Sincerely Yours: Howard Ashman, Making IU Part of His World

Many students today do not immediately recognize Howard Ashman’s name when mentioned as a notable Indiana University alumnus; however, they do recognize Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Little Shop of Horrors. Ashman wrote the lyrics and Alan Menken wrote the music for all four of those titles, winning several Academy Awards and Grammy Awards. They took home an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986 for Little Shop of Horrors, in 1989 for The Little Mermaid, and in 1991 for Beauty and the Beast. They won the Grammy Award in 1990 for The Little Mermaid, in 1993 for Beauty and the Beast, and in 1994 for Aladdin.

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Snow Queen, lyrics and screenplay written by Howard Ashman. April 29, 1973. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

Howard Ashman graduated from Indiana University in 1974 with his M.A. from the Department of Theatre and Drama. He accomplished many creative achievements during his time at IU, including writing the screenplay and music for Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen in 1973. A letter to Ashman from R. Keith Michael, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama, highlights some of his accomplishments as well as his stellar reputation in the department.

Letter from R. Keith Michael to Howard Ashman. April 30, 1974. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

After his graduation in 1974, Ashman would not return to Indiana University until April 1987. He was invited to give a lecture and see a performance of Little Shop of Horrors produced by the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.

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Letter from R. Keith Michael to Howard Ashman. December 9, 1986. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.
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Letter from Howard Ashman to R. Keith Michael. December 18, 1986. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

In April 1987, Ashman returned to the same stage he had been on in
1973 at Indiana University, saying it had been “Fourteen years and a lifetime.” He told the Herald-Times on April 19, 1987, “The distance between Bloomington and New York is a life-time. It’s been a very emotional thing for me to come back. I was an actor at IU, and I haven’t acted since I left here. But I have very intense memories of this place, and of the people who changed my life here. This building vibrates for me. There are ghosts here for me.”

Photograph of Howard Ashman on the set of Little Shop of Horrors in the IU Department of Theatre and Drama. April 19, 1987. Herald-Times, Bloomington, Indiana.

As seen in his agenda below, Ashman spent much of his visit in-and-out of interviews and had lunch and an informal chat with IU theatre students before seeing IU Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Sources say that Indiana University was the first university granted permission to stage a performance of Little Shop of Horrors thanks to Ashman.

Howard Ashman Visit agenda. April 16-17, 1987. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.
Little Shop of Horrors, IU Theatre. April 23, 1987. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

Howard Ashman passed away on March 14, 1991, shortly after completing his work on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. While he passed well before his time, Ashman’s lyrics live on in some of America’s most beloved animated and theatrical characters. And for one brief moment in April 1987, he made IU part of his world.

 

Contemporary MLK: 1960s Civil Rights Documentaries from IU Collections

Please join the IU Libraries and the Office of the Bicentennial in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Thursday, January 19 from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm for a screening of several civil rights documentaries. These rare documentaries were made during and just after Dr. King’s life, offering a historical lens into how he was viewed and understood by a contemporary audience. The screenings will take place in the new screening room in the Moving Image Collections and Archives on the ground floor of the Herman B Wells Library.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service in the IU Auditorium on April 5, 1968. Indiana University Archives.

Many of the films for the screening come from the educational film collection of the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. They were produced for the purpose of teaching about civil rights, discrimination, and the activism of Dr. King. Though the specifics of the historical and political moment have changed between when they were made and the current day, the questions the films raise remain relevant. How do the ideals of America match up with the day-to-day reality of racial and economic inequality? What is the proper way to effect social change? What lessons can we take from Dr. King’s life?

A digital exhibit highlighting materials related to Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights from IU collections will also be on display outside of the Moving Image Archive’s screening room all day. Images were generously provided by the Archives of African American Music and Culture, Black Film Center/Archive, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University Archives, Jerome Hall Law LibraryLilly Library, and Mathers Museum of World Cultures. This exhibit gives a glimpse into the historical documents, photographs, literature, and art related to civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. from IU repositories across campus, demonstrating the rich research value and diversity of IU’s collections.

King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row, [1964]. Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
King, Martin Luther. Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Harper & Row, [1964]. Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
The screening lasts from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm. It is intended as a drop-in event, so please come and see as many of the films as your schedule allows. From 4:00 pm to 4:45 pm, there will be a brief lecture by Professor Alex Lichtenstein from the IU Department of History. A break with complimentary snacks will follow.

Location: Moving Image Collections and Archive (Ground Floor of the Wells Library, Room 048)

By Andy Uhrich and Kristin Leaman

Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project

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Plans for celebrating the Indiana University Bicentennial are well underway, especially with the incoming Class of 2020 arriving this fall. Many Signature Projects have been designed for IU’s Bicentennial, one of which is the Bicentennial Oral History Project. This project aims to collect histories from IU faculty, staff, and alumni university-wide. These oral histories provide a first-person perspective on the history of Indiana University available through no other source. The information collected from the participants can be used for research, teaching, and personal interest. Over 400 oral histories from IU alumni have already been collected as a part of this project. The Office of the Bicentennial and the Oral History Project Team are currently working to collect more oral histories and provide public access to them on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website. The website will launch this week on September 9th.

Katie manning the Oral History booth at Cream & Crimson Weekend.
Katie at the Oral History booth during Cream & Crimson Weekend.

The oral histories are collected through individual interviews either in-person or over the phone. The Oral History Project Team also attends events, where large amounts of alumni, staff, faculty, or retirees are available to share their stories. Recently, the team attended Cream and Crimson weekend to talk about the project with curious alumni, as well as listen to and record their personal histories from their days at IU.

Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive when conducting an oral history are, “Where will this recording go? Can anyone listen to it?” The oral histories collected for the Bicentennial will be uploaded, cataloged, and available on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website, so that they are searchable and accessible to the public. The Oral History Project Team are working to implement software that will enable easy access to the oral histories collected for the Bicentennial.

IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.
IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.

Many people often say, “I don’t really have anything interesting to share. You wouldn’t want my story.” We absolutely do want your story, and the interviewer will kindly walk the interviewee through the process before they begin recording. The interviewer will also ask a set of questions, so that the interviewee is not simply expected to talk on their own. Each individual story plays a significant role in filling an important historical aspect of Indiana University. The oral histories provide a wonderful opportunity to illuminate the peoples’ history of Indiana University from all campuses and from all angles. Listen to and enjoy some Bicentennial Oral History snippets from Indiana University Alumni:

 

Harry Sax, graduating class of 1961. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Gloria Randle Scott, graduating class of 1959. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Michelle Sarin, graduating class 2009. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Sue Sanders, graduating class of 1981. Carlton Sanders, graduating class of 1972. Indiana University – Southeast.

If you would like to learn more about the project or share your story with us, you may contact Kristin Leaman, Bicentennial Archivist, at kbleaman@indiana.edu. You can also receive updates about the Indiana University Bicentennial by following their Twitter and Facebook pages.

 

“Aviation Adventures”: Amelia Earhart’s Lecture at IU

Eighty-eight years ago today, Amelia Earhart departed from Trepassy, Newfoundland in a Fokker F7b-3M named Friendship to begin her successful flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Co-pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon were also on the flight that took over 20 hours before landing safely in Wales, making Earhart the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

Amelia Earhart at the cabin door of the Friendship, 1928. Photo from the Purdue University Archives.
Amelia Earhart at the cabin door of the Friendship, 1928. Photo courtesy of the Purdue University Archives.

In the fall of 1936, Agnes E. Wells, Dean of Women at Indiana University, was corresponding with O. B. Stephenson from The Emerson Bureau in hopes to have Earhart speak at IU. In the letter below, Wells received the good news that Earhart would, indeed, be coming to the university on October 22, 1936 for a fee of $350. “Dear Miss Wells, A letter this morning from Miss Earhart accepts your lecture engagement the evening of October 22.”

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Several newspapers, including the Indiana Daily Student and the Bloomington Evening World, excitedly reported that Amelia Earhart would be giving her lecture “Aviation Adventures” at Indiana UnivEarhart004ersity in Alumni Hall at 8 pm on October 22, with an informal reception to follow. The reception was an opportunity for the public to meet and question Earhart and was sponsored by A.W.S. and St. Margaret’s Guild, Bloomington Charity Organization.

During her visit, Earhart gifted this photograph to Indiana University, with an inscription written by her on the back: “To the Indiana Union. Amelia Earhart, October 22, 1936.”

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Autographed photograph of Amelia Earhart, IU Archives image no. P0046625

 

 

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Indiana University Writers’ Conference is celebrating its 76th anniversary June 4– 8 of this year. Many of the conference faculty over the years have been award-winning writers, such as Elizabeth Bowen, Ray Bradbury, E. E. Cummings, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, Sam Shepard, and John Steinbeck, to name a few. Correspondence from these authors and many more can be found in the Indiana University Writers’ Conference records, 1940-2004 in the IU Archives.

Fifty-two years ago, Kurt Vonnegut was finalizing his plans with Robert W. Mitchner to attend the IU Writers’ Conference. Mitchner requested a photograph and biography from Vonnegut in preparation of his participation in the conference. Below is the biography Vonnegut sent to Mitchner:

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Mitchner also writes to Vonnegut asking if a 10:30 am slot would be acceptable for his short story workshop, as well as if Vonnegut would read a chapter from one of his books and participate in a question-answer panel that would be televised by Indiana University. Vonnegut is happy to oblige; however, the story he chooses to read is one of the most interesting parts of the letter. “The story I will read will be a short story about President Kennedy. It was bought by the Post two days before he was shot. It will never be published. It should go over well.”

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Included in Vonnegut’s folder of correspondence is an article in The New York Times Book Review from August 6, 1967, where Vonnegut writes of his time at Indiana University during the Writers’ Conference.

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Below is a photograph from the IU Archives Photograph Collection of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from President John W. Ryan at Indiana University on May 13, 1973.

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