The Skyline is a Promise

Cranbrook Archives houses an impressive collection of motion picture films, many of which offer depictions of student life at Cranbrook Schools. These films uniquely capture what it was actually ‘like’ to be on campus at a given moment in time, and potentially present perspectives not captured in official written documentation. One such film, The Skyline is a Promise, from the Horizons-Upward Bound Records, is an excellent example.

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Filming on Cranbrook School campus, 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB) program, then in its 2nd year, was self-described as “An Experimental Enrichment Program.” In conjunction with representatives from Detroit Public Schools and Oakland County Schools, the program’s objective was to provide low-income Detroit area high school students with opportunities for future success in academics and in life. The creation of Cranbrook School teacher, Ben Snyder, who served as its director for twenty-four years, HUB was the only program of its kind at that time.

Skyline was produced, directed, and filmed by Wayne State University Audio-Visual Productions during the summer of 1966, and was intended both as a promotional piece and an educational aid. The 16-minute short film captured every aspect of the program. Raymond Maloney, a HUB English instructor from Cranbrook School, wrote of the experience in the 1966 Annual Report: “At times, the dining hall, classrooms or dormitories took on all the aspects of a movie set complete with eighty-eight willing actors.” Students not only were eager participants in front of the camera but also learned about what was involved behind the camera, thanks to one of the film’s producers.

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Wayne State University film crew, 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Funding for the film was provided by an anonymous donor, supplemented by funds from the program’s Ford Foundation grant. According to a May 25, 1966 letter, the script was written by George H. Bouwman, Director of Development, Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY. The soundtrack was a mix of guitar music, sound effects, and voice-overs from both the narrator and student interviews, also conducted by the film crew. The film’s title was taken from The Wanderer of Liverpool by John Masefield, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom (1930-1967):

Go forth to seek: the quarry never found

Is still a fever to the questing hound

The skyline is a promise, not a bound.

Beginning in the Summer of 1967, the film was circulated for a $5 rental fee throughout the U.S. (with accompanying report) to other independent schools considering establishing a similar program. Made at the suggestion of the National Association of Independent Schools, it was shown in its first year at 36 member schools in 18 states, 6 school conferences across the country, and 14 other organizations including the Education Departments of Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.

That same summer saw a watershed moment in Detroit history: civil unrest with profound ramifications for the city’s inhabitants, which included sixty Horizon students and their families. A full page in HUB’s 1967 Annual Report expresses appreciation to those who particularly helped navigate the complexities of the situation, including Detroit educators, clergy, business leaders, and local figures, such as Detroit Tigers player Al Kaline. Cranbrook would continue to have ties to Detroit institutions through its HUB program, like the relationship it formed with New Detroit in 1968. This summer, HUB will celebrate its 55th anniversary, remaining an important link between Cranbrook and its Metro Detroit neighbors.

Fifty-four years later, Skyline transcends its original intent and gives us a window into the experiences of a specific group of students at Cranbrook during a tumultuous time in our region’s history. The film, like many others in the Archives, is currently undergoing review for reformatting to digital media for access and preservation of the originals, so that their stories are not lost to future generations.

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

Welcoming Our Two Archives Assistants!

Prior to volunteering at Cranbrook Archives, I had been studying history and had become aware of the importance of primary sources for historiography, and the value of preserving heritage for the wider community. I began volunteering in 2012 which helped me decide to pursue a career in archives, and I began studying for the MA Archive Administration with Aberystwyth University in Wales (distance learning) in 2013. As part of a university assignment, I processed the HUB (Horizons-Upward Bound) Records, and am currently researching George Gough Booth’s interest in tapestries, which he purchased and commissioned for Cranbrook institutions and family members. I am interested in Booth’s involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the way in which the movement used medieval themes and techniques as a response to the social experience of the time. The Edgewater Looms, Herter Looms, and Morris & Co. tapestries are an ideal focus for exploring these ideas. I am looking forward to learning more about scanning/digitisation/digital preservation/cataloguing. The university modules emphasize access as the flip-side of preservation. I tend to have the latter foremost in my mind, so it will be great to see how the archive is used.

Laura MacNewman, Archives Assistant

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

As a graduate student mid-way through the Library and Information Science master’s program at Wayne State University, I’ve been given a healthy dose of libraries, archives, and the world of information over the past year. My interest in archives administration began while I was volunteering at the Cranbrook Archives last fall (2014). Here, I was introduced to the process of digitizing manuscripts, taking inventory of donated artist materials, and sifting through photographic negatives for future digital preservation and storage. I’ve also been working on the Cranbrook Archives’ Oral History Project. Much of my work at Cranbrook corresponds to my studies at Wayne State. In fact, this past week Head Archivist Leslie Edwards spoke about Cranbrook Archives’ oral history project in my oral histories course. As a new employee, I am keen to expand the number of digital images available online, help preserve the negative photograph collection, and understand what it really means to be an archivist.

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

Both Laura and Danae are working for us as part-time Archives Assistants, an entry-level archival position for graduate students. They will be working on a variety of projects during the coming year while gaining experience to propel them in their careers. Look for future blog posts from them in the upcoming months!

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

Photo Friday: Who’s That Man?

It’s Arthur Nevill Kirk! Wooed by George Booth, the famed silversmith arrived at Cranbrook in 1927 to head the metals department at the Academy of Art. Kirk also taught at the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts and Cranbrook School for Boys. His specialty was the design and execution of ecclesiastical silver, of which Cranbrook still has many pieces in its collection.  During the Great Depression, lack of funds curtailed the use of precious metals and the department closed in 1933. Kirk went on the help establish the Artisans’ Guild, and organized the metal department at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he taught until his retirement in 1957.

~Robbie Terman, archivist

Arthur Nevill Kirk. Cranbrook Archives.

Arthur Nevill Kirk at work. Cranbrook Archives

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