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Archive for the ‘Institute for Human Science & Culture’ Category

contributed by Samantha Hurst, Kent State University graduate student in the Master of Library and Information Science program.

This spring semester, I was fortunate to be able to intern for CCHP. I had the opportunity to work on a variety of digital projects that I was able to contribute to from home. One of these was creating metadata for pieces in the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. I got to work on the cards in the category “Interesting Messages, Handwriting” which feature cards with handwritten messages on the back that the original collector, Dr. Campbell, found unique. While pouring over these cards and trying to decipher every scrawled cursive letter, I found myself getting lost in their messages, in the wording and other ways in which people chose to express themselves within the confines of a 3×5-inch piece of paper, as well as the imagined meanings in between the lines, the words left unsaid. A few in particular stood out to me:

One card from 1958 carries a message written in a spiral instead of from left to right. The words look like a vortex swirling in on itself, with the text reading “Phil, this is how things have been going the past two days.” The author seems to be alluding to the feeling of being in New York City, which she describes as being nothing like the tranquil scene of Central Park depicted on the front of the card. 

A postcard view of Fifth Ave. hotels from Central Park in New York City. The buildings in the background are reflected in a stream in the foreground. There is also a stone bridge over the water and people walking through the park. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Front of a 1958 postcard of New York City from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_002)
Back of a postcard with a handwritten message in blue ink written in a spiral that reads: "Phil, This is the way things have been going the past two days. New York is definitely an unbelievable place - characters like you've never seen. The tranquil scene on the other side is very disillusioning - It Ain't that way!!! Saw Man of La Mancha tonight, GREAT! Take care, Sue." Postcard is stamped as sent from New York on April 16, 1958 and featured a 5 cent US stamp with George Washington's image. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of 1958 postcard of New York City from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_002)

One card written in 1978 feels like it was taken from the middle of an argument, with the writer, Sue saying: “It isn’t I don’t have the time. I just don’t think that I have the mental ability to make decisions.” She goes on to talk about her husband falling and hurting his back in the bath tub the day before, but somehow I feel like her husband’s back is the least of Sue’s problems.

A postcard view of a framed painting depicting Roman ruins. The Colosseum is visible in the background of the image and pillars from the Roman Forum are in the foreground. A group of six people in robes appear to be lounging at the base of the pillars. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom left corner.
Front of a 1978 postcard of a painting titled “Roman Ruins” by Pannini from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_006)
 Back of a postcard with typed message that reads: "9-11-78 Dear Mary: it isn't I don't have the time. I just don't think that I have the mental ability to make decisions. Al sprained his back getting out of the bath tub yesterday. Spent most or the day with a heating pad on his back. He doesn't seem much better today. Love, Sue." The card is labelled as "Roman Ruins by Pannini (1691-1764) One of the Views at Grand Trianon, Colorado Springs, Colorado Photograph by Orin Sealy, The Denver Post." It is stamped as having been posted from Colorado in September 1978 and featured a 10 cent US stamp with an image of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in DC. Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right.
Back of a 1978 postcard of a painting titled “Roman Ruins” by Pannini from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_006)

Another card, written in 1917, during the height of World War One, is written by a young man to his uncle, telling him that he’s joined the Navy, saying “[I] like it fine. I eat on the ground and do my own washing. It is a new experience.” A synopsis of Navy life during that period that I have to imagine is leaving out some less savory details.

Front of a postcard featuring a sepia toned photograph of a large group of young men in Naval uniforms hanging off the back of a train and waving with their white hats. Caption in the bottom left corner reads "We're off." Logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the top right corner.
Front of a 1917 postcard featuring a group of men heading to war from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection. Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_033)
Back of a postcard with handwritten text that reads: "address Great Lakes T.S. Camp Paul Jones Co 14, Reg 3, Bat. Dear Uncle, Have joined U.S. Navy. Like it fine. I eat on the ground and do my own washing. It is a new experience . There is no question but what will lick the Germans. Densel." The postcard is stamped as having been sent from Illinois on September 14, 1917 and featured a green 1 cent US stamp. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of a 1917 postcard featuring a group of men heading to war from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_033)

One of my favorite postcards might be the one that I found the most confounding. A card in which the message on the back simply reads “nothing at all to say” signed “PAT.” A message carrying virtually no meaning to anyone other than perhaps Clarence Korn, who received the card in January of 1915.

Front of a postcard featuring a blue and white cartoon of a young boy sitting on the floor and writing a post card. Beside him is a stool, a cat, an ink well, and a candle. Text printed on the card reads: "To owe von's frendt a ledder Doesn't seem Xactly rite, So dis dainty liddle post card I'm sending you tonight." The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Front of a 1915 cartoon postcard from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_057)
Back of a postcard with handwritten text written sideways on the card that reads "Nothing at all to say PAT." The postcard is stamped as having been mailed on January 16, 1916 and features a green 1 cent US stamp. The logo of the Center for the History of Psychology appears in the bottom right corner.
Back of a 1915 cartoon postcard from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection Personal address removed (Interesting Messages, Handwriting binder, IntMsgHwrtg_057)

Written on a simple black and white card, the front image depicting a cartoon of a child writing a post card and a short poem expressing the feeling of wanting to send a postcard to a friend when a letter isn’t necessary. Virtually everything about this postcard feels completely superfluous in a way that genuinely took me aback when I first saw it. Pat seems to have just sent Clarence a postcard about writing a postcard with no other message beyond “here is a postcard.” Was there some secret meaning to this act? Was there a private joke between the two of them? Was this card in response to something Clarence said or did to Pat? It reminded me of the act of sending a friend a random picture with no explanation, or even the now seemingly ancient Facebook “poke” function, designed to get your friend’s attention for no specific reason. All just random acts that say “I may not have anything to say, but I still want you to know I’m here.”

These postcards are so fascinating to me because they are essentially just pieces of paper, designed for advertising more than anything else, but they have the power to contain such heavy sentiment in such a small space. Although the full contexts of all of these messages have been lost to history, the feelings that they evoke are extremely familiar. We often think of people from the past as being very different from us, but if nothing else, the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection can teach us that in some ways, people never seem to change. The way we talk to friends and family can often be humorous or contentious. We often leave out the more painful details in order to spare someone’s feelings, or keep loved ones from worrying. We often don’t have anything particularly important to say, but want to keep in touch with people anyway, just for the sake of it.

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contributed by Lizette Royer Barton. For a screen reader compatible pdf of this post and documents contained within, click here.

I asked my colleagues who their favorite women were in our collections. Here are a few of the responses.

Processing Archivist Emily Gainer replied with Erika Fromm. Emily processed the Fromm papers a few years ago and you can review the finding aid for the 115-box collection here: Erika Fromm finding aid. Emily told me, “At one point, she [Erika Fromm] had a student harassing/stalking her.  Campus admin told her if he called, not to answer.  She said she would answer, because that’s what she does – help people.”

Erika Fromm (1909-2003) earned her PhD in experimental psychology in 1933 from the University of Frankfurt while studying with Max Wertheimer (Emily processed those papers too); worked as a research associate in clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Wilhelmina Gasthuis (University Clinics), Amsterdam; established the first psychology laboratory in a Dutch state hospital; fled the damn Nazi’s; and eventually emigrated to Chicago, IL where she established a private psychotherapy practice and became a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Being a foremost expert on hypnosis and hypnoanalysis, Erika Fromm was approached by psychologists in Germany requesting permission to translate some of her work to German. The Erika Fromm papers contain several folders of correspondence with the journal editors and correspondence she received from readers (both positive and negative) regarding her decision not to allow the translation. Instead, she wrote a paper titled, Personal Feelings of a Nazi Refugee: Why I do not Want to be Honored by Germans, which was published in the German journal Hypnose Und Kognition instead of her translated work on hypnoanalysis. Fromm considered the translation of her work an honor, but was deeply conflicted about receiving such an honor from a German journal. Her paper is hard to read and harder still to fathom what she survived. And while we all hold our own feelings about forgiveness, perhaps sometimes, we have to simply respect when a person just can’t do it.

Erika Fromm papers, box M5199, folder 10

Dr. Cathy Faye, Director of the CCHP, couldn’t give me just one name.

“I’ve always liked Ruth Cruikshank Bussey. Mostly because I liked the photos of her in the collection. I think there were a couple good ones of her from her time in the WAVES and personal journals and scrapbooks. I just remember browsing those and liking her a lot. I’d love to know more about Jewish psychologist Sylvia Scribner….early on, she was quite a union activist, I think. Not sure if the collection reflects any of that.”

Ruth Cruikshank Bussey (1911-2007) earned her BA at Elmira College and went on to earn her MA and PhD from Brown University. During the Second World War she served in the Air Service Command (ASC) and later enlisted with the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), a division of the Navy. She continued her work in psychological testing at the Psychological Corporation. And Cathy was right, the scrapbooks and journals in this collection are incredible. Bussey has letters, report cards, clippings, announcements, and more glued and taped to the pages alongside her handwritten words in scrapbooks and journals from her time in high school well into old age. There are hundreds of treasures but this assignment from her Elmira College course, “Life Work Choice” is among my favorites. The assignment was for students to list their first three choices for work to which Ruth Cruikshank answered, “My work must be with science…I know of its hardships for I have a family none too eager to see me as a woman doctor, stepping in a career belonging only to men.”

Ruth Cruikshank Bussey, box M4963, folder 6

Sylvia Scribner (1923-1991) was the valedictorian of her class at Smith College in 1943 and went to work as the research director for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. She later returned to school, earning her MA from the City University of New York (CUNY) and a PhD from the New School of Social Research in 1970. She was on the faculty at CUNY, worked as a senior research associate at Rockefeller University, the associate director of the National Institute of Education, and as a senior scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics. She focused on cultural literacy and learning, worker’s rights, women’s issues in society and the workplace, minority concerns, and labor practices and the more I learned about her, the cooler she became.

Scribner took up a research project at a dairy processing plant to study learning and knowledge through recall between different groups at the dairy – customers, office workers, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers. The collection has detailed interview notes and materials from the study. In her published work from the study, Scribner writes that the observations at the dairy were useful in that they, “…stimulate new ways of thinking about knowledge and practice that avoid the old entrenched dualisms” and “social knowledge is differentiated from, but not opposed to, individual knowledge.” Scribner conducted similar recall research studies in Liberia and concluded, “…recall output tends to reflect the organizational structure subjects impose on material” and regardless of culture, age, or geography these processes seemed to be universal.

Notation on back: 1/15/1977. Sinkor. Hamidu Getaweh and Sylvia
Sylvia Scribner papers, box V81, folder 8

In describing Scribner’s research to Dr. Faye she said to me, “It’s the human and social element. Each place has its own society and its own forms of social knowledge that work for that place and those people.”

Dr. Jodi Kearns, Director of the Institute for Human Science & Culture told me Molly Harrower was her favorite because, “she seems badass.” Also, when asked by T. Kraweic in his oral history series about her philosophy of life, Dr. Kearns told me that Harrower gives the “Best. Answer. Ever.”

Molly Harrower (1906-1999) took some psychology classes while at Beford College, University of London with Beatrice Edgell but never earned a psychology degree. She worked with Charles K. Ogden and with a helpful letter from him, Harrower arrived at Smith College on a fellowship to work with Kurt Koffka. She earned her PhD in 1934 and went on to work with Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute, established a private practice and did work in psycodiagnostics and psychotherapy, consulted in the military, served as Research Director of the Children’s Court of Manhattan, wrote poetry, and eventually joined the faculty at the University of Florida, teaching clinical psychology until her retirement.

The Molly Harrower papers include numerous still images and I asked Dr. Kearns to pick a couple of her favorites.

Molly Harrower papers, box V53

And Dr. Kearns was right. When T. Kraweic asked at the end of an hour long oral history interview her philosophy of life, she laughed and gave the best answer ever. “I practically have no prohibitions….If it isn’t fun, what is it? There are millions of things you can do and doing one you don’t like doesn’t help anybody….If you can harness all your energy and all your enjoyment and all your creativity into some form of action that’s what you should take. And that’s what I try to do.”

Hearing Molly say these words is mostly certainly better than reading them.

So listen here:

Theophile S. Krawiec collection, box A13, tape 40

There are numerous inspiring and important women in the collections here at the Cummings Center. Women who changed the course of the history of the field. But when it comes down to brass tacks, “numerous” isn’t actually very accurate. Of the 466 processed manuscript collections we house, just 81 of them are the personal papers of women. So, who is my favorite woman in the collection? I’m not sure and maybe her papers aren’t here yet.

To twist Molly’s words a bit, “If history isn’t inclusive, what is it?”

Happy Women’s History Month.

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~ contributed by Nicole Orchosky based on her Capstone project for completion of the Museums & Archives Studies certificate. Know Thyself serves as an intro to an online exhibition Nicole has also prepared.

Toward the end of the 1700s, a young Franz Joseph Gall sat in a schoolroom and glanced around at his fellow classmates. Gall caught on to a trend that fascinated him–he noticed that the students with excellent memorization skills often had prominent eyes and large foreheads. This discovery led Gall to hypothesize that the physical structure of one’s head may correspond to one’s personality traits in consistent and predictable ways. As Gall grew older he began to lecture on the subject, he expanded his theory into the science of phrenology, which quickly gained traction in Europe before spreading overseas to America by way of Gall’s own student Johann Kaspar Spurzheim [1]. 

Franz Joseph Gall, credited as the creator of phrenology.
Image credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Franz Joseph Gall 1758-1828).” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, 25 Nov. 2016.

Phrenology, now considered pseudoscience, was widely popular in the 19th century among the general public as a way to make sense of human behavior. Middle class Americans were drawn to phrenology as one may be drawn to the predictions of astrological horoscope. They took comfort in the notion that something as unpredictable and subjective as the human psyche could now be quantified by a series of cranial measurements. The skull was divided into regions called “organs,” and the physical measurement of an organ would determine if you exhibited more or less of the personality trait corresponding to that organ. Gall theorized that the more developed the trait, the larger the organ, and the larger a protrusion it formed in the skull [1].

Phrenological bust from Fowler and Wells’ Phrenological Cabinet showing the “organs” of the brain and labelled with corresponding characteristics. Visit the National Museum of Psychology to see a phrenological bust up close.
Image credit: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Phrenology, By L. N. Fowler.” Smithsonian Learning Lab. 29 Jan. 2020. Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. 06 Dec. 2020.

As soon as brothers Orson and Lorenzo Fowler learned of the theory from visiting lecturer Spurzheim, they turned Phrenology into their life’s passion and joined with fellow phrenological enthusiast Samuel R. Wells to establish America’s most prominent phrenological hub, The Phrenological Cabinet in New York City [2]. The storefront functioned as a museum, medical office, and publishing house all in one. Busts, both real and replica skulls, and phrenological diagrams and literature were displayed and sold here. Anyone could walk in and have their own skull measured and examined to gain a better sense of self as well as discover ways in which they could correct their negative behaviors. Magazines like The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated were published and distributed here, including writings by the Fowlers themselves, who spent much of their time lecturing about their theories all over the country.

Samuel R. Wells, Charlotte Fowler Wells, and Lorenzo N. Fowler stand in the doorway of S.R. Wells & Co., The Phrenological Cabinet, with two other men.
Image credit: Fowler and Wells families papers, #97. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

While the Fowlers gallivanted around America on lengthy lecture tours, who was left to take care of the family business? Samuel R. Wells oversaw the publishing side of The Phrenological Cabinet, but it was primarily the three men’s wives who took on the managerial and sometimes medical responsibilities within the office. Phrenology allowed women a sense of autonomy by allowing them a better understanding of their own mind and body, and for many women phrenology was a socially acceptable entry point to begin to seek out scientific knowledge.  Abigail Fowler-Chumos, wife of Orson Fowler, became “Orson’s business manager, property manager, publisher, and phrenologist-in-training” [3]. Charlotte Fowler Wells, wife of Samuel Wells and sister to the Fowlers, “was the firm’s longstanding and highly respected business manager” and was even known as the “Mother of Phrenology” [3]. Lydia Fowler Wells, wife of Lorenzo Fowler, “was the second woman to receive an M.D. in the USA, after [British] Elizabeth Blackwell,” making her the first American woman to receive an M.D. [4]. When it came to the business of phrenology, middle-class American women were not only the number one consumers; they ran the show. 

Lydia Folger Fowler, M. D, was the first American female doctor of medicine. She was also the first female professor at an American medical college.
Image credit: “The Late Mrs. Lydia F. Fowler, M. D.” Wheaton College, c. 1880. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lydia_Folger_Fowler.jpg#metadata

During the Civil War, women stepped up to run their households in their husbands’ absences. Women were not about to let go of their newfound autonomy during the following Gilded Age, and phrenology was one of the earliest scientific fields in which women could practice and participate. You would be surprised to learn how progressive the Fowlers were as they “combined the business of phrenology with the work of reform, linking the science to temperance, dress reform, diet reform, water-cure and women’s rights” [4]. 

You can learn more about phrenology and women’s role in the field in the “Know Thyself” virtual exhibition.

Thirteen complete issues of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated are now available as digital editions of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection.

Sources Used:

  1. Morse, Minna Scherlinder. “Facing a Bumpy History,” Smithsonian Magazine, 1997 Oct. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/facing-a-bumpy-history-144497373/
  2. “Orson S. Fowler,” The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 84-85, pp. 196-198. 
  3. Lilleleht, Erica. “‘Assuming the Privilege’ of Bridging Divides,” History of Psychology, vol. 18, no. 4, 2015, pp. 414-432.
  4. Bittel, Carla. “Woman, Know Thyself: Producing and Using Phrenological Knowledge in 19th-Century America,” Centaurus, 19 April 2014, pp. 104-130.

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contributed by Nicole Orchosky, University of Akron student in the Museums & Archives Certificate Program. Nicole is completing her capstone at the CCHP.

You may be thinking, “nothing!” but an article in The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated argues that your ears say more about you than you ever could have guessed.

Phrenology is defined as, “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character”[1]. Phrenology begs the question, can all aspects of one’s personality be correctly determined based merely on the shape and appearance of one’s skull and its subtle lumps, bumps, and indentations?

Cover of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan 1875. The illustration of the profile of a man’s head pictured on the journal’s cover depicts the phrenological theory that the skull can be divided into sections, and that the physical appearance of these sections directly corresponds with certain traits, e.g. memory, language, self-esteem, or benevolence.

The article “Our Ears—And Their Significance” makes the bold claim that the shape and general appearance of the ear is a strong indicator of one’s demeanor. The ear can be described by three of six basic variables: large or small, regular or irregular, and projecting or close. The article asserts that large ears indicate gentleness, tractability, docility, and teachableness. Those with small ears are conversely more authoritative and less susceptible to “being bossed.”[2] Irregular ears, those with less smooth, defined edges, denote irregularity or eccentricity in one’s mental faculties, while regular ears suggest a regularity and uniformity in character. Finally, projecting ears indicate that the subject is harmless, while ears set close and flat to the head indicate destructiveness or combativeness.

Of course, an illustrated journal cannot be complete without illustrations to accompany its claims. “Our Ears—And Their Significance” is supplemented by several (somewhat exaggerated) depictions of differently shaped ears and what they reveal about their wearers. The following are a few examples.

Here, a subject with large, regular, projected ears is assumed to be calm and steady in demeanor.
Perhaps the most average in appearance, this man with medium-sized, smooth ears is assumed to be well-balanced.
This man with small, irregular, closely cropped ears is thought to be mean and inquisitive.
Finally, this man described as a “smashed subject” has large, irregular ears. According to the article, one may expect him to be docile but eccentric.

Thirteen complete issues of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated will be made available as a digital editions of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection by December 2020.

Sources Used:

  1. “Phrenology.” Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phrenology
  2. “Our Ears—And Their Significance.” The Phrenological and Life Illustrated, Vol. 2, No. 1. Jan 1875. Pp. 17-29.

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The events of Summer 2020 have no doubt had a profound impact on the work and perspective of arts and culture institutions across the United States. Protests, still ongoing, against the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black civilians by police have placed a national spotlight on the systems that enforce racial injustice in this country. Countless institutions, including the Cummings Center, have taken this opportunity to reflect upon representations of racial diversity and civil unrest in their collections, and to use those representations as a means of furthering dialogue and providing a historical background for our tumultuous present.

However, highlighting diversity and historical relevance in material collections is not enough to address the inequalities that impact Black Americans in their daily lives. We must all come to terms with how our own ongoing actions contribute to racial inequality in our institutions and in the communities that we serve. It is essential for us to take a proactive role in recognizing and addressing these issues.

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology stands against social injustice, including all forms of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. We recognize that there is a long way to go in fostering true equity, inclusivity, and diversity within our institution and the larger fields of psychology and museum education. In order to work toward a more equitable future and to specifically address anti-Black racism, we are committed to carrying out the following ongoing actions:

  • We will conduct racial equity impact assessments for all major institutional decisions and programming going forward.
  • We will devote our time and resources to the greater representation of Black individuals and historic perspectives in our collections and programming.
  • We have formed a committee which will meet monthly to discuss the promotion of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion and the creation of specific goals and initiatives.

These are merely the first steps in a long-term process of actively challenging our own perspectives and combating racial inequity. Though thorough and widespread changes to the fields and industries in which we work cannot happen overnight, we hope that our actions going forward will contribute to a more equitable environment for the next generation of psychologists, archivists, and museum professionals.

The events of this year have undeniably shifted priorities around issues of diversity and inclusion, but their importance transcends this moment in history. Black lives have always mattered, and they always will. We are dedicated to carrying out this principle within our institution and within our community.

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This two-part post from guest blogger Linda Bussey, Director of the Hower House Museum in Akron, discusses how to care for vintage textiles like linens and table cloths.

Now that your textiles are cleaned, you can safely display or store them. Please be mindful that these vintage items should not be displayed in direct sunlight or in an overly hot or damp area. Otherwise their unhappiness will become evident with fading or mildew.

Also remember that if these pieces are used, they must periodically be gently rewashed. Hand towels will become especially high maintenance. It might be best to have a “do not use” policy for vintage towels.

For safely storing your vintage treasures, you will need a few things:

  • Archival tissue paper or 100% cotton muslin fabric
  • Acid -free/archival storage boxes or
  • Polypropylene plastic storage bin with a lid. Be sure to look for this symbol on the bottom of the bin, indicating it is safe for storing textiles:

The acid-free/archival tissue and storage boxes may be obtained from a museum supply or from a craft supply store. Acid-free photo storage boxes may be used for small items but loosely wrap the contents in acid-free tissue or cotton fabric. Do not store with photos. Cotton fabric may be purchased from a fabric store or online and be pre-washed in unscented laundry soap without fabric softener and dried without use of dryer sheets. The fabric will be a bit wrinkled as a result, but do not despair! You can try out your new pressing skills as outlined here in the quick reference guide!

Regarding storage in a plastic bin, yes, it sounds a bit strange, I know. However, a bin of the polypropylene (PP) variety is fine for fabric storage, and may be obtained at discount stores. There is a long list of other, non-safe plastics that should not be used, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Now that you have your supplies gathered, let’s discuss how best to package the items to keep them safe and happy. Prepare a large flat surface to fold or roll the item(s). If you plan to fold them, they should be cushioned to avoid creasing, which can stress the fibers. Use acid -free tissue paper or cotton fabric scrunched up to form a small roll where the item is folded. Once folded or rolled, loosely wrap the item(s) in acid -free paper or cotton fabric, particularly if multiple items will be stored together.

Place items in an acid-free archival box or in a safe storage bin (as noted above). If rolled items are too large for a storage container, fold diagonally with the more delicate side of the item to the inside of the packet; this will help alleviate wear and tear on the more fragile stitching and surface embellishments. Make sure the container is slightly larger than needed to avoid overcrowding. Larger items, such as bedspreads, coverlets, or quilts may need to be stored separately. As always, store in a moderately temperate, dry area, away from direct sunlight, extreme cold or heat.

On a final note, be kind to your textile treasures. Remember to “visit” them occasionally to see how they are holding up. Unfurl them and let them air out for an hour or so. Whi le that is happening, be sure to examine the storage container to look for evidence of insect activity. Not my idea of a good time, either, but check anyway. Your textiles might need an intervention and to be freshened up with new wrappings. Wipe out the storage containers with a damp cloth and let air dry before carefully refolding them in a different direction, rewrapping and returning them to the container.

Having vintage textiles is a serious commitment—sometimes tedious—but well worth it . Cared for correctly, they will provide years of enjoyment and given a new lease on life because you put in the effort.

Textile Sachet Recipe

Follow this recipe and instructions for making a sachet that not only smells good, but protects your textiles from cloth-destroying pests.

Sachet ingredients: lavender, spearmint, bay leaves
Filling the sachet bag

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This two-part post from guest blogger Linda Bussey, Director of the Hower House Museum in Akron, discusses how to care for vintage textiles like linens and table cloths.

Imagine inheriting a collection of vintage linens from a favorite auntie. Perhaps she was the most influential person in your life—a bit eccentric, ahead of her time—a colorful character who influenced the YOU of today. Of course, honoring and keeping her memory alive is now emotionally invested in those textiles. No pressure here!

This blog will give you a starting place when dealing with vintage textiles, much of it learned from one of those eccentric, special people in my own life. I try to honor her memory by teaching others what I learned then and since. (Thank you, Sue!)

Start by separating the textile pieces according to their use—pillowcases, dresser scarves, hand towels, doilies, tablecloths and napkins— and then assess the condition of each individual piece. Take your time and be gentle. Remember that someone made each of these items. They have a history and had a life before they came into yours.

A sampler of linens from Hower House Museum

Some pieces may be in great shape, others not so much. In the era these vintage goodies were made, it was a common practice to store old linens ironed and starched within an inch of their life, using a homemade solution made from potatoes, rice or sugar water. Along the way, the items may have been stored in less than optimal conditions—damp basements, attics, cardboard boxes, in old suitcases or trunks. None of these situations bodes well for old textiles; the starch attracts insects and mice, resulting in damage.

Examples of rust stains on linens

At this point I should tell you that old textiles should be stored as you would your best clothing—in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and extreme heat or cold.

If your linens are in good shape, great! If not, some mending and/or stain removal may be in order. Minor repairs—small holes, tears, fraying or loose edging—will need your attention before cleaning. If you are unsure how to repair antique or vintage fabrics, best to ask around; find someone to teach you. Be aware that hand sewing takes a bit of patience, but is a useful skill.

After this initial review of the pieces and mending if necessary, proceed with a gentle washing of your textiles. How do you determine what may be safely washed? We know that cotton, linen, and poly blend cottons may be safely washed by hand; never machine wash fragile, vintage, or antique fabrics. If they are light in color, do not wash with dark fabrics. Some of the old dyes that were used were unstable and may “bleed out” in the wash process. For example, if you have a dark blue blanket, you would not wash that with a light-colored dresser scarf. You see where I’m going with this, right? You could end up with a blue blanket and a light blue dresser scarf.

If you are not sure if the pieces should be washed, ask a professional. What do I recommend to use for your own personal collection? A mild soap called Orvus WA paste. A white, creamy paste that comes in a large container, it can be purchased from a museum supply store, but the more economical source, believe it or not, is your local farm supply store! Orvus WA is used as a horse shampoo, concentrated yet gentle. It only requires a small amount for a batch of linens, so share with a friend because a container will last you years, unless you have several horses to shampoo on a regular basis!

Mild Orvus WA Paste used for cleaning fragile linens and textiles
Supplies for hand-washing your linens. Clockwise from left: clean, absorbent towel for drying; nylon screen for protection of linens during washing; kitchen timer; Orvus WA paste; disposable gloves

Check out this reference guide for a more detailed list of basic supplies and detailed instructions on all phases of textile care.

My next post will deal with the “aftermath” of the washing process, such as how to safely press and store your newly-cleaned treasures. Truly not as boring as it sounds!

Online resources http://anacostia.si.edu/exhibits/online_academy/academy/preserve/preservemain.htm

https://www.ohiohistory.org/preserve/state-historic-preservation-office

Books

Hamby, D.S. The American Cotton Handbook. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1965.

McGehee, L. Creating Texture with Textiles. Iola, WI: Krause Publications. 1998.

Morton, W.E. and J.W.S. Hearle. Physical Properties of Textile Fibres. 4th ed. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing Ltd. 2008

Pizzuto, J.J. Fabric Science. 11th ed. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2015.

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contributed by Tony Pankuch (Archives Assistant)

Since beginning my work as a staff member of the CCHP earlier this year, much of my focus has been directed toward the increased accessibility of our museum and archival resources. Though changes to the design and content of museum exhibits are primarily long-term projects for our team, I have been able to work with my colleagues to develop a number of informational resources for museum visitors relating to the accessibility of our physical facilities.

We will begin publishing most of these resources when the museum reopens, but for right now, I’d like to give you a preview of what you can expect to see.

Preview of the CCHP accessibility web page, featuring an Accessibility and Inclusion Statement.
Preview of the CCHP Accessibility page.

Accessibility Webpage

My colleagues and I have worked to compile information on the CCHP’s current state of accessibility into a single location on our website. This page includes an Accessibility & Inclusion Statement that will guide our future efforts and contact information for all accessibility-related inquiries. The page also includes information on the Museums For All initiative, which will provide reduced admission to guests presenting a state-issued EBT card at the admissions desk. Within this space, we have striven to be honest about the current realities of the museum in regards to physical accessibility.

Unlike the resources below, the Accessibility page is available now.

Preview of the CCHP Visitor’s Guide, featuring an image of the museum entrance and the guide’s “Exploring the Museum” section.
Preview of the CCHP Visitor’s Guide.

Visitor’s Guide

A Visitor’s Guide will be available online for those interested in visiting the National Museum of Psychology and Institute for Human Science and Culture galleries. This guide will provide visitors with detailed information on travel, parking, physical facilities, and museum content. Photos will be included to illustrate all parts of the museum experience.

Preview of the National Museum of Psychology maps, side-by-side. Icons on the second map show the location of different types of exhibits.
Preview of the Museum Map. Left: Standard Map; Right: Detailed Sensory Map.

Museum Map

In addition to the Visitor’s Guide, maps of the National Museum of Psychology will be offered on our website and in print form at the museum’s admissions desk. These maps will exist in two varieties. The first is a basic map detailing the layout of the museum and the location of key amenities, such as restrooms and seating. The second will include more detailed information on the locations of hands-on exhibits and displays, audio sources and noisier areas, and audio/visual elements currently lacking closed captioning or alternative forms of access. This second map, along with the visitor’s guide, is designed to give visitors an idea of the sensory atmosphere and limitations of the museum in its current state.

These initial resources are centered on offering clear, accurate, and easy-to-find information regarding the accessibility of the CCHP. Moving forward, we will begin working toward the improvement of our physical facilities and digital offerings.

Of course, the most important people in all of this are you, our patrons and visitors. What can we do to make the CCHP more accessible for you? What information would you like to see on our website and social media? Let us know in the comments, or email us at ahap@uakron.edu.

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contributed by Kristie Zachar, Museums & Archives Studies student and CCHP Student Assistant.

A sneak peek at some Bloomingdale’s bags in the Lee L. Forman Collection of Bags.

We don’t think about them much, but bags play a pretty big role in the lives of Americans everywhere. We use them practically every day, and we use them for a number of different reasons, but you have to admit, they’re not something you would actively think about. While we could surely say plenty about bags, starting with what exactly is a bag and what do we use them for, a different question would be what exactly do they say about us? This year, the Institute for Human Science & Culture will be opening a new exhibit titled “Cultural Carry-On: America’s Literal Baggage” that manages to answer that question for us.

“Cultural Carry-On” student-designed logo
Framed bag with painted portrait of Lee L. Forman.

The exhibit has been put together by students of the Museums and Archives Certificate Program at the University of Akron as their final project for the Foundations of Museums and Archives II course (1900:302) which is held at the Institute. Students chose from the 12,000 bags and other bag-related items in the Lee L. Forman Bag Collection, picking items that they found interesting and later finding that the seemingly unconnected bags they had chosen helped to create a larger, multi-sided view of American culture.

 The exhibit puts this view on display as it explores the various uses of bags as advertising, merchandise, memorabilia, and more, and how they reflect the different facets of American culture from food industries to music to politics and even to the evolution of bag manufacturing itself. The “Cultural Carry-On” exhibit dives deep to find the weird and fascinating stories behind these bags and their cultural connections in a creative and unique take on American culture that you won’t find anywhere else.

4th floor galleries at the Cummings Center: the space that will soon exhibit the students’ hard work on the Lee L. Forman Collection of Bags.

The students have been working hard in preparation for the exhibit’s opening in Spring 2020, but unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the exhibit have had to change, and it will no longer be opening May 7, 2020. The exhibit will still be opening at some point in the future when staff are able to return to the site, but as of now, there is no set date. Students are continuing to work and plan the exhibit remotely and are looking forward to sharing their work with the public as soon as they are able.

For additional information about the exhibit, watch for updates on the Cummings Center Facebook page.

For additional information about the Museums and Archives Studies Certificate program, please contact Dr. Jodi Kearns at jkearns@uakron.edu or visit https://uakron.edu/chp/education/museums-and-archivescertificate.dot.

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-contribué par Dr. Jodi Kearns (IHSC Director) et Mme. Lisa Ong (Copley High School AP French Teacher); avec des remerciements particuliers aux University of Akron student Kristie Zachar (French minor) & UA grad Nicole Orchosky (former CHS AP French student).

Au printemps 2020, l’Institute for Human Science & Culture a demandé à la classe de Français AP de Copley High School de l’aide à traduire des cartes postales francophones qui appartiennent à la David P. Campbell Postcard Collection.

During Spring 2020, the Institute for Human Science & Culture asked the AP French class at Copley High School for some help translating French-language postcards from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection.

Certaines cartes postales ont une légende.

Some postcards have French captions printed on them that the students translated.

FrenchPostcards_07A
an example of a postcard with a French poem printed on the card

Et certaines possèdent un message écrit à la main par l’expéditeur.

And some postcards have hand-written messages from the sender.

FrenchPostcards_13B
an example of a hand-written French-language message on a postcard

Les étudiants passaient du temps à récrire ce qu’ils voyaient dans l’écriture ancienne de cent ans et puis à traduire ce qui a été écrit.

The AP French students found it useful to rewrite what they were seeing in the 100-year-old handwriting before translating what was written.

An AP French student’s notes. First, the message on the postcard is rewritten in her own hand; then, the message is translated.

C’était une vraie épreuve de leurs connaissances de la langue française de trouver un sens aux traductions littérales

This exercise was a true test of their French-language knowledge to find meaning in literal translations.

Allez au blog de l’institut pour lire des traductions et des réactions personnelles.

Hop on over to the Institute’s blog to read some of the translations and personal reactions.

The students’ work will be integrated into the Cummings Center digital repository of postcards. Merci Mme. Ong!

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