From the Archives 33 — August 2018

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

At the end of August and beginning of September, the annual migration of students, both new and returning, comes back to Ann Arbor. Roads will soon be closed off and traffic patterns thrown asunder. That one way to work we are all used to will longer be an option. Parents helping their children move into their dorms park wherever they can, often causing nightmares for the regular denizens of Ann Arbor.

Soon, those students will start venturing out on their own, making friends and filling the cafés and restaurants we locals have grown accustomed to having all to ourselves. They will form groups of friends through their residences, their departments, their activities, and their classes. They will spend much time together, forming bonds and taking a lot of group photos.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a mystery. Just like in 2018, U-M students have been gathering together since the university was founded, in 1817. With the advent of photography in the mid-19th century, they could document themselves.

Often in archives work, while working on one project, other, seemingly unrelated, materials pop up. Many times, these are “orphans,” left behind by someone who had knowledge about them, but who has since left the institution. While organizing the Kelsey archives, these three photographs were found. Sadly, they are accompanied by no documentation, no explanation.

2018-08-29_Archives-03-web2018-08-29_Archives-02-web

2018-08-29_Archives-01-web
Group photographs of young men assembled, perhaps at the U-M campus.

These photographs are presented as a mystery, but also as a call for help. If any of our readers recognize the people captured here, or the locations, or date, or even if this is from the University of Michigan at all, we can begin piecing together this puzzle.

Astute readers will notice one clue that may assist. In the lower right corner of the first photograph is the signature “Randall and Pack.” Some research into this reveals that Randall and Pack was a photo studio active in Ann Arbor between 1908 and 1917.* That gives us a time frame for at least one of the photographs. However, all other details remain obscure.

2018-08-29_Archives-04-web
A close-up view of the Randall and Pack signature, alongside an advertisement in the 1917 U-M yearbook, the Michiganensian, p. xxxix.

The archives present an opportunity to save history, to save the names and faces of people who have passed through these walls. Unfortunately, this is not always easy, and we rely on our community for assistance. These students may have a Kelsey connection, but without details we may never know. And with this loss, these photographs become an oddity in the archives, rather than a memory.

* * * * *

 * Directory of Early Michigan Photographers, by David V. Tinder (Ann Arbor: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, 2013; online edition), s.v. “Randall, Herbert”; see also “Pack, Ambrose Clarkson.”

 

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 23 — August 2017

By SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Collections Manager

In the coming months, the Kelsey Museum is going to be seeing some changes to our neighborhood. The new Trotter Multicultural building as well as the expansion of LSA for their Opportunity Hub will both be commencing shortly. Normally, any construction is nerve-wracking for museums, as vibrations can cause deterioration to artifacts. With this activity being so close to the Kelsey, we will be seeing even more potential movement in the galleries and storage. Throw on top of all this the fact that there will be construction on two fronts, so vibrations will be steady and ongoing for a long period of time.

Small and big vibrations will cause artifacts to move, but the shaking can cause flaking and other breaking to occur. If you wander the galleries and see something amiss, please inform security or notify museum staff if they are in the galleries at the time.  Fortunately, the Kelsey is staffed by high caliber professionals who are already on top of this, and have a plan to mitigate the situation. Thanks to them, we expect to see no damage during this construction period.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we look back when the opposite situation was taking place. Back in 2007, the Kelsey was undergoing its own construction. This project affected our neighbors, the students living in Newberry and Barbour Residences, as well as our colleagues in LSA. For the Kelsey, this was a long time coming, as calls for a new building for the collections had been written decades before. Finally, in 2009, the doors at the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing opened to the public, the culmination of several years’ worth of work.

Those who have been with the Kelsey Museum for a long time will remember that the space where Upjohn is now was a parking lot. About 20–25 cars could fit here, often for staff of the residences and the Kelsey. Much to the chagrin of several people who enjoyed parking close to work, the lot was removed and the new wing went up instead.

Images shared here show the construction at different phases. While construction was underway, Collections Manager Sebastián Encina went around photographing the progress from various angles, including the roof of LSA, the Student Activities Building, the former Kelsey archives room, even street views. We are now fortunate to have this collection of images that encapsulate a portion of our own history. It reminds us how much work goes into the planning and actualization of a construction project. At the time, it was difficult to imagine what the end result was going to look like. Now, ten years later, we have a whole history in this building already, many stories shared, many names and voices passing through.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Welcome to Karanis: November 2012

imageBY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Karanis excavations in the 1920s/1930s profoundly affected numerous departments at the University. Led by Francis Kelsey, the Karanis team collected artifacts that form the core of the collections housed in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The nearly 50,000 pieces remain a focus of research, exhibition, and outreach despite the fact that Michigan left the site in 1935.

In 2005, Prof. Willeke Wendrich of UCLA procured a permit to excavate at Karanis. Since then, Dr. Wendrich’s teams have continued research at the site to expand our knowledge of Graeco-Roman Egypt, particularly in the provincial areas.

This season, Fall 2012, Dr. Wendrich has been kind enough to extend me an invitation to join the Karanis team in the familiar position of registrar. During my stay here, I will be seeing the freshly excavated materials currently being found at the site and have a chance to compare them to what Kelsey and Enoch Peterson dug up in the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, when I can, I will be writing a blog for the Kelsey Museum to share my experiences and thoughts about the current state of Karanis.

I’ve already spent two days at the site and have marveled at its sheer size and condition. Though the Kelsey Museum holds the original plans and maps, the chance to see it in person has given me the proper perspective on how vast the site is and how small the rooms actually are. Unfortunately, Karanis no longer stands as it once did. The views of Karanis captured by George Swain and his team of photographers (including Peterson and Easton Kelsey) are not what the visitor will find today. Many walls have collapsed, many structures no longer stand.

In the coming months, I will update this blog with new findings from the field. As register, I will see all finds come across my desk. I will speak with all the specialists and gather information about those items, and how they compare to the Kelsey’s holdings. I will photograph the site and try to do so from the same angles as Swain. All this I will share with you.

This wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of Dr. Willeke Wendrick and Kelsey Director Dr. Sharon Herbert. To both of them I owe a great deal of gratitude.

Until next time, back out into the field.