Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details

The next collection we want to highlight for you is our collection of the Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details. This collection of plates come to us from the UWM Libraries Special Collections.The Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details digital collections includes two of the twelve volumes from an original 1890-1913 publication compiled by Colonel S.S.Jacob of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The volumes which we currently hold include Volume VII, volume IX, Dados, with a note on the process of fresco paintings in Jeypore and volume X, Parapets. The plates show prints of various architectural designs and motifs as well as brief introductions to the techniques used to create them. Only Volumes 9 and 10 are digitized and both are missing a range of plates from the whole.

The digital images were created using digital photography. They were digitized for use in a project for our Look Here! collaboration. To view the final products of the collaborations you can view our digital exhibition here.

To browse the Jeypore Portfolio check out our digital collection.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Eldon Murray Papers

Hello everyone! It has certainly been a while since we posted. Seventeen months to be more precise and we are sorry for the radio silence. However, it’s not without good reason - we have been busy at work on some new collections! In the past year we have launched several new digital collections. In the next few weeks we’ll be taking some time to highlight a few of these new collections.

Eldon Murray in Korea, 1950-1953
The first collection we want to highlight is the Eldon Murray Papers. Eldon Murray was a prominent activist in the Milwaukee LGBT community. In addition to his work with the Gay Peoples Union (GPU) and the Milwaukee AIDS Project (MAP), Murray was the founder of SAGE/Milwaukee, the first organization in Wisconsin dedicated to serving the needs of older gay, lesbian, and bisexual people through community building and counseling services. Eldon also served in the United States Army in Korea. The collection contains photographs, organizational records, a few publications, and a collection of scrapbooks containing newspaper clipping dating from the 1940s-1970s.

Eldon Murray scrapbook page (redacted version)
The scrapbooks presented us with a unique challenge in terms of providing access to the collection. The pages contained many newspaper articles in their entirety, which made publishing them online a conundrum. Copyright laws and the sheer amount of material represented made it unfeasible for us to post them unaltered. In the end our solution was to run the scrapbooks through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program to generate a transcript. We hid this field from the public but still made it searchable, this way we can provide the information to our researchers without infringing upon copyright laws. This is a great example of one way in which we try to work through issues to provide as much access as we can to our researchers.

For those who would like to access the unedited versions of these articles and scrapbook pages - come to the UWM Archives reading room where you can page through the physical scrapbooks. In addition to that you will also have access to the correspondence which has not been digitized for privacy reasons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Look Here! Project: An Audio Interview with Rebecca Holderness

This is the eighth installment in our interview series with artists participating in the Look Here! ProjectRebecca Holderness is a director, choreographer, teacher and artistic director who has numerous productions to her credit, and an Associate Professor of Acting and Directing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts. In this audio interview, she discusses a new work she created for the Look Here! Project, along with Andy Miller. Rebecca and Andy's installation will be part of the Look Here! exhibit at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, opening June 28th. There will be a public performance of their work at Villa Terrace on September 9, 2018.

The interview was conducted by Ann Hanlon, Head of UWM Libraries Digital Collections and Initiatives, on May 2, 2018 at the UWM Libraries Digital Humanities Lab Audio Studio.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Look Here! Project: An Interview with Laj Waghray

This is the seventh installment in our interview series with artists participating in the Look Here! Project. Laj Waghray is a filmmaker; she is the Director of Red Crane Films, and has numerous documentaries to her credit, including "Sleepovers," a 2012 documentary about four girls growing into young adults; she co-directed the third film in Janet Fitch’s series, "Guns, Grief and Grace in America" (2009); co-produced Ramon Rivera-Moret’s documentary, "On Calloway Street" (2008); and worked as an associate producer for Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini’s "Well-Founded Fear" (2000). Waghray was the 2014 recipient of Kartemquin Films Diverse Voices in Docs fellowship.

Why were you interested in participating in the Look Here! Project?

I am a filmmaker and we often work in isolation. So when the Look Here! Project came up it was exciting as it presented me with an opportunity to be a part of a University Library and to work with people!  This is a very good match for my personality.

AH: So when you’re talking about the research aspect of things – did you find in working on the Look Here! Project that working with the collections and materials helped to extend a current research project, or did it take you into something entirely new?

LW: I submitted two ideas when I first started the Look Here! Project. Both were something I had been exploring already. One idea was about the consequences of urbanization on bird habitats. I have been obsessed with that topic for a long time. And I’ve also been working on a short film which is more poetic, about ‘what hands do’. What do makers, or artists or whoever makes something with their hands - what draws them to their work, and why? So I submitted both ideas, thinking that my project with urbanization and birds will be the one that I would find the most material on and really, who was even thinking about hands? Then I come to the library and Max (Yela) is showing me these amazing artist books on similar issues and I realized there was much more material for the hands project. I was just blown away. Each book was part of this broad concept that I was exploring.
So that was an exciting discovery.

Then we talked about the Wisconsin Arts Project and the Milwaukee Handicrafts Project. What’s exciting is that someone, during the time of the Depression thought that jobs should come back and what did we go back to? Not technology but hands and handicrafts.

AH: That’s interesting, and that’s the Milwaukee Arts Project?

Yes, It  was a federally funded program, I am researching the libraries collection of the work of Elsa Ulbricht, who devised and oversaw the nationally recognized Milwaukee Handicraft Project, an  initiative created after the stock market crash that provided jobs for approximately 5,000 people (mostly poor, unskilled women), to manufacture toys, rugs, and printed fabrics.

The Idea was to provide employment for Americans affected by the economic crash through projects to improve the country’s infrastructure. Interestingly, it included a smaller project that focused on supporting the arts and involved people that were trained in working with their hands, which dovetailed nicely with my explorations. 

AH: I actually always think of the word "work" with your project, but I don’t think that you are necessarily looking at it as just an issue of "work," in terms of what people are doing with their hands.

LW: It’s not just work. For some people it is just work -It’s not a choice. For many others though, It’s the making, it’s the process, and it’s the touch that is very satisfying.

A lot of these discoveries have been pretty exciting. I didn’t ever think manual work and handicrafts was something that a federal government would get involved in. The process is beautiful. It breaks your thinking pattern, it breaks your assumptions and you end up going a whole new direction from what you wanted to prove.

AH: So the challenges for you come from both the collections in the Library and from live people.

LW: Yes, It happened in most unexpected ways. There were some good challenges too, It was hard to concentrate at the Special collection library, it was somewhat akin to the being a kid in a candy store  --- Everywhere you look there were stories coming at you. I had a hard time focusing but all my distractions and procrastination were tied to the fact that I might have succumbed to the temptation of turning pages of a book which is not related directly to my topic.

AH: In your previous work had you worked with historical materials very often?

LW: No, I’ve worked primarily with people. Sleepovers (2012) was about four girls and their journey. I followed them over the period of ten years. Then I worked on a film called On Calloway Street (2004), in New York, where I documented the lives of many immigrants over a period of two years. Later, I worked on a film on gun violence (Changing the Conversation: America’s Gun Violence Epidemic, 2009) and discovered that it’s not just homicide in urban populations which is the problem, but also suicides among white, suburban populations which goes under-reported. This is probably my first experience sitting in a library and digging, and I think I am hooked.

AH: You’ve talked about using the artist books that Max Yela has up in Special Collections, as well as the Milwaukee Arts Project collections, some of which we’ve digitized and put online. Are there any other collections that you’ve used that we haven’t talked about?

LW: Initially, for my urbanization and bird habitat project I found very interesting material like the Nehrling books, the Brehms Tierleben collection, and Eddee Daniel's artist books, which I hope to revisit later. Staying focused is a challenge when researching in a library like Special Collections.

AH: Do you save those up somehow for future reference?

LW: Yes, I do have this ‘idea book’ that I write things in. My challenge is that my work requires a team which requires funding. So if that comes along, I have lots of ideas in that book!
But going back to the challenge of focus, It’s very helpful that the librarians are interested in helping you, because sometimes research can be very overwhelming. I think the collaboration and getting to know the librarians; being able to go behind the scenes in the collections has been tremendous. The discussions with librarians lead you on the right path and they expand your ideas. They would have helped even if I was not part of a project, but this experience has been very rewarding.

AH: I think framing this as a project changes the relationship and makes it more of a partnership between the artists and the librarians than it might have been before. Which, like you said, the librarians would have always helped you. The Look Here! Project just makes it a more collaborative relationship.

LW: This time it seems like there’s this collaboration where the excitement is shared. It’s good. And the library has a stake in the work we’re creating.

AH: I think that’s exactly right. It’s not like you just walk away and show your work and we’re like "Oh that’s interesting. She used our stuff." We’re interested in what you’re doing with our stuff too. Because the other side of it for us is, how is that informing what we collect and what we digitize and how we make this material available so that it’s most useful for artists and others. Having you and other artists who work in a variety of media is contributing to our thinking on these things.

LW: It has made the experience quite rich, because I would have never thought of how Jill (Sebastian) is using the collections in her work, or Nirmal’s (Raja) use of the collections, or how Marc Tasman is repurposing things. When I’m listening to other artists it’s absolutely exciting.

AH: It’s been a really rich conversation. How did what you found in the collections influence your work?

LW: I had already decided when I applied how I was going to incorporate the materials. I did not expect that the collections would find me and change my work. I already knew what I was doing and thought I just needed X, Y, and Z to fulfill this task. Then I found all these artist books and the WPA projects - now I feel as if my project is advocating in some way for bringing the tactile sense back. I don’t know what will change in my journey. I’m on the journey where the work is talking to me.  It is saying “Wait, you’re not done yet. You need to add me to your journey and you need to talk about what’s being done historically, too, and how are you going to do that?” That’s the challenge and that’s where I’m at right now, trying to figure that out.

How has having so much content available digitally affected the work you are creating or has it had any impact?

LW: One of the online collections I used was the Wisconsin Arts Project. While there is a lot of material it’s very nicely organized so it’s a little less overwhelming. Still, because I’m going directly to where I want, there is a fear that I might be missing something else. In the Special Collections library what I wanted was put out on the table for me. I called Max and when I’d arrive it was already set out, so when you go to the library you are looking at your resources and your work – but there is also all the other work that other people are working on around you. Whether they’re there or not, the traces of their work are there. An unopened book there, a closed box with an interesting title. I found a film index from a few years back. There was some collection of encyclopedias from India that were old. I really had to pull myself back and say, “Max put this out for you on the table – there are 15 books out on the table; sit there and look at them.” 

AH: But was it exciting to have that other work sort of radiating around you?

LW: Yes, it’s like you’re surrounded by the evidence of other people’s ideas. If we are open to be influenced by other people's ideas we can arrive at a balance where their ideas can infiltrate into your curiosity and can unexpectedly elevate your project, making the process dynamic, ever-changing and exciting.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Look Here! Project: An Interview with Jill Sebastian

This is the fifth installment in our interview series with artists participating in the Look Here! project. Jill Sebastian is Professor Emerita at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She has received numerous awards, including an NEA Fellowship, and the City of Milwaukee's Artist of the Year Award (1997). She has completed public art installations in Milwaukee, Madison, and New Orleans, and her work has been exhibited nationally.

Why were you interested in participating in the Look Here! pilot project?

Much of my work involves a dialectical overlay between physical experience and conceptual subtext. Whereas I may do extensive "needle-in-the-haystack" trolling of cultural context, history, politics to map my ideas, as an object maker I am still riveted by the rare, the firsthand experiencing of things. AGSL (The American Geographical Society Library) and the UWM Special Collections' rich, unique artifacts presented the possibility of adventure, exploring territories rarely visited and holding them to the light of now.

What collections are using or did you begin to use for your project?

Where I began as an explorer is not where we will arrive in the final work.

My initial proposal was to use the Brumder and the Civil Rights collections to flesh out a children's book in progress - a primer on voting rights. Raking through the archives added a few important details to the project, which I will use, but my overall continuing research would lead me quite afield from the collections. Once Look Here! introduced us to the prospect of exhibiting at Villa Terrace, I felt the opportunity would better be used to connect to major ongoing threads within my studio work - the distribution of protectionist propaganda with migration/invasion of plant and wildlife - to the research opportunity.

The Brumder publishing collection with its emphasis on familiarizing and situating the 19th century, immigrant German population in their new locale, Milwaukee, once gave a widely needed framework of belonging, influence and assumed regional values. I looked at far more than I could ever use but settled on Our native birds of song and beauty by H. Nehring.

Casting a wide net helped me gather a bounty which I can winnow - eliminating this option or that, focusing to a multi-layered simplicity; considering whether what I envision has been done or not, giving authentic context for my effort and finally being reassured that I am pursuing a new path.

Zuber Gallery at Villa Terrace
I will be doing an installation in Villa Terrace's Zuber room with its Chinoise wallpaper printed by hand from 500 wood blocks dating back to 1795. I have looked carefully at holdings in original artists' woodcuts. I think Max Yela (Curator, UWM Special Collections) saw the relevance of my papermaking in the larger context of artists books and works on or about paper before I did.

Since the Zuber room is centered to overlook an Italian inspired garden, I expanded into meanings of garden design - The Art of Garden Design in Italy by H. Inigo Triggs and ASGL photographs of the Gardens of Babur in Kabul (Bagh-e Babur). Destroyed in war this Islamic garden was built along a center stepped spine of water in the 1500s as a reminder of paradise and became an influence on Renaissance thought.

How did what you found in the collections influence your work?

Because I have strong trajectories in my practice, I worked to connect the collection to what I am doing, rather than approaching without a concept looking for inspiration. This means a much longer process of research to find what resonates, what deepens through threads of connections over time. I admit this has been sometimes a struggle with optimistic starts that did not pan out, but the librarians were always excited to suggest, "Have you seen this?" or "Maybe you would find this valuable." Their guidance has been the most valuable asset.

How does having so much content available digitally affect the work you're creating? Or does it?

I began my research with an exhibition on Brumder Publishing and the actual artifacts. Special Collections offered to digitize any holdings, and scanning Nehring's Birds became a foundation for my project. Perhaps the biggest advantage was in culling through the online catalogue of holdings and seeing images there that opened up new avenues of research.

The high quality of the images meant that I could work directly with information rich files. To pry open the singularity of one-of-a-kind artifacts, books, engravings, to share them broadly. And yet, my work - despite digitally laser cutting woodblocks and several hundred prints - will be synthesized into a fragile, temporary, first-hand physical nature of a site-specific installation. The expansion and contraction of experience is the irony of our digital age.

What more can you tell us about your experience in this project?

Knowing that the work from Look Here! would be shared in an exhibition in a venue, Villa Terrace, laden with rich history impacted the direction of my project.

We romanticize nature, and we idealize it in gardens. Right in front of us on a micro level are ongoing lessons of life and death, war and peace, heaven and hell found by closely considering a small plot of earth.

The Zuber Room at the Villa Terrace is papered with handprinted scenes of an exotic Chinoise paradise. My site-specific installation will inject realities of the garden world outside where drab Wisconsin Sparrows have been harvested for culinary pleasure; Red Wing Blackbirds fiercely defend their territory; Tree of Heaven Sumac, Wild Mustard, Burdock and Thistle invade, threatening the order of a perfect world; and where the continuing war in Afganistan seems remote, unreal.

More about Jill Sebastian's work is here: