This week I finished my processing plan, my personal organizing of the materials related to the Herbert Hoover Collection, for Lisa to review. In the meantime, I got to look at one of the oldest books in the collection, Geographia by Stabro written in 1472. Additionally, I looked through Agricola’s De Re Metallica from 1560 and Hoover’s translation from 1912. It is amazing to see how the material of the book affects how well it ages; while the original and the translated copy of De Re Metallica are 400 years apart, their pages’ edges were wrinkled. There were also some collections from the Royal Society dating around the 1700s to 1800s. I got to see the documents we discussed for my History of Science course in person; however, it was more challenging to read than I thought because the sources are in academic writing from over 100 years ago. It was amazing to touch such old documents and the details of the maps and pictures. I felt I was touching history. I have attached the photos of the material I looked at.
This week, I’ve touched women’s fashion magazines from as early as 1788, advertised as a “Polite, Entertaining, and Fashionable Companion for the Fair Sex,” and as late as 2022, flaunting an article on “The Real Dua Lipa: Optimist, Advocate, Pop Sensation.” Through these magazines, it is clear to see that much has changed in the last 3 centuries. Political, economic, religious, and technological factors have shaped the structure of societies and the role of women within them.
Looking at these magazines through the philosophy of technology lens, I will isolate those aspects of change and continuity that are a result of technological innovation. The relationship between the individual and certain technologies informs many aspects of life. Some concepts that have jumped out to me this week are those of identity, trust, power, and values.
One thing I noticed as I viewed magazines from a broad temporal scope was the importance of gaining the trust of readers. Many women used fashion magazines to inform their decisions about what to wear and how to present themselves. Before widely available photographs made it possible to see what people were wearing in such fashion hubs as London and Paris, editors relied on detailed letter correspondence to learn about current fashion trends from those in Europe. They then shared these descriptions and drawings with readers, and readers trusted that they were accurate. One particularly fascinating article in Godey’s Lady’s Book (1855) advertised that fashion editors would pick dresses or bonnets for rural women and ship them from New York City for a fee. The women using this service were placing a large amount of trust in unnamed fashion editors via mail correspondence. As technology evolved, women no longer had to rely on fashion editors to buy dresses sight-unseen. Now, without leaving the comfort of their homes, women have access to almost every article of clothing available via online shopping. This leaves very little need to trust others in decisions related to fashion, which many consider to be an outward expression of identity.
Daily, I have regular encounters with two French ghosts in the CCEPS archive. One goes by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin and the other by his successor, Rigobert Bonne. I have never seen them but their presence is certainly felt in the maps. The whimsical part of me, perhaps a state induced by a windowless room thick with time, almost believes as if they are attempting to vigil me somewhere in their maps. They ebb and flow in my temporal moments without pretext or pattern. As hydrographers, they appear mostly on the coastlines. Just as the indigenous of Terra de Fuego, the shore is the contact zone of these merging worlds. For the colonists, it was that of mooring. For me, it is the grip of a page.
Bonne is the rather quite one, though his projections, the dépôt de la guerre or modified Flamsteed, have their say in cartographic history. In other words, his work speaks for itself. The projection articulates more accurate shaping around the prime meridian and standard parallel. It is perhaps of no small note which countries that central line passes through. Everything from that Franco-Anglo focus distorts in t-shaped dimensions, in circular contortions. Really, it looks like a heart. What is one man’s heart is another’s equal-area pseudoconic map projection. In fact, the heart was invented by Claudius Ptolemy about A.D. 100 but it was Bonne who really put it on the page. With that heart comes an overabundance of Eurocentrism. In the distortions are the “false easting” and “false northing.” It probably has no intentional implications to be fair. Still every heart has its meridian.
Aside from Bonne and his distortions and heart projections come discourses and identities I’d expect from French geographers in the Enlightenment. Party to the Encyclopédistes and the philosophes, Bellin was in the company of none other than the likes of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Baron d’Holbach. Over the course of his career he contributed over 994 articles. He was a man not of the heart, but of the mind. A serious enlightenment figure, his transition to a more rigorous and positivistic approach in cartography impacted far more than just mapmaking. In this time, the most influential members of a burgeoning history profession depended on and were enchanted by the developments in mapmaking. With these technologies of land order was deployed to solve conflicts such as the Sykes-Picot line. France and the United Kingdom, by their own means, divyed up “the orient” by drawing a straight line across a map. This is mine. This is yours. Surely there won’t be any conflicts resulting from it later. The maps reflected in the interpretation of land and space for historians and their celebration/formations of national identity. The scientific approach to mapmaking directly engendered culture and evidenced it. Remember, geographers like Bellin were at the employ of the King and the navy. The ink was drawn from that well. Draw the lines were they may fall, but the picture I see is a mapmaking of colonial legacy in historiography.
Least to say, our conversations muddle and froth. Ironically, Bellin often complains. He had always found his mapmaking efforts tedious and a burden. In a way, I can listen to Bellin and almost empathize with him. He was caught in the machine of the Enlightenment juggernaut. Cartography was a means of survival based on a skillset. I wonder if he ever reflected on his impact. I wonder if he questioned what his maps might do. Bonne, he’s got heart, which makes me more suspicious of him. That sort of application seems unreachable. I find it more difficult to breach his passion. But we are so thick of time here in the archives. There is little light and less windows. We ebb and flow in this space with little pretext or pattern
This has been my first week working at CCEPS processing the Hoover collection. I get to learn the skills of an archivist and get to engage with history. Most of my tasks were taking notes on what I have found in the collection and how I should process it. Some boxes I opened were already organized alphabetically, others had folders labeled “Hoover Collection”, “correspondence”, or “catalog.” I have to do a tour throughout all of the collection. What comes as a surprise is the cool air (to preserve the books) inside the archive. It was amazing to see and touch books that were hundreds of years old. There is a variety of sources, ranging from correspondence letters when they first arrived to Harvey Mudd College in the 70s and 80s, when Hoover was first buying his collection in the 1900s and 1910s, and even some primary source books from the 1700s that I found in a box called “miscellaneous.” It is cool just seeing, feeling telegrams, putting photos inside plastic folders, and the frustration of trying to read cursive handwriting. There were some funny correspondence between researchers, such as reports of Martin Luther forgery on some books inside the Hoover Collection. The oldest item I found was from 1482 of Euclid’s elements.
As a CCEPS fellow, I am taking a somewhat different approach than most. Instead of cataloguing a specific collection, I will be conducting a research project in the general fields of philosophy of technology and women’s fashion. Using materials from both the special collections at Honnold-Mudd Library and Ella Strong Denison Library, I intend to curate an online Omeka exhibit for students studying philosophy of technology and those interested in the way new technologies shape our values, identity, and structures of power.
This week, I had the privilege of touring the book rooms of both Honnold-Mudd and Denison Library. I got to touch books that would fit in the palm of your hand, as well as books so large I would need to team lift them. At Denison, I got to see and touch an early version of a hymnal made of real parchment. The stars of the show were artists books. Denison collects artists books, which are books designed by artists where special attention is paid to design an its connection to the words inside. Some of these books looked like very beautiful books, while some looked like a cell phone in a shoe, or a wallet. Seeing these books was a perfect way to begin my experience as a CCEPS student. I hope that my project will encourage more people to come into the book room and experience old and rare books for themselves.
Touching these rare books further reinforced my interest in philosophy of technology. Books created by hand before the advent of the printing press employed agriculturalists to grow and harvest cow skin, specialists to write each letter by hand, and artists to design cover pages, each costing countless hours in training and labor. These expensive books contributed to an entirely different power structure than mass-produced paperbacks, or further, an exclusively electronic book written and produced by the same person. Those who owned books in the 14th century would have power in the form of both money and of information. Today, books give power in the form of knowledge to anyone with a library card (and time to read.) Asking questions about the way that technology informs power, values, and identity is a fascinating way to view the world. It will become extremely important as the world becomes more and more reliant on the connection through the internet and as artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent.
I am pleased to say my semester at CGU ended on a great note. I am also pleased to say that Annette’s collection is in its’ final staged before it will be available for researchers. I thought in this post I would give a brief overview of some collection pieces that really stood out to me and why I think this collection is an excellent resource for anyone interested in fine art. One of the pieces that immediately comes to mind when I think of this collection is an interview transcript from 1977 in which Annette was being interviewed by Joan Murray for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. In this interview she provides insight into her creative process and how she arrived at textiles as her preferred medium. Another collection piece that stood out to me were some pieces that were ostensibly used as a kind of artistic inspiration. These included vintage magazine clippings that shared an art deco theme, fabric samples that spoke to the value of abstraction and 35mm slides that catalogued the 9 months the artist spent living in Europe. The artist’s labeling indicates that this period was in the early 70’s, with the artist mainly taking residence in Spain. Though the slides indicate she may have spent some time near Istanbul, Turkey as well. Places like these, and others, captured by Annette’s artistic eye immortalize the spirit of the early 70’s. The images are unmistakably tinged with a spark of freedom and the warm comfort of nostalgia. These images are a resource for any persons interested in the visual arts. Lastly, the 35mm and photographs which bear some of Annette’s textile works and sketches are regarded as the ornate centerpiece of the collection. In these slides and photographs, the viewer can witness Annette’s evolution as an artist, the fluidity possessed through each epoch and the juxtaposed ability of the artists’ works to remain unique. Thus, it is this ‘centerpiece’ that captures the spirit of the collection as a whole.
300 some-odd maps, articles, magazine clips, receipts, and prints later, the survey’s complete. Now I’m toiling with direction. I yoke the plans.
A few days ago I was reading several articles which placed emphasis on the accessibility of material via description and order. I tried to get inside the head of a potential researcher. Who would approach this collection and why?
There were a few possible directions I could’ve gone: mapmaker, dates, regions, language, type of map, or place of production. Ultimately, it was decided between my manager and I to divide the series into maps and printed matter.
Within maps, the subseries were based off continents: South America, Africa, Southeast Asia/Pacific Islands. From there, I will focus on regions.
I do wonder how it will translate in description. English and French are the predominant languages. Do translations bode a particular value here? Of course. I feel there is something lost in combining them by region. Who produces and for what purposes would have great value in research.
There is a somewhat ironic knot to undo in the complications of homogenizing map producers based off the heterogeneity of their production.
As of this week I have started to put the finishing touches on Annette’s small but sweet collection. I have completed the front matter almost to it’s entirety, with just the proofreading left. Front matter included the scope and content of the collection, biography of the contributor, provenance establishment, date ranges and series level descriptors to aid in future research. When attempting to gather the date range Annette’s collection spanned, I was able to once again familiarize myself with parts of the collection that I had forgotten about. On the other hand, I was able to find new glimpses of the collection that did not catch my eye before. Though the date range of the materials is tentative, due to my wish to double check (to make sure everything is being catalogued with the highest accuracy), it appears the collection’s breadth encompasses 1963-2002. With that being said, Annette’s collection in it’s own way is a piece of living history. 1963 was the year that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and also the year my grandparents met. They would go on to marry 2 years later, as of 2022 they just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. All this to say, though much has changed since 1963, Annette’s collection serves as a relic of a past that gets further and further away in the rear view mirror of time. Collections like Annette’s, as well as others that are processed by CCEPS fellows, Special Collections and beyond, provide us with windows to bygone eras.
This may be my last post on Annette’s collection, as there is not much of the process left. However, I look forward to her collection becoming a part of the wide repository of research materials available to the Claremont Colleges, in which she can provide perspective to other inquirers. As for me, I want to thank Annette and her carefully curated materials for orienting me (even as a novice observer) to textiles, specifically quilts, as a medium for abstract fine art. It has been an absolute pleasure to process this collection as a CCEPS fellow under the direction of Special Collections and Lisa Crane. Lastly, thank you to my supervisors Lisa and Ayat, my experience with this collection and others has been a wonderful and formidable experience as a first year graduate student.
As I get closer to finishing the archival process of preserving Annette’s collection, I can’t help but feel like I will always remember the way her pieces exposed me to an entirely new fine art medium. I had been familiar with textile pieces, but primarily tapestries. Until this collection I had never seen quilts serve such an artistic purpose. As I inch closer to finishing this process I can somewhat grasp the amount of finesse (Thorley) Françoise utilized in order to make such coherent yet striking pieces. While putting the finishing touches on the collection and assessing the scope of the materials I was rereading all of her accomplishments outlined in her CV and it reacquainted me with the breadth of her contribution to the textile fine art space. Her prestige is unmistakable, but in her writings and professional communications there is also an unmistakable humility. Despite many awards, published reviews raving about her work, commissions and exhibitions it is clear to me Annette never stopped seeking to evolve. Through that evolution she maintained her originality and novelty, a dexterous feat in which she makes fluidity appear easy, despite the many challenges humans face while attempting to grow.
This collection offered me the opportunity to experience something new, my guess is many observers felt this way in the presence of Annette’s work. This speaks to the many pieces’ longevity and consistency tantamount to being a fixture in the Toronto fine art scene. I am inspired by women like Annette, who put their own spin on an underrepresented path and truly make it their own. Some of my final thoughts while processing this collection revolved around how she was very much an artist cut from a different cloth, and how rare that can be in an epoch like this. While others strived to model masterpieces, she achieved optimal distinctiveness. In the same vein, I am reminded of an excerpt from The Great Gatsby when I think of this collection: “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.
This week entailed the end of processing Annette’s total items. Spiral bound sketchbooks were carefully separated and each page was preserved with interwoven tissue paper to uphold the use of color integrity. One sketchbook, that was not spiral bound but was actually bound more like a traditional book, instead had each page separated by a piece of tissue paper in between to protect the illustrative integrity. When looking through the sketchbooks it became even more apparent to me why Annette had chosen to be an artist as a career, there were various styles represented and each of them was attended to with great care. The sketches ranged from cartoonish with a slight edge to life-like abstractions of the human form that really made the viewer (me) think. Her range echoed her simultaneous fastidious attention to detail and her confidence in not being bothered to be confined to a particular style.
Next week I will put the finishing touches on Annette’s collection by double checking what I’ve inventoried and numbering boxes and folders accordingly. Subsequently, it will be time to work on the front matter! In the front matter I will be assessing things like the abstract of the collection, inclusive dates, some biographical information on Annette to include for researchers and the scope of the collection. I look forward to summarizing what I have found in Annette’s collection, though words will not do it justice, it’s truly a collection one has to see for themselves. I encourage anyone with an interest in textiles as a medium for abstract art to take a look at this collection in some capacity, the knowledge extended posthumously by Annette is very much worth gaining.