Click on it to see it bigger!
And since we’d be bad archivists if we didn’t cite our own stuff… Clockwise from the upper left:
1. Captains Glenn & Culp, near Portage Bay, 1898. Photographer: Walter C. Mendenhall. Edwin F. Glenn papers.
2. Fur Rendezvous Queen, 1958. Photographer: Donald Arthur Post. Donald Arthur Post slides.
3. Katherine & Jack Claypool, in either Circle City of Tanana, date unknown. Charles E. Claypool photographs.
4. Dr. Fraser & Irene Lindsay in the Lindsay Hotel, Porcupine, Alaska, circa 1899-1907. Sally Irene Lindsay photographs. Photograph made available by the family of Winella and James A. Vibbert.
5. Unknown man pushing sled of supplies near Homer, Alaska, date unknown. Ann & Robert Mounteer papers.
6. “Jack the Barber” at Independence Mine, 1939. Russ Dow papers.
All of the above images (and more besides!) are available through the Alaska’s Digital Archives.
Archives Loves Memes!
One of the things about having students in to do research is that we often don’t get to see what becomes of the research they do. That’s not really a complaint, by the way, it’s just the way things go. Back when I was a university student, by the time I finished a research project, I was done with it and never wanted to see it again, much less show it off to others. This is Arlene, if you’re wondering.
But recently, this changed for us. This semester, Professor Paul White of the Anthropology Dept, came to us and asked if he could have his students in A482, Historical Archaeology, do a project with archival records. Of course we said Yes! (We might have even shouted it, a little. We love it when students do research with us.) The collection he chose was the Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mining Company records. APCMC ran a variety of mines in the Hatcher Pass area, the best known of which is Independence Mine. So a variety of sections of records within the collection were selected, and the students were asked to do a variety of projects with those records, culminating in a term paper talking about the results of their research. Here’s the best bit: Dr. White was kind enough to invite us to see the progress reports given by the students to the class. And yesterday was one of those days.
I have to tell you, you have never seen a bunch of more energized archivists as when we’ve come back from those presentations. Seeing what the students do, where they went with the records, how their research interacted and intersected with other students in the class: it’s inspirational for us reference-providing types. Not to mention educational: we learn more about how people can make use of records than we could possibly ever come up with on our own. Which means that we provide better reference access to archival collections in future.
I’d like to share one with you, mainly because the moment the student presented the graphic in class, I was diving for my purse for my camera. Turns out, my battery was dead, but the student, Penny Bradley, agreed to drop by the Archives later this week and let me get a picture of it. But before I show it to you (am I good at tantalizing, or what?) I want to tell you about her project. She and another student were going through the accident reports dating from about 1938 to 1943 and creating a database of incidents. What Penny chose to focus on for her paper was where the miner was most likely to be injured–not location in the mine, but location on the body. And she decided that the best visual way to show this was to draw a man with the sections of his body color coded for frequency of incidents. Okay, now I’ll show you.
This is Independence Mine Accident Man. That’s what Penny told me his official name was, when I asked if she’d named him. And the main reason I was asking was that she’d just told me she wasn’t planning to do anything with him, he’d probably just end up buried in her closet and eventually disappear, and so I took my opportunity and asked her if I (we) could have him. She agreed, kindly not with a hint of “humoring the insane woman at the Archives,” and we’ve now adopted Independence Mine Accident Man (IMA Man, for short.) He’s been framed and will be hanging on the wall in our processing area just as soon as I have time to go borrow a hammer.
The real reason I wanted IMA Man (aside from his obvious charm) is that he’s an excellent teaching tool: a representation of what archival records can become, how they can be used. I’m thinking he’ll be a centerpiece of any instruction sessions we do with the Public Health courses, for one.
We’ll be checking to see if any of the other students are willing to share the products of their research and maybe allow us to share them with the rest of you, too.
And in the meantime, IMA Man is hanging out with us. He’s not in a public area of the Archives, but we’re still willing to share. If you’d like to see him, please ask one of the archivists and we’ll be happy to escort you into his new home so you can meet him too. And, of course, you’re always welcome to look at the APCMC records too, but it’s a pretty sizable collection so you might just want to follow that link above and see if there’s anything specific in the collection that particularly appeals to you.
Each image acts as a link to the Alaska’s Digital Archives copy of the image. If you’d like to learn more about it, click on the photograph.
We’ve had students in an anthropology class working in the Archives this semester on a variety of projects having to do with the Independence Mine (Alaska Pacific Consolidated Mining Company records, to be more precise.) They’ve been a really fun crew to have around.
We had a request from one of the students today for some copies of oral history transcripts from the collection. Now, when I (Arlene) make copies, I don’t really read the documents I’m copying, but things still occasionally jump off the page at me. And a paragraph from one of the Joe Sertich transcripts really jumped off the page at me.
I want to switch thoughts for a second. When we teach about primary sources and how to identify and use them, one of the things we’re really careful to discuss is how researchers need to think about bias. What perspectives might have influenced the creation of the document? Is there “spin?” It’s really important to assess these sorts of things when using primary source material–well, secondary too, for that matter–because it may affect the conclusions you’re able to draw from information you’re seeing. So that’s all well and good, until you see something like the paragraph I just tripped across. I’ll copy it out for you. Mr. Sertich was talking about the various people he’d worked with at the mine.
(Quick note: the following quote includes some mild profanity.)
I got to tell you about another deal that was instituted up there at the Independence Mine. Of course, things were going along in great shape and this started, now, oh, it was probably about the middle of, maybe late in the year of 1938, and I don’t know how this was ever instigated, who had started this, but a fellow came up there from Seattle. He was an older guy and he was supposed to be the efficiency expert. Well, that’s all the miners needed was an efficiency expert, and especially, when they put that handle on them. Well, he was a nice enough old guy, but he didn’t fit in with our miner’s thinking at all. So they came up with these little forms. Every miner had to fill it out at the end of the shift, his name, the date, the stope or drift or raise you were working in, and how many caps you used, blasting caps, how many sticks at so many percent dynamite, how many feet of lagging, and how many feet of timber, and how many cars of ore or muck were mucked out or rock, or whatever it happened to be.
Of course, all of us pretty much resented it. I don’t know that we resented it, it just seemed to us that we didn’t need an efficiency expert there after the mine was pretty well established and on a paying basis, and boy we used to screw up those forms deliberately. Heck, and I don’t know what he ever did with them. I found some of those forms laying around years after. I think when I was up there in ’76 there was a bunch of those forms laying all over. I think he was just there to have a job, and I don’t think he was doing anything to make that mine any more efficient. I don’t know how much he knew about mining, but he was kind of a pariah around there, nobody ever, hardly ever talked to him. I don’t know, we just figured he was way-to-hell over left field where he belonged and nobody was going to have anything to do with him. And there were times when the guys would, hell they’d have more darn dynamite that they blasted up in one day, or timber that they used, say 20 feet of timber, they’d probably put 40 or 50. And, here they were using more material up in the mine than ever came up the hill. Drove him kind of crazy. I guess he used to add and subtract these things, and I don’t know what he ever did with them.
My reaction to this is mixed. At the same time I find it really funny, I’m also kind of freaked out. I’m used to looking for bias, teaching how to look for bias, especially in personal records, but I think a lot of us tend to assume that corporate records are somehow cleaner. More accurate. In this collection, I’ve seen some of these forms that the miners filled out. And if I were assessing them for bias, I’d figure that miners might be exaggerating a little as to how much ore or such they’d pulled out of the mine to make their productivity look better. But it would never have occurred to me that they might be flat-out lying about the amounts of materials they consumed while working!
I’m not sure what the lesson here is. I’m not sure my take-away for students and researchers should be to assume the documents are totally and completely wrong, deliberately falsified. Maybe the lesson is (and it’s one I really, really like) is to remember the archivist’s secret weapon: context. If you were to review other records that came from the mine that year–say, the purchasing records–it would become very clear very quickly that something was amiss, that it would be very difficult for the miners to be using double the dynamite that the mine was bringing in. Part of the reason I like this lesson is that for a long time I’ve thought it was dangerous for a researcher to rely on a single archival document and not read or assess the surrounding and related material when tracking down answers. It’s part of the reason I argue against item-level description for documents sometimes: we really shouldn’t be encouraging researchers–especially new ones–to ignore context and surrounding information that might provide a more realistic view of what was actually happening.
But that’s a different soapbox for a different day. At any rate, the next time somebody comes in to research in the miners’ logs, I hope they’ll understand that some of the documents might not be all that realistic. That if they’re looking at productivity, they’re going to need to use more than just these.
But really. The part of my brain that found this amusing is the part of my brain that was cheering the miners on. Who hasn’t wanted to do this occasionally in the face of an efficiency expert when you think you’re doing your job just fine?
Footnote to Dean Rollins: I would never, ever do this on our departmental annual report. Ever. Really.
The Microspatula, by Jason Sylvestre
There are a number of things that I find cringe-worthy as an archivist: legal sized documents, scotch tape, paperclips, rusty staples, and unruly masses of paper. Although my favorite archival tool can’t address all of these, it does handle my most hated enemy, rusty staples, with ease. The micro-spatula is my go-to item for removing staples from tissue paper, plying papers clips from the page and unsticking stuck items. The micro-spatula is an 8” stainless steel tool with one rounded end and one tapered end. It is a versatile item to have on hand when dealing with delicate materials.
In many cases a regular staple remover works just fine, but there are times when it’s just too blunt an instrument. Older staples don’t often come in the standard size we’re used to today. The staples I’m talking about are half the size of today’s and are a breeding ground for rust. Using a staple remover on them can take a big chunk of the very paper you are trying to preserve. It is a job that requires more finesse, the kind only a micro-spatula can provide. The tapered end of the spatula slides right under the hooked end of the staple and lifts it with ease. Repeat on the other hooked end and the staple slides right out leaving only its original holes in the paper. The micro-spatula is equally adept at separating paper clips stuck to the page without tearing the paper.
Although it can be a risky procedure, a micro-spatula can also be used to separate items stuck together. If the items don’t come apart easily, it’s best not to force them. If stuck items appear to need only a little help separating, the narrow ends of the micro-spatula are great for sliding in between and coaxing them apart.
The micro-spatula has many more uses in conservation, but for me, staple removal is its primary function.
Inspired by a posting from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art earlier this month, we decided to share some of our favorite archives tools with you! First up, Arlene.
My Flip HD videocam, by Arlene
I know this may be surprising to include in a list of archival tools, but I love it.
Here’s the thing: I’d like to blame it on a period of sleep deprivation I had a few years ago, but I suspect it’s just age. My memory. It just isn’t what it used to be. So my Flip goes everywhere with me, especially when I go to visit donors and they show me their collections or if I need to review large quantities of records. I walk and talk with my Flip in hand and voila: instant recording with both video and audio so when that 500 cubic foot collection is brought in the door, I know how we packed it, what went where, all those things that took place at the donor’s home or place of business. Just brilliant. A few years ago when we had a long-distance processor working for us, I would film as I walked the collection stacks area and read the labels on the boxes so she knew what had been put where. And it’s what we used to film Mariecris’s great tutorial on building cheap and easy book enclosures (that’s part 1 of 5, there). And I keep promising myself that one of these days, we’ll film a guide to parking on campus for our researchers. Just as soon as I convince somebody else to star in it! Now that I’ve got the Flip, I can’t imagine how I functioned without it.
PS: I’m told that they’re stopping the production of the Flips soon. Very sad, since the aforementioned memory problem means it now takes me a little longer to learn new pieces of equipment than it used to do. Good thing I own a few of them so I hopefully won’t have to swap out for a very long time.
PPS: In between taking the photograph of the Flip above and posting this, I managed to kill that one. Broke the lens. It still works, but in order to protect the optics when I use it, I’ve put it in its waterproof case and that kind of interferes with the audio quality. So I went out and bought a new one for general use. I haven’t yet made a pretty skin for it like I did for the one above, but one of these days I will.
Every so often we’ll find something in a collection that really resonates with us and the work we do. For me (Arlene), this week, that was a letter. The letter was pasted into an album of photographs kept by A. G. Maddren. A. G. Maddren was a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and in 1911-12 he was on an expedition working on the US/Canada boundary survey.
Apparently the Chief Photographer back in the office in DC had had enough, and the Acting Director of the USGS, George H. Ashley had probably gotten an earful, and a memo was sent out in the form of an Order.
In short, the letter complained of the “inadequacy of many of the titles in the authors’ photograph books in the laboratory. ”
Though the statement that incomplete labeling “is always productive of a loss of time” struck home, the part that really caught my eye was the preceding statement of “Such inadequacy in labels may become serious in case the author leaves the Survey.”
See, that’s the thing about records and especially photographs. If they aren’t labeled at the time, what are the chances that somebody else will recognize them later and be able to provide descriptions? And if they go unlabeled, how will any potential user ever know how to find them?
Sometimes we luck out and are able to recognize a location in an image: Mt. McKinley, Mt. Marathon are often givens, certain areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seward are pretty easy, Nome’s waterfront, that sort of thing, but not always, and especially not in the area of Alaska Maddren was traversing which is totally unknown to me! And we certainly don’t have the option that the acting head of USGS had, which was to close his order with the statement that any inadequately identified image would be returned to the photographer for labeling.
So my standard plea to everybody, whether or not you ever intend your personal or work photos to end up in an archives: label soon and well?
By the way, Mr. Maddren clearly didn’t learn his lesson from the letter he so carefully attached in the album. Here’s the photo on the facing page:
If you click on the image, you can see the handwriting to the left of it where somebody carefully noted the identity of each individual in the photo by a single initial. So much for Orders.
P.S. A student digitized all the photos in the album for us a while back and I hope to have them up on the Alaska’s Digital Archives site within a month or so. So keep an eye out, and maybe if you’re familiar with the northern boundary area between Alaska and Canada, you can identify some of those unidentified locales for us.
In 1862, the British Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Trades sponsored an international exposition in London. Exhibitors brought wares from 36 countries, and a publishing house chose 300 of the items in the exhibit to publish via tinted lithographs.
Which they did, in a 3-volume set with the substantial title of: Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at the International Exhibition 1862.
The Rare Books collection at the Consortium Library has the first two volumes of this set. And they’re very beautiful, despite being in fairly rough shape. The edges of the pages–gilt-edged, no less–are worn and brittle, and the covers of the volumes are quite worn too, as you can see from the image on the left.
But the lithographs, well, the lithographs are really quite spectacular. Many very colorful and samples of a wide array of manufactured goods, from paisley shawls from India, to fireproof safes from Berlin, to Milanese glasswork, to British ironwork. The books lean a little toward the British manufacture side of things, but the publishers were very cognizant of the audience for these volumes and made sure to put the description pages in both French and English, so as to broaden the potential purchasing appeal. And even the descriptions have momentary flights of fancy with insets of poetry. You start to wonder if even the author was occasionally challenged to find enough to say about a floorcloth to fill up an entire page. He occasionally got whimsical as well, as evidenced by the warning to any neophyte attempting to drink alcohol from a Danish carved drinking horn, which was to get instructions first to avoid splashing liquor on yourself (that page is on exhibit. Who could resist?)
Every so often, when I need a bit of graphical inspiration, I go and fetch the two volumes and very carefully page through them and see what there is to see. I usually come away with something. So recently, when I was doing this, Mariecris walked up and wanted to know what I was doing. And I explained that visually, this was one of my favorite books from the Rare Books collection and it was really a pity that more people weren’t aware of the treasures within it. Well, yes. Obviously it was time to take it to exhibit. Which is where it went this morning: into the cases in the Library’s Great Room. Not all: just some selected pages along with the second volume (which is in much better shape than the first).
And before you worry about any tendency I might have to destroy books in the process of exhibiting them, I should tell you that the volumes came to the Consortium Library almost completely disbound. No books were harmed during the making of this exhibit. The pages on display were already completely removed from the spine of the books and from other pages.
If you need to practice your French reading skills or want some design inspiration, whether it be ironwork, or web design flourishes, or maybe just looking for your next bit of ink, you might want to take a look.
And after we take it off exhibit, the books will be carefully put back together, wrapped up for their protection, and placed back with the other oversize rare books in our archival storage area. And once again be available for your viewing pleasure. Call # NK510.L7 1862. (actually that should be 1863: the exposition was in 1862, the volume was published in 1863. Projects like this take a little bit of time.) I hope you find it as inspirational as I do.
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing it but can’t make it in, you might just want to go look at an online version. Go to the Consortium Library’s main page, click on WorldCat (new) under Find Books, click on advanced search, type in “masterpieces of industrial art” in the title field and 1862 in the keyword field, and click search. You’ll pull up 47 hits, so look at the left-hand-sidebar, and under format, click on the “internet resource.” You’ll pull up one hit, click on the title, and you’ll be given a link to the Ruprecht Karls Universitat Heidelberg online edition of the volumes. You’ll see the three volumes listed there, and as you click on the links to them, you can go looking at individual pages.
Call for Participation: Be a Co-Curator!
Archives & Special Collections
Eye of the Beholder 4: One Image, Many Perspectives
October 3, 2011-?
THE EXHIBIT: Archives & Special Collections is mounting an exhibit to demonstrate how a single item: this image in particular, could be used/interpreted/described in a variety of ways based on the viewer’s knowledge, skills, and areas of interest. If you’d like to alter the image in some way as all of or a part of your interpretation, we’d welcome that as well.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Deadline for submissions is September 30. We seek specialists in any field to provide their interpretation of this image for use in the exhibit. What do you have to say about this image? Would you like to interpret it from your own area of expertise whether it be scientific, historical, sports, environmental, or tourism development? Or something else? Are you a graphic artist who would like to take the image and alter it and use it in some way? Does it prompt a story, a poem, a song, a sculpture? Or an Op-Ed piece? Submit entries to our email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note “Archives exhibit” in the subject line and provide your name, title, and email address, and short description of your own perspective or specialization. Or drop it by the Archives between 10-4, M-F.
Click on the image to the left for a bigger view. Or if you need a higher resolution copy, a tiff file (4 mb) is available at: http://consortiumlibrary.org/archives/Requests/ArchivesExhibit/
The Archives will retain all submissions as part of the exhibit file. An online version of the exhibit will be posted at a later date.
We find a lot of people who participate in our annual Eye of the Beholder exhibit don’t want to know what the picture is about before they start work on it. If you’re one of those people, you won’t want to read the information below.
What we know about the image:
- July 4, 1963
- Seward, Alaska
- Starting line of the Mt. Marathon race
- Photographer: probably Christine McClain, a long-time Alaska resident and freelance journalist