The Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project has collected over 1,000 interviews from alumni, current and retired faculty and staff at all 7 I.U. campuses. Voices remembering the good and difficult times at their alma mater provide a rich and often emotional history of the university. Memories of student protests, professors, favorite hangouts, national events, and football games are among the many stories shared over the years. When asked if they remembered a specific event on campus that impacted their life, Ruth DiSilvestro, Audrey Beckley, and Joan Keck had the same answer: they fell in love with their husbands at Indiana University.
Ruth DiSilvestro (M.A. 1971) vividly remembers living in Eigenmann Hall and meeting her future husband in the cafeteria. Listen below to Ruth’s sweet story on how they met:
Audrey Beckley (B.S. 1964) remembers meeting her husband, Ken Beckley (B.S. 1962), at the Fall Carnival and marking on Ken’s senior cords with chalk. The Beckleys also established the Kenneth A. Beckley and Audrey J. (Hofelich) Beckley Media Technology Fund at the I.U. Media School and have a studio named after them in the school. Listen below to hear Audrey tell her heartwarming story of how she met Ken:
Joan Keck (B.S. 1956) tells a funny story about how she met her husband, David Keck (B.S. 1956, J.D. 1959) at the Freshman Mixer held in Alumni Hall. While dancing with her date, a young man cut-in; that same young man would become her husband during her senior year. Listen below to hear Joan reminisce about meeting David at the Freshman Mixer:
Listening to stories of love is a common theme throughout the I.U. Bicentennial oral histories. People express love and gratitude for their friends, family, classes, professors, campus, Herman Wells, and Bloomington; the list could go on. And as Ruth DiSilvestro says in the last lines of her oral history when reflecting on I.U., “It’s certainly touched our lives in many important ways.”
Throughout 2019, Major League Baseball will honor the centennial of Jackie Robinson’s birth. Robinson made history in 1947 when he broke professional baseball’s color barrier by playing second base for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s courageous actions spurred the racial integration of the sport, ending decades of segregated baseball. In 1956, Robinson’s last year in the majors, Indiana University’s baseball team welcomed its first African American player, catcher Eddie Whitehead. Whitehead, a native of Madison, Indiana, joined as a sophomore and was one of five catchers on the team that year.
Though Whitehead made his debut nearly ten years after Robinson’s debut, a spring break trip through Florida and Georgia from March 26-31, 1956, illustrated the racial disharmony that was still prevalent throughout the country. At the major league level, professional baseball would not be fully integrated until 1959, when the Boston Red Sox became the last team to welcome an African American player on its roster. At the collegiate level, a strict “gentleman’s agreement” prohibiting non-professional contests between African Americans and whites was in force in the South, meaning if Whitehead played, the other teams would not play I.U. According to a March 22, 1956 press release, I.U. entered into the six games without knowledge of this agreement, thereby hindering the team’s ability to pull out of the games. After speaking with I.U. President Herman B Wells, Whitehead decided he did not want to ruin the trip for his teammates by not going, so he decided to make the journey, though he did not play as per the agreement.
In a 2017 Indiana University Bicentennial oral history interview, Whitehead’s daughter, Dr. Dawn Whitehead, recalled the stories her father told her about the trip. Traveling through the Jim Crow south was “a profound experience for him,” she said. “He often didn’t get to eat in restaurants with his teammates, and they would bring food out to the bus.” “He would also sometimes not be able to stay in the same hotels where his teammates stayed,” Whitehead recalled.
In a March 27, 1956, Indianapolis Times article, Eddie stated he had to eat in the hotel kitchen in Harriman, Tennessee. In Cedartown, Georgia, he ate in the car. Both times I.U. baseball coach Ernie Andres joined him. “I stayed with Eddie everywhere we went,” Andres said in an April 18, 1997 article in the Indiana Daily Student. “My only fear was that he would get hurt.”
While I.U. played Florida State, Eddie stayed at Florida A & M, a historically black college. While there, he trained with their baseball team and stayed in a dorm room. Dawn Whitehead stated staying at Florida A & M was the fondest memory of the trip for her father. Coach Andres made arrangements for Eddie to stay with African American families while the team played Florida University and Georgia Teachers. “I don’t think I could ever live down here,” Eddie said in the March 27, 1956, Indianapolis Times article. “I just couldn’t. It seems so different. Too many drawbacks.” “People look at you so cold,” Whitehead said in another Indianapolis Times article from March 28, 1956. “Like you’re something different. Like you were inferior.”
Upon the team’s return to Bloomington, Wells expressed outrage at the treatment of Whitehead. “It’s outrageous the indignities now being suffered in the South by Eddie Whitehead,” Wells stated in a March 28, 1956, Louisville Times article. “This is very distasteful to me. I’m opposed to segregation in any form. Indiana is the leader in the nation against segregation in schools as well as in athletics.” Wells received numerous letters regarding the incident. Some came from supporters, while others came from those questioning his reasoning for allowing Whitehead to go when the team knew he wouldn’t be able to play.
Whitehead played in 12 games during the 1956 campaign. His most notable game that year occurred on April 24 against Butler. He went 1 for 2, with a triple, one base-on-balls, and two RBIs. I.U. defeated the Bulldogs in an 18-5 thrashing. At the conclusion of the season, he was awarded a varsity letter.
Whitehead graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in 1958. He became a banker, a profession in which he remained for thirty years; he also worked on the statistics crews for the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts. Whitehead passed away on September 10, 2014, at the age of 77.
The year 1917 saw the first class of nurses graduate from the new IU Training School for Nurses, part of the School of Medicine in Indianapolis since 1914. Among those five women was one who could claim another “first”–Josephine Grima (1892?-1993), the first student to enroll at IU from Mexico.
Born around 1892 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Grima was apparently encouraged by members of a Society of Friends mission from Indiana to return home with them to complete her medical training. After nine months of preparatory work, Josephine entered the three-year graduate nurses program in the fall of 1914.
During their three years of training, which mainly took place at the Robert W. Long Hospital, Grima and the other nursing students experienced a rigorous routine of “full-time duty in the wards and classrooms.” Types of courses ranged from the preliminary classes on biology, anatomy and physiology, hygiene, sanitation, and household economics to senior term lectures on obstetrics, children’s diseases, mental diseases, and social service.
As Grima was finishing her final semester, the United States declared war on Germany, officially entering what would be known as World War I. Soon after graduating, she joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps as a reserve nurse. While she never deployed overseas, she nevertheless saw her share of action during the devastating flu pandemic of 1918. She was first stationed at the army hospital in Markelton, Pennsylvania, before being transferred to Camp Devens near Boston, Massachusetts, in September 1918. At the time, the training camp was in desperate need of medical personnel: with over 10,000 cases in less than a month, it was the site of one of the largest influenza outbreaks in the U.S.
As part of the IU Alumni Association’s War Service Register project, Grima described her experience at Camp Devens. Although brief, it underscores some of the most basic challenges that Grima and her fellow nurses faced in a camp overflowing with patients:
…We report [sic] at the Base Hospt. where we had 15000 of cases of Pneumonia and Influenza where we had to suffer bad accomodation [sic] and bad prepared food. We were on duty [illegible] hours and had to stand in line three times a day for our meals, our beds consisted during the epidemic of straw tikets [tickets], two O. D. [olive drab] blankets and a sanitary cot. There were no place [sic] to accomodate [sic] 750 nurses that answer [sic] the call of the epidemic and for that reason we had to use for bedrooms the garage, the farmhouse, etc. We had a great diel [sic] of work and responsability [sic]…
Grima continued her nursing career for a time after the war, working at the Marine Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, before marrying and starting a family. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1922. One of her daughters, Dorothy Comstock Riley, became the first female justice to serve on the State of Michigan’s Court of Appeals (1973) and the first Hispanic woman to be elected a supreme court justice in any state (1985).
What do gorillas, Finno-Ugric languages, the United States Army, and electromagnetic fields have in common? These seemingly disparate topics (among many others) were brought together in the voluminous intellectual grasp of Thomas A. Sebeok, 1920-2001. The prolific polymath enjoyed a long and distinguished career at Indiana University (IU) from 1943-1991. Sebeok started as Instructor and Linguist for the Army Specialized Training Program at IU, which provided intensive language training in Hungarian and Finnish for U.S. soldiers. After World War II ended, Sebeok stayed at IU as faculty. His expertise extended to areas of anthropology, folklore, and linguistics. He oversaw the formation of academic departments (Department of Uralic and Altaic Studies in 1965, now known as the Department of Central Eurasian Studies) and research centers (the Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies) at IU from the 1960s through 1991. He simultaneously taught, gave lecture tours around the world, edited Semiotica for the International Association of Semiotic Studies, and wrote more than 600 articles and books over the years. Framing such a vast and deep scholar’s work for a modest archival exhibit proved to be a significant endeavor.
For this post, I want to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the curatorial and installation processes for an archival exhibit. Before I came to IU, I worked at a regional art nonprofit. One of my main responsibilities was overseeing the organization’s three art galleries. I found that my experience with installing art exhibitions was helpful, but I also found that archival exhibits present unique challenges—and more exciting opportunities for storytelling. The wide varieties of archival materials and space for informative historical captions combine for a seemingly infinite array of possibilities. The first step I had to take, then, was casting a net that was wide enough to be visually appealing but tight enough to capture a cohesive single exhibit. This latter consideration was harder than I anticipated!
When Carrie and Mary approached me about this exhibit opportunity, I knew I wanted to focus on Sebeok. I’ve been processing his substantial (~100 boxes) collection since October 2017. He has become a major role model for me, especially his disregard for traditional disciplinary boundaries in academia. I wanted to highlight the web of intellectual roles he inhabited, from semiotician and linguist to zoologist and journal editor. I did not want the exhibit to look like a hodge-podge sampling of random bits from the Sebeok collection. This is where curatorial framing came into play. I asked myself: What is it about all these areas of Sebeok’s study that captivate me? Why is it important? I think it is because it illuminates the truly cross-disciplinary nature of “science.” I have always been fascinated and impressed by scientists, but that world has always felt closed-off from me. I never did very well in math and hard sciences, and firmly rooted myself in art and history. Sebeok has shown me that these things are not disparate, as they are all human activities and human attempts to understand the world. From this the exhibit title was born: Thomas Sebeok and the Scientific Self. To translate this to the exhibit space, I decided to dedicate each case I was using to a different role: Sebeok as a master of languages, Sebeok as an academic leader, Sebeok as a renowned semiotician, and Sebeok as a skeptic. Within these cases I selected different materials: visual resources to catch the eye (I love all the program brochures and letterhead in the collection), correspondence to tell stories, and signposts to guide the viewer (in the form of biographical materials like press releases and news clippings).
Planning all of this was a more physically involved process than I anticipated. Over the course of a few weeks I was constantly ordering, opening up, investigating, and returning boxes from the collection. For each item I wanted to exhibit, I photocopied the original, placed the photocopy in the original folder, and logged the item in a list indicating its original box and folder placement. This is all necessary to ensure I can return the items properly once the exhibit is over. Throughout this process, I had to cross-reference the dimensions of each case to plan the exhibit layout. Captions ended up being the biggest spatial challenge for me. I authored long captions because so much of the exhibit material is conceptually dense and needs contextual information to tell Sebeok’s story. I could have written pages more of caption text, but cut myself off so as not to overwhelm the viewer.
Physically installing the exhibit was definitely the most challenging part of the exhibit process. I anticipated this from my time working in art galleries, but the difficulties were unique. I didn’t have to worry about mats or frames, but mounting unique archival paper materials was intimidating. To mount an 8 x 10 in. piece of correspondence, I would first cut a piece of foam core board exactly to those dimensions. Foam core can be irritating: it is difficult to cut through with a utility knife and it sheds constantly. Making sure none of the foam backing extends beyond the dimensions of the material takes a lot of careful trimming. After I cut the backing, I would mount the material using polyethylene book straps. This part required careful choreography to keep the original document flat against the backing while pulling book straps across each corner and taping them down on the backside of the foam core. There is no one perfect method for this: it takes a lot of patience, finger dexterity, and adjustments, much like matting and framing artwork. Clean hands and short nails are also a must-have!
Some of the exhibited items took some creative problem solving to display. In order to mount a large bound volume from the Smithsonian National Zoo to a particular page spread, Mary Mellon custom made a book cradle out of mat board and strategically applied tape—a technique she learned during a workshop when she was a graduate student. We then rested the publication in the cradle and strapped down the pages.
To display both sides of a fold out conference brochure, I scanned one side of the brochure and printed it at the same dimensions as the original. I then folded the reproduction to resemble the original brochure and displayed it face-up so viewers could read it.
The most awkward item to mount was also a highlight of the exhibit: a fundraising newsletter from Francine Patterson for the Gorilla Foundation featuring Koko the Gorilla’s actual signature. The newsletter was printed on one sheet of folded paper. I wanted to display two facing pages, one with Koko’s signature and the other with the bulk of the letter text and images of Koko with her kitten. To do this I had to mount the pages on two separate pieces of foam core. I could not use book straps to hold down the inner corners of the pages, since they were on the same sheet of paper with a fold in the center. This made the item tricky to move around once in the case. I ended up resting it on clear plastic displays for added stability.
I hope these examples show some of the overlooked skills needed in an archive. Working on an archival exhibit requires skills in paper conservation, object handling (similar to art handling in a gallery setting), matting, aesthetic sensibilities, writing, and curation. It also takes time, collaboration, and a hearty dose of creative problem solving. Above all, I like to think that Thomas Sebeok would appreciate the eclectic matrix of skills that went into this exhibit.
Thomas Sebeok and the Scientific Self is on display now through March 29, 2019 at the Indiana University Archives (Wells Library E460, East Tower).
In a previous post, the Archives announced the papers of Geraldine K. White were open for research. In this post, we hope to give our readers a closer look at Geraldine’s life on campus. Geraldine, or “Jerry” as she was fondly referred by friends, kept detailed records of her time at IU through notes from her classes and the creation of scrapbooks.
Researchers can glean a lot of information about her social life at IU from looking at the latter of these items. Many of the scrapbook pages are plastered with sports schedules, dance cards, programs from music and theater events, invitations to parties hosted by the Dean of Women, by-laws and pamphlets from various organizations and sororities, and much more. Geraldine was clearly very heavily involved in campus life as a whole.
Another thing that stands out in Geraldine’s scrapbooks, however, are references to three houses: the Kirkwood, the Beta Sigma Omicron chapter house, and the Westminster Inn. She seems to have spent much of her time in these locations. The scrapbook is filled with notes from friends, most of which seem to have some connection to these places as well.
This mansion, which was located at 301 East Kirkwood, was designed by architect Milton Pritchett in 1897 and stood on the north east corner of Lincoln and Kirkwood. The property was demolished in 1967 in order to make room for the site that would eventually become the current-day Monroe County Public Library. In its early years it served as the home of Calvin R. Worrall, a local lawyer. The house was then taken over by several fraternities Delta Tau Delta (around 1898), Lambda Chapter of Sigma Chi (around 1903-1904), and Delta Upsilon (around 1920). Later on in the 1930s it operated as a jazz bar and then as a doctor’s office during the 1940s-1960s (the practice of a certain Dr. T. L. Wilson).
During Geraldine’s time around the mid-1920s, it served as a women’s residence. Geraldine seems to have lived there from 1922 to sometime in 1924. Afterwards, she moved into the newly built Memorial Hall, IU’s first women’s dormitory (which was dedicated in October of 1924). The scrapbooks contain numerous letters from Geraldine’s friends regaling us with stories about the Kirkwood House whether it be sneaking around the house late at night while the chaperone slept, reading Sherlock Holmes with her roommate, or recounting the shocking moment when the bed next to her fell through the floor into cellar…
The Beta Sigma Omicron House
Geraldine also spent a great deal of time at the Alpha Beta chapter house of the now defunct Beta Sigma Omicron sorority, which was established during her senior year. She joined as part of the inaugural pledge class in Spring of 1926. The sorority was founded on December 12, 1888 at the University of Missouri by three women: Eulalie Hockaday, Martha Watson, and Maude Haines; the sorority was absorbed by Zeta Tau Alpha on October 3, 1964. Multiple members of Beta Sigma Omicron left notes for Geraldine in her scrapbooks. Geraldine herself included a picture of the BΣO house that seems to have been cut out of some sort of reference book or magazine:
The house moved from 503 Smith Avenue to 420 So. Fess the summer after Geraldine graduated. The new property was sold to BΣO by the Theta Chi fraternity on June 28, 1926. Geraldine also includes a picture of the new location for the house on the same page:
The Westminster Inn
In addition to hanging out with her housemates and her sorority, Geraldine was heavily involved in the Westminster Inn, a house under the purview of the Presbyterian Church dedicated to campus student ministry. According to the Annual Report of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church, Westminster Inn was “located opposite of the main entrance to campus.”
During Geraldine’s time at IU, the house was under the management of Rev. C. W. Harris, who served in France as a chaplain for the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. From looking at the scrapbooks, Rev. Harris’ wife seems to have enjoyed hosting students quite often whether it be for tea, dinner, farewell parties for seniors, or special events. One particular page displays an invitation to meet Dr. Samuel Martin Jordan, an influential Presbyterian missionary in Persia.
The group that frequented the house even organized a play. There are references in the scrapbook to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Geraldine’s roommate from sophomore year at the Kirkwood house, Mabel, seems to have been involved with the play and mentions it in one of her notes in the scrapbook. The Westminster Dial of March 1928 confirms that the Westminster House put on a play of the Twelfth Night.