Preserving the Paris Attacks

On November 13, 2015, Paris experienced a shocking series of attacks that resulted in the deaths of one hundred and thirty innocent people. The entire world joined Paris and the whole of France in their grief, expressing their anger, sadness, and aspirations for peaceful reconciliation through outpourings on social media, news coverage, and more tangibly, by leaving letters, drawings, and other tokens of mourning at the sites of the tragedies. Three months after the events, Paris archivists continue the lengthy process of preserving these mementos in the city’s archives.

This semester, the WLA Graduate Assistants are taking the Archives and Records Management class offered by Loyola’s History Department as part of our degree program. As an assignment for the class, we were asked to pick an archives-related story in recent news and examine the questions about archival practice it inspires. The ongoing preservation of the relics left behind at the memorials of the November 13th attacks, and the issues raised concerning the archivist’s responsibility to objectively preserve documents for future generations while balancing the obligation felt by society to honor the memories of victims of traumatic events, fascinated me to no end.

Photo by Francois Mori/Associated Press (image url: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/arts/design/in-paris-archivists-preserve-tokens-of-grief.html?_r=0)

Photo by Francois Mori/Associated Press (image url: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/arts/design/in-paris-archivists-preserve-tokens-of-grief.html?_r=0)

 

In light of the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris last November, archivists working with city cleaning staff and volunteers for the city of Paris archives are preserving the surplus of notes, drawings, cards, and flowers left at the Bataclan concert hall, La Belle Équipe, and the remaining targets. A Huffington Post article reported that the process of preservation began a week after the attacks occurred but picked up in significant force by December. Teams of city employees and volunteers collected hundreds of thousands of items while photographing the changing appearance of the memorials.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 17: Flowers and candles are seen at the memorial for the victims of Paris terror attacks in front of Bataclan, Boulevard Voltaire in Paris, France on November 17, 2015. Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images (image url: http://fox61.com/2015/12/15/paris-to-save-notes-and-drawings-left-after-the-attacks/)

PARIS, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 17: Flowers and candles are seen at the memorial for the victims of Paris terror attacks in front of Bataclan, Boulevard Voltaire in Paris, France on November 17, 2015. Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images (image url: http://fox61.com/2015/12/15/paris-to-save-notes-and-drawings-left-after-the-attacks/)

In order to preserve these precious materials for the future, they must be removed from the open elements in front of the memorials themselves and transferred to the archives where they undergo professional care, or risk natural decay that could irreparably damage the items. In these circumstances, the archivists’ role as a preservationist not only necessitates the safekeeping of the products of these memorials, but also indirectly affects the maintenance of the physical memorials themselves. Their safe removal creates more space so that more visitors may express their condolences and mourn. Yet, the removal of those artifacts may appear insensitive to the memory of the victims of the attacks.

Striking the balance between being emotionally supportive of the grieving process and being objective for the sake of future researchers is a tricky thing for the archivist to navigate. The concept of preserving the memorabilia related to tragic events is not a new one. In the United States, archivists collected materials from sites such as the ones at the Paris memorials in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Both sets of archivists have to navigate a nebulous line between what is considered commemorative and what is considered burdensome to the natural course of everyday life.

There are no definitive solutions to the problems raised by the conservation of memorabilia related to tragic events like the Paris attacks last November; however, there is no question that the items should be preserved by archivists. Although a difficult process, it is ultimately a worthy one. I am confident the Paris city archivists will accomplish their goal of preserving the sensitive material while honoring the memories of those lost in the tragedies.

Photo by Christophe Ena/AP (image url: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/death-toll-in-paris-attacks-hits-129-another-352-hurt-1.2658389#)

Photo by Christophe Ena/AP (image url: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/death-toll-in-paris-attacks-hits-129-another-352-hurt-1.2658389#)

 


EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Processing Plans: The Treasure Maps of Archives

Being an archivist is like being a pirate. Just hear me out on this one.

Popular images of pirates depict them as adventurers navigating the high seas on the search for hidden treasure. Although archivists don’t tend to engage in swashbuckling, or get scurvy (because eww), they do get to explore collections in order to discover the “riches” inherent to every collection. Plus, they have to find a way to share that treasure with the world. That’s where the similarities pretty much end.

PirateTo help find that treasure, pirates use treasure maps. For the archivist, the equivalent to the treasure map is…the processing plan!

Okay the name’s not exciting, but processing plans are beautiful, beautiful things! When an archives receives a donation, the records are not usually perfectly organized — already prepared to transplant into boxes and immediately perfect for public viewing. When an archivist creates a processing plan, they lay down a model for how the record should be organized so that the records can be accessed by researchers that come to the archives. Processing plans allow archivists to think critically about what is contained in a collection, but plans also make them consider how that information should be displayed so that researchers are able to easily find what they need. See? Treasure map. My inner Virgo that loves order and cleanliness rejoices.

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Every archives is unique, so elements within the processing plan may differ depending on the collection itself or the organizational strategies that are put in place by an institution’s archivist. In my opinion, there are three major elements that should appear in all processing plans. There are multiple subheadings that I think go beneath each of these major themes– I will go into some suggestions for each below:

1. Current State: This is the place in the processing plan devoted to describing (you guessed it) how the collection currently exists, including any information regarding the accession information, how the collection was donated, how it appears to be ordered, and the biographical sketch/organization information that will be used to create a summary of the collection for the finding aid. This is also where the processing plan should underscore the scope and content of a collection, or an inventory of sorts of what documents appear in the collection. Generally a more detailed summary appears when you are suggesting an arrangement, but the scope and content is great for a big picture of what is contained in the collection. Here is a great example from the Harvard University wiki:

EXAMPLE: The papers of My Best Friend include travel diaries, family scrapbooks, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, 23 audiotapes and 45 disks.

FileFolders2. Arrangement: As suggested above, this is where the real organization happens. In the arrangement section of a processing plan, the scope and content is broken down into specific individual series as well as notes for how items within the series should be arranged. Harvard University continues the My Best Friend example below:

EXAMPLE: Series I. Biographical and Personal (4 cartons)
Series II. Diaries (7 cartons)
Series III. Correspondence (12 cartons)
Series IV. Writings (3 cartons, 2 file boxes)
Series V. Photographs (6 cartons, 8 folio boxes)

Each series as shown above would include information about the specific documents, photos, correspondence, etc. as well as the rough dates. Specificity is key in this component. The more in depth this section is, the easier the ensuing organization will be. It’s worth mentioning that you should always get to know the collection inside and out before beginning the processing plan. If you only glance through each section, you are not ready to organize all of the elements. It is worth taking a few hours or days depending on the collection’s size to see what is in the collection as well as how that collection is already organized. In the world of archives, the process of learning the collection before arranging it is referred to as intellectual control.

Archives

3. Work Summary: This section is pretty self-explanatory. This section is a good place to establish a checklist of what exact work needs to be done in order to complete the processing of the collection. Some questions this section should answer are, “What kind of supplies will I need to preserve the collection? Is there anything that needs separate storage? When should the finding aid be completed? What tasks can I delegate to students/interns?” This section would also be a good place to discuss how long the collection will take to process as well as the supplies needed for when the collection is available to be moved into folders and archival boxes.
The three elements listed above are a very rough outline of what might be contained in a very general processing plan. The link above shows a fantastic template Harvard University supplied on their wiki page. It absolutely bears repeating. You can find it here.

In summary, the processing plan is your friend. Detailed organization at the onset of the processing procedure makes all the difference in the world between organizational bliss and utter frustration. Want to know more? The Society of American Archivists has a fantastic book available on their website called How to Manage Processing in Archives and Special Collections. I know what I’m putting on my x-mas list!


EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Looking beyond the Obvious: Societal Changes through Photos and Event Programs

For many of us, at this time of year our brains are filled with dreams of upcoming vacations and holiday celebrations. As I pondered this month’s blog post, the sugar plums danced in my head, distracting me from finding an archives-related topic.

My brain then latched on to Christmas traditions and hit pay dirt. I immediately thought of the Candle Lighting ceremony at Mundelein College and quickly realized how records of that event provide insight into societal changes. This post is not about Christmas. Instead, it’s about looking at photos and programs of a long-running event and analyzing the records to see societal trends and changes over the years.

The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) largest collection is the records of Mundelein College. Founded in 1929 by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs), Mundelein provided education to women until 1991 when it affiliated with nearby Loyola University Chicago. The Candle Lighting ceremony occurred at Christmastime from 1930-1991, making it a long running Mundelein tradition.

I find traditions fascinating. While perhaps a tired literary technique, I looked up the definition of the word. Tradition is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as in religious practice or a social custom.)” Well said, Merriam-Webster.

A tradition may change or shift over time in conjunction with societal changes. The fundamental meaning and purpose of the tradition remains; how it is carried out often changes, depending on what is happening in the world at large. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Mundelein’s Candle Lighting ceremony spanned 60 years and began the first year of classes and ended when the College affiliated with Loyola.  Photos and programs from the Candle Lighting provide historical snapshots of moments in time and give insight into societal changes. First, information about the ceremony and tradition itself and then, with pictures and programs, a historical journey through the 60 years.

The ceremony involved lighting candles in the windows of Mundelein College to form a nine-story cross, symbolizing the Light of the World. Mundelein College’s main building is on Sheridan Road and lighted windows were sure to be noticed on a major thoroughfare.

Another part of the ceremony included Christmas caroling in a procession led by seniors. Students sang as they moved down through the building by floors. Once on the first floor, participants put wreaths at the main entrance, recited the nativity story, and lit a large school candle at the end of the ceremony.

Programs, photos, and newspaper articles from the Skyscraper (Mundelein’s student newspaper) show changes in the ceremony. The first year did not include the large cross in the windows and only the choir sang in the ceremony. Several years later the candle procession included all students.

Now to the historical journey, noticing dates and subsequent shifts in the ceremony that highlight societal changes and trends. The first Candle Lighting occurred in 1931. There are no photos in the records, only a torn program. Note the College clubs involved.

1931 Program

1931 Program

 

The earliest photo of the ceremony is from 1936. Look at those dresses!

1936 Candlelighting ceremony

Candlelighting ceremony, 1936

Due to WWII, the 1943 ceremony included recognition of the war.  Four angel sentinels held scrolls of the names of active and deceased servicemen who were relatives of friends of faculty and students.

1943 program

1943 program

1943 program2

1943 program

1943 program

1943 program

1957 is a year the WLA has both a photo and a program. Look again at the number and type of student organizations involved.

Candlelighting, 1957

Candlelighting, 1957

1957 program cover

1957 program cover

program 1957 2

1957 program, page 1

1957 program, page 6

1957 program, page 6

 

The 1960s were a time of huge change in the world and one of the milestones is Vatican II. The Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II), occurred from 1962 through 1965 and affected many aspects of the Catholic faith, in addition to reverberating through other faith traditions. See here for more info on Vatican II. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council

One major change from Vatican II involved the form and content of masses, the term for Catholic worship services. Masses now used English rather than Latin and could include different types of music and artwork.

As I previously said, nothing occurs in a vacuum. The 1966 program artwork is quite different from the one in 1957. In addition, the Candle Lighting ceremony of 1966 included an interpretive dance piece. Both the artwork change and inclusion of interpretive dance in the mass are a direct result of Vatican II changes.

1966 program cover

1966 program cover

 

1966 program, page 1

1966 program, page 1

1955 program, page 5

1955 program, page 5

By 1972, it appears the Candle Lighting Ceremony moved to McCormick Lounge in Coffey Hall, Mundelein’s main dormitory building. McCormick Lounge’s floor to ceiling window faces east to Lake Michigan and in the photo, the ceremony takes place in front of the window.

The ceremony is clearly more casual in contrast to the beautiful dresses and robed choir formality of earlier years. Notice the student in her pajamas, robe, and fuzzy slippers.

Candlelighting, 1972

Candlelighting, 1972

 

One of the last photos of the ceremony is from 1989. This photo shows the ceremony layout in McCormick Lounge. The program again lists student organizations and provides an interesting comparison to previous documents.

Candlelighting, 1989

Candlelighting, 1989

1989 program cover

1989 program cover

1989 program, pages 1 and 2

1989 program, pages 1 and 2

1989 program, pages 3 and 4

1989 program, pages 3 and 4

By 1991, Mundelein experienced financial problems and declining enrollment that led to affiliation with nearby Loyola. One final Candle Lighting Ceremony occurred in December of that year with the theme “A Common Past, A Common Future.”

 

1991 program cover

1991 program cover

1991 program, pages a and 2

1991 program, pages 1 and 2

0003 (2)

1991 program, pages 3 and 4

1991 program, pages 5 and 6

1991 program, pages 5 and 6

Documentation of a ceremony or tradition provides fascinating information on everything from fashion to world events. Photos and program from the long-running Mundelein College Candle Lighting ceremony are historical snapshots; windows in time that provide opportunities to view societal changes.

 

Written by Nancy Freeman

With research assistance from Ellen Bushong, Megan Bordewyk, and Caroline Lynd


IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


What’s in a homemaker’s collection?

The Women and Leadership Archives has many strengths in its collections. We have many about women who were leaders in activism and environmental issues, and others from women who dedicated their lives to public service, social justice, education, and the arts. In browsing the archives, it is easy to recognize why the papers of these women were chosen to be preserved, but sometimes you come across collections that are not as obvious.

In scrolling through the collections listed on the WLA website, I found the papers of Agatha Rosetti Hessley. Under her name, it simply said “homemaker.” As a woman raised by a stay-at-home mom, I wholeheartedly believe in the value and importance of these women who devote their lives to their families. However, in this list of women and organizations recognized for their public leadership, I wondered what her collection held that the archivist felt would be useful to researchers.

Agatha Hessley was not a politician. Her collection gives no evidence of her participation in any social activism. She did nothing that made her notably influential to anyone other than her own family and friends. She was not an artist, an educator, or an academic.

Yet, her two boxes sit on a shelf in the archives between those of social justice organizations, alderwomen, and college presidents.

Why?

This question leads me back to the reason women’s archives like the WLA exist in the first place. Because early archives focused on government and military documents, women and other groups left out of the public sphere were not represented in the historical record. Specialized archives were created to preserve the papers that documented the contributions of women and other marginalized groups. Although Agatha Hessley, like many women of her time, did not have a career outside of her home, she still made a valuable contribution to history and the archives.

A letter from Agatha to Rita, found in the Agatha Rosetti Hessley Collection.

A letter from Agatha to Rita Hessley, found in the Agatha Rosetti Hessley Collection.

Agatha Hessley’s collection offers a unique look into a time of transformation in the United States and the world. Her two archival boxes hold the letters that Agatha wrote to her daughter, Rita, between 1970 and 1993. In them, Agatha describes the major life events of her family and her daily routines. She also gives her perspective on historical events such as Watergate, the 1970’s oil crisis, and the Gulf War. As a devout Catholic, Agatha often wrote about the Roman Catholic Church and her observations of the changes that took place after Vatican II. Throughout decades of great conflict and change, Agatha’s letters offer a glimpse into how these changes affected an average American woman.

Although she may be simply labeled as a “homemaker,” Agatha’s letters reveal her to be an engaging writer. Excerpts from her letters, especially those concerning changes in the Roman Catholic Church, were published in a book in 2005 by MaryEllen O’Brien entitled Living in Ordinary Times: The Letters of Agatha Rosetti Hessley.

As time goes on, the collection of Agatha Rosetti Hessley will continue to provide information and inspiration to researchers.

Agatha Hessley and her daughter Rita, 1994

Agatha Hessley and her daughter, Rita, 1994

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. When not scrapbooking, she spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Explor(ing) Cool Chicago Collections

If you are a history buff, an experienced researcher, or have even a mild interest in Chicago history and culture– drop everything you are doing and go to the Explore Chicago Collections website.

Have you done it yet? I’ll wait.

Now that you are up to speed, let the gushing begin. Explore Chicago Collections is the newly launched digital portal that connects hundreds of collections from various archives, museums, and cultural institutions from all over the city of Chicago. Broken down into general topics such as, ‘Events,’ ‘Government,’ ‘Daily Life,’ etc., anyone with an internet connection can easily find collections of interest to them, or even stumble upon something they did not know existed. The collections are also divided by neighborhoods, so anyone with an interest in their community’s history can easily access related collections. Neighborhoods are listed alphabetically for researchers’ ease and convenience.

Even better, the attractive and user friendly interface of the website allows for students and researchers of all skill levels to interact with the archival material of Chicago. From the main page, you can easily choose a general topic and narrow your research from there. For example, are you interested in learning how Chicago residents spent their recreational time in the old days? Great! By clicking on the “Recreation & Leisure” tab, a viewer can see every member institution’s collections pertaining to that topic in one place. From there, researchers can use various tags to refine their search, or simply use the “search” bar at the top of the page! Did I mention it was all in one place? It is all in one place. Plus, it’s free!!

Picture courtesy of http://chicagocollections.org/. It’s so beautiful. I think I might cry

Picture courtesy of http://chicagocollections.org/. It’s so beautiful. I think I might cry

This excellent website was made possible by a grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Illinois at Chicago Library in partnership with Chicago Collections, the partnership organization comprising of all of the member institutions that make up the portal, ‘Explore Chicago Collections.’ Chicago Collections’ proclaims itself to be a “consortium of libraries, museums, and other institutions with archives that collaborate to preserve and share the history of the Chicago region.” To learn more about the initiative, click here.

At the moment, the Chicago Collections “consortium” is still growing. Eighteen members comprise the alliance, including such prominent institutions as the Chicago History Museum, the Art Institute, the Newberry Library, and of course Loyola University Chicago. It should be of no surprise that the Women and Leadership archives’ collections are featured on the Explore Chicago Collections website. Click here to see the WLA’s collections online. The promise of more institutions joining the collective is an exciting prospect for researchers of all ages and Chicago history lovers all over the country. As more institutions partner with Chicago Collections, more and more material will become known and accessed through the website. The age of scouring cities on the search for resource material for various projects is quickly and effectively disappearing.

Dear Chicago Collections, allow me to thank you on behalf of all harried and overly caffeinated graduate students frantically writing term papers and working on their dissertations. You are a lifesaver. I think I might cry.


 

EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


My Typical Day at the WLA

“What’s a typical day like for you at the WLA?” Several weeks ago, a Masters in Information Science (MIS) student asked me that question. I gave her my usual response:  “That’s a bit tough as there really isn’t a typical.”

I’ve been an archivist for almost 16 years. At my previous workplace, over the course of my 13 years there, at least six library school students interviewed me. It is a popular assignment in graduate archival classes for a student to interview a professional. In every prior instance, and now twice here at Loyola, I’ve been asked something along the lines of “what do you do in a day?”

The first time someone asked me the question, I distinctly remember looking at the student, and slightly panicking. I felt totally thrown by the question and I believe I stared at her for several seconds with my mouth open. I seemed to have no idea how to answer because I’d never really analyzed what I did in a typical day. Sure, I had a job description and specific duties, however, the days were so varied that I had no idea where to start. I remember stammering something, which I later hoped sounded slightly coherent, about how the work days just were not typical.

I feel the need to explain a bit here about the archival field. Some archivists have more specialized archival jobs than I have had in my two jobs in the field. For instance, there are reference archivists that pretty much only answer reference questions, like in a university/ college setting or a state archives. In addition, there are processing archivists and their jobs are to process (organize) collections and archival records. Archives also run the gamut of large staffs, say ten archivists, to smaller staffs of two or three and down to places like the WLA, that employ one professional archivist. In a larger staff archives, the archivists tend to be more specialized, focusing on just several archival tasks.

At my previous job and now at the WLA, I’ve been a generalist and the only professionally trained archivist. That means my job description includes all types of archival activities such as answering reference questions; processing or overseeing processing; supervising students; conducting programming/outreach activities; dealing with website content; and creating/installing exhibits.

Now back to a typical day for me. Two factors affect my work at the WLA. The first occurs because I’m the Director and the only professionally trained archivist, with a staff of graduate students.  I’m the point person for reference requests, some of which can be immediate. It’s not unusual for someone at Loyola, think of the PR department folks, to ask a collection related question and want the answer as soon as possible.

I’m also responsible for administrative details, often time sensitive, involved in running an archive in a university setting. Think now of general paperwork and specific human resource type responses. Plus, I do everything from contacting facilities because a light is burned out in the hallway to dealing with the small amount of water that came into the basement archives after the last heavy rain.

The second factor affecting my work at the WLA is tasks that occur under the category of “duties otherwise not specified,” a term I learned in the 1980s when I worked as a social worker for the state of Iowa. My job description included that phrase and every once in a while my supervisor reminded me of it, particularly when I balked at doing something he wanted me to do. “But it’s not in my job description,” I’d say to him at which time he’d reply back, “Yes it is. It’s under duties otherwise not specified.”

Things come up in the work day that aren’t technically in my job description, however, are still tasks I need or want to do. An example is that every once in a while I run into someone at Piper Hall, where the WLA is located, who wants a tour of the beautiful 1909 mansion. I know pertinent Piper Hall history so I gladly give them tour on the spot. It’s not in my job description to be tour guide, however, I’d have a hard time saying no and besides, it’s fun.

At this point, I’m going to loop back around to the nice MIS student interview several weeks ago and my answer to the usual question. I’ve now done this enough so I didn’t look at her with my mouth open, akin to a deer in the headlights. Instead, I talked about what often happens in a day for me as WLA Director. Before I went into the typical, however, I gave her the caveat of how a planned day’s work can change quickly depending on who e-mails, calls, or walks in the WLA door needing something immediate.

A usual day involves one or two meetings and on average, I have six to eight scheduled meetings per week. The WLA is part of Loyola’s Library system and the Gannon Center for Women, meaning my meeting quotient is higher given my involvement with both entities. Through the Library, I’m on four committees and chair one.  Three of the library committees are monthly and sometimes entail tasks be done between meetings. In addition, I may meet with a professor regarding a WLA collaborative class project, talk with a donor at her home, or plan an event with a community group.

Another part of a typical day involves supervising the work of the WLA’s wonderful Graduate Assistants (GAs), without which the Archives could not function as well as it does. There are three GAs and usually two work per day. Their tasks are processing collections, tracking down answers for reference requests, creating web copy, and in general, doing all sorts of needed archival work. Of course, they also have duties otherwise not specified.

I also usually have some type of donor work during a usual day. Donors are the good folks who give the WLA records that make up our collections. What I call donor work includes: talking with a donor; picking up records; deciding what to keep; and doing the legal paperwork to transfer the records to the WLA. There are all sorts of follow-ups, by phone or e-mail, with donors as they progress through the donation process. Donations have increased over the last year so it is becoming a regular part of almost every day.

Lastly, I can’t forget answering e-mails, some of which contain the aforementioned reference requests and/or administrative tasks. On average I spend a good hour or two daily reading and responding to e-mails.

I have a varied work day which is what I like. I’m afraid I’d be bored if I my job entailed just several archival tasks. Instead, I never quite know what will happen in a day at the WLA!


 

IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Archival Practice: An Intro to Textiles

Last spring, the WLA Director informed the Graduate Assistants that we would be receiving a lesson in folding textiles. Great, I thought, someone will finally give me the secret to folding a fitted sheet! Unfortunately, a neat linen closet still eludes me. However, I did gain an important skill for archivists and public historians working with collections. While archives are mainly thought of as repositories for historic papers, several of our collections include various fabric objects. It is important to know how to care for these textiles so that they can be preserved for researchers for as long as possible.

So, I would like to pass on to you the basics of caring for textiles in the archives.

A Peace ribbon embroidered by Rose Bagley

A Peace ribbon embroidered by Rose Bagley

The textiles we were working with were donations from Rose Bagley, whose collection has not yet been processed. Rose participated in organizing for the Peace Ribbon event on August 4, 1985. On that day, an estimated 15,000 people carried a 15 mile long ribbon that wrapped around the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and Capitol Hill to protest nuclear weapons. The ribbon was made up of 36×18 inch segments decorated with paint, embroidery, and sewing and sent to Washington from all over the country. Our collection includes just some of the over 1,300 segments that were sent from Illinois.

Garments and other textiles with more complex construction would require more careful consideration. While I will be focusing on flat storage of textiles, some items may require a different form of storage. However, these simple, rectangular banners can help us get a feel for the techniques of textile conservation.

Wait, why do I even care?

Imagine it’s laundry day and you’re folding up your t-shirts and putting them into a drawer. When you pull a t-shirt out a week or two later to wear it, there are creases where the folds were that you try to shake out or iron away. Now imagine if that t-shirt sat in the drawer for 25 years, 50 years, a hundred years. The fabric at those folds has been stretched and pressed for that length of time, causing damage and breakage to the fibers.

Because of the perils of sharp folds, the method of storing historic textiles revolves around creating as few folds as possible. Where folds must be made, we try to reduce the strain that creases put on the fibers.

Supplies needed:

  • Acid free, lignin-free archival boxes
  • Acid-free, lignin-free, unbuffered tissue paper (lots of it)
  • Cotton gloves
  • A large work space

Step One: Every box has a tissue lining.

Prepare the box in which your textiles will live by lining it with tissue paper. The goal is to have the artifacts only touching tissue paper, not any part of the box or other objects.

Step Two: Best laid plans

Wearing your gloves, lay the first textile flat on a clean surface. When moving textiles, be sure to lift carefully from both ends in a way that does not put strain on any part of the fabric. Use a cloth underneath as support or get help from a colleague for large, heavy objects. Your textiles may not be delicate now, but we still want to treat them carefully.

With your object flat and your box nearby, plan out the best way to fold the textile. Remember, you want the item to fit into the box with as few folds as possible.

Step Three: Time to make sausage

Once you know how you will fold your textile, you must pad these folds in order to reduce strain on the fibers. The formal archival term for this padding is a sausage.

To begin making your sausage, take two or three rectangular pieces of tissue paper and crinkle them up like a kid opening a birthday present. Well, maybe not that violently. Next, pull the now messy paper back out into rectangles. Here, you may choose between two methods. You can roughly pleat your paper like an accordion, or you can loosely roll the paper. Either way, you should end up with a sausage-shaped roll of tissue paper. You may want to slightly twist the ends to keep your sausage from coming apart. Delicious.

The goal in sausage making is to make the tissue paper full and crush-resistant.

The goal in sausage-making is to make the tissue paper full and crush-resistant.

Step Four: Know when to fold ‘em

An accordion sausage in place

An accordion-style  sausage in place

IMG_0955

A rolled sausage

Place your sausage where it is needed on the textile and fold the fabric over. Gently push the sausage into the fold so that there are no sharp creases. Depending on the width of your textile, you may need to add another sausage or two to insure that the fold is padded all the way to the edges. Maybe you’ll need some mini sausages.

 

For garments, you will also need to use tissue paper to puff out bodices, sleeves and ruffles. Some sources also suggest that you use cardboard tubes, covered in tissue paper, to support folds in heavier fabrics.

 

 

 

Step Five: Think inside the box

Carefully move your textile into the box and readjust your sausages as needed. Cover the textile with a layer of tissue paper.

Surrounded by tissue paper, the final peace ribbon banner goes into the box.

Surrounded by tissue paper, the final peace ribbon banner goes into the box.

For the sake of space, it is likely that you will need to put multiple items in a box. Avoid stacking heavy fabrics that will crush the folds of items underneath. Never crush your sausages. Because our peace ribbons were fairly light and only had one fold, we found that we could put five in each box without putting too much weight on the folded banners.

Be sure to put tissue paper in between each item in the box.

When you have placed the last textile in the box, cover it with, you guessed it, more tissue paper, and fold any overhanging paper over the textiles. Be sure that you have not overfilled the box and that your carefully puffed textiles will not be crushed as you put the top on the box.

It is recommended that textiles be repacked and refolded regularly, perhaps annually. This gives you an opportunity to put new fluffy sausages and change where the folds are located so that no area of the textile is under perpetual stress.

Committing to Textiles

Recently, another donor asked the WLA if it would like to take a donation of over 100 more peace ribbon segments. When packed as described above, with five to a box, this donation would take up a considerable amount of shelf space (as well as a parade float’s worth of tissue paper). Archives often face the decision of whether they can take donations like this and properly care for them. Will these objects be more valuable to researchers than potential future donations that could fill this space? Archivist job requirement: predicting the future.

This basic lesson on caring for textiles does not cover all of the procedures that may be needed with different types of textiles. However, my practice with the peace ribbons gave me an understanding of the problems that must be considered for this type of artifact.

For more information on textile conservation, see this in-depth guide from the National Park Service.

For guides on caring for textiles at home, take a look at the links below.

Guide to storing antique textiles from the Smithsonian Encyclopedia
Textile Care guide from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum
Caring for Your Heirloom Textiles is a thorough article from Marjorie M. Baker at the University of Kentucky

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. When not scrapbooking, she spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


#SaveSweetBriarsHistories

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

When I first heard that the Board of of Directors of Sweet Briar College (SBC) in Virginia voted to close the women’s college due to “insurmountable financial challenges,” all I could think about were the similarities of the situation to Mundelein College. As a Graduate Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives, which holds the Mundelein College Collection, I am incredibly familiar with the plight of women’s’ colleges.

Mundelein was a Catholic women’s college founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs). The college opened its doors in 1930 and offered students a liberal arts education for over 60 years. In 1991, Mundelein “affiliated” with Loyola University Chicago. Like many women’s and small colleges, Mundelein ran into financial troubles in the 1980s. Enrollment was steady, but not growing. The college had over $4 million in debts and needed to upgrade buildings and equipment. Salaries were low and had been that way for a while. The college either had to make major staff cuts in an effort to reorganize a more fiscally sound school or consider a merger with a university willing to take on Mundelein’s debt

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

On March 19, 1991, Mundelein announced that it was in negotiations with its next-door neighbor Loyola University Chicago about a merger or affiliation. While the administrators of both schools emphasized the commonalities of the Catholic institutions and benefits of affiliation, students saw it differently. They marched with banners and signs in front of the Skyscraper chanting “Save our college!” and “60 more years!” A group called Concerned Students for Mundelein initiated a letter-writing campaign to tell alumnae what was going on and ask for their help in preventing a Loyola takeover. At the Board of Trustees meeting to vote on the affiliation, students wearing black with red armbands staged a sit-in.

On April 15, 1991, Mundelein College and Loyola University Chicago administrators signed an agreement that created “Mundelein College of Loyola University.” It happened so quickly that many students and alumnae felt blindsided.

The Mundelein Student Government Statement of Position makes this clear; the students write that the trust between Mundelein students and the administrations and boards of both institutions must be established. Mundelein students had chosen to go to a small, women’s college and were being thrown into a university that resembled more of a state school. Also, as expressed in by Mundelein Student Government representatives in their Statement of Position, many Mundelein women did not feel welcome at Loyola, based on a history of the use of terms like “mundle bundle” and the “girls’ school next door” by Loyola students, creating the perception among Mundelein students that Loyola did not encourage women and minorities to take on leadership positions of power and authority.

Alumnae also felt angry and cheated by the college and its board. Alumna Jane Trahey knew that Mundelein was experiencing financial difficulties, but she didn’t know how bad it was: “I wanted to sue the Board because I think they were negligent. They didn’t pursue all possible avenues. I don’t understand how they could have looked at the financial situation and studied the balance sheets for the last five years and not said ‘Something is seriously wrong here and we have to act now.’ Mundelein graduates never had to opportunity to rally the cause, to raise the money, to keep the college alive. I think we could have done it.”

Protest at Sweet Briar.

Protest at Sweet Briar.

When the Sweet Briar College announced its decision to close to students, faculty, staff, and the world in early March, many of the reactions were similar to those at Mundelein. Students felt blindsided. Both students and faculty took action with a sit-in protest at the President’s house where they waved signs protesting the closing of Sweet Briar. Although many of the students present at the sit-in acknowledged their lack of control over the situation, they felt the need to voice their dissent.

Unlike at Mundelein, alumnae and faculty have taken their cause to the next level. Shortly after the closing was announced, alumnae formed Save Sweet Briar to stop the college from closing and “provide accurate information to students, faculty, and alumnae about the true financial condition of Sweet Briar College and the viable alternatives to closure.” Currently, their goal is to raise money to fight the closure. The fund has had $5.2 Million pledged, $10.2 Million pledged over 5 years, and $1 Million donated.

Also unlike Mundelein, the closing of Sweet Briar College has made it to the courts. The Commonwealth of Virginia filed suit to keep Sweet Briar open. Additionally, a group of faculty and staff filed a motion supporting the lawsuit.

Although Mundelein College no longer exists, its records still do. Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives grew out of the need to preserve Mundelein’s records and expanded to collect the papers and records of individual women leaders as well as organizations. What will happen to Sweet Briar’s records once the college is gone? I emailed John Jaffe, the Director of Integrated Information Systems/CIO at Sweet Briar, and he said that if the college closes “there are plans in place to consolidate all records of the college into the existing archives. In addition, the entire archives will be moved to a senior research level institution in the Commonwealth where they will be preserved and made available to scholars.”

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

Unlike Mundelein College, Sweet Briar is closing in the digital age and the college’s history is documented online. It has two Tumblrs (one officially sponsored by the Tusculum Institute at SBC and one unofficial site run by an alumna). Papers about the history of the college written by SBC students in courses called “Doing Sweet Briar History,” “History of Sweet Briar,” and “Practicum in Sweet Briar History” are available on the SBC library website. An Omeka site with archival photos from the Mary Helen Cochran Library makes it its mission to provide widespread access to archival photos and similar photos are available on the library’s Flickr. Once Sweet Briar closes, what will happen to these digital resources? The unofficial Tumblr will continue as long as the alumna running it receives material to post, but who, if anyone, will manage the other sites? Will Sweet Briar’s website still exist once the college is gone or will it only live on through the Wayback Machine? If another archive takes SBC’s physical collections, will they also maintain the digital footprint of Sweet Briar?

In addition to its archives, Sweet Briar has a museum and the college itself makes up a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places with 22 contributing structures. The campus also contains a slave cabin that is open to the public and a slave cemetery with 60 graves. While it may not be possible to #SaveSweetBriar, I hope that we can #SaveSweetBriarsHistories.

0a621f2Mollie Fullerton is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is finishing her last semester of her MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to sharing authority, she enjoys biking, making/eating pie, and playing the musical saw.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Sister Safety

Image

Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

As part of our Women’s History Month activities, I worked on creating a display showcasing materials from the collection of Mundelein College, a Catholic women’s college that was once located next to Loyola. The exhibit focused on two of Mundelein’s art professors and two students who went on to have successful art careers. This was another great opportunity to find new things and learn more about life at this unique college for women.

As I researched the art professors of Mundelein, I found interesting details on the life of Sister Mary Carmelyn. Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon was born in Missoula, Montana in 1905 and taught at Mundelein from 1934 to 1954. Sister Mary Carmelyn designed several of the college’s Christmas cards and even illustrated the Graduate Pledge, which was taken by seniors at every commencement ceremony.

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

While inspiring students in her role as a teacher, Sister Mary Carmelyn discovered something else about which she was passionate. She began the College Safety Council at Mundelein in 1943 and spent her time learning and sharing ways to prevent accidents on school campuses and beyond. In the 1940s, she dedicated much of her time to the Red Cross and was appointed to serve on many safety councils, including the Education Committee of President Truman’s Conference on Highway Safety. She even taught the other BVM’s to swim. I wish we had a photo of that to share!

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

This sudden concern for accident prevention seems out of the blue, but Sister Mary Carmelyn was actually just doing her patriotic duty. In the midst of World War II, factories increased production to provide supplies. Meanwhile, workplace accidents and injuries also increased. The National Safety Council, with the support of President Roosevelt, launched a national campaign in 1941 to teach ways to avoid accidents in industries, homes, schools, and on the road. Citizens could support the war effort by preventing carelessness that would waste resources or result in injury to much needed workers.

Sister Mary Carmelyn participated in the movement that spread these safety lessons to all areas of life. She promoted the 3 E’s of accident prevention: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. She also wrote an article for Safety Education Magazine explaining the forgotten “R” in safety, religion. “Knowledge of skills,” Mary Carmelyn wrote, “plus the realization and acceptance of man’s relationship to his fellow men and his Creator, will…direct the knowledge toward…attitudes of safe living.”

Exploring Sister Mary Carmelyn’s records in the Mundelein College Collection provided the opportunity for me to learn more about national events during World War II. Through the archives, I was able to see one fascinating woman’s participation in broader patterns of history.

Caroline blog photoCaroline Lynd is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time caring for her pufferfish, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Musings on Mundelein College and the Selma March

Mundelein College students in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mundelein College students in Montgomery, Alabama.

For the past few months we have been researching Mundelein College’s role in the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as well as the march itself in preparation for the anniversary and the accompanying events this March. After researching Selma, writing blog posts and web features, and attending related events at Loyola, we wanted to use Selma as a starting point to talk about broader issues of race, gender, and representation in archives and elsewhere.

JENNY: Within our archives Selma is a challenging topic to research. Although we have historic persons as well as organizations who participated in Selma and other events of the Civil Rights movement, the vast majority of material is photographs. Small amounts of other material that relates to the history of the civil rights movement can be found – but is generally integrated into other collections such as Mundelein College and that of scholar Suellen Hoy. These two collections contain relevant material on Selma, but also represent other important strengths of the Archives, particularly the history of women in the field of education.

Despite our many strengths, like every historical institution, the WLA has gaps. When thinking of this for our collections, we do not have much material that relates to hispanic women and there is also little that relates to the history and presence of various Asian populations in the midwest.

MOLLIE: But how do you even begin to collect? We don’t have a slew of people knocking down our door desperate to donate their personal papers or organization’s records on a daily basis. Many people don’t even know that archives,  much less the WLA, exist. Often class or educational levels can play a role in a person’s knowledge of archives, which could lead to somewhat homogenous donors and collections. How can archivists reach out to fill in these gaps?

Mahalia Jackson, 1962. Photo taken by Carl Van Vechten.  Carl Van Vechten photograph collection, Library of Congress.

Mahalia Jackson, 1962. Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Carl Van Vechten photograph collection, Library of Congress.

JENNY: Taking inspiration from the Civil Rights movement, who are some Black women leaders or activists in the Civil Rights movement who could be part of ours or another archive’s collections? Why have I not learned about them? Take for example, Mahalia Jackson. Born New Orleans in 1926, Jackson was a nationally-renowned gospel singer who worked for 40 years in the music industry. She also actively participated in the Civil Rights movement, singing at multiple national rallies and events, but this portion of her history is overshadowed. I found Jackson’s page on Wikipedia, as well as entries on biography and music history sites. Much of the information I found was brief, noting two to three paragraphs of accomplishments and referencing her association with more publicly known figures of the Civil Rights movement. Wikipedia’s page has background on her childhood and youth, her career, her activism in the Civil Rights movement, as well as her death and legacy.

MOLLIE: Although Mahalia Jackson has a pretty decent Wikipedia page in terms of length, it is by no means complete. But unlike many other women, she actually has a page, which let Jenny learn about her in the first place. Like almost all Wikipedia articles about women, Jackson’s article is subject to gender bias. In the section on her Civil Rights activism, the article focuses on her relationships with Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. rather on how Jackson herself contributed to the movement. Gender bias on Wikipedia can take many forms ranging from total exclusion of women to a bias in the way the article is written.

Archives are spaces where stories like Jackson’s reside, but they are also places of interaction. We want visitors to come and engage with, look at, touch (when appropriate), and discover the materials in our collections. But because barriers (getting there, navigating the finding aids, finding the time etc) often restrict people from engaging one-on-one with the collections, we have to ask ourselves how to tell the stories of the women in the archives. With Selma, we told the story of Mundelein College and their role in the march. Public programs contextualized the stories found in the archives while blog posts and web features made it available to a wider audience. But did we tell a complete story? Did we tell a good story? As an institution that collects and makes available women’s stories, gender bias issues found on Wikipedia are not as much of an issue for us.

At the March 12th Mundelein Remembers Selma event, panelists reached out beyond Mundelein’s story to talk about broader issues of race, gender, and religion during the 1960s and participants in the march recounted their personal experiences. Was it a good story? Yes – it was engaging and interesting. Was it complete? No. But no story can be one hundred percent complete and coherent. Archivists and public historians need to acknowledge the gaps in their collections and stories and work to close them through exhibits, general interactions with visitors, or Wikipedia edit-a-thons.

JennyJennifer Pederson is a Graduate Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives. She will be graduating in May 2015 with a M.A. degree in Public History. In her spare time she enjoys stumbling upon public art and reorganizing her apartment.

 

0a621f2Mollie Fullerton is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is finishing her last semester of her MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to sharing authority, she enjoys biking, making/eating pie, and playing the musical saw.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.