This is my last week at the CCEPS. The fellowship went so fast and it is hard to believe today is my last day. I wanted to thank you everyone for helping me on the way and making this such a great experience! I had the privilege to start processing John Seymour’s papers and I cannot wait to see the final outcome of this project once it is all finished. While I was working on Mr. Seymour’s correspondence I found many of his Christmas cards and greetings. I hope your Christmas is just like on the card below – Merry, Happy, and Bright! Happy 2019! Hope to see you around next year!
This Wednesday, I presented on the Yao Family Papers at the Founders Room. When I arrived in front of the room, I immediately noticed a familiar face. It was none other than Norman Yao’s son, the donor of the collection, Peter Yao. I have seen so many photos of him in the past year, as a child or a young adult. Although he certainly had aged, the way he looked did not change very much and was highly recognizable. I exchanged a few pleasant words for him, and felt really honored that he came to my presentation. Many librarians attended the presentation, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my academic advisor there too.
In the presentation, I talked about the history of the Yao family, the contents of the collection, the themes of Yao’s photography, and my favorite items in the collection. The other two fellows presented on a LA composer and the novelist Irving Wallace. I really enjoyed the event.
As I am studying abroad next semester, this week might be my last week working for CCEPS. The past year had been really fun and I learned a great deal in the process. As an aspiring historian, when I first saw primary sources such as the collection, I was inclined to invent stories for the items. However, I gradually learned that as an archivist, I had to assume the innocence of the items, and let future researchers give them meanings. This “post-modern” mentality had been refreshing in the sense that metanarratives were forbidden and fragments were celebrated.
Hope you have a fruitful final week!
Here’s an auspicious Cantonese junk boat for your good luck.
This week our CCEPS team had our culminating presentations. It was really interesting to learn about what other students have been working on during this semester. Marcus Liu, talked about processing the Yao Family papers and Clark Noone, about the Irving Wallace papers, and I was sharing my experience with processing the John Laurence Seymour papers. Thank you everyone for coming, we had a nice audience of people. Looking back on this fellowship, I am very thankful I had this opportunity to experience something new, try something I have never done before and rediscover the library and its special collection. Thank you everyone for helping me on the way and for your support. Next week will be my last as the CCEPS Fellow. It went so fast and it is hard to believe this semester is almost over.
Every trip I make to the Blaisdell room (where the Irving Wallace papers are kept), I seem to find another item pertaining to a series that I thought I had finished processing! This can be frustrating, but I suppose it’s par for the course for such a large collection stored in such a haphazard fashion. Today, I found this interesting movie poster for The Man, which came out in 1972 and starred James Earl Jones in the role of President Douglass Dilman.
Interestingly, the movie was adapted from Wallace’s novel by Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone, who died not long after the movie’s release (making the project the last of his storied career).
Tomorrow is presentation day! I’m looking forward to hearing from my fellow CCEPS fellows about what they’ve been working on this semester. I’ll have some closing thoughts to share in next week’s blog, my last for the semester.
This week, I mainly worked on the presentation that I will be giving next Wednesday. Based on my knowledge of the collection, in the presentation, I am going to talk about the Yao family’s history of education, work, and migration. Additionally, I will show some of my favorite photographs from the collection, including photos of Hong Kong, the Claremont Colleges, and art works. Finally, I plan on talking about one object that interested me the most: a 1938 graduation book from University of Shanghai, where both Norman and Anne Yao attended.
The book is very fascinating for me on many levels. The bloody Battle of Shanghai was fought a year before the book was published, and the Japanese captured the city. University of Shanghai had to relocate to the International Settlement, but the university’s president was assassinated by the Japanese. In the year book, in which students reacted differently to the war. As for Norman, he was upset because he lost his collection of photographs in the war.
The presentation is going to be at Honnold/Mudd Library’s Founders Room at 1:00 on Wednesday, December 12. I am presenting along with other two CCEPS students. Please come to our presentations if you have time.
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.
As I prepare to discuss my experience with the Irving Wallace collection at our CCEPS presentations next week, I’m thinking about the nature of change in the archives. Technologies change, archival practices adapt to new circumstances, and, perhaps most interestingly, the materials in our care are subject to unpredictable shifts in demand. A collection might go unused for decades only to be re-discovered by new researchers who bring to it new passions, new perspectives, and new questions. It is a beautiful thing that, for all of our focus on ensuring the long-term preservation of our materials, archivists ultimately have little control over how these materials will be used by researchers over time.
All of which is to say, we can’t predict the long-term relevance of the Irving Wallace collection. All we can do is properly arrange and describe the materials, ensure their physical stability, and, at every opportunity, share what we know and find fascinating about the collection with the public.
This week, I finished processing the 35mm slides in the collection. Perhaps because the 35mm slide technology was made available to the general public later than film negatives, most of the slides were from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since Norman Yao no longer worked for the Claremont Colleges and was likely retired, most of the slides were about their family life and their travels around the world.
The Yao family had interesting choices of travel destinations. They visited not only their native China after the country opened its gate to the world, but also New Zealand because they had relatives living there. Besides, as a religious person, Yao took a large number of photos of churches and Christian gatherings when he visited Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the family also visited Israel in 1983. Additionally, they also visited Europe and famous cities across the United States.
I noticed that the collection only included objects up until the early 1980s, around the time of Norman Yao’s death. Thus, I suspect that these objects were stored away upon the passing of the family patriarch.
As the date for our final presentation is set for Dec.12th, I have been thinking this week about what I am going to present. Actually there is quite a lot to talk about. Not only about the materials and information regarding Mr. John Seymour, but about the whole archival processing which is quite new to me. First, I learned that working with primary sources and processing the materials requires patience and a good organization plan. For the last month I have been organizing Mr. Seymour’s correspondence. I have unfolded, removed from envelops, placed in a folded acid free paper, and put in appropriate folders more then 1,000 letters! I still need to create a list of all the folders. It took some time, but it feels good that one of the series is almost completed.
Let there be no doubt that Irving Wallace was a first-class self-promoter! Today, I came across a box entitled, “THE MAN: Unsigned carbons of celebrity mailing,” which contains copies of hundreds of letters that Wallace sent to noteworthy individuals along with advance copies of his new novel, The Man, in 1964. Wallace’s recipients were a varied bunch of political, literary, and artistic heavyweights, from Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson to Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Luther King, Jr. to comedian Jack Paar of The Tonight Show. Wallace even wrote to an aging Pablo Picasso in Cannes, declaring himself “an admirer” of the legendary painter’s work and insisting that Picasso need not reply to his letter. (Picasso was surely relieved).
Here’s the letter in full:
This box of letters underscores Wallace’s fearlessness–some would even say brazenness–in selling his work. As somebody who dedicated himself to a writing career at a young age, Wallace never hesitated to sing his own praises or expound on the importance of his work to any journalist who might listen; these activities were integral to his professional success and economic well-being. By 1964, following the huge success of The Chapman Report, Wallace appears to have decided that an ambitious writer needed an aggressive media strategy, and that an aggressive media strategy could only benefit from outreach to prominent cultural figures in the U.S. and Europe. (It’s also fair to say that Wallace was becoming impressed with his growing celebrity). Whether any of these individuals returned Wallace’s letter is another question, and one which I’ll be eager to find out.