Archives Behind the Scenes: Student-Created Exhibitions

As a Research Services Assistant at Seidman House, I worked on a number of projects that supported my goal to work as a museum curator post-graduation.  Prior to working here, I did not have experience with providing research support, managing a professional social media account, or all of the steps that go into curating an exhibit.

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My favorite tasks were related to building exhibitions. I was able to create six digital exhibits and ten physical exhibits during my time as a student employee. The majority of the exhibitions were in Seidman House, but I also worked on one larger scale exhibition that was displayed at the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.

I worked on those exhibits from the beginning to the end. This meant I had the opportunity to suggest ideas for what would make a good exhibition and then follow that idea from start to finish. I worked with my supervisor to choose the best materials to feature, design the captions, write captions, and arrange the materials in a display case. One of the main challenges I faced when creating an exhibition was writing the captions because, as an undergraduate student who writes a lot of papers, I am used to writing a lot in order to meet a page or word count instead of trying to condense so that only the most important information is featured. I have learned that text will vary by exhibition depending on whether it is a digital or physical. In a physical exhibit, text needs to fit within the parameters of the case and must be balanced against the item itself; therefore, it’s important to remain concise. In a digital exhibit, however, this is less of an issue. My confidence and skills have significantly increased since I started, but I will continue to work on this in the future.

I also enjoyed the process of setting up a display case.  Initially, I thought this would be easy, but once I got hands-on with the materials, I learned it was much harder than I anticipated. A lot of thought has to go into where materials should be placed in an exhibit such as their color, size, and how they coordinate with the other materials. This thought process varies from exhibition to exhibition; a display with just novels IMG_20190426_123903is completely different from an exhibit for a special collection with materials ranging from pamphlets to images. Being able to create exhibitions with a variety of materials is a skill that I am lucky and extremely thankful to have been able to improve upon.

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It is also important to think about the number of materials that will be in the exhibit because nobody wants a case that looks too full and possibly disorganized or with not enough materials so it feels incomplete.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working here and I am so glad that I was able to work on a variety of projects, but the exhibitions will always be my favorite. I feel more confident going into my Museum Studies program this fall because of the great experience I gained while working here.

Cooking in GVSU Archives

With Thanksgiving taking place this month, the hunt for scrumptious new recipes is on our minds — who doesn’t want the best food possible for their feast? We decided to search our Special Collections to find some of our most interesting recipe books.

Good Thyme Cooking with Karin Orr (1996) is a recipe collection compiled by Karin Orr of WGVU-TV 35 & WGVK-TV 52, Grand Valley State University’s TV stations. The book includes recipes from chefs who appeared on the show, as well as contributions from the staff members and Karin herself. This collection is broken down into thirteen chapters so that the recipes are easy to find. Each recipe has the ingredients broken down and a detailed description on how to complete the dish. On the ones that Karin provided, she adds a comment about where the recipe came from or how she has modified it.

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Adventurous Eating in Michigan by Marjorie and Duke Winters (1987) is both a restaurant guide and a cookbook which explores some of the best places to eat in Michigan with chefs who are “young and enthusiastic” as well as talented. Their “fair” way of determining a great restaurant was whether the restaurant was “successfully meeting its own objectives”, which ended up including 147 restaurants. With each restaurant listed comes a description of the restaurant, typically at least one recipe from the chef, and a number which corresponds with the numbering on the map so the readers can know where each restaurant is located.

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The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book (1954) is one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, even though the book is as much an autobiography of her life with Gertrude Stein as it is a cookbook. As the introduction to the Folio Society’s edition of this book states, Alice “mixes recipes, anecdotes, and reminiscences, and her guileless art is to move from instructive recipe to its original mise-en-scène”. The recipes were influenced by Alice’s upbringing in America and her many years of living in France, where most of her cooking was done, as well as some recipes given to her by her friends. This cookbook is especially famous for one recipe in particular, a cold dessert called “Haschich Fudge”.

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Favorite Dishes (1893) is a celebrity cookbook that includes over 300 autographed “prized” recipes and 23 portraits of the Board of Lady Managers from the Woman’s building in Chicago. The idea for this cookbook was for it to be charitable; this book would be offered to women of “limited means” who could sell the books in order to afford a visit to Chicago’s world’s fair. As the University of Illinois Press describes, this cookbook provides “an unusual and interesting look into the way early women’s movements used conventional means to manipulate their way into a man’s worlds, and provides insight into how food, women, and American attitudes were changing at the end of the century” (2018).

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Our Michigan Ethnic Tales and Recipes (1979) was put together by Carole Eberly who was inspired by her Czech grandma to love food and to think about the cultural connections that appear in food. Cooking is one way that people have always come together, which is one of Carole’s goals with this recipe book. This book provides glimpses into 20 different ethnic groups with both a story — gathered from either interviews, first person accounts, or historical pieces —  and some recipes that relate to that culture.

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Sherlock Holmes Cookbook (1976) is introduced as a way for “Sherlockians…to recapture the charm of Sherlock Holmes’ London” by exploring the food that Sherlock and Watson would have been eating. This cookbook is also advertised as being “mostly” for pleasure and as a way to “escape…to that place where it is always 1895”. Within each section of the book, the recipes are laid out with ingredients —although not always the exact measurement of each ingredient— and instructions on how to make each dish.  Some prior knowledge in cooking seems to be expected. With recipes for every type of meal, including tea time, the reader can truly get a glimpse into the eating aspect of Sherlock’s and Watson’s lives.

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To view more items related to all things cooking in our Special Collections and University Archives, visit Seidman House located on the Allendale Campus near the Lake Halls.

Spring Fever

Here at Special Collections and University Archives, spring fever has sprung! This is the first warm week in Michigan this season (averaging over 60 degrees F) and considering that very recently there was accumulation of almost an inch of ice, this weather feels marvelous. So we felt inspired to look through our collections to see what interesting spring-related books we could discover.

The Tales of Beatrix Potter

This lovely collection from the Folio Society includes several of Beatrix Potter’s tales, including the well-known The Tale of Peter Rabbit. They all feature Potter’s original drawings. These tales are timeless and the adorable drawings make them perfect reading material for a sunny spring day.

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Potter, Beatrix. The Tales of Beatrix Potter. London, Frederick Warne, 2007, 12 vols.

The Fables of Aesop

Also published by the Folio Society, this book piqued my interest personally because as a Classics major, almost everything relating to Ancient Greece and Rome is exciting, especially if it still influences the modern world. These fables are accredited to Aesop, a slave from Ancient Greece, and are mostly short stories that end with a moral. Spring is considered a time for renewal and birth so this is a perfect time to read these. Some of our modern proverbs and popular tales derive from these fables including: “birds of a feather flock together”, the “boy who cried wolf”, and The Tortoise and the Hare.

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Aesop used the story The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble as a clever allusion to both spring and the Judgement of Paris.

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Aesop.The Fables of Aesop. London, Folio Society, 1998.

Pomegranates are associated with Persephone, the goddess of spring growth. During a trip to the Underworld, she ate a handful of pomegranate seeds, which meant she had to spend at least part of the year there (the winter months). Her return to Earth in springtime is marked with warmer weather, flowers and trees, including apple trees, blossoming, as well as grain beginning to grow. Bramble fruit, however, is harvested at the end of summer, early fall — when Persephone returns to the Underworld. The “apple-tree” refers to the Judgement of Paris when he was given a golden apple and had to decide whether Athena, Aphrodite, or Hera was the fairest.

The Garden & Other Poems

If poetry is more your style, this would be a perfect read. The Garden was one of the most famous English poems from the 17th century and is a romantic poem that utilizes nature as a way to express emotions. This collection of poems, also published by the Folio Society, is about the size of my hand so if a quick yet enjoyable read is what you desire, this is a wonderful option.  With woodblock illustrations adding to the beautiful poems, whoever reads this will feel the joy of spring.
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Marvell, Andrew. The Garden & Other Poems. London, Folio Society, 1993.

The Secret Garden

Continuing with the idea of gardens, this is also a fitting book for spring. Another Folio Society publication, this book is filled with beautiful drawings that enhance the reading experience. Also, with the theme being rejuvenation, this book shows that when something is neglected it withers, but when it is cared for it blooms. This is demonstrated in the characters Mary and Colin. (If you are curious as to why, you will have to read the book!)

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Burnett, Frances H. The Secret Garden. London, Folio Society, 1986.

The Englishman’s Flora

This is the next great nature example which goes through all of plants in England, specifically the British Isle, while providing the names, botanical names, locations, as well as ancient lore and uses for each and 44 illustrations. We are featuring three illustrations below:

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The first plant is the Rowan tree / Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia which is a prime tree for protection; the berries are even red, which is one of the best colors for warding off evil. Plant some Rowan trees around your house for protection against the supernatural. On May Day when fairies and witches are abroad, the Irish would nail pieces of Rowan over their doors and tied around their milk churns to prevent their butter and milk from being stolen. In Ireland, rowan was also thought to keep the dead from rising so it was planted in graveyards as well as sometimes being built into coffins. A fun fact about the Rowan tree is that it was also held sacred to Ukko, the Finnish god of the sky, weather, harvest, and thunder.

 

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The next plant is the Elecampane, Inula helenium, which is part of the sunflower family. Elecampane is good against coughs, asthma, stomach problems, protection against the Plague, and to heal the bites from poisonous animals. This plant was present in Anglo-Saxon recipes, half medical and half magical, to prevent elf-sickness.

 

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Grigson, Geoffrey. The Englishman’s Flora. London, Folio Society, 1987.

 

 

 

The third plant is Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum multiflorum, named after Josephus’ Solomon, a conjurer, enchanter, and philosopher, because Solomon set his praise upon its roots. This plant is used for gluing back together broken bones and could also be used to help bruises heal quicker, particularly black eyes.

 

 

 

The Victorian Wood-block Illustrators

Another example of a nature filled book, this features many woodblock illustrations completed by various artists as well as providing a lot of wonderful information about each artist. Nature — with a focus on plants and animals — seems to be a popular subject of woodblock illustrations making this another great example of a spring book.

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Book Art: The Beauty of Marbled Paper

Paper marbling can be summed up as the “method for producing colored designs on paper or on the edges of books in which liquid colors are first suspended upon a liquid surface” (Wolfe, 2[i]). The liquid bath is typically thickened with Tragacanth, a natural gum, before ink or paint is dropped into it. To create the patterns, one may use a variety of instruments such as brushes, styluses, or combs to manipulate the paint or ink. The paint is then transferred by absorption onto the paper by placing the desired portion into the liquid bath.

If you would like to view an example of paper marbling by The Folio Society, click here.

Paper marbling was mainly used in book binding and calligraphy in Europe after the 17th century, with its peak popularity for book binding and wallpaper falling in the 18th century. Today, paper marbling is still used for book binding, among various other things, but are printed more often than created. Paper marbling was not just used for looks though, it also ensured authenticity because creating an exact duplicate is basically impossible. Creating the patterns is extremely difficult and mistakes cannot be undone.

With a steady hand, various sized brushes, styluses, and combs, and numerous colors of paint or ink, a variety of patterns can be created. Since there are so many patterns of paper marbling, we are going to focus on some of our favorites that are held here in the Special Collections and University Archives.

Turkish (Stone)

This is possibly the oldest known paper marbling pattern, dating back as early as the 15th century. This is one of the basic patterns created when multiple colors are dropped onto the surface using a marbling brush. The colors will continue to constrict as more colors are added leading to the beginning colors appearing as veins and the later colors appearing as “stones”, or large spots. This pattern can be utilized as a base for other patterns.

 

 

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 1. Investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Vol. 10-12, United States. Congress. House. Select Committee on Assassinations. Washington : U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978-1979, 12 vols.
2.  Byron, George G, Baron. Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 3, London, Murray, 1833, 9 vols.
3. Carlyle, Thomas. Thomas Carlyle’s Collected works. Library ed., vol. 13, London, Chapman, 1871, 34 vols.

Gold Vein

This pattern follows the same process as Turkish, except bronze must be the first color dropped in to create the effect of the gold veins running between the stones, which gives this pattern its name.

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Addison, Joseph. The works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison. Vol.
1, London, Vernor and Hood, 1804, 6 vols.

Serpentine

Argued to have been created in the mid-19th century, this style begins with a Turkish base before a brush or stylus is drawn twice vertically through the bath with the second pass halving the first. Repeat this step horizontally. Then, draw vertically in wavy lines that emulate the way a snake moves.

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Bridges, Thomas. A burlesque translation of Homer. 4th ed., vol. 1, London, G.G. and J. Robinson, 1797, 2 vols.

Nonpareil

One of the other basic marbling patterns, named for the French word meaning “matchless” or “unrivaled”. The desired colors are dropped in regulated sizes before a comb is drawn through the bath horizontally twice. Then, a smaller comb is drawn across vertically, although it can also be done horizontally. Multiple, contrasting colors can be used to make this pattern really pop. This pattern can also be utilized as a base for other patterns.

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Byron, George G, Baron. Works of Lord  Byron. Vol. 3, London, Murray, 1833, 9 vols.
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Beloe, William. The sexagenarian. Vol. 1,  London, F.C. and J. Rivington, 1917, 2 vols.

Double Comb

After creating a nonpareil pattern, a wider comb is drawn once more through the bath which causes the arched lines to become separated into arched columns. The new columns can either be straight or manipulated further into waves.

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Phillips, Richard. Addisoniana. Vol. 2, 1803, 2 vols.

French Curl

This pattern can be created using any base, but bases with multiple colors will work the best. Once the base is completed, a stylus or brush is dipped into the bath and swirled, creating the curls that this pattern is named for.

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Auvigny, M. d’. L’Histoire de France. Paris, Chez Theodore Le Gras, 1749.

[i] Wolfe, Richard J. Marbled Paper : Its History, Techniques, and Patterns: With Special Reference to the Relationship of Marbling to Bookbinding in Europe and the Western World. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990. A Publication of the A.S.W. Rosenbach Fellowship in Bibliography. EBSCOhost.

Love Letters

For Valentine’s Day this year, we’re taking a peek into some of the most romantic correspondence collections in Special Collections and University Archives. We managed to whittle the choices down to two correspondence collections that really exude love. We hope you enjoy these snippets as much as we do!

First is the Edward Manley and Jean Worthington Letters, which includes a total of 60 letters written by Jean “Jeannie” Worthington and 159 written by Edward “Ned” Manley. The letters were sent between February 15, 1945-June 27, 1946 while Ned was serving in the U.S. Army. Jeannie, however, was a teenager, still in school in Cleveland, Ohio, trying to decide what she wanted to do with her life. A U.S. Army Private, Ned was assigned to an anti-tank company in the 27th Infantry Regiment in Japan.

The love between these two is heartwarming. Though it’s harder to imagine in today’s world of instant connections, letters were one of the only ways separated couples could communicate during the war. The only way to actually “see” your significant other was via photograph or in your dreams. Ned’s and Jeannie’s letters try to show the other person how much they cared through added emphases, terms of endearment, and the occasional inside joke.  They both mention how they will be together “always”, sometimes underlining the world, call each other “sweetheart”, and frequently mention 28–the number of children they joke they will have once they are married.  They both mention seeing each other in “Dreamland” at the end of some of their letters, alluding to the place they can at least pretend they are with each other. One example is the end of a letter Ned wrote to Jeannie on February 23rd, 1945:

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Letter from Ned to Jeannie from February 23, 1945

The love these two share is evident, whether they’re talking about their daily routines or how much they miss each other. Many of these letters mention “Someday”, typically in quotation marks, likely referring to their hopes of being reunited after the war. Jeannie mentions “Someday” twice in the conclusion of a letter she sent to Ned on March 2nd, 1945:

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Jeannie’s letter from March 2, 1945

The second collection we chose to highlight is the Doris Keirn and Burley Yehnert Letters, containing a total of 34 letters, 21 from Doris (nicknamed “Dorrie”) between November 13th, 1944 – February 4th, 1946 and 13 by Burley “Burl” between December 13th, 1946 and July 29th, 1947. Dorrie’s letters typically discuss school events, since she was attending the Altoona School of Commerce in Pennsylvania, early musical talent, and her heartache over her separation from her fiancée, Burl. During this time, Burl was a Private at various Army Air Force postings before receiving a promotion to Sergeant, stationed in Tampa, Florida in late 1945. While his letters were written after he was discharged from the Army, he struggled to find postwar work, preventing him from moving to Phoenix, Arizona to be with Dorrie.

Through these letters, it is easy to feel the deep love these two had for each other, which make their separation all the most heart-wrenching. For example, on November 25, 1944, Dorrie is listening to a song from one of her records and has to write out all of the lyrics to Burl because she thought it “suits us perfect”. The song is titled ‘Just Plain Lonesome’ by Burke-Van Heusen for the 1942 Kyser film “My Favorite Spy”. To write out every lyric shows just how much she was relating to this song, missing her fiancée and the moments they shared together. Listening to the music while you read the lyrics she wrote out evokes the loneliness she felt and her yearning to be with Burl.

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Song lyrics in letter from Dorrie on November 25, 1944

The letters Dorrie sends to Burl are filled with romantic reminders. Some of the envelopes from Dorrie include special notes written on the flap, such as this example from January 21st, 1945 that reads “Close to you I will always stay/Close to you though you’re far away”:

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Envelope flap from Dorrie’s January 21, 1945 letter

Two letters even contain lipstick kisses:

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Five lipstick kisses sent to Burl
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Stack of lipstick kisses Dorrie sent to Burl

A few of her letters include her picture glued on, creating a more personal stationery (and one that Burl would enjoy):

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Letter from Dorrie on March 18, 1945 including her picture glued to the stationery

These letters are full of references to her love for Burl. She refers to him as her ‘husband’ even though they had not wed yet, and writes continually about how much she misses him and cannot wait until their time together truly begins.

Burl’s letters are also full of his love for Dorrie. Where Dorrie calls him ‘husband’ he refers to her as ‘wife’ – and even points out how often people believe they are already married! He also is sure to tell her how lucky he is to have a person like her love him in return.

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Closing of a letter from Burl

One letter even contains an “I Love You My Darling Dorrie” doodle:

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“I love you my Darling Dorrie” doodle from Burl

Both Dorrie and Burl begin and end each letter by explaining how much they love the other person. These two truly fit the definition of true love.

We hope you enjoyed this peak into these two love related correspondence collections in our Special Collections. If you’d like to see more romantic letters in our Special Collections, be sure to check out the Olexa letters. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!