I officially began processing the “Joseph Platt Papers” this week! Developing a processing plan for approximately 60 boxes of material is no easy task. Reflecting on my time in various archives as a researcher, I must admit: I am spoiled. Prior to working in Special Collections, I had a very limited idea of what it is that archivists actually do.
As an archivist you imagine how a researcher might approach a particular collection or a set of materials generally speaking. You try to organize the collection in a way that is efficient for a researcher without presuming all possible connections. I prefer thematic organization ordered chronologically.
I processed the United States Atomic Energy Commission materials on Tuesday and Thursday and materials related to the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture on Friday. These are subseries within a larger series of government organizations.
I am looking forward to processing the UNESCO materials early next week!
The main discovers that I found in the Herbert Hoover Collection this week was bibliographical materials, mostly photos or photocopies of Mr. and Ms. Hoovers and some form there estates. Most of this publicity was due the collection being donated to Harvey Mudd College and the College attempting to gain more prestige for this collection. After all when the collection was donated to Harvey Mudd the College was only 20 years old. Furthermore, I can across an article in The American road, which stated that already three journalists received awards for the Hoover-related stories in 1987. Hence, in turn, increasing the publicity of Harvey Mudd college.
As I was making my through a box of Harvey Mudd College ephemera, I came across a tattered envelope titled “Dedication.” The envelope contained an invitation to the dedication of the Harvey Mudd College Campus Center (and to a dinner meeting with Dr. Lee A. Dubridge) that would take place on Monday, November 25, 1963. The Campus Center, an “app-purpose center, which has 31,500 sq. ft. of floor space provides a dining hall, lounge and recreation areas,” was dedicated to Joseph B. Platt. In addition to the invitation, the envelope contained newspaper clippings documenting the event, letters written to Jean and Joe, a record of The Claremont Congregational Church’s Thanksgiving Service, a blueprint of the cornerstone with the words “Joseph B. Platt Campus Center 1963” to be engraved, and a group function order form among other things. For those of you wondering what was on the menu… lamb, mashed potatoes, green vegetables (peas), hot bread, and salad. YUM! Oh, and how could I forget… ice cream (sherbet) for dessert.
As I began reading the letters and newspaper articles I noticed a somber tone. Then it dawned on me. November 22, 1963 was the day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The dedication was postponed until Monday, December 9, 1963. Several of the letters reflect on this tragedy. In his letter to Jean and Joe, Walter E. Hastings wrote, “I’m sure you had the pall of sadness in Claremont as we did in Rochester today. Almost all places of business were closed down and I have never seen such sadness on the faces of the people you met. These have been the three longest days of my life and I’m sure that it will [be] some little time before we recover from the shocks of the last 72 hours. I didn’t vote for him [(Walt scratched out the word him and inserted JFK)] but I realize now what a magnificent man he was.” People make misjudgments, but its not everyday that we admit and reflect on them. As we approach the holiday season and gather with friends and loved ones let’s not forget to practice intellectual, moral, and personal humility. Surely, we aren’t always right.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ― Criss Jami
When the Hoover Collection was first processed, it was actually at Sprague Library at Harvey Mudd College. Herbert Hoover the third donated the collection originally to Harvey Mudd College, and they created a Sprague Library to house the material. It created a lot of popularity for Harvey Mudd College, however, Sprague Library was ill-prepared to take on such a collection. I found the initial report recording the lack of temperature control (a cool temperature is critical for books, so they do not get damaged). Furthermore, there were reports of vandalism and petty theft. Additionally, researchers were reading the materials in the same room where the collection was being housed, which could encourage theft. Sprague Library did improve these conditions. Currently, Sprague Library no longer exists, and the materials got moved to the Honnold Mudd Library instead. It is fascinating to learn the history behind the cataloging of such an impressive collection.
I would like to preface this week’s blog post with a brief professional bio. My name is Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta and I am a PhD student in the Cultural Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University. I received a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Urban Studies from Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts. I also earned an M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey. I am interested in the ways nationalism shapes the intertwined processes of aestheticization, historicization, and securitization.
Box 43 (Folders 25 and 26)
This is the first time that I am prompted to pause and reflect on this collection. Box 43 contains 28 folders. Folder 25 is titled “The Nuclear War Business” (a speech by Dr. Platt at Claremont U.C.C. Congregational on March 17, 1985 as reported by Felix Manley and corroborated by Platt) and folder 26 is titled “Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life” (a speech by Admiral H.G. Rickover at a luncheon meeting of the San Diego Rotary Club on February 10, 1977). I couldn’t help but read the documents contained within each in full. If you are unaware of current nuclear war news, see the Federation of American Scientists (FAC) Nuclear Information Project in the News (https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/nuclear-information-project-news/). In 1985, Dr. Platt noted that “the prevention of a nuclear Holocaust is the most urgent business on the human agenda.” Something, that then-and-now concerns everyone.
Moving to Admiral H.G. Rickover’s speech, he identified five principles of existence: responsibility, perseverance, excellence, creativity, courage, and the development of standards of ethical and moral conduct. He argued that “a cause of many of our mistakes and problems is ignorance – an overwhelming national ignorance of the facts about the rest of the world.” The remedy to such ignorance: reading and writing — the most significant of all human efforts, according to Rickover — matched with action.
Joseph Platt graduated from Cornell University in 1942 with a PhD in Physics. His dissertation focused on the structure of metallic potassium. To be honest, I have no idea what that means. What I vaguely recall from a high school chemistry class is that potassium = K on the periodic table of elements. One of the perks of being a CCEPS Fellow: you learn new things all the time. Did you know that “potassium is the seventh most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust (2.4% by mass)?” I certainly didn’t! Thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Platt served as President of Harvey Mudd College from 1956 to 1976. In a 1962 article, the Progress-Bulletin described him as “the world’s only ballad-singing college president.” I hope to find and share some of his songs as I make my way through the remaining boxes.
In the spring of 1975, just a year before stepping down as President, Joseph Platt was notified of his election to membership (through 1977) to the National Register of Prominent Americans and International Notables. He would have been 60 years old at the time. Cheers to Platt! Where do see yourself in five, ten, twenty years?
I made my way through two boxes today. The first box contained thirty folders of correspondence, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) files, and reprints of physics articles. Have you ever thought about atoms while writing? I hadn’t until today when I came across a nuclear fact sheet (see PIP Atomic Energy Information Kit Nuclear Fact Sheet). Interestingly, “it would take several million atoms to equal the size of the period at the end of this sentence.” How many periods are in a thesis or dissertation? That’s a lot of atoms… The second box contained roughly 130 folders of travel files dating from 1958 to 1966. I am excited to learn more about Joseph Platt’s trip to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris, France in 1960.
There are so many elements and materials that Barbara Drake donated to The Claremont Colleges, those of us archiving can sometimes lose sight of the specifics. Until this week, I hadn’t spent much time looking over the primary education resources, except for when these materials were divided into subject specific categories weeks ago. However, this week when I became reacquainted with these materials, it brought to life the spirit of Indigenous education that Drake encouraged and centered in her own life.
Needless to say, Barbara was passionate about educating every age group. However, in her materials there is an unmistakable emphasis on making Indigenous education available to primary school children. Not only did Barbara travel between Southern California districts and schools, hosting workshops and interactive lessons ranging in topic from traditional Native American housing to astronomy that incorporated an Indigenous point of view. In addition to these services, she also kept a meticulous variation of Indigenous centered pedagogies and teacher’s guides. These guides inform educators on how to center Native American perspectives, beliefs and traditions in primary school lessons. These pedagogies and guides touch on topics such as Indigenous time-keeping, astronomy, language, math, music and many more.
Plainly stated, Barbara made an effort to retain education guides on how to center Indigenous voices and perspectives in just about any primary school lesson. It cannot be overstated how important these resources are. Children of Indigenous heritage are rarely catered to in terms of educational representation, Barbara’s materials make a serious, and much needed, attempt to correct that.