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New Acquisition: Rare 19th Century Photograph Album Featuring Black Americans

May is National Photography Month. Over the course of this month, we will be highlighting special collections and University Archives materials that specifically relate to the history of photography. This week, we highlight a new photography acquisition in a post by our Chief Curator.

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

The Special Collections Research Center is excited to announce the acquisition of a unique photo album that opens up several avenues for further research. The photo album contains 20 cabinet card albumen photographs of fashionably dressed well-off people from the late 19th century, the majority or possibly all of the images featuring Black Americans.

A selection of portraits from a 19th century photo album
A selection of portraits from the photo album. Detroit Photograph Album.

The photographs do not have any names written identifying the subjects, but they do all have identified photographers. More than half of the portraits have Detroit photographer’s marks, including “Sr. Clear”, “Willard”, “Eisenhardt”, and “Hughes”. Others include “J.B. Dettmer” (Cincinnati), “Wilson” (Chicago), and “Kruse” (New Bedford, Mass.) While the date and names are unknown, this album opens up many avenues for our students and faculty to research and find out more about the photographers, the fashions, and the album itself, which may reveal the date and the story of the community represented in this album.

For classroom use, this album greatly expands SCRC’s documentation of Black Americans in photographs in the 19th century. While an album with identified subjects would have opened up more immediate avenues for research, portraits of Black American subjects in the 19th century who likely chose to be photographed and the had agency in their portrayal are more rare. Many of our photography collections in SCRC are from journalists and photographers who traveled around the world with an ethnographic eye, photographing people as “types” or circus advertising photographs from performers, as those were produced in greater numbers and therefore survive in larger numbers. In the classroom these portrait photographs can add complexity to the discussion, and inspire students to imagine the lives of prominent Black American families in Detroit in the 1880s-1890s.

19th century photo album with celluloid cover.
The unique celluloid cover and decorative binding of the photo album. Detroit Photograph Album.

Another interesting feature of this acquisition is the unique materiality of the album itself. The decorative celluloid cover is a fascinating early example of a form of plastic being used as a “book” cover. SCRC’s Plastics Artifacts Collection has a few examples of religious books like prayer books and Bibles, as well as examples of autograph books dated to the early 1890s with celluloid covers, but none so large and with such an elaborate color image.

Early plastic and celluloid covers.
Three examples of celluloid bindings from 1895, 1910 and 1892. Plastics Artifacts Collection.

Finally, the album opens up other avenues of historical exploration, including using digital crowd-sourcing to identify some of the subjects of the portraits. Take a close look at the faces featured in these photographs and let us know if think you recognize a family member or someone from your research. When we return to on-site access in the Special Collections Research Center, the Detroit Photograph Album can be called up in the SCRC Reading Room.

Portrait of 19th century woman.
A portrait of a woman in a very fine dress. Detroit Photograph Album.
Photographs from Detroit album.
Two page spread of portraits as they appear in the album. Detroit Photograph Album.
Photographs from Detroit album.
Two page spread of portraits as they appear in the album. Detroit Photograph Album.

The Detroit Photograph Album (Detroit Photograph Album, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections and the 1895 prayer book, 1910 prayer book, and 1892 autograph album with celluloid covers are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s Plastics Artifacts Collection (Plastics Artifacts Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).


February News Wrap Up

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

February has been a very busy month in the Special Collections Research Center. From transcribe-a-thons to Black Arts Movement pop-up events, to very busy classroom spaces, our staff and researchers are on the move this month. Behind-the-scenes, we are grateful that February has an extra day we can use as we prepare to bring you a blockbuster March with a full line of events for the University’s official 150th birthday on March 24, and the Brodsky Conservation lecture and workshop. Take a moment to look back on February in this post.

Looking Back at February Events:

Friday, February 14, 2020: Frederick Douglass Day of Service Transcribe-a-thon, 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library. Volunteers can sign up for a 30 minute slot to help transcribe Anna Julia Cooper’s papers

Volunteers have been hard at work today during the #DouglassDay transcribe-a-thon, digitally preserving the works of Anna Julia Cooper! More info: bit.ly/2SyoNMV

Posted by Syracuse University Libraries on Friday, February 14, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library). Pop up exhibit complementing the Humanities Center’s “Black Music and Black Power in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” lecture.

Newly Processed Collections:

Highlights from Social Media:



Upcoming Public Events:

Wednesday, February 26, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit ENCORE, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library).

Wednesday, March 24, 2020: Special Collections Research Center Celebrates Sesquicentennial, 10:00am – 4:00pm, (Bird Library 6th floor).

Upcoming Opportunities:

The Leap Year cartoon featured in the header for this post is from our Karl K. Knecht Papers (Karl K. Knecht Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries), which is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Special Collections Research Center History Highlights

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

Syracuse University Libraries is featuring a new sesquicentennial exhibit of milestones of SU Libraries titled “Let the Reader Emerge! Milestones of the Syracuse University Libraries” on the first floor of Bird Library from February 3 until mid-May.

Sebastian Modrow, SCRC’s Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, curated the exhibition. Modrow also teaches a course in the iSchool on the history of libraries and archives. Reflecting on the experience, Modrow remarked, “The development of this exhibit was so much fun especially because I not only teach and research library history in general, but also work at the Syracuse University Libraries. I learned a lot and I am now looking at our library facilities with very different eyes.”

Below, we’ve gathered a few highlights from the origins of Special Collections, the University Archives, and the Belfer Audio Archive over the last 150 years.

Leopold von Ranke in his library, early 1880s

Leopold von Ranke in his library, early 1880s
Leopold von Ranke Papers,
Special Collections Research Center
This picture of Leopold von Ranke surrounded by his library was taken only a few years before his death in 1886.

Historian Leopold von Ranke’s personal and professional library, consisting of more than 20,000 books, several hundred manuscripts and approximately 5 linear feet of personal papers, was purchased for Syracuse University in 1887 and formed the nucleus of what is now the Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Von Ranke was a leading figure in focusing on primary source documents for historic research.

 Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center

After spending approximately a year in the basement of the Hall of Languages, the von Ranke Library was moved during March and April of 1889 into its new home in a purpose-built library (the present Tolley Humanities Building).

 Interior of the von Ranke Library, circa 1900
The Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room at Carnegie Library, 1967
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center

Upon his death in 1960, George Arents, the donor of the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room, left the University a gift of $2 million towards the construction of a new library. The George Arents Research Library, later the Special Collections Research Center, moved from the Lena R. Arents Rare Book Room at Carnegie into its new home on the sixth floor of Bird Library just over a decade later.

Walter Welch, 1970
Walter Welch, 1970
Syracuse University Photograph Collection,
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center
Curator Walter Welch at work in the basement of the Continental Can building, predecessor to the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive.

The Diane and Arthur Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive is the first studio ever designed solely for audio preservation, and it became part of the Special Collections Research Center in 2016.

Founded as an audio archive in 1963 with a collection of 150,000 recordings held off-campus under the leadership of Walter L. Welch, the Special Collections Research Center’s collection of sound recordings and related items has grown to over 500,000 items housed in a specially designed, climate-controlled facility on campus. The collection includes formats from the earliest experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media.

Exhibition case with materials from the University Archives' exhibit, 
"150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University"
Exhibition case with materials from the University Archives’ exhibit,
“150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University”

The University Archives also became part of the Special Collections Research Center in 2016. The Archives is dedicated to preserving records that document the history, organization, policies, activities, and people of the University, and making those records available to researchers. The Pan Am 103/ Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives are part of the University Archives.

The Syracuse University Photograph Collection (Syracuse University Photograph Collection, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s University Archives collections.

The Leopold von Ranke Papers (Leopold von Ranke Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) is part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


Check out the full exhibit “Let the Reader Emerge! Milestones of the Syracuse University Libraries” which continues until mid-May in the first floor Learning Commons of Bird Library and in the Carnegie Library exhibit cases.

The University Archives sesquicentennial exhibit, “150 Years of Tradition at Syracuse University” continues on the 6th floor of Bird Library, and you can view an online version.

The University Archives’ exhibit, “A Legacy of Leadership: The Chancellors and Presidents of Syracuse University” also continues in first floor Learning Commons of Bird Library.


December & January News Wrap Up

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

The Special Collection Research Center had a fast-paced early December, as we wrapped up the semester of teaching. A highlight for the semester were the visits from our fall Faculty Fellow Dr. Jim Watts’ Ancient Near Eastern Religions and Cultures class. After packing away the cuneiform tablets, we had a quiet winter break on the 6th floor.

In January, classes resumed with a busy line-up in SCRC, including our own Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Dr. Sebastian Modrow, meeting in SCRC with his The History of Libraries and Archives in the Western World iSchool class. Dr. Patricia Roylance and our second Faculty Fellow Dr. Katherine Hanzalik will be joining us in SCRC for the spring semester as well. Roylance’s English class will be focusing on texts before 1900 and Hanzalik’s writing class will be incorporating archival research into their assignments throughout the semester.

Particularly fun was our annual visit from “Frontiers of Science,” a science enrichment program for Syracuse high school students. Audio Engineer Jim Meade led the students through the history of recorded sound technologies, taking advantage of the phonographs and cylinder players in the Belfer Audio Archive classroom. (Hear a clip in the post below!). After, the students headed over to Bird Library to learn about rare science books and the history of plastics with Chief Curator Colleen Theisen and Curator of Plastics and Historic Artifacts, Courtney Asztalos.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8G5uSApcsC/

Upcoming Public Events:

Friday, February 14, 2020: Frederick Douglass Day of Service Transcribe-a-thon, 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library. Volunteers can sign up for a 30 minute slot to help transcribe Anna Julia Cooper’s papers

Wednesday, February 19, 2020: Black Arts Movement Popup Exhibit, 5:15 – 6:15 pm, Hillyer Room (606 Bird Library). Pop up exhibit complementing the Humanities Center’s “Black Music and Black Power in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” lecture.

On Display Now:

We're excited to announce another exhibition to celebrate SU's sesquicentennial. Curated by Rare Books and Manuscripts…

Posted by Syracuse University Archives on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Newly processed collections:

A Highlight From Social Media:

Our highlights this month both come from the University Archives. The class registration crowd from 1972 was popular on Twitter and “Beat Duke” was a favorite on Instagram this month.


An Act of Moral Courage

By Dane Flansburgh, Assistant Archivist

“This is a forty year letter of gratitude.” This first sentence of a letter that had been stored with thousands of other letters in an archival box, jumped out at me. When processing so much loose material, archivists rarely have time to read individual letters, but this opening line immediately captured my attention. I couldn’t resist reading on. The letter continued, “I have never explicitly thanked you and Syracuse University for accepting me from the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming.” With this line, I understood that this was not an ordinary letter.

In January 2018, I started processing the records and papers of Syracuse University Chancellor William P. Tolley. Shortly before starting the project, the University Archivist, Meg Mason, told me a story of Tolley surreptitiously admitting Japanese American students to Syracuse University from internment camps during World War II. She explained that Tolley wrote of admitting the students in his memoir, yet no primary source material has emerged to support the story. She hoped I could find further documentation on this remarkable story, since it is so under documented. And that is precisely why I understood the importance of this letter.

The letter was from Warren Tsuneishi, a 1943 graduate of Syracuse University. In the letter, Tsuneishi praised Tolley for accepting Tsuneishi and “some of 100 of my Japanese American colleagues” to the University, defining this as an “act of moral courage.” Tolley’s decision to admit students from internment camps, Tsuneishi wrote, “immeasurably strengthened my own belief and confidence in American democracy. I knew then that despite temporary setbacks under extreme provocation in wartime, the champions of constitutional rights, equity, and fair play for all Americans would in the end prevail.” Tolley’s decision to allow the writer into the University, he wrote, had profound consequences for his life: after graduation he served in the US Army with honors in the Pacific Theatre as a translator of intercepted Japanese internal documents, received post graduate degrees from Columbia and Yale, and a long career working at Yale and the Library of Congress. “I recount these ‘accomplishments’ not to boast,” he wrote, “but to observe that none of these could have been accomplished had you not given me that first chance in 1943.”

The letter moved me, and as I began to show it to my coworkers, they were moved as well, not only by Tolley’s act of generosity when it was unpopular to do so, but also because Tsuneishi took the opportunity to live a life of distinction. I was also excited that we had a little more documentation of an event about which we know so little.

Considering that I found the letter so early in processing Tolley’s records and papers, I was hopeful that I would find more regarding the Japanese American students he had admitted, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful in doing so.

Tsuneishi’s extraordinary letter spurred my interest in these students, and I was able to find some additional pieces of information. For example, the local Syracuse Herald-Journal reported that in 1943 two Japanese American students, Frank Watanabe and May Ohmura, made public speeches defending their presence at Syracuse University. “We are as American as anyone else,” Watanabe told a crowd at the Hotel Syracuse. “We have the same cultural background and like swing, ice cream, and baseball as do all Americans.”

I was also able to find a photograph of Warren Tsuneishi from 1945, during his time in the Military Intelligence Service from the archives of the Monrovia Historical Society located in Monrovia, CA, linked here: https://cityofmonrovia.pastperfectonline.com/photo/0DB2BF34-41A9-4128-BDE3-644225736421.

Clippings and photographs like this were exciting to find, but overall, we have very little information on these students and how the University admitted them. Other than Tsuneishi, Watanabe, and Ohmura, we are unaware of even their names. We don’t know about their personal stories, their journeys from the camps to our campus, and their experiences at the university. As an archivist, I am interested in these stories and want to preserve them.

As the university celebrates its sesquicentennial, we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on our history and values. Chancellor Tolley’s admittance of Japanese Americans when it was unpopular to do so reflects our values of fairness, inclusion, and equity. The lack of archival documentation about this important part of the University’s history is disconcerting. Thus, the University Archives welcomes from the Syracuse University community any information or materials that shed light on this remarkable story.

The Chancellor William P. Tolley Records (Chancellor William P. Tolley Records, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the William P. Tolley Papers (William P. Tolley Papers, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of our University Archives collections.

Additional Source:

“Warren Tsuneishi and Lt. General Hodge in Seoul.” Monrovia Legacy Project. Monrovia Historical Society. https://cityofmonrovia.pastperfectonline.com/photo/0DB2BF34-41A9-4128-BDE3-644225736421.


Writing over Medieval Texts in Renaissance Europe

By Tiffany Miller, Reference Assistant

         MS 47 located in the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University is a breviary on vellum, or a book that contains daily services recited by members of the Roman Catholic Church. This manuscript is spectacular in that it contains its original 12th century text underneath a more recent 16th century writing, which are both visible together almost in a double-text display. The idea of re-using and writing over older texts is known through the palimpsest, a manuscript page that has been scraped away and removed of its text in order to be re-used. The term palimpsest comes from the Greek word palímpsēstos, meaning, “again scraped” as this was a commonly practiced technique throughout the ancient world. The 16th century scribe of this palimpsest attempted to erase its 12th century origins through scraping; however, this manuscript clearly shows traces of the past.

This unique gem in Special Collections sparked my interest from the moment I heard about it. As a graduate student in art history and museum studies here at Syracuse, my specialization is in Italian Renaissance art and the history of objects in museum or library collections. The utilitarian writings in these institutional books fascinate me in how they read today in the 21st century. They inspire us to place ourselves into the mindset of the original readers. This manuscript offers a unique glimpse into the past in two ways: through the 21st century view of Renaissance Europe and the Renaissance view of Medieval Latin texts.

The manuscript leaf in the above photograph provides a great example of the overlapping texts. There is almost a sfumato effect, or a smokiness, about the page. There are approximately 106 leaves on vellum and 2 leaves on paper, rebound in 1514 when the manuscript was re-written. At 31 by 24 centimeters, it is slightly larger than a piece of standard letter paper. Keeping the size in mind, it is marvelous how much text is placed on each page; the scribe(s) was obviously skilled in calligraphy. There are also occasional music annotations on the pages that tell us how lines of text would have been sung. This manuscript does not contain the gilding and illuminations of other manuscripts in our collections, but as an art history student, I found beauty in the pages that had been scraped away and in the holes and blotches in the text. Multiple individuals had written and designed these texts for religious institutions or noble patrons, and the patrons ultimately decided how they wanted the pages to look. Due to the condition of this manuscript, it can be inferred that the text has been held and used by many over the centuries, which demonstrates its necessity.

This type of manuscript can be read today in many ways. One way is through the mind of the average citizen during the Renaissance. The other is contemporarily through the 21st century. For example, with current technological advancements such as radiography, institutions are now able to piece together information to learn more about manuscripts in hopes of learning more about the past. Through this technology, fingerprints could become legible, along with the textual changes, in order to see how they were made on the pages to create the final result. It would be fascinating to see what this process might reveal about the breviary at SCRC, should we ever get the chance to try this process at Syracuse University.

The use and reuse of this text continues today as it has been rebound with a 20th or 21st century binding. This manuscript has been altered multiple times over approximately nine centuries, which is incredible, and gives this text a rich history. Studying and handling this palimpsest, I realized how much it could provide insight into the lives of both the Renaissance and Medieval population, especially members of the Catholic Church. My art history background and my training here have allowed me to perform this research at the capacity of a graduate student staff member, which has in turn helped me prepare for a career working with collections.

The palimpsest manuscript is part of our rare books collection (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries).

Sources:

Bailey, Geoff. “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26:2 (June 2007): 198-223.

Bornstein, George, and Ralph G. Williams. Palimpsest: Editorial Theory in the Humanities. Ann Arbor (Mich.): University of Michigan Press, 1996.

Dillon, Sarah. “Reinscribing De Quincey’s Palimpsest: The Significance of the Palimpsest in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Studies.” Textual Practice 19.3 (Fall 2005): 243-263

“Palimpsest, n and adj.” Oxford English Dictionary.

Marchant, Jo. “Archaeologists Are Only Just Beginning to Reveal the Secrets Hidden in These Ancient Manuscripts.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, December 11, 2017.  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeologoists-only-just-beginning-reveal-secrets-hidden-ancient-manuscripts-180967455/.


Happy New Year from SCRC!

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

Happy New Year from SCRC! We are excited to ring in the New Year and new decade at SCRC! The featured party invitation comes from our William Wallace Denslow Collection. Denslow was an artist and illustrator, best known for his collaborations with L. Frank Baum on Father Goose (1899) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).

Denslow sent this invitation to Baum for a party held on December 31, 1900 to ring in the “New Century,” as there was some confusion at the end of the nineteenth century whether the new century officially began in the year 1900 or 1901.

The full text of Denslow’s invitation to the new century reads:

A Happy New Century to You: 1900 – 1901

Time! – Wind up! The 20th century starts at Rector’s Tavern between the hour of 12, 1900 & 1901, come & assist Ann Waters & Hippocampus Den. to help the Old Man out. Time will be called promptly at 11:30 Dec. 31st 1900.

N.B. As usual, no speeches will be tolerated, so come unprepared: to enjoy yourself and in “Ali-Baba”-full-levant.

W.W. Denslow

The William Wallace Denslow Collection (William Wallace Denslow Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.


An Act of Moral Courage

By Dane Flansburgh, Assistant Archivist

“This is a forty year letter of gratitude.” This first sentence of a letter that had been stored with thousands of other letters in an archival box, jumped out at me. When processing so much loose material, archivists rarely have time to read individual letters, but this opening line immediately captured my attention. I couldn’t resist reading on. The letter continued, “I have never explicitly thanked you and Syracuse University for accepting me from the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming.” With this line, I understood that this was not an ordinary letter.

In January 2018, I started processing the records and papers of Syracuse University Chancellor William P. Tolley. Shortly before starting the project the University Archivist, Meg Mason, told me a story of Tolley surreptitiously admitting Japanese American students from internment camps during World War II. She explained that Tolley wrote of admitting the students in his memoir, yet no primary material has emerged to support the story. She hoped I could find further documentation on this remarkable story, since it is so under documented. And that is precisely why I understood this letter was so important.

The letter was from Warren Tsuneishi, a 1943 graduate of Syracuse University. In the letter, Tsuneishi praised Tolley for his “act of moral courage” of accepting Tsuneishi and “some of 100 of my Japanese American colleagues.” Tolley’s decision to admit them from internment camps, Tsuneishi wrote, “immeasurably strengthened my own belief and confidence in American democracy. I knew then that despite temporary setbacks under extreme provocation in wartime, the champions of constitutional rights, equity, and fair play for all Americans would in the end prevail.” Tolley’s decision to allow the writer into the University, he wrote, had profound consequences for his life: after graduation he served in the US Army with honors in the Pacific Theatre as a translator of intercepted Japanese internal documents, received post graduate degrees from Columbia and Yale, and a long career working at Yale and the Library of Congress. “I recount these ‘accomplishments’ not to boast,” he wrote, “but to observe that none of these could have been accomplished had you not given me that first chance in 1943.”

The letter moved me, and as I began to show it to my coworkers, they were moved as well, not only by Tolley’s act of generosity when it was unpopular to do so, but also because Tsuneishi took the opportunity to live a life of distinction. I was also excited that we had a little more documentation of an event about which we know so little.

Black-and-white photo of Chancellor William P. Tolley
Chancellor William P. Tolley using a dictaphone, circa 1950.

Considering that I found the letter so early in processing Tolley’s records and papers, I was hopeful that I would find more regarding the Japanese American students he had admitted, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful in doing so.

Tsuneishi’s extraordinary letter spurred my interest in these students, and I was able to find some additional pieces of information. For example, the local Syracuse Herald-Journal reported that in 1943 two Japanese American students, Frank Watanabe and May Ohmura, made public speeches defending their presence at Syracuse University. “We are as American as anyone else,” Watanabe told a crowd at the Hotel Syracuse. “We have the same cultural background and like swing, ice cream, and baseball as do all Americans.”

Newspaper article about Japanese-American students.
The 1943 Syracuse Herald-Journal article containing information about two Japanese American students, Frank Watanabe and May Ohmura.

I was also able to find a photograph of Warren Tsuneishi from 1945, during his time in the Military Intelligence Service from the archives of the Monrovia Historical Society located in Monrovia, CA, linked here: https://cityofmonrovia.pastperfectonline.com/photo/0DB2BF34-41A9-4128-BDE3-644225736421.

Clippings and photographs like this were exciting to find, but overall we have very little information on these students and how the University admitted them. Other than Tsuneishi, Watanabe, and Ohmura, we are unaware of even their names. We don’t know about their personal stories, their journeys from the camps to our campus, and their experiences at the university. As an archivist, I am interested in these stories and want to preserve them.

As the university celebrates its sesquicentennial we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on our history and values. Chancellor Tolley’s admittance of Japanese Americans when it was unpopular to do so reflects our values of fairness, inclusion, and equity. The lack of archival documentation about this important part of the University’s history is disconcerting. Thus, the University Archives welcomes from the Syracuse University community any information or materials that shed light on this remarkable story.

The Chancellor William P. Tolley Records (Chancellor William P. Tolley Records, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) and the William P. Tolley Papers (William P. Tolley Papers, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of our University Archives collections.

Additional Source:

“Warren Tsuneishi and Lt. General Hodge in Seoul.” Monrovia Legacy Project. Monrovia Historical Society. https://cityofmonrovia.pastperfectonline.com/photo/0DB2BF34-41A9-4128-BDE3-644225736421.


Boxing the Collections with a Box Making Machine

By Colleen Theisen, Chief Curator

Can you tell us about your job and what you do?

I began my career in 1982 with a 3 year apprenticeship in Archive Conservation in my home city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (UK), moving to the Isle of Man in 1993, Carlisle (UK) in 1997, NYC in 2001 and then Syracuse University in 2006.

My job has many different facets but focuses on two primary functions, the preservation and conservation of books, paper, parchment/vellum, leather, papyrus, wax seals and most other library formats.  I’m also responsible for exhibition preparation, disaster planning/reaction, conservation education and lab management.

My preservation efforts include the use of archival quality housings (boxes, folders, sleeves and folders), together with environmental control measures (temperature, humidity and light) to reduce or arrest further deterioration.

My conservation activities involve the treatment of individual items – cleaning (dry and aqueous), chemical stabilization, and the physical repair of paper, bindings and skins. All work must comply with professional standards, do no harm and be reversible wherever possible.

Why does an academic library need boxes?

The Special Collections at SU are not just a treasure of information, they’re also valuable assets with considerable resources invested to ensure their longevity and access.

Creating boxes for archival materials helps prevent unnecessary bright light, dust, and humidity from causing deterioration to these documents.

Ever expanding collections and limited suitable storage have prioritized some collections for high-density off-site storage when appropriate. Any off-site items needed on main campus must be securely housed for transportation by our dedicated staff.

What’s the history of the box making machine at SU Libraries?

We purchased the box machine in September 2017, previously we handmade a variety of custom boxes but it was labor intensive and not always the best fit! The proposed relocation of some collections to offsite storage necessitated radical measures, and thinking outside of the box! Although a costly investment, users estimate the machine breaks even at 2 – 3 years and the supplied bespoke box designs provide flexibility to quickly construct enclosures that fit perfectly. We also acquired a digital measuring device that scans the call number and inputs catalog record information, which includes book dimensions, into a spreadsheet. Data is imported into the box cutter and processed to maximize book templates per 60” x 40” board, averaging 6-8 books with little waste. The box machine creases, cuts and prints call numbers so all we have to do is assemble the finished product. The equipment is mainly used for special collections material but is also used to box general collection materials as well.

What are the advantages to using a machine like this?

The book measuring device and box cutter have streamlined our rehousing efforts, eliminating human factors such as measuring, creasing and cutting errors. Handmade boxes also take more time, use more board, and can be exhausting for one person to work on all day everyday to produce at scale.

The prospect of making 18,000 book boxes without some kind of mechanized production was a daunting and overwhelming prospect!

Can you make custom designs?

Yes, the software has a draw package so I can design and produce new options when the bespoke options aren’t suitable.

The software’s 57 bespoke templates include book and document boxes, a photographic slide box, rolled map boxes (square or triangular) and many others so we can usually identify a suitable design without starting over.

What unusual items have you designed boxes for using the machines?

SU has a huge collection of 7”, 10”, 12” and 16” audio disks, which we are rehousing and digitizing for long term preservation. Fragile or broken audio disks have always been a problem until now as keeping any parts together and protected can be challenging.

Using the machine and software, I’ve designed circular sink-mat enclosures in various sizes that allows safe storage and handling during digitization.

Compartmentalized boxes have been designed for our Plastics collection, outer box dimensions based on shelf size with adjustable dividers according to content size.

A similar design is used for boxing wax cylinders and can be customized to fit various sizes.

The most challenging item was a parchment document with an attached pendant seal.  The parchment was tightly folded and needed to be flattened using controlled humidification, the seal lived in its original padded metal box and was in great condition. The design has recessed areas to accommodate the various parts so figuring out the numerous dimensions was not easy and a couple of prototypes were produced before I got it right!

See the box making machine in action in the video below!

Computerized box-making machine

The Libraries recently purchased a computerized box-making machine for our Preservation Services that creates custom archival book boxes in seconds. Take a look!

Posted by Syracuse University Libraries on Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Marketing and Publicity and Press, Oh My!

By Grace Wagner, Reading Room Access Services Supervisor

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” the Wizard of Oz announces in a harassed tone toward the end of the eponymous 1939 film. At this moment, the main characters – Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion – are presented with two realities: Oz, the Great and Powerful, a terrifying confection of amplified sound and green smoke, and Oz, a humble and humbled Kansas man. The pair live on the screen simultaneously for a moment. Then, the smoke disappears and Oz’s voice retreats to that of a humbug.

The marketing campaign for The Wizard of Oz film, based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 highly successful and popular children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, seems to take its cues from this scene in the movie, presenting the picture as both a grand fantasy adventure and an incredible technical achievement in film making. At SCRC, we are lucky enough to hold some of the marketing materials from The Wizard of Oz film, both from the film’s original 1939 release, as well as its first reprint in 1949, in our L. Frank Baum Papers.  Baum was a native of Chittenango, NY and spent time working in Syracuse as well.

The materials in Baum’s papers include behind-the-scenes articles written about the film, movie posters and leaflets, and MGM promotional materials. One of the posters for the Technicolor musical proclaims, “It took 2 years just to plan it!” and “9,200 living actors thrill you!” and features a circus-style advertising board that includes:

The Tornado: Actual photographs of the inside of the tornado that whirled Dorothy to a land more excitingly real than life itself!
Munchkinland: A whole city in miniature populated entirely by hundreds of midgets gather from 42 cities in 29 states!
Flying Monkeys: Attack by the monkeys! Amazing camera effects!

In all of these entries, the spectacle (tornadoes, Munchkinland, and flying monkeys) is juxtaposed with the practical (“actual photographs,” “gather from 42 cities in 29 states,” “amazing camera effects”), all to create “a land more excitingly real than life itself!”

The L. Frank Baum Papers also include magazine articles with behind-the-scenes stories about the film, including an article written for the August 1939 issue of Good Housekeeping. Many of the standard pieces of trivia recited today about The Wizard of Oz come from the information provided in early press coverage of the film. Those stories include the following: The silver slippers from L. Frank Baum’s books were transformed ruby red to take full advantage of the Technicolor technology in the picture. Several cast members, including the original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, and the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, suffered injuries due to the heavy makeup and extensive special effects in the film. Hollywood executives thought “Over the Rainbow” was slowing down the pace of the story and the song was nearly cut from the picture.

Some of the press coverage, created by MGM and other reporters, however, leaned closer to myth-making than fact. One well-worn bit of trivia that has always fascinated me, but never seems to have been fully proved or disproved, however, is the story of Professor Marvel’s coat. Typically, this anecdotal bit is told as follows: The costume department needed to find an old, tattered coat that could be worn by Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel in the sepia-toned Kansas portion of the film (Morgan also plays the Wizard of Oz on the Technicolor side). Picking a coat off a rack at a second-hand store in the Los Angeles, the costume designer, or Frank Morgan (depending on the version of the story you are hearing), discovered “L. Frank Baum” stitched into the lining of the coat, or discovered L. Frank Baum on a piece of paper inside the coat (depending on the version of the story you are hearing).

In the Good Housekeeping article, however, a similar story is related, but in this version of the tale, the story is told as follows:

“Last fall, when they were getting costumes ready for The Wizard, a messenger was sent out to scour the secondhand stores for a ragged old topcoat to use for the Scarecrow. He bought one in the first pawnshop he tried. Big, tattered, just the thing. It was okayed by the Wardrobe department. Then–not until then–did they find the initials, sewed fast in the lining: ‘L.F.B.'”

While this cannot be taken as definitive proof that L. Frank Baum’s coat was never actually found or used in the film, either worn by Professor Marvel or the Scarecrow, it certainly points to some cracks in the story’s construction. Perhaps it was thought to make a better story that the Wizard’s coat had once been worn by the “Wizard” himself, the author of the story, rather than the Scarecrow, and the story was altered to reflect this telling. It may be that this story, sometimes considered to be crafted to create additional publicity for the film, is itself a fable.

What is definitely true, however, is the amount of time, money, and publicity, that were spent on making The Wizard of Oz come to life: 9,200 actors participated in the film and MGM spent $3 million dollars to make the film ($55.5 million dollars today).

This year marks 80 years since The Wizard of Oz’s release, which debuted in cinemas in 1939, a year that is regularly demarcated as one of the greatest years in film history.  A slew of highly regarded and commercially successful films were produced that year – Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, The Women, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights – and, of course, The Wizard of Oz.

The L. Frank Baum Papers (L. Frank Baum Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries) are part of the Special Collections Research Center’s manuscript collections.