This is about to get personal

The archive of a long-term ethnographic study of Hungarian ethnic identity is now available for perusal at University Archives and Records Management. The study, facilitated by Indiana University’s Folklore Institute in the early 1980s, examined the ways that Hungarians in both Hungary and the American Midwest maintained senses of community through everyday customs. This project led to an academic conference, a special issue of the Journal of Folklore Research, and a rich collection of photographs and fieldwork reports. And that’s where the official story starts to get personal, at least for me.

Sorting through the papers of the Hungarian-American project over the past couple of weeks was an exercise in self-reflection. As the research team documented ethnic foodways and days of religious observance among Hungarian culture groups, I recalled my own encounters with similar sorts of traditions during my childhood. My mother’s side of the family has always held on to certain pieces of its Slovak heritage, from the practice of Roman Catholicism to the hearty peasant food that characterizes our communal meals. Sauerkraut, sausage, and the sign of the cross are comfortable bedfellows in my mind.

In fairness to the academic persona that I’ve spent the past five years cultivating, this kind of musing makes me recoil a bit. Though they are neighbors, Hungary and Slovakia are distinct nations with distinct cultures. From a scholarly standpoint, it does not do to lump them together so indiscriminately. On the other hand, the human in me gravitates toward what I recognize as a resounding articulation of home. The people I grew up with behaved like the people whose lives are documented in the Hungarian-American project archive. It was impossible for me, while browsing these papers, not to be reminded of grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Mary Slota
Mary Slota

Here’s a case in point: My great-grandmother, Mary Slota, left Slovakia for northeast Ohio in the early twentieth century. One of my favorite family photos shows her in her kitchen, proudly displaying a ring of homemade hurka, or blood sausage, probably harvested from a hog that was raised on the small farm where she lived with my great-grandfather. One of the hundreds of photos in the Hungarian-American project archive shows a widow in the Hungarian village of Cserépfalu. Babushka tied around her head, she leans over a bowl while plucking a chicken, presumably in preparation for a meal. Captured in the photographic frame, both women illustrate the cultural moment they inhabit. They wear floral patterned aprons and work with ingredients that exemplify a farm-to-table attitude long before that phrase became trendy among the culinary elite. And while Mary Slota and the villager from Cserépfalu spoke different languages and lived in different places, their everyday lives were more like than unlike.

Cserépfalu villager
Villager from Cserépfalu, Hungary – from the Hungarian-American project archive

That the archival material of the Hungarian-American project speaks so insistently to my own experience is, in my opinion, an indication of its success. Project researchers mindfully collected images and words to produce a body of data that is greater than the sum of its parts. While the project’s focus was Hungarian ethnic identity, the amassed data recalls the larger experience of eastern and central Europeans in the twentieth century. One can come to this conclusion on a personal level, as I did with my photo comparison, but it is also possible to approach the issue conceptually. Apart from the photos, the Hungarian-American project archive contains many documents that attempt to analyze the immigrant experience. Here are some of the questions they pose: What does it mean to be “ethnic,” anyway? Are Hungarians only ethnic once they have left Hungary? Is culture something people inherit or something they create? What about tradition? Does it have to stay the same, or are we allowed to change it?

There isn’t enough space to describe the researchers’ conclusions here, but the good news is that six boxes of documents await anyone who wants to know more. To gain access, or to view the finding aid that indexes the Hungarian-American project archive, visit our website at http://libraries.iub.edu/archives, or call (812) 855-1127.

Contagious magic and the accomplishments of Linda Dégh

The principle of contagious magic states that personal energy can travel through objects. If a master potter creates a pitcher, part of her expertise then lives in that pitcher, and can be transferred to the next person who touches it. In this process, the potter’s life force is like a contagion. It exists independently of her and can affect others who come into contact with it.

Social scientists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used contagious magic to explain the importance of totems among so-called primitive societies. That line of thinking has thankfully gone out of fashion, as “primitive” often served as a euphemism for “not as advanced as us,” or worse, “non-white.” Contagious magic survives today, though. In everyday life, many of us place extra value in the object that seems to transmit the energy of its previous handlers. Think of a departed ancestor’s wedding dress, or the cap and gown worn by a child who has grown up and left home. The closer we get to these artifacts, the closer we feel we are getting to the people whose hands once touched them.

Working in an archive provides a daily experience of contagious magic. The material an archivist deals with distills the energy of the inaccessible realm of history. Archival documents are letters from the past, both figuratively and literally. They provide detailed information about what people were thinking decades or even centuries ago, and often enough, they are made up of written correspondence from days gone by.

Linda Dégh
Linda Dégh

I had a rather potent encounter with contagious magic on a recent site visit with Dina Kellams, director of University Archives and Records Management. In late May, Dina and I spent time in the home of Linda Dégh, an eminent Indiana University folklorist who passed away in 2014. Our task was to collect the material that best serves to illustrate and honor Dégh’s career in folk narrative and belief studies. Her house was packed with it. Especially on the ground floor, a multi-room study where every available space was filled with books and paperwork, Dina and I had our work cut out for us.

As we sorted through the materials, we kept in mind how various types of documents would look if they were to be included in an archival collection. Of prime value were many of the thousands of photos Dégh shot over the years. The same was true of her hundreds of audio recordings, both cassette and reel-to-reel. Once processed, these will provide an intimate portrait of Dégh’s activities as a fieldworker. More specifically, they will allow users to partake in her point of view. To imagine holding the camera or pressing the record button is to effectively inhabit the perspective of this star of the field. The experience is doubly alluring for one who is familiar with Dégh’s work, as I am. The contagion of her career, which spanned most of the twentieth century, reaches me today, as if by magic.

The trouble with contagious magic in this case is that it applies to a much greater collection of materials than those that are appropriate for archiving. What of the many dissertations that Dégh supervised? Some of these sit in stacks in her basement. Several are still in their original envelopes, mailed decades ago by former students for her review. I know that these works are published elsewhere, probably in much handsomer formats. Still, I can’t help thinking of each of them as the physical incarnation of years of hard work and careful mentoring. If mental toughness looks like anything, it looks like a printed-out dissertation. Trust me. I just finished one. But to put such a document in the archive would unnecessarily expand its scope, as well as duplicate publication efforts made elsewhere. Therefore, the dissertations stay on the shelf, despite the energy and relationships they represent.

Just as Dégh’s work is far too voluminous to archive in total, it is too extensive to fully describe here. However, it is nicely summarized in her obituary from a recent issue of the Journal of American Folklore. Elizabeth Tucker writes: “Linda was such a star of folktale and legend studies, such a force of nature; how could she not be with us anymore?” The point is well taken. Dégh’s is a tremendous loss. Yet I am compelled to mention the comparably tremendous energy left behind in her papers. Through careful effort, perhaps our archiving project can capture a measure of that energy for posterity–a force of nature organized, indexed, and made available for public perusal.

IU Professor of Zoology Conducted Research across the World

IU Professor David G. Frey’s papers recently opened to researchers at the IU Archives. Hired as Professor of Zoology in 1951, Dr. Frey taught in Bloomington until 1986. Dr. Frey was a specialist in limnology (acquatic ecology) and an authority on the Cladocera (water flea) . At IU, he established a laboratory containing over 10,000 specimens (now housed by the Smithsonian in the Museum of Natural History).

In addition to his teaching and research at IU, Dr. Frey was active in several national and international limnological organizations. Due to his involvement, which included serving as president of the American Society of Limnology and as executive vice president of the International Association of Limnology, he traveled extensively to attend conferences and to conduct research on lakes around the world.In all, he visited forty-four countries across six continents. (He never made it to Antarctica.)

Photographs and postcards from some of his travels are included in his collection at the Archives.

Hungary

Dr. Frey traveled to Hungary in 1967 to attend the first International Symposium on Paleolimnology. During the Symposium, the attendees visited Tihany, a village in Hungary on the northern shore of Lake Balaton.

Hungary 1
A view from Lake Balaton of the village, Tihany, and a Benedictine abbey (top of the photo).
A view of Lake Balaton in Hungary.
A view of Lake Balaton in Hungary.

USSR

In 1962, Professor Frey visited the USSR as part of the National Research Council exchange with the Soviet Academy. He spent most of his time in Borok, Russia, a small, protected area in the southwestern portion of the country. Heavily forested, Borok is home to a variety of birds, including a colony of grey herons, and raccoon dogs. Visits to the region are limited to fishermen, hunters, and scientists.

Main Street in Borok, Russia.
Main Street of the small community in Borok.
Borok, Russia.
Research pond at Borok.
Borok, Russia.
Road toward pond used for Dr. Frey’s research near Borok, Russia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austria

In 1953, Dr. Frey won both a Fulbright and Guggenheim award giving him the opportunity to study lakes in Western Europe and Austria. (He won the Fulbright again in 1985 to teach in Ireland.)

Dr. Frey exiting an Amerika Haus, likely in Austria.
Dr. Frey exiting an Amerika Haus, likely in Austria.
Dr. David Frey working on research, likely in Austria.
Professor Frey working on research, likely in Austria.

 

A partial list of the countries where Frey conducted research includes: Czechoslovakia, Nepal, Malaysia, France, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uganda.

To see the rest of the photographs or to learn more about Dr. Frey’s travels, contact the University Archives. The Frey Papers also contain his published articles and research notes.

The Gravestone Photographs of Pauline Montgomery

A graduate of Indiana University, Pauline Montgomery was a resident of Wayne County, Indiana, and spent most of her life working as an English and Latin teacher. However, Pauline and her husband, Robert, had a somewhat unusual interest — photographing tombstone iconography in eastern Indiana cemeteries. Just the hobby we all secretly want to take up, right? Actually though, I must admit that I have a fascination with death rituals.

Over her lifetime, Montgomery amassed a collection of nearly sixteen hundred tombstone photographs with a particular focus upon unusual grave markers and tombstones often with decorative or ornamental features. That’s a lot of time spent in cemeteries!

Although I very much enjoyed looking through a large number of the photographs, there isn’t space to show all of the pictures here. Below is only a small sample of photographs that I found most interesting. Notice the varied fonts, dates, and iconography.

The back of this photograph notes that this is the grave of a woman who died in childbirth.
The back of this photograph notes that this is the grave of a woman who died in childbirth.

There were a large number of tombstones for children, a reminder that life expectancy, especially for children, was much shorter than it is today.  These tombstones were usually accompanied by a carving of a sleeping child or lamb, or in a few instances, a heart-wrenching carving of a pair of empty shoes. One example that I was surprised to see were tombstones in the shape of tree stumps symbolizing a life cut short – although I saw two examples of tree stump tombstones for those in their seventies.

lamb
A carved lamb rests on the top of this child’s tombstone.
An empty pair of shoes is a symbol of the death of a child.
An empty pair of shoes is a symbol of the death of a child.
 The left tombstone features a lamb and the dates 1906-1907. The right tombstone features a dead dove and the dates 1907-1908. I've read that tree stumps represent a life cut short. Given the death dates, this would make sense. However, I've also seen a larger tree stump used for someone who died in their seventies.
The left tombstone features a lamb and the dates 1906-1907. The right tombstone features a dead dove and the dates 1907-1908. I’ve read that tree stumps represent a life cut short. Given the death dates, this would make sense.
Carvings of sleeping children represented the death of a child.
Carvings of sleeping children represented the death of a child.
Cherubs are common carvings for the tombstones of children. Angels represent spirituality.
Cherubs are common carvings for the tombstones of children. Angels represent spirituality.

Military tombstones were also common finds among the photographs.

iwajima
The iconic Iwo Jima flag raising is depicted on this WWII soldier’s tombstone.
Soldier from unknown war.
A Civil War soldier who likely served in the Iron Brigade. The Brigade largely consisted of Midwesterners, including many Hoosiers.
Tombstone of a Revolutionary War solder.
Tomb of a Revolutionary War solder. Details of his military service are listed on the left hand picture.

The vast majority of the tombstones feature Christian imagery, such as crosses, depictions of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, heavenly light, wheat, doves, Bibles, and angels. Also very common were engravings of hands praying, shaking, or pointing upwards to heaven.

This Christian tombstone features a Latin cross with a wooden appearance encircled by a crown of thorns.
This Christian tombstone features a Latin cross with a wooden appearance encircled by a crown of thorns.
curtains
The curtains on this tombstone represent a passage from one existence here on this earth, to another, beyond. Drapery was also a symbol of grief and mourning.
Chain links can represent dead or living family members. A downward pointing finger could point to an inscription below or symbolize being chosen by God.
Chain links can represent dead or living family members. A downward pointing finger could point to an inscription below or symbolize being chosen by God.
Tombstones019
The finger points upwards to heaven, indicating where the soul has gone.
A resting dove is a Christian symbol of peace, purity, and resurrection.
A resting dove is a Christian symbol of peace, purity, and resurrection.

Below are a selection of other various types of tombstones and iconography found in the Montgomery collection. Note this first one, which features the biblical quote from Romans 12:19 along with the image of a noose. A bit of research using historic Indiana newspapers led me to the answer. John Davis and his brother, Jesse, kidnapped and raped a fourteen year girl from the Clark Township. They then left her tied to a tree in the woods, where she was discovered by a search party. A group of fifty armed vigilantes set out after the brothers. They caught up with John first and promptly hung him.

This Biblical quote from Romans 12:19 along with the image of a noose had me wondering about the story behind this tombstone. A bit of research using historic Indiana newspapers led me to the answer. John Davis and his brother, Jesse, kidnapped and raped a fourteen year girl from the Clark Township. They then left her tied to a tree in the woods, where she was discovered by a search party. A group of fifty armed vigilantes set out after the brothers. They caught up with John first, and promptly hung him.

old
Unlike so many of the others, this tombstone has a very rough, unprofessional look to it.
Tombstones001
Lions represent courage and strength.
Statue
I encountered a couple of photographs in which statues of the deceased stood over the grave site or tombstone. This must have been very costly!
Horses usually represent military service in the cavalry, but this carving is for a couple's gravesite.
Horses usually represent military service in the cavalry, but this carving appears to be for a couple’s grave-site.
In this case, the tombstone reflects a profession. During his lifetime, this man was a blacksmith. The inscription notes that he won an award for shoeing horses.
In this case, the tombstone reflects a profession. During his lifetime, this man was a blacksmith. The inscription notes that he won an award for shoeing horses.
If you look closely, you can see that the fronts of these tombstones are designed to hold a small flowerbed.
If you look closely, you can see that the fronts of these tombstones are designed to hold a small flowerbed.
A winged hourglass is a reminder of one's fleeting earthly life and mortality. Time flies - literally.
A winged hourglass is a reminder of one’s fleeting earthly life and mortality. Time flies – literally. The star is a Christian symbol.
Tombstones013
An urn can represent death of the body and return to dust.

The above are only a small sample of image from the Montgomery collection, to see more, please contact the IU Archives!

A Photographic Journey through Indonesia

Students from the National Institute of Administration in Djakarta, Indonesia surrounding a flip chart listing goals for improving public administration practices.
Students from the National Institute of Administration in Djakarta, Indonesia surrounding a flip chart listing goals for improving public administration practices.

Ever heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”? This was the idea behind a report about the progress of the Indiana University sponsored project to develop the National Institute of Administration (NIA) in Djakarta, Indonesia. The USAID funded project took place from 1959 to 1963 and focused on creating a training and research center in business and public administration in Indonesia. It was designed to train and educate citizens to become civil servants and administrators, to promote and provide research in the field of public administration, and to work to improve the effectiveness of government and public service throughout Indonesia. Indiana University assisted by providing consultants who helped to develop curricula and teaching methods, advise in campus administration organization, and purchase equipment, library materials, and research supplies for the new institute.

Students with a flip chart they created about the social security system in Indonesia.
Students with a flip chart they created about the social security system in Indonesia.

Frequent progress reports were a requirement for these types of international programs, and they typically consisted of a formulaic outline of necessary information including people involved in the project, goals, and accomplishments, and were often completed somewhat perfunctorily by team members. For the Indonesia project, however, one consultant submitted a different kind of report to the University. John R. Campbell worked for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Boston and often acted as a private consultant in areas of public administration. Because of this experience, along with a previous job as a consultant to the Brazilian government to assist with their social security program, he was hired by Indiana University in 1960 for a three-month consultant position in Indonesia. His main task was to assess the management and training practices of the Indonesian government and provide feedback about how the NIA could improve these programs.

Students taking a break in the cafeteria at the National Institute of Administration.
Students taking a break in the cafeteria.
A new dormitory under construction.
A new dormitory under construction.

After Lynton K. Caldwell, the IU Campus Coordinator for the project, found out about Campbell’s experience as an amateur photographer, he suggested that Campbell take photographs illustrating the progress, work, and activities of the Institute as part of his assignment. Upon completion of his job in Indonesia, Campbell was required to submit a report of his observations and suggestions. Campbell chose to combine his photographs with his written report to create a visual representation of the status of public administration alongside images of Indonesian students and rural life.

A view of Indonesia. The caption on the back of the photo indicates that the sign reads "Do not throw away trash particularly bamboo meat sticks."
A view of Indonesia. The caption on the back of the photo indicates that the sign on the tree reads “Do not throw away trash particularly bamboo meat sticks.”

Campbell’s report contains a written statement about his experiences abroad as well as photographs of students with illustrated flip charts outlining the issues and goals for public administration in Indonesia. It also contains photographs of students, the IU project team, and USAID officers. Perhaps of more interest to those unfamiliar with public administration are images of the Indonesian countryside and rural life, including some scenic views, townspeople working, and transportation. According to Campbell, the 33 photographs are meant “to depict in graphic form what lays behind, what exists and what lies ahead” for public administration and government in Indonesia. Today, these photographs offer a rare and interesting view of Indonesia’s education, culture, and people in 1960 that is unique to this collection.

Indonesian farmer in a rice paddy.
Indonesian farmer in a rice paddy.

In addition to Campbell’s report, this collection also contains 15 photographs taken by American project team members and placed in a scrapbook about Indonesia from the late1950s and early 1960s. Some of these photos can be viewed online through the Archives Photograph Collection. To learn more about Indiana University’s involvement in Indonesia, check out the finding aid for the recently processed Indonesia Public Administration Program records or contact the IU Archives!