From the Archives — June 2016

BY MELISSA SOMERO, Graduate Intern in Kelsey Museum Registry

Hiding out in the Kelsey Museum Archives for the past semester I have come to appreciate the variety of documents that are housed there, such as those pertaining to the history of the museum, including Francis Kelsey and his expeditions, as well as excavations carried out by the University of Michigan. Perhaps some of the most interesting finds were the many photographs by George Swain documenting Francis Kelsey’s expedition to Europe, Near East, and Africa from 1919 to 1920. Kelsey’s expedition was documented by the Dangerous Archaeology exhibition, which also chronicled the history of archaeology in the Near East. It was from this collection of George Swain photographs I have chosen to highlight the photos from Syria. Swain gives us a rare glimpse into the lives of everyday people and refugees in the early part of the 20th century, as well as beautiful archaeological sites.

 

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Aleppo, January 9, 1920: “Friday bazaar. Part of the crowd that gathered around the car.” (KS089.02)
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Aleppo, January 9, 1920: “Friday bazaar. Copper utensils in the foreground. Then the crowd, with some of the citadel in the distance.” (KS087.02)
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Aleppo, January 7, 1920: “Line-up at the entrance to the A.C.R.N.E. eye hospital, on the sidewalk. Dr. Tenner at right of door in back row at the left — man with moustache.” (7.0193)
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Aleppo, January 7, 1920: “The exterior of the inner entrance to the citadel, with a part of the inclined bridge over the moat.” (KS079.01)

 

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Aleppo, January 8, 1920: “View of Aleppo from the roof of the Hotel Casino, the headquarters of the A.C.R.N.E. (later, Near East Relief). The railway station and modern part of the city are at left. OId part of the city at the right, and beyond this the rise of the Citadel. The low building in the left distance is a barrack. Note that house roofs are built nearly flat so as to collect rain water. A stream, not shown here, runs through the town from right to left. Size, 9 1/2 x 24 in.” (Cirkut005)

 

The panoramic photograph is from a collection of Cirkut photographs in the Kelsey Archives, some of which are on display in the main entrance to the Museum. In Aleppo, the Citadel, which dates back to the 13th century, rises above the city and remains a testament to the ingenuity and prowess of ancient civilizations but is also a reminder of nations at war with its impenetrable walls. The Ancient City of Aleppo and its Citadel are now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site, it is through this international body, which seeks to promote awareness and protection of important cultural sites, that many other sites have been saved and began to promote a thriving economy to the area.

 

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Aleppo, January 8, 1920: “Aleppo and its Citadel, seen from the roof of the Hotel Casino, A.C.R.N.E. headquarters.” (7.0203)

 

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Aleppo, January 7, 1920: “Citadel, a nearer view of the moat and entrance bridge.” (KS080.05)

 

Although for many archaeology in the early 20th century stemmed from the desire to seek out objects for personal glorification, it is clear that Kelsey began a career in the field for educational and humanitarian purposes. Kelsey was not only an explorer and archaeologist but was also involved with the Red Cross and his foray into Syria is documented by the many photographs taken of refugees of the Armenian Genocide.

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Aleppo, January 7–9, 1920: “Some of the 1500 orphans in the Armenian orphanage. Taken in the courtyard.” (7.0198)
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Aleppo, January 8, 1920: “The driver Zacke, two views, front and profile. Ethnic types. This is the driver that took us to Aintab, and who six weeks later, with Mr. Perry, was killed on the road.” (7.0202)
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Aleppo, January 7, 1920: “Armenian housekeeper. Two view, face and profile. Ethnic types.” (7.0200)

 

Because of people like Kelsey, the field of archaeology has not only introduced people to new cultures but has created a thriving enterprise that seeks to unite us in our common heritage. Along with the help of photographers like George Swain we may not only see the stoic archaeological remnants of past cultures but see the living ones that surround and add value to the ancient.

Lastly, I leave you with the images of the ruins of Baalbek which can attest to the grandeur of the structure and the beauty of the intricate design. It is clear from these images that there was a thriving artistic community which is indicative of a prosperous society.

 

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Baalbek, January 13, 1920: “General entrance to Propylaea and present entrance to ruins. Mrs. Kelsey and Mrs. Norton near top of steps. Ancient steps to Propylaea missing.” (7.0212)
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Baalbek, January 13, 1920: “Corinthian Columns, Temple of Bacchus.” (7.0218)
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Baalbek, January 13, 1920: “Great portal, entrance to the Temple of Bacchus. Note the keystone of the flat arch of the lintel. Now held securely in position.” (7.0221)

 

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Guest contributor Melissa Somero is a graduate intern this semester for the Kelsey Museum Registry. She earned her Master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in historic preservation. While Melissa has assisted with multiple projects, her focus for the term has been the Kelsey Archives.

From the Archives — December 2015

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. As is customary for the University of Michigan, staff at Michigan are given the week between Christmas and New Year’s day off. The Museum is preparing for this break, and the staff will shut down for behind-the-scenes business (don’t worry, the galleries will be open during the break). There is much work to do before we all go away, and much to get accomplished as we prepare for our upcoming exhibition, Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii (opening February 2016). This is a frantic time of year, as we catch up on work and projects that were set aside while working with students and classes.

Our predecessors worked hard during this time of year as well. Egypt is an extremely hot country, so the traditional dig season for many archaeologists, North American summer (when classes are no longer in session), is not ideal for excavations there. The extreme heat found in the deserts would be dangerous for the crew members on any dig. Instead, the Michigan team, as do many other projects then and now, opt for a North American winter season. Teams would arrive in Autumn, and due to the long trip to Egypt, they would stay a prolonged period of time. In many cases, the teams would be in Egypt over the holiday break, working from December (or earlier) into the new year and beyond. For the Karanis team, this meant being in Egypt, away from family, on Christmas. But they made the most of it. Pictures show decorations at the dig house as the team made their surroundings festive.

They, and the rest of the team, found other ways to keep entertained during the holiday season. And that is the focus of this month’s From the Archives. While at Karanis, the workers held a fencing contest on Christmas day (KM Neg #676). Unfortunately, our records do not indicate what year this took place, or if this happened every year, but we know that at least once in the life of the excavation, some fun was had with a fencing competition. The archives do not indicate if there was a winner, how many participated, or if this was just a random occurrence between two people having a little fun. The photographer is also unknown, though it would not be a stretch to assume George R. Swain was the man behind the camera.

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Workmen fencing on Christmas Day. KM Neg #676.

On a Christmas day 90 years ago, the Karanis project team was preparing for their own holiday season just as we are today. They had decorations and games to pass the time. They were finding ways to make their current home as festive and comfortable as their permanent homes. Thousands of miles from Michigan, they just wanted the same comforts we will be enjoying soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

From the Archives — October 2015

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Halloween is upon us, and it is normally a time to dress up as monsters and ghouls and scare each other for candy and treats. But not all dressing up is solely for the purpose of frightening. Often we dress up for enchantment, amazement, and entertainment. The Kelsey family was no stranger to this.

Francis Kelsey was not only an influential force on the field of archaeology and the University of Michigan campus, he was also a caring father to three children. Easton Kelsey is often seen traveling with Francis to Egypt, Europe, and other points. Even Mrs. Kelsey would accompany her husband on occasion to Tunisia or Italy. Less visible in the Kelsey archives are Kelsey’s daughters, Ruth and Charlotte. However, they all were important in the life of Francis Kelsey. While overseas, Francis would write them letters and lovingly sign each “pater.”

The study of classics has a long history at Michigan, and even the Kelsey children were involved in the discipline. This month’s “From the Archives” showcases Charlotte Kelsey, then an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, performing in the play Iphigenia. In the 1 October 1917 performance, Charlotte plays the titular role of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon who was set to be sacrificed. Here we see Iphigenia praying at the altar.

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Charlotte Kelsey acting in Iphigenia (GL00687)

It should not be a surprise that Charlotte was so involved in theater. In his book, The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts, John Pedley demonstrates how important music and theater were to the Kelsey family. Ruth played violin; Isabelle (Mrs. Kelsey) played piano; Francis and Charlotte would sing. Kelsey himself was the president of the University Musical Society, and he and family would often be found at various performances both on campus and off. And Charlotte, according to Pedley, was at home on stage, always performing, even from a very young age. Iphigenia offered a merger of theater and classics, an endeavor that Francis surely appreciated.

This image is taken from a glass slide. Before PowerPoint, and even before 35mm slides, glass slides proved to be a useful means for teaching and entertaining. It was through the sale of such slides that Francis Kelsey met George Swain, who at the time sold slides depicting battle sites from Caesar’s time. Swain was hired by the university and accompanied Kelsey on his international voyages. Back in Ann Arbor, Swain continued his photographic practice as University photographer. Here we see Swain’s handiwork as he captured Charlotte performing, and his hand-coloring skills as well (photography at the time was still black and white).

Though most searching in the archives turns up archaeological evidence and work, we sometimes come across some more personal moments in people’s lives. The archives capture not only the business side of Kelsey, but also the lives of his family, friends, people he regularly interacted with. And sometimes we capture these familiar names and faces playing dress up and having fun.