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Amherst College Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Records of the Paris Press. The records arrived here in April 2018 and we’re looking forward to making them quickly available to the public.

The Paris Press was founded in 1995 with the mission of publishing “groundbreaking yet overlooked literature by women.” Paris Press authors include: Muriel Rukeyser, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Bryher, Ruth Stone, Zdena Berger, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 2018, the Press was acquired by Wesleyan University and all Paris Press books will be available through the Wesleyan University Press.

The Records of the Paris Press includes some fifty to one hundred linear feet of paper records in addition to several terabytes of born digital material. This is the perfect opportunity for the Archives to practice the principles of extensible processing – an iterative process that creates baseline access points for archival material but allows for more detailed work as user demand dictates. The Paris Press records were well-organized when they were active, and the records creators kept everything categorized by publishing job and at the box level. We’ll be maintaining that organization as we prepare a box-level inventory for the public. We soon will have publicly available descriptions of the collection on our collections portal and in the library catalog. Check back soon!

Below are a number of shots of the newly-arrived Paris Press records as they made their way onto shelves at our off-site storage facility, the Bunker.

In honor of Preservation Week, I thought it was high time to do a post on our film preservation program.

Cellphone pictures of a few nitrate negatives from
the Lincoln Wade Barnes Photographic Negatives Collection

First off, what is film and why was it so ubiquitous for so long? The first 70 years of photography were dominated by images created on metal and glass (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, glass plate negatives). These technologies had some significant limitations – they were bulky, fragile and difficult to use. The advent of the first plastic film base in the 1880s was revolutionary. Nitrocellulose film, or nitrate film, was light, flexible, portable and could be produced on an industrial scale. Film allowed for an explosion in amateur photography and the invention of motion pictures. Nitrate film had the major disadvantage of being highly flammable and degrading in a relatively short time frame. Cellulose acetate film base (popularly known as “safety film” in the early years because it was not flammable) was under development beginning in the 1910s and was fully adopted by the early 1950s. Acetate film has only been superseded by digital photography in the past couple decades.

Why do we need to preserve film?

It is easy to understand the need to preserve nitrate film – no one wants a fire hazard in their collection and many nitrate negatives show clear signs of decay. Ultimately, very decayed nitrate negatives will turn either to dust or goo, completely destroying the image. Acetate film also decays, causing the film base to shrink, warp and become brittle with time. For photographic film, this can cause bubbling and channeling between the image or emulsion layer and the film base.

For motion picture film, the shrinkage of the film base can make it so that the sprocket holes in the film no longer match the holes in the projection equipment, causing the film to tear or break when projection is attempted. Advanced decay can cause curling, spoking (see below), warping and breakage.

In addition, color dyes used in photograph and motion picture film are very sensitive fading with time and detrimental environmental conditions. While it is often possible to recover the images from damaged acetate film, it is a very expensive and time consuming process that involves separating the emulsion layer from the film base and carefully adhering it to a new polyester film base. Unfortunately faded dyes can not be recovered.

What is Amherst doing to preserve our film?

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Cold storage is hands down the best way to slow the chemical reactions that cause decay in nitrate and acetate film and color dyes. Storage below 30 degrees Fahrenheit extends the life of film by hundreds of years. (This calculator from the Image Permanence Institute allows you to explore the life span of acetate film under various environmental conditions.) With the generous support of the college, we’ve been able to install two freezers for storing our film materials. Our nitrate films are now all housed in a special flammable materials freezer and we are steadily moving our acetate film materials into a new walk-in freezer that will ultimately house all of our acetate film collections – negatives, slides and motion picture film.

Because neither of our freezers have humidity control, we bag each box of film that goes in the freezer in moisture proof packaging using the protocols designed by the National Park Service. The materials in each box are packed carefully to reduce motion (film is very brittle when frozen), and each box is packed in two layers of vapor barrier bags. Inside each bag is a humidity monitoring card that we use to make sure that seals on the bags have not failed during storage.

Olivia Gieger ’21 packaging film from the Amherst College Football Film collection

If researchers need to work with any of the frozen materials, we can remove them from the freezer and after a 24 hour equilibration period, they can be freely used.

Cold storage allows us to stabilize the condition of our film based materials so that they can be used for centuries to come. It also allows us to focus our digitization and preservation reformatting efforts on materials that have a more urgent need for attention, such as audio-visual materials on magnetic tape (look for a post on legacy AV media digitization in the coming months!)

Resources:

https://www.filmcare.org/
This page created by the Image Permanence Institute has a lot of great information about identifying types of film and levels of deterioration and tools for cold storage planning.

https://www.filmpreservation.org/
The National Film Preservation Foundation is a key organization in the United States providing funding and information on motion picture film preservation. The Film Preservation Guide available as a free pdf on their website is a great introductory text for cultural heritage institutions.

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/preservation/guide
This technical preservation guide from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia includes a section on preservation at home for film, audio, video and still photographs.

https://www.nps.gov/museum/coldstorage/html/index.html
This guide by the National Parks Service demonstrates the step by step procedures for implementing cold storage.

I recently processed a single box collection of correspondence from Viola Roseboro’, a fiction editor and author at the turn of the 20th century, to her friend Gertrude Hall Brownell, poet and author.  The correspondence spans an eight year period (1936-1944) toward the end of Roseboro’s life.

This small collection contains primarily one-sided correspondence from Viola Roseboro’ to Gertrude Hall Brownell, with the occasional enclosed letter by Gertrude Hall Brownell or other correspondent, including a single Willa Cather letter. The correspondence reflects Roseboro’s views on literature, politics, current events, shared acquaintances, her health, finances, and living arrangements, and her lifetime love of Shakespeare.  This collection gives a glimpse of  a close friendship between two women in early 20th century New York.

Viola Roseboro’ was born in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1858, daughter of the Reverend S.R. Roseboro’ and Martha Colyar. Roseboro’ attended Fairmont College in Monteagle, TN and worked as a stage actress before settling in New York around 1882 to begin a career in newspapers and magazines as a freelance writer and reader.

Roseboro’ joined the staff of McClure’s Magazine, a monthly periodical publishing literary and political content, as a manuscript reader in 1893 before becoming the fiction editor for the magazine. As editor, Roseboro’ was known for her talent in selecting and publishing unknown authors, such as O. Henry, Jack London, and Will Cather.

Roseboro’s first collection of short stories, “Old Ways and New” was published in 1892. “The Joyous Heart,” a novel, was published in 1903, followed by another collection of short stories, “Players and Vagabonds,” published in 1904. “Storms of Youth,” Roseboro’s final novel, was published in 1920. Roseboro’ also published numerous short stories and articles in various magazines.

Roseboro’ and Gertrude Hall Brownell (nicknamed Kitty) first met at an afternoon reception at the Barnard Club in New York City in 1900 and remained close friends and correspondents until Roseboro’s death in 1945 in Staten Island, NY.

Gertrude Hall Brownell was a poet and author, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1863. Hall Brownell married William Crary Brownell (AC 1871) in 1921 and died in 1961.

Viola Roseboro to Gertrude Hall Brownell envelope

The Gertrude Hall Brownell Collection of Viola Roseboro’ Correspondence can be accessed in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

Digitized copies of McClure’s Magazine are accessible online through Hathi Trust.

Bibliography:
Viola Roseboro’ obituary. New York Times, January 30, 1945.
McClure, S.S. “My Autobiography” McClure Publications, 1913.

Sacrifice Your Darlings

Morgan Library in “Ballou’s,” 1855

In early 2017 I posted about 25 individual daguerreotypes from the Amherst College Class of 1850 that are part of the Archives and Special Collections. I provided new glass for each daguerreotype, reassembled each unit, and attempted to identify the members of the class. The daguerreotypes were in envelopes, having been removed in the 1980s from a grouping in an old wooden frame, which was apparently discarded. With only two exceptions – Austin Dickinson and George Gould – there were no names attached to the daguerreotypes from a class well known to Emily Dickinson, who often mentioned Austin’s classmates in her letters.  The identifications I proposed in the 2017 post were based in particular on things like a visible fraternity pin in a daguerreotype that could be compared against a list of known fraternity members, or later images of the students that could be compared with their youthful ones. In this way, it was possible to identify everyone at least tentatively. And there the matter rested.

A few months later I needed to write a thank-you note to someone who gave us a collection of daguerreotypes by Professor Ebenezer Snell’s brother William Ward Snell (the subject of a future post). For my thank-you, I looked through a collection of note cards in the department and chose my favorite, a photograph showing the interior of Morgan Library in the late 19th century.  I’ve looked at this photograph many times, but this time – with daguerreotypes on the brain – I noticed something I’d never noticed before. Can you see it?

Look closer:

I knew at once that there was a framed group of daguerreotypes on the wall.  Furthermore, it was reasonable to think it was a group of people somehow connected to each other (faculty or students) rather than a bunch of random daguerreotypes framed together (if anyone ever did that anyway). I went to a good scan of the photograph and examined it. The one on the left in the second row caught my eye — I yelped– surely that was Austin Dickinson…  I wasn’t looking for him — he just stuck out in some way, perhaps because I’ve seen his big, doughy face a million times already and I have its template impressed on my brain.

 

My more levelheaded and therefore initially skeptical colleague Chris examined it – and agreed. It then occurred to me that if this daguerreotype showed Austin, was he where he ought to be if the daguerreotypes were in alphabetical order? I counted. He was. The next thing to do was to place the ones with solid identifications in their proper place and then to work down through the list of students. Chris and I had a lot of fun with this part.

In order to do the work, we looked at the daguerreotypes that had some physical aspect that made them stand out – those that showed solarization in the whites that made them glow (like Faunce in the middle of the second row), or that were especially dark; those in which the direction the sitters were facing was a factor; or those that were framed in ovals, which seemed especially visible. These variables allowed us to put the images in place and recreate the framed group that you can see in the library photograph above. So here’s the Class of 1850 in alphabetical order, from left to right, top to bottom. If you want to be a smarty-pants, you could compare them with the identifications in the previous post and see where I was wrong.

Left to right, top to bottom:
Avery, Beebe, Bishop, Cory, Crosby, Dickinson, Ellery, Faunce, Fenn, Garrette, Gay, Gilbert, Gould, Gregory, Hodge, Howland, Manning, Newton, Nickerson, Packard, Sawyer, Shipley, Stimpson, Thompson, Williston (see list of full names at end of post). Daguerreotypist undocumented but most likely J.D. Wells of Northampton.

 

But  – oh no…!

Are you familiar with the expression “sacrifice your darlings”? I remember exactly when I first heard that expression and who said it to me. It’s usually employed (everywhere…tiresomely) as a helpful reminder to edit your writing (good advice, and I attempt to abide by it–I swear), but I also think of it in broader terms to mean giving up something one treasures.  In this case, it meant that my heart must be broken and a darling sacrificed, for it revealed that the photograph below — the same photograph that is my computer’s background– is not Henry Shipley, known to his mates as “Ship,” the brilliant bad-boy of his class who couldn’t stay out of trouble and whose tragic story (see second half of earlier post) has become linked in my mind with this particular photograph:

Instead, it’s Minott Sherman Crosby, a schoolteacher and principal of two schools, the Hartford Female Seminary and then Waterbury High School, and later superintendent of schools in Waterbury.  He lived to 1897 and had three children with Margaret Maltby Crosby.

 

An inconvenient truth. At right, Minott Crosby in “History of Waterbury”

This identification continues to disorder my mind and send up a bristling resistance. I still associate that face with Ship, though sadly now. Instead, the real Shipley is — according to the group order — this fellow:

So I put this guy – this Shipley – as the background on a second computer, where he duels across the room with his alter-ego (aka Crosby) for my affection. But I continue to struggle to accept the truth, which is a strange lesson in sacrificing a darling, and in how hard it is to give up a cherished belief in the face of better evidence — a lesson for every era.

So for now, at least, this should be it for the Class of 1850. Unless something else comes up….

 

***********************************************************************************************

Full list of the graduates of the Class of 1850:

William Fisher Avery (1826-1903)
Albert Graham Beebe (1826-1899)
Henry Walker Bishop (1829-1913)
John Edwin Cory (1825-1865)
Minott Sherman Crosby (1829-1897)
William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895)
John Graeme Ellery (1824-1855)
Daniel Worcester Faunce (1829-1911)
Thomas Legare Fenn (1830-1912)
Edmund Young Garrette (1823-1902)
Augustine Milton Gay (1827-1876)
Archibald Falconer Gilbert (1825-1866)
George Henry Gould (1827-1899)
James John Howard Gregory (1827-1910)
Leicester Porter Hodge (1828-1851)
George Howland (1824-1892)
Jacob Merrill Manning (1824-1882)
Jeremiah Lemuel Newton (1824-1883)
Joseph Nickerson (1828-1882)
David Temple Packard (1824-1880)
Sylvester John Sawyer (1823-1884)
Henry Shipley (1825-1859)
Thomas Morrill Stimpson (1827-1898)
John Howland Thompson (1827-1891)
Lyman Richards Williston (1830-1897)

There were also 15 non-graduates in the class, all of whom departed Amherst long before the daguerreotypes were made.

 

I have spent a lot of time digging a little deeper into our Native American Literature Collections in preparation for the Rare Book School course I will be co-teaching this summer: A History of Native American Books & Indigenous Sovereignty. I was already aware of Angel de Cora(Winnebago) and her work as a book designer and illustrator, and I knew she went to school at Smith, but not much more than that.

Middle Five Cover

Francis LaFlesche. The Middle Five. Cover design by Angel de Cora.

My Rare Book School co-conspirator, Amherst Professor Kiara Vigil, told me to read this book, which includes a whole chapter on de Cora:

Hutchinson’s book fleshes out the broader context in which de Cora was working, and she identifies other examples of de Cora’s commercial illustration work. Learning that de Cora attended The Drexel Institute of Art in Philadelphia where she studied under famed American illustrator Howard Pyle helped to place de Cora within the mainstream of commercial illustration work in the 1890s. Two of her earliest known published works fit neatly within the pages of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, which was aimed at the rising American middle class consumer. Her first story, “The Sick Child,” appeared in the February 1899 issue:

The Sick Child

A second illustrated story appeared in the November 1899 issue of the same title: “Gray Wolf’s Daughter”:

Gray Wolfs Daughter

Chronologically, de Cora’s illustrations and designs for The Middle Five followed in 1900. In addition to the cover shown above, de Cora produced a color image for the frontispiece, with her signature clearly visible at the bottom:

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Before reading Hutchinson’s book, I was not aware that de Cora took a job at the Carlisle Indian School — a boarding school for Native American students in Pennsylvania — where she taught art for several years. While at Carlisle, she also helped launch a new magazine called The Indian Craftsman, a reference to Gustav Stickley’s arts and crafts movement magazine, The Craftsman. Although Amherst College does not hold any original issues of The Indian Craftsman, there are several available through the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center:

Indian Craftsman

As soon as I learned of this magazine, and others produced at Carlisle, I began searching for more information about printing projects at Carlisle and other Native boarding schools. As luck would have it, a book appeared last year on that very subject: Recovering Native American Writings in the Boarding School Press (Edited by Jacqueline Emery).

More than simply a working artist who incorporated her Native heritage into her work, de Cora was attempting to develop a pan-Indian aesthetic that blended her formal training and Native traditions.

Letter to Zephaniah S. Moore, first president of Amherst College.

This week, I’d like to draw your attention to a fascinating collection that was recently digitized and made available in Amherst College Digital Collections: the Amherst College Early History Manuscripts and Pamphlets Collection.

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A map of South College from the first year of the college’s existence, 1821/22, showing the students living in each room.

This is a small collection of documents that were donated to the archives by Edward and Ethel Mellon in 1921 (see the finding aid here). The majority of the items in this collection date from the first fifteen years of Amherst College’s existence and they reveal a lot about what the institution was like during this formative time. The college was very small: admissions, financial aid, discipline and the day to day business of the college where executed in a personal and paternal manner by the President and the Board of Trustees. There are many letters in the collection regarding students wishing to attend the college. Admission was often as simple as a letter of introduction sent to the President and a letter of acceptance in return. The college having been founded for the express purpose of educating indigent young men of piety, there are also many inquiries about financial aid.

Dana Clayes letter to President Heman Humphrey, June 21, 1824

“He wishes to ascertain the principal expenses, (viz.) the price of board, firewood, etc. and likewise what assistance can be afforded to pious indigent students who possess the requisite talents.” Dana Clayes letter to President Heman Humphrey, June 21, 1824

The college was also rigidly paternalistic in its early years – absolute obedience and unquestioning respect was required of all students and the faculty, president and trustees of the college dictated most aspects of student life. The eleven items relating to student discipline illuminate this dynamic very well. Ethraim Eveleth, class of 1825, was suspended for implying that the faculty had displayed favoritism in student appointments, the collection includes his signed retraction and a statement by the trustees reinstating him as a student in light of same. Another suspension was given to Joseph Goffe, Jr., class of 1826, who left campus without permission and then had the temerity to say that a student has the right to disobey the authority of the College when he thinks his request has been unreasonably denied.

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Charles Upham Shephard apparently made “an opprobrious inscription upon glass + circulating it in the Chemical Lecture room” received an Admonition from the president.

Some of the offenses that student received discipline for make more sense to a modern mind: Charles Upham Shephard, class of 1824 and later a respected professor of Natural History at the college for many decades, was admonished by the president and faculty for what we would now call bullying.

“The Faculty cannot close without expressing their decided disapprobation of every attempt to bring a fellow student into disconduct or make his college life uncomfortable by applying to him any opprobrious epithet whether directly or indirectly, in conversation or in writing. The Faculty wish to have it distinctly understood that no such violation of the laws of kindness and good breeding can be tolerated in this institution.”

Edward Dickinson, class of 1823, who would go on to be a respected lawyer, treasurer of the college and the father of Emily Dickinson, was involved in an incident in November of 1821 with an oyster supper, cherry rum, gin and a “great disturbance in and about the Institution”.

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The Charges: “-that after supper they had cherry rum and gin -that they drank to excess – that about 12 0’clock they all of them came to the Institution – that they there behaved in a very indecent and riotous manner, and made great disturbance in and about the Institution, to the extreme annoyance of those residing in it til one o’clock or later.”

Other items of interest and importance in this collection include:

  • Five letters between the Anti-Slavery Society and the Trustees from 1834 regarding the Trustees’ order that the Society disband and the Society’s protest of that decision. These letters and the history of the Society more broadly are explored in another post on this blog, the Amherst College Anti-Slavery Society.
  • In February 1822, students presented a petition to President Zephaniah Swift Moore expressing their dissatisfaction with tutor Lucius Fields and their request for a different tutor. In response the faculty passed a resolution that the petition was slanderous and should not be granted. Regarding punishment for the students who brought the petition, the faculty decided to treat the students with “paternal tenderness” but should there be any further disorder or disrespect to the officers of the Institution, the faulty would proceed with all the severity required.
  • A letter from Cyrus Grosvenor to President Moore in 1823 discusses his travels in the South Carolina and his attempts to raise money and recruit students for the college there.
  • In 1841 or 1842, 10 sophomores agreed to work on the college hill for 10¢ an hour to pay their debts. Presumably this meant manual labor to grade the hill or maintain paths or roads.
  • My personal favorite is a letter from the senior class to the president expressing their concern for his health and their willingness to forgo all the rest of their classes with him this term so that he can rest. A wry note by the president is written at the end of the petition indicating that they continued to have class for the rest of the term.

If you enjoy this material, keep your eyes peeled for the Early College History Collection, which is being digitized and will be going up on ACDC in the coming months!

Reworking the McCloy Papers

We’re pleased to announce the completion of a project to reorganize the John J. McCloy Papers, one of our most heavily used collections.

The project involved three steps – each intended to increase ease of access to the collection and ensure the protection of the material.

Addressing preservation issues: this collection was first processed in the late 1980s. When archival collections are first processed, they are housed in acid-free containers to protect the material. But over time acid-free boxes and folders become acidic and don’t protect as well. We swapped out all of the boxes in the McCloy Papers for new acid-free buffered boxes and replaced well-worn folders. Oversized material in the collection was given boxes specially designed to fit the material. You can read more about ideal storage methods here.

Condensing the collection: this was also a bit of a preservation issue. The McCloy Papers are housed in records cartons, which look like this:

box

A number of the boxes in the collection were not completely filled. Ideally, a box should be filled just enough so that it is easy to pull out a needed folder. A box should not be overstuffed, nor should it be under-filled – either situation puts unnecessary strain on the archival material.

box open

A well-filled records carton

You can read more about storage and handling here.

Providing unique identifiers: After physically condensing the collection, boxes and folders needed to be renumbered and the finding aid brought up to date. We gave the boxes and folders sequential numbers so that the finding aid would provide one single list.

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A snapshot of the new finding aid

This part was quite the endeavor – the collection comprises over 50 boxes and thousands of folders. But we persisted and the brand new finding aid is available online. It is accessible here.

If you’ve used the collection before and have old citations for items in the collection, don’t worry. We’ve put together a cheat sheet that will translate those citations for you.

For the uninitiated, here is an overview of the collection:

The John J. McCloy Papers were given to Amherst College by McCloy through a deed of gift executed in July of 1985. It was one of the largest acquisitions for the Archives at the time. Prior to their physical transfer to the Amherst College Archives, roughly half of the papers underwent a national security review by the Department of State. The bulk of these arrived at the College in May of 1986, with several batches sent later following clearance by the relevant government agency. Today, the Papers comprise 59.5 linear feet of material, including 52 records cartons, 28 flat boxes, 1 scroll box, and 2 map case drawers.

The McCloy Papers span the years 1897-1989, with the bulk of the material falling into the period 1940-1979. The roughly 60 linear feet of material cover the breadth of McCloy’s activities, from lawyer to banker to government official to negotiator to behind-the-scenes adviser. The papers include working papers, correspondence, memoranda, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, legal documents, printed material, and memorabilia. Of particular interest is the material which focuses on McCloy’s time as High Commissioner of Germany after World War II, and the material concerning McCloy’s involvement in Japanese internment camps during the war.

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McCloy leaving Germany from Rhein-Main airbase after serving as High Commissioner of Germany after World War II

 

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Series 4: Speeches contains over 40 years of formal and informal speeches given by McCloy.

McCloy received many honorary degrees and awards over the course of his career.

Our next preservation project involving the McCloy Papers will be to send out the legacy media for digital reformatting.