Handwork and Symbolism in St. Dunstan’s Chapel

In Cranbrook Archives’ Christ Church Cranbrook Records, there is a binder on two needlepoint projects undertaken between 1957 and 1964, the first of which focuses on replacing the cushions and kneelers in St. Dunstan’s Chapel. It gives insight into the design process, symbolism, and handwork, as well as providing much information that would be of interest to the sociology of gender roles and art.

St. Dunstan’s Chapel, Christ Church Cranbrook. The Chapel’s first service was Easter Sunday 1926; the current configuration of the Chapel dates to 1934. Photograph by Kevin Adkisson, August 2021. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

The project, a collaboration of the Women’s Auxiliary and the Altar Guild, began in June 1957 when a Needlepoint Committee was convened to oversee the project through its planning, implementation, and dedication. The project was inspired by a similar project at Washington Cathedral where women across the nation contributed 461 pieces of needlepoint to the Cathedral, including altar pieces for Bethlehem Chapel which were worked by women of Michigan.

Twenty designs from the Washington Cathedral project were displayed in the Exhibition of Ecclesiastical Needlepoint at the Detroit Institute of Arts in February 1958 prior to their dedication at the Cathedral. Rt. Rev. Richard S. Emrich commended the idea to all churches in Michigan.

Catalog for the Exhibition of Ecclesiastical Needlepoint at the Detroit Institute of Arts, February 1958. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

St. Dunstan’s Chapel was selected as the most appropriate place for the women of the church to use their handwork for its adornment, since St. Dunstan is the patron saint of Arts and Crafts. St. Dunstan, born in Glastonbury, Somerset, in the tenth century, is commemorated in St. Dunstan’s Chapel with a stone from Glastonbury Abbey where he served as abbot.

Initially, the Committee decided to seek designs for the project by opening a contest for Cranbrook Academy of Art students, with Henry Scripps Booth, Pipsan Saarinen Swanson, Ken Isaacs, and Marion Leader as judges. Harry Soviak (Painting 1957/MFA 1959) won the competition. However, there were problems in implementing the design in terms of types and quantities of wool, and the Committee sought to consider more traditional designs before making a final choice.

Henry Scripps Booth, Ken Isaacs, Pipsan Saarinen Swanson (seated), and Marion Leader judging entries from Academy of Art students to the needlepoint contest for St. Dunstan’s Chapel at Christ Church Cranbrook. April 19, 1957. Photograph by Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

Rachel T. Earnshaw of the Needlework Studio, Inc., of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania was contacted for information on how to proceed. Earnshaw had won first place for her designs for the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Washington Cathedral. Having been sent some information and images of St. Dunstan’s Chapel, she advised on symbolism as well as offering guidance on canvas, wool, and stitches.

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Out of the Ordinary: Cranbrook and the Chair

Last week, I was happy to welcome a small group tour into the reading room to view archival materials about chairs. After the tour request appeared in my inbox, I learned a lot about chairs in a short time and found a new appreciation for this commonplace object. 

As I searched and gathered materials for the display, I began to see how imagination and inspiration can transform an ordinary thing from complete obscurity to one of curiosity and sometimes great celebrity.  

Florence Knoll in Eero Saarinen’s Grasshopper Chair in the Dallas Original Showroom, 1950. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

The chair has been creatively reinvented time and again according to the social context of its use, the cultural meaning imbued in it, or the inspiration from which its design sprang. Just think throne, pew, sofa, deck chair, chaise-lounge, and so on. 

Take one of Cranbrook’s most iconic chairs – Eliel Saarinen Cranbrook School dining hall chair. Designed to withstand use by teenage boys, it combines durability with sophistication and has stood the test of time as they are still in use after 94 years. At the back of each chair is a bronze crane insert, a symbol that subtly gives identity to the community using the chair.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, October 1936. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The 1940s and 1950s saw a flourishing of chair design from Academy of Art graduates, including Florence Schust Knoll BassettRalph Rapson (the first Cranbrook-trained designer to work for Knoll), Charles Eames, Benjamin Baldwin, Harry Weese, and Ruth Adler Schnee. The Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1941 generated many of these designs, including collaborative entries from Baldwin and Weese, as well as Eames and Eero Saarinen. 

Interestingly, Eero’s later chair designs are all much inspired by nature—the Grasshopper chair, the Womb chair, and the Tulip Chair.  

Eero Saarinen sitting in the prototype of his Womb Chair at his Vaughn Road home. 18 June 1947. Photographer: Harvey Croze. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Inspired by nature in a different way, Finnish architect and furniture designer Olav Hammarstrom has a variety of designs that are born of the possibilities to which natural materials lend themselves. Hammarstrom worked with Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen and Associates, working on projects such as the Baker House dormitory at MIT and the furnishings at the GM Tech Center. Married to Head of the Weaving Department Marianne Strengell, he designed their house in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, as well as houses for friends and colleagues, along with chairs to go in them.

Bamboo Experimental “Basketchair” by Olav Hammarstrom. 10 February 1956. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Furniture design was also the focus of another Academy affiliated designer, Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. Working in partnership with her husband, architect J. Robert F. Swanson, Pipsan typically designed the interiors while he designed the structure and exterior.

Chair designed by Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. December 8, 1945. Photographer: Harvey Croze. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

But Robert Swanson also designed furniture. Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned was that Swanson invented a ‘Stackable Chair,’ patented in 1957. A form we take for granted nowadays, these chairs can still be found in many buildings and classrooms on Cranbrook’s campus.

The “Stackable Chair” by J. Robert F. Swanson, 1957. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

It was a great pleasure to share these archival stories with our guests and to explore Cranbrook’s part in the story of the chair. In the process I learned to see an everyday thing in a new light and how creativity can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. 

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Collection Highlight: Robert Hall Merrill Papers

With the new year approaching and the impending conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, it seemed timely to take a look at the collection of Robert Hall Merrill Papers, which were opened to researchers in 2017.

Merrill was an engineer who developed an interest in archaeology, becoming an authority on the Maya calendar, particularly focusing on time measurement. Merrill was associated with the Institute of Science in the 1940s and 1950s, but the Merrill Papers in Cranbrook Archives document over fifty years of his research, graphs, findings, and conclusions.

Merrill’s graph of Venus phases. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The Maya were an agricultural civilization and used observations of the sun, moon, and Venus to determine ideal dates for planting and harvest. The calendar, which is comparable in its exactitude to the Western system of time measurement, is based on the movement of the sun. Archaeologists access and interpret this knowledge through writing, represented by characters or pictures, and astronomical markers which have been uncovered by geologists.

Astrolabe Rubbing. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Merrill graphed the phases of the sun, moon, and the planets to decipher the calendar. By applying engineering methods to archaeological studies, Merrill developed a device for photo-surveying in 1941. The device enabled vertical photographs of large areas of artifacts, which facilitated documentation of the excavation process which had previously been recorded by sketching.

Maya Sun Calendar Cycles Chart. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The correspondence and publications in the collection document his work with numerous scholars around the world, including the Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson, who was a visiting scholar to Cranbrook Institute of Science between January and April 1967.

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Collection in Focus: Ellen Warren Scripps Booth Papers

One of the things I love about my work is that I never know what I will discover next. I go in search of one thing and find much more and, sometimes, the unexpected. This happened recently when I ventured into the Ellen Warren Scripps Booth Papers.

Ellen’s papers primarily record her personal life from the 1870s through 1948, with a preponderance on the years 1880-1910. They include drawings, maps, an autograph book from her school days, leaflets from the Epiphany Reformed Church and its reconstitution as Trinity Episcopal Church, letters from her mother, Harriet J. Scripps (letters written 1901-1927), and photographs.

Drawing by Ellen Warren Scripps, age 10, 1873. Cranbrook Archives.

But, the bulk of the collection are her diaries which cover 1880-1944, though the coverage is spotty after 1910. The research value of a diary is variable, depending much upon the focus and meticulousness of the author, and its intersection with the researcher’s interest.  The dates in Ellen’s diaries are unquestionably reliable, as other documents in the archives verify their accuracy. Frequently recorded topics include the weather, who preached at church/other churches attended, what she was reading, her music and singing lessons, unwell family members, and who came for tea or dinner.

Her diaries not only tell her story, but also describe the life of the Scripps family and the appearance of the Booth family, particularly Alice and George, in the early 1880s. We can also see glimpses of Detroit history, such as Governor Pingree’s funeral in July 1901, and her visit to Barnum Wire Works with George in January 1887. On February 15, 1882, Ellen writes:

“Walked to and from school today. Went to social at Mr. Woolfenden’s with Theodore. Had a splendid time. Theodore asked me to go to hear Oscar Wilde Friday evening but I concluded not to go. I began reading Old Curiosity Shop this afternoon.”

Oscar Wilde! She notes in her Friday entry, that Theodore went to hear Wilde with Mr. Woolfenden instead. There are many mentions of “Mr. Woolfenden,” who otherwise has only been found mentioned in George Booth’s Memories (pp.53-55).

Ellen Warren Scripps’ Diary, 1886. Cranbrook Archives.

Frederick W. Woolfenden is one of two people that Henry Wood Booth met during his first visit to Detroit in 1880, the other being James E. Scripps. This story is quite widely known and the information about it, published in Arthur Pound’s book about George Booth, The Only Thing Worth Finding (pp.63-68), comes from George’s writings. Woolfenden had taken interest in Henry Wood Booth’s Ka-o-ka idea, and, after visiting him in St. Thomas, Ontario, convinced him to move to Detroit in 1881. Woolfenden was Assistant Postmaster of Detroit and a co-founder of the Dime Savings Bank, but he was also a Pastor at the Epiphany Church where Henry Wood Booth had first met him.

Ellen’s diaries record his deep involvement with the family as a friend and pastor who conducted the christenings, confirmations, funerals, and weddings of both families. It was Woolfenden who married George and Ellen in 1887.

Ellen’s diaries provide a complete record of her life until 1910 and so the earliest memories of Cranbrook are recorded. The story that we know and love so well, of George and Ellen purchasing the old farm from Samuel Alexander is captured in her hand and it was lovely to read as she describes, albeit briefly, the snow drifts as they visit the farm:

Ellen Warren Scripps Booth’s Diary, 1904. Cranbrook Archives.

A few days later, on January 18, 1904, she writes, “Went down town to sign the mortgage for the farm. It is ours now, and we are all so glad.” All these years later, I am so glad too.

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Weaving Lessons: Ruth Ingvarsson’s Manuscripts

Among the treasures in Cranbrook Archives is a manuscript that, although I can’t read anything written inside, is one of my favorite things at Cranbrook. Bound in handwoven cloth by the author herself, the cover hints at what’s inside. This is Ruth Ingvarsson’s weaving book.

Ruth Ingvarsson’s weaving manuscript, hand-bound in a cloth cover of her own design and execution, ca. 1932-1935. Rigid Swedish-style counterbalanced loom depicted on the front, “R I” on reverse. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

One of two manuscripts written in Swedish and assembled by Ingvarsson between 1932 and 1935, each of the more than 100 pages discuss different weave structures, materials, patterns, and techniques. Who was Ingvarsson, and how did these treasures end up at Cranbrook?

Rut “Ruth” Elisabeth Ingvarsson was born on October 1, 1897 in Glemminge, Skäne, Sweden. Like many Scandinavian girls, she learned weaving first from her mother and then at school, graduating from the Glemminge Folkskola in 1918. In 1922, Ingvarsson began studies at the celebrated weaving studio of Märta Måås-Fjetterström in Båstad, Sweden.

Ingvarsson continued working for Måås-Fjetterström until 1928, learning technical skills including knotted pile rya or flossa weaves, rölakan flatweave, and a discontinuous (or supplemental) weft style of tapestry weaving known as the MMF technique. Under Måås-Fjetterström, Ingvarsson developed great skill painting watercolor sketches on graph paper in the popular “Swedish Grace” (or “Swedish Modern”) style. She also befriended another young weaver, Lillian Holm, who entered into the Måås-Fjetterström studio in 1926.

Watercolor of a rug design in the “Swedish Grace” style by Ruth Ingvarsson in her untitled manuscript on weaving, ca. 1932-1935. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

In late 1929, Ruth Ingvarsson and Lillian Holm immigrated to America to start work that December at Studio Loja Saarinen, Cranbrook’s weaving workshop. Here, Ingvarsson executed designs from Loja herself and other members of the Saarinen family, as well as designs by the Studio’s shop supervisor and prominent Swedish weaving expert Maja Andersson Wirde.

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Stuck in the Mud

As Michigan emerges from our lockdown and we slowly begin driving to more places and contemplating summer road trips, I thought we’d look back to a time before asphalt, air conditioning, and safety features.

Ellen Scripps Booth, Jean McLaughlin Booth and Henry Scripps Booth on Lahser Road with the 1908 Pierce-Arrow in the ditch, 1911. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Here, we see Ellen Scripps Booth, daughter-in-law Jean McLaughlin Booth, and young Henry stranded somewhere along Lahser Road. I love the ladies’ wide hats and wraps, intended to keep their hair in and dust out. Henry looks particularly pleased with the situation (sort of like me when my own mom got a speeding ticket—she didn’t appreciate my backseat smirking, either).

Instead of AAA, the family turned to their own skills. Here’s Henry Wood Booth, Ellen’s father-in-law, addressing the situation:

Henry Wood Booth works on the Pierce-Arrow on Lahser Road, 1911. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The Booth family’s Pierce-Arrow Limousine was one of several cars they used to move about here in Michigan and in Europe (where they traveled with the Pierce-Arrow and chauffeur). Purchased for $7,750 in July 1908 ($215,984.08 in 2020), the seven-seater, 6-cylinder touring car came with two bodies: a closed limousine body for winter use and a sports-touring body for summer. As Henry Scripps Booth later wrote:

The original garage at Cranbrook House had a traveling crane in it so the Pierce-Arrow’s winter and summer bodies could be conveniently changed with the seasons.  The crane spanned the depth of the garage, having an iron track bolted to the east and west walls on which the crane with a hand operated hoist could be pulled to the spot where the two respective bodies could be removed or hoisted into place. 

The accident on Lahser Road wasn’t the first time Ellen had been betrayed by poor road conditions. In 1908, she wrote in her diary of a similar event that took place as the family traveled from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan:

“Wed. Aug. 12. We decided to take the auto as far as Holland on the way to Ottawa Beach but I wish we hadn’t for it took us five hours to go the 25 miles—We got off the road and one place slid into a ditch. It took an hour & a half to get a team to pull us out. We later frightened a horse and it ran down this deep ditch and horse, top-buggy and all just lay right down flat. The old couple in it were not hurt at all.”

If you want to learn more about the history and social impact of cars, register for our free virtual Bauder Lecture this Sunday, June 28, 2020, at 3:00pm EST. Brendan Cormier, Senior Design Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, will be speaking about his recent exhibition and publication, Cars: Accelerating the Modern World. Center for Collections and Research Director Greg Wittkopp will deliver an introduction about Cranbrook and cars, featuring more treasures from Cranbrook Archives relating to our place in automobile history.

—Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Marthe Julia LeLoupp

Marthe Julia LeLoupp, born October 10, 1898, in Plogoff, Finistere, France, was an original faculty member of Kingswood School, where she taught French from 1930-1956. Having completed the Diplȏme de fin d’études at the Lysée Brizeaux, Quimper, Finistere, France in 1917, LeLoupp then completed her BA at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1920. She later completed graduate work at the University of Chicago (1929-1931) where she worked on an MA Thesis: Influence du Breton sur le français régional en Bretagne. With teaching experience in schools and colleges in Minnesota, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, and Indiana, LeLoupp arrived at Cranbrook in 1930.

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Marthe LeLoupp, 19 Feb 1952. Photographer, Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives.

Correspondence with LeLoupp in the Kingswood School Records is limited but suggests that she would return to France each summer. A letter from LeLoupp, written in Paris on September 17, 1939, tells how she left America in June with ticket safely tucked in her purse for a return September 6th on the Normandie. But, the declaration of war had made this impossible and her ticket had been passed, initially to the DeGrasse to sail on the 13th and then to the Shawnee, due to depart Bordeaux on the 22nd. The Shawnee, she explains, had been, “sent to the rescue of a few hundred thousand American citizens, who are anxiously waiting for transportation westward.”  On arriving to Bordeaux on September 22, 1939, Le Loupp writes that they were told, to their great dismay, that the Shawnee would not sail until the 26th. While LeLoupp’s letters were on their way to Cranbrook, Ms. Augur [Kingswood School Headmistress, 1934-1950] was searching for LeLoupp, first sending a telegram and then consulting the American Consul. LeLoupp’s mother returns Ms. Augur’s telegram with a letter explaining her daughter’s situation. Discovering this story recently, I wondered at the extraordinary resonance with current concerns for travelers, and for those unable to complete their journeys.

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Telegram, Ms. Augur to Mlle. LeLoupp, September 23, 1939. Cranbrook Archives.

Despite the harrowing circumstances, LeLoupp did eventually make it across the Atlantic. She continued to teach French at Kingswood School until July 1956, when she writes from Bénodet in France to request to be released from her 1956-57 contract due to poor health, ending the letter, “I find it impossible to express my regret in words.” Not much else is known about LeLoupp’s time at Cranbrook, except that she lived for twelve of her years at Cranbrook in the apartments above Kingswood School, which were converted in 1945 from the ballroom known as Heaven. In the KBC [Kingswood Brookside Cranbrook] Quarterly of May 1973, LeLoupp was remembered thus,

“a “beautiful person” with a “super smile”. She was “sweet and kind” and always beautifully dressed in classic tweeds. Peering over her bi-focals at her students and reciting in her strong French accent the terrible weekly dictes that no one could understand, she was one of those who inspired her girls to excellence or accomplishment in French that is still one of Kingswood’s greatest assets”.

Laura MacNewman — Associate Archivist

 

A New Cranbrook House

January has been busy with research for my upcoming History of American Architecture: Cranbrook in Context lecture series. In preparing for the first lecture, which examines Cranbrook House and the larger Arts and Crafts movement, I found myself deep in the Archives looking through the architectural sketches of George Booth.

Around 1932, George Booth considered converting Cranbrook House into a home for both the Art Museum and the Institute of Science. With this proposal, the Booths would need a new “Cranbrook House.”

Mr. Booth sketched two plans for building south of the existing manor home, in the meadow along Lone Pine Road.

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Caption written by George Gough Booth in pencil at a later date: “Scheme for a moderate sized residence for G.G.B. & E.S.B. on lawn directly south of Cranbrook House facing Lone Pine Road, by G.G.B. 1932 & considered in connection with plan to turn Large Residence over to Foundation for Educational Purposes. Museum—Library—School of Music, etc. etc.” Cranbrook Archives.

The simple, rectangular house is strikingly similar to the original plan of Cranbrook House from 1908 (before its 1918 and 1922 expansions), rotated 180 degrees. A front vestibule opens into a cross gallery, centered on a fireplace. Beyond is a long, 18 by 32 foot living room. A library and large dining room flank either side, with the only other public room being a reception hall.

A stairway surrounding an elevator shaft connects to a second floor with two bedrooms (one for George and one for Ellen) joined by a sitting room, again mirroring the original configuration of rooms at Cranbrook House. Even the double bay windows of the bedrooms match the double bay windows on the northern plan of Cranbrook House.

The problem of symmetrical houses is that not everything generally fits in a pleasingly symmetrical way. George’s solution to this problem, like many architects before and since, is to add a service wing for the kitchen, maids’ rooms, and storage.

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Caption written by George Gough Booth in pencil at a later date: “Suggestion for personal house (?) South of homestead.” c. 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

In what I presume to be a later sketch, the plan is further refined. Here, the vestibule sits more comfortably under the stairway, leading guests directly into the long gallery and living room beyond–one would see directly from the front door out of the living room window. The proportions of this proposed house are smaller, and the service wing substantially smaller (and even appears added on by Booth as a later sketch). The entire house is more symmetrical and regular, and there are fewer service spaces.

Had the Booths moved out of Cranbrook House, what did George envision happening with the space? Well, Booth sketched ideas of how Cranbrook House would be converted into an educational facility.

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Proposed modifications and additions to Cranbrook House, for its conversion to use by the Institute of Science and Art Museum, by George Gough Booth, c. 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

The first floor of the house remained largely intact (though another plan shows subdividing the reception hall for offices). The kitchens were to be removed and converted to galleries, and the living room and sunset porch converted to a conference room and lounge. West of the 1918 Library wing offices was to be a large room for the Cranbrook Foundation and then a very large building of smaller rooms, including a library and assembly room. It is unclear what the smaller rooms are, but in one plan, they are drawn identically to Booth’s sketches for the Institute of Science’s research wing.

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Proposed “Forum” (Observatory) on the “Mountain” south of Cranbrook House, sketch by George Gough Booth. Detail from the above plan. Cranbrook Archives.

The idea that Booth intended portions of the house to be dedicated to the Institute is further supported by what might be my favorite of George Booth’s unrealized plans for Cranbrook House: the transformation of the reproduction Fountain of the Tritons atop the “Mountain” south of the auto court into an observatory!

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Proposed modifications to the second floor of Cranbrook House for its use as gallery space, by George Gough Booth, c. 1925-1935. Cranbrook Archives.

On the second floor, the series of family bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as the warren of service spaces, would have been cleared out, windows boarded up, and a series of interconnected galleries created. The bedrooms (not bathrooms) of George and Ellen were to remain intact as offices–previews to their use now as Cranbrook’s President’s suite of offices.

While the Booths did eventually leave Cranbrook House and its contents to the Cranbrook Foundation, they remained living in the house until their deaths in 1948 and 1949. The area where George proposed building their new residence is today the location of the Cranbrook House Parking Lot.

You never know what you’ll find in Cranbrook Archives!

Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

Welcome Deborah Rice, New Head Archivist!

I am quite thrilled to announce that we have an outstanding new Head Archivist (and future Kitchen Sink blogger), Deborah Rice. Let me take this opportunity to introduce her to the readers of the Kitchen Sink Blog.

Deborah has over seventeen years of experience as a professional archivist. For the past fifteen years, she has been working in Detroit at Wayne State University with the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.  At Wayne she not only served as a Collection Archivist, Technical Services Archivist, and Audiovisual Archivist, but also the Interim Assistant Director—all of which are invaluable experience for her work here at Cranbrook. Prior to her work at Wayne, she was the Archivist for the Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library & Archives.

Deborah holds a BA in Art History from the University of Michigan and an MLIS degree (Master of Library and Information Services) and Archives Administration Certificate from Wayne State University. Equally important is what you will find to be her warm and engaging personality, and her sincere desire to engage audiences and help us make Cranbrook Archives a welcoming environment for our on-campus visitors and a digitally accessible resource for an even broader public worldwide.

In her first weeks here, Deborah has been off to a running start learning about Cranbrook history, getting a lay of the land and our extensive archival holdings, meeting with a potential donor in Lansing, and helping Cranbrook staff and our many outside researchers in our endless stream of research requests.

While there will be many opportunities to meet Deborah later this fall, her first official public event will be the Center’s gala fundraiser on Saturday, September 21: “A House Party at Cranbrook: History in the Making.”  The event, which focuses this year on the nearly 80-year journey of Cranbrook Archives, will include tours of three campus locations that have been, are, and hopefully will be important to the Archives future.  These include the current Reading Room where Deborah will be sharing with you some of the Archives’ hidden treasures.

We are grateful that Deborah made the decision to take the same journey that our founders made in 1904, traveling up Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Bloomfield Hills.  You can look forward to new blog posts from her very soon!

Greg Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

New Discoveries in Old Collections

Today, the Archives is pleased to announce the completion of a photographic negative rehousing project funded by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. The first part of this grant-funded project ran from March 2017 through February 2018, when thousands of negatives were rehoused by Veronica Wood and Kaitlin Sharra Eraqi. The success of this first part allowed us to extend the grant project, and from November 2018 through June 2019 Veronica rehoused many more negatives. We are grateful to Veronica for her many hours of hard work and, as of today, over 20,000 Cranbrook School negatives have been rehoused.

Alongside this effort, we are thankful for the work of our steadfast volunteers—Lois Harsh, Judy Pardonnet, and Ellen Vanderkolk—who have been rehousing other collections. These have included the Portrait series, the Institute of Science series by Harvey Croze, Kingswood School, St, Dunstan’s Theater, the Summer Theater, the Cranbrook Community/Foundation negatives, and the Pleasures of Life. We also currently have two new volunteers, Aya and Brandon, who have completed rehousing of some smaller collections, including Marianne Strengell, Swanson Associates, and Carol Waldeck.

Why all of this rehousing? Many of the photographic negatives are made of acetate cellulose or nitrate cellulose, both of which have a plastic base which deteriorates over time. Cranbrook employed a professional photographer from 1933 to 1970, and their images were maintained by the Cranbrook Press Office before they were transferred to Cranbrook Archives. Here, they have been stored in their original plain paper envelopes or, more detrimentally, in plastic sleeves. As they age, we must stabilize the negatives for future generations by rehousing them in acid-free paper envelopes.

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Mr. and Mrs. Price at the Cranbrook School Store, April 1963. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg.CR3182-2. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The twofold goal of any archive is preservation and access of its holdings, and to this effect, much is achieved through arrangement and description—how the materials are stored, in what order, and how they are described. While the primary goal of the rehousing project was to address the physical preservation needs of our photographic negatives, it has also been advantageous for their intellectual control. As we work through thousands of negatives, photographs have been found alongside their negatives, as well as ephemera such as Summer Theatre playbills. These discoveries have helped us to enhance the descriptive metadata (the who, what, when and where) for the negatives. More detailed descriptions will help us, and our researchers, know what exactly is available within Cranbrook Archives.

The numbering system for Cranbrook photographs was developed by Richard G. Askew, Cranbrook photographer from 1933-1941. There were several short-term photographers until Harvey Croze became the photographer from 1943-1970. Each collection has its own index, which records the negative number given to each photograph, the content of the photograph, when it was taken, and by whom. However, sometimes the content field may only record an event without giving any details of who is in the photograph.

An unexpected outcome of the Erb Foundation negative rehousing project has been to enhance the metadata in the indexes, whether by seeing the photographs with the negatives and being able to identify the people or places, or by cross-referencing with the collections to establish the context of the content. By adding in more information to the metadata in this way, the usefulness of the negative collection is improved and the relationships between collections are also strengthened. I would like to share with you some examples of these discoveries that will help us to know more about the people, places, and things of Cranbrook.

The following are examples of images that were recorded by only their event name. Now, the index contains the names of the individuals and objects, enabling us to better utilize the negatives:

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Henry Scripps Booth photographed during an Editors visit to Cranbrook, 1958. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD84-22. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

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“Formal Garden Opening” 1951. Unknown (Roman Warrior) by Unknown (Italian).
Bequest of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth to the Cranbrook Foundation. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. CC201. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

As another example, before our negative rehousing project, a researcher looking into Lillian Holm would have been highly unlikely to discover this picture of her. The image was previously indexed only as “Founders’ Day 1965”:

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Henry Scripps Booth, Josephine Hodges Waldo, Lillian Holm and Carl G. Wonnberger on Founders’ Day 1965. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD244-85. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Another interesting find was a series of photographs for which the index simply noted “Jack Speohr, Cranbrook School alumnus.” Wanting to know more, I looked up Speohr in the Cranbrook Institute of Science newsletter index. I learned Jack Spoehr, who graduated from Cranbrook School in 1949, and went on to study ethnological studies at Harvard. In 1950, he visited a remote part of Mexico called Cuauhtémoc, which about 75 miles southwest of Chihuahua City, where he studied the native peoples there, the Darámuli, (also called Tarahumara), who often crafted violins both for trade and for use in religious ceremonies. A short article, ‘A Visit to the Tarahumaras,’ about his observations there, is published in the Cranbrook Institute of Science Newsletter, Vol. 21 No.1, of September 1951. The first photograph, below, shows a member of the Darámuli just as Spoehr describes on page 3 of his article.

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A member of the Darámuli (Tarahumaras). Photographer, Jack Spoehr, neg. CC277-9. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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A member of the Darámuli (Tarahumaras) crafting a violin. Photographer, Jack Spoehr, neg. CC277-13. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

For those who have not been delighted by the weather recently, you will see that it was much worse in June of 1969, when there were floods at Brookside and Kingswood:

FD290-29

View of the old Meeting House during flooding at Brookside, June 1969. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD290-12. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

FD290-22

View of the Japanese Garden bridge during flooding at Kingswood, June 1969. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. FD290-12. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Filed among the negatives, we have found numerous playbills from both the Summer Theatre series and the Ergasterion performances in the Cranbrook School series. These relate to their respective manuscript collections as well as the poster collection, which was completely digitized in 2015. It is interesting to see Sara Smith as Director of some of the plays as the Smith House Records are currently being processed and will be open for research later this year.

Seven Sisters Flyer

The playbill for the Summer Theatre performance of Seven Sisters, 1950. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

ST218

Seven Sisters Dress Rehearsal, 1950. Photographer, Harvey Croze, neg. #ST218-3. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

We are very pleased to have made these new connections across existing collections within Cranbrook Archives, and are grateful to the Erb Family Foundation for enabling us to better preserve these important images.

– Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

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