From the Archives 30 — May 2018

By SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Spring has finally arrived in Ann Arbor, and with it our heavy parkas and snow boots have at last been stored away, not to be thought of for many months. Instead, we bring out the t-shirts and shorts and we venture outside to enjoy the sun and cool breeze.

During this time, we look to spend more time in nature, observing that which was covered in snow for so long. George Swain, back when he worked for the University, would do this as well. Of course, he would go outside with his camera, capturing whatever scenes he could.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present two Swain images saved in the Kelsey archives. Though the great majority of our archival photographic collections are of excavations overseas, we do find the occasional non-archaeology image as well. The two images highlighted this month depict a squirrel caught climbing up a tree and an owl peering down on Swain, perhaps posing for the photograph.

These two photographs are glass slides. These were often used in lanterns for teaching purposes. Swain spent a great deal of time after the excavations in the 1920s reproducing images for U-M faculty and staff to use in their classrooms. One means of this, prior to digitization and PowerPoint, was to replicate images on glass so that they could be projected on the wall using a lantern slide projector (sometimes known as a magic lantern).

Why he chose an owl and a squirrel is unknown. No caption accompanies these two. However, they seem to be posing for the camera, so what is a photographer supposed to do? We are unsure if these hail from Ann Arbor, but we think the squirrel would appreciate the attention and extra food squirrels receive on campus these days.

As you wander outside, be sure to appreciate the animals that are enjoying the same sunshine you are. Listen to the wisdom of the owl as it stares down at you, trying to pass along a message. She may have some sage words for you, such as “Enjoy Spring!”

From the Archives 29 — April 2018

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Digital photography has made documenting our lives a much easier endeavor. Now, anyone with a cell phone can capture almost any moment with photos and even movies. Digital photography has become ubiquitous, and sharing these files becomes increasingly more feasible.

Archaeologists are using this tool more and more on their excavations, and even the Kelsey Museum has gone fully digital. The Kelsey used to insist on film photography when documenting its collections, but greater access to storage space and proper archival methods for digital photography has paved the way for this change.

The same option was not available, obviously, to those who came before us. George R. Swain, University of Michigan photographer from 1913 to 1947, had to use the methods available to him at the time. This meant taking his wood view camera with him on his travels through the Mediterranean, along with hundreds of glass plates. These plates were heavy, and he often needed help carrying them (often his son provided this service).

His view camera was not Swain’s only tool in the field. In the 1920s, easier means of photography were available, though they were of lesser quality. Thanks to the innovations of George Eastman, film photography had become popular. Film rolls were small and easy to carry, but one was limited by the number of frames on each roll, and the photographer couldn’t see what they captured until later, when the film was developed. Swain carried a film camera, likely a Kodak (the model is lost to us), and often he had others do the same. He would take meticulous notes about who shot what, when, and where. These notes are reflected in our current records.

The Kodak shots often captured scenes that are less formal but equally as important. The glass slides were reserved for artifacts and excavations; the Kodak captured everything else, including people, humorous moments, animals, and anything else happening during the excavations and travels.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present one roll of Swain’s film that reflects this. In April 1920, only 98 years ago, Swain and company traveled to Dimé, in the Fayum region of Egypt, likely on a reconnaissance mission to see where Michigan could excavate in years to come. Dimé was eventually excavated, but was not one of the original projects of the 1924 season. In this roll, we see what Swain encountered during this trip. People holding fish. The train and the train station. Farmers working the fields. A village scene. Dr. Askren posing. Hiking over the sands.

Fortunately for us, making this kind of trip is easier now without having to haul so much photography equipment (though we are lost without an energy source). Swain did not have the luxury, but we are thankful for the work he did to capture these moments.

From the Archives 28 — March 2018

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager

As many of our friends have noticed, there is a lot of construction happening around the Kelsey Museum. To the north, the Trotter Multicultural Center is creating a new home for itself. To the south, LSA is expanding in order to house the Opportunity Hub. Both of these are exciting projects that will pay dividends for the Kelsey, with new guests and neighbors we can partner with, bring to the Museum, and be friends with.

The construction around us speaks to the long and constantly changing history of the U-M campus. For years, we have become accustomed to our neighbors: the trees to our north and LSA to our south. But as we have seen around campus, nothing remains the same for too long.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present two photographs showing how  Newberry Hall appeared in the early 1900s, when it was still the future home of the Kelsey Museum (the Kelsey occupied Newberry Hall in 1928). In these photographs, taken by George R. Swain, Newberry Hall had different neighbors. To the north, trees and the Helen Newberry Residence, which still stands. To the south, a house — though not much in the photos gives us any clues about it, or indeed if it was a house at all.

For people who have been working at or visiting the Kelsey for years, the surprise lies to the west. Where Upjohn is now there used to be a parking lot, big enough for 20 cars. However, in these photos, particularly M8.1087, we see the structure that the parking lot replaced. It  looks like a house, though no further information accompanies these images.

Through word of mouth, there have been suggestions that gas stations also used to be near the Kelsey, but we do not see that in these images.

Spend enough time on the U-M campus and you will notice much construction throughout the area. It seems the University is constantly expanding and changing. Going through the archives and photographs, we begin to understand  that this is not new. Changes have been happening since U-M arrived in Ann Arbor. And it is safe to say changes will continue for many years to come.

M8_1087
View of Newberry Hall, future home of the Kelsey Museum, ca. 1900. Kelsey Museum Archives M8.1087. Photo by George R. Swain.
M8_1088
View of Newberry Hall, ca. 1915–1920. Kelsey Museum Archives M8.1088. Photo by George R. Swain.

From the Archives 26 — January 2018

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Excavating Archaeology continues here at the Kelsey Museum. The exhibition showcases numerous, but not all, archaeological projects the University of Michigan has been involved with since 1817. With this exhibition, curators Terry Wilfong and Carla Sinopoli show how U-M has sent researchers all  around the world, highlight important discoveries made by Michigan staff, faculty, and students, and discuss what these discoveries  meant  for the future of archaeology at Michigan.

In 1931, the University of Michigan was quite busy with archaeological endeavors. There were projects at Seleucia (Iraq), Dimé (Soknapaiou Nesos), Karanis (both Egypt), and Sepphoris (Israel). By this time, teams had already been to Carthage (Tunisia) and Pisidian Antioch (Turkey), and were a few years from excavating Terenouthis (Egypt).

The excavation at Sepphoris was a short one, lasting only two months. According to Susan Alcock and Lauren Talalay in their book In the Field: The Archaeological Expeditions of the Kelsey Museum (Ann Arbor, 2006), the finds from the site were impressive, though found in so little time. They cite a water system, a theater, and a villa as some of the results of Leroy Waterman’s work at the site.

Today, 40 artifacts excavated by the University of Michigan at Sepphoris are on long-term loan to the museum at Zippori National Park, the national preserve currently found at the  site. Because of Michigan’s time there, albeit brief, researchers who study Sepphoris continue to visit the Kelsey, physically and virtually, to study our collections and archives. For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a few photographs taken during that 1931 season. These images are quite special. Glass plate negatives from early projects are often no longer with us, but the Sepphoris archive still contains all the original glass negatives. . . They  have all been printed, and some of the prints, as can be seen, were mounted into an album.

In the photographs, we see the site under excavation. We see the staff and workers. We see a site that has undergone  great changes in nearly 90 years. Our archives continue to educate all the people still working at and visiting the site, and will continue to do so for the next 200 years.

 

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Photos and a photo album from the excavations at Sepphoris, 1931. Some are mounted in a photo album.

 

From the Archives 21 — June 2017

SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager

“I am very pleased to announce that Terry Wilfong has generously agreed to serve as Director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology effective June 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020.”

With these words, LSA Dean Andrew Martin announced to the Kelsey Museum community that Professor Terry Wilfong, longtime curator of Graeco-Roman Egyptian Collections at the Kelsey Museum, would assume the responsibilities of Museum director. Terry follows a long line of distinguished directors of the Kelsey Museum. Each director furthered the mission of the Museum in their own right, making the institution stronger and a greater presence on the University of Michigan campus and around the world. Without each of these strong leaders, the Kelsey would not be the institution it is now. To each of these we owe a great deal of gratitude.

In honor of the news and Terry’s appointment, this month’s “From the Archives” presents this black-and-white image from the 1990s, though no date is associated with the image. It was found during routine cleaning in the archives. Its appeal as history of the Museum and its staff made it an easy addition to the photographic archives (KAP00007).

In the image, we see Dr. Wilfong, perhaps not long after he was hired by the University of Michigan as professor and curator. He is standing in front of the some displays we had in Newberry Hall, long before the Upjohn Exhibition Wing was even dreamed up. In those days, the Kelsey was constricted in exhibition space and possibilities.

Since this photograph was taken, there have been many changes. The Museum has a new building, our staff has grown in numbers, and our reach has expanded with more exhibitions and outreach and excavations. Terry has earned tenure, reached the level of full professor, and now is director. Both have grown together, and much of the Kelsey’s success during that time can be attributed to Terry’s efforts.  With Terry’s directorship, we are excited about the upcoming years.

 

KAP00007
Professor Terry Wilfong presenting some early Kelsey Museum exhibitions in Newberry Hall.

From the Archives 20 — May 2017

By SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager

Summer is upon us, and with it come a number of summer blockbusters at the movie theaters. Movie companies put out some of the biggest draws of the year during summer, in order to appeal to children and families not in school, and too hot to be outside. But people haven’t had movies to distract them for very long, only since the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Only then did films become a normal part of culture.

Prior to that time period, people would find entertainment in other manners. Theater, music, reading, newspapers, and so on. However, there was still another form of entertainment available, now known as pre-cinema. This genre was an attempt by many inventors and entertainers to use technology to trick the eye into seeing something that was not there.

Some used effects, such as mirrors to create illusions. While others knew the eyes sees in stereo. The stereoscope was an early 1800s invention that showed two images side-by-side, but both at ever so slightly different angles. Using mirrors, or a barrier between the eyes, the devices would trick the eye to think it was looking at the same image from different angles. The eyes would see this as a three dimensional image, and the contents of the photographs would pop. It was an early form of 3D.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a stereoscope and stereoscopic views found in the archives. The details on how we acquired this item and views is unknown, though collecting such materials in the early 1900s was quite common. Much like other photographs from the era, they were sold to people wanting to see Europe and northern Africa and Palestine. This was before tourism took off and people began traveling to those destinations themselves. This particular stereoscope, a Holmes stereoscope, was perhaps purchased by Francis Kelsey himself.

The stereoscope is here shown with various views of daily life from Palestine. These were created by Underwood & Underwood, a popular photographs distributor from the era. Aside from the views, the cards come packed in a box that looks like two books, simply titled “Palestine.” These views could have been used to educate students on what Palestine looked like at the time, maybe as they learned about ancient Roman life in the area, or the times of Jesus Christ. Whatever the original intention, the views and device remain at the Kelsey Museum. Though broken, they remind us what entertainment people had, and they remain educational for us, but in different ways.

 

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From the Archives — March 2017

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager

The archives at the Kelsey Museum are a treasure trove of valuable information, but it also acts as a memory holder. People who have contributed to the archives routinely return to find something they had forgotten long ago, only to find it within the Museum. Often it is a memory jolt, reminiscence, or a search for something to include in a report or study. The great thing about making the archives available, and fielding these requests, is not only the ability to support research on whatever level, but those requests often lead to conversations. Those conversations start revealing bits of history that are not apparent in the archives. Names of people. Stories about them. What it meant to live with a team in that time under those conditions in that place.

This month’s “From the Archives” focuses on this find from the Qasr al-Hayr archives. A simple request a few days ago paved the way to look for these memories. Often the act of searching for one item leads to the finding of so many more. Here we see a bit of that. We see team members as they were in 1964, going about their business, living their lives. There was no thought about an unknown archivist looking at these same photos 43 years later. Or that these would be shared widely. Instead, the photographs of the architecture, landscapes, and finds, are what normally make it into the public eye through publications.

One of the most humbling aspects of working in archives is this reminder of how time passes. Our own photographs may some day be viewed in the same manner. We take photographs and save documents in order to remind ourselves years from now, but these items have a longer shelf life. Though names may be lost, their presence is still with us. And so, too, will our presence live on.

 

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