The Wunderkammer: The Curiosities in Indiana University Collections

Life mask of IU President William Lowe Bryan by Gordon L. Reagan (Class of 1937)

Life mask of IU President William Lowe Bryan by Gordon L. Reagan (Class of 1937)

With Halloween occuring next week, where can you see human skin, sixty year-old chewed gum, a ghostly life mask and anatomical x-rays, all from the IU Archives collections? Opening Friday, October 23rd at the Grunwald Gallery of Art, The Wunderkammer: The Curiosities in Indiana University Collections exhibit includes a selection of oddities, curiosities, the down-right gross (or to put it nicely, the “non-traditional”) drawn from the vast array of special collections on the IU campus, including the IU Art Museum, the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, the Kinsey Institute, the Wylie House, the Lilly Library, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, the Glenn Black Lab, the Department of Biology, the Black Film Center Archives and of course, the IU Archives.


Description of the exhibit from the Grunwald Gallery web site:

“The public museums at Indiana University are easily accessible and often feature objects from their collections that are the most well known, valuable, and historically and culturally important. However, each collection also contains items that are unusual or non-traditional, which the public rarely sees. It is in the context of the Wunderkammer that we display these items, as a cabinet of curiosities similar to the traditional collections amassed by individuals in the sixteenth century. This tradition continued well into the nineteenth century, with individuals collecting art, natural history specimens, cultural artifacts and ephemera, and there is a resurgence of interest in this today. Special collections at IU were invited to partner with the Grunwald Gallery to select unusual or non-traditional items for the exhibit. Because of this focus, the information about how these objects came to be part of these collections is as important as the items themselves. This exhibit addresses the psychological motivations behind both institutional and private collecting, why and how special collections end up with unusual items, the stories that these unusual items have to tell, and the information and background they add that may not be obvious in more celebrated works.”

Objects from the University Archives’ collections include:

Life mask of IU President William Lowe Bryan – Gordon Loper Reagan, circa 1935-1936

Commissioned by Indiana University President William Lowe Bryan in 1935 when he was in his 70s, this life mask was completed by Gordon Loper Reagan of the Bloomington Allen Funeral Home. While details surrounding the commission are sketchy, Reagan was a student at Indiana University at the time and likely worked at the funeral home to fund his studies. He graduated in 1937 with a B.A. in Philosophy and followed that up with a M.A. in 1939.

Butternut badges, circa 1861-1865Butternut badges worn by IU students who were southern sympathizers during The Civil War

Worn by the Knights of the Golden Circle, an organized group of Southern sympathizers in the North during the Civil War, these badges were made from the cross-section of the butternut (also known as the white walnut). Carefully polished and fitted with a safety pin, these badges referenced the fact that rustic members of the Democratic party of the South often wore homespun clothing dyed with the bark of the butternut tree. These partisan emblems were symbolic of the idea that the Democratic party was the party of the people.

While not officially considered a border state, southern Indiana still exhibited many of the same characteristics. Violent encounters were known to occur around Monroe county, when Democrats flaunted their badges around Republicans at social gatherings, public meetings and church services. Reportedly, some of the young women on campus regarded these badges much the same as women regard being pinned by a fraternity member today.

Breathalyzer – Robert F. Borkenstein, 1954  

Using breath samples to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the Breathalyzer was the first practical compact device for use by police officers investigating traffic violations Robert Borkenstein's prototype for the first Breathalyzerand accidents.  It went on to revolutionize the ability of traffic enforcement officials to identify and prosecute drivers under the influence of alcohol. The Breathalyzer was commercially produced and adopted by law enforcement agencies throughout the country and world.

In 1958, Robert Borkenstein retired from the Indiana State Police and joined the Indiana University faculty as Chairman of the newly established Department of Police Administration (today Criminal Justice). In addition to his administrative roles, Borkenstein was an avid researcher and prolific figure in his field. One of his most significant research endeavors was the Grand Rapids Study of 1967-1968, the findings of which supported changing the legal blood alcohol content from 0.1 to 0.08.

Dental X-rays – Joseph Charles Muhler, circa 1950s

A proponent of the practice of preventative dentistry, during graduate school in 1945 IU alumnus and later faculty member Joseph Charles Muhler began research into over 150 fluoride compounds, then believed by dentists to be the solution to tooth decay. With continuing support from Procter & Gamble, he conducted clinical field tests on Bloomington, Indiana school children and demonstrated that stannous fluoride was the most effective at hardening and protecting tooth enamel.

Licensed to Procter & Gamble, the product was branded as Crest and was distributed nationally beginning in 1956. In 1960 the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Therapeutics endorsed Crest as an effective preventative measure against tooth decay.

Doris Joan Richards Neff Scrapbook, September 1945-August 1946

Often called Joan or Jo, Doris Richards entered Indiana University as a freshman in 1945 and lived in Sycamore Hall. She participated in the Archery Club and was a member of Pamarada (an honorary for independent women). During her time as a student, she meticulously kept a series of scrapbooks which document her Indiana University experience from 1945-1949. Highlights from her freshman year scrapbook include a cookie in the shape a tennis racket, a frog eye lens extracted in Zoology, a friend’s chewed gum and another’s peeled skin following a sunburn as well a more traditional items such as programs for campus athletic and social events, dried flowers and leaves, and cards from family and friends.

Joan graduated in 1949 with a BS in Physical Education with High Distinction and the same year married classmate Franklin Warner Neff.


Some other objects in the exhibit include Herman B Wells’s handmade underwear from the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection; A petrified hen’s egg from 1835 found trapped inside the walls of the Wylie House Museum; the original 1955 Relax-A-cizor device from the Kinsey Institute Collections; and Diana Ross’s lunchbox and gold record from the film Bustin’ Loose from the Archives of African American Music and Culture, to name only a few.

This exhibition will open Friday, October 23 and continue through Wednesday, November 18. An opening reception will be held on Friday, October 23 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Grunwald Gallery. A noon talk will be presented by the curators and collection managers of several special collections on Friday, November 6 in the Grunwald Gallery.

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“The Nature of Labor on a Changing Campus” exhibit – Scholar’s Commons, Wells Library, Fall 2015

IMG_1831My name is Claire Repsholdt. I am an undergraduate majoring in English and History at IU. This summer, I had the honor of working with the IU Archives to select pieces for the exhibit “The Nature of Labor on a Changing Campus” that I curated as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Themester for the Scholars Commons in Wells Library.


Before I began this project, I had never had the chance to work in an archive. So, along the way, learning procedures for research were just as important as collecting materials for the exhibit. During the first meeting, I was excited to find out about the extensive materials in the IU Archives, which seems to include every memory of IU from students and staff, on campus and off. Furthermore Indiana is especially unique for having such an extensive digitized collection, which is largely available to the public for viewing. I highly suggest exploring it if you get a chance!


At first, when I thought about labor, I pictured industry, unions, and blue collar workers with names sewn into their jackets. However, as I learned about the other events sponsored by Themester, I quickly realized that you can find a story of labor everywhere you look. And since I was looking in the Indiana University Archives, there were millions of exciting options to choose from. I needed to narrow my focus. As I looked through materials, I couldn’t help but get excited when I found out new pieces of campus history, especially since it seems that this campus is currently undertaking an enormous period of change. With several new building projects in progress around campus, I hoped that I could use the archives to show some of the campus familiar landmarks in a new light.


'I-League Outfielders, (from right: Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wichterman, Mr. Ruckelshaus), Waseda University Baseball Park, 1922

‘I-League Outfielders, (from right: Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wichterman, Mr. Ruckelshaus), Waseda University Baseball Park, 1922

Selecting what materials to exhibit was, to use a classic labor analogy, like mining for gold. I delved deep into the comprehensive online Archives Photograph Collection and waited for a spark, an image that surprised me, moments when the IU community looked especially unusual or unique. Then I would sit down with what I’d found and ask the archivists for their suggestions. They guided me to rich pockets of materials like the beloved Leonard “Ruck” Ruckelshaus collection, which documents the baseball team’s trip to Japan in the 1920s (be sure to check out the I-Men’s sweater), or to the documents and ephemera of the now-defunct Home Economics department, which includes the personal correspondence and collections of Professor Elizabeth Sage. I was enchanted. I began to shape the exhibit’s narrative around these pieces, learning the careful preservation and presentation requirements that came along with them.

One of my personal favorite discoveries was a collection of photographs taken of staff from about 1949-1970. Only a fraction of the images made it into the exhibit–there were several pounds of folders full of prints–but by studying the collection as a whole I felt that I developed a much more intimate understanding of the story of labor on campus. The pictures were barely captioned, taken by some excited photographer who had access to a great portable camera, possibly for the first time.

IU employee with boxes of Wheaties cereal, December 10, 1964

IU employee with boxes of Wheaties cereal, December 10, 1964

As I reviewed them, I imagined a young guy running around campus, shirt collar flapping in the wind, coercing workers into becoming the subjects of his picture and manically developing the prints for some important project that may or may not have ever been achieved, stacking them into the piles that moved from cabinet to cabinet and now fill the manila folders at the IU Archives. Those pictures became the heart of the exhibit for me. The photographer(s) were engaged in the same process I was, attempting to document labor on campus for posterity. In some way, my exhibit was just finishing what they had begun.



Though photograph research was an enormous part of the project, it was important to me to present a wide range of materials for the exhibit. I wanted to demonstrate not only what the IU Archives had available, but also to do justice to the experience of labor. I sought methods of displaying materials that would reflect the amount and variety of labor that occurs on campus and the way that labor is always in progress, moving through time.IMG_1843

The exhibit space ended up being a crucial part of the concept of labor in progress, since it is a hallway: most of the visitors are just passing through. The exhibit had to react to constant motion. So, I chose to compose the exhibit within a simulated version of the Sample Gates, one of the most prominent centers of motion on campus. The background of each wall panel is a blown-up drawing of the Sample Gate pillars, and the slides on monitors in between the panels are images of pedestrians walking the cobblestone streets through the gates. Each of the monitors features films and moving text, encouraging viewers to imagine they are passing through the gates into campus as they imagine labor. As for the individual materials and captions in the exhibit, I tried to think of viewer interaction at all times, so that they could enjoy the same experience I did in the archives when I rediscovered campus through labor.

IMG_1842For the west wall of the exhibit, I acquired vintage office items from IU Surplus and picture frames from local thrift stores to create unique frames for the pieces from the Archives. I arranged the pictures and personal possessions of the featured laborers comfortably, the way they might be arranged on a family bookshelf, so they crowded together to take labor out of time, showing that even a historical presentation of pictures and accessories seemed at once familiar and historical, exhibit and display, past and present.

For the east wall, I represented the passage of time through labor by selecting various chronological renderings of both a location on campus, the Sample Gates, and campus as a whole in guided maps. I paired these chronological tours with facts and questions about labor. I hoped to call viewers’ attention to connect labor with time, showing how labor motivates change and pushes the campus to take action.

Both walls of the exhibit culminated in campus films featuring workers going about daily labor rather than sitting frozen in an exhibit. As a viewer notices a film, both the viewer and the exhibit are both on the move, passing through the space together in one group. Maybe for that one moment, there is no difference between being an archive and being alive. Everything is together, moving forward to change labor on campus.


It is my hope that the materials are provocative enough to interrupt the motions of students for a moment and ask them to recognize the labor that is a part of their daily campus routine. I hope that as they continue on their way to the computers or printers, they’ll look a little askance at the computer cubicles, pondering questions about where they are going, what work that they are doing, what technology they are using, and who is making it all possible.

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Old I.U.’s Own Secretary of State – John Watson Foster


Artbutus, 1899

Often referred to as America’s “first professional diplomat,” John Watson Foster entered Indiana University in 1851.  Self described as a “bashful youth of fifteen,” he set out on a four-day journey by horse drawn buggy from his hometown of Evansville to the sleepy town of Bloomington. Foster reminisced later in life that “the only other boy in my town who was pursuing a regular college course was a student at Wabash College, and I was inclined to join him, but my father had a marked admiration for Dr. Andrew Wylie (IU’s first President) as a scholar and a citizen, and he felt that it would be of the greatest importance for my education and training to be under the influence of such as personality.” Sadly, Wylie died unexpectedly only weeks after Foster’s arrival.

Then home to only 88 students and 7 faculty, the university at the time only operated one small dormitory for students which is where Foster resided his first year. The remainder of students lived in boarding houses around town.  He described this “College Club” on the southwestern corner of the Seminary Square campus as

LARGE“a two story edifice, containing a central hall, a dining room, kitchen, and rooms to accommodate about twenty students, two occupying each room….It was a congenial company, except for one disturbing question, which created much debate at the monthly Club meetings when the menu was discussed and agreed upon. We were divided into the Coffee and the Anti-Coffee parties. The later was for excluding this exhilarating but hurtful beverage entirely. The injustice of such a policy was argued at great length, but was finally settled by taxing the coffee drinkers ten cents per week.” 

Despite being few in number, undoubtedly the seven members of the faculty shaped and inspired the course of his career. He acknowledged that “The two most noted professors of my day were Professors T.A. Wylie and Daniel Read, the former for his lovable nature, unostentatious manner, and life long devotion to the interests of the University. The latter was of a very different temperament, vigorous and aggressive in his views, a lover of the classics, quite a politician not hesitating to teach his classes the democratic doctrine of free trade. Dr. Read more than any other of the professors impressed his personality upon my life.” Foster graduated with his B.A. in 1855 and M.A. in 1857, delivering the valedictory oration at commencement. He went on to study law at Harvard.

In the beginning stages of the Civil War, he joined the Union Army as Major of the 25th Indiana Volunteers under Ulysses S. Grant, moving up the ranks to become a Brigadier General. In 1864, he returned to his hometown of Evansville to serve as editor of The Evansville Journal and then as the town postmaster. In 1872 he became chairman of the Republican State Central Committee working to help re-elect President Grant (his former army commander). The following year he accepted an appointment from President Grant  to the post of American Minister to Mexico. Following a series of international posts in Russia and Spain, he withdrew from political office to practice law in Washington D.C. In 1892 he returned to service as the Secretary of State under President Benjamin Harrison and served until February 1893. For more on Foster’s career, see the U.S. Department of State’s biography.

In 1905, Foster returned to his alma mater as the recipient of an honorary LL.D. degree, accompanied by his 17 year old grandson John Foster Dulles who was at that time a freshman at Princeton University. Fifty years later, Dulles returned as the standing Secretary of State under President Eisenhower  to mark the 110th anniversary of his grandfather’s graduation and to deliver the University’s June 12, 1955 Commencement Address at the Baccalaureate Ceremony. Entitled “Patriotism,” his impassioned speech is still relevant today.


Herman B Wells (left) with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, June 12, 1955

“It results that true patriotism, which vitalizes liberty and freedom for ourselves, can never be a purely selfish force. That has been ever evident so far as our nation was concerned. Our people have always been endowed with a sense of mission in the world. They have believed that it was their duty to help men everywhere to get the opportunity to be and to do what God designed. They saw a great prospect and were filled with a great purpose….These have been the characteristics of our nation since its foundation an those characteristics have persisted….We can take great pride in our nation because since the day of its creation, and with but few lapses, our purposes have been large and their goals have been humane.” 

Since that time, other standing Secretaries of State to visit IU include Dean Rusk in November 1967 (more on that visit: and Warren Christopher, March 1995. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited more recently in 2011.

In 1963, the John W. Foster Quadrangle was named in his honor, while its six halls bear the names of five alumni and a Trustee, all outstanding contributers to the international field, including Walter Q. Gresham (B.A. 1897), Secretary of the Treasury under President Arthur and Secretary of State under Present Cleveland.

For more information about John Watson Foster (or any IU alumnus) contact the IU Archives. 

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Leon E. Pettiway Papers

portrait001Born just eight years before the Civil Rights Movement began in 1954, Leon Pettiway grew up in a racially segregated Durham, North Carolina.  He started his academic career at North Carolina University in Durham under Dr. Theodore Speigner, one of the few African Americans in the nation with a doctorate in geography.  From there he moved northwest and obtained his master’s in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1976.  Continuing his interest in geography, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received his Ph.D. in 1979.  A devoted scholar, he contributed numerous studies to the field of criminology.  In his initial research, he focused primarily on the felony of arson and progressed into the study of urban lifestyle, specifically of drug-using criminal offenders.

A grant awarded to him by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1989 to study drug use and the spatial patterns of crime generated such scholarship. In what became known as the “urban lifestyles project,” Pettiway made significant contributions to the field of criminological research.  His study involved both a quantitative and qualitative approach to data collection, an innovative approach to crime research. His research material, including surveys, interviews, and data, can be found at the archives. In his research, he employed the assistance of former offenders and recovered drug users to conduct interviews of active drug users and offenders in North Philadelphia.  What resulted from his work was a series of publications: “Participation in Crime Partnerships by Female Drug Users: The Effects of Domestic Arrangements, Drug Use, and Criminal Involvement” (1987), “The Drug and Criminal Activities Patterns of Urban Offenders: A Markov Chain Analysis” (1994), and “Copping Crack: The Travel Behavior of Crack Users” (1995).

Honey Honey Miss Thang

Pettiway also published two books based on the life-history interviews recorded during the time he was in Philadelphia.  The works Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay, and on the Streets (1996) and Workin’ It: Women Living through Drugs and Crimes (1997) each gained Pettiway national recognition for being one of the first to observe how race, class, and gender intersect and influence the criminal behavior of urban individuals.

During this time, Pettiway also devoted time to teach at both the University of Delaware (1985-1994) and Indiana University (1994-2012).  At I.U. he applied his experience to teach courses on urban crime patterns, drug use and criminal behavior, theories of crime and deviance, and quantitative methods.

His later career has been inspired by his conversion to Buddhism and his position as a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk.   In his upcoming work, Unraveling the Endless Knot of Deceptions: Afrocentric Reflections on Race, Crime, and Justice in the Construction of Criminological Thought, he combines features of Buddhism and Afrocentric worldviews :  In his journey from North Carolina to Indiana, a place where he has taken root, it is evident that he has influenced the members of his field, as well as his students, the future criminologists.

In 2014, Dr. Pettiway deposited all the research related to the urban lifestyles project to the University Archives. A finding aid is now available; contact the Archives for further information!

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The varied research interests of Charles Heiser

Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)

Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)

Charles Heiser was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Botany Department from 1947-1986. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in 1944, and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1947. Heiser joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1947 and was honored as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1953 and an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in 1962.

During his professional career, Heiser served as president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, vice president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and as a council member for the Society of Economic Botany. Heiser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious distinction given only to the top scholars in the field. Other awards include the New York Botanical Garden’s Henry Allan Gleason Award and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Asa Gray Award.

How to write a letter of recommendation

How to write a letter of recommendation

As a well-respected authority in the field, Heiser established a network of colleagues. Many of the files in this collection contain 40-50 years of correspondence with these peers. This length of time provides ample opportunity to share personal life stories. While the pieces of communication relate in some way to a research project, several close friends sent research of a different kind. “Fun” articles like the one on National Pun Week or the how-to article on writing a recommendation letter can breathe life into a collection of papers.

Heiser spent many years as a consultant for Tabasco, the pepper sauce company, conducting research on the variety of pepper used to make the sauce. The company was disputing a copyright issue with a Canadian company that marketed a similar sauce with a similar name. Ultimately, the dispute came down to the naming conventions for the varieties of capsicum, since there is a species commonly referred to as Tabasco. Heiser also worked to determine which countries could not grow the variety of pepper, and therefore possibly establish a trademark for the region.

The collection is filled with information on the unexpected uses of the plants Heiser studied. Gourds, for example, were sometimes used as penis sheaths or musical instruments. Boats can be made from totora. Capsicum could be used as a weapon. Other unique items in the collection include a box of seeds–mostly from gourds. One small canister contains numerous seeds from a tobacco plant–originating in 1657!

For further information on Dr. Heiser and his papers, please see the finding aid!

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