Fostering Friendships, Not Boundaries – The IU Chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club

IU students have always done their part in difficult times to stay close and foster friendships and understandings between people from all over the world. Just before and during World War I, a group of students at IU formed a chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club, receiving their charter from the national organization in 1918. The goal of the club was to bring American students and foreign students together to foster international fellowship and peace under the motto “Above all nations is humanity.”

An image from the 1922 Arbutus of the members of the Cosmopolitan Club, taken sometime in the fall of 1921. IU Archives Photograph Collection, P0054058.

The first attempt to create the club at IU, after a Cosmopolitan Club member at the University of Wisconsin in 1907 invited IU students to create one and attend their first convention, did not pan out. However, nine years later, 12 international students successfully began IU’s Cosmopolitan Club. The club included members from dozens of countries as well as students from the state and across the U.S. Interest and membership in the Club remained high through the early to mid 1960s, but participation in the club waned by 1969, the last year the club was pictured in the Arbutus.

List of foreign-born students, Indiana University, from Original items, 1941-1943 and undated, Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club’s most popular event, called the International Dinner, was a hit on campus. Originally started as an “International Revue” in 1922, guests paid a small fee to dine on international food and watch international students perform their nation’s folk dances, music and other entertainment. They also hosted an International Variety Show, which featured international student’s cultural dances.

Cover page of the program for the club’s annual International Dinner, October 1955. From Events, 1922-1970 undated, in the Cosmopolitan Club Records, 1916-1970.

The club was the foundation of many events of IU’s annual International Week organized by the International Affairs Commission that also celebrated the United Nations. The last record of an International Dinner in the collection dates to 1970, the last recorded active year of the club.

Article from the IDS titled, “The Cosmopolitan Club: It brings together many nationalities” from 1942. Located in Clippings, 1916-1958, undated in Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club files span much of their active years at IU, and focus mostly on various subject files by year and items and clippings from club scrapbooks. Notable files include the club’s constitution, publications related to their events, club correspondence, copies of the club’s newsletter the Cosmo Reporter, initiation files and local news clippings related to the club and its activities that span decades at IU that included significant political and societal change. Discover more digital items in the finding aid here!

Behind the Curtain: Matt Meyer

Headshot of Matt Meyer
Matthew Meyer, IU Archives graduate student 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. 

Role at the IU Archives: Matt is a graduate archives assistant at the IU Archives which includes basic tasks such as processing collections, assisting with reference questions, and working at the front desk. Matt says that it feels like he’s expanded upon that considerably, as he has also assisted in instructional sessions, curated an exhibit, encoded finding aids, and digitized photos.

Educational Background:  Matt has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Purdue University. Admittedly, Matt thinks that it felt a little weird coming to I.U. after growing up in Boiler Nation all his life, but he has enjoyed being here. He graduates this month with an M.L.S. with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from Indiana University.

Previous experience:  While an undergraduate at Purdue, Matt worked at the student newspaper, The Exponent, and became editor-in-chief during his last semester. Before that, he worked in catering.

What attracted him to work at the IU Archives: During undergrad, Matt took a course where students had to research a collection in Purdue’s archives and then write a 25-page paper. It was an amazing experience and started his fascination with archival collections. When he applied to I.U. for graduate school, he knew right away that he wanted to specialize in archives, and he figured working at IU Archives would make the most sense for what he wanted to do.

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: Honestly that’s hard to say. Anything baseball related is always going to catch Matt’s attention, and the same goes for material related to World War II. He would say that the collection he finds particularly interesting is the Pauline Montgomery collection of tombstone photos. She traveled throughout southern Indiana photographing tombstones and making notes about their designs, years, inscriptions, and locations. The photos are fascinating to go through, and Matt is hoping as part of a class project to create an map showing the different locations she photographed.

Black and white photograph of tombstone in the shape of a tree trunk with additional symbols of an anchor, ivy, and scroll included.
Wesley family – Tree Trunk tombstone, 1890, Winchester, Indiana. C386 Pauline Montgomery collection

Current project:  Before the library shutdown, Matt was working on a few different projects. He was wrapping up work  on a collection of scrapbooks originally put together for Robert Shaffer, who was Dean of Students in the 1950s-1960s. He and his wife traveled all across the world; Matt counted almost 60 different countries. Matt was also encoding some finding aids for collections and putting the finishing touches on an exhibit. Now that he’s working remotely, he is working on entering metadata elements into digitized recordings of lectures as part of the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) and going over letter transcriptions.

Favorite experience working at the IU Archives: Matt says that it was leading an instruction session with undergrads for the first time. Matt assisted our education archivist, Carrie Schwier, with setting up a session for a Baseball as History class. He created his own lesson plan to show students how photos can be used as primary sources. While indulging in his love of baseball was certainly a highlight, it’s a favorite because it reminded him of when he was an undergrad learning how to use primary sources, and it felt like he was able to come full circle.

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archives: Processing and instruction are definitely two big things Matt has learned at IU Archives, but he is more impressed with how the Archives are so interconnected with campus. When he worked for the newspaper, he quickly realized how important it is to develop relationships with sources to get content into the paper and deliver it to readers. Matt feels the Archives is similar, it is a result of relationships and collaboration that the IU Archives is able to provide access and preserve such a large collection for researchers and to support a wide range of classes.

Preserving IU History through the Box Clean Up

box logo with pop up message that states "are you sure you want to delete this item?"

Earlier this year, UITS announced that Indiana University will retire Box cloud storage in March of 2021. If you use the storage service, the files you keep will be migrated to a new system. But what about those files you no longer need? Prior to dumping any files in the trash, the University Archives encourages you to consider transferring these files to your campus archives. 

Do the files document a decision or action taken by your unit? Do you have photos or promotional items from a program or an event? Capturing these files now can help preserve the history of IU! Please reach out to iurm@indiana.edu to get started. You’ll be connected with an archivist to discuss the files you have, what you no longer need, and what may be appropriate to transfer. 

To learn more about the materials typically sent to the University Archives in Bloomington, see our collection policy. For general guidance on university-wide records management or the archival practices on other IU campuses, check out the information on this site!

Robert Byrnes and Distance Learning: Then and Now

Over the past (very turbulent) month, I’ve been working on describing digitized media from Collection C388, the Robert Byrnes papers. I started my work on this collection the week before spring break, and for that reason my conception of the collection is overshadowed by the circumstances around my work on it. However, the transition to remote work over the past few weeks has highlighted one part of this collection in particular; a film series Byrnes produced in 1959 on the history of Russia. It stood out to me because of its intended use, which was as a correspondence course. I found myself in the interesting position of transitioning to remote learning while working on an approach which was used 60 years ago.

Robert Byrnes portraitj
Robert Byrnes in 1958, IU Archives P0020758

In some ways the contrast is pretty stark; Byrnes’s approach and our own are on opposite ends of a technological and educational revolution. The ability to speak with my classmates despite sometimes immense physical distance is extraordinarily powerful. In some ways, I imagine that the correspondence course of 1959 faced some of the same challenges as we do today. The lecture and the classroom are institutions with centuries of tradition. Physical, shared learning spaces were as or more important back then as they are now. The same can be said of student-professor interaction. There are few things which are valued more in the pedagogical process.

That said, there are some successes and failures with the Byrnes course which I think we can apply to our own attempts at remote learning.

One thing that Byrnes really succeeds at is his presentation of his material. As a lecturer and presenter, Byrnes is smooth and articulate on camera. He outlines his subject in clear terms and speaks on his subject matter with a formal yet conversational style. I think this sort of clear and direct presentation style is really important for remote learning; without the physical cues of a classroom and the pressure to reduce distraction during class, it is important to simplify and clarify a message for students.

Something else I thought was really important to the success of Byrnes’s lectures is that they don’t rely on graphics. This is something that I think we especially, as students and professors who rely on PowerPoint, could learn from the presentation of the past. We use presentation slides for a reason, but it’s important to consider their role in a classroom setting. Students look at the professor when they’re presenting information, so retaining that cue also helps retain attention. By using graphics sparingly and intentionally, they can serve their intended function; as a teaching aid, instead of as a teaching crutch.

Robert Byrnes on television set, standing at lectern
Robert Byrnes on television set, IU Archives P0048278

One downfall of Byrnes’s lectures is that they lack student interactivity. This is a genuine success of our modern educational tools. The ability for students and professors to talk is one of the most valuable aspects of a classroom environment, so its remote replication should be seen as a huge advantage.

While Byrnes’s lectures demonstrate clear understanding of the topic, the ability to engage his knowledge and ask interesting questions would elevate the experience greatly. Since this is one of the advantages we retain with an online format,  it is something we should turn to often in our lectures. In my few weeks of online instruction, I have yet to see student questions engaged with. I see this as a lack of integration with the system on Zoom; the tools for question asking/answering are there, but professors have to make use of them. Real integration of the tools we have for online teaching would improve the experience greatly. For example, Zoom includes a chat bar in its client; professors could use this feature to get information and field questions from students, while allowing moderation to ensure that there isn’t chaos in the audio channel. It will be interesting to see how teaching styles adapt to the tools available online; to succeed in this environment, a different skillset and teaching style is necessary, and I’m interested to see how learning changes over time as a result of this abrupt change to online courses.

One last downfall of Byrnes’s lectures is their bias. In many ways the lectures are a product of their time. An American series on Russian history, in 1959, is doomed to bias as a result of the political climate of the time.  While we are more aware of this issue today, it is just as important (or more so) to examine our discussions and beliefs for bias in our time.

Byrnes had a lot going on in the course of his life. These video lectures form an early part of his work, but his examination of Russian history, and the events of his time, never stopped. He was still thinking, writing, and speaking on Russia and Eastern Europe through the collapse of the Soviet Union. He lived through some of the most serious international crises of the 20th century, and indeed of modern history. To study an area of the world which was subject to so much bias, so much uncertainty, and so much speculation, must have been uniquely challenging. I hope that we can apply some of Byrnes’s perseverance in the difficult times that we’re living through, and continue to be the best students, researchers, and professors we can, no matter the circumstances.