scripps Booth and John McLaughlin Booth Papers. Cranbrook Archives

As the new Collections Fellow for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, I was charged with coming up with a theme and writing today’s Photo Friday blog, a daunting task as it is only my first week. Lucky for me, a few of our archivists were working in our reading room pulling documents and photographs for a display this weekend for Cranbrook Art Museum’s PNC Bank Family Day and a few of them jumped out at me.

In 1928 James Scripps Booth, eldest son of Cranbrook’s founders George and Ellen Booth, designed a plan for a boat called the Alura II. Today’s photo includes a Booth’s original design for the bureau-book cases, mirror and window to the cockpit and a photograph of the “screened door companion-way from enclosed bridge area.” Although some of the plans were changed during manufacture, you can see the resemblance to Booth’s original design especially in the drawers and shape of the window shape. The Alura II was a fifty four foot long motor cruiser, with two 275 horsepower engines, so it could go as fast as 16 mph on the water! The boat included electric lights and toilet facilities, a four burner gas stove, and a gas water heater, as well as a Fridgeair ice box. The Alura II was completed in 1929. James and his wife Jean cruised in the boat for most of the summer that year, closing their home to take to the water.

Today’s photo is a sneak peak at some objects you can see on display in the Cranbrook Archives during PNC Bank Family Day this coming Sunday September 28th from 11am to 5pm. Many documents and photographs like today’s Photo Friday will be available to view and learn more about Cranbrook, the Booths, and boats! Learn more about the day’s nautical themed activities, tours, and lecture on the Cranbrook Art Museum’s website.

– Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

A Registrar’s Perspective

Tawny Nelb Workshop

Framed Ralph Rapson drawing, The Ralph Rapson Collection, 1935-1954. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatski.

This past Monday I had the great fortune of taking part in an archival workshop lead by forty-year archives veteran Tawny Ryan Nelb of Nelb Archival Consulting, Inc. As a Registrar, I primarily work with three-dimensional objects (furniture, paintings, gates, etc.), so I was eager to learn that this workshop focused on architectural records, the sub-genres within that medium, and how to properly care for and store these records.

I reference architectural records quite frequently when I am trying to learn more about, or troubleshoot, a problem related to an object. In all honesty, I thought I knew the proper handling, usage, and storage of these records as this knowledge is vital to my job; but it was obvious that I really needed the refresher course in “Paper Management 101.”

Archives workshop at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Tawny Ryan Nelb (third from left). Photographer, Justine Tobiasz.

Tawny’s discussion covered all areas of architectural records including paper mediums, drawing types, and then some. I have to admit though that I cringed when the conversation moved towards the exhibition processes for architectural records! Often, we loan architectural sketches, floorplans, and section drawings to other institutions that require us to frame the documents using a hinge system. A hinge, simply put, is a tab that is glued to a document using a reversible wheat paste that is then adhered to an acid-free backer board. To my dismay, this approach was used historically on tissue and tracing type papers records in our collections, which are likely to tear and off-gas inside their expensive frames, creating a microclimate of havoc. In a moment of panic my hand shot up in the middle of the lecture and I uttered, “But we have documents framed in our collection like this! What should we do?”

Thank goodness for archival specialists, because Tawny truly eased my conscience. She, in very kind words simply replied, “It’s ok. We can remove the tissue and tracing paper from their frames, disrupting the microclimate, and use archival paper and matting to resolve the issue.” My response, “what about those hinges?” And, again she calmed my nerves, “Leave the hinges, and store the objects in flat files, so there is no need to use the frames. Then, if these documents go on exhibition again, they are already hinged and ready to go.” In one word: genius. That is what I experienced at this workshop, shear genius. In all of the workshops I have been a part of, I have never been so glad to have attended an archives workshop in all of my life.

Gretchen Sawatski, Associate Registrar

Old Words, New Sounds: Oral Histories from the Cranbrook Archives

For the past nine months I have been working on a project to breathe new life into an oral history initiative at Cranbrook that began as early as 1964 as a collaborative project between Cranbrook School and the Cranbrook Foundation. These oral histories give us an intimate view of life here at Cranbrook over the past half century with interviewees spanning across the entire community. They range from Dr. Lee Dice at the Institute of Science, to Cranbrook Academy of Art painter Zoltan Sepheshy, as well as interviews with members of the Vettraino family, whose time living on the grounds spanned several generations. These interviews give us the kind of glimpse into the past of Cranbrook that is difficult to find anywhere else.

Cranbrook’s oral histories are found in the archives in analogue sound formats, namely on magnetic tapes. In order to preserve these interviews and provide access to a wider audience, the Archives is implementing a plan to digitize all of the content. Each oral history is digitized in real time and then transcribed, with each hour of audio taking anywhere from 8 to 10 hours to transcribe, depending on sound quality.

One of the latest gems to be uncovered is a recording of a conversation with brother and sister James and Doris Smith who worked as model makers and production designers from the mid-1940s for many of the artists and architects associated with Cranbrook. James began working with the firm of Saarinen, Swanson, and Saarinen in 1943, while Doris joined them in 1946. Both had their hands on many of the largest projects, such as creating the models for the General Motors Technical Center, and their insight into the daily work and life in the office is unmatched and cannot be forgotten.

In the following clip you can listen to James Smith discuss events and the atmosphere that surrounded the winning entry from Eero Saarinen & Associates for the Gateway Arch in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri–better known as the St. Louis Arch.

The Archives’ staff is currently building an online library for the digitized versions of the oral histories which will include the audio clips and written transcripts, and will soon be accessible through the Archives website.

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Construction of TWA model at Eero Saarinen & Associates taken by Claude de Forest, 1957.Cranbrook Archives.

Justine Tobiasz– Archives Assistant

Credit Where Credit’s Due

My favorite thing about being an archivist is that sometimes a seemingly simply question turns into a new discovery.  This happened recently when I was researching the artist of a ceramic vase located in Cranbrook House, a historic house on Cranbrook’s campus and the home of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth.    Finding the answer should have been a simple task: open the object file, locate artist’s name.  A two-minute job.

Two-minutes turned into a two-week journey.

The mysterious vase in question, currently living at Cranbrook House.

The mysterious vase in question, currently living at Cranbrook House.

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