Behind the Curtain: Jennifer Liss, Head of Monographic Image Cataloging

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. 

Title and Role: Jennifer is the Head of Monographic Image Cataloging for the Cataloging Department at the Herman B Wells Library. The Cataloging Department helps IU Libraries’ users discover the collections curated, purchased, and licensed by IU Libraries through tools such as IUCAT, WorldCat, Archives Online, Image Collections Online, and Media Collections Online.

Educational background: Jennifer wanted to study everything as an undergraduate, which is perhaps why she was an English major, with a heavy focus in Anglo-Irish literature, and minors in history and biology. While earning her B.A. at Rutgers, Jennifer spent a few weeks in Ireland and became fascinated with special collections and, to her surprise, the art of science of special collections librarianship. She moved to Bloomington to complete a M.L.S. degree with the rare books and manuscripts specialization at Indiana University.

Work Experience: As a graduate student at IU, Jennifer had the good fortune of being able to work at the Chemistry Library, the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab, and the Owen County Public Library. Shortly after completing a fascinating cataloging internship at the Lilly Library, Jennifer accepted her first full-time appointment as a copy cataloger in the Wells Library Cataloging Department. Although it was not her initial plan to stay in the Midwest, she quickly learned that there was MUCH more to learn about cataloging and metadata—and IU is one of the best public universities in the Unites States to do just that. Jennifer worked as an original cataloger before accepting a faculty appointment as a Metadata/Cataloging Librarian, where she managed multiple digital collections metadata projects. In what has proven to be the biggest surprise in her career thus far, Jennifer found that she loved managing processes and helping her colleagues succeed in their respective roles. She has worked as a Cataloging Department manager since 2013.

Work with the IU Archives: Jennifer has worked with IU Archives since 2011, when the Cataloging Department first began cataloging collections curated by IU Archives. She remembers that time fondly, not only because she got to play in the archives, but because it was her first real taste of developing metadata strategy in an environment that was new to her. Compared with books, archival collections have different description and access needs and Jennifer enjoyed learning more about how users of primary sources find information.

Favorite experience working with the IU Archives: Jennifer notes that “My favorite experience working with the IU Archives involved researching the history of the IU women’s residence halls in the early twentieth century. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to collaborate with IU Archives colleagues on the Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks. IU Archives staff possess an immense wealth of knowledge of institutional history and human stories. Their ability to weave these independent threads of knowledge together into a complex, many hued fabric representing the history and culture of Indiana University is an outcome of their rigorous professional training, extensive experience, and individual commitments to intellectual inquiry. Any day that I can head up to the Archives is a good day!”

C631 Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks – Forest Folio, 1938-1939

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: There are so many contenders but among my favorite is C631 Women’s Residence Hall scrapbooks mentioned above. I appreciated learning more about what it was like to attend a university, particularly as a woman, in the decades leading up to World War II. Which parts of those experiences were unique to IU? Which were typical of American higher education during that time? Fascinating!

Current project that relates to working with the IU Archives: Next up in my cataloging queue is the Parks House publications. The collection includes humorous publications created by the male student residents of the Wright Quadrangle on the Indiana University Bloomington campus from 1960 through at least 1980. As a cataloging manager, I find my time not only devoted to cataloging but also finding ways to shift the Cataloging Department’s resources toward providing access to unique, special collections, like those of the IU Archives. This is no easy thing to do, given that Libraries acquires and licenses more and more electronic resources, while still building its rich physical collections.

Learned by working with the IU Archives: Working with IU Archives led to insights in an area of my professional interest, the history of library discovery technologies. Although much of the early history of IU Libraries was lost to fires, IU Archives remains the best repository for information about how the Libraries operated.

Sincerely Yours: How Artists Research with Alma Eikerman

Alma Eikerman, IU Archives image no. P0059062

I recently had the opportunity to reprocess correspondence in the increasingly popular Alma Eikerman papers (C621) for better researcher access. The series contains slices of the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts’ life, including letters home from her extensive travels, thoughtful communications with former students, discussions with fellow IU faculty, and more. Eikerman’s correspondence shows her independent spirit, wit, and artistic and pedagogical philosophies.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing some summer blues—it is always difficult for me to not feel vegetative in the hot months between school years. In my dreary state, I came across a 1984 letter from Eikerman to Metalsmith editor Sara Bodine that mentioned the Metropolitan Museum of Art—something that piqued my interest. As I continued to read, I could almost hear Alma laughing at my intellectual lethargy. Her passion is evident:

“My life has been made most rewarding by following my interests. My research started when I was in college, it followed no plan, except that of my interests, and continues today. I have been a world traveler, and research of many different areas of metal objects has certainly added to the pleasure and my knowledge. I acquired a strong feeling that a professor of metal should also know as much as possible about the history of metal. Well, that means, knowing almost all of world history.”

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington
Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Her honest account of following her research interests struck a chord with me. As practicing artists may know, however, it can be overwhelming to know where to start research. Alma includes helpful—and non-intimidating—advice for Metalsmith readers:

“For a beginner it is fun to start with a historical object that fascinates you. Gather a number of library books about the area of your interest. Fortify yourself with good maps of the area and begin to make sketches of all the important pieces in a given field. Sketches help you see and seek out the details.”

This is why research in the visual arts interests me so much. Artists are able to use their technical skills of creation to understand research material in a unique way. Being able to actually draw one’s research subjects is a powerful way to connect with learning. She continues to emphasize the importance of looking as an active verb in research, writing:

“Learn where the pieces were made or found-and in which museum they are located…This kind of study research can start in the museum nearest to you—or it can simply start from book study. Libraries are full of wonderful books, with good reproductions.”

As someone whose most vivid childhood memories include parent-dictated art museum trips and the pages of the Time-Life Library of Art books, I second Alma’s affections. For artists, visual research (or looking) is just as important as text-based research.

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington
Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Even so, Alma’s powers of textual description make this letter so fun. Following her advice, which she wrote to serve as an introduction to a piece in Metalsmith, Alma describes three pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that she wants to include with her magazine piece. There are no accompanying slides for these, so in order to identify them a reader has to do a bit of searching. Amazingly, just entering her description of each piece + “Metropolitan Museum of Art” into a search engine immediately retrieved the three pieces. Now that is some powerful descriptive skill!
The three pieces are: a pair of gold armbands with two tritons from Hellenistic Greece, a 4th century silver head of a Sasanian king, and a gold and stone necklace from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. Looking at these pieces, it is easy to understand Alma’s perspective on art history. Although she was a mid-twentieth century artist, she was able to pull from eons of history to inform her research and work. For anyone feeling stuck on an artistic or research project this summer, take Alma’s advice and trust your instincts—follow your interests. The way forward may not always be clear, but there is a path.

Feeling inspired? Get more motivation by contacting an archivist to check out this collection.

Geraldine Katherine White papers

Geraldine Katherine White P0080797

We are happy to announce that the Geraldine Katherine White papers are now open for research!

Geraldine Katherine White (1903-1985) was an Indiana native who grew up in St. Joseph County, Indiana. She enrolled at Indiana University in September 1922 and graduated in 1926 with a B.S. in Commerce. During her time at IU, Geraldine was involved in a number activities associated with the School of Commerce and Finance (now known as the Kelly School of Business). The school, which was established in 1920, was still new at the time and gave Geraldine the opportunity to take part in the early formation of what would become one of the consistently high-ranking business schools in the nation. She was Vice-President of the newly established Girls’ Commerce Club, a group composed of advanced students in the commerce program. The young woman was also a charter member of IU’s Phi Chi Theta, a society for women majoring in Commerce, and was on the Executive Board for the Hoosier Journal of Business. During her senior year, she joined an inaugural pledge class for the Alpha Beta chapter of the now-defunct Beta Sigma Omicron.  She also received the honor of joining the Mortar Board, a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for their achievements in scholarship, leadership, and service.

Notes from Geraldine’s “Representative Painters” art history class

The collection contains course notes from various classes Geraldine took from Spring 1924 through Spring 1926 and two scrapbooks that hold items associated with White’s social life while at IU. The two scrapbooks, which date from 1922-1923 and 1925-1926 respectively, provide a more personal look into Geraldine’s social activities and the campus community. They contain sports schedules, pamphlets from events, bylaws and other information associated with the sororities and professional organizations that she was involved in, and pictures of friends and events.

Geraldine attended IU during the early years of the Memorial Campaign Fund, an initiative to raise money for the construction of multiple buildings on campus and to simultaneously honor the men and women from the University who had participated in World War I (for more on this see our Memorial Fund Campaign Records and a previous blog post by Alessandro Meregaglia). The new building for Geraldine’s school was a part of this campaign fund and is highlighted in her scrapbook:

School of Commerce and Finance
1924 Show Down Pamphlet
1924 Jordan River Revue Pamphlet

In addition to more items related the Memorial Campaign Fund, researchers will also find a wide array of pamphlets from theater events like the Jordan River Revue (a popular musical variety show put on by the Garrick Club, an organization that promoted University dramatic endeavors), the annual “Show Down” (another variety show hosted by the Garrick Club geared toward fraternities and sororities), and comedy shows. Music events and dances are also very popular themes in her scrapbooks. The pages are also filled to the brim with handwritten notes from friends recalling various memories during their time at IU.

If you would like to view the Geraldine Katherine White papers for yourself, please feel free to contact the IU Archives to set up an appointment.

Gerardo Gonzalez, the briefcase, and the University Archives

Earlier this summer whilst attending a “Lunch & Learn” hosted by the Office of the Bicentennial, I had the pleasure of meeting Gerardo Gonzalez, Dean Emeritus of the IU Bloomington School of Education (2000-2015). He mentioned that he had a memoir coming out later this year and he had some related family papers. They needed a permanent secure home – was the Archives interested?

Gerardo Gonzalez, 2014
Gerardo Gonzalez, 2014. IU Communications

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that we collect quite broadly to document Indiana University and the people affiliated with the institution. But for those that may not or just for further information on our processes – indeed, the mission of the IU Libraries University Archives is to collect, preserve and make available university records of enduring value (as I tell classes, that is clearly something I have written down somewhere and have repeated several times, ha!). In pursuit of that mission, we focus on collecting records created and collected by IU Bloomington offices, departments, centers, institutes, as well as any campus offices with system-wide responsibilities. In addition, we seek out the records of student, faculty, and staff organizations. But we also extend our collecting priorities to the personal papers of IUB faculty, staff, and alumni. With these papers, we have areas of focus within each and they all tend to be on those materials that reflect their time at the university. But we also sometimes choose to go beyond that so that in the end, we have a collection that paints a fuller picture of the creator and his or her life.

So my answer to Dr. Gonzalez was an immediate affirmation. The papers he offered were very precious to him, as they were all related to his family’s emigration from Cuba to the United States shortly after Fidel Castro took power. Just a child at the time, Dr. Gonzalez only learned of the existence of the surviving telegrams, correspondence, plane tickets, etc. many years later when his father presented them in the briefcase in which they had been housed for safekeeping over the years.

This is the first telegram sent to Dr. Gonzalez’s parents. It threw them into a panic, as they had requested permission for their family of four to emigrate; this telegram instructed Gerardo’s younger sister – only 5 years old – to report to Havana for departure to the United States. Only Martiza. Nonetheless, his father began to explore possibilities so that at least Martiza could leave. Much to the family’s relief, later that same day they received a telegram that granted permission for their whole family to leave. In two days. IU Archives Collection C694

And now, we are responsible for their safekeeping, and they will allow us to tell a fuller, richer story of one of Indiana University’s most respected administrators and educators who began his life in the United States a shy, frightened refugee.

Gerardo Gonzalez, 1956. IU Archives P0082433

A finding aid for Dr. Gonzalez’s papers can be found on ArchivesOnlineIf you would like to view the collection, contact an archivist but note that we have fully digitized the small collection – click on the small cameras next to each item – as well as a few of the photographs! In addition to that, Dr. Gonzalez’s memoir, A Cuban Refugee’s Journey to the American Dream: The Power of Education, is now available through the IU Press! I just received my own copy, a gift from the author (thank you, Dr. Gonzalez!) yesterday, and I look forward to learning more about his journey.

Sincerely Yours: Ernie Pyle Day

Individual photo portrait of Ernie Pyle
Ernie Pyle’s 1923 yearbook photo

This Friday, August 3rd, Indiana University celebrates an adopted hometown hero on National Ernie Pyle Day! Did you know, however, that Pyle did not receive an IU degree until twelve years after he left Bloomington? The Vermillion County native began his studies here in 1919, but left a year before completing his degree in order to take a position with the La Porte Herald. Bittersweet personal circumstances also surrounded his IU departure: he had recently experienced a bad run-in with some Department of Journalism faculty, and a love interest gave him back his going-steady pin. Despite this, Pyle remained close with companions from IU his entire life. In 1941, at the height of his fame, he waxed longingly to his friend “Hermie” (yes, that one: Herman B Wells) about planning a chance to “escape” to Monroe and Brown Counties. So it was with anticipation, nostalgia, and some nerves that Ernie Pyle returned to IU in November 1944 to receive an honorary degree.

Two letters at the IU Archives show Pyle’s trademark wit and authenticity regarding his prodigal return. In a letter to his friend and IU Alumni Association secretary George “Dixie” Heighway the day after the honorary degree luncheon, Pyle wrote:

It was a wonderful day, Dixie. Instead of hating it, as I had anticipated, I’d almost like to do it again. You couldn’t have arranged it any better for my pleasure. I am deeply appreciative.

Dad and Aunt Mary will be talking about it for years. And so will I (I hope!).

In addition to his thanks, Pyle asks Heighway to send along some information, including the full name and address for University Comptroller Ward Biddle, the man who initially proposed Pyle’s honorary degree to President Wells. Most interesting though, is this request: “The name + street address of Harriett Davidson, Tri-Delt of ’24, now married to a Dr. Martin + living in Bedford, Ind.” This is the same Harriett Davidson who returned Pyle’s pin all those years ago! Perhaps Pyle was moved by the nostalgia of being in Bloomington, and wrote to Davidson to catch up with her after all those years.

Black and white photograph of Ernie Pyle and Patricia Krieghbaum in the IDS office, November 1944
Ernie Pyle visits the Indiana Daily Student office during his return to campus in November 1944.

As we read this letter today, it’s impossible not to feel a little sentimental. We know that Pyle was struck by sniper fire and died during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945—just months after he wrote this letter. His humorous jab of hoping to talk about the honorary degree for years becomes a sad foreshadowing when we know this context. A follow-up letter Pyle wrote Heighway on November 28, 1944 includes another such line in the postscript: “I’ll be leaving here for good in about two weeks.” Pyle meant only that he would be off to cover World War II’s Pacific theater, but the permanence of the statement is eerie in hindsight.

These two letters, however, should be read for their joyful moments too.  In his November 28 letter, Pyle is especially touching:

After the luncheon that day, a red-headed gal from the Bloomington High School paper tagged me and wanted an interview. Our schedule was so tight and everybody was pulling at me so that I had to leave her standing there, and later had Jack Hastings go back and apologize and say it was impossible, since she seemed to want a lot of time.

I’ve felt badly about it, for I know how kids can be hurt by failing in an assignment like that. I’d like to send her an autographed book in recognition of a good try. Could you find out who she was?

The no-nonsense writing style and humanizing approach is all Pyle. The generosity to this student evinces his deep roots to Bloomington. Heighway or another colleague jotted down the student’s name and address: Gladys Lillian Morrison. Some genealogical research shows that as of 2016, Morrison was still living in Bloomington. She and her late husband both worked at IU. It seems that, like Pyle himself, many people keep these close ties Bloomington and the university.

To see these letters and other University Archives material related to Ernie Pyle, contact an archivist. The IU Libraries Lilly Library also holds a number of Pyle-related collections–contact our friends there for further information!

Scan of original letter from Ernie Pyle to George "Dixie" Heighway, November 28, 1944

Transcription of November 28, 1944 letter from Ernie Pyle to George “Dixie” Heighway:

                Nov. 28

Dear George—

Something else I wish you’d do for me.

After the luncheon that day, a red-headed gal from the Bloomington High School paper tagged me and wanted an interview. Our schedule was so tight and everybody was pulling at me so that I had to leave her standing there, and later had Jack Hastings go back and apologize and say it was impossible, since she seemed to want a lot of time.

I’ve felt badly about it, for I know how kids can be hurt by failing in an assignment like that. I’d  like to send her an autographed book in recognition of a good try. Could you find out who she was?

I’m still glowing over the grand day we had, and so are my folks.

As ever,

Ernie

P.S.—I’ll be leaving here for good in about two weeks