Update on the Henry H. H. Remak Collection…

Much to my relief, the folders have been a bit less dusty in the past 10 boxes or so. I would even go so far as to say that they are fairly well-organized in comparison with what I encountered early on in my processing. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have to say it again. I am simply amazed at the sheer number of files that this dedicated and busy (but never-too-busy) professor of German, West European Studies and Comparative Literature kept on his students. These files are packed with detailed and affectionate correspondence, honest and sometimes glowing letters of recommendation, Christmas cards, wedding invitations, and notes thanking Professor Remak for helping a former student find a job or stay the night at he and his wife, Ingrid’s, home.

In my previous posts I’ve discussed the personal and professional dedication of Henry H. H. Remak (or ‘H to the third power Remak,’ as he often subscribed). In this, my third processing blog, I’d like to tell you about a few of the more unique finds, which provide insight into the somewhat less academic interests and concerns of Professor Remak.

In addition to being an active teacher, administrator and scholar at IU, Henry Remak was a watchful and committed member of the local Bloomington community. Though native to Germany and quite invested in German and West European affairs throughout his life, he was also concerned with the political, educational, and social welfare of the United States. While sorting through the collection, I have come across perhaps two dozen files containing various newspaper clippings on local and national current events. Remak added marginal notes to many of these clippings, expressing his agreement or sometimes dismay. These marginal notes often became the basis of letters to the editors, to political figures such as United States senators, or in one instance, to former President Reagan.

From rebuking the editor of the Indiana Daily Student for an impersonal article on the death of two IU faculty members to being on a first-name basis with the Director of Parks and Recreation in an ongoing correspondence about the safety and comfort of walkers/runners in Bryan Park, it is clear that Henry Remak did his best to stand up for the well-being of the community.

Remak accomplished this in less direct ways as well. In a 1995 interview conducted by Michael Smith, then editor of the West European Studies Bulletin, Henry Remak pointed out that American students view history in a very different way from European students of the same age. For Europeans, “…history is not something ‘bookish’ but rather something that you see around you all the time.” To someone born in the United States, on the other hand, history is not nearly as present or as visible in the everyday. Professor Remak claims that this partially explains why American students are, for the most part, less knowledgeable about history. In a small way perhaps Henry Remak was trying to remedy that both in and out of the classroom. As a member of the Indiana Covered Bridge Society, as well as an advocate for local historic preservation, Henry Remak was enforcing his beliefs in a living, tangible and ever-present history. This too was a way of looking out for his community, which he clearly loved and valued.

Another New Finding Aid: Indiana University Strategic Directions Charter records!

When many people hear the word “archives,” romantic thoughts of decades-old civil war letters, ornate scrapbooks, brittle newspaper clippings, and sepia toned photographs likely spring to mind. However, an archival repository such as the Indiana University Archives, which actively preserves the University’s institutional memory, is also home to relatively contemporary materials documenting history within the memorable past. Such is the case with the recently processed Indiana University Strategic Directions Charter records.

Strategic Directions Charter guide for publicity, undated, circa 1996
Strategic Directions Charter guide for publicity, undated, circa 1996

This collection documents an initiative spearheaded by Indiana University’s sixteenth president, Myles Brand, beginning in 1995 in response to acknowledged fundamental changes in the general environment for higher education. The initiative, deemed the Strategic Directions Charter, was founded upon a goal to enact institutional changes and plans which were to sustain Indiana University’s excellence, thus enabling it to emerge as a model for “America’s New Public University.” Though at present such initiatives may merely sound like stale news, for future generations of students, administrators, and institutional historians, this collection will serve to preserve a poignant point of Indiana University’s strategic development into the twenty-first century.
The title page for a proposal aimed at technological advancement, #1996-37, Internet-Based Distance Learning Programs; submitted by Michael Yoakum, Round One, 1996

The archival collection at the IU Archives includes documentation of the Charter’s formation by a diverse steering committee made up of more than 250 Indiana University affiliates. It also includes reports and planning documents created by eight targeted task forces, which honed in on specific genres for improvement such as “Partnerships with the Public and Private Sectors,” “Excellence in Teaching and Research,” and “Minority Attainment/Underrepresentation.” The official charter was widely distributed across Indiana University campuses in January 1996, which served as a call for University faculty panels to create project proposals and solicit University funding for new initiatives or improvements to current programs, particularly those which would help to push Indiana University towards its newly outlined goals. More then 25 million dollars of funding was allocated to proposals accepted over the course of three rounds throughout 1996 and 1997.
Portion of a newspaper article published in the Herald Times, which offers an antagonistic perspective on the Strategic Directions Charter, as voiced by the Bloomington Faculty Council

The IU Archives’ record collection includes organizational planning documents surrounding the Charter’s formation and publication; however the majority of the collection is comprised of proposal materials submitted by faculty panels. Records from both funded and unfunded projects are retained, which provide an interesting perspective on Indiana University’s values in the late 1990s. Many proposals are technology focused, though other aspects of development focused on areas such as diversity and various facets of scholastic excellence are also represented. A number of newspaper clippings in a corresponding Strategic Directions Charter reference file attest to the fact that not all university constituents, namely faculty and students, were pleased with the Strategic Direction Charter’s aims and outcome.

To delve deeper into this period of significant directed change in Indiana University’s priorities in the late twentieth century, contact the IU Archives. If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to test out the convenient chat reference service that we provide during most operating hours!

The IU Writers’ Conference

Madeleine L'Engle agrees to teach at the Writers' Conference.

It’s June in Bloomington, and though most IU students are gone for the summer, one of the best educational opportunities on campus is wrapping up – the IU Writers’ Conference. Held this year from June 5–10, the annual Conference began in 1940 and since that time, it has provided workshops and classes that offer writers of all levels the opportunity to learn from a faculty of well-known and award-winning authors. Leading workshops on writing fiction and poetry, faculty members have included notable figures such as Kurt Vonnegut, Madeleine L’Engle, Gwendolyn Brooks, Dan Chaon, and many others.

The Archives has recently started processing a collection of materials from the Writers’ Conference and will make these records available to researchers in the near future. Prominent in this collection are files of correspondence between Conference staff and the authors they invited to lead workshops. Though not all of these writers were able to participate in the Conference, it is still quite thrilling to see the letters and telegrams of some of the most influential American writers. After all, a letter from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Wallace Stegner, or Arthur Miller – even containing disappointing news – is an exciting thing indeed.

These materials, in addition to various administrative files from the Conference, will be available for research when the collection is fully processed. Stay tuned!

Ray Bradbury: "Bless you for your flattering persistence!"

Fun Frolic Over the Years

Fun Frolic, June 24, 1959
A small boy enjoys a night out at the third annual Fun Frolic on June 24, 1959

The days are long, humidity is high, swimming pools across town are bustling, and ice cream for dinner is starting to sound like a good idea. Summertime is here, and I think it’s finally here to stay! As many of you likely know, one more thing synonymous with the summer season in Bloomington is the annual Fun Frolic carnival, scheduled to start this coming Friday, June 10 and run through Saturday, June 18 at the Memorial Stadium Athletic Complex. It’s a can’t miss event for those looking to indulge in the delights of carnival rides, games, and fried delicacies!

Fun Frolic (slightly subdued by today's standards), 1960

Not only is the Fun Frolic a great escape, it’s also a fundraiser for a great cause rooted to a 54 year history. Beginning in 1957, the Fun Frolic was organized as an annual fundraiser by the Bloomington Staff Council, a representative body of University staff members created to provide staff with organized representation and a medium of exchange with University administration. The council used proceeds from the event to award scholarships on a basis of merit and need to children of University staff level employees. When the Bloomington Staff Council dissolved in 1993, the Fun Frolic was picked up by as a joint initiative between the Indiana University Day-Care Centers (more recently the IU Early Childhood Education Services) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana.

IU Physical Plant employee Robert Zink volunteers for the "Dunk-a-Man" game, 1970

The original Fun Frolic was not the elaborate carnival affair that the event grew into over the years. Instead, the first event in 1957 consisted of tents and simple games such as bean bag tosses and basketball, all set up and run entirely by staff council members. Proceeds the first year were just over $1,000. The event gradually grew to include other rides, games, and amusements, such as Add em up Darts, Dunk-An-Athlete (later Dunk-A-Man), a glass-blowing shop, and pig races in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent decades, the carnival has transformed into an elaborate celebration with the assistance of local amusement companies; Cumberland Valley Shows has been contracting with the Fun Frolic since 1975. Every year, classic rides such as the Ferris Wheel and Tilt-A-Whirl mix with new attractions that change with the times.

The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated
The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated

If you visit the Fun Frolic this year and want to know more about its history or see some of these great photographs in person, stop by the Indiana University Archives! Documents related to the fundraiser–including financial records, correspondence with event constituents, contracts, newspaper clippings, publicity information, and photographs–are available to indulge your curiosity.

Digging deeper into the events of the past

Work on the student protest exhibit continues, although at a slower pace than I had originally anticipated. What I had initially envisioned as a fairly cut-and-dry project focusing on clearly defined events threatens to expand exponentially. This is of course only natural when examining complex historical events, with different perspectives, involved groups, etc. Too often we suffer from the collective delusion that historical events can be easily boiled down into a concise narrative, when the reality is always more complex. This is the beauty and the challenge of archival records. While they allow us unprecedented access into the background of the past it is all too easy to get lost in the minutia.

This project has me working in many ways in the dual role of an archivist and a historian. My goal is to present a balanced and diverse exhibit for the public, but my own choices will weigh heavily on the tone of the final product. Much like a historian who publishes their research after filtering events through their own lens, I have the ability to shape perception of events. Ideally, such an exhibit should stimulate interest and inspire people to do research of their own, but for many people this may be the only time they ever examine the events I am presenting. With this in mind I continue to pull in materials from many sources, to paint as complete a picture as I can.

I have already pulled a variety of newspaper clippings, both textual and photographic, as well as student government records. While original photos will always be preferable, in many cases the originals do not survive, or exist only in the hands of the original photographer. I have pulled a number of photographic negatives from the archives’ collections for use, but there were less related to some events than I would have hoped. Some events, such as the 1968 Little 500 sit-in, have virtually no photographic evidence surviving, be it newspaper or pictures. Whether this is the result of concerted squelching of coverage at the time (not unheard of), or simply the peccadillos of time is impossible to say. In any case, we are left with a sole photograph in the 1969 Arbutus yearbook to illustrate the story. This is an extreme example, but it can be a frustrating challenge for someone trying to bring visual interest to an exhibit.

Mary Ann Wynkoop’s 2002 book Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University has been invaluable to me, as it has allowed me to stitch events together in my head far more efficiently than if I were left to my own devices. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in 1960’s student protest movements in the Midwest.

By next week I hope to have some items scanned to spice up these posts of mine a bit more.
Until then.