Hello Archive Junkies!

My goodness, what a week it’s been! Now that all of the non-musical materials in the collection have been processed (things like Clokey’s correspondence, lecture notes, writings, biographical materials, etc.), I’ve been hard at work arranging and preserving the robust amount of music the Clokey Papers have to offer. While Joseph W. Clokey composed art music in a staggering variety of genres (symphonies, operas, operettas, suites, sonatas, pageants, sacred dramas, etc.), one of his great loves was choral music.

Both sacred and secular choral music represent a substantial portion of his output (substantial enough, at least, to take a full week of processing to get through it all). Some pieces of sacred choral music that he composed are represented in the collection not only in the final published form, but in heavily-revised manuscripts as well as early sketches. To see that sort of material you’ll have to come by Claremont Special Collections once the processed is finished, but for now I leave you with a lovely performance of a sacred choral work.

Performed by the San Joaquin Choral, this is “Mary Wore Three Links of Chain”.

Til Next Time!

I don’t always do archival research…

…but when I do, I look at the finding aids first. (Ah, topical humor.)

A finding aid, for the blissfully uninitiated, is the document that details what the scope and contents of an archival collection are and assists researchers in determining if the listed materials will be of any use to their work. It’s a snapshot of the collection, so to speak, mixed with equal parts summary, backstory, and any “restrictions on use of or access to the
materials” (thank you, Wikipedia). The finding aid is typically a paper or electronic document (on the Online Archive of California you have choice between PDF and HTML), but the information contained within it can be translated into a machine-readable format called Encoded Archival Description (EAD, for short). There’d be a lot of technical jargon about XML and DACS and such if we kept on about EAD, so let’s just stick to the finding aid, eh?

You might be thinking “Hey Mikael, I sure would like to hear more about what exactly you might find in, well, a finding aid,” to which I would respond, “Simmer down, we’re getting to that.” Even though the Joseph W. Clokey Papers aren’t yet fully processed, working on the finding aid along with it gives me the opportunity to include vital information about the collection as I go, instead of trying to remember it all at the end. The kinds of headings included are things like the date range of the materials, the types of records you’ll find in the collection, and source of acquisition (this collection was, on paper at least, a gift from Joseph Clokey’s son, Art). The finding aid also contains an outline of how the collection is organized. Typically, a small collection need only list a handful of series, but if you’re me and you’re arranging the Clokey Papers, you end up with not just several series of folders, but
subseries and subsubseries below them (yes, that’s actually a word, apparently).

While I don’t have anything to show you this week that is strictly out of the box (hyuck!), here’s a sneak peak from my finding-aid-in-progress. This right here is the current, though perhaps not final, version of my scope and content note:

The Joseph Clokey papers contain newsclippings, personal notes, concert programs, correspondence, teaching materials, writings, a copy of his book In Every Corner Sing, and music in various stages of completion, from early sketches to publication. Clokey’s musical compositions include instrumental chamber music, suites, symphonies, organ music, sacred choral and dramatic music, secular choral music, operas, operettas, and songs as well as arrangements of other works. The collection also includes sacred choral and organ music by other composers, bound together by Clokey for liturgical use, and world music he collected during his travels.

I assure you, the materials themselves are much more interesting than my writing about them…!

Happy May!


There’ll be Singing in the Library (Eventually)

Hello again, dear readers,

What a week! Finals loom around the corner, which is typically fine, but as a grad student it means term paper deadlines draw near. Ah, how I miss simply studying for a final, but enough about me…

Scratch that: I’m going to keep talking about me.

The Powers That Be and I have been talking about how to celebrate and publicize the fruits of my labor with CCEPS (above and beyond my heartfelt blogging with you, that is). Amy’s magnificent exhibition has been quite the success and I had a mind to undertake something similar until I realized how best to present my work with my collection. My music collection.

I don’t talk about it much, but I actually have two degrees in music. My background in music is the very reason that the Powers That Be and I agreed the Joseph Clokey Papers would be a fitting collection for me to process. So, when the time comes next semester for me to discuss my work at CCEPS, I’ll actually be performing some of the music in the collection as well. I had thought my classical singing days were behind me, but it seems I’ve been mistaken…!

I haven’t worked out the entirety of the program, but I know for certain that I will be singing an aria from one of Joseph Clokey’s operettas: a musical setting of Our American Cousin. Now, Clokey’s work is not to be confused with the opera by Eric Sawyer of the same title, as that work is about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a performance of the original play of the same title at the Ford Theatre in 1865. Confused yet? Good, didn’t think so.

I don’t know much else yet about the recital, but I can tell you this: the aria in question requires a small display of yodeling. Exciting, no?

Alright, I have to sign off for now, but I’m sure I’ll have more exciting finds in the archives next week.

Till then!



The Victory Notebook

Hello Again!

I promised last week that, as I continue to process the Joseph Clokey Papers, I would share any treasures I discovered along the way. Well, it just so happens that I’ve already found something that I consider to be a pretty neat little piece of American history. And in a music collection no less!

Part of the joy of working with archival materials is
that you really never know what you’re going to find. I encounter this all the
time, both as an end-user researcher who works with archival materials and as
an archival fellow getting hands-on experience at CCEPS. The thrill of
discovery came no later for me than in the initial phase of digging into a collection:
the survey. During an archival survey, archivists sort through the entirety of
the collection to get a sense of its scope, content, and condition, making
notes to themselves as they go and, in general, just sort of “feeling out” the
materials. When a repository acquires a collection,
the archivists have a general sense of what it contains, but the specific items can sometimes be unexpected, and often in very delightful ways.

Jospeh Clokey worked as a music educator at a time when
our country was at war. The repercussions of World War II on American students
and teachers is reflected even in their classroom materials and something as innocuous
as a notebook shows us the extent of the war effort. This page was
included in the back of a string-bound notebook that contained a portion of Clokey’s
lecture notes:

 Thumbnail image for Honor Notebook Page.jpg

Something that we take for granted today, metal-ringed
binders, were untenable during World War II, as the metal was essential to the
manufacturing of military weapons, artillery, war machines, and supplies. I didn’t expect to
learn about the effects of war on American education in a collection dominated
by sacred choral music and opera scores, but there you have it! This is the
stuff of history, people!

I also took a scan of the notebook’s inside cover . . . notice anything missing from the Pledge of Allegiance? (Here’s a clue: The
missing phrase was not added to the pledge until June 14, 1954.)

Honor Notebook Interior.jpg

Until next time!


Welcome, Welcome!

Welcome Archivists, Archive Enthusiasts, and the Archival Curious! 

My name is Mikael Sebag and I am a master’s student in Claremont Graduate University’s History and Archival Studies program. I also just so happen to be one of the two inaugural fellows for the Claremont Center for Engagement with Primary Sources (but let’s just call it CCEPS, shall we?). Here at Out of the Box, my esteemed colleague Amy and I will be updating you (and other fine readers) on the exciting work we’re undertaking here at CCEPS. It’s hard to fully articulate just how thrilling it is to not only work with rare and historical collections, but to know that what we’re doing at CCEPS will have a lasting impact on how future researchers will study these materials.

Currently, I am working on processing the papers of Joseph W. Clokey (1890-1960), a beloved organist, educator, and composer who taught for a time at Pomona College. The father of Gumby creator Art Clokey, Joseph Clokey’s musical output included symphonies, operas, operettas, chamber music, and choral music, both sacred and secular. His papers include published and unpublished scores, letters, concert programs, newspaper clippings, and countless other odds and ends from Clokey’s extraordinary life–and it’s all here in the archives of the Claremont Colleges Library.

My project at CCEPS is to take the enormity of this collection (all 162 boxes, yikes!) and distill it into a body of materials that researchers will find both valuable and easy to navigate. In fact, this is the same kind of work that archivists at major research libraries and institutions undertake the world over. As an aspiring archivist myself, to be entrusted with this degree of professional responsibility is both a deep honor and a humbling experience. It is a Petrarchan oxymoron of sorts, but then, the best things in life usually are. 

In the coming weeks, I will share with you my struggles and successes as I continue to process the Joseph Clokey Papers. Together we’ll explore the ins and outs of archival survey, arrangement, and description, and I’ll be sure to let you in on any treasures I find along the way.

In the meantime, let’s hear one of Clokey’s pieces, “The Snow Legend,” given musical life by three tremendously talented (high school!) singers. Also, what happens after the first 27 seconds is priceless.

Click Here to Watch “The Snow Legend” on YouTube

Until next time!