New online exhibition: IU Student Traditions!

Indiana University Junior Prom dance card from the scrapbook of Pauline Day.
Indiana University Junior Prom dance card from the scrapbook of Pauline Day.


Just a brief note to let you know the Archives has added a new Omeka exhibit to its Student Life at IU site!  The exhibit is called IU Student Traditions, and features 11 traditions, all but one of which (traditions associated with the Well House) have died away.  Some of these traditions may be familiar to you, e.g. the burning of Jawn Purdue, while many others will be completely new.  As usual, the exhibit includes a brief history of the tradition, supported by images of photos and documents.   We hope you enjoy the exhibit, and will share your stories about participating in these or other student traditions.

Indiana University Travels to South America

Statistics about education in Latin America, circa early 1960s.
Statistics about education in Latin America, circa early 1960s.

Embezzlement, politically charged elections, customs delays, and inflation—no, I’m not talking about a network TV drama. These are all things encountered throughout the course of Indiana University’s international development programs in South America. Two such projects were The Modernization of the University of San Marcos (USM) project in Lima, Peru, which focused on restructuring the business and operating procedures of the USM and the Mechanical and Electronic Engineering Education program at the Universidad del Trabajo (UTU) in Montevideo, Uruguay, which assisted in the development of the university’s industrial education programs, mainly in the automotive shop, foundry, and applied plastics departments. While both programs were administered from 1964-1966, they each had very different experiences in working with the people and culture of South America.

One of my favorite things about working with international collections is finding documents discussing cultural observations and offering tips for interacting with people from other countries. Since these were based on (sometimes biased) American customs from the 1960s, they often reveal interesting cultural observations about Americans at this time as well. A 1964 untitled report by an unknown author describes the overall attitude towards America in Peru and offers interesting advice for better understanding the atmosphere of the USM. It states, “It is reported that most of the deans of the various faculties and the professors at the University of San Marcos are quietly pro-American. It is alright to be pro-American in Latin America, but you must not be too loud about it. Political candidates never take a pro-American stand openly. The students at the University are for the most part friendly toward Americans, but there are some who are very cold toward Americans.” The report also explains that Peruvians pride themselves on having less racial prejudice in their country than Americans, but openly admit to being more discriminatory on the grounds of social class.

Working in an environment with people used to different customs, beliefs, and traditions can create a set of challenges unique from those faced when working within the same country. In Peru, for example, representatives from Indiana University were faced with cultural differences that resulted in disagreements over program goals, especially regarding the restructuring of administrative offices. Many of the program’s goals involved modernizing office procedures, but this sometimes interfered with university traditions. A memo dated August 2, 1965 from Robert E. Burton to Joseph A. Franklin, then Vice President and Treasurer of Indiana University, suggests changing USM’s operating procedures by “eliminating some of the copying minutes by hand—although even this must be considered in relation to tradition and might be a cause for concern in the particular climate that exists prior to election of the Rector next spring.” IU representatives realized the need for balance between assisting the USM while still respecting their traditions. Burton notes, “We can’t solve all the political and economic problems, but our recommendations must be developed for Lima, Peru, and not Bloomington.”

Dinner in Peru 1963-64
Faculty and administrators from universities in Peru and Indiana University at a dinner party in Lima, dated January 21, 1964.

It is possible that some of these problems, along with the political climate surrounding the election of a new rector for the USM, prevented the IU team from accomplishing all of their goals. A letter dated August 3, 1972 from J.A. Franklin to Robert Drysdale, a Program Assistant with the Ford Foundation in Lima, describes some of these problems. He writes, “Members of the staff who visited San Marcos reported unwillingness of certain subordinates there to cooperate, and this resulted in foot-dragging at the very least as well as actual, outspoken opposition to modernization attempts. Some of the opposition was without question due to fear of any change and especially to change which might reduce the number of staff or require them to work more effectively.” After the Indiana University representatives left Peru, it was discovered that one of the administrators from the University of San Marcos had been embezzling funds from his university, explaining his resistance to change operating procedures, further complicating an already challenging process.

Drawing from 1964 Bulletin
Drawing of part of the University of San Marcos campus in Peru from 1964.

In comparison, the program in Uruguay met with little, if any, resistance from faculty and administrators. While there were fewer personal and social conflicts, this program faced obstacles caused by miscommunications and bureaucratic procedures. At its onset, the starting date for the project was postponed 3 months because of delays in receiving host country and federal security clearances for the project leaders from Indiana University. Most problems were the result of delays in securing customs releases for shipments of equipment from the United States to Uruguay. It sometimes took more than 3 months for the equipment to be released, causing schedules to go awry. Additional complications occurred when metal-working lathes ordered in the United States arrived with standard measurement units, despite the specification that they be designed for the metric system, causing unexpected setbacks.

New equipment being unloaded at the Universidad del Trabajo in Montevideo, Uruguay, circa 1965.


Another student, Donato Macellero, using some equipment in the Pilot Center. This area was remodeled and given supplies as part of the project sponsored by Indiana University and USAID.








Other issues were created by the economy in Uruguay and were completely out of the hands of the IU team. During the course of this project, Uruguay experienced drastic inflation rates, causing project costs to suddenly be several thousand dollars over budget, leading to delays in repairs and renovations. Despite these setbacks, the program in Uruguay managed to accomplish all of its goals within its intended time frame, with glowing reviews about the cooperation of the people from the UTU.

These programs represent only a fraction of Indiana University’s involvement in assisting institutions abroad. More information about these and other IU sponsored international projects can be found at the IU Archives. Stay tuned for future posts about IU’s involvement in Indonesia and the Middle East!

“The One That Got Away”: The History Behind the Showalter Fountain Fish

Today’s Bloomington Herald Times reports the return of one of the stolen fish! Read the history of this campus centerpiece Carrie’s post below, originally published May 2011.


As covered by the Indiana Daily Student, on Friday morning workers from the IU Physical Plant again reinstalled the five fish of Showalter Fountain following a tumultuous year involving two separate events in which one was stolen and never recovered and another in which one was severely damaged. By the time of this weekend’s commencement activities, the familiar spray of mist from the fountain should again be wafting through the plaza, just in time for traditional photo opportunities.

While the historic record can’t exactly explain why the fountain continually becomes a target – that  is something more of student lore – there is a long history documenting the conceptual development of the  campus landmark.


As early as 1939, architectural drawings from the primary architectural firm for the university, New York based Eggers and Higgins, proposed what was then referred to as a “Fine Arts Group.” The proposal  (shown here) included proposed locations for a Hall of Music – now the Auditorium (1941) – the Fine Arts Building (1962), an Open Air Theatre on the site of the present day Lilly Library  (1960) and a fountain to be located in the central plaza created by these buildings.

Architectural proposal by Eggers and Higgins, 1939
Eggers and Higgins, 1939

Following the completion of the Auditorium in 1941 and well before the other two buildings, President Herman B Wells and Ward Biddle (the first Director of the Indiana Memorial Union) further advocated for the construction of a monumental fountain for this central plaza. In the IU Archives’ collection of architectural drawings, the first detailed proposal from Eggers and Higgins for a “Memorial Fountain” (shown here) dates from 1943.

Architectural proposal, Eggers and Higgins, 1943
Eggers and Higgins, 1943

Featuring native Indiana limestone and four seated figures representing music, sculpture, painting, and drama, corresponding to each of the proposed adjacent buildings, the concept was much more Neoclassical in style when compared to the modernist landmark we have today.  Despite these early proposals, it was nearly another ten years before progress was made on a fountain.

While Eggers and Higgins continued to serve as the supervising architects for the project and outlined most of the overall design for the fountain itself, in 1952 Robert Laurent (Professor of Fine Arts from 1942-1960) was selected to design a sculpture to serve as the centerpiece of the fountain basin. His design eventually culminated in the 15 foot bronze water-spewing rendition of the mythological story of The Birth of Venus that we know today.

ROBERT LAURENT (b. 1890, d. 1970)

Born in Concarneau, France, Robert Laurent immigrated to the United States at the age of 20 to study under the American modernist painter Hamilton Easter Field. Following service in the First World War, Laurent returned to Brooklyn in 1919, where the young sculptor’s work began to evolve, transitioning over the years from woodcarving, alabaster, modeled clay, limestone, and eventually to cast bronze. Upon the invitation of Henry Hope (Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts) in 1942, Laurent joined the Indiana University faculty, where he remained until his retirement in 1961.

Today, Robert Laurent’s works can be found in major art collections around the world including: several at the Indiana University Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, The Museum of Modern Art of New York, as well as outside spaces such as Radio City Music Hall in New York City and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

Several other Laurent sculptures grace the university campus including the allegorical figures Music and Dance (1949) which can be found in the north and south niches of the Auditorium’s foyer and a large relief Truth, Daughter of Time or Veritas Filia Temporis (1959) which can be found on the exterior wall of Ballantine Hall.


While on sabbatical leave from IU in 1954, Laurent served as an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. It was there he began to conceptualize his design for the fountain, inspired by the bronze fountainRobert Laurent proposal groups of the artist Carl Milles at Cranbrook and in St. Louis. With the original intention of creating the sculpture in marble, Laurent was influenced by the essence of the Roman fountains and fell in love with the lost wax process, a traditional Italian Robert Laurent drawingtechnique of bronze casting. Included here are two of three early preparatory drawings from the IU Archive’s collection documenting the development of Laurent’s concept for the sculpture. A forth drawing is housed in the collection of the Indiana University Art Museum.

The execution of the bronze casts for the sculpture were completed by the Nicci Foundry in Rome during the summer of 1958 and were shipped to Bloomington the following winter. In July 1960, while Laurent was still in Rome, the contract for the building of the fountain was authorized and in the spring of 1961 they broke ground. Eggers and Higgins supervised the completion of the fountain including: the design of the fountain basin and the installation of the fish jets of water, mosaic floor, and lighting. Today, the mechanical and visual features are taken care of by IU’s Physical Plant.


Shortly following the completion of the fountain, a dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, October 22, 1961 in the Fine Arts Plaza (by this point the Lilly Library was complete and the Fine Arts building was in the final planning stages). In his dedication address, President Herman B Wells acknowledged the contributions of Mrs. Grace Showalter whose gift to the University in memory of her late husband, Mr. Ralph W. Showalter made the fountain possible.

Showalter Fountain dedication, 1961
Dedication, 1961

For Wells, the fountain stood proudly in the center of the plaza as a symbol. For as he said,

Indiana University has long been outstanding in the sciences and in the professions. Yet it remembers its ancient foundation upon the classics. Today in dedicating this magnificent Fountain with its central figure the goddess of love, truth, and beauty, we proudly reaffirm our belief in the importance of the arts and the life of the spirit.

For further information about the history of Showalter Fountain, you can listen to last spring’s WFIU Artworks interview which coincided with the IU Archives exhibit Showalter Fountain: The Venus of Indiana University and the IU Art Museum exhibit The Great American Sketchbook.

Behold! University administrative records can be interesting!

It may surprise some to know that a collection comprised of the records of a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, namely that of Frank T. Gucker, 1938-1967, can actually be quite interesting. But in fact, this was the case. From interesting words used in everyday memos, such as “dashing,” “mellifluous,” “peripatetic,” and “bailiwick,” to a 1961 folder entitled “Teaching Machines” (this was the time of pre-Internet and manageable-sized computers) small tidbits of conversation and gems of information are sprinkled throughout this collection.

Some of the most interesting information came from discussions about the Intensive Language Training Center. While the University Archives does have a separate collection of Indiana University Intensive Language Training Center records which provides more substantial information about this program, in the context of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences records language program folders also address the ILTC.

To provide some background about what this program actually was, I’ll refer to the finding aid available in the Indiana University Archives Online. First created at IU in 1959 under the name, Air Force Language Program, the program was initially for the training of U.S. military members to speak Russian. In 1962, in order to move past U.S. Air Force affiliated programs, the name was changed to the Intensive Language Training Center (ILTC). It was at this time that the ILTC fell under the domain of the College of Arts and Sciences, becoming fully a part of the university. The following year, the ILTC became part of the Department of Linguistics, directed by Orrin Frink overseeing contracts with the Peace Corps as well as others and the Defense Language Institute (DLI) was established to standardize language training across military personnel.


That being said, this collection contains correspondence regarding perceived improper use of the Language Lab, and its availability to students as well as people from the military training programs. Additionally, something I found interesting and slightly ‘political-intrigue-spy-movie-mystery-esque’ was a “directive” from the Embassy of the United Arab Republic to the Indiana University Egyptian student population, informing them that “neither they nor their wives are allowed to teach in the Language Center (formerly a division of the Air Force) or have any relationship with it.” The letter is dated July 9, 1963 and directed to Mr. Loutfy Zaki from Mostafa Issaka Cultural Attache. The letter further states, “Any disobedience to that ordinance means automatically that you will be subject to the punishment specified in that ordinance.” Doing a bit of background research into just what the United Arab Republic was and what this time period may have signified, I found that the United Arab Republic constituted a political union of Egypt and Syria, lasting from 1958 to 1961. In 1961, Syria withdrew following a military coup, soon followed by Yemen, thus ending the union. Egypt apparently continued using the name until 1971.

Needless to say, this collection’s span of almost 30 years (with the bulk of the collection from 1960-1964) reflects the times. From U.S. social movements and conflicts, affirmative action, the Kennedy Administration, to international conflicts of the time, including warring Middle Eastern countries including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic (later Egypt), this collection holds up a mirror to these times and shows just how an academic institution, and particularly the college of arts and sciences, was impacted by the surrounding social and political culture. So don’t discount administrative records in a university archive when looking for interesting morsels of information and research fodder, because you never know what you might find tucked away!