Behind the Curtain: Katie Siebenaler, Bicentennial Graduate Assistant

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. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Role: Student worker assisting the Bicentennial Archivist

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Katie with the the bound Board of Trustees minutes from 1837-1859

Educational Background: B.A. in History, B.A. in Humanities from Milligan College; Current MLS student with a specialization in archives and records management

How she got here: Katie found her way into the archives field by accident. In high school, Katie volunteered at her local public library, reshelving books and finding newspaper items for the archives’ vertical files. In college, she knew she wanted to work in public history so she set up a summer internship with the director of the museum at the local state university. However, when the director left the museum, Katie’s name was lost in the shuffle. Thinking she could find similar experience in an archive, she contacted the archivist at the public library, who she knew from her previous work, and inquired about opportunities.  He happily agreed and that summer she described a collection of photographs.

In her last semester of college, Katie completed an internship with the Milligan College archivist (an IU MLS graduate!).  She prepared an exhibit, scanned, and began processing a collection. Before graduating from Milligan, the college archivist put her in contact with Kate Cruikshank, Political Papers Archivist at IU. This led her to reach out to the IU Archives.

Katie came to IU to earn her MLS degree in the fall of 2015 and found work as a transcriber for the Board of Trustees minutes in the IU Archives and as a student worker for the Modern Political Papers. In the fall of 2016, she transitioned from transcribing to assisting with IU bicentennial projects.

First rendering of the Indiana University seal. It appears on page 97 of the July 21, 1841 manuscript minutes of the Board of Trustees.
First rendering of the Indiana University seal. It appears on page 97 of the July 21, 1841 manuscript minutes of the Board of Trustees.

Favorite item in the collection: The Board of Trustees minutes from 1837 to 1859. She worked on transcribing its 400+ pages from the end of 2015 until August 2016. Working with the minutes taught her the history of the beginnings of IU as well as how to read 19th century handwriting! Her favorite part of the official record (besides some scandalous accusations against the different presidents) was running across the hiring of Robert Milligan, the namesake of her undergraduate college.

Current projects: Katie works on all kinds of projects relating to the bicentennial. She recently added some scrapbooks to the GLBT support office records. She is currently processing the International Studies Collection and the Sesquicentennial Collection (and mastering spelling “sesquicentennial”). Another ongoing project is the Named Places project. For this project, Katie works from a list of named buildings to research the people behind those names. She also writes blog posts and answers reference questions.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Katie loves working with the staff. They are very knowledgeable and make great mentors, but they are also fun to work with. Plus, some of them make some great baked goods!

What she’s learned from working here: Katie feels like a semi-expert on IU in the antebellum age and during WWI, thanks to her transcription job. The Named Places project has taught her that what may appear to be an obscure dining hall or dorm may actually be named for someone with a fascinating history and connection to IU.

Dancing the Night Away: Student Life in the 1950s

Margaret Albersmeyer Werling graduated with a bachelor’s in Education in 1953, and, according to her personal scrapbook, attended every sporting event, theater show, and dance that she possibly could between 1951 and 1953. While perusing her scrapbook, I discovered many interesting IU student traditions including: the decorating of fraternities for football games, the Law-Med School Boress, the Arbutus Queen Contest, and the Fall Carnival Parade.

Fraternity decorated for Homecoming, 1949

Margaret was an avid attendee of athletic events and saved programs from basketball games, track and field events, and football games. She must have truly enjoyed attending the Old Oaken Bucket games between IU and Purdue because she saved tickets and programs from 1951 and 1952. Although she did get to see IU triumph in football, she watched the Hoosiers clinch the 1953 NCAA Basketball Championship over Kansas and attended campus celebrations.

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Margaret Werling’s ticket for the 1951 Old Oaken Bucket game

I was most intrigued by Margaret’s impressive dance card collection. Dance cards initially became popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century and their usage peaked in the early 20th century.  Dance cards were typically small, decorated booklets worn on a woman’s wrist or attached to her dress with a cord. Men carried pencils and wrote their names on lines next to the name of dances in the booklet.

1942 Junior Prom dance card
1942 Junior Prom dance card

Dance cards remained in fashion until the 1960s when dances became less formal affairs.  Common phrases such as “pencil me in,” “my dance card is full,” and “save the last dance for me” are all tied to the dance card culture. Many of Margaret’s dance cards have a decorated cover that reflects the theme of the dance, lists of committee members who sponsored the dance, and details about the entertainment.

Dances were all the rage at IU in the 1950s.  There were plenty of formal and informal dances to keep students busy.  Students could attend the Freshman Frolic, the Freshman Tyronian, the Sophomore Cotillion, the Junior Prom, the annual Blanket Hop hosted by Sigma Delta Chi (the honorary journalistic fraternity), the Senior Siwash, and many more!

Dance at the Union, 1951
Dance at the IU Memorial Union, 1951

A dance that became an annual tradition on campus was the Wellhouse Waltz. The first iteration of this dance was held in 1944 at the Alumni Hall of the Union. Each year, male attendees selected a freshman woman to become “Miss Campus Coed.” It was said that in order for any IU woman to become a “true coed,” her date must take her to the Well House after the Wellhouse Waltz and then kiss her for the full twelve strokes at midnight.

The Junior Prom was the most formal dance of the season and was held in the Men’s Gymnasium with a dedicated theme.  The festivities could last until two o’clock in the morning. Students must have truly enjoyed these dances because they would “end only by force of the 12:30 curfew when dates unwillingly part” (1953 Indiana Arbutus, p. 138). The theme of Margaret’s 1953 prom was “A Star Danced.”

Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames' Ball
Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames’ Ball

Well-known artists played at many IU dances.  In 1952, Duke Ellington played at the Dames’ Ball, a dance where women escorted the men.  According to the 1952 Arbutus, “The men reaped the benefits of inverted chivalry that evening as they were called for, paid for, and encumbered with original – and uninhibited – corsages.”  At the end of the night, one man was chosen to be “King of the Dames.”

Students voted on a Queen at both formal and informal dances. At the 1952 Sweater Hop, the Sweater Queen was selected out of twenty-nine candidates. According to the 1953 Arbutus, “each housing unit had the privilege of selecting their candidate for the competition. The list was narrowed down to five girls before the dance by several judges picked from campus dignitaries. The sponsoring housing unit then put on an all-out campus campaign.” Couples attending the dance cast their vote and the winner was presented with a cashmere sweater and roses.

Margaret must have loved her time dancing the night away as an undergraduate at Indiana University because she came back to earn a master’s degree in education eight years later. If you would like to learn more about dances at IU, look at Margaret Werling’s scrapbook, or learn about other IU student traditions, contact the IU Archives.

Behind the Curtain: Doug Sanders, IU Libraries Paper Conservator

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. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Title: Paper img_9948Conservator for IU Libraries Collections

Educational Background: BS in Chemistry and BFA from Tufts University & School of the Museum of Fine Arts; MA in Conservation from University of Northumbria, UK.

Previous Experience: Doug has worked in private conservation labs, university settings (Durham University, Carnegie-Mellon), and institutions such as the National Trust UK, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives, and the Indiana Historical Society.

Partnership role: Doug works with the aim of preserving the collections into the future. This service is provided by actively conserving collection materials and advising on access, exhibition and storage topics. Conservators bring knowledge of the materials archives are full of, and how they undergo change with time. Doug uses this information in active and passive ways to promote long-lasting collections. He enjoys the breadth and depth of the collections here at IU.

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C597 Doris Joan Richards Neff scrapbook, 1945-1946 which includes everything from dance cards, a cookie, a frog eye lens, and chewed gum

Favorite item in the collection: Scrapbooks! Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’ve got a lot of ‘em!

Current IU Archives project: Surveying the condition of albums and scrapbooks to determine treatment priorities…and making a box for a football.

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Favorite experience: Working with the great staff and learning more about the University’s history.

What he’s learned from working with IU Archives’ collections: The trials and tribulations of starting and running a university in the 19th century, as revealed through early faculty accounts, President’s office records and other primary source materials.

Behind the Curtain: Dina Kellams, Director of the IU Archives

Behind the Curtain is a new series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. Follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen! dsc_0428

Role: Director of the IU Archives

Educational Background: B.A. in English, B.A. in History from IU; MLS from IU

How she got here: Dina came to the Archives in 1999 as an intern and just never left.  She became interested in the field as an IU undergraduate while conducting research at the Lilly Library. She contacted the Archives to get some hands-on experience while earning her MLS and absolutely loved it. She says, “I would go home each day boring my poor husband with detailed descriptions of everything I did and saw that day.”

John C. Wilson's Diary,1857-1858
John C. Wilson’s Diary,1857-1858

Favorite item in the collection: A diary from a student in 1857. Dina loves materials that document student life. The diary includes great details about finding housing, classes, and interacting with the other students and faculty.

Current project: A major project that Dina has been working on for the past few years is a book about the IU Bloomington campus.  She has been working with colleague Carrie Schwier, Outreach and Public Services Archivist, and Terry Clapacs, Vice President Emeritus, on a book about the IU Bloomington campus. All of the writing has now been turned into the IU Press and they are in the final stage, photo selection.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: While Dina was completing research for the book project, she stumbled across a 19th century headline about the first African American woman entering IU. Her name was Carrie Parker and her name had been forgotten here at the university. She started digging and found her family, including her son – now 100 years old! The University has since established a scholarship in her name, there are two commissioned portraits (one for the campus collection and one for the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center), and most importantly, her story is being shared. This is easily Dina’s favorite experience in the Archives.

What she’s learned from working here: In Dina’s time at the IU Archives, she’s learned that Indiana University has touched just about every corner of the world in one way or another.

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: A Captain in the Union Army, John D. Alexander

Born on February 6, 1839 in Bloomington, Indiana, John D. Alexander graduated from Indiana University with A. B. and A.M. degrees in 1861.  In 1860, while Alexander anticipated his graduation, Southern tensions reached their peak. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln.  In his “Recollections of Indiana University, 1856-1861” Alexander notes the intense atmosphere in Bloomington following South Carolina’s secession.  He recalls,

One fine morning a Red flag with One White Star was flying from the highest point of the University Building.  The whole town was thrown into a frenzy of excitement.  Students and people of the town soon filled the Campus – the flag was torn down and dragged through the street to Doctor Nutt’s residence – then to the Court House Square where speeches were made denouncing the ones who put the flag there and particularly South Carolina and the flag was burned.

Alexander taught school for a year and then enlisted as a private in Company E, 97th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers in August 1862.  On June 27, 1864, Alexander was wounded in his right hip at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.  He quickly recovered, however, and returned to his company in October 1864.  Alexander and the rest of the 97th Regiment marched in Sherman’s army from Atlanta to Savannah, from November 15 until December 21, 1864.  The following letter is written by Alexander to his parents.  He describes his experience in the Battle of Grindswoldville in Georgia, the first battle of Sherman’s March to the Sea, as well as movements of the regiment and news of his promotion to Captain of Company D.  Just a note that within the letter, Alexander invokes some language of the time that would be offensive if employed today. See full transcription below the images.

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Camp Anderson, Geo. 9 miles South West of Savannah

December 18, 1864

My Dear Parents,

I am still alive for which I thank the Good Lord. We left Atlanta, Geo. the 15th of November.  The 15th Army Corps take the extreme Right of the Army. The 17th Corps the Right Center, the 20th Corps the Left Center and the 14th Corps the extreme Left. We were all to move on roads as nearly parallel as possible. Nothing of interest occurred until we struck the Macon and Savannah Railroad where we all stayed and encamped at night. The next morning – Nov 22nd our brigade 2nd under Gen Walcott was ordered to make a reconnaissance. Once in the direction of Macon we started and got within 2 miles of the Macon and Montgomery R.R. when the Rebels Cavalry under Wheeler attacked our Cavalry and whipped them badly. Our brigade threw out Skirmishes and we drove them back to Grindswold a small Station on the Railroad and finally beyond there. Our brigade then retired to a small elevation of ground overlooking an open field where we stopped to get our drummers. We were sitting round not expecting any danger when the Georgia Militia attacked our pickets and they commenced coming in and we went to making breastworks out of rails, bags, chunks, whatever we could get together. Before we had them done however, they came upon us in three lines of battle.  They came with a vengeance and some were killed within 50 yds of our works.  The fight raged with fury for three hours and when it ceased Such a sight! The Rebels literally lay in piles, 10 men in a place all killed together. Their loss was estimated at 2,000 killed and wounded. Ours only… [section of letter missing] The Brigade Genl Walcott was wounded early on…[section of letter missing] with a piece… [section of letter missing] Shall look… [section of letter missing] Command of the Brigade and behaved with much gallantry. He still commands the Brig. Capt. Elliott of Co “H” commands the Regt. After we left there we had our ups and downs. Dec. 10Crossed Ogeechee River on the 11th we were wakened by the Reb Battery and our Shelling. On the 13 of this month Fort McAllister at the mouth of the Ogeechee River was taken by the 2nd Div of our Corps. They captured between 2 and 300 prisoners, 17 guns, 200 artillery Horses, $2,000 worth of wines and cigars. That Opens our Communication we got mail night before last and I got your letters up to Nov 30″/64. Some from Bettie also and Sam Kate and Will married Hannah. I was glad to hear you got home safely from Sister Sophia’s. Did you get my photographs I sent home? I got my Commission to Captain night before last. Will be mustered today. I will be assigned to command Co “D” for a while. Then if Captain Oliphant resigns I will be transferred to Co “E” if possible. We only have to go on the front lines every 3 or 4 days. Tell Captain O – I will write to him this evening and more if I can. Give my love to All. I am in perfect health am as fat as a pig. Have had a pack mule to carry my Blankets and Grub and a darky to lead him and cook. I have 3 blankets Always sleep comfortable. The boys have been down to where the water comes up to get oysters and can hear distinctly the roaring of old Ocean. The country here is level and swampy. Give my love to Boone, Mary, Bettie, Felix, Mat, Lee, Sam, Sallie, and families and believe me you.

Affectionate Son,

John D.  Alexander Co “D”

In April 1865, Alexander was appointed Acting Assistant Inspector General of the Second Brigade by General John A. Logan in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He was mustered out of service on June 9, 1865 following the Grand Review of the Armies, a victory procession through Washington, D.C.  Following the Civil War, Alexander served as a lawyer in Bedford and Bloomfield.  He went on to hold several elected positions in state and county government. Alexander was also regular attendant to all national and state encampments of the G.A.R. His involvement in the G.A.R. led him to write a History of the Ninety-seventh Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1891.  In 1929, Alexander was the oldest living graduate of Indiana University. He died on February 27, 1931.

The above letter, along with 11 others, can be found in C23 John D. Alexander Family Papers. To learn more about Indiana University and the Civil War, contact the IU Archives.