This week in the archives…

Hello again. Interning in the archives this week has been relatively less busy from previous weeks, but of course there is always something interesting going on here. Having finished W.T.K. Nugent’s publications series, I moved on to his academic life series, since that ties in directly to his time at Indiana University. So far it’s mainly been a process of sorting through correspondence dealing (mostly) with colleagues and publishers, though I have found a few sensitive materials such as loan forms, and some less important items like television receipts. This series will be restricted to patrons for awhile, for a couple of reasons: Nugent specifically marked the boxes out for restriction, and as archivists we must follow the donor’s wishes; and although these materials are around four decades old, they still deal with people – and their families – who are alive and perhaps do not know we have their correspondence with Nugent, and it is advisable to keep this kind of information restricted for privacy reasons. Researchers, don’t despair. If you’d like to research Nugent’s correspondence from his time as an IU professor, this series should be entirely open in 2035 (as per Nugent’s wish).

Privacy and sensitivity is a daily issue in archives, especially when dealing with personal papers and correspondence. Some donors may not care if their personal correspondence can be read by researchers forty years later, but some donors want to keep that information private for as long as possible. It’s a personal preference, and archivists should learn some PR skills in dealing with donors. As I learned in my internship readings, if archivists can explain their typical restrictions on files, some donors can be persuaded not to keep their files closed forever. There is no point in preserving papers indefinitely if they can never be accessed and used by researchers. Having said that, Nugent’s collection has typical restrictions on correspondence, financial information, and personal information. This is fair, since researchers are more likely to want his professional information.

Sorting through Nugent’s professional correspondence has allowed me to get a better indication of how he worked, both with his publications and with his colleagues in his department. Though the majority of the series so far is made up of letters, notes, and memos, there are the occasional objects that make the job more interesting, such as air mail letters, postcards, and the occasional receipt. Once again it is proven that you can find almost anything in the archives. Earlier this week I happened upon this drawing, mixed in with meeting notes and agendas:

"Indiana Triumphs Against the Forces of Evil"
"Indiana Triumphs Over the Forces of Evil"

This appears to be an inspired New Mexican-influenced drawing. At first I thought Nugent had a talent never before displayed, but turning over this drawing I found this:

The abstract image was drawn by one of Nugent’s colleagues in 1975, curiously titled “Indiana Triumphs over the Forces of Evil.” I would love to know the story behind this drawing, but unfortunately there is no mention made of it anywhere other than the date Nugent collected it. This is one of the few mysteries in Nugent’s collection. I hope I can find more information about this particular piece of paper.

The Tradition of the Spring Break at IU

With the approach of another spring break, I thought I might address the question: when did the tradition of a spring break or vacation begin at IU?

The best and most convenient sources of information on this topic are the official calendars which until recently were printed in the IU Bulletins, the first of which was published in 1829.

No Spring Break As We Know It Today
From 1829-1850, IU divided the school year into two terms or sessions each five months long. The first session typically began in November and ended in March, and the second session began in May and ended in September. There were two, month long vacations each year in April and October. No other vacations or breaks are listed in the Bulletins for this time period, so presumably there was not a spring break as we know it today.

In 1850, IU went to a three term or session schedule of the type that we have at the present time, but for the period from 1850-58 the pattern differed somewhat from what we have today. The first or fall session began sometime in September and ended a few days before Christmas. The second or spring session began the first week of January and ended in the first week of April. The third or summer session began in the first week of May and ended the first week of August. The vacations were during the seven week period between summer and fall sessions, and the four week period between spring and summer. Although the four week recess between the spring and summer sessions could be called a spring break (although officially it was not), its length in no way resembles our modern day spring break. One can say, I believe, that this month long vacation belongs to the older nineteenth century tradition of long breaks between sessions with little or no time off during the term or session.

Spring Break Tradition Established
In 1858 the pattern changed. The fall term stayed the same but the other two sessions were altered: the second or spring term ended late in March rather than early April, and the summer session began a week later in April and ended at the end of June or early in July. There is no formal mention of a spring break in the Calendars, but the one week period in early April between sessions has the “look and feel” of a spring vacation that resembles the modern day version. In fact, in the 1872-73 calendar we find the first mention of a “Spring Vacation” occurring in the first week of April 1874.

So, one can safely say that the tradition of an IU spring break that resembles what we have today began in 1858, though if one wants to establish an official date, the year 1874 when the term appeared in the Calendar might be the better choice. However, over the years the exact dates of the spring break or vacation moved between mid to late March and early April. In addition, the length of the break varied. For example, in 1887, the spring break which had been a week or ten days including the weekend was reduced to four days including the weekend. However, in 1891 the break was again extended to ten days including the weekend, which was the pattern until 1913 when the spring vacation was again reduced to four days. The four day pattern persisted until 1942, when the War Service Plan formulated by a University Administrative War Council changed the school year to three semesters, discontinued the summer session, and lengthened the spring break to ten days. After the war, in 1945, the school year reverted back to the two semesters and a summer session pattern, and the spring break was again reduced to four days including the weekend. However, in 1949, the spring break was lengthened to seven days plus the weekend, and that pattern has persisted until the present day.

New finding aid: School of Fine Arts professor and fiber artist, Joan Sterrenburg

The finding aid for retired IU School of Fine Arts faculty member, Joan Sterrenburg, is now available! The collection offers a unique view into the teaching theories and professional development of fine arts faculty. Sterrenburg taught at IU from 1970 until 2004 and was part of an innovative group of professors who helped develop studio art into the dynamic program it is today.

In the late 1970s and early 80s IU offered one of the largest and most comprehensive textile programs, teaching traditional and non-traditional techniques, handwork, and off-loom processes. The Sterrenburg papers reflect the evolution of the program. In addition to her work as faculty in textiles, Sterrenburg founded and directed the Indiana University Handmade Paper Facility from 1979-1989. The collection contains an extensive amount of research about the history and practice of papermaking and development of dye recipes.

In a 1983 exhibition catalogue, Sterrenburg explained her artistic practice, which combined “image involvement with color interaction, modular construction, and an interplay of visual systems composed of constants and variables. I work to create energy and tension. I am totally seduced by the surface and ‘edge’ quality I can generate with hand-made paper. I have always worked to achieve a magical interaction of surface/material and structure/process.”

This philosophy of aesthetics is apparent in the large amount of 35mm slides included in the collection. There are also exhibition catalogs containing images of Sterrenburg’s works such as this piece from a 1983 show at the Hillwood Art Gallery, Long Island University, New York:”

Joan Sterrenburg, Colorado Strata, 1982. Dyed handmade rag paper, 70 x 72 x 2 in.
Joan Sterrenburg, Colorado Strata, 1982. Dyed handmade rag paper, 70 x 72 x 2 in.

There are also numerous teaching slides that illustrate the perception of color, perspective, and pattern, meant to inspire students to integrate the concepts into their work. Sterrenburg maintained contact with many of her students; the collection contains letters from appreciative students describing their post-graduation accomplishments and slides of their artworks and exhibitions.

This collection demonstrates the effort that goes into developing the curriculum of a studio art program and the challenge of balancing the inspiration of students along with the maintenance of one’s own artistic development. Sterrenburg’s papers are evidence of the excellence and creative spirit of the School of Fine Arts faculty.


Women’s History Month: IU’s First Coed, Sarah Parke Morrison

In 1867, Sarah Parke Morrison became the first woman admitted to Indiana University.

Morrison’s parents, John and Catherine, were themselves well-educated. John graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1828, at which time he returned to his hometown Salem, Indiana and opened the Washington County Seminary. At the Seminary John was in charge of Catherine Morris’ education for six years. In 1830, Catherine’s parents sent her to the Quaker-run Westtown Boarding School near Philadelphia, where she studied for two years. Upon her return to Salem, John proposed to Catherine and they were married September 11, 1832. Their first child, Sarah, was born in 1833.

In addition to the Washington County Seminary, John and Catherine worked together to open the Salem Female Seminary in 1835. Instead of hiring the customary male teaching assistants, they employed young female teachers from the East, a rarity in this time.

After a considerable amount of home schooling, Catherine decided it was time for her daughter Sarah to receive more formal training. Sarah attended Mount Holyoke Seminary, graduating from that institution in 1857. She went on to Vassar College, where she was a pupil-teacher and later to Williams College to do post-graduate work.

After studying at Williams, Sarah returned home to Salem. While preparing to attend the 1867 Indiana University commencement, Sarah’s father, formerly president of the IU Board of Trustees and now Treasurer of the State, remarked to Sarah that it was time for the University to open its doors to women and offered Sarah $5 to prepare an appeal to the Board of Trustees.

This Sarah did, and the Trustees found nothing in the University’s charter that barred women from entering the University. They declared women could enter under the same terms as men. Sarah, at 34 years of age and years of education behind her, had no desire to attend Indiana University and hoped some other woman would step forward. To her disappointment, no young woman did, so Sarah entered as a freshman in the fall of 1867.

It was the fashion then to wear large sun hats, with a rather broad ribbon going over the crown and tied under the chin. The young men were not dangerous to me nor I to them, but I was thankful for the protection that hat afforded me from six hundred eyes presumably furtively ‘casting a sly glance at me’.

Sarah completed the four year program in two years, graduating in 1869. Four years after her graduation, Sarah was appointed tutor and in 1874 she became IU’s first female faculty member when she was named adjunct professor of English literature. Despite Sarah’s success as a student, the male students did not readily accept her as their superior. She only stayed at IU for one more year, at which time she left for other pursuits.

Sarah remained an active alumna of the University, however, frequently writing the Board of Trustees inquiring why women have not been placed as members of the various University boards. To voice her protest, she began returning her alumni ballots for the Board of Trustees marked “for some woman.”

Sarah Parke Morrison died in 1919 and is buried in Indianapolis.

The Archives holds a small collection of Sarah’s papers, which includes, among other things, a handwritten account of her entrance to IU as well as the frequent letters written to university administrators admonishing the lack of female representation among its ranks.

"Pardon me, but why have ladies not been placed upon the Board of Visitors? What is the use of so many men?"
“What is the use of so many men?”

Knightstown, Ind. Jan 19, 06

To Isaac Jenkinson, President and the Board of Trustees:

Honored Friends,

Pardon me, but why have ladies not been placed upon the Board of Visitors? To think that ever since 68 you have declared the half of the kingdom theirs, and yet they have not even a name among you as co-workers. You do not wish to increase the number upon the Boards? Certainly not. What is the use of so many men?

Click here to read her letter in its entirety: Morrison

Arts, Crafts, and Preservation

These past few weeks have been a flurry of activity in the archives as fellow co-worker Amy finishes her exhibit of Robert Borkenstein, inventor of the Breathalyzer. She’s done a great job putting together such a large exhibit in so short a time, and it will be ready this weekend for the SAA-SC Conference being held at IU. If you can, come up to the archives office and check it out! There is a variety of materials in the exhibit, from Breathalyzer prototypes to newspaper clippings to photographs. It is a visually interesting exhibit!

While I had little to do with curating the exhibit, I was able to help out a little bit by mounting some of the photos. This was a big deal for me; I’ve never had this opportunity before. As an undergraduate student archival assistant, I was probably not trusted enough to try my hand at mounts that would adequately support and display the photograph. Dina Kellams taught me how to cut through thick foam board with an Exacto knife and straight edge, then attach strips of clear plastic to the corners to hold the photograph or newspaper clipping. (All these materials are, naturally, archival quality.) I found it a little nerve-wracking to size up and create the foam board backing – after all, one of the first principles taught in archival preservation is to keep knives and pencils away from the materials – but I would say that the four photograph mounts I created turned out all right. We have boxes of old mounts that can be recycled into new exhibits, but finding a mount that exactly fits your material is tricky. I had to leave one oddly-cut newspaper clipping on the table for a more experienced worker to handle. It will take a little work to become an expert in archival mounting, but my first foray into that project was a fun experience.

Reference questions for the archives, though very usual, have not been fielded my way in the past two weeks, so I’ve had time to finish up the publications series in Nugent’s papers. There is still a little cleaning up to do, but for the most part they have all been organized into 17 boxes. It’s pleasant to open up the boxes and see the neat, clean rows of manila folders. That might be one of my favorite results of processing. Of course, the organization and accessibility of the papers is an important result as well. For the most part, the publications series is organized chronologically, within the subseries of monographs, articles, and reviews. Nugent has been a very prolific writer and it’s not unusual for him to have written, and kept, over six drafts of one article, which takes up space quickly. I haven’t counted how many different publications are in those 17 boxes, but I would guess well over 100. Looking around me at all the boxes in this room alone, it boggles my mind at how much information and knowledge (institutional, professional, and personal) in so many formats is kept and preserved in archives.

In Nugent’s older writings, nearly everything in the boxes were bound with rusty paperclips or staples. Needless to say, this is undesirable from a preservation standpoint as the rust will stain and wear away at the paper, in addition to creating “rust dust” that is not pretty nor healthy for the papers. One of the main reasons processing can take so long is that all these paper clips and staples must be removed before the papers can be filed away. As I’m sure many processors have done, I used to have competitions with my co-workers to see who could fill up a jar with discolored metal faster. Newer paperclips and staples that have not yet become discolored are less of a preservation concern, since the climate control in archives helps prevent rusting, but it remains a problem to watch for in archives.

All in all, it’s been a good two weeks for learning new preservation skills and reinforcing old preservation standards.