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April/May SCRC News Wrap Up

In case you missed it, here is the monthly news wrap up with links to all the latest:

  • May 22, 2019. Plastics and Historic Artifacts Curator Courtney Asztalos was featured as a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books and Collections Magazine.
  • May 16, 2019. The iSchool, College of Arts & Sciences and SCRC collaborated on “Art of Romanticism” course.
  • May 13-17th, 2019. SCRC hosted a week long iSchool Maymester class featuring a special guest instructor, Alvan Bregman, head of Rare Books and Special Collections at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
  • May 5, 2019. Pan Am 103 Archivist, Vanessa St. Oegger-Menn, was featured in the Spectrum News documentary special “The Legacy of Flight 103, which premiered May 7 and was re-broadcast several times throughout the month. She discussed the We Remember Them: The Legacy of Pan Am Flight 103 exhibition.
  • May 2, 2019. Huntington School’s 5-8th grade after school program stopped by to learn about the history of comics.
Students holding up comics they drew
Huntington School’s 5th-8th grade after school program holding the comics they drew.

Vegetables for Victory

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

Happy Summer! We’re celebrating the arrival of the warmer weather and the beginning of planting and gardening season in Syracuse with this patriotic image.

This poster, which is titled, War Gardens Over the Top: The Seeds of Victory Insure the Fruits of Peace, was first published by the National War Garden Commission in 1919 as a means of encouraging citizens on the home front to contribute to the World War I war effort by planting their own gardens.

The poster features a charming depiction of anthropomorphic vegetables, led by a restless turnip, trooping towards the viewer. A pumpkin holds an American flag and a gardener, eyes partially covered by a wide brimmed hat, looks on, garden hoe in hand. The lighthearted depiction of cartoon vegetables in this poster might not immediately call to mind traditional war propaganda. There is a reason for this. The illustrator of the poster, Maginel Wright Enright (1881-1966), worked as an illustrator for children’s books and periodicals prior to designing several posters for the National War Garden Commission.

Interestingly, Enright’s first job as a book illustrator paired her with another heavyweight in children’s literature: L. Frank Baum. In 1906, she illustrated The Twinkle Tales, which Baum published under the pseudonym Laura Bancroft. Looking at the illustrations in this book, it is clear that Enright continued to depict some of the same subjects and themes throughout her career. The image featured here from Twinkle’s Enchantment, also set in a garden with anthropomorphic objects, bears remarkable similarity to her 1919 propaganda poster.

It makes sense that Enright’s whimsical imagery, which had already captured the attention of children in one venue, would be equally influential in another. Enright’s War Gardens poster was widely-distributed and encouraged American citizens, schoolchildren in particular, to take practical action by planting gardens, canning vegetables, and reducing unnecessary food spending during the war.

The poster in this post is part of our War Posters Collection (War Posters Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the book is part of the book collection in our L. Frank Baum Papers (L. Frank Baum Papers,  Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

Additional Source

Calvin, P. E., & Deacon, D. A. (2011). American women artists in wartime, 1776-2010. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. 78.

2019 Brodsky Workshop: Textiles in the Archives

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

When Deborah Lee Trupin pulled out a vacuum cleaner to demonstrate a common curatorial method of cleaning textiles, it became apparent that we were not in a standard conservation workshop. This demonstration was part of SCRC’s Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation, an endowed program held annually at Syracuse University, beginning in 2004. This year, the workshop and lecture series took place on Thursday, April 11, 2019 and highlighted the field of textile conservation.

Deborah Lee Trupin began the workshop with a series of slideshow images, documenting various projects she had tackled during her 35-year career in textile conservation. She discussed work she had done independently, as the principal of Trupin Conservation Services, as well as projects she had taken on for other organizations, including the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites (Peebles Island) and Waterford, NY. Later in the day, she would cover more fully some of her work in treating and restoring historic flags at the Bureau of Historic Sites during her talk, titled A Tale of Two Flags: How History of Treatment and Ownership Affected Conservation Treatment of Two Early Nineteenth-Century American Flags. 

Deborah then divided the workshop participants into pairs and we went to work examining and describing the condition and potential treatment and storage solutions for materials in SCRC’s collections. While textiles are not a main area of focus for SCRC’s collections, it was surprising to see the breadth of examples that belonged to the collections once laid out on tables. For the workshop, a main area of focus was University Archives materials.

Workshop participants assessed Syracuse memorabilia, including baseball uniforms, pennants, and Ernie Davis’ jersey. An Otto the Orange costume even made an appearance in the room.

Trupin wrapped up the workshop by showing the group some basic conservation techniques for some of the materials we had just discussed. One of these techniques, as previously mentioned, was using a specialty conservation vacuum cleaner to gently remove dirt and other debris from textiles. Trupin also demonstrated a better storage method for a large felt Syracuse University banner. The banner had been folded in a box for years and there were visible crease lines on the object.

Trupin showed the group how to roll the banner around a large wooden dowel, which would prevent crease lines from forming. She carefully placed acid-free tissue paper in between each layer and made sure that the banner’s fringe remained flat and unfolded.

The Brodsky workshop this year helped illuminate some key differences between archival documents and textiles. In working with archival documents, context is always a key consideration: “Who wrote this letter? Why did they write it? When was it written?” For many objects in our collections, these considerations of context boil down to a specific moment in time: the key moment of creation and interaction with the creator. The same is not often true for textiles. The cheerleader’s sweater, the baseball player’s uniform, the pennant — these pieces were regularly worn and used by SU students and were part of the wearer’s daily life in a tangible, measurable way.

The Brodsky workshop this year helped set us on a clearer path to maintaining the integrity of these materials through better textile conservation practices. With any luck, our textiles will continue to maintain their integrity for years to come.

What we learned:

  1. Watch out for bugs! As with rare books and manuscript materials, make sure that garments stay protected from pests. Moths and beetles are pests to watch out for, since they feed on keratin found in wool and other textiles.
  2. Take care when washing. Be careful when washing textiles. Some fabrics do not react well to laundering, even if you are just using soap and water, and can cause more damage than good. It is best to consult with a professional before washing rare materials.
  3. Do not fold. The best way to store textiles is in a way that maintains the integrity of the original piece. There are differing schools of thought on what this practically looks like in an archive. Sometimes conservators store materials flat in boxes, hang clothing from foam-packed hangers, or roll flat materials like banners around wooden dowels.
  4. Show your age. Sometimes, it is better to retain the stains and signs of wear on a garment. In certain cases, as with our Ernie Davis jersey, it can be more valuable to preserve the evidence of historic use than to attempt to scrub it clean.

The Syracuse banner, cheerleader sweater, and baseball uniform that feature in the images in this post are part of our Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection (Syracuse University Memorabilia Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries). 

Hello World

Welcome to the new blog from Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center! Despite how that sounds it is in fact not 2009, but 2019.

Why start a blog in 2019? Social media sites are perfect for quick updates and exciting photos of collection items, but space and context are not features that social media sites optimize or promote. SCRC staff and researchers are closely working with our collections each day identifying, clarifying, and exploring compelling tales that are recorded in the documents, sound recordings, scrapbooks, and more that make up the collections here at SU.  Those stories end up needing a longer format than fits comfortably in a Facebook post or in a tweet to give them the necessary context.

In a traditional blog-like way we will share weekly posts that will feature a curated version of department news and updates, behind the scenes glimpses of the work we do, and resources that might be of use to our researchers, while also bringing a more considered look at our collections.

Whether you are a first year undergraduate, a faculty member, an alumnus, or a fan of the collections here in SCRC, we hope this blog will bring you the stories you want to hear (whether you read them in this space or find them via your favorite social spaces on the World Wide Web).

With gratitude from the editors,

Colleen Theisen

Grace Wagner