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.

The Skeptics Tale

The dichotomy of reading is much like the daily work undertaken in the archives. Reading, like research, can feel private, almost sacrosanct, something to escape to; on the other hand, there is a great draw to share the stories and information one discovers, seek commentary and comparison, enlighten someone’s thought process. As archivists, it is our job to assist researchers on their paths to discovery. Often times this direction and assistance leads us to insights as well. In fact, I have yet to assist a researcher along their path of inquiry without further developing my own along the way.

This was very much the case last week while I was scouring our collections for autumnal ephemera to add color to our Facebook followers’ harvest season. In my seasonally focused search I was delighted to come across Cranbrook’s very own ghost story—Cranbrook Boasts a Ghost; or, The Skeptics Tale, by Henry Scripps Booth (Thistle, as he was commonly known). I was intrigued and excited — what a timely discovery, what with Halloween just around the corner! And while I was enticed by the mystery, and enjoyed reading the descriptions of the vaulted spaces of St. Dunstan’s chapel [editor’s note: St. Dunstan’s is at Christ Church Cranbrook] filled with apparitions (a place I was lucky enough to tour, and you can too!) The Skeptics Tale, more importantly, reiterated an intrinsic truth about Cranbrook – that it is a space imagined and created by many minds and hands.

Christ Church Cranbrook, from "Highlights of Detroit". Cut by Eugene Reeber, Jefferson Intermediate School, 1932.

Christ Church Cranbrook, from “Highlights of Detroit”. Cut by Eugene Reeber, Jefferson Intermediate School, 1932.

Throughout the tale, I gained a sense of workmanship and craft, two features indicative of most spaces on Cranbrook’s sprawling campus. The characters in the tale pined over the construction of the brilliant structure, venerating its beauty as a testament to their commitment to their craft. It is, however, only near the end of the short story where I began to feel (if not see) the intentions of individuals who worked throughout the years to craft Cranbrook into the sprawling idyllic landscape of natural and man-made elements we know today.

“He discovered familiar faces in that strange assembly—faces of men who had lived and worked at Cranbrook. There before him was Tony by the column which bears his name; Mike Vettraino; Henry Booth, the coppersmith; his distinguished-looking father with the sideburns who brought the craftsman’s tradition from the ancient Cranbrook to this continent. There in the fourth chair of the fifth row: Milles, famed for his sculpture; a row or two behind, Saarinen, famed for his buildings; and nearby, Kirk, the silversmith.”

Though only apparitions in The Skeptics Tale, these individuals’ real accomplishments and contributions to Cranbrook, along with those of countless other influential men, women, and students, can be discovered through our collections. In the spirit of the season, we invite you to journey into our crypt and discover some of their stories yourself.

Belinda Krencicki, Associate Archivist

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

Marthe Le Loupp, 1930. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Marthe Le Loupp, 1930. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

As the newest Cranbrook archivist it is my privilege to support our researcher’s investigations into the Cranbrook archival collections. On any given day we might review school yearbooks, catalog historic photographs, or learn about one of Cranbrook’s earliest scandals. After only two weeks, my husband has taken to assigning all credit for my cheerful and inquisitive demeanor to the adventuresome interactions I engage in at the archive. “You’re welcome!” is often my knee-jerk response.

Paths are a funny sort of thing—laid out to direct us, guide us, and ensure we don’t run astray. Life’s paths (kind of like research in an archives) often lead us to places we never imagined. This was the scenario in which Mademoiselle Marthe Le Loupp (1898-1987) found herself when she embarked on her return to Cranbrook from her annual trip back home (Plogoff, France) in 1939.

Marthe Le Loupp taught French language at Kingswood School Cranbrook from 1930-1956. As one of the original seven faculty members (classes were actually taught the first year in Brookside School), Le Loupp came to Cranbrook after completing three quarters of graduate study in French at the University of Chicago. A stern but well-liked teacher, Le Loupp led many Kingswood girls to excellence awards from the Michigan Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French.

Le Loupp remained close with her family while living abroad and returned to France every summer. In 1939, Le Loupp’s return vessel, the SS Normandie, was reassigned under the WWII war effort and she was unable to return to Cranbrook for the start of the fall semester. Ultimately, she was able to secure passage via alternative methods.

Correspondence from Kingswood School to the American Consul, 1939. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Correspondence from Kingswood School to the American Consul, 1939. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

When people think about WWII they don’t usually think about a French schoolteacher in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but in reality, maybe we all should think about the effects that war has on common folk. Our daily lives may seem unaffected, but this is not the truth now, as it was not the truth for Mlle Le Loupp and countless other teachers and staff at Cranbrook.

Le Loupp retired from Cranbrook in 1956 due to poor health. She lived the remainder of her years in Bénode, Finistère, France until her passing in 1987.

The opportunity to rediscover countless histories, such as this, is among the many honors of working in the archive here at Cranbrook. An honor I look forward to sharing with students and scholars in my daily work.

Belinda Krencicki, Associate Archivist

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