Behind the Curtain: Elizabeth Peters, EAD 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!

elizabeth_petersRole: EAD Assistant at the IU Archives and the Lilly Library

Educational Background: BA in Linguistics from Haverford College in Pennsylvania; Current MLS student with a specialization in archives and records management

How she got here: Elizabeth started working in archives as an undergraduate at Haverford College. She loved her experience so much that she decided to pursue archives further. One of her favorite things about working in the archives at Haverford was gaining a connection to the broader College community through learning about other people who had been there. At IU, as a graduate student, she knew it would be harder to make personal connections to the institution. By working in the University Archives, she feels that she can gain that sort of connection through interacting with the community’s history.

Elizabeth has had internships at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, MA, the National Anthropological Archives in Washington, DC, and the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in Philadelphia, PA. At IU, Elizabeth previously worked as an Archives Assistant at the IU Archives last fall, and has been the EAD Assistant since January 2015.

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: Elizabeth’s favorite items in the IU Archives’ collection are D. Joan Neff scrapbooks. She had lots of fun processing them, because each page turned yielded a new surprise. One page squished a bit, and there she discovered a (70-year-old) cookie. Another page made an odd swishing sound, and there were some dried roses. She notes that the best part is that, in addition to being anecdotally exciting, the scrapbooks really are a valuable resource for learning about student experiences during the late 1940s.

Current projects: Elizabeth serves as the EAD Assistant for the IU Archives and the Lilly Library. She encodes the online finding aids for these two repositories.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Elizabeth enjoyed when the descendants of Carrie Parker, the first African-American woman to attend IU, came to visit the archives. She was staffing the desk in the reading room at the time, and found it was really exciting to be confronted with the sort of power archives can have when they insist on valuing and appreciating the accomplishments of people who might otherwise consider themselves perfectly ordinary.

What she’s learned from working here: Elizabeth has been impressed by the extent that IU has grown over the past century. She once came across a story from the 1950s about a dispute over whether a particular house was in the Bloomington town limits or not. Looking at the address, she realized that she lives even further from campus than that address, yet her apartment is definitively within town limits.

 

No Men Allowed: A Look Inside the Mysterious Panthygatric Dances of the Early 1900s

Panthygatric Dance, 1896 Arbutus
1896 Arbutus

The word Panthygatric looks and sounds unappealing. However, the women it involved would tell you otherwise. In the late 1890s through the early 1920s, sorority women from the then-four houses on the Bloomington campus would come together to plan an exciting banquet. The idea actually stemmed from the fraternities, who were forming an extremely elaborate and expensive party. They called it the “Pan-Hellenic” dance. Originally, women were invited, but the more elaborate the planning got, the more they wanted it to be without females.

Rule 1: Never mess with a woman and her party plans.

Costumed attendees of the Panthygatric dance, unknown year.
Costumed attendees of the Panthygatric dance, unknown year.

To spite the fraternities, the women decided to throw an even better party. They chose not to invite the men, and in a fun twist of fate, the fraternities Panhellenic dance was cancelled, whereas the women’s dance became an annual tradition.

What happened at these mysterious Panthygatrics? Sorority sisters would wear their house colors but they each had unique costumes. These included everything from a sailor, to a boy, to a ballerina, to a football player. They wore masks to keep their identity concealed and were very secretive as to how they would arrive at the venue to avoid their identity being given away. There was dancing, toasts, and lots of food. Women were able to talk and meet new people without any of the typical social pressures. Ironically enough, the mysteriousness of the dance and its activities is what gave it all of its publicity and attention.

In 1906, three men were caught looking into the window, trying to get a glimpse of this unique event. While they were caught before getting a decent look and escorted out, one of them decided to turn that quick peek into a scandal. Writing a letter to the The Daily Student (the present day Indiana Daily Student), he wrote (under the initials G.A.R.) of the Panthygatric scene he saw, saying how unladylike and wrong it was for young, respectable women to dress and act in such a disturbing manner. This letter sparked a response from Mary Breed, the Dean of Women, who had been in attendance that night. She argued there had not been any shenanigans; her accounts insist everything was innocent and fun. The editor of the The Daily Student, Robert Thompson, was told to write a retraction since the article from G.A.R. made the women who attended look bad to the public. Robert refused, saying the note was a joke and should have been taken as such. He also noted that he was not there to clear the article before it was published, so he should not be punished for it.

IDS headline: Dean Breed Defends Last Panthygatric. April 19, 1906
Daily Student, 19 April 1906

The Trustees declared him in the wrong and suspended both him and William Mattox (another member of The Daily Student) until they resigned from the student newspaper. When they finally left the newspaper staff, they were reinstated to Indiana University at students. Before you start feeling bad for William and Robert, A Bedford Weekly newspaper article states that this was not the first incident with the boys putting “alternative facts” in The Daily Student. They had been warned to stop numerous times.

Advertisement seen in the IDS shortly before the Panthygatric event (The Daily Student, March 1, 1907)

The Panthygatric continued for years to come, with different incidents involving men arising over the years — from the guys sneaking in to steal desserts or dressing as women in an attempt to slip in unnoticed. Bouncers were placed at the doors, but if anyone got around them, they were met with women holding buckets of cold water. Even local businesses got into the spirit, selling products geared toward the dance!

During World War I, the Panthygatric was cancelled and resumed for only a few years following. In its heyday however, hundreds of female students and faculty attended and enjoyed the event.

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.

Sloth Talk

This image shows a portion of the Museum on the third floor of Science Hall which was located on the old campus at Seminary Square. Only about eight cases of minerals and fossils, comprising about 1000 specimens (including the Megalonyx seen here) were saved after the fire that destroyed this building on July 12, 1883. The bones of the Megalonyx were discovered on the banks of the Ohio River below Henderson, Kentucky. This original photographic print can be found in a book of photographs prepared and photographed by T.A. Wylie and S. B. Wylie for the 1876 Exposition at Philadelphia.

Pictured above is the wonderfully named Megalonyx jeffersonii – a giant sloth discovered and collected in the 19th century by Richard and David Dale Owen, significant contributors to both IU’s and the state of Indiana’s history of natural science studies. Megalonyx formed part of what was known as the “Owen Cabinet,” a collection of approximately 85,000 fossils and minerals assembled by the aforementioned Owens as well as Robert Owen, Alexander Maclure and William Maclure.

The partial skeleton of the Megalonyx jeffersonii, an extinct species of giant sloth named after Thomas Jefferson, was discovered in Henderson, Kentucky. Researchers of the time debated whether the more than 60 bones originated from the same animal, and those responsible for mounting the specimen decided to leave space for the missing bones rather than create approximate molds from comparable species skeletons. A receipt from its transportation to Indiana University reveals that the skeleton cost $130 for transport, as well as $70 for its case and $1.84 for freight services. Though the specimen was saved from Indiana University’s devastating 1883 fire that destroyed most of the Owen Cabinet, its location becomes murky in the early 20th century.

Though considered the “most complete skeleton ever recovered of this relatively poorly represented species,” a search for the bones by university anthropologists in the 1980s turned up evidence that much of it was probably disposed of shortly after the end of World War II along with a number of other specimens. They reached out to a number of alumni from the 1940s to ask if they had recollections of the fossil. One reported that after 1945, “there apparently was a great ‘housecleaning’ of poorly attributed specimens at that time. There are reports that a dump truck was backed up to a second story window of Owen Hall and students tossed unwanted specimens out the window.” Some correspondents reported participating in the great purge themselves, joking about the dogs on campus running off with prehistoric bones. A smaller school of thought suggests that a second fire may have occurred in 1947, thus destroying all but 5 of the bones, but given the lack of evidence for this theory – as well as my newfound expertise on fires at Indiana University – the department dumpster seems far more plausible.

In 1995, an Archives staff member received an email that solved at least part of the long-time mystery of the location of the Megalonyx jeffersonii: four of its bones had been located at the Indiana State Museum. But what of the previously mentioned 5th bone? And the remaining fossil?

Thus, the mystery continues. If you have any information regarding the disappearance of the Megalonyx jeffersonii, do let us know!

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.