Rites of Spring – Indiana University May Festival

As springtime bloomed across Indiana University in 1908, an Indiana Daily Student reporter eagerly previewed an upcoming campus event. “Dainty maids in the picturesque garb of the English peasant or the flaxen-haired Norwegian will dance the complex, but graceful folk dances of long ago.” Who were these “dainty maids” and what was this dazzling-sounding spectacle? The new Indiana University May Festival collection (C693) at the University Archives tells us a history of a vernal campus tradition. Importantly, the Indiana University May Festival became an active space for female student participation in the early twentieth century.

A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives photograph. Eight women dance in a field.
A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives no. P0026270

The IU May Festival began in earnest in 1905, when the IU Lecture Association organized an event featuring orchestral and choral performances in the Men’s Gymnasium. A cantata rendition of “The Swan and the Skylark” and ballet music from Faust evoked a springtime feeling. Despite glowing reviews, the IULA-hosted May Festival suffered from poor student participation. An Indiana Daily Student reporter expressed disappointment in 1906: “The small attendance is inconceivable. If the singers of Bloomington and the University knew what the chorus is doing, there would be a regular attendance of 200 instead of 30 or 40.” The event satisfied a Bloomington audience, but didn’t impact enough IU students at the time.

Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives
Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives C693

Beginning in 1908, the Women’s Athletic Association and Department of Physical Education for Women hosted the event in the Women’s Gymnasium for an invitation-only audience. Female students demonstrated exercises like dumbbell handling and club-swinging “with all the vigor and skill of their brothers,” as an IDS reporter noted. In the afternoon, they transformed into “dainty maids” to dance and wind cream and crimson streamers around a tall May Pole. Interestingly, the IDS also notes that only a small number of male students received invitations to the 1908 event.

This iteration of the May Festival was a staple of campus life by the 1920s. By 1922, the Women’s Self-Government Association (WSGA) sponsored an integral feature of the event: the election and crowning of a May Queen. The 1924 May Festival program names Mildred Wight as May Queen, with her heralds Ethel Budrow and Dorothy Tousley. Following a procession with flower girls, crown bearers, maids of honor, and other attendants, “The newly crowned May Queen is entertained by the joyous peasants.” IU students in pastoral garb performed six folk dances for the May Queen, followed by the mythical dance program “Fantasy of Dusk and Dawn.” The programs in this collection show how the all-female May Festival committee staged a mythological renaissance for modern day Bloomington.

Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693
Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693

By the 1922 May Festival, the WAA and WSGA had moved proceedings to Dunn Meadow. Rather than an invitation-only event in the Women’s Gymnasium, the May Festival had turned into a public performance. This collection also includes a 25-cent ticket for “Sylvia” to attend the Dance Drama portion of the festival at Dunn Meadow in 1927. IDS articles from this time also list the delightful box lunches served to attendees (who could say no to shrimp and mayonnaise sandwiches?) at no cost. One reporter indicated that the WAA and WSGA prepared 800 of these lunches—enough for a huge crowd. The May Festival shows how women at IU transformed a small musical celebration into a popular event that highlighted their talents as athletes, dancers, singers, and artists.

It appears that the WAA and WSGA ceased sponsorship of the May Festival after the 1920s. The last program contained in this collection is from 1928. IU women, however, carried on celebrating the tradition into at least the 1940s, as documented in the IU women’s residence halls scrapbooks. Collection C631, which contains 82 such scrapbooks from 1925-1959, is open for research and offers images from these later unofficial celebrations.

May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from "The Towers" (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory.
May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from “The Towers” (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory. IU Archives image no. P0052722

To learn more about the May Festival collection or to view the collection yourself, please feel free to contact the University Archives to set up an appointment.

A Sword in the Archives: New Additions to the John D. Alexander papers

John D. Alexander was the oldest living IU graduate from 1929 until his death in 1931

In a Sincerely, Yours post from July 2016, we introduced you to John D. Alexander, an IU alum who rose through the ranks of the 97th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers to ultimately become Acting Assistant Inspector General of the Second Brigade of the Union Army. His collection was donated to the Archives in 2015 and contains dramatic letters written to his parents as he marched with Sherman’s army to the sea. In a letter from Camp Anderson, Georgia on December 18, 1864, he writes, “My Dear Parents, I am still alive, for which, I can thank the Good Lord.” Not only did Alexander survive the Civil War, he lived long enough to become the oldest living graduate of Indiana University from 1929 until his death on February 27, 1931.

Since the collection was first opened to researchers last spring, the collection has been popular with faculty and students for use in history and folklore classes. The collection provides a great local context to a larger national event, the Civil War.

With the rich research value of the collection, you can only imagine how excited we were to learn that the Archives would be acquiring additional materials to add to the collection. Because Alexander and his wife did not have any children to pass along their belongings to, their materials were separated among close family friends and more distant relatives.

In April 2017, the Archives learned that we would be receiving a scrapbook, a pair of Chevalier Paris binoculars, Alexander’s Union Army Captain shoulder strap insignia, and his Captain’s sword.

A pair of Paris Chevalier binoculars owned by Alexander with case
John D. Alexander’s Union Army Captain’s sword
Union Army Captain shoulder strap insignia (post-Civil War regalia)

These new additions provide researchers with a deeper connection to the man behind the Civil War letters. In his post-Civil War life, Alexander served as a prosecuting attorney in Greene, Owen, and Morgan counties in Indiana and was the representative of Greene County in the Indiana General Assembly of 1887. He was also highly active in the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization composed of Union Army veterans, and attended nationally encampments in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Chattanooga, Toledo, Columbus, Boston, Buffalo, and Atlantic City. He served as State Commander of the Indiana G. A. R. from May 1908 to May 1909.

Alexander’s interest in the G.A.R. and veterans’ issues are reflected in the scrapbook he filled with newspaper clippings about Civil War monuments, G.A.R. encampments, patriotism, and Indiana G.A.R. activities starting in 1907 until the late 1920s. Papers found tucked within the scrapbook also offer a distinct look into Alexander’s life. These pages include correspondence to distant relatives who named their son “John Alexander,” a page from a family Bible detailing birth and death dates, and even Alexander’s personal research regarding George Washington’s potential affairs.

We’ve enjoyed learning more about one of IU’s most distinctive alumni and hope that you will consider a visit to the Archives to see these new additions. The collection is partially digitized and can be viewed here. Please contact the IU Archives if you would like to learn more about the life of John D. Alexander.

“Reflections on Diversity:” Highlights from the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers

“I began thinking about diversity in an almost visceral way.  It puzzled me why people forget their diverse origins time and time again…”

-Eugene Eoyang, The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One

Eugene Chen Eoyang is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Cultures and was a part of Indiana University for more than twenty years, teaching in both the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One, 1995

Born on February 8, 1939, in Hong Kong, Dr. Eoyang came to America at a young age with his family and attended school in New York.  He received his B.A. in English Literature from Harvard University in 1959, his M.A. with high distinction in English Literature from Columbia University in 1960, and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 1971.

Dr. Eoyang worked as an editor at Doubleday & Company before coming to Indiana University in 1969, eventually becoming a Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Cultures, as well as chair of the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department.  In 1985, he founded the East Asian Summer Language Institute at Indiana University, which he was director of for five years.  In addition, Dr. Eoyang is a former board member and chair of the Kinsey Institute, as well as Associate Dean for the Office of Research and Graduate Development at Indiana University.

Newspaper highlighting the publication of The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One, January 29, 1995

This Indiana University Archives exhibition, open through February 14, 2018, hosted by the Office of the Bicentennial, examines both the institutional teaching and personal research of Dr. Eoyang, highly focused on the areas of translation theory and practice, Chinese literature, Chinese-Western literary relations, globalization, cross-cultural studies, and literary theory.

Some of the items featured in this exhibit include photographs, presentation notecards, conference booklets, correspondence, conference papers, and book publications.  These materials will provide the viewer with an inside look into the diverse work and outreach of an internationally renowned scholar in the field of comparative literature and translations.

“If the rainbow has been part of American’s neglected past, and if it is the unrecognized backdrop for America’s present, it will also be a critical part of America’s future…The multicultural rainbow is in America’s past, present, and future.  The rainbow is no sentimental symbol: it is the American reality.”

-Eugene Eoyang, The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One

East Asian Summer Institute, Earlham College, undated; Pictured: Eugene Eoyang, third row from top, fifth from left

The entirety of the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers has been processed and can be viewed in person by appointment by contacting the IU Archives!  To learn more about this exhibition, refer to the brochure or view the exhibition in person at:

The Office of the Bicentennial

Franklin Hall 200

Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; weekdays

601 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405

Tweeting and Pinning: Archiving Indiana University’s Social Media Sites

Do you ever wonder what the Indiana University Archives is doing to capture the universities’ online presence such as web sites and social media?

Since 2005 we’ve been capturing and archiving exact dated copies of web sites produced by administrative offices, schools, departments, service units, institutes, and faculty, student, and alumni organizations on the Indiana University Bloomington campus using Archive-It, a service of the Internet Archive. Web pages are captured and preserved exactly as they appear at a given time, so that in the future, even if a website changes in appearance or is no longer online, users will be able to access exact copies of the site’s appearance and operation at the time of the capture. Essentially, this wonderful preservation tool keeps an “online paper trail” of the updates and progressions that sites have made through the years. For example, this is how the web site for the IU Libraries appeared in September 2007!

Until recently, however, there was one area of the web that the IU Archives had yet to tackle in its online archive: all of the various Indiana University-affiliated social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera. This summer, we’ve taken on the exciting project of crawling the University’s social media sites for the first time. With the completion of this project, a collection of all of Indiana University’s social media sites from 2017 onward will be made publicly available for future users to access!

A snippet of what the Indiana University Social Media Accounts collection looks like from the Archives’ point of view, including information about the total data and documents archived so far.

Web crawlers (the technology that Archive-It uses to capture copies of websites) have a lot of important applications in online work. A crawler is essentially a software which acts as a URL discovery tool – when you give a crawler a URL to start with, it follows all of the links on that page, and then it follows any new links that it discovers on those pages, and so on. Ultimately, you should end up with a complete set of data about every page-within-a-page on a given website, depending on how much content you would like to capture. Crawlers are what search engines like Google and Bing use to gather and index information about websites and then retrieve a list of those sites when a search query is entered. Crawlers are also used by web developers to gather information from sites, which can then be used for all sorts of data analysis.

And of course, as demonstrated by our social media archiving project, crawlers are also very useful for the purposes of web-archiving, or capturing and saving information about how a website exists at any given time so that it can be used for reference in the future. The Archive-It.org platform is a great resource for doing this kind of work. They have an extensive and frequently-updated help center which includes a lot of useful reference pages, including a page with information about scoping crawls for specific types of social media sites.

An archived capture of the IU Bloomington Twitter page being viewed in the Archive-It collection.

In addition to the aforementioned Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages, we are also working on archiving any YouTube, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Pinterest pages that are associated with various departments, units, and groups within the Indiana University community. It is amazing to look at all of the different social media platforms that these organizations are utilizing in order to share great content and to interact with people from all over the world. We can imagine that the internet users of the future will be fascinated to see what these sites looked like and what everyone at Indiana University was talking about in 2017.

Check out Indiana University at Archive-It.org to access all of the recently archived Indiana University social media sites, along with captures of many other University web pages through the years!

The Alma Eikerman papers

The Alma Eikerman papers are now organized and available for research! If you don’t remember, the collection came to us in pretty rough shape; you can read about in my blog post from a few months ago.

Born in 1908, Eikerman was a well-respected artist and professor who taught in the School of Fine Arts (now the School of Art + Design) at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. Known for her innovative metalsmithing, she was a vital force behind the development of the program at IU. Her work appeared in numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and now resides in private collections and museums across the country, including the Smithsonian and our own IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Passports of Alma Eikerman
Passports of Alma Eikerman

The Eikerman papers includes a wealth of material documenting Eikerman and her life. Included are papers from her extensive travels such as tickets, maps, itineraries, brochures, notes she took while on trips, and her passports with stamps of the countries she visited.

Her correspondence includes not only professional missivesSome letter sent to Alma but also many personal letters, such as post cards Eikerman sent to her parents while she was working for the American Red Cross and a letter from her grandfather from around 1916. Eikerman also sent annual newsletters to her former students to keep everyone updated on each other, demonstrating her dedication to and interest in her students.

The photographs in this collection are my personal favorites and include slides, negatives and prints spanning her entire life, personal and professional. Also, can we all just agree that Alma Eikerman was incredibly Pictures of Alma photogenic?

Lastly, and perhaps most important to those familiar with her work as an artist, is the part of the collection that relates to metalsmithing. Here researchers can find notes, receipts for materials, price estimates, sale tickets, as well as preparatory sketches of her work in various Sketches from Alma's papersstates of development – some hardly more than doodles while others are detailed sketches of a piece complete with notes.

Contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment to view the Eikerman collection!