Francis W. Kelsey

From the Archives #58

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

The August 2020 “From the Archives” blog entry recounted the final days of Francis W. Kelsey and team’s year-long trip as they traversed Europe, southwest Asia, and northern Africa. One hundred years ago, in August of 1920, Kelsey, his wife Mary, their son Easton, the photographer George Swain, and several others were in England, France, Belgium, and Germany before they departed on their return voyage to the US. Through George Swain’s eyes (and cameras), we saw what Europe looked like only a century ago. We saw a Europe still recovering from a devastating war, returning to their new normal. And much of the world was also recovering from the pandemic of 1918. 

On this year-long adventure, Kelsey and his team saw many countries, documented numerous sites, connected with friends and colleagues, and started making plans to initiate archaeological excavations. The voyage home must have been a relief for the team, after spending so long on the road. They saw much, but such a trip can be exhausting. And a century later, it is interesting for us to see their trip and the fruits of their labors. They had no idea how the next decade or so would turn out, but we see the seeds being planted during this venture. Though some of the groundwork for those excavations were laid prior to the 1919/1920 trip, it was around this time that Kelsey founded the Institute of Archaeological Research (IAR) for the purpose of running archaeological excavations. In 1924, they returned to commence archaeological work at Carthage, Antioch, and Karanis.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we look back 101 years and share where it all began. In September 1919, Francis Kelsey and his team boarded a train in Detroit that was bound for New York City. In New York, they boarded the Columbia, a steamer that would sail across the Atlantic to England (seeing Ireland and Scotland along the way). From there, they would begin their journey across Europe. 

Swain seems to have always had his camera at the ready. He captured views of the train station in Detroit, the docks in New York City, life aboard the Columbia, and nine days later, Ireland and Scotland. While on the isle of Britain, the team visited Glasgow, Edinburgh, Berwick, York, and London. We see some of the usual stops along the way, including the river Thames, the Tower of London, the British Museum, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. We also see the people along the street: a fruit vendor, a newspaper boy, a man wearing a sandwich board advertising a play, and an artist on his knees creating art. We see the cars, buses, and attire that were in style at the time. Kelsey and Swain posing before the sites, calling out tourists but acting the tourists themselves.

As noted, this trip afforded the team the opportunity to see so much, take stock of the situation, and plot future work. The photos shared this month show the beginning of the trip; last month we saw its conclusion. In between the two points in time, Kelsey added many miles to his personal odometer, and Swain’s work resulted in a large portion of the Kelsey Museum’s current archives. These are a great resource for scholarly endeavors, but also for the curious who are interested in life one hundred years ago. Thus far, we have presented only a portion of what they saw. In the coming months, we may see a bit more. For this month, we revel in the onset of the journey, wishing the team a healthy trip, already knowing well how successful it will be.

September 4: Detroit train station

“Electric locomotive in the Michigan Central yards, Detroit, by the station.” 4 September 1919. KS001.01.

September 5–15: New York, embarkation and voyage

“Approach to the Cunard docks, New York, from the street.” 5 September 1919. KS001.02.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia, looking toward the bow as she lay at the dock in New York.” 6 September 1919. KS001.05.
“Charlotte Kelsey and others on the dock, taken from the deck of the Columbia.” 6 September 1919. KS002.01.
“Hoboken, seen from the steamer Columbia.” 6 September 1919.
“Statue of Liberty, from the steamer.” 6 September 1919. KS002.05.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia. A pleasant day on deck. Everybody happy.” 8 September 1919. KS003.04.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia. Looking toward the bow.” 8 September 1919. KS002.12.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia. Looking from the stern toward the superstructure.” 8 September 1919. KS003.05.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia. A sunset at sea.” 12 September 1919. KS004.05.
“Atlantic liners. Columbia. Capt. Blaikie at the bridge.” 15 September 1919. KS004.09.
“A bit of the Irish coast near Moville.” 15 September 1919. KS006.06.

September 16: Glasgow, Scotland

“Another view of the University.” 16 September 1919. KS007.04.
“A look up the tower of the University.” 16 September 1919. KS007.08.
“A bit of the University cloisters.” 16 September 1919. KS007.06.
“Looking out in front of the Museum.” 16 September 1919. KS007.03.

September 17: Edinburgh, Scotland

“The approach to the Castle.” 17 September 1919. KS007.10.
“A group of tourists in the Castle. Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey near the center.” 17 September 1919. KS008.02.
“Cemetery for soldiers’ dogs, at the Castle.” 17 September 1919. KS008.06.
“On the street, omnibus run by gas from a balloon-tank on top.” 17 September 1919. KS008.07.
“A double-deck electric tram.” 17 September 1919. KS008.08.
“View of river and bridge from the train.” 17 September 1919. KS008.11.

September 18: York, England

“The cathedral towers. Hazy.” 18 September 1919. KS009.04.
“Part of the ruins of the abbey.” 18 September 1919. KS009.10.
“Latin inscription on a roman sarcophagus in the museum. Very plain.” 18 September 1919. KS009.08.
“G.R. Swain on top the city wall.” 18 September 1919. KS010.03.
“A bit of the old city wall, cathedral towers in the distance. Professor (Francis W.) and Mrs. Kelsey on the wall, but not very clear.” 18 September 1919. KS010.02.

September 20–28: London, England

“The main entrance gates to the British Museum, facade in the background.” 20 September 1919. KS010.06.
“Just a street view, vista.” 20 September 1919. KS010.07.
“The Monument-single column.” 20 September 1919. KS010.07.
“Looking along the Thames from London bridge to the Tower bridge.” 20 September 1919. KS010.09.
“The approach to the Tower bridge.” 20 September 1919. KS010.10.
“Up the Thames from the base of the Tower bridge.” 20 September 1919. KS010.11.
“Rear of Westminster Abbey.” 24 September 1919. KS011.02.
“The Houses of Parliament, not from the river.” 24 September 1919. KS011.03.
“Houses of Parliament, river side.” 24 September 1919. KS011.04.
“A fruit vendor’s cart — apples and bananas. Street view.” 24 September 1919. KS011.06.
“A London ‘news boy’ with his bulletin board. What the test vote was about not known. League of Nations?” 24 September 1919. KS011.07.
“A London ‘sandwich’ man with a theatre advertisement.” 24 September 1919. KS011.08.
“In front of a book stall. Little out of focus.” 24 September 1919. KS011.09.
“A sidewalk artist at work.” 24 September 1919. KS011.11.
“Westminster Bridge, St. Stephen’s Clock Tower and part of the Houses of Parliament.” 28 September 1919. KS011.12.
“Government buildings near Westminster.” 28 September 1919. KS012.01.
“One of the Horse guards at Whitehall.” 28 September 1919. KS012.02.
“Milk cabs (‘churns’ they called them) stacked in Hyde Park, time of the railway strike.” 28 September 1919. KS012.07.

From the Archives #57

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

In 1919 and 1920, just after the end of the Great War, Francis Kelsey took a long journey, from England to continental Europe, to Turkey and Syria, through to Egypt. He brought with him a group of people to assist in these travels, including photographer George R. Swain and his own son, Easton Kelsey. This was their first opportunity in a long time to visit this side of the world. They had quite a lot of work to accomplish on this trip, for its purpose was twofold. They were there on humanitarian grounds, visiting Red Cross refugee camps in Turkey and Syria following the Armenian genocide. They were also there to visit colleagues, collections, and historical and archaeological sites. In Egypt, they began planning future archaeological expeditions.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a selection of twenty-five photographs showcasing the group’s travels exactly 100 years ago. In August of 1920, they found themselves in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. The photographs from this leg of the trip, taken by George Swain and Easton Kelsey, show the range of their adventures and activities. We see Windsor Castle in England, with tourists milling about outside. The team connects with Herr and Frau Reindjes and her sister, as they rent a car in Germany. We also see them dealing with their vehicles, extracting them from ditches and changing their tires.

We also get a chance to see post-war life in the respective countries. A man with plow and oxen in Tongeren, Belgium. Another man in Koblenz, Germany, with his dog-pulled cart. An amorous couple (“Local color,” according to the photo label), also in Koblenz, Germany. In Dijon, France, we see a view of one of the castles of the Dukes of Burgundy, and in Paris, we get a glimpse of the Place de l’Opera. Swain and Kelsey provide us with views of other structures, both natural and human-made. In some captions, they include the words “Good,” or “Excellent,” attesting to the quality of the photograph.

Along with these images of resilience, we find ourselves looking at the devastation brought about by the Great War. In La Fere, France, we see “piles of war wreckage” where buildings, including homes, once stood. In Alsace, we see barbed wire entanglements scattered through a field and a shell-hole with wrecked woods in the background. Throughout the war, Kelsey was in frequent communication with his friends and colleagues in Europe and Southwest Asia. The plight of people and areas affected by the war was on his mind, as it was for many Americans.

By the end of August 1920, Swain’s and Kelsey’s photographic documentation of this trip seems to have come to an end. Thanks to their work, we get to see how Europe was one hundred years ago. People were getting back to their lives after years of war, trying to find their new normal. After almost an entire year traveling through Europe, Southwest Asia, and Egypt, it was time for these Americans to return to their normal as well.

 

black and white photo of Windsor Castle
August 1, 1920, London, England. “Windsor. Approach to the castle, and castle. Tourists.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK322.

August 1, 1920, London, England. “Windsor. Tower on the site of one built by William the Conqueror.” Easton Kelsey, photo KK323.

black and white photo of a man and dog on bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Four-wheeled cart drawn by a big dog, on the pontoon bridge.” George R. Swain, photo KS225.10.

black and white photo of a stone bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Stone bridge across the Moselle, at Cobler looking up stream; raft of logs in the foreground.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK324.

black and white photo of a river
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Confluence of the Rhine and Moselle, looking up the Moselle. Shows considerable of the country.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK327.

black and white photo of crowded bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Throng of traffic on the pontoon bridge.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK341..

black and white photo of a man and woman embracing
August 11, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Local color at the Kranenberg, above Andernach.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK339.

black and white photo of a 1920s car
August 15, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Our army Cadillac has to change tires.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK369.

black and white photo of army troops in formation.
August 16, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “U.S. soldiers marching along the street. Good.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK355.

black and white photo of a 1920s car with passengers
August 17, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “The German car we rented at the gas station at Coblenz. In front, Frau Reindjes and her sister; on the back seat, GR Swain and Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey; Herr Reindjes standing by car.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK365.

black and white photo of 1920s car and passengers
August 20, 1920, near Tongeren, Belgium. “Views. A stop to fix a blow-out on a tire, near Tongres. Shows Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey, Capt. Minuth and Frau Reindjes.” George R. Swain, photo KS227.05.

black and white photo of a statue
August 20, 1920, Tongeren, Belgium. “Statue of Ambiorix.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK359.

black and white photo of a man with oxen
August 20, 1920, Tongeren, Belgium. “Man with oxen and plow, road beyond.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK361.

black and white photo of man and woman on a bench
August 21, 1920, Spa, Belgium. “Herr and Frau Reindjes on the grounds at Spa. Little out of focus.” George R. Swain, photo KS227.11.

black and white photo of a river
August 22, 1920, Namur, Belgium. “Looking down the Meuse from the top of the Citadel.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK377.

black and white photo of a woman seated on stone steps
August 22, 1920, Belgium. “Picture of Frau Reindjes, somewhere in Belgium.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK378.

photo of a ruined house
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “War-wrecked house.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK379.

black and white photo of ruins in French village after WWI
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “Another pile of war wreckage.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK380.

black and white photo of people in front of bombed buildings
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “Jumble of war wreckage — once houses.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK381.

August 26, 1920, Alesia, France. “The car in the ditch, coming down the hill. Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey at the right.” George R. Swain, photo KS229.07.

black and white photo of a triumphal arch
August 27, 1920, Dijon, France. “Small triumphal arch at Dijon near the hotel.” George R. Swain, photo KS229.10.

black and white photo of a building
August 27, 1920, Dijon, France. “More detailed view of one end of the castle of the Dukes of Burgundy.” George R. Swain, photo KS230.02.

black and white photo of a field with barbed wire
August 28, 1920, near Colmar, France. “Near Colmar. Barbed wire entanglements scattered through a field.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK394.

black and white photo of a parched field
August 28, 1920, near Colmar, France. “Near Colmar. A shell hole in the foreground with water, wrecked woods beyond.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK395.

black and white photo of a building in Paris
August 30, 1920, Paris, France. “Place de l’Opera looking toward the Opera house. Excellent.” George R. Swain, photo KS230.12.

Ugly Object of the Month — June 2020

By Caroline Roberts, Conservator

Greetings, Kelsey blog fans! You are in for a treat. This month’s Ugly Object is another rarely-before-seen feature from our vaults. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you (drumroll please …) a box full of rocks!

KM 107, a box of marble samples from Carthage, Tunisia, purchased by Francis W. Kelsey in 1893.
KM 107, a box of marble samples from Carthage, Tunisia, purchased by Francis W. Kelsey in 1893.

I can guess what you’re thinking, but bear with me. Let’s virtually “unpack” this box.

The box unpacked: 22 samples of architectural marble of varying type and origin.
The box unpacked: 22 samples of architectural marble of varying type and origin.

What we’ve got here is a collection of high-quality marble samples. I can see some white and gray marbles and what could be a yellow giallo antico marble, among others. The samples are weathered so it’s hard to classify their exact marble type. But it’s safe to say they are the sort of decorative stones you’d find on the interior and exterior surfaces of buildings in ancient Rome.

These particular samples come from Carthage, Tunisia, and were purchased in 1893 by none other than Francis Kelsey himself from the Jesuit priest and archaeologist Père Delattre. Kelsey acquired construction materials like these to support his teaching, and they remain important access points to understanding ancient materials and technology. They also provide evidence of trade and connectivity in the Roman world. Marbles with specific colors and inclusions were highly sought after, and many of the rocks in this box probably traveled from another place in the empire before being cut and mortared onto a building at Carthage. For the geology enthusiasts in our audience, a number of Kelsey’s marble samples were part of a recent archaeometric study to identify where they were quarried. I for one can’t wait to read more about this!

Keep tuning in to the Kelsey Blog for more Ugly Objects as we continue to reveal more unseen highlights of the collection!

From the Archives #53 — April 2020

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

Just over one hundred years ago, in April of 1918, Francis W. Kelsey reached out to colleagues across the Atlantic. Over the years, Kelsey corresponded with a number of people in Europe, particularly Italy. He wrote many letters to advance his own research on the Roman world, and did so also on behalf of his colleagues. The archives at the Bentley Historical Library and the Kelsey Museum showcase this abundantly, and John Pedley’s 2011 book, The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts, provides great context for this aspect of Kelsey’s life and career.

The archives — this collection of letters, journals, photographs, and receipts — paints a picture of a man who traveled often, was constantly working, and had a wide range of interests. A single day’s journal entry gives us a glimpse of his busy schedule, with various appointments, lunch and tea meetings, travel, and time at the end of the day to write letters to his family and other contacts. 

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a letter written by Kelsey asking for 2,000 color reproductions of a mosaic of Virgil from Hadrumetum. We also have the reply from Italy, in both English and Italian, along with the actual image of the mosaic. In his letter, Kelsey expresses regret for not being able to travel overseas to procure the image himself. He had plans to return after his last visit in 1915, but circumstances outside his control prevent him from doing so. 

typed

ArchivesScan003-web

typed letter
Correspondence between Francis W. Kelsey and Italian representatives regarding the release of the color reproduction of the Hadrumetum mosaic, “Virgilio Meditante L’Eneide” in 1918.

ArchivesScan001-web
Color reproduction of the Hadrumetum mosaic, “Virgilio Meditante L’Eneide.”

One hundred years ago, Kelsey found himself in a situation where he couldn’t travel as he had hoped. He used the tools available to him to proceed with his work. This is a simple request, just under strenuous circumstances. He would get his chance to return to Europe the following year, in 1919. When he did, he and his team made the most of their trip, traveling about the Mediterranean, to North Africa, Turkey, as well as Europe. And now, our archives are filled with the amazing photographs from this expedition.

Cursive handwriting on yellowed paper.

From the Archives 34 — September 2018

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

Every summer, members of the Kelsey Museum community travel to Italy to participate in a number of projects. Many excavate at the site of Gabii (one of three sites currently featured in the exhibition Urban Biographies). Some work for the American Academy in Rome. A few work at Sant’Omobono. Some students do all of these things, all while doing their own research.

For many students, their first time visiting Rome must include some of the highlights, including seeing the Coliseum. This structure has been a destination for tourists and scholars for a long time — long before tourism was big business. Back in the 1800s, traveling was expensive and tedious and took a long time. There were no planes, so getting to Europe from the United States required a long voyage by ship. In addition, not many people had the funds to engage in long-distance travel. For these reasons, tourism did not happen on the scale it does today.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a photograph showing the Coliseum as it looked back in 1885. Images such as this one were taken by professional photographers who would package several photographs together and sell them to schools or scholars or churches. They’d come in series, such as “View of Rome” and “View of the Holy Land/Palestine” and “Views of Greece.” People bought these photographic souvenirs in order to show their students, congregation members, and friends back home what Europe looked like.

Sepia image of the interior of the Coliseum, Rome.
1885 photograph of the Coliseum in Rome, labeled with the caption “ROMA – Interno dell’Anfiteatro Flavio o Colosseo.” KM 1961.7.1071.

However, the image of the Coliseum depicted on the obverse (front) is not the focus for this month’s post. Instead, we flip the image over to discover the following:

Cursive handwriting on yellowed paper.
Kelsey’s handwritten notes on the back of the Coliseum photo.

 

R10.                                                            3928

Colosseum, interior view, 1885.

On the difference between Roman and English ruins, see Hawthorne ‘French and Italian Notebooks,’ small ed. (Boston) pp. 54–55.

On the Colisseum:

Gibbon, ‘History of Rome,’ last chapter
Madame de Staël, ‘Corinne,’ book iv, chap. 4.
Byron, ‘Manfred,’ first part of last scene.
     ”     , ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimages,’ stanzas 128–145.
Bowden, ‘Percy Bysshe Shelley,’ vol ii, pp. 245, 246.
Hawthorne, ‘Marble Faun,’ chap. 17
Dickens, ‘Pictures from Italy,’ Peterson’s (Philadelphia) edition, p. 430.
Hare, ‘Walks in Rome,’ vol. 1.
Gregorovius, ‘Geschichte der Stadt Rom.’
Dyer, ‘The City Rome.’
Parker, ‘Archaeology of Rome – The Flavian Ampitheater.’

F.W. Kelsey

Here we have a handwritten note from Francis W. Kelsey himself, namesake of the Kelsey Museum. Not only is Kelsey sharing his comments and thoughts about this image and the Coliseum itself, but he is also giving us vital information. To people who work in archives, learning a particular person’s handwriting is a big key in deciphering other archival materials. Here, we see and can now learn to recognize Kelsey’s penmanship (though it does change as Kelsey ages). Now whenever we find unattributed notes in the archives, we can compare them to this signed note. If they match, we can safely say it is Kelsey’s note we found. And from that, we can start piecing together dates, context, and perhaps even the people being discussed.

Kelsey likely did not think of this as he made this annotation on the back of this photograph. To him, this was just a good location to make a note that would be useful to others. His concern was more for the scholarly aspect of the note rather than the archival one.

Archivists are routinely making discoveries when working in the archives, and they get to know the people captured in those archives. From their notes, we know what kind of workers they were, where they vacationed, about their relationships with family and colleagues, and their general thoughts about the world. Deciphering someone’s handwriting is a big tool for us, as it helps us piece together the archives and, often, people’s lives. We learn so much more about them from the tiny little memories they left than they ever could have imagined.

From the Archives 29 — April 2018

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Digital photography has made documenting our lives a much easier endeavor. Now, anyone with a cell phone can capture almost any moment with photos and even movies. Digital photography has become ubiquitous, and sharing these files becomes increasingly more feasible.

Archaeologists are using this tool more and more on their excavations, and even the Kelsey Museum has gone fully digital. The Kelsey used to insist on film photography when documenting its collections, but greater access to storage space and proper archival methods for digital photography has paved the way for this change.

The same option was not available, obviously, to those who came before us. George R. Swain, University of Michigan photographer from 1913 to 1947, had to use the methods available to him at the time. This meant taking his wood view camera with him on his travels through the Mediterranean, along with hundreds of glass plates. These plates were heavy, and he often needed help carrying them (often his son provided this service).

His view camera was not Swain’s only tool in the field. In the 1920s, easier means of photography were available, though they were of lesser quality. Thanks to the innovations of George Eastman, film photography had become popular. Film rolls were small and easy to carry, but one was limited by the number of frames on each roll, and the photographer couldn’t see what they captured until later, when the film was developed. Swain carried a film camera, likely a Kodak (the model is lost to us), and often he had others do the same. He would take meticulous notes about who shot what, when, and where. These notes are reflected in our current records.

The Kodak shots often captured scenes that are less formal but equally as important. The glass slides were reserved for artifacts and excavations; the Kodak captured everything else, including people, humorous moments, animals, and anything else happening during the excavations and travels.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present one roll of Swain’s film that reflects this. In April 1920, only 98 years ago, Swain and company traveled to Dimé, in the Fayum region of Egypt, likely on a reconnaissance mission to see where Michigan could excavate in years to come. Dimé was eventually excavated, but was not one of the original projects of the 1924 season. In this roll, we see what Swain encountered during this trip. People holding fish. The train and the train station. Farmers working the fields. A village scene. Dr. Askren posing. Hiking over the sands.

Fortunately for us, making this kind of trip is easier now without having to haul so much photography equipment (though we are lost without an energy source). Swain did not have the luxury, but we are thankful for the work he did to capture these moments.

Ugly Object of the Month — March 2018

BY CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator

Greetings, Ugly Object fans! This month’s featured artifact is not really an object. It is, rather, a somewhat unseemly chunk of … any ideas? Here’s a clue: it is a thing greater than the sum of its parts. It is made up of large fragments of yellow marble, tufa, and travertine embedded in a gray pozzolan/lime mortar. In other words, it’s a mixture of aggregate and cement, which are the necessary ingredients for — you guessed it — Roman concrete! This particular fragment of concrete was brought to Michigan in 1901 by none other than Francis Kelsey, undoubtedly for the benefit of his students. Our records say that it is in fact a piece of wall core from the Diocletian baths in Rome. That is quite a pedigree!

Although this chunk is not much to look at, it is an example of a pretty remarkable form of Roman construction technology. You can visit this and other artifacts of Roman construction on the second floor of the Kelsey Museum’s Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

 

Ugly_Mar 2018
Fragment of Roman concrete. KM 2373.

From the Archives 27 — February 2018

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Collections Manager

The exhibition Excavating Archaeology presents a look back at the history of archaeological explorations undertaken by the University of Michigan. It was guided by the work of Carla Sinopoli, who co-edited the book Object Lessons and the Formation of Knowledge (with Kerstin Barndt; University of Michigan Press, 2017). This book presents the fabulous history of how the materials that came to make up the various libraries, archives, and museums at U-M —  including the Kelsey Museum — arrived here in the first place.

The collections at the Kelsey have had their own books detailing their histories. Artifacts from excavations are thoroughly discussed in the book In the Field (Talalay and Alcock; Kelsey Museum, 2006), while Passionate Curiosities (Talalay and Root; Kelsey Museum, 2015) gives us the background of the objects that were collected by individuals.

Books like Object Lessons, Passionate Curiosities, and In the Field owe much to the many people who have, in their own way, written about the collections at Michigan. One of these is the focus for this month’s “From the Archives.”

For this month, we present a report written by Museum of Classical Archaeology curator Orma Fitch Butler. Butler, a native of Fitchburg, Michigan, and high school student in Mason and Lansing, received her bachelor of arts in 1897 from the University of Michigan. In 1901, she earned her master of arts, and then her doctor of philosophy in 1907, both also from U-M. After some time away, she returned to Michigan in 1912 as Francis Kelsey’s assistant in Latin and Roman Archaeology. In 1928, after several other promotions, Butler was named Curator of the Archaeological Collections, a position she held until her death in 1938.

As part of her duties, she wrote a report on the collections that was presented to the University president. This particular report is from 1930, and covers the time period when the Museum first opened (not yet named the Kelsey Museum). Dr. Butler writes about the collections and how they came to be in Ann Arbor. She tells us about the various people involved in procuring the artifacts, starting with Francis Kelsey. From there, she speaks about other U-M professors, friends from Ypsilanti, and friends from Tunisia, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, Africa, and Asia. What she writes gives us greater insight into the objects we admire in the galleries every day.

Butler writes more than just about the history of the collections in her report. She speaks about the aftermath of Kelsey’s death (in 1927), and how the collections and Museum owe much to him and his legacy. She writes that, with little to no publicity, the Museum still received over 100 people in its third and fourth months. This interest that the public has in classical archaeological materials, Butler notes, is a great sign for the future of the collections. She stresses that the University has a duty to maintain and care for the collections.

Elsewhere, Butler writes about Newberry Hall, and how, even so early on, it is acknowledged that it is not adequate for a museum. However, the museum staff are using the space as best they can, with certain rooms dedicated to different exhibition themes (the long room in the back what is now the gift shop and classroom, long before the elevator was installed).

Ultimately, the collections are in good and sound condition. The future seems bright. The University needs to invest in the collections and care for them. By doing so, they will ensure they can continue being used for two important purposes: exhibitions and instruction. Butler would be heartened to know that, nearly 90 years later, this vision remains true.

Read more about Orma Fitch Butler here: https://www.lib.umich.edu/faculty-history/faculty/orma-fitch-butler

You can also view the entire report as a PDF.

From the Archives 20 — May 2017

By SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager

Summer is upon us, and with it come a number of summer blockbusters at the movie theaters. Movie companies put out some of the biggest draws of the year during summer, in order to appeal to children and families not in school, and too hot to be outside. But people haven’t had movies to distract them for very long, only since the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Only then did films become a normal part of culture.

Prior to that time period, people would find entertainment in other manners. Theater, music, reading, newspapers, and so on. However, there was still another form of entertainment available, now known as pre-cinema. This genre was an attempt by many inventors and entertainers to use technology to trick the eye into seeing something that was not there.

Some used effects, such as mirrors to create illusions. While others knew the eyes sees in stereo. The stereoscope was an early 1800s invention that showed two images side-by-side, but both at ever so slightly different angles. Using mirrors, or a barrier between the eyes, the devices would trick the eye to think it was looking at the same image from different angles. The eyes would see this as a three dimensional image, and the contents of the photographs would pop. It was an early form of 3D.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a stereoscope and stereoscopic views found in the archives. The details on how we acquired this item and views is unknown, though collecting such materials in the early 1900s was quite common. Much like other photographs from the era, they were sold to people wanting to see Europe and northern Africa and Palestine. This was before tourism took off and people began traveling to those destinations themselves. This particular stereoscope, a Holmes stereoscope, was perhaps purchased by Francis Kelsey himself.

The stereoscope is here shown with various views of daily life from Palestine. These were created by Underwood & Underwood, a popular photographs distributor from the era. Aside from the views, the cards come packed in a box that looks like two books, simply titled “Palestine.” These views could have been used to educate students on what Palestine looked like at the time, maybe as they learned about ancient Roman life in the area, or the times of Jesus Christ. Whatever the original intention, the views and device remain at the Kelsey Museum. Though broken, they remind us what entertainment people had, and they remain educational for us, but in different ways.

 

 

From the Archives — July 2016

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

 

Istanbul is a beautiful city. For the readers who have had the pleasure of visiting this majestic city, you will know the wonders to be found around each corner. The Hagia Sophia standing iconically in Sultanahmet, not far from the Blue Mosque. In between a park where people gather at all times of day, but that comes to life at night. The area of Sultanahmet, though touristy, is ripe with colours and glamorous views from atop hotels that look out over the Bosphorus.

A few minutes away one can get lost in the Grand Bazaar. Various corridors will take the visitor to shops of all kinds. If you need a souvenir, you can find it in the bazaar. Fresh fruits, fish and meats, nuts, spices, including Iranian saffron, are all there for the picking. Jewelry and household adornments. Clothing and housewares. An ornate tea set that would look great in your parent’s house. Hours later, you might still find yourself going down paths that are new to you, and keep finding new goods you cannot live without. The shopkeepers eager to encourage you to buy.

Walk long enough in the bazaar and you might come to an exit eventually. Though you entered coming from Sultanahmet, you find a new exit. This one brings you directly to the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge. There is still much to see on the old side of the city, but you wander onto the bridge. Here, along the lower level, you can stop for lunch at one of the numerous restaurants clamoring for your patronage. Enjoy the fish coming off the boats and wash it down with the local brew, Efes.

From here, you can continue to the new side of the city, where modern shops with brand names litter Istiklal Street. You see more cafes, where artists gather to talk the hot topic. Restaurants and food vendors are found on every corner, and between. The Galata Tower towering over this area, and the steep steps leading you up to get a good view. Turn around, or climb the tower (which has a restaurant), and glance again at the Bosphorus and the old city. The minarets sprinkling the city from end to end. You see the bazaar waiting to greet you again. Maybe you continue to Taksim Square, or visit Galatasaray Lisesi, the high school on Istiklal. Or you do some shopping.

Eventually you return to Galata Bridge, but rather than head back into the old city, you take a ferry tour of the Bosphorus. A tour guide pointing out the famous buildings in landmarks, as you relax on the gentle waters. When done, you head back to Sultanahmet and you see a gathering of people. What is this, you wonder, and you come close to an outdoor theatre where whirling dervish dancers perform. They spin to the music, and you find yourself lost in the motion.

Nearby, as it is dark, you see families out playing with light toys that shoot up in the sky. Street vendors sell corn and other treats. Others, including locals and tourists, duck into hookah lounges, where they enjoy some chai and flavored shisha.

There is much to this city, and Francis Kelsey and George Swain found something quite similar when they visited. Back then, the city was still known as Constantinople, though in his photos, Swain refers to a “Stamboul.” The city has changed much since the 1920s. A comparison of photos shows the spread of buildings and new construction found everywhere. Still, locals will look over these photos and see much they recognize. And they speak to the changes to modern times. The photos Swain took are, quite literally, a snapshot of a bygone time, but one not that long ago.

Istanbul has been an important city for a long time. It is where Asia meets Europe. Much trade goes through this city, as it also controls access to the Black Sea. It is no wonder that Kelsey visited many times on his way back and forth between North Africa and Europe, with stops in Palestine and Syria. And many present-day Kelsey archaeologists go through Istanbul on their way to Notion, or Aphrodisias, or any number of sites where Michigan has a presence. Istanbul is a magical city, one highly recommended to visit. It is full of life and beautiful scenes. Nothing can detract from this.