George Swain

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.

From the Archives #56 — July 2020

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

This year has proven to be a difficult one for many people. COVID-19 has affected the health of a great number of people throughout the world. Through it all, the people at the frontline have proven how essential they have been and still are. Nurses and doctors have been stretched thin, and we thank them for their dedication.

Acknowledging the work of health professionals is not limited only to emergencies and times of crisis. Hospital workers face dire situations day after day. And still, they show up to help people.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present this picture taken 100 years ago by George Swain. In 1919 and 1920, Swain and Francis Kelsey traveled through Turkey and Syria. They had several goals during this trip, including some archaeological ones. In addition to this work, Kelsey was intent on visiting humanitarian efforts in Turkey and Syria, including orphanages and hospitals, and the refugees who were there.

In June 1920, Swain snapped a photo of nurses and staff in front of a hospital in Istanbul (Swain refers to it as Stamboul, as it was still Constantinople at the time). The nurses worked at the Canadian Hospital for Tubercular Children. On the reverse side of the photo, someone wrote the following:

The personnel of the Canadian Hosp for Tubercular Children Yédi Koulé consists of

A Greek cook and housemaid, husband and wife
A Greek guard and pantry maid, husband and wife
Two Turkish chauffeurs
Two Armenian orderlies
One Armenian kitchen boy
One Armenian gardener
One Armenian Housekeeper
Five Armenian nurses
Three Russian nurses

All natives seen in the photo are Armenians, others not being on the place the day the photo was taken. The Hospital’s (formal opening) will take place on Canada’s Dominion Day July 1st.

Tubercular children to be admitted June 21st.

 

group shot of people sitting on steps
Group of nine nurses and staff members on the steps of the Canadian Hospital for Tubercular Children in Istanbul, June 1920. Photo by George Swain. Kelsey Archives 7.0583.

handwritten note on back of photo
Handwritten note on the back of photo 7.0583.

A mix of people of different origins and nationalities came together in order to help children. Kelsey was invested in these efforts and worked with the Red Cross to help provide resources to those in need in the region.

It is evident that nurses and doctors have consistently been doing what they can for the sick. And have been for a long time. The events of 2020 are just another example of this effort. We are grateful to the people putting themselves in positions to help us when we need them most.

From the Archives #54 — May 2020

By Sebastián Encina

Each year around May, people in and around Ann Arbor start heading to Nichols Arboretum to see the blooming flowers and trees, the signs of spring returning to our area. This year, Nichols will not be planting their regular peony gardens, but people will still be making their way to the arboretum to see what other colorful flowers are growing. 

And as the weather continues getting warmer, more people will venture out to their gardens and start planting their own flowers and plants. Soon our neighborhoods will be full of brilliant, beautiful colors and amazing smells. (Sorry, allergy sufferers!)

Flowers and natural beauty have been a source of joy and happiness for thousands of years. The natural world decorated the walls, pottery, and other items of the ancient world. Stroll through the galleries of the Kelsey Museum and you will see many examples of nature-inspired motifs on a wide range of objects.

So, too, did our predecessors at the University of Michigan appreciate the beauty of flowers. For this month’s “From the Archives,” we bring their flowers to you. Though not as brilliant and vibrant as the flowers you can see and smell in the gardens of Matthaei and Nichols, they evoke the beauty that people share no matter where they are. George R. Swain captured the beauty of flowers in England, France, Greece, Egypt, Belgium, Palestine, and Turkey, in gardens, placed near monuments, growing in the wild, and for sale. In his photographs presented here, we see a funeral procession, a decorated cenotaph, flower vendors in Brussels, someone’s private home garden. Swain was sure to point his camera everywhere while traveling with the U-M teams.

Soon, Ann Arbor will be full of flowers and beauty. We will wander the parks and gardens appreciating what we see, often stopping to snap our own photos to share. We are continuing a practice so many people have enjoyed for so long.

 

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919

From the Archives #49 — December 2019

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

In December, many of us spend a lot of time at local stores perusing goods that we think would make great gifts for our loved ones. We spend hours trying to find the perfect gift, the item that shows how we think about those we care about, whether they are close to us or far away.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we go one hundred years back in time, to December 1919, to find a University of Michigan staff member far from home but doing the same thing — going to shops and markets, perhaps to find souvenirs to send back home to Michigan. In 1919 and 1920, U-M photographer George R. Swain accompanied Francis Kelsey on an expedition through Europe and the Mediterranean region. Their goal was to document classical sites as well as to identify sites that might have potential for future excavations.

Here we present seven images taken by Swain in Istanbul — or Constantinople, as it was referred to then (some photo captions refer to the area of “Stamboul”). While traveling, Swain photographed not only archaeological artifacts, sites, and structures, nor did he focus solely on collections at other museums. Almost everywhere he went, Swain turned the camera around to his surroundings, to the people in the area, offering us a glimpse into life in those countries at that time.

The photos shown here cover a time period of 20 days, from 5 December to 24 December 1919. Swain captures life at several shops and businesses in Istanbul. We see a person fixing umbrellas. A cobbler’s shop. A busy corner at the bazaar. Bread and fruit for sale. All the shopping Swain chose to capture.

These photographs allow us to see what the city was like one hundred years ago. People who visit Istanbul now will notice many similarities, but also many differences. The bazaar, though altered, remains. Maybe some of those same shops are still there! And the sentiment is the same. People going about doing their shopping, purchasing items they need, or gifts for friends and family. Now in 2019, we continue doing the same.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“The umbrella mender sitting on the sidewalk on a typical street.” 5 December 1919. KS043.4.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Shop where they pressed the Turkish tabbooses or fezes.” 9 December 1919. (With the passing of the fez, this was a vanished industry by 1927.) KS046.10.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“A tiny cobbler’s shop by the street in Stamboul.” 9 December 1919. KS046.11.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“A busy corner near the Egyptian bazaar.” 9 December 1919. KS047.9.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Crowd of people by the booths of the Egyptian bazaar.” 9 December 1919. KS047.11.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Bread for sale.” 24 December 1919. KS052.7.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Scene in a fruit market.” 24 December 1919. KS052.11.

From the Archives #45 — August 2019

Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

It is August, when students and faculty are beginning their return to Ann Arbor for the new academic year. Soon all these people will settle into the familiar routine of classes and meetings and deadlines. It will all be different, and yet still the same.

During their time away, these people were off scattered about the globe. They were studying, excavating, visiting with colleagues, and advancing their research. However, during their summer, they took the time to find moments for themselves. To vacation, to enjoy the various locations where they found themselves. To live where they had traveled.

Many of the archival photographs the Kelsey Museum possesses were taken by University of Michigan people, such as Easton Kelsey, E. E. Peterson, but primarily by George R. Swain. These photos show the work they were undertaking in locations such as Antioch, or Karanis, or Carthage. However, not all the photographs in the archives are of buildings, artifacts, or of U-M people at work.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a single roll of photographs taken in 1919 when George Swain was traveling for work. He turns his attention to the city he finds himself in, Istanbul. No longer simply photographing the work they are doing, he captures moments in the city, random events, interesting scenes. We see a train, the boats along the Golden Horn, people on the Galata Bridge, and an umbrella mender working on the street.

In those days, there were no digital cameras or cell phones to capture these views. Instead, Swain was using the equipment he brought with him. Most “professional” photographs were captured with a view camera using glass plates. These were heavy and cumbersome to carry. Swain also carried a smaller Kodak that used film. This was used for additional photographs, not the professional ones of artifacts and architecture, but everything or anything else. That choice is captured in the archival numbers given to these photographs (KS for Kodak Swain, KP for Kodak Peterson, KK for Kodak Kelsey, depending on who was using the camera at the time). For these, the “43” refers to the arbitrary film roll number assigned. At the time, rolls of film only had 12 frames. Swain knew he was limited in how many photographs he could take before he ran out of film.

The first frame of this roll, KS043.01, is, unfortunately, missing from the archives, so there is no image to show. However, we do have Swain’s notes, and thus know he captured the following: “Dining car with all the metal letters removed to get brass in the war presumably.”

Years from now, current students and researchers will go through their collection of photographs from their travels in the summer of 2019. Not everything was work-related, and memories will be rekindled of the adventures they went on this year.

KS043_12-web
“The Galata Bridge, looking toward Pera.” KS043.12.

Notre Dame Cathedral

From the Archives #41 — April 2019

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

On Monday, 15 April 2019, the world watched as the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire and burned. Thankfully, firefighters were able to stop the flames and keep the entire building from burning down. There was much damage, but over time repairs will be made.

As soon as news hit the world of this tragedy, social media was inundated with images of people’s experiences and visits to Notre Dame, bringing the world together. 

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we share the Kelsey Museum’s connection to Notre Dame. On 23 March 1924, U-M photographer George R. Swain was in Paris and had the opportunity to visit the church. The images he took nearly a century ago are now in the Kelsey Archives. In addition to the iconic exterior views of Notre Dame, we get a glimpse of happenings outside as Swain turned his camera around to show canaries for sale in the bird market. 

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame, Paris. Photographed by George R. Swain (undated). Kelsey Museum Archives GL00677.

Notre Dame, Paris
“Views. Facade of Notre Dame.” Photographed by George R. Swain, 23 March 1924. Kelsey Museum Archives KS234.02.

Birdsellers outside Notre Dame Cathedral
“Views. Canaries for sale at the bird market near Notre Dame. Cité.” Photographed by George R. Swain, 23 March 1924. Kelsey Museum Archives KS234.01.

In time, Notre Dame will be rebuilt, and tourists and Parisians alike will continue to pose before it. There are many photographs to remind us of what this structure looked like at various stages in its long history. Archives around the world, including ours here at the Kelsey, will preserve these memories, and will continue to document this important history.

As a keepers of history and supporters of collections, museums, history, and culture, we here at the Kelsey are grateful that Notre Dame was saved and will survive for future generations to admire.

map of university of michigan

From the Archives 37 — January 2019

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

Recently, the University of Michigan announced it had made an offer to purchase the property currently owned and operated by the Fingerle Lumber Company. This expansion will increase U-M’s Ann Arbor land holdings by 6.54 acres. At this time, the university has not announced what it plans to do with the property.

Over the years, U-M’s presence in Ann Arbor has expanded well beyond central campus. As the needs of the university and its students, staff, and faculty continue to expand, so too does the need for space. The Bentley Historical Library owns original maps of the university showing a very modest beginning, with a few buildings on what is now central campus, including the President’s House and a few other structures.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present this gem showing the U-M campus from 1914: the Index to University of Michigan Property Maps. The map highlights U-M property in the darker blocks, from which we can see locations we recognize from U-M campus now in 2019. We see central campus, or just “Campus.” Other blocks are also named, such as the Botanical Gardens, General Hospital, Ferry Field, and Palmer Field.

Though not named, we can also see a small block across from Campus, between State Street and Maynard, the future home of the Kelsey Museum. At this point, the property was not yet a museum.

map of university of michigan
“Index to University of Michigan Property Maps, Ann Arbor Mich., Sept. 1914.” Glass slide, photograph by George R. Swain. Kelsey Museum GL00788.

Around this same time, in 1914, Francis Kelsey hired a photographer named George R. Swain to photograph archaeological sites and artifacts in Europe and North Africa. Swain remained with the university until his death in 1947. After his visits to places such as Karanis, Carthage, and Pisidian Antioch, Swain dedicated his time at the university working for the Library, making copy prints and slides for use by professors and students. This glass slide was likely produced by Swain well after 1914. The reason is unknown; perhaps it was presented as an interesting find from the archives, much the same way we present it today.

Over 100 years after this map was created, the campus of U-M is vastly different, and it continues to change with each passing year. By 2114, a map of campus will undoubtedly look even more foreign to us. Students and archivists looking back on our current maps will see spots familiar to them, but still so foreign. Even a map produced today would would look very different from one produced in just a few months, given the news of Fingerle.

The archives provide for us a snapshot at a certain time period in both the Kelsey’s history as well as that of the university. Though constantly changing, we can see the progression of both, and how nothing remains static. In 100 years, a future Kelsey archivist may present this same image in the same manner we do now, showcasing the humble beginnings of the university and how much progress has been made since.

From the Archives 30 — May 2018

By SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Spring has finally arrived in Ann Arbor, and with it our heavy parkas and snow boots have at last been stored away, not to be thought of for many months. Instead, we bring out the t-shirts and shorts and we venture outside to enjoy the sun and cool breeze.

During this time, we look to spend more time in nature, observing that which was covered in snow for so long. George Swain, back when he worked for the University, would do this as well. Of course, he would go outside with his camera, capturing whatever scenes he could.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present two Swain images saved in the Kelsey archives. Though the great majority of our archival photographic collections are of excavations overseas, we do find the occasional non-archaeology image as well. The two images highlighted this month depict a squirrel caught climbing up a tree and an owl peering down on Swain, perhaps posing for the photograph.

These two photographs are glass slides. These were often used in lanterns for teaching purposes. Swain spent a great deal of time after the excavations in the 1920s reproducing images for U-M faculty and staff to use in their classrooms. One means of this, prior to digitization and PowerPoint, was to replicate images on glass so that they could be projected on the wall using a lantern slide projector (sometimes known as a magic lantern).

Why he chose an owl and a squirrel is unknown. No caption accompanies these two. However, they seem to be posing for the camera, so what is a photographer supposed to do? We are unsure if these hail from Ann Arbor, but we think the squirrel would appreciate the attention and extra food squirrels receive on campus these days.

As you wander outside, be sure to appreciate the animals that are enjoying the same sunshine you are. Listen to the wisdom of the owl as it stares down at you, trying to pass along a message. She may have some sage words for you, such as “Enjoy Spring!”

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.