Oberlin College Archives Student Blog

The student blog of the oberlin college archives

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My First Peek at Oberlin History

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Hey, I’m Eva Fineberg and I will be the new webmaster at the Oberlin College Archives!

This week concluded my third week of working part-time at the Archives under my trusty mentor James Scott. As a computer science major, when I was first hired as Assistant Webmaster I expected the job to be coding intensive. And while James has patiently been showing me the ropes of the website I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety of tasks this job entails.

For starters, the volume of the collection is huge. Who knew how much history was stored away in a quiet section of 4th floor Mudd? After getting a quick and exciting tour of the system of shelving I was anxious to see more of the history actually stored inside the boxes. Soon enough a project required James and I to search for a photograph of a young woman who graduated from Oberlin in 1909. The photographs in the collection of graduates from 1909 say a lot about the time – the fashion and the poise of the graduates emulate the more formal feel Oberlin once had despite its history as a forward-moving, progressive institution. In fact, the woman whose photo we were searching for was a Women’s Studies major, yet almost all group photos were divided by gender. The search was an insightful glimpse into some the history Oberlin’s Archives hold and I look forward to doing more things just like it.

The photograph we searched for is for a student project for History 213.  History 213 is a class titled First Wave American Feminism taught in Spring 2013. All of the projects for that class, can be found at: http://oberlin.edu/archive/teaching/projects/hist213.html

Check it out! 

Eva

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Perhaps the most visually stimulating record of student life on campus is our poster collection. These student-made posters tell us a lot – they give us not only an idea of past events on campus, some of which would otherwise go undocumented, but they reveal the culture and visual aesthetic of Oberlin students at a given point in time.

Our most recent accession, a collection of 34 silkscreened event posters gifted by Raphael Martin ‘02, does exactly that.  During his four years at Oberlin, from 1998 to 2002, Martin collected these posters, most of which were silkscreened by students of Prof. John Pearson. They present a wide range of visual styles and advertise dances, concerts, art openings, parties, film screenings, speakers, and Oberlin’s Big Parade. Only a few duplicate posters already in our collections; together they represent an important cross-section of posters from the turn of the millennium.

I think the “Scotographs” poster is a particularly cool one. The word itself, popping against the blue, leads my eye back in space towards the guitar, which seems to be exploding riffs outwards through the stripes. The whole poster has a loud, screaming sound to it, and if I saw this poster today hanging in the Mudd stairwell today, I’d definitely go check these photos out.

-James

(top photo courtesy of Raphael Martin ‘02)

Filed under oberlin Oberlin College Oberlin College Archives archives poster posters guitar bikes movies design art silkscreen students

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If you haven’t had a chance yet to come see our “Out of the Box” exhibit, there’s still time! This exhibit is our first to take place in the newly renovated Goodrich Room on the 4th floor of Mudd Library. We’re highlighting some of the cool (and sometimes weird) objects in our collection, like the hats and clubs pictured above. The clubs, especially, are an interesting story. We only had minimal documentation on them until Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Norman Craig stopped by to see the exhibit and, recognizing the clubs, decided to share some of his knowledge with us.
Though we typically think of these as juggling clubs, these are actually what are known as Indian clubs, popular exercise tools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were used in a variety of swinging routines. In India, larger versions of clubs like these were used by wrestlers to develop strength. The practice was taken up by the British in the Victorian era and then popularized in the U.S.  These specific clubs were owned by Fred E. Leonard, a professor of Physical Education at Oberlin from 1888-1922. Werner Bromund, a professor Chemistry from 1937-75, was a Big Ten champion in the Indian clubs routine as a student at the University of Chicago. Bromund would frequently demonstrate his skills with the clubs during Illumination at Oberlin.
If you have a minute, stop by the Archives and check them out!

If you haven’t had a chance yet to come see our “Out of the Box” exhibit, there’s still time! This exhibit is our first to take place in the newly renovated Goodrich Room on the 4th floor of Mudd Library. We’re highlighting some of the cool (and sometimes weird) objects in our collection, like the hats and clubs pictured above. The clubs, especially, are an interesting story. We only had minimal documentation on them until Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Norman Craig stopped by to see the exhibit and, recognizing the clubs, decided to share some of his knowledge with us.


Though we typically think of these as juggling clubs, these are actually what are known as Indian clubs, popular exercise tools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were used in a variety of swinging routines. In India, larger versions of clubs like these were used by wrestlers to develop strength. The practice was taken up by the British in the Victorian era and then popularized in the U.S.  These specific clubs were owned by Fred E. Leonard, a professor of Physical Education at Oberlin from 1888-1922. Werner Bromund, a professor Chemistry from 1937-75, was a Big Ten champion in the Indian clubs routine as a student at the University of Chicago. Bromund would frequently demonstrate his skills with the clubs during Illumination at Oberlin.

If you have a minute, stop by the Archives and check them out!

Filed under Oberlin archives hats juggling clubs Indian clubs exhibit objects exercise Oberlin College cool strange college

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For those of you following this blog and wondering what happened to James, he’s in Berlin doing a semester abroad.  Here’s a message from him:  “I’m having a great time in Berlin. It’s an amazing city with so much history - I live only a block away from where the Berlin wall used to run along separating the entire city in half.”  Here he is (right) with a giant propeller (or is it a sculpture?).

For those of you following this blog and wondering what happened to James, he’s in Berlin doing a semester abroad.  Here’s a message from him:  “I’m having a great time in Berlin. It’s an amazing city with so much history - I live only a block away from where the Berlin wall used to run along separating the entire city in half.”  Here he is (right) with a giant propeller (or is it a sculpture?).

Filed under James Berlin Oberlin semester abroad

7 notes &

Sometimes we hear adjectives getting tossed around in reference to the Archives like “scary” or “spooky” or “dusty.” These are utterly, completely, and absolutely false (except for the dusty part, maybe). Today, partially in an effort to dispel some of these ill-founded conceptions, we have created for you a guided photographic tour of the Archives! We’re giving you an exclusive glimpse into the archives vault. Click on the photos above to view them, then consult the list below for a brief explanation of each. Have fun!

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1. Welcome to the Archives! We’re located on the fourth floor of Mudd Library, right next to Special Collections.

2. This is Louisa, our friendly Archival Assistant. She’s the person you’ll likely interact with most when you visit the Archives. She’s smart, helpful, and great at finding what you’re looking for. Hi Louisa!

3. Here’s the reading room. This is where visitors sit and view materials, take notes, do research, etc. The reading room will be renovated this summer to create a brand new teaching room that we’ll be sharing with Special Collections.

4. This is the processing room. Now we’ve entered the vault! The processing room is where we will generally organize and describe materials. Here you can see Anne Salsich, the Assistant Archivist, motioning to the first all-College panorama photograph from 1906, just returned to us from the Intermuseum Conservation Association.

5. Also in the processing room are our flat files, where we keep posters, large photographs, maps, and architectural drawings. In front of them, on the carts, we keep materials that we’ve prepared for scheduled research appointments.

6. The shelves themselves. Here is a view down one row of shelves. They’re packed with boxes, and most boxes are packed with papers…

7. But not all boxes! Here is a box filled with film reels.

8. These blue boxes have class albums in them, similar to the unboxed ones also in this photo. These albums date back as far as 1858.

9. Here are some of our framed portraits, maps, and artworks lining the wall behind the shelves.

10. And finally, the shooting studio, which we share with Special Collections. This is where we take high quality digital photographs of materials to add to our digital collections.

Usually the College Archivist Ken Grossi is around, but he was out of the office today. We’ll get a photo of him in his natural habitat next time. Hope you enjoyed the tour. Like or reblog this post if you did and we may do more in the future.

-James

Filed under Oberlin Oberlin College albums archives films james photos shleves tour vault portrait studio

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The job sometimes took longer than necessary because of that tendency of hers to get lost in things: illustrations in children’s books, brittle newspaper clippings and, especially, handwritten notes from the long dead. She feels the rush of intimacy as the distance in time collapses.

A quote from this interesting New York Times article by Dan Barry about how a book conservationist, Marie Malchodi, discovered an original print by famed patriot Paul Revere in Brown University’s rare book collection. Rare books are not quite what we deal with here at the Archives, but I can definitely relate to these feelings.

-James

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5 notes &

            Hi, I’m Gregory Wikstrom. I have been the Webmaster of the Archives for a little over a year now. My job doesn’t only involve our website; I assist however else I am needed. Usually this means I get to carry around heavy boxes and put them in inconveniently high places. But I also see the inner workings of daily life at the Archives, and get to help finding information and processing collections. I am a Studio Art major and a senior. I like photography, film and music.                         
            This past weekend my senior thesis show, “The Collection” opened in Fisher Gallery. We built an 8-foot wall to divide the gallery into two spaces. In the first space you entered, we had created “The Office of the Collection,” a research organization of ambiguous mission and nature.  There was no limit to the sorts of things they seemed to be researching; on one table was a taken apart sewing machine, each individual piece labeled meticulously. On another table there lay fifteen photographs from the cell phone of a Chinese gangster, a tattooed man in various exotic places, grinning with stacks of yuan. The Office of the Collection represents the presence of surveillance and the collection of our information in our daily lives.
            As we designed the space, I couldn’t help but noticing the ways in which I was inspired by my work at the Archives. We had filled the space to the brim with collections of papers and photos and broken electronics, and couldn’t figure out how to install it all to be distinct within the space. I wanted the collections to look like research experiments; I wanted each one to look important. I began to think about the collections at the Archives, the fundamental common denominators between all of the different types of stuff. I thought of one afternoon I spent at the Archives putting fifty-or-so ancient Chinese coins into individual bags. I thought of the aesthetic transformation that had occurred with the objects over the day. At first, there was a box filled with irregular metal objects, scraping and clanking against one another, an archivist’s nightmare.  When I had finished, there was no longer any irregularity, only tiny Ziplocs silently sliding around in a manila folder, and a guide to their significances in a taupe box. I realized: I had processed that collection. In order to look significant, my objects needed to look processed.
            And so I applied that aesthetic as I directed the installation of the space. I numbered and labeled everything I could. I created literature to accompany the objects in the form of lists and diagrams. It didn’t matter to me whether or not the viewer could decipher what was being cataloged and why. It just needed to look, in a way, almost like the Archives. The office needed to seem to be confronted with a wealth of raw material in different media, and determining how they would manage it all.
            Towards the end of the installation, I added a finishing touch to imply a temporality, or evidence that “The Collection” had been going on for a while. I recycled some of the Archives’ old boxes that had lost their acid-free value, relabeled them to say “The Office of the Collection,” and built a shelf for them. While this one shelf paled in comparison to the ranges in the back of the Archives, I hope the stately, metal-edge boxes suggested the power of collection. Archivists, investigators, security personnel, and all collectors assume a role that requires them to step outside of reality in order to observe and preserve it. By assuming that role and working or existing in that space, they dictate how we are understood and how we are remembered. For us, the subjects, that knowledge is indispensible.

            Hi, I’m Gregory Wikstrom. I have been the Webmaster of the Archives for a little over a year now. My job doesn’t only involve our website; I assist however else I am needed. Usually this means I get to carry around heavy boxes and put them in inconveniently high places. But I also see the inner workings of daily life at the Archives, and get to help finding information and processing collections. I am a Studio Art major and a senior. I like photography, film and music.                        

            This past weekend my senior thesis show, “The Collection” opened in Fisher Gallery. We built an 8-foot wall to divide the gallery into two spaces. In the first space you entered, we had created “The Office of the Collection,” a research organization of ambiguous mission and nature.  There was no limit to the sorts of things they seemed to be researching; on one table was a taken apart sewing machine, each individual piece labeled meticulously. On another table there lay fifteen photographs from the cell phone of a Chinese gangster, a tattooed man in various exotic places, grinning with stacks of yuan. The Office of the Collection represents the presence of surveillance and the collection of our information in our daily lives.

            As we designed the space, I couldn’t help but noticing the ways in which I was inspired by my work at the Archives. We had filled the space to the brim with collections of papers and photos and broken electronics, and couldn’t figure out how to install it all to be distinct within the space. I wanted the collections to look like research experiments; I wanted each one to look important. I began to think about the collections at the Archives, the fundamental common denominators between all of the different types of stuff. I thought of one afternoon I spent at the Archives putting fifty-or-so ancient Chinese coins into individual bags. I thought of the aesthetic transformation that had occurred with the objects over the day. At first, there was a box filled with irregular metal objects, scraping and clanking against one another, an archivist’s nightmare.  When I had finished, there was no longer any irregularity, only tiny Ziplocs silently sliding around in a manila folder, and a guide to their significances in a taupe box. I realized: I had processed that collection. In order to look significant, my objects needed to look processed.

            And so I applied that aesthetic as I directed the installation of the space. I numbered and labeled everything I could. I created literature to accompany the objects in the form of lists and diagrams. It didn’t matter to me whether or not the viewer could decipher what was being cataloged and why. It just needed to look, in a way, almost like the Archives. The office needed to seem to be confronted with a wealth of raw material in different media, and determining how they would manage it all.

            Towards the end of the installation, I added a finishing touch to imply a temporality, or evidence that “The Collection” had been going on for a while. I recycled some of the Archives’ old boxes that had lost their acid-free value, relabeled them to say “The Office of the Collection,” and built a shelf for them. While this one shelf paled in comparison to the ranges in the back of the Archives, I hope the stately, metal-edge boxes suggested the power of collection. Archivists, investigators, security personnel, and all collectors assume a role that requires them to step outside of reality in order to observe and preserve it. By assuming that role and working or existing in that space, they dictate how we are understood and how we are remembered. For us, the subjects, that knowledge is indispensible.

Filed under Oberlin Oberlin College archives art show gregory fisher gallery

9 notes &

Postcard of drawing by Bristow Adams, c.1903
Here’s a little gem for you all today, straight from the Archives postcard collection. This postcard features an illustration by journalist, professor, forester, and artist Bristow Adams (1875-1957). Notice the crimson and gold sky - the spirit of Oberlin is truly in the air. To get a sense of the accuracy of Adams’ illustration, compare to this photograph from our Digital Collections.
Aside from the creation of this postcard, Bristow Adams had nothing to do with Oberlin. He was a Stanford grad, and as a student he founded one of our country’s longest running humor magazines, the Stanford Chaparral. He also did some scientific illustration of fur seals in the Bering Sea while still a student, which can be viewed at the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections here. He remains most famous, however, for his illustrations of college athletics, a few more of which can be found over at the Library of Congress site here. For more information on Bristow Adams, head on over to the site of a fellow archive at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library.
-James

Postcard of drawing by Bristow Adams, c.1903

Here’s a little gem for you all today, straight from the Archives postcard collection. This postcard features an illustration by journalist, professor, forester, and artist Bristow Adams (1875-1957). Notice the crimson and gold sky - the spirit of Oberlin is truly in the air. To get a sense of the accuracy of Adams’ illustration, compare to this photograph from our Digital Collections.

Aside from the creation of this postcard, Bristow Adams had nothing to do with Oberlin. He was a Stanford grad, and as a student he founded one of our country’s longest running humor magazines, the Stanford Chaparral. He also did some scientific illustration of fur seals in the Bering Sea while still a student, which can be viewed at the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections here. He remains most famous, however, for his illustrations of college athletics, a few more of which can be found over at the Library of Congress site here. For more information on Bristow Adams, head on over to the site of a fellow archive at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library.

-James