My Job….An Update

I haven’t talked about my job on here recently and since I haven’t been able to come up with a better topic to write about since my last post it seems like a great time for an update! I am still working at the Indiana Historical Society and loving it! I finished a large cataloging project back at the beginning of the year and have since started on a similar yet completely different project since then. My original project involved updating and making corrections to the current records for the clipping files collection. This collection is massive and took me almost 7 and a half months to do. It is pretty just a mish-mash of different newspaper clippings and other manuscript materials on a variety of topics, some world related others specific to Indiana counties. Not only did I have to make corrections to the records, I also had to go through each file and put the clippings in order by date. This way I had the right date for the record and also made it more chronological for patrons to look through. Everyday my finger tips would become discolored from the ink and had a weird, but comforting, old paper smell.

I thought I was finally free of inky fingers and old paper smell, but my next project was more clipping files, but different. The project I am working on now is our Black History Biography Project and is made up of clipping files of notable black people from Indiana and from the United States. These files are different because I am creating the entire record from scratch. I get to do a little research on the people, write out my own descriptions, and add my own tags. It has been extremely interesting learning more about Black History. I mean there are the usual suspects like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Madame C.J. Walker, but there are also just random Indiana natives tossed into the mix as well. I’ve learned about two brother detectives who would have made a great buddy cop show, I’ve learned about women striving to make their communities better, and I’ve learned about black history in Indiana as a whole.

Moving on to my second job at IHS, digitization! At the beginning of the year I worked on the Indiana at 200 collection which involved editing and uploading various iPhone pictures taken all over the state. After I wrapped that up, I started working on adding different images to different collections. These came from orders made by patrons that the digitization department decided would be great additions to the online collection. A lot of the images were World War I postcards that featured towns, soldiers, battles, and more. There were also a bunch of World War I letters from the collection, the saddest one about a soldier who died of the flu on November 1st, 1918. He had written in October, the family hadn’t heard from him and wrote him when news broke the war was over, the letter detailed how happy they were and they couldn’t wait for him to come over. The next letter was written by a family friend a couple of weeks later after they found out he wouldn’t be coming home.

IMG_0668I finished that project and have gone back to working on good old Larry Foster. The Larry Foster collection is an extremely large collection of images taken by Larry Foster throughout his photography career. When I first started working on this project and for the digitization department, we were on his World War II photographs. But since there were a lot of folks working on uploading, the folks who do the actual digitization couldn’t keep up and we ran out of boxes, i.e. the other projects. Now that I am back to Larry, the war is over and we have entered into the 1950’s. The photos are still pretty interesting but not World War II interesting. A lot of the images are of old local Indianapolis businesses and the Indiana State Fair. There are still quite a few famous 1950’s actors and actresses like Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck. You never know what is going to pop up next and its always surprising.

My position here is only part-time (29 hours a week) and it isn’t permanent (2-3 years at most), unless more funding comes through. I’ve loved working here though and have learned so much in my first year working in the museum field. I continue to apply to various jobs that interest me that are full-time but nothing has bitten yet. But I won’t give up hope and I’ll just keep on chugging away at IHS!

 

My Love for History

It’s been awhile since I have posted a new blog and today seems like a perfect day to get back on the wagon.  Last week, on Valentines Day none-the-less, I received the unfortunate news that I had not been accepted into Indiana University’s Graduate Program. It really put a damper on my mood but didn’t ruin our Valentine’s Day festivities. Part of me was really hurt that I didn’t get in but there was a small part of me that was relieved that I didn’t get in. As much as I really want my Ph.D. the idea of going back to school and being even more in debt seemed daunting.  So what if I don’t have a doctorate degree? I have a great boyfriend, two adorable dogs, a master’s degree from one of the top universities in the U.S. and am on a great career path. I still haven’t lost my fire for history and instead am looking into different ways I can still keep that fire burning. I thought I would take down the time to write about how I came to love history.

There has always been a part of me that really enjoyed history when I was younger. It was by far my favorite subject along with Science and English. I would actually read ahead in history textbooks for fun, like a big nerd. I loved documentaries and any movie that had any type of historical significance even if it wasn’t true. I would take the time to research the actual events afterward, which was kind of hard since the internet didn’t really take off until I was older. I always looked forward to history class, no matter how boring the teacher was or the subject matter I was all ears.

When high school rolled around, I was lucky enough to be entered into AP English and History courses. Originally, I found myself in regular old English class but Mr. Kellow, our freshmen English teacher, pushed me to work into getting into AP classes. The next three years, I was introduced to a more college-level way of teaching both subjects and by my senior year I was enrolled in a 300 level English course at the local college. It was around this same time that high-schoolers are pushed to figure out their plans beyond high school. Where do you want to go to college? What do you want to study? What is going to be your future career?

To put it simply, I had no fucking clue.

If I had known back then that you didn’t have to everything figured out straight out of high school, I probably would have went down a different path. I knew that I loved history and wanted to study it more but anyone who studies history inevitably is asked “And what do you plan to do with that degree?”. Adults made it sound like a degree in history was useless, so I of course had no idea of the possibilities out there.

When I graduated high school, I was 100% set on being a lawyer. Could you imagine little old me standing in a court room, arguing that some guy didn’t murder his wife even though it was very obvious that he did? I can barely introduce myself to new people, how was a I going to talk to a whole jury of strangers? Luckily I never had to figure that out. On my first day of college, as I sat in my first classroom, a bitch of a lady (whose name I don’t remember) squashed my dreams. At IUPUI, incoming freshmen are grouped together into three classes that they would all be a part of. It was to help with the transition and to make friends. While I am still friends with several of the girls from that group on Facebook, I don’t even think I saw them again after our group classes ended. But that’s not the point! Each group had career/college adviser attached to them. These people were supposed to help you figure out what you wanted to accomplish at IUPUI and set you on that path. Well, as I mentioned, our lady was a bitch. As we went around and introduced ourselves, she made snide  comments about our intended paths. When it came to myself, I expressed quite firmly that I was pre-law. The bitch laughed and said there is no such thing as pre-law and said most freshmen think that but most never make it. This bitch, who is supposed to help us and encourage us did help me that day, she encouraged me right out of pre-law.

A semester into college and all my future plans crumbled. It wasn’t until I took my first history course that I realized where I belonged. I dove into the history department head on. I met with Dr. Morgan and set up all of my plans to graduate with a degree in European History. By my junior year, I added a minor in Classical Studies and found my history niche in Ancient History. As I worked towards graduation, I lost count how many times family members snidely asked what I planned on doing with my degree. “What can you possibly do with a degree in History?” “Are you sure that is what you want to study?” “What kind of money does someone make in that field?”

Simple answer, fuck off. I hated justifying myself to everyone who asked. Don’t worry about my future cause I (somewhat) had a plan. I knew that to get any where with my degree I would need to go to graduate school. While I loved studying history, I also loved studying historical objects. Enter Museum Studies! Did you know there is a place where you can work with history on a daily basis that involves the chance to touch a piece of history? Well neither did I until I started applying to grad programs.

I applied to a variety of history and museum studies. I was accepted into one of each. I could either move to Massachusetts and get my MA/PhD in History or I could stay in Indianapolis and work online with Johns Hopkins University for an MA in Museum Studies. Now around this time, I met a boy named Tyler. Tyler doesn’t know it but he did play a part in my decision, though a minor one. The biggest factor was just the greatness of one school over the other. So after a long lost of pros and cons, including a budding romance, I chose to stay local and get a MA in Museum Studies.

I have yet to regret the decision that I made. While I would love to continue my study of history, and will eventually, I would have never learned about the wondrous world of museums. I would have never found my current position at the Indiana Historical Society and I wouldn’t be on the path that I am now. I would have never entered into my whirlwind romance with Tyler and I would have never gotten Percy. I am going to continue my love of history in a couple of different projects and will hopefully find a museum position in that future as a curator. Overall, I am pretty happy with the way my academic life has turned out so far and, in the future, will continue expanding on that life.

 

Old Hollywood Part II

I love history and I love that I have a job where I get to work with history every day! So in continuing with my previous post which you can read here. I am going to share another Old Hollywood post.

Indianapolis was a hub for War Bond rallies, special performances, national ceremonies and more. Many famous faces walked around Monument Circle, shook peoples hands, and posed for pictures all in the name of the war effort.download-5 It strange to see famous faces standing somewhere I could go stand right now if I wasn’t typing this blog. One of the most entertaining images I have come across features the famous duo, Abbott and Costello. The pair came to Indianapolis for a comedy performance and to raise money for war bonds. The pair was a comedy act best known for their running gig, “Who’s on First?”. They touched all forms of entertainment during their long careers including vaudeville, radio, television, and film. They both got their start as burlesque comedians, and no they didn’t shake their groove things like the ladies. They were in-between acts of the ladies shaking their groove things. I have always been really interested in burlesque dancing, but I myself cannot dance and therefore will never have a burlesque career. The pair actually met during a burlesque performance when Costello’s regular partner became ill and Abbott took his place. They became fast friends and their careers sky-rocketed from there.

During their first radio performance, the listeners had a hard time telling them apart by voice to Costello adopted his famous high-pitched voice to help them out. They went on to movies starting with One Night in the Tropics. They had supporting roles in the film but stole the show with their funny banter and routines. They would go on to star in their own films as well as others, totaling 36 films and making them the highest paid duo in Hollywood. They also made regular television and radio appearances throughout their careers. They landed their own television show, The Abbott and Costello Show, and it ran from 1952-1954 on NBC.

It was in the 1950’s that Abbott and Costello’s popularity began to wane. The two had their demons, including drinking, gambling and on-going health problems. download-4Though the pair presented themselves as best friends, they did suffer a rift in 1945 over a petty argument involving a housekeeper who Abbott had hired after she was fired by Costello. The two didn’t make up until Abbott volunteered for Costello’s charity for underprivileged children. There was tension between the two and their acts just weren’t as popular anymore, thanks in large part to the amount of films the pair had done using the same comedy routines. The pair was dropped by Universal in 1955 after having to back out of a film due Abbott’s ongoing health concerns. They were then investigated by the IRS which forced them to sell off a good chunk of their personal belongings and their own homes. By 1957, the pair officially split.

Costello went on to have a somewhat successful solo career but died in 1959 due to a heart attack. Before his death he appeared multiple times The Steve Allen Show, he appeared in episodes in GE Theatre and Wagon Train, and he completed a film titled The Thirty Foot Bride of Candle Rock.

Abbott attempted a comedic duo comeback with Candy Candido in the sixties but quit despite good reviews. His reasoning was that no one could ever live up to Costello. He appeared in one episode of GE Theatre and voiced himself in the cartoon entitled Abbott and Costello. He died in 1974 of cancer.

Despite how things ended for the duo and their personal troubles there is no comedic duo that can ever live up to Abbott and Costello!

*All images are from the Larry Foster Collection at the Indiana Historical Society.

World War II and Old Hollywood

I think I’m going to start a World War II series about Indiana on the home front. In one of my roles at the Indiana Historical Society, I work on researching and uploading images to the the online digital images collection. The big project we are working on right now is from a photographer named Larry Foster, who took thousands of images of from the 30’s to the 60’s but the main focus is on the events that unfolded in Indiana during World War II.

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One of the first things I loved about working on this collection were all of the pictures featuring famous actors and actresses from Old Hollywood that came to Indiana for special events like War Bond Rallies. My first greatest encounter was Carole Lombard. An Indiana native who made it big in Hollywood as a comedic actress and became the highest paid actress of her time. She even wound up marrying Clark Gable, one of my favorite actors especially for his portrayal as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. Their love was and always has been described as true love. Friends and family commented on how content and stable the couple had felt when they were together. Her movie roles include Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and To Be or Not To Be (her final film).

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The sale of war bonds were extremely critical in helping fund military operations and other expenditures all while helping to keep inflation down by taking money out of circulation. Many actors and actresses were keen to lend a helping hand to their nation. January 15th 1942 Carole Lombard stopped in her home state to attend a war bond rally. Her efforts here would raise a record-breaking 2 million dollars. The image to the right shows Carole at the war bond rally. The image was taken by Larry Foster and comes from his collection at the Indiana Historical Society.

Eager to get home to California, Carole convinced her mother and her agent, Otto Winkler, to take a flight back instead of the train as they had planned. The decision was made by flipping a coin since her mother and Winkler we afraid of flying. The plane stopped over in Las Vegas to refuel and shorty after take-off crashed into Double-Up Peak killing everyone on board.

Carole’s career was cut-short and Clark Gable was left devastated in the wake of her death. He intended to sue the airline but settled out of court for $10 as he did not want to relive his grief. Gable then enlisted in the army, something Carole always wanted him to do, where he manned a motion picture battalion that filmed air battles but he also flew in 5 missions himself. Upon his death in 1960 from complications following a heart attack, Gable was interred beside Carole despite being married twice after he death. Many commented that after Carole died he was never quite the same.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarole was scheduled to appear in They All Kissed the Bride before her death and her role was subsequently given to Joan Crawford. Joan Crawford donated all of the money she earned from this role to the Red Cross who had worked to recover the bodies from the plane’s wreckage.

 

Two years after her record-breaking bond drive, a Liberty Ship entitled the USS Carole Lombard was launched. This ship would go on to the Pacific Theater where it was responsible for rescuing hundreds of sailors from sunken ships.

Larry Foster captured dozens of photos of Carole Lombard during her time in Indianapolis for the war bond rally, little did he know that he was taking some of the last images of the famous actress.

Larry Foster’s entire collection can be viewed here:

http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16797coll35