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

dsc_0490
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.

img_17361
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.

img_0005

 

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.

Bang! Zoom! KaPow! Comic books in the classroom

Indiana University has a really fun new series of commercials featuring some of our alumni with name recognition. The commercials flash back to their time on campus and talks about how they would not be where they are now if it weren’t for IU. The most recent release features Michael Uslan who earned his undergraduate (1973), master’s (1975) and law degrees (1976), all from IU. Today you may know him as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished movie producers and a Professor of Practice at IU’s Media School.

But in the 1970s, you may have just thought of him as a comic book geek. But what this comic book geek knew was that 1. He wanted to do something that would relate to his love of comics and 2. There was so much to be learned from this genre. Enter IU and its willingness to experiment.

screen-capture
Michael Uslan in the classroom. (Or, you know, an actor. Not really Michael Uslan.) Click on the image to view commercial on YouTube!

In the late 1960s, the College of Arts and Sciences established a new “Experimental Curriculum” along with a committee to review and hear proposals. The first few rounds only brought proposals from faculty, but eventually the process was opened to students who had backing from a faculty member. Luckily for Uslan, he was going to school at the birthplace of Folklore studies in the United States. He approached Dr. Henry Glassie, then an Assistant Professor of Folklore, with his proposal of a for-credit course called “The Comic Book in Society.” In his book, The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir, Uslan says Glassie was supportive of the course proposal from the beginning. With the first hurdle conquered, Uslan next had his 15 minute appointment to convince the committee that this was a good idea.

As he writes in his memoir, it sounds like Uslan was entering a bit of a lion’s den (or, as he describes it, the Justice League of America’s Secret Sanctum). Uslan launched into his pitch outlining how he would approach the subject academically and offered his thoughts that the comic book was simply modern-day mythology. The Dean (or chair) scoffed at this so Uslan asked him if he could tell him a bit of the Biblical story of Moses. The Dean obliged. So then Uslan asked him to recount the story of Superman. The Dean began but before he got very far, a light came on and he said, “Mr. Uslan, your course is accredited.”

Uslan says before this he had been casually teaching other students about comic books for some time now and another IU student, Roger Stern, had also done some work to teach with comic books on campus. But this was his opportunity to create a full-fledged syllabus and to really bring attention to the genre. He taught his first class as a junior.

Thankfully, a good chunk of IU Professor Leo Solt’s records from his role as Chair of the Experimental Curriculum Committee found their way to the University Archives via History Department records. As a result, researchers today can review one of Uslan’s proposals, examine what other experimental courses were proposed, approved, and denied, and also, see Uslan’s letter to the committee with his recommendations on how to continue the popular course upon his graduation.

The fall '72 course proposal
The fall ’72 course proposal

The course garnered national attention and Uslan found himself thrust into the media spotlight (well, he didn’t just “find” himself there. According to The Boy Who Loved Batman, Uslan actually called one media outlet disguised as a disgusted citizen ranting that such a course was being taught at Indiana University in a [successful] attempt to whip up some attention). By the time he graduated, the course had gone from a 1 credit course taught by Stern to a full 3 credit course.

September 1972. Uslan (on right) with teaching assistant Larry Goltz.

In reviewing the syllabus, this was no cushy course. Students had recommended and required reading (required reading = comic books, such as Spiderman, Conan, and Mr. Miracle. If not available on the stands, students were instructed to see him to borrow from his extensive collection.) Class participation was required and graded assignments included a mid-term paper and a final project that entailed creating and drawing their own comic strip (“If you can’t draw, detailed stick figures will do”). Guest speakers from some of the major comic book companies were incorporated into the syllabus, as Uslan had contacts with many of them. His Fall 1972 syllabus says potential visitors included Buster Crabbe and Kirk Alyn!

That’s just a little taste of Uslan’s time here at IU. He also met his wife, paid for her engagement ring and living expenses by selling a large chunk of his comic book collection, had a popular radio show on WIUS that he and his co-host also performed live at parties (for a meaty $300 fee)…his IU story goes on. In recent years, Uslan has given back to the university that helped him get his start in many ways, but one from which YOU can directly benefit, right now, today, is the extensive collection of comic books, graphic novels, and personal papers he has donated to IU’s Lilly Library. A searchable database is available via their web site, along with a request form to view any of the materials.

May 8, 1976, Law School commencement.  KaPow!

Tales from Past and Present: IU’s Olympic Swimming History

The Indiana University Archives would like to congratulate IU swimmers Cody Miller (’14) (USA), Blake Pieroni (USA), Lilly King (USA), Kennedy Goss (Canada)Ali Khalafalla (Egypt), Anze Tavcar (Slovenia), and incoming-transfer Marwan El Kamash (Egypt) as well as divers Amy Cozad (’13) (USA), Michael Hixon (USA), Jessica Parratto (USA), and James Conner (Australia) for earning a spot on their respective country’s Olympic swimming and diving teams! In honor of the 2016 US Summer Olympic Games, the Archives would like to take our readers back in time and recount just a little of IU’s Olympic swimming history.

IU’s Most Successful Swimmer: Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz w Medals
Mark Spitz during the 1972 Olympic Games

One cannot possibly talk about IU’s Olympic swimming history without first mentioning Mark Spitz!

Mark Andrew Spitz (born on February 10, 1950 in Modesto, California) first gained fame at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he earned four medals: two gold, one silver, and one bronze. He swam for Indiana University from 1968 to 1972 where he trained with the legendary James “Doc” Counsilman. While at IU Spitz went on to win eight individual NCAA titles and contributed to four school NCAA Championships, completely rewriting IU, Big Ten, and NCAA record books in the process. By the spring of 1972, Spitz had set 23 world swimming records and 35 United States records.

In the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Spitz attained the world record for most gold medals received by any Olympic athlete by winning 7 gold medals, ousting the current record holder at the time (Italian fencer Nedo Nadi who received five Olympic medals during the 1920 games) and earning himself a place in Olympic history. To date, his achievement has only been surpassed by Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. However, Spitz also set new world records in all seven events in which he competed in 1972, an achievement which still stands. 

Spitz-Compilation-Web-version
Mark Spitz at IU

Those Who Didn’t Get to Compete: the 1980 Summer Olympics

Cynthia Potter
Cynthia Potter from 1976 Olympics

IU has had a long history of producing Olympic swimmers, but not all of them got to live out the dream to its fullest extent. In the summer of 1980 IU had three swimmers who were awarded the highest honor an athlete could imagine: a chance to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. Soon Amy McGrath, Cynthia Potter, and Brian Bungum would be on their way to Soviet Russia to compete in Moscow. It was the culmination of countless hours of training and years of dedication to their sport. Cynthia was the veteran of the group, having already won a bronze in the 1976 Olympics. For first-timers Amy McGrath and Brian Bungum, it was the realization of a dream. However, it was not meant to be.

On Christmas Day 1979, Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978. Upon their arrival in Kabul, the Soviet troops staged a coup, killing the Afghan President Hafizullah Amin. By December 27th they had installed a socialist, Babrak Karmal, as the new leader of the Afghan government.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan spurred President Jimmy Carter to issue an ultimatum in January of 1980 stating that if Soviet troops did not withdraw from Afghanistan the United States would boycott the Summer Moscow Olympics. His warnings went unheeded and the US, along with 65 other countries, refused to compete that summer. Sadly, we will never know what Cynthia, Amy, and Brian could have contributed to the athletic world that year.

McGrath_Bungum-Compilation
Left: Amy McGrath with her diving coach Hobie Billingsley Right: Brian Bungum

Present Day: the Hoosiers’ 11 and Rio 2016

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics began this past Friday and will end with the closing ceremony on Sunday August 21st. These 11 swimmers (now dubbed the Hoosiers’ 11) will be joined by IU’s head diving coach Drew Johansen and head swimming coach Ray Looze who will act as Team USA’s head diving coach and assistant women’s swimming coach respectively. We are so proud of Hoosier swimmers Lilly King, Blake Pieroni, and Cody Miller who have all already won Olympic medals in the 2016 games! King and Blake will bring home golds (King decided to break a record while she was at it) and Miller has earned a bronze! We are excited to watch the Hoosiers’ 11 as they continue this month and hope to see more podium appearances!

Go Big Red!