Celebrating 20 years of the Asian Culture Center at IU

Chancellor Herman B Wells visits students at the Asian Culture Center, January 2000.

As the Asian Culture Center (ACC) prepares to celebrate 20 years on campus, the University Archives are happy to announce that the records of the ACC (Collection C691) are now open for research.

Opened in 1998, the Asian Culture Center was the first center of its kind in the Midwest. In addition to daily activities and numerous events (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, CultureFest, Holi, Lunar New Year to name only a few), the Center serves as resource that is open to the entire IU community. Over the years, the faculty, staff, and students at the ACC (led by director Melanie Castillo-Cullather since 1999) have successfully campaigned for an Asian American Studies Program (created in 2008); advocated for more diverse recruitment; established a lasting network of Asian Alumni; facilitated dialogue in response to acts of racism on campus; provided scholarships; the list goes on and on.

A newspaper article from the aftermath of murder of Won Joon-Yoon, a Korean graduate student, on July 4, 1999.

Next month’s anniversary (October 11-13, 2018) celebrates 20 years since the opening of their facilities on East Tenth Street, but what you may not realize is the dream of an Asian Culture Center reaches back another 10 years, to 1988! This collection documents the growth and development of the ACC, including background research into the Asian population at IU and the growing call to action in the early 1990’s.

Tireless organizing by faculty, staff, and students made this dream a reality. We wish to not only to congratulate the Asian Culture Center on 20 years of outstanding advocacy for the Asian community, but to recognize 30 years of activism culminating in the recognizable presence of the ACC today.

A richly detailed history of this timeline (along with more photos, newsletters, and articles) can be found on the anniversary website.

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.