From an Intern’s Eyes: Old Drama and Timeless Art

In the second week of May, I began my first day at the Cranbrook Archives for my Senior May Project, a program ran by the Cranbrook Upper School to send anxious fourth quarter seniors off campus for internships and adventures.  And now, after two weeks of dealing with numerous dusty, yellowed papers (and one suspicious wooden box featuring some dead bugs and cobwebs) my initial excitement only grew.

One of my first projects here was to research the tenure of past Academy of Art faculty and staff members between the years of 1932-1976, and to make a comprehensive spreadsheet on the matter. That project led me to read through old faculty files comprised of payroll information (“how did people survive on $200 a month!” I thought to myself), retirement records, old correspondence­—I even came across the first telegram I had ever seen. I wondered, from time to time: “Did the secretary who typed this letter up ever think that a teenaged intern from China would one day behold this work and marvel at its antiquity?”

The first telegram I've ever seen.  1943, Cranbrook Archives.

The first telegram I’ve ever seen. 1943, Cranbrook Art Museum Exhibition Records, Cranbrook Archives.

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Kitchen Sink Caption Contest: What is Bud West Thinking?

Welcome to the first ever Kitchen Sink caption contest!  This historic photograph features Bud West, a Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate and painting instructor at Kingswood, viewing an exhibition of David Berger’s work mounted at Kingswood in 1957.   As historians, we would never dare to presume what he’s thinking – which just means that we need you to do it for us!  Leave us your entries in the comments, and the winning caption (chosen by an extraordinarily scientific system of “whatever makes us laugh the most”) might just make it into a future Photo Friday post!*

And if you’re interested in painting at Cranbrook in the mid-century period, be sure to visit Cranbrook Art Museum to see the upcoming exhibition What to Paint and Why: Modern Painters at Cranbrook, 1936-1974Curated by Chad Alligood, the art museum’s 2012-2013 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow, the exhibition opens June 14.

Bud West

* Be sure to include a name (real or fake) that we can use to identify your entry!

Photo Friday: Cranbrook Soda Fountain

Students at the Cranbrook School Soda Fountain, May 1955.

Students at the Cranbrook School Soda Fountain, May 1955.  Historic Photograph Collection, Cranbrook Archives.

We were all set to write something pithy and charming about boarding school life and 1950s Cranbrook, but let’s be serious: it’s Friday, and we all wish there was still a soda fountain on campus.  Who wants to build one?

P.S. stop by the Cranbrook Archives reading room sometime if you want to see one of those original Cranbrook School pennants still in action!

Photo Friday: Maija and Nelly

Maija Grotell and Nelly Beveridge at work on the base of a fountain, 1940.

Maija Grotell and Nelly Beveridge at work on the base of a fountain, 1940. Richard P. Raseman, Historical Photograph Collection, Cranbrook Archives.

Finnish-born ceramicist Maija Grotell served as the head of the Ceramics Department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1938 to 1966.  Here, she works on the base of a fountain with student Nelly Beveridge.  Beveridge played many roles on campus, serving as a companion and nurse to George and Ellen Booth in their later years even as she completed her studies at the Academy.

Cranbrook and the Car, Part 2: The Rocket Arrives

Putting together an automobile exhibition without a car is like making a custard without using eggs: you can use other ingredients as replacements, but you’ll have a hard time achieving that perfectly smooth texture without them.    At the heart of any show about the automobile industry is the car itself.

It was with this thought in mind that I arrived at the Cranbrook Art Museum at 7:45 AM yesterday morning, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a truck that was carrying the eggs for my custard – a 1914 Scripps-Booth Rocket Cyclecar.

The Rocket arrives!  May 9, 2013.

The Rocket arrives! May 9, 2013.

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Photo Friday: Swimming in Lake Jonah, 1953


Lake Jonah, 1953. Cranbrook Archives.

With the start of May, spring has finally arrived at Cranbrook.  Flowers bloom, warm breezes sweep through the hills, and the various campus lakes look more and more inviting with each passing day.  Swimming in Lake Jonah is strictly forbidden, of course, but once upon a time the lake functioned as the campus swimming pool.  Here, students at the 1953 Cranbrook Academy of Art Summer Institute learn to swim in Lake Jonah, while in the background other students contemplate the possibility of canoeing.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

My favorite thing about being an archivist is that sometimes a seemingly simply question turns into a new discovery.  This happened recently when I was researching the artist of a ceramic vase located in Cranbrook House, a historic house on Cranbrook’s campus and the home of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth.    Finding the answer should have been a simple task: open the object file, locate artist’s name.  A two-minute job.

Two-minutes turned into a two-week journey.

The mysterious vase in question, currently living at Cranbrook House.

The mysterious vase in question, currently living at Cranbrook House.

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