Behind the Curtain: Sara Stefani

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. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Sara Stefani, IU Archives Volunteer

Role: Sara is a volunteer at the IU Archives.  As part of her work, she assists the Director, Dina Kellams, with a variety tasks including: accessioning and processing new collections, assisting with reference questions, scanning and digitizing items, preparing exhibitions, and assisting with the very necessary and less “glamorous” things like filing. This has given Sara the opportunity to learn a little bit of everything that happens in the IU Archives.  Sara has also had the opportunity to work with and learn valuable information from other archives staff.  She has learned how to process born-digital items, create blog posts and exhibitions, and assist in managing records at the IU Warehouse.

Educational background:  Sara already has an advanced degree in Russian literature.  Currently, she is working to finish her Masters in Library Science with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.

Previous Experience   Prior to her work in the University Archives, Sara worked at a rare book library for three years.

What attracted her to IU Archives:   Sara began her M.L.S. with the intention of working in special collections libraries and took several classes held at the Lilly Library.  While taking the Manuscripts course taught by Erika Dowell, Sara realized that the idea of archival work was just as fascinating to her as working with special collections.  She then enrolled in a course taught by Phil Bantin, former director of the IU Archives.  Phil suggested that Sara look into volunteering at the IU Archives.  Sara says she has loved every minute of working in the IU Archives and is very glad that Phil made the suggestion.  She says: “The people who work at the IU Archives, both the permanent staff and the other students, are some of the most wonderful people I know.  I also really love the variety of tasks I get to do – I’m not just doing the same thing all the time, every day is different.  And I’ve learned a lot of really cool things about IU and handled some amazing materials.”

Members of the Hennel family, IU Archives image no. P0042977

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives:  Of the many collections held by the IU Archives, Sara says she’s a little bit in love with the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks Family Papers.  There’s so much in the collection that Sara has used it for several of the IU Archives pop-up exhibits.   There were three Hennel sisters who attended IU in the early twentieth century and later went on to become faculty.  After marrying in 1913, Cecilia moved to Wyoming with her husband to run a bee farm (how cool is that?!).  Upon the passing of her husband, she returned to IU to teach in the English Department. Cecilia’s sister Cora was the first person to receive a PhD in Mathematics from Indiana University.  The collection is full of Cecilia’s letters home describing all of the events in her life and the food she cooked.  It also contains items and information about beekeeping, local and international politics, mathematics, travel, IU life, and so much more.  There’s also correspondence from various family members which leaves you with an understanding of just how much they all loved each other.

Another collection Sara has found to be of great interest and has enjoyed working with is the Avis Tarrant Burke Papers.  Like the Hendricks Family Papers, this collection contains items from multiple individuals of the Burke Family, including love letters from each generation.

Current projects:   Currently, Sara is processing records from the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages.  The Honors Program is host to intensive foreign language study that includes study abroad opportunities.  Since their inception in 1962, the program has expanded from three study abroad programs to twelve!  The program is specifically for Indiana high schools, and many students from the local schools participate.  The collection Sara is processing contains drawings and letters from students to host families, as well as photographs.  Sara goes on to say that: “It’s a really wonderful collection!  They all look so happy and it seems like an amazing experience!  I wish I’d had that opportunity when I was in high school!.”

Favorite experience in the IU Archives:    It had only been a few days since Sara had begun her volunteer work with the Archives when a new collection arrived from an office on campus.  While part of the collection had been neatly collected in boxes, the rest had been collected in three garbage bags!  The office had initially intended to throw the items away, but at the last minute decided to donate it on the chance that the Archives might want the items.   Sara was thus able to get hands-on experience of the disarray a collection can be in when it is received; an experience which is fairly common in archival work.  “I had read that sometimes things show up in an archive like that, and there I was actually experiencing it.”  Sara and Dina sorted through the bags together, with Sara taking the opportunity to ask questions about the kinds of things that should be kept.  “It was also a great opportunity to learn methods of appraisal.  Maybe I’m just weird, but I loved getting to go through those garbage bags!”

What she learned from working here:    “Honestly, everything that I know about IU I learned by working in the Archives!” says Sara.  Even though she’s been a member of the faculty here at Indiana University for nine years, she says that “…as a faculty member, I pretty much just stay in my own world of my classes and my department.  I’ve never really felt connected to the university as a whole, and I really had no sense of its history.”  She states that since starting her work at the IU Archives, she has really started to get a sense of Indiana University’s history.  Her work with the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks papers, as well as working with some of the other faculty papers have contributed to this understanding.  Assisting in answering reference questions has also taught Sara a lot.  “I learned that IU used to have an intensive summer program for business executives to help them succeed in their careers (see previous post about that here), and during the years of World War II they also had a naval training program on campus.  I’ve also learned a lot about the history of women on the campus.  I’ve been able to see a bigger history of the country and the world reflected in the history of IU.”

India Remixed : Indian Independence in Indiana

On August 15, 1947, India, one of the oldest and most populated nations in the world, gained independence from Great Britain. The British East India Company controlled India, from the 1700s until the Indian rebellion of 1857. After the suppression of the revolt, the British Crown took control of the region from the Company. In the years after 1857 and during British rule of the region, calls for reform and Indian self-rule grew. But it wasn’t until 1947, after years of growing movements, the rise of Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience movement, the “Quit India” movement of the Indian National Congress Party, and after revolts and mass strikes, that India gained its independence. After 90 years of fighting against British Raj (British Rule) and calls for Indian Self-Rule, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 was signed.

Students, professors, and other members of the IU community were certainly aware of the struggles of Indians well before the 1940s. One faculty member, Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, Associate Professor of English, wrote to her family members about a lecture regarding India that she attended at IU in 1931. In her letter, Cecilia describes meeting a man who had met Gandhi and learned why he opposed British rule:

Letter from Cecilia, 1931, Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers, Collection C413, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

“He told of some conversations he had with Ghandi, and said when he asked Ghandi why he opposed the British rule, Ghandi answered that after all India was the country of the Indians, who had owned and ruled it for centuries before England ever existed, and that there were thousands of Indian people as well educated and trained as any English people, and fully able to manage their own government.”

Letter from Cecilia, 1931, Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers, Collection C413, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Independence Day is now one of only three national holidays in India. It’s celebrated on August 15 and is commemorated with a speech from the Prime Minister, references to the Indian Independence Movement, and celebration through cultural events. Flag hoisting events and kite flying in some areas are also hosted around India as a part of the celebration. Around the world, Indian emigrants celebrate with parades and events of their own, sometimes referring to the day as ‘India Day.’

Indian Students Invite President Bryan to attend Independence Celebration. C69, Box 3.

At Indiana University, Indian Independence was celebrated as early as 1948. Indian student Ramnarase Panday was particularly active while attending Indiana University. He and another student, Raghubir Bhatia, organized that first Indian Independence Day celebration at IU. They asked President Wells to speak at the event at Alumni Hall, and invited others from around campus, including President Emeritus William Lowe Bryan, to attend the celebration.

Panday was from Beharr, India and attended the College of Arts and Sciences at IU. He earned his A.B. in Government in 1950 and his M.A. in History in 1952. He was a very active member of the college community. As an undergraduate, Panday was in the Cosmopolitan Club, a student organization for international students and cultures, and once in graduate school, he joined Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.

Ramnarase Panday with President Wells, July 28, 1948. IU Archives image no. P0073656.

The celebration of India’s first Independence Day at IU must have been a momentous occasion for everyone who attended. While we have been unable to find further records documenting the event or information on additional students who assisted with the celebration, we suspect that Panday and Bhatia were likely the only two students organizing the event.

President Herman B Wells spoke at the inaugural celebration in Alumni Hall:

“Birthdays are happy occasions whether they mark the passing of a year in the life of an individual or a nation. We are met tonight to celebrate an unusually significant birthday which marks the end of the first year of independence for one of the world’s oldest and largest nations – a nation rich in physical resources, in manpower, and in cultural acheivement. It is a privilege therefore to join with you in extending our congratulations and good wishes to the Indiana University students from India and through them to the great nation which they so ably represent.”

C137 Wells’ Speech on India Independence Day at IU, August 8, 1948 – click on image to read Wells’ full speech

This celebration marking India’s independence was significant and marked the growing diversity of the university.

Places and Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington

Students attend a Military Ball at the IU Commons in the former Student Building in 1941
Students attend a Military Ball at the IU Commons in the former Student Building, 1941. IU Archives image no. P0027145

“You could not thank Nick, you could not flatter him; you could just appreciate him, and be sure of getting that big round smile when you entered.”

– Carolyn Fink, from “Nightingale in the Branches: A Memoir of Post-WWII Student Life at I.U.”, 1945

Whether it’s dinner at a lively downtown restaurant; listening to the soft sound of water lapping at the bank of a local pond; or curling up in cozy chair in the Indiana Memorial Union, students need places to kick back and relax to escape the rigors of academic life. While many aspects of the student experience have shifted and changed over Indiana University’s almost 200 years of operation, one common quest has endured: finding a great place to hang out and unwind after classes and work.

The Indiana University Archives exhibition, “Places & Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington,” is an exploration of some of the most legendary hangout spots that IU students have frequented over the years. Some long-enduring favorites, like Nick’s English Hut, are still a familiar staple in the IU student experience to this day. Other former hangout spots, like The Book Nook and Ye Olde Regulator, are now enjoyed by students in the same spaces under different names, such as BuffaLouie’s and Kilroy’s. Some of the most beloved student haunts of the past, like the Sunken Garden and The Commons in the former Student Building, are no longer in existence; but they continue to live on in memories and in historical records.

An advertisement for The Gables from an IU vs. Purdue football game program, 1955
An advertisement for The Gables from an IU vs. Purdue football game program, 1955. IU Archives image no. P0066961

In order to capture a snapshot of the IU student experience over time, this exhibition utilizes original materials from the Indiana University Archives and the Archives Photograph Collection, including:

  • Excerpts from IU alumnus Kathleen Cavanaugh’s scrapbook (1963-1965)
  • A mock diploma for a “Doctor of Nookology” issued to former University president Herman B Wells at the Book Nook commencement ceremony (1931)
  • Photographs and vintage advertisements for some of the most well-known and beloved hangout spots, including The Book Nook, The Gables, Nick’s English Hut, and Ye Ole Regulator.

This exhibition was inspired by some of the stories shared by IU alumni as part of the Bicentennial Oral History Project at Indiana University Bloomington. In the following clip, we hear an alumnus, Louis Kaplan, discussing several of the places that students used to visit for the best food in town:

Officers of The Flame Club enjoy drinks at Nick's English Hut, 1949
Officers of The Flame Club enjoy drinks at Nick’s English Hut, 1949. IU Archives image no. P0048423

This post began with an excerpt from Carolyn Fink’s memoir, in which she fondly remembers Nick Hrisomalos, founder and former operator of Nick’s English Hut. In the following clip, alumnus Gary Wiggins shares some humorous recollections of Nick’s longest-serving and most beloved waitress, Ruth Collier Stewart. These and other so-called “Ruthie stories” can still be heard from IU Bloomington alumni all across the world:

To learn more about these and other beloved student hangout spots through the years, please be sure to visit “Places & Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington” in person before it ends on Monday, April 16, 2018! The exhibition is located at:

The Office of the Bicentennial
Franklin Hall 200
Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm; weekdays
601 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405

The curators, Julia Kilgore and Tyler Davis, would like to thank Kristin Leaman and Brad Cook for their assistance in making this exhibition possible.

Behind the Curtain: Walker Byer

Photograph of IU Archives graduate student Walker Byer in front of bookcaseTitle: Processor

Education: Walker holds a B.A. in International Studies and Anthropology from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) and recently graduated from IU with an M.L.S. in Archives and Records Management.

Work History: Before working at the IU Archives, Walker was a bookseller at Bloomington’s local Half Price Books Outlet.  Even though this was his first job working in the profession, he has visited lots archives and rare book libraries in the past!

In what ways do you work with the IU Archives?:  As a processor, Walker’s work primarily focuses on arrangement and description of the collections at the Archives with a particular focus on folklore collections and related topics.  In addition to processing, Walker also helps to write the Behind the Curtain staff features of this blog; assist with reference questions; and monitor the archives reading room.  Walker also helped curate the recent exhibit Collecting Folklore: Generations of Indiana University’s Folklore Institute.

Favorite collection or item in the Archives?: Walker’s favorite items are student journals from the Folklore Student Papers.  These journals were an assignment in an introductory class taught by John McDowell.  The students kept a journal for the entire month of October to record their observations on the folklore of Halloween.  Walker notes that “I love to study the way that folklore makes up our every day lives, whether it’s small social customs or larger holiday celebrations.”

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives?:  Walker is currently processing the collection of Dr. Fabio Rojas, who teaches sociology at IUB.  In addition, Walker is also assisting in a digital adaptation of the exhibit mentioned above.

Favorite experience working with the Archives?:  Of his many experiences at the Archives, Walker’s favorite was the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit.  “It was rewarding to see the joy it brought to members of the Folklore department.  It was a fun learning experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists?:  Working with the IU Archives has provided many learning experiences for Walker.  In addition to learning skills for a future career in archives, Walker has enjoyed learning the folklore that permeates the IUB campus.

Sincerely Yours: Madeleine L’Engle and “children’s” literature

The Ava DuVernay-directed A Wrinkle in Time is the most recent example of beloved children’s book-turned-blockbuster hit. For many of us, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is more than just a “children’s book.” Many of my friends have turned to L’Engle repeatedly through life, similar to other supposed “children’s” authors like J.K. Rowling or Ursula LeGuin. L’Engle’s commitment to manifesting authentic childhood experiences is reflected in her mighty oeuvre, which often expanded the A Wrinkle in Time universe across multiple series centered on families with young protagonists. Despite this, L’Engle confirms her discomfort with the label of “children’s literature” in a 1965 letter Indiana University Writers’ Conference organizer Robert W. Mitchner. The Indiana University Writers’ Conference records at the IU Archives include letters from literary icons such as Joan Didion, William Faulkner, Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, and the aforementioned LeGuin. Madeleine L’Engle’s file, though, shows what a uniquely lovely correspondent she was. Continue reading “Sincerely Yours: Madeleine L’Engle and “children’s” literature”