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I’m emotionally exhausted.  Probably you are too.  In particular, the news overwhelms me.  I absorb it all day.  There’s so much of it, and “good news is no news,” so there’s “a lot of awful” to go around.  It makes me blue.
 
When I want to remind myself that there’s more to “news” than U.S. news (our navel-gazing national programs barely acknowledge it), I turn to Euronews.  One of their regular segments is titled “No Comment,” in which they show a video with no sound other than what might be part of the event shown in the video — no reporter or host interprets what you’re seeing.  The viewer makes of it what they will. It can be oddly peaceful.
 
I was reminded of that segment when I found an album of cyanotypes on a shelf in our department.  It was lying on top of a collection that (as far as I can tell) had nothing at all to do with it.  I suspect it was inadvertently put there while someone was shelving something else.  The album itself has no clues to the collection it belongs to or what it is — who put it together, who the photographer is, or how it came to be here.  It has no comment about itself.
 
I also haven’t found the album digitized anywhere (yet), but the closest thing to it might be the cyanotypes of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge was a photographer who was interested in (among other things) capturing separate instances of motion.  He made several studies of motion, including one of wrestlers.  Muybridge’s wrestlers, though, are nude and ours are clothed, as I suspect Amherst College administrators would’ve preferred back when these cyanotypes were made.  Our cyanotypes have numbers in the original image (suggesting a set of commercial photographs) as well as different numbers penciled in later by someone — maybe Doc Hitchcock? — who rearranged the order of the originals, probably to use it as a teaching tool.
 
The album has a patent date, “Pat Apr 4 82,” printed in the gutter of some of the pages, so that gives us an approximate date (after April 1882) for the album.  Otherwise, the album remains a mystery.  It’s likely that one of my colleagues has seen it and knows something about it, but I haven’t asked anyone yet — it would  break the spell.
 
So I looked at it without any information about its provenance or intended use.  I looked at it just as it is, and sank into the blue — like the blue of a quiet, late afternoon snow.
 
No further comment.

 

Alcatraz: November 1969

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November 20 of this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Native takeover and occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Native activists took advantage of a clause in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that all retired, abandoned or out-of-use federal land should be returned to the Native people who once occupied it. Alcatraz closed as a federal prison in March 1963 and was abandoned by the government by 1964. On November 20, the first boat full of Native activists arrived to take possession of the island; they would remain on Alcatraz until forced out by the federal government on June 11, 1971.

Solidarity Rally

The Archives & Special Collections holds a wide range of materials both from the time of the occupation and retrospectives and other later publications. A selection of these items is on display on Frost Library A-Level through the end of the semester to mark this important anniversary.

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Today the news reached us in the Archives & Special Collections that Jack W. C. Hagstrom MD (AC 1955) passed away late last week. We will offer a fuller tribute to Jack’s memory in the weeks ahead, but this post from 2012 gives some sense of how much he shaped the collections at Amherst College. Without Jack and his devotion to the poetry of Robert Frost, we would not have the world-class collection we hold today. We are all richer thanks to Jack’s efforts.

He will be missed.

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Looking for some last minute Halloween costume inspiration? Ever wondered what Halloween looked like at Amherst nearly 100 years ago? While we don’t know what the students were up to, we do know that the faculty loved to dress up and held an annual Halloween party in the Pratt Gymnasium in the early 1930s. President Stanley King also held annual costume parties for the faculty on various themes, including the “Gay 90s” (which would be like a 1980s themed party now) and historical characters. Please enjoy some highlights pictured below and for many more pictures come in to look at the Amherst College Photograph Collection!

Click on images to view larger

This guest post was written by this summer’s Norfolk Charitable Trust Intern, Elliott Hadwin (AC 2019).

Before archivists can get collections ready for use by researchers, they have to get the collections ready for themselves! This summer, as the Norfolk Charitable Trust Intern, I undertook two projects to help prepare eight new collections ready for processing by the Norfolk Charitable Trust Transition Archivist, Jess Dampier: preliminary research and physical assessment. The goal of doing this kind of work before processing is to help the archivist get oriented in the collection and contextualize the materials, but before I get to my work with the collections, let me tell you a little bit about the collections themselves.

In the winter of 2018, the archives received a generous donation from the Norfolk Charitable Trust of eight new collections:

  • Henry P. Kendall Archive,
  • Evelyn Louise Kendall Archive,
  • Henry W. Kendall General Archive,
  • Henry W. Kendall Nobel Prize Archive,
  • Henry W. Kendall Photographic Archive,
  • John P. Kendall Archive,
  • Kendall Company Archive,
  • and the Kendall-Plimpton Genealogical Archive

All together, that’s about 150 linear feet of materials on or about the Kendall family. For a better idea of the size of that, that’s about 150 banker’s boxes. It seemed like a lot to me at first, especially because there’s such a wide range of topics covered! The Kendall family has always been very active in everything from business to philanthropy to the arts, and quite a bit of that is represented here. Henry P. Kendall (Amherst College Class of 1899) bought a failing textile mill in the early 1900’s and turned it into the multinational Kendall Company, an important supplier of medical textiles, primarily bandages during the first and second World War. His wife, Evelyn, was a Canadian born nurse and artist, as well as an avid collector of art, shell art, South Caroliniana, whaling memorabilia, dolls, and early aeronautic memorabilia (primarily ballooning). Their older son Henry W. (Amherst College Class of 1950) was a Nobel Prize winning physicist as well as an expert outdoorsman and photographer. Their other son, John P. (Amherst College Class of 1951), was a businessman with the Kendall Company until it was acquired by Colgate-Palmolive in the 1970’s, as well as an important figure in Hampshire College history (but more on that later!).

 With the preliminary research, one of the main goals was to get a better sense of the people who created the collections; what it would’ve been like for them to live in that time period, what kind of work (professional or personal) they did, what their hobbies and interests were, etc. Since the Kendall collections have a good amount of personal materials (photographs, memorabilia, correspondence, etc.) it was great to turn to the collections themselves for this context but simply because of the cumulative size of the collections and the long history of the Kendall family, there were lots of other rabbit holes to go down. One of the first challenges for me was to wrap my head around all the members of the family. To get started, I made a very rough family tree – but the Kendall family has been in New England for centuries and for a while it was almost more confusing than before!

But as I started to learn more about the individual family members, they each began to take shape and it became easier to keep them all straight in my head. Something I had not expected was how strongly the Kendalls have been connected to the Connecticut River Valley. Although many members of the family have been Amherst graduates, it became apparent as I researched more that their connections went way deeper than just Amherst College. For example, I’d seen a few references throughout my research to John P. being an important early supporter of Hampshire College, but never anything about the exact nature of that, so I took a trip to Hampshire to look at their archival records of the college’s founding. John P.’s interest in Hampshire might have been sparked, at least in part, because of his personal connection to his cousin Amherst College President Calvin H. Plimpton and his college friend Charles Longsworth who was Hampshire’s founding Vice President. But he also obviously supported the college’s founding principles: he had provided some input on The Making of a College, and starting in 1975 served as the chairman of the Board of Trustees. According to the student newspaper Climax, he became chairman during a particularly tumultuous time in Hampshire’s history, when students were regularly protesting the Board of Trustees because of changes to financial aid and other dissatisfaction on campus.

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Climax, January 14, 1975, from the Hampshire College Archives

In addition, many of the women in the family attended Mount Holyoke College: Clara Idella Plimpton (Henry P.’s mother) was class of 1871, Helen Idella Kendall (Henry P.’s sister) was class of 1900, and Helen Louise Kendall (Henry P.’s daughter) was class of 1951. And even before that, Henry P.’s grandmother, Priscilla Guild Lewis Plimpton, was one of Mary Lyon’s first students at Wheaton Seminary before Lyon went on to found Mount Holyoke College. Especially because none of these women are very heavily represented in our Kendall collections, I decided to make a trip to Mount Holyoke’s archives to collection biographical information and look at the Kendall Papers. While researching there, I learned that Clara Idella Plimpton is also credited with being the first woman to spend her junior year of college abroad. Clara Idella went on to marry Henry Lucien Kendall, but was widowed at a young age and raised Henry P. and his sister by herself on the Plimpton family farm in Walpole, MA.

The Kendall family connection to Walpole was also a strong one, and I ended up making a trip to visit the Walpole Historical Society. They had also received a donation from the Norfolk Charitable Trust, mostly concerning the Plimptons’ side of the family, and I was able to get a better sense of where materials related to our collections are kept. For example, they had the originals of some things we only had copies of, and vice versa.

While all of the research was going on, I was also working on physical assessments with the Norfolk Charitable Trust Transition Archivist, Jess Dampier. Like the preliminary research, a part of the physical assessments is just to get acquainted with the materials. Since these collections had already been worked on by an archivist at the Norfolk Charitable Trust, they came to our archives in relatively good shape. Since I’m just starting out working in archives, I thought it was really helpful to see the choices a previous archivist had made about housing, arrangement, etc. and try to understand why those choices were made. Sometimes, however, the questions we were asking ourselves were very basic “what is this?”, for example with Henry W.’s scientific materials that we received.

Another “what is this?” moment happened with a clear, plastic pyramid that had been given to Henry W. to commemorate a diving expedition. What I initially thought was a piece of coral inside turned out to be a Styrofoam cup that had been crushed under the pressure when it was taken down to their diving depth. I also really enjoyed looking at Evelyn’s doll miniatures, just because I was surprised by how intricate they are!

The other part of the physical assessment though is to find and address any immediate preservation issues. Thankfully, the issues we ran into most often (understuffed boxes and non-archival housing, for example) can be fixed by re-housing the materials. We did, however, find some mold on some leather materials and some film reels with vinegar syndrome. For now, these items will be placed in cold storage to stop the spread the leather’s mold and the films’ degradation.

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Box 57 of the Henry W. Kendall General Archive. The items with mold damage have been isolated for now, but will be put in cold storage soon. Other plastic bags in there are non-archival and will eventually need to be removed or replaced.

In the end, the whole range of Kendall collections ended up getting a color-coded makeover!

After the research and the physical assessment, it’s much easier to work with the materials without getting mixing up the family members or the boxes themselves. Hopefully, the preliminary research will not only help Jess with processing the collections, but also help visitors as they use the Kendall collections to conduct their own research.

Special thanks to John and Sue Anderson at the Walpole Historical Society for hosting me for the day, and to Emily Moran at Hampshire College for helping me access their archival records. And a huge thank you to the staff at Amherst College Archives and Special Collections for supporting this internship!

Henry John Van Lennep (AC 1837), a noted 19th-century Christian minister, missionary, writer and educator, was born in Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) in 1815. In 1830 he was sent to the United States for his education.  After graduating from Amherst College in 1837, he was ordained a Congregational minister in 1839.
Photograph of Henry J. Van Lennep. Albumen print on card mount.
He served as a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for twenty-nine years beginning in 1840, in Smyrna (1840-44 and 1863-69), Constantinople (1844-54), and Tocat (1854-56). Van Lennep traveled extensively throughout the region of western Asia and Egypt.
After losing his sight from cataract in 1869, he returned to the United States.  Van Lennep was proficient in numerous languages and was also a skillful artist, sketching (in pencil or pen and ink) scenes from his extensive travels.
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Many of his drawings appeared in published works, which include The Oriental Album: Twenty Illustrations, in Oil Colors, of the People and Scenery of Turkey, with an Explanatory and Descriptive Text (1862); Travels in Little-known Parts of Asia Minor: with Illustrations of Biblical Literature and Researches in Archaeology (1870); and Bible Lands: their Modern Customs and Manners Illustrative of Scripture (1875).  He also executed several drawings for Professor Edward Hitchcock, including his Geology of Massachusetts (1841) and Illustrations of Surface Geology (1860).
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The bulk of the collection of the Henry J. Van Lennep (AC 1837) Sketches and Papers consists of pencil sketches and watercolors of scenery, people and artifacts, chiefly Turkish but also some American. In addition, a small amount of personal papers include passports related to his travel as a missionary in Turkey, a notebook of sermons written by Van Lennep in Armenian, and portrait photographs.
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Through collaboration between the Archives & Special Collections, Digital Programs, and Metadata the entire collection of Henry J. Van Lennep (AC 1837) Sketches and Papers has been digitized and is accessible through the Amherst College Digital Collections.
Henry J. Van Lennep watercolor sketch of a Constantinople street.

“In the fall of 1934, Gertrude Stein arrived in America to much buzz about “Gertrude Stein.” Her photo appeared on the cover of Time magazine following the blockbuster success of her accessible and witty The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). Journalists and a film crew waited at the dock to document Stein’s arrival. Her name appeared in lights in Times Square. Receptions were held in her honor. She enjoyed tea at the White House with Eleanor Roosevelt and dinner in Beverly Hills with Charlie Chaplin. She received the key to her hometown city of San Francisco. Fans and skeptics filled lecture halls across the United States to hear her Lectures in America. A two-month lecture tour turned into seven. Everywhere she went Gertrude Stein made headline news.”

Kirsch, Sharon J. “Gertrude Stein Delivers.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 31, no. 3, 2012, pp. 254–270.

One of Stein’s stops on her “Lectures in America” tour was Amherst College.

From the Amherst Student, January 7, 1935:

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Stein gave her lecture on January 9, 1935, as reported in The Amherst Student for January 10, 1935:

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Sharon Kirsch describes Stein’s tour of the United States as a public relations triumph — Stein achieved a tremendous degree of celebrity and name recognition even though the majority of those who attended her public lectures had likely never read any of her work. Stein herself later commented on that celebrity in Everybody’s Autobiography (1937):

“It was very nice being a celebrity a real celebrity who can decide who they want to meet and say so and they come or do not come as you want them. I never imagined that would happen to me to be a celebrity like that but it did and when it did I liked it.”

In addition to the coverage in The Amherst Student, we hold other traces of Stein’s visit in the Archives & Special Collections. We hold three letters and a postcard from Stein to Amherst President Stanley King; Stein and Alice B. Toklas both inscribed a copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York, 1933) for King upon their visit:

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Since the arrival of Ted Baird’s diaries in the Archives, we now regularly consult them to see if he commented on campus events. Gertrude Stein’s visit, and the dinner at President King’s home afterward, are recorded in this brief entry from January 9, 1935:

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Fortunately, Baird’s handwriting is more legible than Stein’s. Anyone interested in attempting to decipher the letters Stein sent to Stanley King is welcome to visit the Archives & Special Collections to see what other details from her visit can be recovered.