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Our Playbook on OSU History

Twelve Days: Archives donors deliver the goods – in so many ways

(In celebration of the University Archives’ upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2015, we bring you “The Twelve Days of Buckeyes.” This is day 9 in a series of 12 blog posts highlighting the people who were instrumental in the creation and growth of the Archives.)

Wilgus' tie, c1887-1888

Wilgus’ tie, c1887-1888

We’d like to focus today on the unsung heroes of Archives everywhere: those individuals who decide the “old stuff” in their lives needs a more permanent home. So they take on the sometimes herculean task of finding just the right place and sending the materials there.

Take, for instance, Peggy Wymore. She has absolutely nothing to do with OSU, except for the important fact that her grandfather, James Alva Wilgus, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from OSU (1888 and 1889, respectively). He then spent many years in education, retiring from the State Teachers’ College in Wisconsin in June 1939 as a professor of History and Social Sciences. He died two months later.

Peggy Wymore, donor of Wilgus material

Peggy Wymore

So his OSU materials – the coolest thing is his scarlet-and-gray class tie –survived nearly 75 years, thanks to the Wilgus family, including Peggy, who was the last one to have these items in her possession and who contacted the Archives to see if we would want his things. We sure did. And, in fact, we were so thrilled, we wrote a blog about him.

Luckily for the Archives, there are many people like Ms. Wymore who can’t bear to discard such items as the class tie – an item we had never seen before – and they do the legwork to track down the Archives to ask if we want the materials. They carefully pack these items, often providing much-appreciated detailed explanations, then ship them to the Archives, often at their own expense, from all over the country.

Naddy's ROTC uniform

Naddy’s ROTC uniform

It is the explanation of an ROTC unifom that makes this particular donation stand out. In 2006, John Naddy donated the jacket, pants and hat he wore while he was in ROTC at OSU in the early 1940s. Back then, all male students had to take military science classes; however, at this particular time their training took on extra meaning since war was imminent. For Naddy, as with many young men of his generation, he recounted his story very matter-of-factly in a letter that is so priceless in its charm, and what it divulges about that time period, that we urge you to read it for yourself.

Then, there are the donors for whom it’s a no-brainer on where their precious keepsakes should end up permanently. Arthur “Jerry” Grundies was one such donor. Grundies was a varsity tackle who played OSU football under Coach Francis Schmidt from 1938 to 1940.

Grundie's football uniform

Grundies’ football uniform

Grundies at a 2008 football game

Grundies at a 2008 football game

Grundies didn’t play professionally after college; he went to war instead, serving in the U.S. Army in Italy and North Africa, and earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star along the way. After the war, he became a sales representative for various oil companies in the region until his retirement. In 2002, Grundies donated his football uniform to the Archives – it’s the earliest version we have and one of the most often displayed items in our collection. He had a strong connection to OSU, so strong that the Archives received holiday cards from him until his death in 2010.

No matter why people donate materials to the Archives, we are extremely grateful that they do. Such artifacts are so helpful in helping us demonstrate through exhibits and tours the history of Ohio State, and we look forward to sharing them with our patrons and visitors for many years to come.

Twelve Days: From production to preservation, film pioneer left his mark on Archives

(In celebration of the University Archives’ upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2015, we bring you “The Twelve Days of Buckeyes.” This is day 8 in a series of 12 blog posts highlighting the people who were instrumental in the creation and growth of the Archives.)

Robert Wagner, 1961

Robert Wagner, 1961

The University Archives was in its infancy when Robert W. Wagner became Chair of the Department of Photography and Cinema in 1966. But Wagner’s leadership in the development of using motion picture film as an effective tool in communication and teaching, would ultimately lead to enriching the Archives’ audiovisual collections to what they are today.

First, a little background: Wagner came to Ohio State as an undergraduate and received three degrees from the University: his bachelor’s in 1940, a master’s in 1941 and a PhD in 1953. He began his career at Ohio State in 1941, as an assistant in the former Bureau of Educational Research.  He became a faculty member of photography in 1946, and then chaired the Department of Photography and Cinema from 1966 to 1974.

Wagner was noted as a “film-television educator whose contributions to curriculum, technique and professionalism have been recognized throughout the world.” Not only were hundreds of educational films – now housed in the Archives – produced under his chairmanship, Wagner also had an intense interest in the work archivists did in preserving photographs and motion picture film.

In 1968, Wagner presented a paper at a meeting of the Society of American Archivists regarding preservation concerns and dangers of nitrate-based films. (Nitrate film, produced from the 1880s to the 1950s on 35mm film, was made with a cellulose nitrate base, which is highly flammable and sometimes explosive under certain circumstances.)

“Today, at this moment, the record of a whole field of human effort is on fire: yet so few people are concerned that the remains are likely to crumble to a foul-smelling brown dust before the holocaust can be made public, let alone put out or even controlled….If we fail to plan for the future as well as the past, we shall perpetuate and accelerate the loss of our film and television heritage”.

Wagner’s compelling and persuasive presentation must have given archivists of the time a lot to think about.

1983

1983

Though his numerous achievements in teaching, film production and research throughout his career could have made for a comfortable retirement, Wagner’s story did not end there. Far from it.

Wagner gained the title of “emeritus professor” in 1984 and continued his quest of film education, believing that every film, video or photography studio or study center in major universities should include a course or seminar on the topic of the preservation of media. He pursued this topic, teaching film preservation workshops to graduate students and to librarians.

More than a decade after retirement, Wagner became a volunteer for the University Archives and the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program. He spent many hours hunched over a small manual film viewer, watching and describing early color film shot during Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Expedition in Antarctica in the 1930s. Consequently, he later assisted the Polar Curator in secure a grant to preserve the expedition films.

1987

1987

He also worked with the University Archives’ collection of Photography and Cinema motion picture films, describing and transcribing them so that they would be more accessible to researchers. Working tirelessly to document the physical condition of the film in the Archives, he passed this information along to staff to continue the legacy. He also frequently served as the Archives’ consultant on audiovisual resources, and often visited the Archives to work with patrons interested in film.

On many occasions, Wagner served as mentor to Archives staff members, educating them on the identification, handling, and preservation of film. In a memorable display of hands-on teaching, he showed an Archives staff member how quickly a small piece of nitrate film could burst into flames (in the Archives parking lot, of course).

The Archives staff is eternally grateful for the contributions made from this great film pioneer. We leave you with one of his quotes:

“The worthy though unrewarding task is to protect and perpetuate our motion picture heritage – a form of human communication, creating expression and historic documentation so unique to the United States that cinema has almost become our second “language.” The job is to preserve this heritage on film, this visual literature for our time and for the future.” – Robert W. Wagner, The American Archivist, 1969

We could not have said it better.

Wagner died on February 7, 2011.

You can find several films from the Department of Photography and Cinema on the Libraries Knowledge Bank.

Twelve Days: Jesse Owens’ legacy lives on at the Archives

(In celebration of the University Archives’ upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2015, we bring you “The Twelve Days of Buckeyes”. This is day seven in a series of 12 blog posts highlighting the people who were instrumental in the creation and growth of the Archives.)

Owens competing in the 200 meter dash at the Berlin Olympics, 1936

Owens competes at the 1936 Olympics

Though Jesse Owens’ most famous accomplishment happened more than 75 years ago, many people today still remember what it was – winning four gold medals in track at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – and what it meant – an African-American man showing the Adolph Hitler that his propaganda about the superiority of the Aryan race was bunk.

Fewer people may remember, however, that Owens attended OSU before going on to make history at the Olympics. That doesn’t mean, though, that his collection of papers, photos and artifacts housed here at the University Archives is ignored. Far from it.

The Archives acquired the bulk of collection from Owens’ widow, Ruth, from 1987 to 1990. Additions were subsequently made by the Owens family, particularly Marlene Owens Rankin, one of Owens’ daughters. Most of the collection is composed of materials from when he started attending OSU in 1933 to his death in 1980. The roughly 100 cubic feet of materials include many artifacts such as his Olympic gold medals. But there are also other items that signify his later roles in life, such as a tankard given to him in 1955 for his role as sports ambassador to India, an appointment made by then-Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Former University Archivist Rai Goerler looks through collection material with Ruth Owens, 1987

Former University Archivist Rai Goerler looks through collection material with Ruth Owens, 1987

Owens' Olympic gold medals

Owens’ Olympic gold medals

Since acquiring the collection and to this day, the Archives has helped many people from all walks of life learn more about Owens. The staff regularly receives requests from filmmakers, documentary makers and book writers for help on their projects to tell Owens’ story. Classes here at OSU will often visit the Archives to look through his materials as part of their research on all kinds of topics, from sports history to English rhetoric.

And the staff always knows when National History Day comes around because every year, without fail, we receive requests from elementary school students from around the country who want to know more about Owens for their projects. Their enthusiasm and curiosity about Owens are an annual delight. In fact, it is always our pleasure and honor to help patrons connect with Owens who, 35 years after his death, can still inspire people from around the world to learn about his life and his legacy.

To learn more about Jesse Owens, see the Archives’ online exhibit about him.  And, check out the Owens’ photographic collection on the Libraries Knowledge Bank.

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