A New Start

Week 2 was a blast! I have begun processing the Platt collection, and was able to go through 3 of the boxes. Many of the documents I looked at were photographs and slides showing the construction of Harvey Mudd College. It was a real treat seeing a plot of land transform into the college that stands today. It also really makes you think of how proud Joseph Platt must have felt seeing this as it was happening.

To accompany these photographs, I read through many letters of congratulations for Platt’s new appointment to Harvey Mudd. Although many of his colleagues from the University of Rochester were sad to see him leave their institution, they were confident in his abilities to bring his intellect, wisdom, and guitar skills to the West coast. The Board of Trustees at Harvey Mudd College felt the same way. A new and challenging opportunity for Platt, but he was up to the task. In his job acceptance letter, he writes ” I am convinced Harvey Mudd College will make a contribution far beyond its size to the life of the local and national community; in short, as we realize this vision Harvey Mudd College will continue and help to expand the tradition of the Claremont Colleges.”

First Building of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.
Construction of Harvey Mudd College. Photo taken in April 1957.

What else does the collection have in store? We will find out more next week!

Nicole

Let’s Begin!

Hello everyone, I am looking forward to processing the documents of the incredible Joseph B. Platt this semester. Before I begin, I wanted to share a little about myself. My name is Nicole Blue, and I am a Masters student at Claremont Graduate University. In December 2021, I graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Humanities and a minor in Music. Currently, I am in my second semester in the History and Archival Studies program, with a concentration in Museum Studies.

This week has been more of an introduction as I familiarize myself with the contents of this collection. Who was Joseph Platt? I began by surveying the boxes I will process this semester. While digging through the biography portion of the collection, I was struck by all of the contents. There are photographs from his travels to Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, details of his involvements in countless diverse organizations, songs and poetry, and stunning Christmas cards. I cannot wait to discover more about him.

A few boxes relating to the biography of Joseph Platt.

Not only was he incredibly accomplished, he was deeply admired and respected by his friends, family, colleagues, and community. He, along with his wife Jean, served with dignity, dedication, and love. This is mirrored through some of the ephemera I found while surveying the boxes. A binder, titled “Sticks in the Mudd” stood out, as it includes poems and dedications to both the Platts and Harvey Mudd College after 15 successful years. It also includes farewell poems to Joseph and Jean, due to Josephs departure from HMC in 1976 to go serve as the President of the Claremont University Center. I will include photographs below.

“Stick in the Mudds” 1973. A dedication to Joseph and Jean Platt by the original staff of Harvey Mudd College.
A toast to Joseph and Jean Platt, written on a piece of “toast” 1976.

More next week!

Nicole

Joseph Platt Papers: Quick Update

As of today, I have processed approximately 16 boxes of the collection. I have handled materials from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the China Foundation, the United Nations (UNESCO), the National Science Foundation, the National Science Council, the ESSO Education Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Lincoln Foundation, the Southern California Industry Education Council, the American Institute of Physics, and Analytic Services Incorporated. Platt was a busy man! What was his secret? I could take a hint.

I will be out-of-state next week visiting family for the holidays. When I return on December 19th, I will process the three remaining boxes of material related to government organizations. Once those are processed, I plan to start processing the boxes of materials related to HMC and CUC (now TCCS).

I look forward to processing more of the collection upon my return.

I leave you with a funny: “What did one uranium-238 nucleus say to the other?

Gotta split!

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

Processing the “Joseph Platt Papers”

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!

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

An Envelope Titled “Dedication”

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

Until next time,

Tiara N. Yahnian-Murta

Indigenous Education: the Center Piece of the Barbara Drake Collection

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.

Sustainability

As my colleague and I continue to file Barbara’s materials into their designated folders, I was fortunate enough to stake my claim over filing her research on ethnobotany, plants and vegetation. As I was doing so, I couldn’t help but think of climate change. As a gen y/gen z cusp, I have known most of my life that the planet was suffering from our wanton abuses of its many resources.

This made me think about the machinations under which our elected leaders, and elected leaders abroad, stand idly by while the planet dies before our eyes. They retain no urgency. They seemingly retain no foresight. They don’t mind if the planet is in an irreversible spiral by the time we inherit it. It is not lost on me that the world will likely look different in 10, 15, or 20 years. However, by that same tenor it is not lost on me that we might continue to see our natural resources stripped away, laid barren or depleted in the name of commercialization during that same time.

Barbara, and her ancestors that came before her, put an unmistakable emphasis on plant-based skills and food, while simultaneously cataloguing geographically relevant biodiversity as they went on. One of the most valuable things I have learned from Barbara’s collection is the incredible biodiversity represented in California, and specifically Los Angeles County. It appears to me, from her materials, that Indigenous peoples have a mutual respect for the earth. They have been exceptional stewards of the earth for centuries. And yet, colonization has deprived all of us existing today of a planet in good health. Instead, the exploitative nature of our commercialized industries and agriculture have painted us into a corner where we are rapidly losing resources and garnering natural disasters. Poignantly, Barbara’s materials allow any observer to be a more careful steward of our ailing planet. In her materials, one can find plant-based recipes that incrementally contribute to a potential decrease in the demand for animal products. In her materials, one can find instructions and suggestions on how to garden, fish and hunt, allowing the reader to devise strategies for a decreased reliance on industrialized means of production.

Simply put, there’s something worth knowing in Barbara’s collection for everyone, especially environmentalists.

Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and the Pursuit of Self-Determination

What constitutes a hero? Some might be tempted to list attributes, deeds, or point to a righteous struggle in which one emerges victorious. I have come to understand that heroes are mainly subjective, and many who are heroic are not catalogued the way, or to the extent, they deserved. Many Native Americans displayed unabashed heroism when colonizers encroached on their land, families, livestock and livelihood. One of these was Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.

I was particularly moved by the story of Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and their hard fought struggle to remain autonomous. Dull Knife was no stranger to resistance or battle, he fought in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe War, the Sioux Wars of the Northern Plains, and fought alongside Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull during the War for the Black Hills. The Native Americans were underestimated, and after each battle they, along with their Chiefs, made their formidable posture known. As such, General George Crook coordinated a surprise attack on Dull Knife’s camp. Those who survived fled and surrendered elsewhere. Subsequently, they were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma that touted little game, unfamiliar weather and was host to diseases.

In 1878, Dull Knife and 300 others fled, unable to bare the deplorable conditions the colonizers had provided for them. They all began a 1000 mile journey with a single step. On this journey they were forced to split up, reconfigure and eventually surrender at Ft. Robinson. A year after the death of Dull Knife, the Northern Cheyenne were granted the Tongue River Reservation in Montana.

The later years of Dull Knife’s life were marked with struggle, oppression, concealment and brutalization. He never lived to see the small consolation of a reservation, closer to their home of Wyoming, awarded to his people. Even so, he never wavered in his struggle for freedom. He never caved to the proposals of assimilation or displacement, and no matter how hard the white invaders tried, they could never scrub history of his influence or his stature. Rather, like many Native American Chiefs, his struggle casts a large shadow over society 150 years later. The shadow of his heroism, and the heroism of those like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, eclipse the American platitude of “liberty and justice for all”. When one takes the time to learn about those like Dull Knife, they are met with the duty to acknowledge that we are truly an imperfect nation, founded by imperialism. Barbara’s collection reminds me that the term “Founding Fathers” is a misnomer. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, nor the others founded this land. On the contrary, it was the ancestors of those like Dull Knife and Barbara herself who are true founders.

Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne
One of Barbara’s pieced of literature regarding Dull Knife

More letters….

After working with the correspondence of Mr. John Seymour for the last month and a half, I was sure that all the letters have been organized and placed in folders. Well… not completely. Today, I discovered that there are more letters that were hidden between other materials in two other boxes. This is the fun part of working with primary sources that you never know what else will you find. So back to unfolding letters, greetings cards, and other notes. This Christmas card/letter below actually reminded me to send my own soon. 


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In the Process of Processing

Hello! I am very happy to report that Week 2 of my CCEPS Fellowship has allowed me to make a solid contribution to processing Honnold/Mudd Special Collections’ Dead Sea Scroll Files! 

I love “before and after” photos – they seem like a cathartic way to celebrate progress – so why don’t we have a look at how the collection has transformed over the last week? Here’s what it looked like when it was originally delivered to our library:

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And here’s what it looks like after about 20 hours worth of work:
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Even though it’s a lot more empty than last week, 20 hours seems like a lot of time to go through just half a file box, doesn’t it? Well, it is – but archivists do a lot more than just put papers in new file folders when they’re “processing” a collection! In fact, when an archivist processes a repository of papers, s/he needs to move deliberately and meticulously to make sure it’s arranged just right.
In the case of the Dead Sea Scroll papers, this means I’ve been spending a great deal of time organizing every file chronologically, flagging items which will require special preservation attention and/or may need to be refiled for the sake of researcher access, and taking careful notes as to details which might be helpful to include in the finding aid which I’ll eventually create.
For example, every time I see a paperclip in the collection, I need to stop and remove that sucker – it will eventually damage the papers it’s holding together (and we don’t want that to happen!).
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“Just say no to paperclips!”
For the purposes of preservation, archivists instead group papers together in cute little folders they make out of acid-free, white paper:
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“When it comes to choosing between paperclips and acid-free folders, there’s no choice!
In closing, I’ll leave you with a shot of the papers I’ve finished arranging thus far. It will be very exciting when they’re all processed and researchers can use them!
Organized files_blog ready.jpg