Behind the Curtain: Laura Bell, Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

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: Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

Educational Background: B.A. in English with a minor in Educational Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Current MLS graduate student with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.

How she got here: During Laura’s last semester as an undergrad, she worked as a student assistant at the college library.  After graduating, she knew she wanted to pursue Library Science but was unsure what specialization to choose. Laura also wanted to be sure she was picking a path that she would enjoy so she decided to work and gain more experience.

Laura began working full time in the Access Services Department at the main academic library at West Virginia University. The people in that department were amazing and they provided great opportunities to learn skills that led to her current interests. She worked to improve her customer service skills with patrons, and she learned more about library school in general by talking with her supervisor at the time, and IU alum, Hilary Fredette.

After 6 months in Access Services, she began working in the special collections department/archive at WVU.  At the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC), she managed the historic photographs collection including selecting images to go online in the database, managing student workers, handling image requests and reproductions, and working to help with other projects.  Laura’s position at the WVRHC led her to decide on the archives specialization.  She had supportive mentors who encouraged her when she started applying to schools and making decisions. Their enthusiasm and knowledge showed her how many things archivists get to do and how they can make materials more accessible to patrons. Another alum from the program, Danielle Emerling who works at the WVRHC, coordinated with Carrie Schwier of the IU Archives to set up a time for Laura to visit the Archives when she visited the campus that spring.  After seeing everything that IU and the MLS program had to offer, she decided this would be a good place to gain the experience and knowledge she needed to become an archivist. Now, she gets to work here and she loves it.

Example of a dance card in the IU Archives Collection

Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: The IU Dance Cards Collection. It was one of the first collections that she processed.  Each dance card is unique and it was really interesting to see how many events there were on campus throughout the 1920s-1950s.

Current Project: She is currently processing the Claire Robertson papers and working on other small projects as they come up.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Hard to pick one! She enjoys processing collections the most, but she really enjoyed researching materials and finding images for East Meets Midwest: A History of Chinese Students at Indiana University, an exhibit that was displayed in the Wells Library in March 2017.

What she’s learned from working here: Since Laura is from Maryland, the rivalry between IU and Purdue was news to her!  She also just enjoys getting to learn the general history of the university and what it was like when it first began.

Love Is in the Air at the Archives!

Over the past few weeks, I looked for love in all the right places, namely, within the University Archives! On February 1, the Archives sponsored a Pop-Up! exhibit, “Love and Friendship in the Archives.” In honor of Valentine’s Day, the exhibit examined love and friendship contained in the Archives’ collections. I worked on the exhibit, which allowed me to discover part of the long history of love at IU.

On one hand, I learned about IU traditions and campus spots associated with love. For instance, there was the Board Walk, a path that crisscrossed the Old Crescent, stretching from Indiana Avenue to Forest Place (now home to Ballantine) and was known in the early decades of the twentieth century as the “lover’s lane” of campus. There is also the “Spooning Wall” or the “Lovers’ Wall,” which still stretches along Third Street. Hoagy Carmichael is said to have found his inspiration for “Stardust” while sitting on the Lovers’ Wall.

Page from the scrapbook of Joan Richards Neff, class of 1949. IU Archives Collection C597.
Page from the scrapbook of Joan Richards Neff, class of 1949. IU Archives Collection C597.

But more important were the personal glimpses that I got into the lives of IU students and faculty. The Archives contains many scrapbooks from students who documented the love and friendship they found here. One set of scrapbooks belonged to Doris Joan Richards Neff, who attended IU from 1945 to 1949. She put together a scrapbook for each year she was at IU, filled with mementos from dances, parties, and even impromptu taco dinners with friends. While a student, Joan met Franklin Neff, and the two married after graduation. Joan kept all kinds of things related to her romance with Frank, including parts of the gifts he gave her, dried roses she received for their anniversaries, and Valentines from Frank and his mother.

Valentine from Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers, IU Archives Collection C413.
Valentine from Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers, IU Archives Collection C413.

Believe it or not, students weren’t the only ones expressing their love at IU – apparently, faculty sometimes find love too! Perhaps my favorite examples are in the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers and the Avis Tarrant Burke papers. All three Hennel sisters – Cecilia, Cora, and Edith – were students at IU in the 1900s, and all three taught on the faculty at various times. In 1913, Cecilia resigned as an instructor in the English Department in order to marry John Hendricks, and the two moved to Wyoming to run a bee farm. Being so far away didn’t stop Cecilia from keeping close ties with the rest of her family. The Hendricks family kept up a lively correspondence, and in a letter of February 17, 1914, Cecilia wrote that in one day, she received 11 letters, one card, and a package in the mail! The family papers are full of Valentines from daughter to mother, daughter to father, and from the whole family to their grandfather. In later life, when Cecilia returned to IU to teach in the English Department, she was so beloved by her students that some of them sent her Valentine cards and even flowers.

For sheer romance, though, you almost can’t beat the tenderness that existed between Avis Tarrant Burke and her husband, Robert E. Burke. Avis Tarrant married her old friend Robert in 1916 and moved to Bloomington to be with him. Robert was an assistant professor of Fine Arts, and Avis taught at the McCalla school and eventually worked at the University Extension Division. The two traveled together extensively, including to Europe, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest. Avis kept travel diaries that documented their adventures together, as well as personal diaries that documented less sensational “adventures.” For February 14, 1942, she wrote in her diary about two “events” for the day: Robert gave her a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day and that she spent the morning cleaning out the closets!

Whenever the two were apart, they wrote very touching letters and poems to each other. One letter that Robert wrote to Avis reads, “Darling One: Perhaps this is silly to write to you when you are right downstairs now – but I want you to have this line from me just as soon as you get to Winsted [Connecticut] – all it says is that I love you more all the time and shall miss you very much. However, we’ll both keep very busy & so try to make the times pass quickly. xxxxxx Robert.” Avis wrote poems expressing how lonely she was walking down the streets of Chicago without Robert, as well as poems such as “To My Valentine of Twenty Years.” It seems like the love and affection that Avis and Robert had for each other never faded.

Robert Burke to wife Avis. IU Archives Collection C96.
Robert Burke to wife Avis. IU Archives Collection C96.

But perhaps the most touching example of unfading love that I saw was the drafts of a poem by Philip Appleman, a prolific writer and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English. His papers include drafts of a poem he wrote for his wife Marjorie. Originally entitled “A Poem for Beautiful Breasts,” in later drafts the title of the poem changed to “Mastectomy.” Appleman seems to have written the poem while his wife was undergoing surgery. He imagines the procedure to himself, and then concludes the poem with the powerful lines, “I will love her more / than yesterday.”

Part of the beauty of a place like the IU Archives is that love never dies.

Come find love at the IU Archives!

Behind the Curtain: Molly Wittenberg, Records Manager

Role: Molly is the Records Manager, a new role within the Archives and the University as a whole. Her primary role is to work with units across campus to help schedule the records they create, and help facilitate the disposition of records when they’re no longer active – whether that’s transferring them to the University Archives, or destroying them.

Educational Background: She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. She also has a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

How she got here: Prior to joining IU, Molly was working for the City of Berkeley in Berkeley, CA. They did not have an archives, but much of her work still focused on the identification and transfer of records and maintaining preservation and access.

Prior to starting graduate school, Molly was working for a small business where she worked with government offices to digitize their historical records. That position initiated her curiosity, and a course in records management in grad school solidified her interest in the field. She also grew up in southern Indiana, and IU was always an exciting place to visit. It’s a great place to come to work every day.

Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: Molly loves finding correspondence between individuals and offices on campus and the unique insight these records provide. They’re also a great reminder of the importance and value of capturing correspondence in the digital age.

Current Project: Molly is currently updating our website with available information related to records management services and resources for IU.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: One of her first – working with offices across campus to remove older, inactive physical records from the IU Warehouse. It was a hands-on introduction to a variety of the content created by IU. The experience provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of records management and transferring records to the Archives.

Ernest P. Bicknell (scanned from photograph album), 1922. Archives image no. P0047460

What she’s learned from working here: Quite a bit about alumni – most recently Ernest P. Bicknell and his role with the Red Cross during WWI. Contact the IU Archives to see the Ernest P. Bicknell papers.

Behind the Curtain: Hannah Vaughn, Bicentennial Graduate Assistant

dsc_0467Role: Graduate Assistant at the IU Archives working on the Indiana University Bicentennial

Educational Background: B.A. in History from Purdue University; current M.L.S. student with a specialization in Rare Books and Manuscripts

Previous Experience: Hannah worked in the Archives and Special Collections at Purdue University for two years as an undergraduate assistant for the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives.  In addition, she spent one summer at the Indiana State Library through the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. This past summer, she worked with the Loan Archives at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Hannah says working in the Purdue Archives was “the highlight of my undergraduate degree program.  The experiences I had and the people I met ultimately helped me decide on my future career path.  As such, I was greatly interested in working in a similar environment that could teach me even more about working in an archive.”

Current project: Recently Hannah has been working to process the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers, who was a Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures at IU. She also just installed an exhibit drawn from his papers. Visit the Office of the Bicentennial in Franklin Hall 200 to see “Reflections on Diversity: Highlights from the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers” through February 1, 2018.

What she’s learned: The first president of IU, Andrew Wylie, died while in office.  He accidentally cut his foot with an ax while out in the woods and then died a couple of days later from pneumonia.

Behind the Curtain: Julia Kilgore, Bicentennial Oral History Intern

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: Bicentennial Oral History Intern

Educational Background: BA in History, BA in Art from Hillsdale College; Current MLS student with a specialization in archives and records management.

How she got here: Julia started working in archives as an undergraduate at Hillsdale College. At the College, she mainly worked in special collections as the caretaker of the campus Library’s coin collection, but she occasionally helped the college Archivist with various projects. One particular project she enjoyed was helping to rearrange documents from the Winston Churchill Project.  She also had the pleasure of working with and organizing an entire archives collection at a local historic house, the Grosvenor House Museum.

When Julia volunteered for the Grosvenor House Museum, she never knew what to expect.  It was like Christmas every day! One afternoon she would be flipping through a pile of graduation announcements from the local schools and the next she would be trying to identify individuals in a stack of nameless photos. There were old maps, rail road tickets, letters, articles on local war heroes…one time she and a friend found a military commission from King George III for a local townsman with its wax seal still intact! Meanwhile at the College, Julia would sift through and rehouse tons of letters between Winston Churchill and his wife, secretary notes from meetings, letters to dignitaries from around the world, and other great documents. After working with these collections, Julia knew that she wanted to work in an environment where she could interact with archives and special collections in some way, whether it be in a library, museum, or a similar institution.

Julia began her dual MLS/Art History degree in the fall of 2015 and found work as a Public Services Assistant in Wells Library. In the spring of 2016, she began processing collections for the IU Archives and transitioned into her current position as Bicentennial Oral History Intern the following semester.

Favorite item in the collection: One of Julia’s favorite items in the archives is Volume 5 of the Sycamore Logbook from 1944-1945 from the IU Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks (see more info about the scrapbooks in her posts titled “Snippets from Dorm Life” and “Mail Call“). She was reordering all of IU’s women’s dorm scrapbooks when she decided to flip through a few to get an idea of what these ladies were like. As she turned page after page of unidentified photographs, she wondered if she would find anything that would tell her their names or what their lives were like at IU. She turned a page and saw the headline “Mail Call.” She was immediately drawn to it because she knew the book was from around the end of World War II, meaning it had to be something about soldiers during the war.

It turned out to be a really great piece describing a typical morning in Sycamore Hall where the ladies would dash downstairs immediately after waking up to see if there was news from the front lines. It really struck a chord with Julia and reminded her yet again the amazing things you get to discover while working in archives (and purely by accident too!).

Current project: Julia interviews staff and alumni for the Oral History Project about their time here at IU.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Julia loves when she is interviewing someone for the Oral History project and they talk about old student hangouts or past events.  It’s really great because she can research these places and events after the interview and she always finds great things in our collections on them.  Sitting there listening to them talk about these things really helps her to connect with our collections on a different level.  It makes it all the more real to her.

What she’s learned from working here: Restaurants, bookstores, and other places downtown have such a rich and wonderful history that are so interconnected to IU and its students. The best thing about it? Many of them still exist.  It is wonderful to go into places Nick’s or the Gables after hearing about all of these different experiences and think about what it was like then versus now.