Archivists to the Rescue! Project Update

Deb Schiff
Archivist
2017-2018 Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of SAA Lone Arrangers
debra.schiff@gmail.com

Since Brenda Gunn, our council liaison, and Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director presented our pilot project, Archivists To The Rescue!, to Council earlier this year, the project team has been moving forward at a reasonable pace. We – SAA members and Section leaders Deb Schiff, Alison Stankrauff, Michelle Ganz, Ashley Levine, and Russ Gasero, as well as Dyani Feige of CCAHA – have reviewed the materials submitted from archivists across the country for consideration in the project.

Deb used Google Sheets to organize all of the project contributors in one place, with their contributions and contact information. For the workshop materials (handouts, bibliographies, and presentations) reviews, Deb used a Google Form so that the reviewers would have a standard method of reviewing each set of materials. The responses from the form were recorded on a page within a Google Sheet listing all of the workshop materials, to centralize all of this crucial information.

We obtained permissions to alter, use, and distribute all of the materials submitted. We reached a consensus on which materials to use for the workshops by the end of April, and are in the process of making the workshops ready for instructors to use.

Ashley has developed interview questions for video interviews and participant surveys (part of the measures of success for the project). Michelle has developed forms for the instructors and participants. All will be reviewed by the entire project team during May.

Also, sites have been selected across the state of New Jersey and workshop presenters will be trained in a “train the trainer” workshop Deb will hold later in the year. By the end of May, it is hoped that the workshops will be scheduled with the sites, so we can begin promoting the workshops and selecting the cohort of participants. It is hoped that each participant will be able to attend all of the workshops at their site.

Annie Tummino, of the SAA Lone Arrangers Steering Committee, organized a Lone Arrangers/Archivists to the Rescue Project Meet Up at the April MARAC meeting. There, Deb gave a short report on the project and sold the Archivist pin designed by the Los Angeles Archivists Collective as a fundraiser for the pilot (30 pins were sold!). It is expected that a portion of the proceeds will go toward producing more pins to sell at the annual SAA meeting (Nancy Beaumont said we would have a table at registration for the purposes). The remainder would go to expenses associated with the workshops

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A Practical Response to The Archivist (2015)

Sarah Chilton
Senior Research Librarian
BROOKINGS Library
Brookings Institution
SChilton@Brookings.edu

Unlike Nathan Mathers in the short film, The Archivist, I do go home every evening and I don’t see myself in videos I process. I will admit to occasional dreams (or nightmares) about boxes, cloud storage, files, tape cassettes and photos. I do find myself trying to finish one more box or file, but there is so much else to do, I don’t let a collection processing take over my life. As a research librarian at the Brookings Institution and a lone arranger of the Brookings Archives, processing happens in the time around requests for library or archival reference.

The Brookings Archives was established in the early 1980s with grant funding from the National Endowment for Humanities and the Cafritz Foundation. A project archivist was hired to collect and process the records of the Institution, a public policy research organization founded in 1916. A finding aid to the collection was published in 1987. Plans called for a librarian to accession material after the archivist left. I took over that role around 1993. My training consisted of a new MLIS degree with a concentration in reference services and participation in training at the Modern Archives Institute. Since then I’ve received lots of on the job training and I’ve counted on the advice of colleagues including those on the Lone Arranger listserv. The bulk of our 750 box paper collection was moved to and offsite storage facility. With real estate prices around Washington, DC so high, the storage facility changed hands and the collection was move further away from the city four times. I was finally able to bring the collection back to Brookings. I’ve spent the past year reorganizing and rehousing the collection in the building basement. I started scanning paper archival files program 15 years ago. I didn’t have all the answers for a digitization project, but I started with two scanners, (one flatbed and the other with an automatic document feeder) scanning software, and storage on the Institution’s drive. Funding for a content management system and optical character recognition software were deferred for several years. Now, with an OCLC ContentDM management system in place, I’m busy loading digitized paper and born digital documents into our repository. Board of trustees, presidential files and photographs have been the priority so far. Our scanning project continues with help from library assistants. I’m also investigating ways to collect more digital content including email and process some paper files from a retiring president and vice president. I get about 10 questions a month for archival information. The requests range from questions from our Executive Officers about former policies and programs to graduate students from around the world studying past Brookings research projects. In the coming year, I hope to establish digital rights so customers can use our ContentDM database to do their own research. Of course, I will continue to process more content for the archives.

Jackson Place NW, Brookings Sign
Brookings building at 722 Jackson Place in 1932. Photo courtesy Brookings Institution.
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Brookings building at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, 2018. Photo courtesy Brookings Institution.

Archivists to the Rescue!

Deb Schiff
Archivist
2017-2018 Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of SAA Lone Arrangers
debra.schiff@gmail.com

Volunteer members of the SAA Lone Arrangers; Reference, Access and Outreach; and Issues and Advocacy Sections are working on a pilot project, Archivists to the Rescue! This initiative aims to bring low- and no-cost basic archival training workshops to non-professional archivists and cultural heritage professionals who cannot afford typical professional development courses and/or the transportation costs required to travel outside of their areas for similar workshops. This effort will strive to help small organizations and local communities preserve and make accessible their archival records that are hidden due to a lack of access to information on preservation and archival practices, as well as increase the awareness of the profession and the Society of American Archivists, and promote a more inclusive profession.

The pilot program will comprise a series of workshops covering the essentials of preservation, archival processing, arrangement, description, digital archives (handling born-digital materials and digitizing materials), and identifying and caring for photographs. Archivists to the Rescue! Will partner with affiliated cultural heritage organizations and other sister SAA Sections to roll out the pilot to religious archives and small historical organizations in New Jersey.

The Lone Arrangers will update members about the pilot progress in the coming months, and are thrilled to develop a practical means of reaching more and more communities.

Archivists to the Rescue!

Going Solo at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

MikeOct2016

Michael Aday
Librarian-Archivist
National Park Service Collections Preservation Center Great Smoky Mountains National Park Townsend, Tennessee
michael_aday@partner.nps.gov

 I have been the librarian-archivist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee since October 2013. Though I am the archivist at a national park, I am not a federal employee. My salary is paid by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, one of the many partner organizations that support our national park system, however I report directly to the parks museum curator and am bound by the same guidelines that all federal employees must adhere to. I have a BA in historical studies from the University of Texas at Dallas and an MA in history with a concentration in archival administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. Before coming to the Smokies I was an archives technician at Yosemite National Park, a contract archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art, as well as a project archivist at Texas A&M University, Commerce.

In 2016 I was responsible for moving the parks archival collections, more than one million documents, into a newly constructed 4.5 million dollar purpose built storage facility, the National Park Service Collections Preservation Center located in Townsend, Tennessee. The facility came about as the result of a partnership between the federal government, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, The Friends of the Smokies, and the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. The facility will eventually house the cultural collections for 5 regional national park units, including GSMNP, but the collections that I manage will be the only archival records to be stored in the new facility.

CPCArchivesSpace2Resized
Archives stacks at National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

My work here primarily involves connecting with researchers, both from the park service and the general public. On average I process in excess of 275 research requests each year. Due to the nature of the parks creation in the 1930’s we have a large collection of records that are a treasure trove of information for genealogists, many of whom travel to the park for vacation and combine their visits with an opportunity to study their family history. In addition to the genealogy requests, I work with a large number of authors and academics. Park service employees researching various aspects of the parks history make up a smaller but no less important number of research requests.

CPCResearchRoom
Research room at National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The GSMNP archival collections span an extensive period of time. Our oldest record dates from the American Revolution and the most current records were accessioned in 2016. We have nearly 1700 LF of records including more than 20,000 historic photographs, in excess of 500 hours of oral history recordings and transcripts, a complete collection of the land transaction records that document the purchase of family holdings and commercial timber lands that formed the basis for the national park, as well as dozens of manuscript collections from many of the families that settled in this region of southern Appalachia after the American Revolution. As you might expect, the bulk of our collection consists of the records generated by Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself. From early press releases announcing the establishment of the park in 1926, to Historic American Building Survey records, superintendent reports, various division and branch records, as well as records detailing the recent celebration of the NPS centennial are all part of our collection of permanent records.

GRSM15683JohnSevierSummons
Summons to the Sheriff of Washington County, NC from Clerk of the Court John Sevier, from 1782. Photo courtesy National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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Civilian Conservation Corps scrip, from 1932. Photo courtesy National Park Service Collections Preservation Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In 2010 the park worked with Clemson University on a digitization project that resulted in more than 14,000 of our historic photographs being made available on the Open Parks Network website. In 2015 we contracted with a company in Atlanta, Georgia to digitize our oral history recordings as well as hundreds of hours of park service training films and other visual media. Though not available online, these recordings are now accessible to researchers anywhere.

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As a steward of public records I take my responsibility very seriously. I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that as few impediments as possible are placed between the American people and their access to this information. But records can’t be accessed if people don’t know they exist. To further that access I work diligently to educate the public about our holdings through presentations to local history and genealogy groups. In 2017 the museum curator and I gave tours of the new facility to more than 300 members of the public. Public outreach has the additional benefit of increased donations, both material and financial. As a result of increased public education about this new facility, we have received more than a dozen donations of materials that fall within our scope of collections and are poised to receive our first significant financial bequest. Increased public education and access can often be seen as a two-edged sword by some lone arrangers, but we have to overcome our fears of being inundated with traffic in order to raise the public profiles of our repositories. If people don’t access our holdings, how can we justify our existence?

 

Welcoming the Stranger: Refugee Resettlement in the Diocese of Olympia

Diane Wells

Diane Wells, CA
Archivist & Records Manager Diocese of Olympia, Seattle, WA
DWells@ecww.org
https://ecww.org/about-the-diocese-of-olympia/departments/archives/

For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. –Matthew, chapter 25: verse 35

Every year, millions of refugees around the world leave their homes in hope of escaping tyranny, poverty and persecution.

Nguyen Family
The Nguyen Family from Vietnam Olympia Churchman Photo. Photo courtesy the Archives of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

A small percentage find permanent residence in a new country. Some arrive in Seattle, Washington. Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is among the organizations that give refugees a chance at a new life. The Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office, a local affiliate for EMM, has assisted refugees from around the world since 1978. Their programs have welcomed more than 20,000 men, women and children from more than 30 countries and provided a variety of services including, food, shelter, community orientation, English tutoring, job training and placement.

Everyone assisted by the Refugee Resettlement Office has a case file. That translates into thousands of files – most of which are in paper.

Refugee Resettlement Office files
Refugee Resettlement Office files. Photo courtesy the Archives of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

These files not only document individual journeys – but also collectively document global strife, immigration patterns and the role of The Episcopal Church in this very real drama of life and death. In the Diocese of Olympia, the Archives has taken on the responsibility for preserving these files and has just completed a long-term digitization project to capture these important records.

For years, the files were stored in a room at the Refugee Resettlement Office where the boxes and cabinets containing them were stacked from floor to ceiling. As the number of files grew, some were stored off-site in storage lockers. Neither location was particularly secure or environmentally stable – but worst of all was the difficulty of retrieval.

RRO Records in Storage
Storage room at the Refugee Resettlement Office with boxes and cabinets containing stacke from floor to ceiling. Photo courtesy the Archives of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

These files have – quite literally – been on my mind for years. After surveying the records and studying the options, I put together a proposal for our diocesan Board of Directors, recommending that the files be digitized for permanent retention.

My proposal emphasized four points justifying the project and the funds I was requesting:

Why Do Refugee Case Files Matter?

  1. Files provide documentation of the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement program
  2. Files are important to our national security
  3. Files provide detailed information on the individuals involved
  4. Files have broad historical significance for the Pacific Northwest

The Board accepted my proposal and authorized funds for the project.

This was certainly all well and good – and went a long way towards moving the project along. However, there was still one major hurdle to overcome. Before the files could be digitized, they had to be ‘prepped’ –  staples, clips and other fasteners removed; pages straightened; and a cover sheet created for each file – a necessary but labor intensive and time-consuming process.

Staples, etc.
Staples, clips and other fasteners removed from Refugee Resettlement Office files during processing. Photo courtesy the Archives of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

The cover sheets were perhaps the key to the whole project as they provided searchable index terms for individual records. I focused on 5 discrete pieces of information from each file: Overseas Case Number; Name; Social Security Number; Date of Arrival; and Country of Origin.

As multiple family members were often included in one case file, only the name and social security number of the head of household was used for the cover sheet. This information is, of course, confidential and is accessed only according to our diocesan confidential records policy.

I started by prepping the files myself, but other duties kept getting in the way. Fortunately, volunteers came along at just the right time. During the first year, we processed and digitized six years of case files. During the second year, another seven years was completed. Then, I lost my best volunteer to a paying job (imagine that) – and the project slowed to a crawl. I realized that if I had to depend on volunteers – or my own erratic schedule – it would take forever to process the remaining twenty-five years-worth of files. The solution was to hire someone to do the job. The problem, as usual, was money.

For help, I turned to Mark Duffy, Canonical Archivist and Director of Archives for the Archives of the Episcopal Church. Mark had consulted with me on the project from the beginning – and he now assisted me in obtaining grant funds to complete it.

Consequently, I was able to hire a project archivist and the project is now complete.

Refugee Files - Disk with Paper Files
Processed Refugee Resettlement Office files. Photo courtesy the Archives of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.

Let me just say in closing that the decision to undertake the task of digitally preserving these refugee case files – though time consuming, often frustrating and certainly expensive – was well worth the effort – particularly in view of today’s uncertainty regarding all refugee programs.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is currently at risk – as are all its affiliates – at least six of which are being closed. However, as can be seen from this February 10, 2017 Episcopal News Service headline:

Olympia diocese welcomes refugees, sues to keep resettlement efforts alive

Matthew, chapter 25: verse 35 is taken seriously in the Diocese of Olympia:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. –

I’m proud of the fact that the Diocese of Olympia Archives was able to contribute to maintaining the integrity of the Refugee Resettlement program and of being able to preserve almost forty years-worth of these important and unique case files.

 

“Mother isn’t quite herself today…”

Andy Poore
Curator
Special Collections
Mooresville Public Library
apoore@ci.mooresville.nc.us

We all have a skeleton or two sitting around in a closet, a room, or the basement that we have had for years but now it is just collecting dust. What do you do with that skeleton that has been sitting in your basement for years when it is no longer needed? You donate it to your local archives? Do you dress it up and put it at your visitor desk? Do you dress it up as yourself and put it at your desk? This is the quandary that our local hospital found themselves in when they need to find a new home for their old teaching skeleton.

Several years ago, I received a phone call from the PR director of our local hospital with what she called, “an unusual question.” Her question was regarding an interesting piece of local history that she thought I would be interested in and something that might be of interest in adding to the Special Collections. She knew that I already had a diverse collection of items from the hospital that they had donated to the Special Collections over a two-year period prior to her call of which this item would be a part of that collection in her opinion. What she wanted to add to that collection was the teaching skeleton that was once used at the hospital’s school of nursing. The skeleton, female, was purchased in 1925 for the school to help teach new nurses anatomy and later as a teaching tool for school children regarding health and healthy bones. She was purchased in the days before there were plastic skeletons so the hospital’s concern was that they could not jut dispose of her in normal hospital fashion while at the same time they could not just place her in the dumpster as they did not want that image on the front page of the local paper. Therefore, they decided that it was time for her to find a new home and the Special Collections was first on the list.

Naturally, how could anyone say no when being offered a skeleton? After all she would fit into the Special Collections, albeit in a unique way from the normal photographs, documents, books, papers, and maps since she was part of the local history and part of the history of the hospital. I was not sure what exactly I would do with a skeleton as it is not something that is normally found in Special Collections although she would give a new meaning to genealogical research. The given was that I could not turn down the offer as the Special Collections; the quandary was what to do with her once she was here, and more to the point, how to get her here. I had to do some research on how to bring her to the library since it did mean transporting human remains. After a lot of questions, strange looks, a few “questions” from our local police chief it was determined that I could safely transport her without the use of a hearse; then it became fun.

On the day that she was to be donated to the Special Collections I met the hospital PR and general staff and the local paper at the hospital. Naturally, we had to have a photo or two for the local paper which normally would not be of much interest on a normal day; however, the Fates have a sense of humor as this group assembled bore a passing resemblance to the Addams Family 30 years later. The group consisted of one lady who was just over 5 feet tall with salt and pepper hair who resembled grandmama, another who looked a bit liked Wednesday, a gentleman who was all of 7 feet tall and who had more than a passing resemblance to Lurch, the official hospital lady dressed in all black with long black hair and myself dressed uncannily as Gomez. The fun began when we all carried the newly acquired skeleton out of the radiology building. As the procession passed through the lobby a few shocked looks were expressed by patients in the lobby with more to come when she was strapped into the passenger seat of my car for the trip to the library. She was a quite passenger as she just sat there and smiled at passersby. At the library, we employed a modified documents cart and Ethafoam supports and she made her way into the library. Yet the big question was amazingly not how to store her or where but instead what to do with her: Thank you Alfred Hitchcock!

The time she came to the library it was also the 50th anniversary of Psycho and the answer was clear – Mother! My idea was that since she was a teaching skeleton then she could still teach. She would introduce a whole new generation to this movie classic while at the same time telling of her history with the hospital and training several generations of nurses. Therefore, I found a periwinkle dress and order a “Mother” wig from a Halloween store including a sign that read Bates Motel for her lap and into the Special Collections she went. She was such a hit for the month of the anniversary that she now comes out every Halloween to take her place in the Special Collections all the to admiration of kids, the thrill of nursing students, and the surprise shock of parents. She has been the most interesting and most popular addition to the Special Collections so much so that our new retirement policy is that you do not retire, instead you gradually become item in the Special Collections.

Skeleton
The original teaching skeleton used in the nursing school of the local hospital, after being donated to Special Collections at the Mooresville Public Library. Photo courtesy Special Collections at the Mooresville Public Library.

Strange and Slightly Spooky: Unique Findings at Illinois College

Samantha Sauer
Illinois College Archivist, Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives
Curator, Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum
Assistant Professor of History
samantha.sauer@ic.edu

Jenny Barker Devine
Associate Professor of History
Illinois College
jenny.barker-devine@ic.edu

I am a lone arranger at Illinois College. I manage and coordinate our archive and museum, and I also teach courses in public history, offered in the Department of History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion.

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is the oldest degree-granting institution in the state and is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 2014 the College received a $200,000 Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), resulting in its first archive – a state of the art facility, the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College. As a three-year old young archive for a 188-year old institution, there is much to do. The campus also is home to the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum, one of the few museums of its kind in the nation. There are daily “found in the collections” moments, each revealing information and often prompting questions. I share with our students that each artifact and every document has a story. Here are two stories.

A Piece of “Hair-itage”

It is Friday, April 17, 2009. There is no modern archive – or an archivist – at Illinois College. Searching through stacks of papers, oversized leather-bond texts, and collapsing boxes, an unopened envelope postmarked 1983 is spotted on a shelf in the library. Dr. Jenny Barker-Devine, associate professor of history, and the campus reference librarian at the time, Mike Westbrook, opened the 26-year old envelope. Inside the sealed package was a picture of Mount Vernon, embroidered in 1815 with human hair.

Hair Piece (pre conservation)
1815 embroidery of Mt. Vernon by Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, using human hair, pre-conservation. Photo of Jenny Barker Devine, Associate Professor of History, Illinois College.

After a little detective work, the ad hoc archivists discovered the piece was embroidered by a young Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, aged fourteen or fifteen, living in Virginia. Born in 1801, Fanny would be married a couple years after completing this piece in 1818, before dying almost two years later at the age of 19, shortly after the death of her son, Ira Wilkinson. Young Ira and his father then left Virginia, first to the frontier of Kentucky and then further out west to Jacksonville, Illinois in 1830, when the town was just five years old. Ira went on to become a prominent citizen of Jacksonville and a law partner with the future Civil War governor of Illinois, Richard Yates (a 1835 graduate of Illinois College).

The skills and artwork shown in this picture grant some insight to the life of a young middle-class woman at the start of the nineteenth century. The embroidered image of Mount Vernon is significant, showing that just fifteen years after George Washington’s death, his home was already considered a landmark. Today, the piece has seen been conserved and enjoys a nice climate controlled storage space in the new archive. To learn more about this piece and its history, explore Dr. Barker-Devine’s reflection of its discovery on her blog in a post from 2012.

post conservation
1815 embroidery of Mt. Vernon by Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, using human hair, post-conservation. Photo courtesy of the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College.

 

The Lobster’s Tale

Congressman Paul Findley is a 1943 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Illinois College. Established in 2011, the museum serves to collect, preserve, and make available manuscripts and artifacts related to his life and career.   The museum’s collection contains material related to Findley’s career in the U.S. House of Representatives, his lifelong interest in Abraham Lincoln, and his involvement in the quest for universal human rights and justice in the Middle East. Congressman Findley represented the 20th Illinois Congressional District from 1961 to 1983. The museum is in historic Whipple Hall, on the Illinois College campus in Jacksonville, Illinois. Nestled on a shelf between his congressional office desk and Abraham Lincoln’s law office sofa is a preserved lobster.

The lobster, a gift to Representative Findley in 1974 from Mohammed Motie, foreign minister of South Yemen, is a unique crustacean. (As far as I know, it is the only such lobster in our collections and the area.) The crustacean is also an artifact of Representative Findley’s inaugural visit to the Middle East – the “Mission to Aden.”

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Lobster gifted to Congressman Paul Findley from Mohammed Motie, foreign minister of South Yemen, during Findley’s “Mission to Aiden,” in May 1974. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Papp, Public History Graduate Intern, Illinois College.

In May 1974 Paul Findley visited the Middle East for the first time. In Findley’s words – his goal was to “end the abuse of the human rights inflicted on one of my constituents by an Arab Government.” The constituent was a young man, Ed Franklin, serving a five year solitary imprisonment in Aden, the capital of the then People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, best known as South Yemen. Franklin had been traveling from Ethiopia to Kuwait, with the airplane landing briefly in Aden for repairs. While waiting, Franklin snapped photos of the harbor and airport, before the police mistook him for a spy. A year later, Franklin was still in prison. The U.S. Government did not have a presence in the country. Representative Findley’s mission was considered an act of desperation and would prove to be Findley’s most “substantial effort in constituent service.”

To free Franklin, Findley traveled to South Yemen and met with President Salim Rubyai Ali and Foreign Minister Mohammed Motie. Meetings involved an exchange of gifts, including a piece of pottery made by Findley’s young daughter and an Arabic edition of an Abraham Lincoln biography. After further discussion, the Congressman’s well-rehearsed plea was interrupted by President Ali, who quickly agreed to release Franklin. Findley would later describe the trip as the most “productive of many foreign trips [during] Congress and since.”

Findley received unique gifts from the leaders – an antique ceremonial dagger, an oil painting of rural Yemen, and the mounted lobster. Each of these gifts are currently on display in the Congressional Office Museum, helping document the Representative’s first of many trips to the Middle East. Of all the objects on display in the museum gallery, the lobster gets the most questions.

 

Tales from the WWI Crypt

Sarah E. Dunne, MLIS
Archivist & Librarian
Lang Education Center & Library Owls Head Transportation Museum
sd@ohtm.org

Several years ago, I was hired as the first professional librarian at a surprisingly large transportation museum in Mid Coast Maine. The museum, whose focus is pre-1940 vehicles, was founded in the early 1970s, the extensive library decades later. With my interest and experience in archives and the encouragement of trustees and our former curator, I’ve become the museum’s first trained archivist as well. Double Lone Arranger.

Many of you likely have been involved with the resurgence of interest in World War I due to the multiple recent centennials, whether American or European or both. One of our neighbors, the Knox Museum, recently hosted a World War One History Day, complete with reenactors. A great deal of our collection dates from that era, and they kindly asked us to collaborate with them. I began assembling portable, stable pieces from our extensive WWI ephemera collection, and our vehicle conservators supported the event by scheduling a visit from our 1913 Rolls-Royce that had been in Europe at the outset of the war, and a flyover by one of our WWI biplanes. One of the great things about working at an operating museum is that we actually run most of our collection, and frequently fly our biplanes. The 1913 Rolls? Fully roadworthy, registered and street legal.

We had a great variety of supporting materials to display, from books, magazines, and newspapers to sheet music, trench art, and aviators’ equipment and photo albums, but I used the occasion as an excuse to root around in remote storage. In a corner at the back of a dusty shelf (we all have those dusty mystery shelves left by predecessors, yes?) was a small cardboard box labeled only with “[donor name] WWI” and an accession number. Mildly curious, I opened it, expecting the quotidian pilot souvenirs. Instead, out comes this menacing-looking metal…thing. It was obviously some sort of mask; there were slotted eye guards that looked like a medieval version of those shutter sunglasses that were briefly, inexplicably popular in the Eighties and even more inexplicably revived by Kanye West. But these had chainmail hanging below the eye guards. From the markings, it was British-made. But what on earth was this creepy contraption?!?

I checked the catalog record, input by an unnamed volunteer almost a decade ago. It said only “Aviator’s metal face armament”. This simply didn’t make any sense; besides its restricted vision, a metal face mask could be positively dangerous in the often freezing temperatures of an early open-cockpit airplane.

Most of my coworkers and volunteers had the same reaction – “Hannibal Lecter?”. A couple of our military history-buff volunteers recognized what it was, but for fun we posted a shot of it on the Museum’s Facebook page, offering a small prize to the first commenter to correctly identify it. We got all sorts of guesses – early safety glasses, mask for dirt-racing motorcycles, WWI flight mask, coalman’s mask, welding mask, furnace mask…only a few posts got it right. It is a British World War One tank crew “splatter mask”, also called a “splinter mask”, “spall mask”, or “splash mask”.

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British World War One tank crew “splatter mask.” Photo courtesy Owls Head Transportation Museum.

As in no major conflict before it, the Great War saw the rapid metamorphosis of traditional infantry and cavalry into heavily mechanized forces. Aeroplanes were first seen by most as of marginal use, good only for scouting and observation missions; only gradually did they become the fighters and bombers now familiar to us. Early tanks likewise were primitive vehicles, and their very use was opposed by many military leaders, especially those in the cavalry, who were right to see them as potential competition. But in the new trench warfare, especially when the crippling mud set in, conventional fighting methods failed and armies found themselves at a stalemate. Late 1916: enter the tank, whose caterpillar treads could take on the sludge and deep trenches of the battlefront that humans or horses couldn’t master. Initially the tanks were crude machines that did get bogged down easily in ditches and trenches, but the Allies – primarily the British and French – rapidly improved them to the point that they proved invaluable on the battlefield, and the Axis powers had to scramble to catch up. True, there were versions of armored vehicles dating back centuries, but the tank as we know it was a modern invention.

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British World War One tank crew “splatter mask.” Photo courtesy Owls Head Transportation Museum.

The early tanks were primitive and miserable, and the driver was subject to the same suffocating conditions as the rest of the crew. If you’ve ever been stuck in a stifling Halloween costume, imagine how unbelievably worse it would be if you were part of an eight-man crew wearing heavy woolen uniforms, jammed into a cramped, sweltering metal box on wheels that was lurching through mud and trenches while under fire. Engine and gun noise; the air heavy with sweat, exhaust vapors (no barrier between engine and crew), and cordite fumes from the weapons; overheated rivets and spall (bits of the shoddy boiler plate metal from inside your own tank) popping out at you…and then the driver had to try to look outside to direct the crew without getting his face blown off. The earlier tanks had no raised turrets as we know them, so the crew were level with the treads. To see out, there were only hinged metal flaps.

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British tank crossing trenches, from Collier’s Photographic History of The World’s War, 1918.

To counter the danger of shrapnel and bullets, many crews wore helmets, initially only leather but then metal, with splatter masks. The metal goggles above the chain mail were covered with leather back and front, and most provided some protection for the nose as well. They were not without their own drawbacks. In order to protect the wearer’s eyes, the slotted goggles significantly reduced vision. And in the superheated tanks, where temperatures could reach more than 120° Fahrenheit, it was a dilemma whether to suffer the added misery of a hot and sweaty mask or risk facial wounds and burns.

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Front view of a British Tank, ca. 1916, from Photographic History of The World’s War, 1918.

Our mask had long since lost its leather covering and its fabric straps; for display purposes I fashioned substitutes out of period-correct bookbinding cloth, courtesy of a beat-up 1918 edition of Collier’s Photographic History of The World’s War. The book had only weeks before been given to us by a military aviation historian and long-time donor, who intended it to be taken apart (we have two other intact copies). I then rebound the book and it is now our handling copy for interactive displays.

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British “Centipede”/”Mother”/”Big Willie” tank, ca. 1916–afterwards known at the Mark I Tank, from Photographic History of The World’s War, 1918.
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World War One “Splatter Masks,” ca. 1916. Photo in the Public Domain.

Now that we know we have the mask, our videographer and I have been lobbying the museum’s Collections Committee to acquire a tank to go with it, but despite our faultless logic – what if we were invaded by Canada? Can they not see that it’s only a few hours’ drive away, and they could attack by sea from Nova Scotia in no time? – our pleas have thus far fallen on deaf ears.

Arthur Howe, Jr.: From Watertown to the World with AFS Online Exhibition from the AFS Archives

Nicole Milano
Head Archivist and Historical Publications Editor
AFS Intercultural Programs
nicole.milano@afs.org

In my role as Head Archivist and Historical Publications at AFS Intercultural Programs, I oversee a fascinating collection of historic material dating as early as World War I, when AFS was created as a volunteer American ambulance corps serving alongside the French military. Today, AFS is a non-profit, international intercultural learning and student exchange organization headquartered in New York City, with offices in more than fifty countries.

The Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS Archives) was founded in 1980 to serve as a center for research and as a repository for the records, photographs, and memorabilia from the organization. In the last several years, the AFS Archives has greatly increased access to its archival collections, due in large part to the success of a 2010-11 NHPRC basic processing grant that allowed for basic intellectual and physical access to all of our World War I and II archival material. This new level of accessibility has led to several-hundred research requests each year. Our researchers are varied, from AFS partner offices and grandchildren of our wartime volunteers, to academic researchers and museum curators, who are using the collections in a number of exciting ways.

In 2014, Arthur “Art” Howe, Jr., one of the most influential individuals in the history of AFS, passed away at the age of 93. Art was an AFS ambulance driver during World War II, and a director, vice president, president, and life trustee of the AFS student exchange programs created in 1946. He also was also dean of admissions at Yale University, among his many other roles. Listing his series of titles and accomplishments simply doesn’t do him justice, however. As archivists, we usually don’t know the creators of our collections, but in this case I was fortunate to have met Art several times. He complimented his rich professional life with an enthusiasm for volunteering and helping others. Art fought for diversity and inclusion among the institutions he participating in, including being the first to call for admission of women into Yale’s undergraduate program in 1956. He also sought to create a more peaceful and just world through his work with AFS, and was one of the influential voices in the creation of the AFS secondary school exchange program.

Arthur Howe, Jr., 1943. Photograph by Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr.
Arthur Howe, Jr. in 1943. Photograph by Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr., courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

AFS sought to commemorate Art in several ways, including establishing an endowment fund in his name to provide scholarships to deserving AFS students; an international AFS award for outstanding volunteer families, named for Art and his wife, Peggy, another longtime AFS volunteer; and a project to preserve, digitize, catalog, and create access to his archival collection in the AFS Archives.

The archival project was made possible thanks to generous donations from individuals around the world, many of whom knew or worked with Art in some capacity over the years. Through their incredible support, I was able to hire one of our former interns, Elena Abou Mrad, to assist the AFS team during the course of the project. We were also able to work with the fantastic team at the Center for Jewish History in New York City on the digitization of 2,065 unique photographs and documents as part of the project.

The Arthur Howe, Jr. Collection in the AFS Archives documents the impactful life of an AFSer who had, in his own words, “a burning desire to do what one could” to make the world a better place. The collection consists of correspondence, administrative files, media, memorabilia, and other papers related to Howe’s long association with AFS. The collection also includes a significant amount of photographic material, which primarily depicts his volunteer activity in North Africa and the Middle East during World War II, including camp life, ambulance maintenance, group photos, individual AFS volunteers, British military personnel, local civilians, scenery, and occasional visits to cities and archaeological sites, among other subjects. The photographs also document his service as a volunteer with the AFS exchange programs after World War II, including visits to local AFS chapters. In addition to this collection, the AFS Archives contains official administrative records and photographs related to his presidency.

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AFS ambulance drivers evacuating Tobruk Hospital in Libya in 1942. Photograph by Arthur Howe, Jr., courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

While providing access to Art’s collection through traditional archival processing and digitization was a very important component of this project, it was also important for AFS to make his story and his collection more easily accessible to our international audience. A large number of these individuals cannot visit our research site in person, and many are unfamiliar with traditional archival finding aids. The solution was an online exhibition intending to demonstrate the indelible impact he made on the organization.

In May 2017 we were extremely pleased to launch Arthur Howe, Jr: From Watertown to the World with AFS! This online exhibition enables visitors to follow in the footsteps of Art on some of his many adventures with AFS, discovering the world through his eyes and words. Using an interactive map feature on the open-source StoryMap platform, along with many of the newly-digitized photographs and documents, visitors to the exhibition will learn more about Art, a lifelong and passionate AFSer who had a significant impact on people and communities around the globe.

Arthur Howe, Jr. in Damascus, Syria in November 1965
Arthur Howe, Jr. in Damascus, Syria in November 1965. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

In order to publicize the exhibition, we shared the news with international staff via our intranet and are coordinating with our marketing team to create posts on social media over the next six months. We also included mention of the project in the Spring 2017 issue of the AFS Janus magazine, a publication of the AFS Archives which is read by more than 4,000 recipients around the world, and are exploring other options to help share Art’s story, which resonates strongly with us today.

Driven by his desire to help others, Art traveled the world, discovering new cultures and meeting new friends, while embarking on important work with AFS. For him, interacting with different people around the world was a way to promote open discussion, mutual understanding, and ultimately, peace.

Arthur Howe, Jr. pointing to Iran on a globe during his AFS presidency in 1967.
Arthur Howe, Jr. pointing to Iran on a globe during his AFS presidency in 1967. Several years later he traveled to Abbasabad, Iran to give a speech about AFS and its role in international education. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

Visit http://afs.org/archives/arthur-howe-jr/to explore Arthur Howe Jr: From Watertown to the World with AFS, or www.afs.org/archives to learn more about the AFS Archives!