Behind the Scenes

THE FILM LIBRARIANS CONFERENCE

This post is going to be different from the majority of posts on this blog – we don’t usually discuss things using personal pronouns or even really identify ourselves. The archives is supposed to be the focus of the blog. However, I (Wendi) plan on telling you all about an amazing conference I went to in Los Angeles called Documenting Cinema: Film Librarians Conference 2019, and to do so, I need to talk like me.

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My dumb face not caring that my face looks dumb.

I first heard about the conference from a classmate at Syracuse University, where I am getting my MLIS. My classmate works, in some capacity, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She encouraged the class to apply for a travel grant to attend this year’s conference, and, having a deep love of cinema (especially the Golden Age of Hollywood), I immediately memorized the website. I ended up winning one of the travel grants, meaning my travel to and from Los Angeles was paid for, as was the attendance fee for the entire conference.

 

The Film Librarians Conference (FLC) was held over the course of three days at the Academy’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Studies in Hollywood, CA. The conference itself lasted two days, followed by one day of optional tours. Every session was fascinating and taught me something about archival techniques or practices, film history, and current projects from archivists, museums, libraries, and guilds around the world. Although every session is memorable, there were four that I wanted to highlight. These sessions either helped me identify paths to follow in TML’s archival journey, were just super cool, or both.

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Also super cool? This view down a hallway at the Pickford Center.

Of Pigs and Pixie Dust: Tailoring Descriptive Vocabularies for Disney Animation Artwork

In this session, the presenter explained the process by which the Walt Disney Animation Research Library created a list of terms to use for organizing, cataloging, and identifying items. There were two main categories: work type and keyword. I was fascinated to learn what other practices were out there, as TML doesn’t have any system as comprehensive or refined yet. We’re definitely not there yet, but I’m hoping we’ll be making some headway soon. This presentation gave me ideas on how to approach naming conventions, something I was admittedly stuck on.

 

Providing Access to Media Related Collections: Dictabelts, Posters, and Paperwork

We got to hear actual dictabelt recordings from Rod Serling in this session! I wrote this in my notes and I’ll repeat it here: SO COOL. The process to digitize these recordings is expensive and, if the items have not been maintained properly, difficult or impossible. We also learned about the digitization of movie posters. I saw what happens when items were not stored properly, were folded or bent, or held together with paperclips. I shudder to think of how many items we have in our archives that are combined with paperclips or identified with post-it notes. The first thing I did when I got back to work was start advocating for the expulsion of paperclips in favor of sheets of interleaving and clamshell boxes, both of which we have, neither of which we use to the fullest.

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This picture is small but mighty.

Archiving, Advocacy, and Collaborations: Preserving Guild Histories

Four different unions described their collections, archival methods, and collaborative efforts to continue preserving their history. It was very cool to see perspectives from different entities, how they differed and how they were the same.

Filmmakers Roundtable Discussion

This was another great opportunity to hear different perspectives from five people who work in different areas of filmmaking: production design, still photography, composing, and costume design. Unfortunately, one of the participants was unable to make it to the conference, but the remaining five did a great job at explaining their processes and systems! It was interesting to hear how each one maintains a personal work archive (and if they’re even allowed to!). We also had showings of library-related movies: I watched The Music Man, sang to every song, and laughed along with the rest of the audience. It was a singular movie-going experience that I want to replicate again and again.

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An impossibly blue sky above the Margaret Herrick Library.

Tour: Margaret Herrick Library and Paramount Pictures Studio

The last day I signed up for a tour of the Margaret Herrick Library, the host of the FLC, and Paramount Pictures. We were given the chance to wander around, look at everything they had out, and asking employees a bunch of archives-related questions. I saw where and how their items were stored, got to ask about their periodicals and archival boxes, and took way too many pictures. I used up all the space on my phone, but it was worth it. Then I had to delete photos to make space for the Paramount Pictures tour. I didn’t really need those pictures from my sister’s wedding, right?

 

After the library, we went to Paramount Pictures. We got a tour of the lots and their archives. I learned about the types of projects they work on, and got to see some of the items in different stages of cataloging and preservation. We went into one of the film vaults where they keep every version (I repeat, EVERY version) of a movie or show – theatrical cut, director’s cut, shortened-for-tv cuts, foreign language cuts… It’s staggering. After I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was content to go on to the next room. We went through several rooms that housed memorabilia from films (props, costumes, jewelry) as well as photographs, musical scores (including the score for the horse head scene from The Godfather), ads, periodicals, etc., and we learned about what each member of the staff does, their major projects, and their favorite parts of the job.

I am so lucky to have had the chance to see these pieces and hear these stories – Attending the Film Librarians Conference was one of the highlights of my year (maybe of my life) and I am so eager to start putting some of my new knowledge to good use!

 

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THE ACCIDENTAL MISS AMERICA (REPOST)

[Originally posted in September 2015]

It might surprise you to know that Centenary University had its own Miss America! Her name was Bette Cooper, and she was Miss America in 1937. The story of her reign is an interesting one.

BETTE COOPER

Bette Cooper in costume while performing at Centenary Junior College.

Bette Cooper and three fellow students in a nativity scene at Centenary Junior College

Bette Cooper and three fellow students in a nativity scene at Centenary Junior College.

Life was uncomplicated for this girl from Hackettstown, New Jersey. She attended Centenary University when it was called Centenary Junior College1. She excelled in school, loved to play sports, and enjoyed participating in theater productions. In the summer of 1937, she went to Lake Hopatcong’s Bertrand Island Amusement Park with some friends. As a joke, the girls dared Cooper to enter the park’s beauty pageant. She entered for fun but got the shock of her life when she won! Winning this title also guaranteed her a place as a contestant at the Miss America Pageant.

This is where the story starts to get complicated. Cooper had entered that first pageant on a lark. She didn’t expect to win, and she certainly didn’t want to compete for Miss America. Her family was humble and religious; they didn’t approve of beauty pageants. Although her family was reluctant to support something they considered distasteful, they chose to travel to Atlantic City for the pageant, expecting nothing more than a nice vacation.

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Bette Cooper with all the adornments of a proper Miss America.

Upon arrival, Bette Cooper met Louis Off, a young man who had signed up to be a bachelor escort. Each Miss America contestant had been paired with a gentleman who would accompany her to and from pageant festivities. When the contestants were given an afternoon off, Cooper and her escort took a drive. Cooper confided in Off, telling him that she hadn’t anticipated winning the first pageant, and didn’t want to compete for Miss America. Off, who had already seen the other contestants, accurately guessed that she stood a good chance of winning.

Bette Cooper won Miss America that night. She sang a song (A Star-Ledger article states that she sang “So There”, but internet sources state that the song was called “When The Poppies Bloom Again”) while wearing an evening gown purchased for her by a female chaperone. The excitement of winning wore off very quickly, and by the next day Cooper and Off had disappeared, leading many to believe the two had run away and eloped.

Bette Cooper and Louis Off walk the boardwalk in a publicity shot. Cooper's fur coat was one of the prizes from the Miss America Pageant. She refused the coat and the other prizes when she decided to return to school

Bette Cooper and Louis Off on the boardwalk in a publicity shot. Cooper’s fur coat was one of the prizes from the Miss America Pageant. She refused the coat and the other prizes when she decided to return to school.

In truth, Bette Cooper was only a 17-year-old high school student and panicked at the thought of leaving school to perform her Miss America duties. Photo shoots, public appearances, screen tests, and interviews held no appeal for her. Cooper called Off in the middle of the night distraught over winning, and he and a friend hid her on a boat until after pageant crowds scattered.  She slept while the gentlemen fished, and after returning to shore, the men drove Cooper back to Hackettstown.

Bette Cooper decided to remain in school, and was able to strike a deal with red-faced pageant officials that entitled her to “all of the benefits, none of the negatives” of being Miss America, according to Louis Off. She kept her title and stayed in school, participating in only a fraction of the expected duties. Off escorted her to appearances and guarded her from the press. The events of the 1937 Miss America Pageant prompted officials to institute new rules: They created a hostess program and prohibited contestants from spending time alone with any man during pageant week. They also started requiring contestants to sign agreements acknowledging their understanding of the duties of Miss America.

After Bette Cooper’s reign ended, she distanced herself from the pageant and focused on her schooling. She graduated from Centenary Junior College’s Academy in 1938 and then from C.J.C. in 1940. She was a dedicated student, participating in several school activities.

From the 1940 Hack Yearbook:

Bette Cooper's senior year photo. [note: The Kin Klub is mentioned on a later page of the yearbook as the Kin Club. The club was comprised of members of the student body who were relatives of former students.]

Bette Cooper’s senior year photo. [note: The Kin Klub is mentioned on a later page of the yearbook as the Kin Club. The club was comprised of members of the student body who were relatives of former students.]

After graduation, she married and moved to Connecticut, where lived until her death in 2017. In 1953, she attended Hackettstown’s Centennial Celebration to crown the Centennial Queen, but that was the closest she ever got to acknowledging her involvement in beauty pageants. She never publicly discussed her time as Miss America.

The story of Bette Cooper’s reign as Miss America was recently featured in a segment of the Travel Channel show Mysteries at the Museum. We were so excited to have the crew come film, and we think they did a great job telling her story.

Bette Cooper at the Hackettstown Centennial Celebration

Bette Cooper at the Hackettstown Centennial Celebration in 1953.


1 At this time in Centenary’s history, the college educated two distinct student populations: the Academy, which was the equivalent of the latter years of high school, and the College, which provided more traditional college instruction. Both ‘schools’ were two-year programs. Freshmen and Sophomore classes attended the Academy and Juniors and Seniors attended the College. You’ll see two graduation dates for Bette Cooper, one for each school.

Braun, Jenifer. “The night Miss America ran away from the throne.”
Star-Ledger [Newark] Sept. 1997: 1+. Print.

“On Campus.” The Bulletin of Centenary Junior College Winter 1953: 5. Print.

Pageant Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2014. <http://pageantcenter.com/pageant%20results/Miss_America_Pageant/1937_miss_america_pageant.html#.VA3v9YKJ3E8&gt;.

LIBGUIDES FACELIFT

The library’s website got a bit of a facelift recently! Well, just the Archives page, but still, it’s pretty exciting! We’ve added images of archival materials and expanded our digital media – now you can interact with a map of the trees on Centenary’s campus and check out our newest feature, digital exhibits! We’ll be highlighting some of the collections we have that you might not be familiar with – should we do that on the blog, too?

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It’s not much, but it’s ours.

 

THE NEW PRESIDENT’S HOUSE

The President’s House, which tragically burned down in January 2015, has been rebuilt! President Haney and his wife, Lisa Baldwin, wanted one of the first events held in the new home to be a thank you party for everyone involved in trying to save the old house and in building the new one.

The First New Pres Res 5Responders’ Party welcomed members of all 22 agencies who worked to save the house and contain the fire that raged three years ago, as well as everyone involved in the construction of the new house. Dr. Haney and Lisa Baldwin thanked the firefighters and construction workers for all their hard work, and invited the attendants to tour the new house.

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Dr. Raymond Frey and Library Archivist Colleen Bain, experts on Centenary history, were on hand to guide tours and answer questions. Guests enjoyed seeing the archival pictures of the house displayed throughout the new residence.

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We’re glad tNew Pres Res 4o have been able to provide the archival photos and the expertise of our archivist to the First Responders’ Party, and we are forever grateful for all the work that’s been done to bring the President’s House back to life!

 

 

Photos of the new President’s House and First Responder’s Party graciously provided by Erbach Communications Group.

SILVER SERVICE TEA SETS

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University, the library archives staff is highlighting some of the less well known items in the archives—in this case, silver service tea sets from the early days of Centenary.

The collection includes a total of thirteen pieces from three different tea sets, each with its own distinct pattern or floral design. Altogether, there are four teapots, four sugar bowls, three creamers, and one serving tray.

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Birthday

Teapots and Silver tray used during a birthday tea

Two of these sets were likely used for “family-style” meals in Centenary’s dining hall and for informal teas held by senior class advisors such as Miss Breckenridge or “Brecky” as she was affectionately referred to by the students. While these more relaxed teas were held in the parlors and “taught some of the graces young ladies should have,” formal teas were also held throughout the early 1960s by President Seay (Custard, 1945, p. 236). These monthly birthday celebrations were held in The President’s House and surviving photographs offer a glimpse into the social culture of Centenary at that time. Photographs also reveal that one of the sets included a second teapot; the location of this item is currently unknown and was possibly lost in the fire of 2015. See and learn more about The President’s House here.

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The third tea set belonged to Ruth Scarborough—the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library—and boasts an impressively etched “S” on each of its five pieces. While all pieces have a hexagonal base, the set’s two teapots of differing size are unique in their wooden handles. Ruth Scarborough worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982. See and learn more about her here.

 

Custard, L. R. (1947). Through golden years: 1867-1943. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.

CURRENT LIBRARY PROJECTS

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The fall color of the Japanese Zelkova.

The library staff has been working on a project to update Trees of Centenary, a 1990s dendrological* survey done by Dr. Lewis Parrish, the former department head of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Centenary.

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The tree cataloger and photographer consult the original Trees of Centenary.

Parrish’s book is a compilation of every tree on the Centenary campus, but that information is over twenty years old. The archives staff have taken on the task of updating Trees of Centenary to reflect the  foliage of the current campus. So far, the project has created an inventory of all trees on the north side of campus, including most of the trees listed in Dr. Parrish’s book. The south side of campus will be more challenging as there was no survey done of these trees, and complete identification will have to be done from scratch.

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An excerpt from the rough draft map of the Jefferson Lawn, south side.

How is this task being accomplished? First, every tree in Trees of Centenary was listed and separated by location. The campus was broken down into sections, and each section was given its own hand-drawn map. Then, staff members took the book and the maps and made, well, a mess (see the rough draft map at right). Each tree was numbered, plotted, and matched to a tree from the book. This proved to be difficult because some of the trees mentioned in the 1990s survey are now gone, claimed by disease or death, and new trees have been planted since the survey’s publication.

Realizing a more orderly system was needed, the rough draft map from each portion was input into excel spreadsheets, which became the basis of our new interactive map!

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The fall color of the Green Ash.

This map shows the location of each tree and includes a description and photos, just like the original Trees of Centenary. 

There is still much to be done, and the library hopes to have the entire campus cataloged by Spring 2017. During the winter all the evergreens will be recorded while the remaining deciduous trees will be classified in Spring 2017. Staff will also be taking pictures of the trees in each season. This year’s fall color went by too quickly, but there’s always next year!

*Dendrological: adj., Having to do with the botanical study of trees and other woody plants.

TO MRS. MONTELL

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Facsimile of Oscar Wilde Photograph

“To Mrs. Montell, my uncle’s old and loved friend from Oscar Wilde, January 26, 1882, Baltimore, Thursday.”

Many items have been donated to the Taylor Memorial Library over the years but not all of them seem directly related to telling Centenary College’s history. A number of items in the archives were donated by faculty, alumni, or other members of the Centenary community, so there are many objects that once held personal significance to the donor, or were donated by someone with personal significance to Centenary. This photograph of Oscar Wilde, presented to the college in 1958, is one such item, seemingly out of place among the yearbooks, class photos and other ‘Centenariana’ stored in the archives.

It came to Centenary College through Dr. H. Graham DuBois, a member of Centenary’s faculty for 33 years. He was a poet and playwright like Wilde, an English professor at Centenary College for Women from 1929 to 1963, and the Chairman of the C.C.W. Division of Humanities from 1947 to 1959. The Mrs. Montell of the inscription was his grandmother, Mrs. Charles Montell, who had been a friend of Wilde’s uncle, Ledoux Elgee.When Wilde visited Baltimore on a lecture tour of America, Mrs. Montell invited him to tea as a courtesy to a family friend. He accepted her invitation and later sent the photograph to thank her.

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Dr. DuBois, left, and Dr. Seay, president of the college

Dr. DuBois donated the framed photograph of the English poet and playwright to the college in 1958. It was displayed in the library for a while but was eventually placed in the archives for preservation.

“Dr. DuBois Gives Picture of Oscar Wilde to C.C.W.” Spilled Ink 25 3 1958: 1. Print.