Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is a 134-year old Detroit institution.

Founded in 1885, the DIA relocated to its present location in 1927.

Over 65,000 works of art, subdivided into 100 galleries, are spread throughout the 3-story, 658,000-square foot building, which, being made of white Montclair Danby marble streaked with gray veins from Vermont, exudes a very regal vibe.

Attached to the rear of the DIA is a beautiful 1,100-seat theater called the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

I’ve watched dozens of great films here over the years: Breathless, The Killing, Sweet Sweetback, Dolemite, Gimme Danger, etc.

Also behind the DIA, is the best place to park your car, the John R parking lot (5290 John R Street) where you can park all day for only $7.00 per car.

DIA Rodin (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Walking around to the front, you’re greeted by a version of Rodin’s The Thinker, a 12,000-lb. bronze sculpture of a contemplating man lost in rapturous thought, which beautifully sets the tone for your DIA visit.

Once inside, you check in and pay the fee or, thanks to the tri-county millage (property tax), if you live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties, you can enter for free any time you want.

As you pour yourself into the uniquely shaped cup of the DIA with its vaulted ceilings and mesmerizing sweeps of grandeur, you are immediately absorbed into a quasi-alternate dimension of one of the greatest art museums in the United States.

DIA Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being at the DIA is very inspiring. You’re surrounded by gorgeous art and this immersion does something positive to your mood, attitude and thoughts.

Waltzing through grand hallways and great rooms, you encounter Egyptian mummies, Hindu sculptures, ancient Sumerian statues made of diorite, William Randolph Hearst’s collection of suits of armor, Diego Rivera’s entire room of Detroit Industry murals, and thousands upon thousands of paintings.

The paintings include Van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting ever purchased by an American museum, which the DIA smartly acquired at auction in 1922.

Van Gogh-Self Portrait (1887) DIA

 

DIA Research Library & Archives: 191,000 Volumes on Tap

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In the North Wing, on the 3rd floor, the Kirby Street side, lays one of the hidden gems of the museum, the DIA Research Library & Archives.

I myself was unaware of the existence of this incredible resource until a recent BCD tour, thanks to Frank Castronova, DIA functionary and president of The Book Club of Detroit.

The library is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment-only.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

It consists of the lovely Reading Room (open to the public) with its row of skylights and book elevator (aka: 1970’s-era dumbwaiter) & the Mezzanine Stacks (closed to the public), a secret sub-level between floors 2 and 3 where thousands of books are held. People can discover and request materials from the stacks via the online catalog.

I’m here meeting with Maria Ketcham.

She is the Research Library, Archives & Collection Information Director and has graciously agreed to subject herself to a kaleidoscope of questions and give yet another tour.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria explains:

“Here at the DIA Research Library & Archives, we have 191,000 volumes, 100 journal subscriptions, thousands of bound periodicals and auction catalogs, and 7,000 cubic feet of archival materials.”

“In comparison to other libraries worldwide, about 30% of our collection is considered rare or unique to our institution.”

“Some of our archival holdings include thousands of photographs, blueprints, slides, color transparencies, oral histories, recorded lectures dating back to the 1970s, the business papers of former directors & curators, and an amazing collection of reel to reel recordings of our LINES poetry series (1980-1991) and our Jazz at the Institute series (1977-1987).”

“Our most popular requests are for information on the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry murals, the For Modern Living (1949) Exhibition, and Dragged Mass (1971) Michael Heizer.”

“We also have thousands of Artist Files, which are manila file folders containing news articles, ephemera, small exhibition catalogs, anything less than 30 pages long, about a particular artist and are especially useful for research on local artists. These are in our online catalogue as well as in WorldCat, the world’s largest online network of libraries.”

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Archives serves the museum as a repository for anything DIA-related that has enduring historic value. We’ve begun digitizing some of our archival materials and early DIA Bulletins, exhibition catalogues and finding aids, which can also be found in the DIA Research Library online catalog.”

Some university professors bring their classes here on tours and we also represent at conferences and events.”

“On average, we get about 1,200-1,500 requests per year, mostly via phone or email from all over the world. Many researchers find us via WorldCat. And since this is a noncirculating reference collection, depending on the size of their request, we can often help researchers remotely, such as emailing them scans of relevant materials for their reference.”

“We get visitors from all over the world. We even hosted Japanese royalty when Princess Akiko from Japan visited last summer.  We were very honored that she chose to spend some of her time at the DIA with us in the library.”

Our library is in the top 10 largest museum libraries in the USA. The largest is the Getty Research Institute, which is the Getty Museum library. They have over 1 million books and 100 librarians. Some other large ones are The Met, Philadelphia, and Nelson Atkins.”

 

Quick Biography

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a native Detroiter. I grew up on the Northwest side near Joy and Southfield. A product of the Detroit Public School system, I attended Renaissance High School, then graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and later a Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives.”

“Before coming to the DIA, I was an Archivist for Ford Motor Company. I used to live in the Alden Park Towers on the riverfront for several years. The “new Detroit” has changed drastically since I’ve lived here. It’s exhilarating.”

DIA Detroit

I have a library family. My husband is a librarian at a local public library. My two sisters are also librarians. One is a children’s librarian in California. The other is a senior medical informationist at a university medical school.”

I started working at the DIA in 2001 as the reference librarian. In 2003, I was laid off. Came back in 2005 and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I’m the only full-time employee overseeing the Research Library & Archives. James Hanks is our part-time archivist. We have 2-3 interns at a time, usually grad students in the process of earning their Masters of Information Science.”

The DIA Library is a True Community Resource

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being a Librarian and Archivist is all about connecting people with information and being able to manage that information in a way to make it as accessible as possible. We acquire materials, provide access to the public, create indexes and inventories and more. Our mission is preservation for future exploration.”

The DIA has 7 curatorial departments. We support museum staff including curators, conservators, and educators, helping them obtain the research materials they need for their respective research projects.”

“We interface with a lot of people. We get information requests from institutions, artists foundations, big auction houses (Christies and Sotheby’s) about things like exhibition installation photos, fact-checking, etc. We assist where we can with research on artists, exhibition history, and provenance, which is tracing the ownership history of artwork.”

“We frequently get questions from people who have a piece of art they’ve inherited. We might be able to help them with biographical information on the artist and sometimes exhibition history, but we are unable to do valuations. The Appraisers Association of America can direct you to a qualified appraiser near you. There’s also DuMouchelles auction house in Downtown Detroit. These are just a couple of suggestions from the list on our FAQ page

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Not many people know this but the DIA has about 700 puppets, it’s one of the largest puppet collections in the United States and one of our special collections here at the library is the papers and books of legendary local puppeteer, Paul McPharlin.”

“We also have a collection of Albert Kahn’s personal books. Lawrence Tech has the larger part, which is housed in its own dedicated room at their library.”

“In terms of new acquisitions, we acquire roughly 700-1,000 books per year.”

“We purchase books from a restricted fund. On average, I purchase 10-15% of the books, which are usually recommendations from the curators. The others are donated to us by institutions, private owners, galleries, and other museums.”

“Our older books are still catalogued in Dewey. Everything else is Library of Congress style classification. Our interns help update access to these older books in our collection by conversion cataloging to LoC.”

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“As an example of our books, we have Verdute di Roma (Views of Rome) from the Venetian engraver, Piranesi.”

“Published in 1835, this is a beautiful 29-volume set of over-sized folios, featuring etchings produced from his original plates, including his Imaginary Prisons series (La Carceri d’Invenzione). This was gifted to the DIA by the estate of former Michigan senator James McMillan in 1905.”

“And yes, in addition to digital offerings, we also still have the old index card catalogs.”

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria’s Final Thoughts for Now

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I really enjoy working with all the different people, the curators, researchers, general public, giving tours, etc. As much as I think I know as a librarian & archivist, I find there’s always more to learn.”

“The challenges are coming up with creative ways to use what resources we have. There’s also so many hidden parts of the collection. I’d like to make them more well-known and help people discover something new, something they didn’t even know they might be interested in.”

“For about 90 years, the DIA used to have an annual Michigan Artists Exhibition. It stopped in the early 90’s due to financial difficulties. I wish the DIA would bring it back.”

“At some point, we might start a Friends Group for the DIA Research Library & Archives. I would like that very much.”

“This work keeps me busy. I still have about 200 boxes of books to sort through and catalog. This work is thoroughly enjoyable, I love it. Come visit us sometime and explore the collection.”

Detroit Museum of Art, aka: the original DIA Building (image courtesy of DIA Research Library and Archives)

Donate your books

 

The DIA selectively accepts donations of art and art history books & associated materials.

Contact

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

DIA Research Library & Archives

3rd floor

Monday-Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Open by appointment-only

(313) 833-3460

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals @ DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Homepage

https://www.dia.org/art/research-library

 

WorldCat

https://www.worldcat.org/libraries/46836

 

ArchiveGrid

https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/?q=contributor:7141&sort=title_sort+asc&limit=100

 

Map of the DIA

https://www.dia.org/sites/default/files/map-dia.pdf

 

Become a member of DIA

https://www.dia.org/membership

 

When visiting the DIA, what eateries are within walking distance?

 

Kresge Court (inside the DIA)

Located on Level 1, this beautiful eatery is designed like an open-air Italian medieval palace courtyard. They have coffee, wine, beer, liquor, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Try the Woodward Avenue Sandwich.

Hours: Tues-Thurs 9am-3:30pm, Fri 9am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4:30pm

 

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Outside of the DIA are:

 

Wasabi (15 E. Kirby, ste E) This Japanese-Korean spot is one of Maria’s personal favorites. Try the sushi and bibimbab.

Chartreuse (15 E. Kirby, ste D) Try the Cap steak and Madagascar vanilla pudding. Make sure you check the hours before coming.

Shields Pizza (5057 Woodward Ave) Try any of the pizzas and the dry rub wings.

Tony V’s Tavern (5756 Cass Ave) Try the pesto artichoke pizza and Tony V’s club sandwich.

Socratea (71 Garfield St, ste 50) Try the Moroccan mint tea.

Common Pub (5440 Cass Ave) Try the duck fat fries and the fried chicken.

Seva (66 E. Forest Ave) try the yam fries and the sweet potato quesadilla.

 

Bruegel the Elder-The Wedding Dance (1566) DIA Detroit

Copley-Watson and the Shark (1782) DIA Detroit

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

view from 3rd floor, DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive: Two Military Research Libraries are Hidden Gems at Detroit’s Fort Wayne, a circa 1840’s military fort!

Exclusive: Two Military Research Libraries are Hidden Gems at Detroit’s Fort Wayne, a circa 1840’s military fort!

Fort Wayne

Detroit is a mysterious city.

Filled with hidden gems galore and deeply laced with history, Detroit is like some kind of unexplored video game realm awaiting a protagonist whom, swept up in the spirit of adventure, eagerly unearths its treasures to win the game.

One such beautiful example of Detroit’s fascinating history lies in the oft overlooked neighborhood of Delray in the Southwest part of the city, near the cavernous underground salt mines.

Between spooky Zug Island and the old Boblo Docks, stretched out along the Detroit River in an area soon to be populated by the nearly 2-mile long Gordie Howe International Bridge, is historic Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne aerial photo c. 1980 (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

This beautiful national treasure is also located down the street from Flor-Dri (5450 W. Jefferson), which was once the original site of Michigan’s first printing press in 1809, thanks to Gabriel Richard.

Fort Wayne is an old military fort comprised of around 40 buildings and sits on 96 acres.

87 acres are owned by the City of Detroit Recreation Department & run by the all-volunteer Historic Fort Wayne Coalition (HFWC).

9 acres are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is referred to as the Detroit Boatyard.

 

Exploring the HFWC’s Two Military Research Libraries

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

I’m exploring the libraries at Fort Wayne with Will Eichler and Tom Berlucchi.

Will and Tom are the two fearless leaders of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, a non-profit group of around 20 volunteers who run weekend operations at the fort and whom have been fixing up the fort and fighting to save it from neglect and decay, since Tom founded the coalition in 2001.

Will and Tom are historians and historical preservationists. They are Civil War reenactors and passionate about Living History and honoring the richness of Detroit’s military history, which is why they’re created and curated two outstanding (and growing) military-themed libraries here at the fort.

Will

The two military reference libraries here are not lending libraries, they’re private appointment-only and designed for research. We’re currently accepting donations of military books and we’re hoping to open the libraries up to the general public sometime in the next five years.”

“I would say our largest concentration of books is Civil War material. Our next largest segment is World War II. Beyond that, we have military-related books, maps and ephemera from all over the world and all different time periods.”

Tom

“These libraries help deepen and expand our appreciation of the tremendous amount of history here at Fort Wayne.”

In 1812, the British landed at Fort Wayne on the spot where kids play soccer nowadays.”

“1838 was the Patriot War. Some Detroiters sailed from here into Amherstburg, Ontario on a schooner and shelled Fort Malden and they also took the barracks in Windsor. At the time, there was a revolution going on within Canada. Officially, the USA stayed neutral, except for some private individuals who got involved. Some were executed, some were sent to the Hudson Bay Barges.”

“Then in 1840, there was an initiative by the government to build a series of Northern Frontier forts and the property of Fort Wayne was acquired at that time.”

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Fort Wayne was designed by Lt. Meigs and construction began in 1843. It was finally completed in 1852. The fort was actually dormant until the Civil War erupted, then it reopened. In the interim, an old Irish couple were the caretakers.”

“We’ve been trying to fix up the fort and bring it alive with military reenactments in ways that are as historically accurate as possible. It’s difficult to generate revenue for preservation. The Fort Adams Trust in Rhode Island might be a good model to follow in terms of making Fort Wayne sustainable long-term.”

What I love is that everybody has a different reason for wanting to visit Fort Wayne. Part of the joy of interpreting this place is finding out for yourself the best way you personally connect with history.”

Tom

“In terms of maintenance, we’re looking to establish a professional service agreement with the City of Detroit. This would provide much needed funds for our ongoing restoration efforts.”

“And for the record, Fort Wayne is not a star-shaped fort.”

“It’s a four-bastioned square fort with an external fortification, which is the 5th part, thus, it’s technically not a true star-shaped fort.”

 

Who are Will and Tom?

Will Eichler & Tom Berlucchi @ Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Being apart of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition is my passion.”

“My interest in Living History started when I was 15. I read a book called ‘Rifles for Watie’, a fantastic kid’s book about the Civil War. I read it and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

“I attended the James Madison College of International Affairs at Michigan State University, where I studied political theory. I have a 1,000-volume personal library at home, mainly Civil War and political books.”

“Currently I work in television as camera and Steadicam operator on NBC’s Chicago Fire.”

“I also shoot a bi-weekly video series called Civil War Digital Digest where we cover all aspects of Civil War History.”

Tom Berlucchi @ Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Tom

“My first exposure to Fort Wayne was back in 1974 when I started doing Civil War reenactments here with the Loomis Battery.”

“In 2001, I founded the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, a non-profit of which I’m chairman. In 2003, we were granted our 501(c)(3) status on Christmas Eve.”

“Prior to that I served in the U.S. Navy from 1979-83.”

“I’m most interested in documenting the history of the Red Scare in Detroit during the 1920’s-30’s. We held 300 Communist prisoners right here at Fort Wayne from 1920-21. It’s a largely unknown history lesson.”

 

Why is Fort Wayne Historically Important?

Fort Wayne historic aerial (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

The land that Fort Wayne sits on used to be known as the Springwells Mounds, a series of old Native American burial mounds dating to at least 1,000 AD. Only one mound still exists at Fort Wayne.

During the 1700’s, the area was a Potawatomi Indian village until around 1780, when they moved away. At the time, the area was prized for being a large sand hill and thus, a good vantage point.

In 1781, Irish fur trader, John Askin, moved to what is now Fort Wayne. He traded furs here until he became Justice of the Peace in Detroit from 1789-1802. Then he moved to Canada.

Shortly after the War of 1812 started, the British entered the US via Sandwich, Canada and landed where Fort Wayne is now and stayed here for over one year.

In 1815, the Treaty of Spring Wells, a 6-foot long parchment roll, was signed here by eight Indian tribes and future president Gen. William Henry Harrison, formally establishing peace between the native tribes and the new occupiers of the Michigan Territory.

old Fort Wayne (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

Then in 1841, Congress wanted to build fourteen Northern Frontier Forts as a barrier against potential British attacks. Based on the survey of Lt. Macomb, they selected this spot for Fort Wayne, because it was the closest point on the Detroit River to Canada.

Fort Wayne was constructed over an eight-year period from 1843-51. It was named in honor of American Revolutionary War hero Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne.

During this time, future president Ulysses S. Grant lived nearby at 253 East Fort Street, Detroit from 1849-51. It is not officially known if Grant spent any time at Fort Wayne but the general consensus is that he most likely did due to his military involvement and close proximity to the fort.

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War exploded when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumpter, South Carolina. Two days later, President Lincoln began mobilizing the Union into action.

Fort Wayne immediately became a training center and infantry garrison for Michigan’s 1st Infantry Regiment, including the Coldwater Cadets, some 780 men, who fought in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Several other regiments, totaling an estimated 14,000 troops, passed through Fort Wayne during the Civil War.

old Fort Wayne schematic (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

In 1885, Springwells Township, where Fort Wayne was located, was annexed to the city of Detroit.

During World War I, over 500 African American troops were stationed at Fort Wayne.

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression hit the country hard and hundreds of homeless families lived in the old Civil War-era limestone barracks.

During World War II, the city of Detroit was the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Some 2,000 people moved to Fort Wayne and helped coordinate the supply of military vehicles and tanks to the U.S. military overseas via the Fort Wayne Ordinance Depot.

Fort Wayne was also used as a training and induction center. POW’s from Italy were housed here. Several of them, including Eduardo Barbieri, became permanent residents of Detroit after the war ended.

Fort Wayne (courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

In 1949, the U.S. Federal Government officially transferred ownership of Fort Wayne to the City of Detroit and the property was run by the City of Detroit Historical Commission.

During the Cold War, Nike Ajax missiles were installed here in 1957 and replaced by Nike Hercules missiles in 1959.

The Fort served as an induction center during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, Fort Wayne was officially deactivated.

From 1967-71, families whose homes were burned down in the Detroit Riots, lived in the old limestone barracks.

Over 200 years after its construction, the fort was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The empty fort fell into decline and decayed for almost four decades before the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition stepped in in 2001. Then in 2006, the City of Detroit Recreation Department assumed ownership.

 

Unknown Facts about Fort Wayne

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“Fort Wayne still has the original limestone barracks from 1845 and also the original 1880’s houses on Officer Row.”

“There used to be a cemetery here. Over 150 graves were moved to nearby Woodmere Cemetery (9400 W. Fort St, Detroit) around 1896.”

“Also, not many people know this, but there were three jails, called Guard Houses, on-site here at Fort Wayne. They weren’t here all at once, so it depends on the decade.”

Tom

“In 1887, a man named Arthur Stone tried escaping Fort Wayne and Sgt. Clark shot him dead here.”

“A woman named Elsie Woline committed suicide in Building 108, the Commandant’s Building. She was African American in the employ of Captain French and was jilted by a lover. She took her own life by drinking carbolic acid.”

“One of the most incredible things about Fort Wayne is that we’ve had somewhere between 23-27 Medal of Honor recipients tour the fort, including Surgeon Irwin, a U.S. Army surgeon during the Apache Wars, whom had one of the first ever-issued.”

My personal goal is to obtain copies of all of these medals and display them here with stories.”

Tom Custer, George’s little brother, was in the 6th Michigan Cavalry and was the only person in the entire Civil War to win two Medals of Honor.”

 

Annual Civil War Reenactments @ Fort Wayne

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo courtesy of Historic Fort Wayne Coalition)

Will

“Tom and I are both huge Civil War fanatics. I follow Michigan’s 5th Infantry and the 3rd Regiment the most.”

“In the library here, we have a framed photo of Texans retreating from Maryland to Virginia after the Battle of Antietam, which was the single bloodiest day in American history.”

“We also have a ton of great Civil War books in the reference library, including a series of pamphlet-size blue books, which talk about small arms used by Michigan troops in the Civil War.”

Tom

“Our reenactments are extremely specific recreations. The soldiers even stay in the original barracks and pay in period script, not modern money.”

What does it for me, what brings history alive, is getting to walk on the same floors, the same stairways that those soldiers did. Thinking of how many thousands of people have passed through here over the years, it’s incredible.”

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Will

“During our reenactment, Maj. Gen. Israel Richardson, killed during the Battle of Antietam and whose grave is under a big oak tree at Oak Hill Cemetery in Pontiac, Michigan, his original jacket was here in the museum inside our Visitors Center.”

“The 2nd Michigan Regiment is here and we garrison the fort the way it was in the 1860’s.”

“I’m also hoping to have my documentary about Fort Wayne completed at some point this year. The documentary is produced by my own company, Ravelin Films.”

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Tom

“I cried back when we opened the barracks for the very first time and the Union reenactors marched through. It was a touching moment.”

“I also cried when we fired a salute with real canons here in honor of a man named Luiz who drowned in Lake Erie back in 2008. Luiz went to Southwest High School and played soccer here and a ton of his friends and family came out for the memorial.”

“As for the fort, I’m a preservationist but I’m also realistic. It’s not all going to be saved. We still have WWII-era electrical here, no insulation on the power lines. The plumbing needs updating. There’s probably $250 million dollars’ worth of restoration needed. But we’ll continue doing what we can.”

Will

“If you haven’t been to Fort Wayne yet, make plans right now to come visit us. It’s a must-see destination!”

 

To donate your military books to Fort Wayne, please contact:

Info@HistoricFortWayneCoalition.com

 

Fort Wayne

6325 West Jefferson Ave.

Detroit, MI 48209

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

 

Historic Fort Wayne Coalition

https://www.historicfortwaynecoalition.com/

 

HFWC Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/HistoricFortWayneEvents

 

Annual Civil War Reenactment (2nd weekend in June)

https://www.historicfortwaynecoalition.com/cwdays.html

 

Civil War Digital Digest (bi-weekly; run by Will Eichler)

https://www.youtube.com/civilwardigitaldigest

 

Hold My Horse: A Short Film about Israel Richardson by Will Eichler

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HoldMyHorseMovie/?ref=group_header

Hold My Horse: A Short Film about Israel Richardson by Will Eichler

 

Detroit Parks & Rec

https://detroitmi.gov/departments/parks-recreation/fort-wayne

 

National Register of Historic Places (Fort Wayne tracking # 71000425)

https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=7edfca5e-4fb0-4644-95fd-912173c5d0f4

 

Civil War Medal of Honor database (1,522 recipients)

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/medal-of-honor

Historic Fort Wayne Tours

Flor-Dri (5450 W. Jefferson, Detroit), which was once the original site of Michigan’s first printing press in 1809, thanks to Gabriel Richard (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Fort Wayne Research Library (photo by Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Civil War Days @ Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

 

Exclusive Interview: Touring the World’s Largest Library Comic Book Collection of 350,000 items @ Michigan State University with head honcho RANDY SCOTT!

Exclusive Interview: Touring the World’s Largest Library Comic Book Collection of 350,000 items @ Michigan State University with head honcho RANDY SCOTT!

Aerial photo of MSU (photo courtesy of: Michigan State University)

Michigan State University is a sprawling and beautiful campus of leafy trees, ubiquitous green & white team colors, and intriguing experiences, such as visiting the World’s Largest Library Comic Book Collection.

Located in East Lansing, about 1hr 30mins west of Detroit, the school was founded in 1855 as a prototype land-grant university and renamed MSU in 1964.

MSU currently sits on 5,200-acres dotted with 566 buildings. Over 50,000 students attend here. There are 27 resident halls and over 900 registered student groups on campus. Yes, this place is massive. It’s one of the largest universities by population in the USA.

MSU’s Nuclear Physics graduate program ranks # 1 in the nation. Magic Johnson & Sam Raimi attended MSU simultaneously in the late 1970’s. Fun factoids abound.

I’m here visiting the MSU Library, the building which contains the main portion of the comic collection.

Red Cedar River (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

You park on the north side of Spartan Stadium in Lot # 62 W (99 Red Cedar Road, East Lansing). You ‘pay by plate’ by the hour. Then, use the footbridge to cross the beautiful Red Cedar River and enter the library doors straight ahead.

Once inside, the Special Collections Reading Room is on your left. This is where you’ll read the comics.

As the world’s largest library/academic comic book collection, the MSU Comic Collection is a true world resource.

Sure, Mile High Comics in Denver has a self-estimated eight million comic books in three warehouses and a single individual, Bob Bretall, in Mission Viejo, California has over 105,000 comics.

But the MSU Collection is catalogued, indexed, available to the general public free of charge and managed by comic book expert, Randall W. Scott.

Randall W. Scott, or “Randy” as he prefers to be called, is an MSU Special Collections Librarian, Comic Art Bibliographer, and head curator of the MSU Comic Art Collection. Working here almost 50-years, Randy has one of the greatest jobs on the planet: reading and archiving comic books.

Yes, a state university had the foresight to bankroll Randy’s unique expertise and thus, help fund a world-class collection of pop culture artifacts in the form of comics books. We’re so jelly. Randy, I want your job.

MSU’s Comic Book Curator and Head Honcho: Randy Scott

Randall W. Scott, aka: Randy, head of the MSU Comics Collection (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I’ve always enjoyed comic books. I like the format of blending words and pictures. I also read a lot of books without pictures. Mainly, I like thinking about how the literary form of comic books works and is evolving. Comic books are different from every other kind of storytelling. And I like the theoretical questions associated with comics and collecting comics.”

“I grew up on a farm in Alpena County in a little town called Hubbard Lake. I like to practice reading in other languages like French, German, Spanish. My foreign language level is fair. But my level of reading comics is pretty good.”

“In the late Sixties, I migrated to Lansing and attended MSU while working at Curious Book Shop, a used & rare bookstore run by Ray Walsh. I was Ray’s first employee and the comics buyer there back when Curious had an upstairs that was all comics. Stan Lee did a signing there once! I met Ray while we were both students at MSU. He was famous for riding his bike around campus in a trench coat.”

The Paper (image courtesy of: Michigan State University)

“As a student here at MSU, I worked as a writer and editor on an underground paper aptly called ‘The Paper’ and toward the end of its lifespan, it became absorbed into SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. There was a national movement for underground papers at that time. Detroit had The Fifth Estate, Ann Arbor had The Sun and so on. In June 1969, we had a convention in Chicago where SDS split and The Weathermen became one of the splits, so I briefly became an original Weatherman before it became the Weather Underground.”

“I have a B.A. from MSU and an M.S. in Library Science from Columbia with a concentration in cataloging and indexing.”

I started working in the MSU Library back in 1971. I had various jobs, including being a preorder typist, whereby I would send out orders to jobbers to order books. I started cataloging the Comic Art Collection in 1974 when I developed a system for indexing and cataloging them and I’ve been here ever since.”

“In 1975, a high-school student stole our Amazing Spider-Man # 1 comic book. We knew who it was but couldn’t prove it. Today, in good condition, that comic is worth around $100,000.”

“After that happened, I decided to take on the job of looking after the Comic Collection, during my lunch hours, as a volunteer.”

 

MSU Comic Collection: At 350,000 items, it’s the World’s Largest Library Comic Book Collection

MSU Comic Collection (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Randy and I head downstairs, one floor below the Reading Room.

The Comic Collection is housed in long rows of electronic Spacesaver mobile storage units. The lights are on 120-second timers, thus, if there’s no movement for 120 seconds, the lights go off.

We have the main core of the collection here. Then we have about 700 shelves of international comics at an offsite, remote storage warehouse.”

 

Russell Nye: Creator of the MSU Comic Collection

Russell B. Nye circa 1978 (photo courtesy of: Michigan State University)

The MSU Comic Collection started in 1969-70 when MSU professor Russell Nye donated 6,000 comic books, mostly 60’s-era Marvel superhero comics, to the university.”

“Around 100 of the comics were his, the rest were from some of his senior students who donated their collections to him for his new Pop Culture course.”

“Nye taught in the English department from 1941-79. He was an early proponent of Pop Culture Theory and I had him as a teacher. Nye was a gentleman, always wore a suit, taught 19th century American Literature and had an inquiring mind.”

“At the time, comics were deemed ‘inappropriate material’ by academia. However, Nye was respectable, he had also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945, so they couldn’t deny this pop culture scholar’s donation of comics.”

Comic Buyer’s Guide issue # 1 (1971) image courtesy of: Michigan State University

“Comic books had already been around for over 100 years and it took them that long to get academic recognition. I did Independent Study with Nye and wrote a paper called ‘Comics in Libraries’ where I argued for their inclusion.”

“Prior to this, academic libraries had been reluctant to collect and study comics, which they foffed off as ‘subliterature’. It was revolutionary times. The spirit of the time was to open things up and do what hadn’t been done before.”

“Nye wasn’t thought of as a radical but being a proponent of putting comic books in libraries was definitely a radical idea at the time. It’s hard to fathom now because it’s more commonplace. Now over 50 libraries have permanent comic book collections.”

 

It’s a Midwest thing: Michigan and Ohio Lead the Charge

Bowling Green University’s Popular Culture dept. (image courtesy of Bowling Green University)

“Ohio’s Bowling Green University started a Pop Culture department around the same time. The Journal of Popular Culture started in 1967 at Bowling Green and was edited by Ray Browne. They now have the Browne Popular Culture Library, which is the world’s largest collection of pulps, dime novels and ephemera.”

“In 1977, Lucy Caswell started the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, which is now the world’s largest repository of original cartoon art.”

It was a Midwest thing. We started putting comic books in libraries, then NYPL followed suit after a few years and now it’s a global thing.”

“In 1978, the Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection was officially titled as a branch of the Special Collections. This collection includes the Comic Art Collection, 10,000 volumes of sci-fi (mostly monographs), probably 5,000 books, magazines & fanzines, and loads of Popular Fiction (ie: dime novels, pulps, detective, westerns, etc).”

MSU Library’s Carolyn Blunt (c. 1973)

 

A Taste of the Goodies

Young Allies # 1 (1941) photo by: Ryan M. Place

The hardest part of being a Comics Librarian is cataloguing. Cataloguing is a daily, ongoing process. On January 1st, 1981, we stopped using the filing index card system.”

“Every year we get deliveries of 12 to 20 boxes of comics sent via UPS. Gerber invented mylar comic sleeves. I order these babies 5,000 at a time. Cataloguing all this stuff takes time.”

“We have 7 copies of the original Obadiah Oldebuck here, the first comic ever created.”

Obadiah Oldebuck, the first comic book ever printed (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“We have the personal microfilm collection of Detroit comics guru Jerry Bails and the #1 CAPA-Alpha (1964).”

“We have all sorts of comics: Young Allies # 1 (1941), Walt Disney Comics and Stories No. 1 (1940), Wonder Woman # 1 (1942), R. Crumb’s Zap # 1 (1967), etc.”

“We have about 600 Underground comics, 10,000 volumes of Manga, 1 million comic strips donated by Dick Webster, and large holdings of Eclipse, Marvel, DC, Fantagraphics.”

“We have the King Features proof sheet collection from NYC (1930’s-1990’s).”

Rodney Ford scrapbooks (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“We have 530 scrapbooks of daily newspaper strips. They came all at once from Rodney Ford in Sacramento, California. Over 100 titles from the 1920’s-1970’s. He made the scrapbooks meticulously by hand.”

“We have 17,000 Golden Era comics (1938-52), the first 1,000 of which came from Jim Haynes, a Connecticut racetrack owner who grew up in Port Huron, Michigan.”

“We have the Lexikon der Comics, the only copy in North America. It’s a German language encyclopedia of comics.”

“The list goes on and on. MSU has a tradition of keeping the best two copies of each item. Our triplicates we give to the MSU Surplus Store to be sold, and proceeds of these sales come directly back to the library to continue supporting the collection.”

Lexikon der Comics: German language encyclopedia of comic books (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU’s International Comics @ the Remote Storage Warehouse

MSU International Comics inside Remote Storage warehouse (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

After touring the main collection, Randy drives us to an offsite warehouse in Lansing, about 15 minutes away from the main library. The facilities coordinator, Josh Maki, lets us in.

The warehouse is divided into two massive rooms.

One room contains international comic books on 10 and 12-foot-high steel shelving. The other room is a high-density storage bay of 800,000 books and bound journals. Big blue-box air scrubbers clean the air.

This is but one warehouse in a complex of warehouses. The others are: Folio, Special Collections and RSA. The comics warehouse is RS-F and called ‘remote storage’. Spread across the complex, there are around 1.7 million items.

MSU Remote Storage warehouse (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Here we have about 700 shelves of international non-American comics from all over the world. For instance, we have 1,800 comics catalogued from India alone.”

“We have shoe boxes full of two million daily comic strips, plus big boxes of proof sheets, Sunday sections, etc.”

“The most we ever paid was $130,000 for 13,000 European comics in the 1990’s.”

“We get about one international visitor per month, mostly from Europe and Asia.”

“When visiting, please remember that international comics must be requested at least three full days in advance.”

Funding: Where does the money come from?

“I get a little slice of the annual MSU Library book budget. I also have a couple of endowments which provide funding. Our total annual budget is around $40,000.”

“In regard to acquisitions, I have a Collection Development statement that I follow when we want to acquire new material for the collection.”

In addition to the budget Randy receives from MSU, generous supporters also lend a hand by giving funds in support of this collection.

For more information on ways you can support the collection, contact:

MSU Libraries’ Development Office

517-432-0708

giving@lib.msu.edu

 

MSU Special Collections

MSU Special Collections Rare Book Collection (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Established in 1962, the MSU Special Collections department contains 450,000+ printed works, several manuscript and archival collections, a huge stash of ephemera, and more.

MSU has a massive collection of Sixties Radicalism pamphlets and papers. You can find these in the American Radicalism Vertical File (ARVF).

The Special Collections Rare Book Collection is at the end of the comics collection, behind a vault door, inside a temperature-controlled room.

It contains the Charles Schmitter Fencing archives. And the oldest printed book at MSU: Scriptores Rei Rusticae (1472, Venice). They even have a Book of Hours here.

 

Randy’s Final Thoughts

Randy Scott at work in the MSU Library basement (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Well, I’ll need to retire one day, I suppose.”

“My replacement will need to be enthusiastic about comic scholarship, knowledgeable in the field of comics books and care deeply about growing the collection and understanding how important it is.”

The MSU Comic Collection is always open to donations of comic books. If you or someone you know wants to donate their collection, they can email or call the MSU Libraries’ Development Office.”

“Personally, I think it would be cool if the library put a little more recognition into the comics, such as the graphic novels. We have a ton of graphic novels, including the first-ever, Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God’ from 1978.”

Randy Scott at work in the MSU Library basement (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“There’s a future in academic comic study. It just depends on administrative attitudes. Currently, MSU offers two minor degrees in Comics.”

“Every February, we host a two-day long MSU Comics Forum here on campus.”

“Visiting scholars with an MSU netID can apply to stay overnight at the Owen Hall Grad Dorm here on campus.”

Plan a trip. Let us know you’re coming. We look forward to seeing you.”

MSU Comics Forum (courtesy of MSU)

 

Donate your comic collection to MSU by emailing Randy Scott and the library development office:

scottr@msu.edu

giving@lib.msu.edu

 

Search the MSU Comic Collection here

https://lib.msu.edu/findbooks/

 

Randy’s Comic Index

http://comics.lib.msu.edu/index.htm

 

Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collection

https://lib.msu.edu/spc/collections/nye/

 

MSU Comics Forum

http://www.comicsforum.msu.edu/

 

Map of MSU Campus

https://maps.msu.edu/

 

Library of Congress has 150,000 comic books

https://www.loc.gov/rr/news/comics.html

MSU logo (image courtesy of: Michigan State University)

Ryan’s Final Thoughts

Having toured the collection multiple times, I feel it necessitates its own building.

Due to the size, importance and future growth potential of the collection, MSU should consider centralizing the entire collection under one roof exclusively.

You could also add a museum component to this, complete with display cases, regular events and periodic in-person signings.

 

Ryan’s Recommendations on Visiting the MSU Comic Collection

While visiting MSU, you might want to make time to check out the following:

 

1.) Brody Square (241 Brody West) campus food hall

Brody Hall (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brody Hall (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Park in the Kellogg Conference Center parking garage (219 S. Harrison Rd.) for $1.50/hr. Walk directly across the street to Brody. Up on the 2nd floor is one of the most ingenious campus food hall concepts ever created.

Brody features 9 to 12 food stations. For $10.00 per person it’s all you can eat, all day long. And yes, this is open to the general public.

They have a wondrous array of food featuring things like:

Burritos, sushi, spicy crab soup, Cajun fish with mashed potatoes and gravy, Hudsonville ice cream (get the Cake Batter with chocolate syrup), 15 breakfast cereals, pepperoni pizza, vegetable spring roll, miso soup, mango slush drink, pasta with spinach and alfredo, breadsticks, and more.

Also impressive is their automated tray system. You walk over to a moving wall of empty metal racks and slide your tray in and it disappears into the back for the cleaners. Every university in the country should replicate this food hall model.

 

2.) MSU Dairy Store @ Anthony Hall (474 South Shaw Lane) 9am-8pm

MSU Dairy Store (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU Dairy Store (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU Dairy Store grilled cheese (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Park out front at the meters. 8 minutes per quarter or use your credit card.

This is an ice cream parlor open to the general public and run by the MSU Department of Food Science. All the ice cream is made right here at MSU. You can even buy half-gallon tubs!

I recommend trying a double scoop of the Sesquicentennial Swirl and Dantonio’s Double Fudge.

Also try the Grilled cheese on sourdough with a cup of soup.

 

3.) Curious Book Shop (307 East Grand River Ave)

Curious Book Shop (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Curious Book Shop (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Park directly behind the store. $2.25 for 90 minutes maximum.

Opened in 1969, this is a used & rare bookstore with a large sci-fi section.

The store is owned by Randy’s friend Ray Walsh. Ray has done a tremendous number of good things for the book community over the past several decades.

Ray puts on the annual Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show.  You can usually find Ray himself a half mile down the road, running his other bookstore, Archives Book Shop (519 W. Grand River).

 

Some Other Cool stuff in Lansing:

Potter Park Zoo (1301 South Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing)

Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern (1200 North Larch Street, Lansing)

Lansing Brewing Company (518 East Shiawassee St, Lansing)

Meat BBQ (1224 Turner Rd, Lansing)

Randy Scott (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU Special Collections gift of Jim Haynes (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU Comic Collection cataloguing (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

MSU Library basement (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Comics Librarianship Handbook by Randy Scott

Comics Librarianship Handbook by Randy Scott

Randy Scott at work in the MSU Library basement (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Exclusive Interview: Dr. Carleton Gholz & Gabe Chess discuss the Red Bull Arts Detroit Library! (Grand Opening on May 7, 2019)

Exclusive Interview: Dr. Carleton Gholz & Gabe Chess discuss the Red Bull Arts Detroit Library! (Grand Opening on May 7, 2019)

Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

We’re sitting here on the 5th floor of WSU’s TechTown, a 5-story business incubator and co-working space in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

Right now, it’s a busy hive of activity and we’re sequestered in a quiet corner to discuss the exciting grand opening of Red Bull Arts Detroit Library.

I’m sitting here with the two brilliant, forward-thinking minds of Dr. Carleton Gholz and Gabe Chess.

Carleton is the main consultant on design and strategy for the Library. He is also an historian, journalist and founder of Detroit Sound Conservancy.

Gabe is a native North Carolinian, culture hacker with a taste for electronica & soccer, former Chicagoan and one of the main functionaries at Red Bull Arts Detroit.

Until more donations start rolling in, the Library is currently mostly comprised of a hybrid of Carleton’s personal Detroit book collection and from Detroit Sound Conservancy music library, many of which were gifted from the Frederick Gale Ruffner, Jr. Collection warehouse liquidation. Carleton is loaning his 1,500-book collection to the RBA Library for one year.

What is Red Bull Arts Detroit?

Red Bull Arts Detroit (photo courtesy of Red Bull)

New York City and Detroit are the only two Red Bull Arts exhibition spaces in North America. There’s also one in Sao Paolo, Brazil called The Station. Red Bull’s global HQ is in Austria and their North American HQ is in Santa Monica, California.

Opened in 2011, Red Bull Arts Detroit (1551 Winder Street) is a 14,000-square foot 2-story warehouse located in the Eastern Market district.

Red Bull, yes the energy drink company, pays 9 artists from all over the world a $12,000 stipend to live and work at the warehouse for 3 month intervals (ie: January-April, April-July, August-November).

The stipend allows the artists to focus on making art full-time while in Detroit. Being an artist is not easy and the money and dedicated time for free-flowing creativity are a blessing to struggling artists.

The basement of the warehouse is the old Eckhardt & Becker Brewery and is basically a cool subterranean brick-walled cavern. The brewery was here 1891-1969.

They are creating the reference Library as a platform for public engagement, which will be open to both resident artists and the general public.

 

A Lively Conversation with Carleton & Gabe

Gabe Chess & Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Carleton

“So, to kick things off for the Library, I’ll be doing a Reading Room talk on a book that is personally meaningful to me. It’s the 50-year, 10,000-square foot view of how I understand arts funding and how its drastically changed.”

“The book I will be talking about is the 1968 Detroit architecture classic, ‘The Buildings of Detroit’ by Hawkins Ferry, which was published by Wayne State University Press. There was a 2002 updated edition with a foreword by John Gallagher but I’ll be using the original.”

The book was my Grandfather’s copy and it even has the original Hudson’s receipt in it. He was a doctor, did his residency in Detroit in the 1940’s, lived on West Philadelphia Street and on Selden Street. My Dad was born in Detroit and worked as an architect.”

“The book I have is basically a family scrapbook, layered with article clippings, papers, notes, ephemera, etc., it’s my own little vertical file of supplemental material. It essentially comprises a parallel book of its own within the Hawkins Ferry Book.”

“The big question for me is, as a historian, how does one fully update this survey for a new age?

William Hawkins Ferry came from big money, the Ferry-Morse Seed Company, which was started by his grandfather, Dexter Ferry. Hawkins was born 1913 and died 1988. He was an architectural historian and DIA trustee who attended Yale and Harvard. He was a pre-WWII elite historic preservationist whose worldview did not include insights into the working class and the adaptive re-use of repurposed buildings in working class neighborhoods. He was a modernist who lived in a $2 million-dollar house on Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe, a wealthy suburb of Detroit.”

In a world of scarce resources, funding for the arts is tough to come by. How would you know if Ferry’s book as a resource is definitive? I’m also very concerned about archives being accessible for non-Ivy League working class humans. To do this, archives would most likely need state funding of some sort.”

 

Reading Room: Dr. Carleton Gholz on “The Buildings of Detroit: A History by W. Hawkins Ferry”

https://www.facebook.com/events/435178813921974/

Dr. Carleton Gholz’s family copy of The Buildings of Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Gabe

“I grew up in a home with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a huge reference library. My dad’s a poet and a professor and as such, my entire inheritance will be books. What I’ve found with books is that, if they’re there, you will use them.”

“We have all these artists and writers who need access to an archive of resources while in Detroit, so we’re trying to facilitate engagement in a meaningful way. Our collection will serve that purpose. We can help expose the public to our library, open it up to new perspectives and we hope to invite lots of people to engage in new and different types of thinking.”

The idea for the Red Bull Library came out of visiting artists who were missing their books and were therefore constantly going to the Detroit Public Library and we thought it was a great idea to have a library on-site for them. The library feels relevant, it’s a platform which willow allow us to help give voice to our community partners. What was once a blank space has been upgraded to provide better tools for artists. The library is a community tool.”

 

Carleton

“It raises an interesting question of what is the relationship of an artist to an archive? A background foundational knowledge of art and a variety of other things should be easily accessible and findable, which is why archives exist.”

“Personally, I’d like to see better arts funding being provided to help the community, like what Red Bull is doing with this Library, I think it’s tremendous. I find it interesting that a private company like Red Bull, feels its budget is better spent creating archives in an arts building, rather than doing something else with it.”

Gabe Chess & Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Gabe

“Well, Carleton, oddly what’s happened with Red Bull, points to what states should be doing, which is helping to provide funding for community progress. People typically only look at attendance numbers as a measure of success. High attendance figures are not always necessarily a good measure of delivery on a promise. If you build it, they will come.”

“Our Library is not exhaustive. It’s intended to be a series of meaningful books. There’s sometimes a myth of neutrality of institutions. Museums are often started by a handful of wealthy donors. This is a far more community-based effort and we’re very excited.”

 

Carleton

Agreed.”

 

Library Grand Opening event:

 

Reading Room: Dr. Carleton Gholz on “The Buildings of Detroit: A History by W. Hawkins Ferry”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Red Bull Arts Detroit Library

1551 Winder Street

Detroit, Michigan

Free entry, free street parking

 

Facebook Event Page

https://www.facebook.com/events/435178813921974/

Red Bull logo (courtesy of Red Bull)

 

Red Bull Arts Detroit Homepage

http://redbullarts.com/detroit/

 

RBA Detroit Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/redbullartsdetroit/

 

Dr. Carleton Gholz Homepage

http://csgholz.org/

 

Detroit Sound Conservancy

http://detroitsoundconservancy.org/

 

Buy the Hawkins Ferry book from WSU Press

https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/buildings-detroit

 

Photos of the Hawkins Ferry House

https://www.wallpaper.com/art/william-kessler-michigan-modernist-house-hosts-group-art-show

Gabe Chess (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Gabe Chess & Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Dr. Carleton Gholz (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

Exclusive Interview: University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection, worth an estimated $100 million dollars, is the largest collection of papyrus in North America and run by Archivist BRENDAN HAUG!

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection is a fascinating hidden gem.

Housed on the 8th floor of the South Stacks of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, the Papyrology Collection contains 18,000 pieces of papyrus.

Estimated to be worth $100 million dollars, it’s the largest collection of papyri in North America and the 5th largest in the world.

I’m standing in 807 Hatcher with the head archivist, Brendan Haug. Also present is manager, Monica Tsuneishi. Brendan has been archivist since 2013, taking the helm from a position started by Traianos Gagos, who was the first archivist in 1991.

This 8th floor hidden perch offers a spectacular vantage of campus as well. There’s a clear view of the Burton Bell Tower and Hill Auditorium to the north and a stunning panorama to the south, which includes the Big House and the Law Building.

The view from 807 Hatcher (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brendan and I are sitting in a reference library next door to a chilled room full of 3,000+ year old treasures in the form of papyri (pap-eye-ree; the plural of papyrus), that great preserver of everyday writing from the ancient world.

U of M’s papyrus (pronounced pap-uh-russ) is written in Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian: Hieroglyphs, Hieratic (cursive hieroglyphs), Demotic (a still-later stage of Egyptian), Latin, Coptic (Egyptian language written in Greek characters with a few additional symbols), Arabic and Hebrew.

Most of the papyri here range in size of fragments from pinky-nail size to full document size.

Egyptian Book of the Dead (11th cen BC) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrology is the study of everyday writing on papyrus and other surfaces like broken pieces of pottery (ostraca), wooden tablets, and stone.

Thanks to the dry Egyptian climate, these objects were preserved for centuries, giving Michigan plenty to study. The goal of papyrologists is to produce complete transcriptions of ancient papyri, thus, bringing long dormant documents back to life.

The work of papyrology can also be incredibly frustrating, since many of those teasing half-there scraps of papyri are damaged beyond translation.

To give you an example of the manifold difficulties of papyrology, only about 5% of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection has been studied, accurately translated and published academically. The rest sit there, waiting to be explored.

Brendan explains more about the Collection

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Papyrus was used from the fourth millennium BC to around 1000 AD. It lasted 4,000 years, until being phased out by parchment and paper. Papyrology, the study of handwritten texts on papyrus and other writing surfaces, is a specialized sub-discipline within Classical Studies.”

“The University of Michigan’s Papyrology Collection was founded in 1920 by Francis Willey Kelsey. He was a Latin professor and polymath, interested in everything from music to archaeology. Because Ann Arbor was so far from the Mediterranean, Kelsey wanted to bring back antiquities for students at his Midwestern public university to study.”

“Although Kelsey died in 1927, there was still a great deal of money available during this period, particularly before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, so we were able to continue acquiring papyri until the 1940’s. Also, because more people were exposed to Greek, Latin, and the Classics in school during this period, and there was rather more popular interest in the recovery of ancient texts on papyri than there is today.  If you’re interested in Michigan’s history of antiquities collection and archaeology, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology here on campus is a great place to visit.”

U of M’s Francis W. Kelsey (photo courtesy of UofM)

“All of Michigan’s papyrus came from Egypt and our Papyrus Collection began with the purchase of 534 papyri, which was curated by Kelsey himself. After that, U of M continued to purchase texts on the Egyptian antiquities market, many from the famed Egyptian antiquities dealer Maurice Nahman.”

“Since dealers never kept accurate records of where they acquired their papyri, we rarely if ever, have good provenance for texts acquired on the antiquities market. Controlling the circumstances of recovery is therefore extremely important.”

“With this in mind, Michigan obtained permission from the Egyptian government to excavate the ancient Graeco-Roman village of Karanis for eleven seasons, from 1924-1935. Located in Middle Egypt on the northeastern margins of the Fayyum, Karanis is known for producing mass quantities of Graeco-Roman antiquities, which offer great insight into everyday life in a country village.”

The Fayyum was at that time already well-known to antiquities dealers and European academic institutions as major source of papyri.  In fact, a major find of papyri from the region’s central capital city had been dispersed to Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in 1887-88.  So, we knew that excavation in the Fayyum was likely to be very fruitful.   And it turned out to be even more productive than we could have imagined.”

“Over 11 seasons, we acquired thousands of papyri and other artifacts, which we split with the Egyptian government. Fortunately, the desert margins of the Fayyum, where Karanis is located, are hyper-arid, so perishable organic material like papyri are well-preserved in an almost laboratory-perfect environment.  If you visit the Kelsey museum, you’ll see that they have everything from wooden artifacts to foodstuffs, perfectly preserved!”

c. late 1920’s University of Michigan in Karanis, the Fayyum, Egypt (photo courtesy of U of M)

“As for the papyri, Karanis gave us many fragments of Greek literature, including pieces of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony. It also gave us thousands of documents of great significance, such as the Karanis Tax Rolls from 171-175 AD, which allow us to reconstruct the population and demographics of the village during these years.”

“We also have a great many papyri from elsewhere in the Fayyum, including about 150 papyri from the Archive of Zenon, which is largest ancient archive to survive. Zenon was a Greek functionary in Egypt during the early Ptolemaic period (3rd century BC) and the papyri provides us with considerable insight into a period during which Greeks were still consolidating their power over Egypt.”

“But we don’t just have texts on papyri. We also have a great many parchment fragments, such as a piece of a codex of Demosthenes, the from 4th century BC Athenian orator, along with a great many ostraca, pottery sherds that people used for quick notes or short texts like receipts.”

“In 1972, Cornell University also donated all of their papyri to U of M, which had better facilities for the continued care and storage of such fragile material. So really, we have just a major collection, maybe 18,000 fragments. Let’s go take a look at some of this stuff.”

The Environmental Room

Environmental Room @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“This room was specially designed in 1993 by Maria Grandinette and since it’s full of organic material, the stability of temperature and humidity is the most important thing, so we keep it at a cool 65 degrees F and about 45% humidity.”

“The majority of the papyri are stored in acid-free archival folders but we do have a few hundred “glazed” papyri, texts that have been put between two archival glass panes.”

“The great thing about this documentation is that it puts you in contact with ancient people. Although ancient people were in many ways very different from us, they are identical to us in the most important and fundamental ways.”

“For instance, we have two letters on papyrus written in Italy by a young man and sent back to his mother in Karanis.  He had joined the Roman military fleet and was very far from home so, of course, he wrote to let his mother know where he was and that he was safe and well.  What could be more relatable? Still, papyri like these can be a tease, revealing tiny, brief glimpses of the past and leaving us wanting more.  But usually we can never know more, as in the case of this mother and her son. These two short letters are all we have.”

Abstracts of Contracts papyrus (c. 40’s AD from Tebtunis, Egypt) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“But despite this shortcoming, we still have all sorts of material here: the tax rolls from Karanis, papyri from the Tebtunis notary office in the south of the Fayyum, a birth certificate for a young Roman-citizen girl from 190’s AD Alexandria, a drawer full of wooden mummy tags in Greek and Egyptian.” 

“We also have fragments of a book-binding where discarded papyrus was used to stiffen the covers, a large fragment of book 18 of the Iliad, almost anything you could imagine. It’s just so rich that you are constantly seeing something that you could spend hours investigating and only just begin to understand fully.”

“Our oldest piece is in fact a fragment from the Egyptian Book of the Dead from the 11th Century BC. It was purchased in 1925 in Egypt. The papyrus came from the tomb of a woman who is referred to as a Chantress of Amun. She was a temple singer and you can see her making an offering to a hawk-headed god named Re-Harakhte (pronounced ray ha-rock-tey) in the illustration on the papyrus.”

“Basically, the text is a collection of magic spells to ensure that the deceased person’s soul survives the underworld. There are hieroglyphs on the right and hieratic on the left. Some of the sentences are, “Thoth has come, fully equipped with magic” and “who gave jackals to those who are in the watery abyss.” It’s a neat piece and, in fact, it’s still not published since the surviving bottom portion of the fragment isn’t here but in Germany.”

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“By far, however, our most popular papyri are the 30 leaves, i.e. 60 pages, of one of the earliest known copies of The Epistles of Saint Paul. Dating anywhere from the late 2nd-early 4th century AD, they’re written in Greek on papyrus.”

“Known as P46 to New Testament scholars, the pages were part of a large collection of early Biblical manuscripts, most of which were purchased by the businessman and antiquities collector, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.”

“Another 56 leaves of this book survived and they are now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Beatty bought them in 1930, U of M bought some in 1932 and two years later, Beatty purchased the rest.”

Epistles of St. Paul papyrus @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

What is Papyrus?

Papyrus growing along the Nile River in Egypt (photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Papyrus, which is a sedge, grows in Egypt and Sicily, however papyrus plants grew predominantly in marshlands along the Nile River, which is why Ancient Egypt had a veritable monopoly on papyrus production.

Papyrus plants can reach 15 feet tall. To make papyrus sheets for writing, you strip the green husk from the stems and then carefully cut the white pithy interior of the stem into thin strips. You then soak the strips in water for a time and afterwards line the strips up side by side vertically to form one layer, then you create another layer on top with strips running horizontally.

You then use either a mallet or, these days, a hand-cranked press, to smash the layers together and expel the water. The sheets are then and dried. In antiquity, these sheets could then be used singly or glued together to form a long roll.  These rolls could be of any length you wanted.

Papyrus in the dirt (photo courtesy of Rossella Lorenzi @ Archaeology Magazine)

Papyrus was an extremely valuable export commodity, especially for the Roman Empire. Papyrus was also used as cartonnage filler for mummy cases, those form-fitting cases which held mummies inside their sarcophagi.

Water and humidity are the enemies of papyri. Modern paper comes from wood pulp from ground up pine trees and has the same enemies.

To write on papyrus, the Egyptians would most commonly use either a rush pen or a Greek reed pen known as a kalamos. The ink was a mix of lampblack (fine charcoal soot from burning oil in lamps), gum from the acacia tree (gum Arabic) and water, somewhat similar to modern India ink.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (photo courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine)

How old are you?

Okay, now subtract your age from 4,500. Odds are, you’re probably somewhere in the 4420-4485 range. The oldest known papyrus, fragile yes but inexplicably resilient and durable enough to survive, is about that old.

Cool! What does that mean? It means that most papyrus pre-dates the Julian (46 BC) and Gregorian (1582 AD) calendars. Zero became a number around 3 BC in Mesopotamia. That’s right, papyrus predates the number zero by about 3,000 years! Mind = Blown. Canite Sapiunt.

Fast-forward to 4,500 years from now. Year 6,500 AD. Space archaeologists and paper-ologists revisit the old planet Earth to do some digging and uncover a 5,500-mile-long paper artifact. Upon closer inspection it turns out to be an insanely long CVS Pharmacy receipt from the year 2020 AD!

This is what they would be doing… if it were written on papyrus. CVS receipts long enough to wrap a mummy in will not be around in 6500 AD. However, papyrus from Ancient Egypt will most likely still be around.

Egyptology

Egypt (photo courtesy of Google)

“In 1798 when Napoleon invaded Egypt, the country was still terra incognita to Europeans. He brought scientists and engineers on his expedition to learn about Ancient Egypt. Through their scientific surveys they created The Description of Egypt (23-36 volumes), which comprises the foundation of Egyptology, the study of Pharaonic Egypt.”

“Thus, Western political conquest of Egypt opened the country to international study. In 1882, the British took over and started the Egypt Exploration Fund. In 1922, Egypt was made “independent” by the Brits but they still controlled the government.”

“That same year, 1922, amateur archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb at a time when Egypt was beginning to be fed up with Western domination. King Tut’s Tomb was of a quality and quantity unseen before.”

“In response to popular pressure, the French scholars in charge of the Antiquities Service did not allow Carter to take any of Tut’s treasures out of Egypt. The discovery captured the world’s imagination. This sort of grand, romantic, Egyptomania gripped the entire world, including the Egyptians themselves. Art Deco design also started incorporating Egyptological elements.”

Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb c. 1922 (photo courtesy of Smithsonian)

“After that, it became harder to get antiquities out of Egypt and other countries. The 1920’s-30’s was the last major era for getting stuff out of the country. This question started being asked heavily: To whom does this belong?

We owe the survival of documents to climate. Alexandria is on the Mediterranean Coast, it’s wet, eroding, and a lot of ancient Alexandria is actually today underwater. Regarding the big Library of Alexandria, we don’t know the size of the collection, how they were stored, etc. We are therefore dealing with the “survival of the least fit,” as the papyrologist Roger Bagnall has said. ”

“That is, we get the overwhelming majority of our papyri from small sites that were on the very edges of Egypt’s cultivated land, right along the margins of the desert. So, the Library of Alexandria was the literary and cultural center of the country and its contents tell us a lot of information about their culture, it would be a time-machine. There are no more ancient libraries to discover, sadly.”

“There’s not as much interchange between Papyrologists and Egyptologists as there could be. The disciplinary divides that exist are linguistic. Knowing all the ancient languages, knowing 8,000 years of history, etc, it’s just not possible, so you inevitably have to divide up the discipline. Languages alone, you must have expertise in Egyptian (hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic, Coptic), Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, etc, it’s too much for any one person to master in a lifetime.”

Biography of Brendan Haug

Wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My academic interests include the environmental history of Graeco-Roman Egypt, the history of Egyptology and Egypt during the European colonial period. I work largely in Greek and Arabic although I have some training in Coptic.”

“I graduated from the University of Washington in 2004 with a B.A. in Classics and the University of California-Berkeley in 2012 with a PhD in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.”

“Berkeley has the other large papyrus collection in the United States, the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri at the Bancroft Library, which is where I did my grad work. Overall, U of M has a more diverse collection than Berkeley, whose papyri largely come from a single site.”

Fragments of a leather hand-carved book where papyrus was used as paperboard (c. 3rd cen) University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“It was by accident really that I became a papyrologist. I was majoring in Classical Studies and doing my undergrad work at Seattle, studying Greek and Latin. One of my history instructors was going to teach a grad seminar on the Hellenistic World and she invited me to join it. She assigned each student a region to research for the semester and I was given Egypt. I ended up sticking with it, pursuing an honors major, and wrote an honors thesis on certain aspects of Ptolemaic Egypt.”

“After that I got into Berkeley (barely) and began to work at their papyrus collection. The director, Prof. Todd Hickey, needed a student assistant and I was hired on and ended up working there for eight years.”

“Over time, I evolved more into an environmental historian, not a pure papyrologist. Specifically, I’m interested in the human-nature interactions in rural Egypt from the Hellenistic to the early Islamic periods.”

“The world’s largest collection of papyri has to be the 500,000 fragments from the Egypt Exploration Society. It’s housed at Oxford University in the Sackler Library.”

“The papyri came from the city of Oxyrhynchus (oxy-rink-us) in Egypt, which has produced the greatest number of surviving papyri of the Roman period.”

Brendan’s Final Thoughts

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“There’s still a small black market for papyrus but it’s far harder to create monetary values for it because antiquities smuggling is easier to track now. Hobby Lobby, for example, was recently caught importing cuneiform tablets, which they labeled ‘roofing tiles.’”

“Every once in a while, something incredible pops up on Sotheby’s or somewhere but it’s fairly rare. Nowadays, you must have a permit to dig in Egypt, nothing is expatriated and anything you find goes to the government.”

The Classical world in general is not as big a part of the mental landscape as it used to be when it was a part of every educated person’s schooling. The thrill of the hunt and musing on what treasures are potentially buried in unexcavated urban centers is still fun though.”

Book 18 of Homer’s Iliad @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The ultimate goal of papyrology is publishing texts in an effort to reconstruct the culture and society of ancient civilizations, slowly refining our assumptions and arguments as more and more evidence accumulates. The difficulty is simply that there are so, so many documents out there, most of which are very fragmentary. Therefore, it might literally take until the year 4,000 AD for us to publish every papyrus in all the world’s major collections, that’s how slow and difficult it is.”

“Much of what we do these days is online, thanks to emerging digital technology. In 1996, our archivist Traianos Gagos helped create APIS, the Advanced Papyrological Information System, a digital catalog where all images of our photographed papyri are open-access to anyone in the world, it’s a tremendous resource.”

“Beyond that, I recommend that you come up to 807 Hatcher and visit us in-person to see the collection. We’re in the South Stacks, which is a sort of book storage and study space area. I also recommend checking out the 6th floor Special Collections Reading Room while you’re here.”

Epistles of St. Paul @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection

https://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrology-collection

 

Contact

papycollections@umich.edu

 

U-M Papyrology Collection APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System)

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/a/apis

 

Top 20 Most Impressive Ancient Manuscript Collections

https://www.onlinechristiancolleges.com/20-most-impressive-ancient-manuscript-collections/

 

LHPC (directory of over 3,000 known papyrus collections worldwide; around 230 are in the USA)

https://www.trismegistos.org/coll/index.php

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Incomplete Timeline of Papyrus, Papyrology & Allied Interests

Compiled by Place from a variety of sources

Egypt (332 BCE) Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. Koine Greek becomes the official language of Egyptian power.

World (4000 BC) Clay tablets are all the rage.

Abydos, Egypt (3400 BC) The earliest known Egyptian hieroglyphs date back this far.

World (3000 BC-1000 AD) Papyrus is created in Egypt and replaces clay tablets. Papyrus lasts 4000 years until being phased out by parchment paper.

Egypt (3000 BC) Egyptians invent papyrus. Papyrus proves far more portable than heavy clay tablets, which had been the primary writing surface prior to papyrus.

Egypt (2562 BC) The Diary of Merer is the world’s oldest surviving writing on paper. Found by Pierre Tallet in 2013 AD. According to the Diaries, Merer worked for Pharaoh Khufu as head of transportation of the massive blocks of white tura limestone for Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza. Merer was also getting copper at Wadi-el-Jarf. His diary also contains the first known spreadsheet.

Egypt (2500 BC) Carrier pigeons carry messages written on scraps of papyrus.

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (2500 BC) Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets are used for record-keeping. An estimated 500,000 tablets survive today, mostly in broken chunks.

Egypt (1700 BC) Egyptian Book of the Dead spells and occult symbols and writing start popping up in tombs.

Thebes, Egypt (1633- 1552 BC) The sarcophagus of Queen Mentuhotep features some of the earliest known examples of the Book of the Dead.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Egypt (1550 BC) Copies of the Book of the Dead start being written and passed around. The Book of Coming Forth By Day.

Mount Sinai, Egypt (1200 BC) Moses atop Mount Sinai. The Torah is copied by Moses onto a papyrus scroll.

Athens, Greece (399 BC) Socrates says papyrus scrolls are for sale everywhere in the local market, the Agora of Athens, their central public Forum.

Alexandria, Egypt (300 BC-48 BC) Ptolemy I Soter founds the legendary Library of Alexandria, the most important library of the ancient world. The library contains 500,000-1 million scrolls of papyrus. The library’s main mission was to collect a copy of every book in the world. Any works not written in Greek are translated.

Alexandria, Egypt (284 BC) Zenodotus of Ephesus is the first recorded librarian of Alexandria. He developed an organizational system of arranging books by subject matter, then organized alphabetically by the author’s name. Some of his compiled glossaries were found during the excavation of Oxyrhynchus.

Alexandria, Egypt (246 BC-222 BC) Sometime during this timeframe, Ptolemy III builds the Serapeum Library of Alexandria. An offshoot branch of the main library, the Serapeum contained around 50,000 papyrus scrolls.

Alexandria, Egypt (245 BC) Greek scholar Callimachus of Cyrene creates the world’s first library catalog at the Library of Alexandria. The cataloging system of Callimachus was based on alphabetical subject classification and his system was so effective that it was copied throughout the entire Roman Empire. His famous 120-volume Pinakes (Greek for “Tables”) was a master list of information on the books at the Library of Alexandria.

Rome, Italy (240 BC) Livius Andronicus pens the first known literary works written in Latin when he writes his two stage plays.

Pergamum, Turkey (197-159 BC) Eumenes II expands the Library of Pergamum, one of the top libraries of the ancient world. Eumenes also invents parchment paper as a replacement for hard-to-obtain papyrus.

Pergamon, Turkey (150 BC) Crates of Mallus, scholar of the Library of Pergamum, creates the first-ever globe representing Earth.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Greece (146 BC) Roman takeover of Greece.

India (150 BC) Bookbinding originates here in the form of Sanskrit texts bound by sewing palm leaves with twine. Traveling Buddhist monks helped spread the technique.

Rome, Italy (131 BC) the world’s first newspaper, the Acta Diurna, is first chiseled on stone and displayed in the public Forum for the public to read. It is soon copied by slave-scribes onto papyrus and distributed around Rome.

Rome, Italy (87 BC) The Tabularium, official records office of ancient Rome, was housed inside the Roman Forum and consisted of thousands of papyri scrolls.

Athens, Greece (86 BC) Roman General Sulla is Master of Athens and manages to steal the remains of Aristotle’s famous personal library of hundreds of papyri scrolls.

Edfu, Egypt (57 BC) The Temple of Edfu is completed. Inside the temple are two rooms of books comprising a private temple library, called the House of Books of Horus. The Archive of the library is chiseled on the wall and you can still view it to this day!

Alexandria, Egypt (48 BC) Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invades Alexandria, his fire ships attack Egyptian ships. The fire spreads to the shore and the famous Royal Library of Alexandria is torched along with 500,000 papyrus scrolls. The Ptolemies built the Library in 300 BC.

Rome, Italy (46 BC) Julius Caesar implements the Julian Calendar.

Rome, Italy (39 BC) Rome’s first public library is built atop Aventine Hill by Gaius Asinius Pollio inside the Atrium Libertatis. Pollio also organized literary clubs where authors read their works aloud. Virgil would read his Aenied here.

Egypt (30 BC-640 AD) Romans rule Egypt. Thus, most legal documents from that period are written in Latin.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Mesopotamia (Iraq) (3 BC) Zero becomes a number.

Rome, Italy (64 AD) The Great Fire of Rome includes the destruction of the Palatine Library inside the Temple of Apollo.

Rome, Italy (77 AD) Pliny the Elder publishes instructions on how to make papyrus paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (79 AD) Mount Vesuvius erupts. It’s path of destruction incudes the Villa of the Papyri, which was the luxury estate of Lucius Calpurnius Piso (Julius Caesar’s father-in-law) and contained a world-class library of 2,000 or so papyrus scrolls. The papyrus scrolls were carbonized in the eruption and discovered mostly intact in 1752. Some of the scrolls included those from philosophers Epicurus and Philodemus and were written in Greek. You can see them on display at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

China (105 AD) Cai Lun invents paper.

World (2nd  Century AD) Parchment begins eclipsing papyrus as the most popular paper of choice.

Rome, Italy (113 AD) Trajan opens the Ulpian Library around his famous column.

World (3rd century AD) The Codex becomes popular. A codex is pages of papyrus or parchment compiled into a book.

Tabennisi, Egypt (320 AD) Saint Pachomius establishes the first monastic lending library in Egypt, consisting of hundreds of scrolls of papyri.

Istanbul, Turkey (350 AD) Sometime hereabouts, the Imperial Library of Constantinople is built by Constantius II. He created a Scriptorium to preserve the ancient Greek classics, where an army of scribes transferred them from papyrus to parchment. The Library at one point contained 100,000 volumes. It was destroyed in 1204 AD during the Fourth Crusade. It was the last of the great libraries of antiquity.

Drawer full of wooden mummy tags @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rome, Italy (388 AD) Saint Augustine confesses his love of papyrus over parchment.

Europe (4th -15th Centuries AD) Medieval European scribes write on parchment paper, not papyrus.

World (6th century AD) Papyrus rolls gradually vanish and codices become the main medium.

Squillace, Italy (538 AD) Cassiodorus, after succeeding Boethius, establishes the Vivarium Monastery library and scriptorium. Shortly afterwards, he moves to the walled city of Constantinople. Cassiodorus remains a lifelong believer in the supremacy of papyrus.

Seville, Spain (600 AD) the quill pen comes into vogue and its popularity spreads.

Egypt (639 AD) Egypt is conquered by the Arabs.

Talas River Valley, Kyrgyzstan (751 AD) Arabs capture Chinese paper-makers. They’re brought to Samarkand, Uzbekistan and begin teaching others.

Baghdad, Iraq (794 AD) Arab paper mills are built using the Chinese method of paper-making. In less than 300 years, Chinese paper totally eclipses papyrus throughout Arabia.

Vatican, Rome (1083 AD) the last papal bull written on papyrus. They are henceforth written on parchment.

Spain (1100’s AD) The secret art of paper-making finally reaches Europe.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico (1200 AD) The Dresden Codex and its fabulous Venus Tables is published. Consisting of 39 sheets (front and back), it is the oldest Mayan manuscript and was written on Mesoamerican bark paper (Amate). You can view it on display at the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany.

Runnymede, Surrey, England (1250 AD) The Magna Carta is written on sheepskin parchment.

Strasbourg, France (1440) Gutenberg invents the moveable type printing press, which quickly revolutionizes the world. His famous Gutenberg Bible is published in 1455 on vellum.

Italy (1490) Leonardo Da Vinci supposedly hunts for “rare” papyrus.

Europe (1582) The Gregorian Calendar is implemented.

England (1623) Shakespeare’s First Folio is published on rag paper.

Herculaneum, Italy (1752) Papyri is discovered in this south Italian city. They had been buried by the eruption of Vesuvius 79 BC.

Vatican, Rome, Italy (1755) Padre Antonio Piaggio, noted Vatican calligrapher, begins deciphering the charred papyri from Herculaneum.

World (1788) Papyrology as a discipline begins when Danish classicist Niels Iversen publishes a papyrus written in Greek, the Charta Borgiana (aka: the Schow Papyrus) from 193 BC detailing daily work in Faiyum, Egypt. The papyrus was a roll with 12 and ½ surviving columns. It was bought in 1778 near Memphis. The Papyrus is donated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. You can view it on display at the Museuo Nazionale Archeologico in Naples, Italy.

Egypt (1798) Napoleon invades Egypt. Egyptology starts in the 1800’s after Napoleon’s information about the fascinations of Egypt spreads around the world.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Rosetta, Egypt (1799) The Rosetta Stone (created 196 BC) is discovered at Fort Julien in Rosetta, Egypt. In 1801, the British seize the stone and it’s now on display at the British Museum.

Luxor (1820) The Turin King List papyrus is purchased by Bernardino Drovetti. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.

Thebes, Egypt (1822) Drovetti buys the Turin Papyrus Map of Egypt from 1160 BC, it’s the oldest surviving map of the ancient world. You can see it on display at the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. Drovetti later dies in an insane asylum in Turin in 1852.

Egypt (1824) The Westcar Papyrus is purchased. Dating from somewhere in the 1800-1650 BC range, it contains five stories about magic at the Royal Court of Cheops and is often called ‘King Cheops & the Magicians’.

Berlin, Germany (1828) Germany establishes the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.

Halifax, Canada (1838) Newsprint (paper from wood pulp) is invented by Charles Fenerty.

London, England (1842) the Illustrated London News becomes the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine.

Germany (1842) German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius publishes a collection of ancient mortuary texts, which he calls Totenbuch (“The Book of the Dead”).

Karnak, Egypt (1843) Prisse d’Avennes rescues the Karnak Kings List, a list of 60 kings carved on tablets from 4,000 BC and a papyrus scroll from 1800 BC later named the Prisse Papyrus. Widely considered the oldest literary work on paper, it is 18 pages of The Maxims of Pthahhotep by the Grand Vizier Ptahhotep. You can see it on display at the Louve in Paris.

Cairo, Egypt (1851) French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette becomes famous for finding the Serapeum of Memphis. He then founded the Egyptian Department of Antiquities.

Homer’s Iliad (2nd cen AD) @ University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nineveh, Iraq (1851) Sir Austen Layard discovers the ancient Royal Library of Ashurbanipal. This was the kings two-room private library inside the Palace of Ashurbanipal, which was built sometime 668-627 BC. It once contained some 30,000 cuneiform clay tablets, including the Epic of Gilgamesh. The library was noted for being the world’s first systematically organized reference collection. You can view several of these tablets at the British Museum.

Turin, Italy (1852) Drovetti dies in an insane asylum.

Cairo, Egypt (1858) Egypt’s Department of Antiquities is established by Frenchman Auguste Mariette. This department still exists today under the name Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Luxor, Egypt (1858) Alexander Henry Rhind purchases a 16-foot-long roll of papyrus, which comes to be known as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Written in Hieratic in 1550 BC, it’s the world’s best-known example of Ancient Egyptian mathematics.

Luxor, Egypt (1862) The Edwin Smith Papyrus is purchased. The contents prove that Egyptians invented medical surgery. You can view it on display at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Boston, Massachusetts (1863) Wood is pulped and turned into paper, creating the Boston Weekly Journal.

Kiman Faris, Faiyum, Egypt (1877) Peasants digging in ancient mounds find thousands of papyri. Called the ‘First Faiyum Find’, most are purchased in Cairo by Austrian dealer-collector, Theodor Graf. He sells them to Archduke Rainer in 1884. Rainer ends up donating the collection to the Austrian National Library.

Alexandria, Egypt (1880) Herbert Greenfield purchases the Greenfield Papyrus, an 121 foot long copy of the Book of the Dead and one of the best surviving examples of a funerary papyrus. Dating from 970 BC it was a funerary papyrus for Princess Neisitanebtashru. His wife Edith donated it to the British Museum, where you can see it on display.

Egypt (1881) Russian Egyptologist Golenischcheff purchases the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. It’s a papyrus dating from 2000-1710 BC and is possibly the oldest fantasy text ever written. You can see it on display at the Imperial Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Egypt (1882) British military occupation of Egypt. The Egypt Exploration Fund is created to fund excavations in the Nile Delta area.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Luxor, Egypt (1888) Wallis Budge swipes the Papyrus of Ani. Dating from 1250 BC, the 78-foot-long papyrus is from Theban royal scribe Ani, who was also governor of a large granary at Abydos and inventory tracker of temple property at Thebes. It is the world’s most complete surviving version of the Book of the Dead. You can view it on display at the British Museum in London.

Gurob, Faiyum, Egypt (1889-90) Whilst digging in the ancient Ptolemaic cemetery, Sir Flinders Petrie finds papyri written in Greek inside Ptolemaic tombs from 250 BC. The papyri includes Plato’s Phaedo and Homer’s Iliad. He finds mummies covered in cartonnage of demotic and Greek papyri.

World (1891) The “miracle year” for papyrologists in terms of papyri being translated and published. Poems of Herodas and Aristotle’s ‘Constitution of the Athenians’ are published from papyrus at the British Museum.

Thebes, Egypt (1892) Russian Egyptologist Golenischev purchases the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus from 1850 BC, Egypt’s oldest math text. You can view it on display at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia.

Abu Gorab, Egypt (1893) The Abusir Papyrus is purchased. Dating from 2500 BC, it is the largest and most important papyrus on Ancient Egyptian administration from the Old Kingdom.

Egypt (1890’s) Egyptomaniac Wallis ‘Budgie’ Budge acquires 47,000 artifacts from Egypt for the British Museum. “In doing so, he committed almost every crime of cultural thievery in the book,” says John Gaudet, “Budge left a record. He and possibly Napoleon had taken the largest number of items ever removed from Egypt.”

Oxyrhynchus, Egypt (1896) Two Brits, Grenfell (Egyptologist) and Hunt (papyrologist) find papyri, then Jan 13, 1897 they hit the mother lode while digging in rubbish mounds. They find a codex leaf, the Logia Iesu, containing the “sayings of Jesus” from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. The Egypt Exploration Fund sells it to the Bodelein Library. “The flow of papyri soon became a torrent,” said Grenfell. They dig until 1907. These excavations are the source of the world’s largest collection of papyri, including fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, Euclid’s Elements, plays of Menander, writings of Pindar, Sappho, Sophocles, the Apocalypse of Baruch, etc.

Egypt (1896) Wallis Budge acquires a 15ft long papyrus containing 20 poetic Odes of Bacchylides.

University Chicago (1898) Papyrology in the USA begins with Greek papyri from Egypt via Edgar J. Goodspeed who sells them to Chicago Egyptologist James H. Breasted. You can view them on display at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library.

Tebtunis, Faiyum, Egypt (1899-1900) The Tebtunis Papyri are found by Grenfell and Hunt in an expedition financed by Phoebe Apperson Hearst at the University of California-Berkeley. They find papyri from mummies and also crocodile mummies, including Sobek the ancient Egyptian crocodile god, also known as Soknebtunis (Lord of Tebtunis). You can view these at UCal-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

World (1900) Papyrology finally becomes an accepted and respected discipline.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Susa, Iran (1901) The Code of Hammurabi is found. Dating from 1754 BC, it’s an ancient Babylonian code of law carved into a stone slab. You can view it on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Germany (1902-14) Germany creates the Deutsches Papyruskartell to purchase papyri from dealers in Egypt and sell to German institutions.

England (1908) Grenfell and Hunt produce the first volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri where they gave every papyrus a name and number.

Armann, Egypt (1912) The famous Nefertiti Bust is found by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt inside the ancient workshop of sculptor Thutmose who created it in 1345 BC. It is now housed at the Neues Museum in Berlin. Borchardt also found the Timotheos Papyrus in a wooden sarcophagus at Abusir.

Faiyum, Egypt (1914) Archives of Zenon discovered. Some 2,000 papyri from 258 BC, detailing life in early Ptolemaic Egypt.

Egypt (1920) Oxford papyrologist Bernard Grenfell and University of Michigan scholar Francis Kelsey visit several archeological sites across Egypt.

Egypt (1922) Howard Carter discovers King Tuts Tomb.

Karanis, Egypt (1924-35) Francis Kelsey, University of Michigan Latin professor and philologist, starts excavating Karanis, Egypt. Kelsey dies in 1927 and the digging continues. Finds are sent back to U of M to Elinor Husselman, the curator of manuscripts and papyri.

Michigan (1927) The University of Michigan Department of Manuscripts and Papyrology is founded.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Brussels (1930) Papyrologists first assemble internationally for the first time.

Tebtunis, Egypt (1931 and 1934) Enormous amounts of papyri found during Italian excavations.

Saqqara, Egypt (1935) Walter Emert finds two blank yet fully intact rolls of papyrus in the Tomb of Hemaka. At 5,000 years old, they are verified as the most ancient paper ever found.

California (1938) the UC-Berkeley papyri collection starts.

Nag Hammadi, Egypt (1945) The Nag Hammadi codices on papyrus are found, 13 total, bound in leather.

Khirbet Qumran, Israel (1946-56) The Dead Sea Scrolls are found in 11 caves. 930 documents total: 800 written on parchment 130 written on papyrus. 590 documents alone are found in Cave Four. The stash was thought to be from the Essenes.

University of Michigan Papyrology Collection with Brendan Haug (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Nahal Hever, Judean Desert (1960-61) Archaeologist Yigael Yadin finds cave of letters in Judean desert from the survivors of the Bar Kockhba revolt, who hid here in 132 BC. The papyri are written in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic.

Derveni, Macedonia, Greece (1962) the only papyrus found in Greece is the Derveni Papyrus, which consists of 266 fragments of an ancient Macedonian papyrus from 340 BC and widely considered to be Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript.

Vatican, Rome (2006) The Bodmer Papyrus Codex (renamed the Hanna Papyrus) containing the Gospels of Luke and John (c. 175 AD) is donated to the Vatican by Frank Hanna. The papyrus was originally found in Dishna, Egypt and sold to Martin Bodmer Foundation, library of the famous collector, who had 150,000 works in Geneva, Switzerland in his private collection.

London (2011) Two heretofore unknown poems of the female Greek lyric poet Sappho are discovered on papyrus written in ancient Greek. Her poetry was once collected into 9 volumes at the Library of Alexandria but was lost to history.

Egypt (2013) Digging since 2011, Pierre Tallet finds 30 caves hidden in a limestone hill. It was a boat storage area 4,600 years ago. In 2013, he finds papyrus written in hieroglyphics and hieratic (ancient Egyptian cursive script). Turns out to be the world’s oldest known papyrus. Written by two Egyptians who helped build the Great Pyramid (Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb) at Giza. He found 30 papyri at the Red Sea port of Wadi-al-Jarf. The Diary of Merer (4500yrs old) are logbook-diaries, telling of his transporting limestone to Giza. They are now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Egypt (2019) The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities operates 72 antiquities warehouses in Egypt. Egypt recently announces they are imposing life imprisonment and millions in fines for antiquities smuggling.