This week during my time at CCEPS, I met with Lisa to help me with my processing plan for the Hoover Collection. I am learning the skills of the archivist: I put photos and newspapers into mylar sleeves, I learn some of the terminology and methods for cataloging sources and learning how to create a digital archive. Additionally, I got to look through more source material of early texts about geology and science in the Hoover Collection. One book I found was from 1696 on the theory of the creation of the earth. During this time, scholars in the Royal Society tried to reconcile religion with new developments in geology. One could not separate religion from science during this time. The other book I read was from 1654 on meteors. Again, understanding the sky was seen as investigating God, or “heavenly bodies,” itself. It is not exactly clear to me why Hoover collected this book because it is closely related to astrometry than to geology which is why I wanted to look at it myself. Fascinating to see scholarly views on religion and science from this time.
As the heat of Summer settled in this last week, I was able to return to the processing of Barbara Drake’s expansive collection. Most of the time I spent reacquainting myself with Barbara’s collection, was spent on a series cataloguing items relating to Native American Culture and Heritage. I spent a considerable amount of time sorting documents for corresponding subseries, including subseries that are grouped by topics such as holistic remedies and plant uses, Native American history and historical events, and traditional recipes or ingredients.
These subseries were particularly impactful for me, and indicate what a diverse educator Barbara was. The continuum of topics garnered from the aforementioned subseries alone included recipes for traditional acorn bread to Indigenous ethnohistories that recounted the use of shells in early bartering contexts. I was particularly intrigued by the traditional recipes, and how many of them were plant based. From her materials, one could assume that Barbara had an astute eye for details. Similarly, one could also gather that she was a gifted communicator. A communicator that committed herself to relaying the tenets of Native American culture with whatever tools she had available. From what I have learned about Barbara, food and traditional ingredients were tools she utilized dexterously and with genuine passion. Because of her materials, I know that nettle can make a delicious soup and that Indigenous pudding generally constitutes cornmeal as a central ingredient. However, I know that with this collection specifically, I will have much more to learn.
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.