Why Archive?

When we think of archives, we tend to think of collections of documents, photographs, or records which have been permanently preserved for historical or research reasons.  Out of the millions of pieces of material we human beings create yearly, only certain items are chosen to represent the value of an age or a group or an organization we wish to preserve.  Someone must decide whether a grocery list jotted down on a napkin by a famous person will one day offer insight into that famous person’s life or the times in which he or she lived.  This is heady stuff and not taken lightly by archivists.

Choosing items for archiving is usually based on creating a unique collection for preservation.  This is the art of the process.  If you look at the scope of the archived collections at the University of Detroit Mercy, you’ll notice the value placed on preserving history.  Communities, organizations, nations, researchers, individuals, and even the university itself gain from a preserved connection with the past.   We are able to see trends, follow human advancement, and even check the moral pulse of a growing social structure.  Archives tell the story of who we are, they document the contributions and challenges of people who made a difference in the direction of society, and they provide valuable sources of information for research.  Archives are our recorded cultural memory and form our official and unofficial history.

Yet historical records, without efforts to preserve them, will quickly disintegrate.  Photographs will fade until the once detailed faces are merely shadows; and paper can turn to dust (or both can become consumed by fungus or insects).  Without special care, nothing really lasts.  Digitizing these items is our way of offering a lasting record, a direct link to them before they are lost to us.

A great society is one that learns from where it’s been and works to create its future by not repeating the mistakes of its past. We are proud to offer this preservation to you in our digital archives, and we hope that you find value in this as much as we do.

The Digital Archives

Here’s a question: When was the last time you visited the Digital Archives in the Special Collections link on the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries/Instructional Design Studio’s Research portal?  If it’s been a while, “now” might be a good time to revisit.

Digital archives are a valuable resource.  Digitized items are more accessible to researchers than non-digitized materials, and digitized documents and images can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.  Using this resources helps students and researches save time and reduce or eliminate the need to visit the library and/or spend time pouring through hard copy originals.

The digitized material in the library’s Special Collections is the result of dedication to and preservation of the transitory things in this world.  Paper breaks down over time; photographs dim and disappear over the years.  Even objects like clothing, medals, and trophies have a “shelf life” if left sitting for too long.  What lasts a lifetime, however, is the value we place on these items, these links to the past, and preserving a digitized image of these items is one shareable way of reconnecting with what has gone before.

UDM’s Libraries and Instructional Design Studio is committed to preserving knowledge and learning, and part of this involves preserving the knowledge of the past through digital capture and storage.  And we offer access of this to you, our students and readers everywhere, in an effort to share how we got from then to now.  We learn from the past by repeating our successes and avoiding repeating our failures.  There is value in this and UDM is there to work to maintain that value by incorporating scanning and archiving technology.

We invite you to visit and experience something of our past.

The Pastry War

History has a way of smoothing the bumpy timeline that leads from “then” to now, and only bringing to the surface those events which made the biggest impact on the course of human development. Pity. A lot of interesting stuff gets covered over in the process of this. Take the Pastry War, for example. This was a minor footnote in the vast spreadsheet of historic events in the early years of this country’s development. Although it was seemingly inconsequential, news of this confectionery conflict ended up mentioned in an editorial in the February 2, 1839, issue of the Colored American newspaper, a weekly New York publication (1836-1842).

The importance to the Colored American then, was the idea of freedom, liberty, justice, and the rights of the individual. Here, they were saying, is an example of a poor country, dominated by a much larger one. Here is the power of the little guy fighting for his rights.

And Monsieur Remontel (the pastry chef in question) wasn’t the only one with an axe to grind. Mexico was particularly lawless during this period and several French citizens living there were caught in the mess of the governmental chaos. The response by France to go to war on behalf of its citizens living in Mexico was basically just an excuse. The French government had just had it with Mexico’s inability to pay its debts and its basic “drunken sailor” governing practices.

Was this a fight for the rights of the little guy, or a struggle between two ruling powers unwilling to work together to solve a relatively minor issue? The cause of one determined pastry chef for justice became lost in the belly-to-belly confrontation of two powerful men: the King of France and the President of Mexico.

According to Wikipedia, the Pastry War (also known as the First Franco-Mexican War) began innocently enough. In November, 1838, a French pastry chef named Remontel contacted the King of France, King Louis-Philippe, claiming his shop in Mexico City had been looted and destroyed by out of control Mexican officers. Mexico was in a state of flux during this time, and corruption and abuse of power held sway over the population.

The initial event soon devolved and Wikipedia tells us what happened next:

“France demanded 600,000 pesos in damages, an enormous sum for the time, when the typical daily wage in Mexico City was about one peso (8 Mexican reals). More importantly, the government of Mexico had defaulted on millions of dollars’ worth of loans from France. Diplomat Baron Antoine Louis Deffaudis gave Mexico an ultimatum to pay, or the French would demand satisfaction.

When president Anastasio Bustamante made no payment, the king of France ordered a fleet under Rear Admiral Charles Baudin to declare and carry out a blockade of all Mexican ports from Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, and to seize the city of Veracruz, which was the most important port on the Gulf coast. French forces captured virtually the entire Mexican Navy at Veracruz by December 1838. Mexico declared war on France.”

The U.S. territories got involved, of course.  The blockade encouraged smuggling through the Republic of Texas, and Santa Ana came out of retirement to join the fighting.

It was all over after a few months, ending in March, 1839, when the British got involved and brokered for peace. This wouldn’t be the last time these two countries would come to blows, however.

Reading the account in the Colored American offers insight into how this event was understood at the time. Although the writer of this editorial was not an eyewitness to the war first hand, he offers an interesting take on reports coming out of the thick of the fighting. This offers a perspective that links the reader to the times; and not just what was taking place in Mexico but in the general worldview of 19th century politics.

Index Collection

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
― Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

This quote from Chuck Klosterman seems to fit well with Maurice Greenia, Jr.’s artwork. For an artist like Maurice, this desire to create can start with an urge, a need to feel that line on the paper (or other material) in front of him. For Maurice, this paper is often in the form of an index card.  And what better material!  Index cards are the perfect size for framing images, displaying them together, and storing them neatly for later enjoyment. An index card seems “frame-worthy” even before it’s used.  It has the perfect weight, the pen (or pencil) moving freely across its surface feels good, and an index card offers the option of using a lined or unlined side.

“Besides all of that,” adds Maurice, “they fit easily in a shirt pocket or inside a book.”

There’s something about a blank index card that just cries out for art. Because it is usually 3×5, the image is not so much constrained as it is enclosed. And each image in a stack of these cards is the same size which appeals to the organizational needs of a prolific artist.

The Maurice Greenia, Jr. Collections archive has a lot more to offer, however. We invite you to spend some time in this unique collection.  You won’t be disappointed.

A Note on the New Year from 1855

The following editorial was published in the Provincial Freeman newspaper on January 6, 1855. The digitized version of this editorial in the Black Abolitionist Archive allows us to bridge the expanse of 161 years, and merge in time with the author who signs her name simply as “S.” (This is probably Mary Ann Shadd who edited the newspaper during this time.)  Although so much historic change has taken place since this editorial was written, it seems today’s readers will recognize how relevant the sentiments are here.

I’m including a transcribed version of this editorial here for reading ease.  But in order to gain a full experience of the connection in time, please visit the original article here:

“Two Weeks of Time

     “Since our last issue the old Car of Time has been rolling forward, and two weeks more have been added to the days that are past and gone.  During that short period, the holidays have come and gone, and as this is the first opportunity we have had of greeting our readers, we sincerely hope that the season has been to them one of predictable enjoyment.

     Christmas, Merry Christmas has been here. To many it was indeed a day of rejoicing, a time of social reunion; then families assembled, and while enjoying the festivities of the day, the past was almost forgotten and the future lightly thought of.

     May their brightest hopes and brightest anticipations be realized!

     Within these same two weeks another year has dawned upon us, another account has been opened in the Book of Time, to be continued until the approaching year warns us that the Balance Sheets must be compared.

     How many on the opening of the departed year started out with a large stock on hand of plans formed for the future! How many resolves to avoid vice in its many forms, were made? To shun the gaming table, to put away the “maddening bowl,” to make renewed efforts to retrieve a good character or restore a ruined fortune?  How many looked forward to long lives of happiness, surrounded with all the comforts that wealth can procure, or upon how many who went forward in the strength of manhood to do battle for their country, conscious of hardships to be encountered, yet willing to brave them all in defence of the right and their country’s glory, and hoping, with a laudable ambition, to win unfading laurels by doing deeds of valor, has the New Year dawned?

     Each heart knoweth its own sorrow and of the millions who have compared notes, we fear but few, comparatively, will dare say, I am in a solvent condition.  A great majority have been declared bankrupt.

     The thousands who fell at Inkermann and on the banks of the Alma, assist in swelling that vast majority; but though they will never be again greeted by the accustomed salutations, the story of their noble achievements will often be recounted on many a day which shall usher in what we hope this will be to all, — A Happy New Year!  S. “

“The Merry Christmas Time”

Christmas celebrations in the late 1800s weren’t anything like they are today. The focus was on church activities, caroling, and the warm gathering of family and friends. Gifts were secondary to the celebration of this holy season, and giving was more about caring than buying expensive presents. For those whose very existence depended on the kindness of strangers, support from charity and provisions for the poor were appreciated more than ever to help them through the harsh winters and desperate times.

In 1860, the country was on the verge of war. South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20th of that year.  Other states would follow in the months after. By February, 1861, the Confederacy would be officially formed, and by April, the country was at war. During the Christmas season of 1860, the country was poised for a traumatic change that would take its toll on the celebration that year and the years to come.

This article from the December 29, 1860, issue of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper reflects the unsettled feelings of the time.  Not only was the threat of war discussed in the social gatherings of activist and concerned white citizens in both the northern and southern portions of the country, it was also an important topic in black newspapers across the U. S. and in Canada. Now more than ever the poor, the enslaved, and the disenfranchised needed a helping hand. And this help could only come from individual donations, along with church organizations.

The writer asks those of his readers with “the means or even the possibility to give” to remember the poor this time of year.  He suggests that offerings like a “half a load of coal” or a turkey or a few blankets would make welcome gifts for those in need who are too proud to ask for help. This season, he tells his readers, offers the perfect time to give what will be most appreciated.

“Reader, with the means or even the possibility to give, you cannot imagine until you have tried, how much these little benevolences add to the joy of the merry Christmas times.”

This message holds true for us today, even with all the assistance programs available to those in need. Charity is a gift of love that benefits both the giver and receiver.

When viewing this article, don’t forget to use the magnifying tool included on the page. And while you’re there, why not check out other articles and speeches in the Black Abolitionist Archive. It’s a great way to experience a unique perspective on a very traumatic time in U.S. history.


The Madrigal Christmas

During the Renaissance (the early 16th century), the Madrigal, a part-song for several voices, developed as a result of an interest in the musical tones that Italian language and poetry encouraged from the human voice.  It was the sound, the music of language itself that offered the art of this expression.  Poets and musicians had long recognized this unique aspect of language, but the two merged during this time to form something completely unique and profoundly beautiful.

The Madrigal was usually arranged in elaborate counterpoint and without instrumental accompaniment.  The style now is free-form and the words move the song along without the need of sound other than the voices themselves.  The listeners’ attentions are drawn to the experience of the expression and not just to the foot taping melodies that instrumentation often lends to song.

In the mid-1960s, the Choral Department at the University of Detroit began offering Madrigal Dinner events.  The University of Detroit Chorus Collection, tells us a bit more about this in the introduction available on its event page for the Madrigal Dinner:

“In December of 1964, the Chorus started a Christmas tradition called the “Madrigal Dinner”. During this year they had four settings; each on a separate day. As one article noted “In addition to the traditional Yuletide meal of Old England, including wassail cup, roast sirloin of beef and plum pudding, the dinners will feature Madrigal Singers, who will entertain during and after the meal in authentic costumes of the period. The meal will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the UD Student Union Ballroom, with guests being heralded to the meal by trumpeters playing a fanfare and processional. The trumpeters will also be on hand to announce the arrival of the wassail bowl, boar’s head and plum pudding.

In 1965, the President’s Dinner for the Faculty became the second Madrigal Dinner. Two dinners were held with each consisting of approximately half of the full-time faculty and administrators, with their wives or husbands. According to documents within the Archives, the total attendance for both dinners was around 300 people.

In 1966 the Chorus went back to four settings, each on a separate day. The price went up from $4.00 in 1964 to $4.50. This was the last year this event took place at the university.”

This holiday season, why not spend some time with a bit of Christmas “Renaissance Style,” and explore the history of the University of Detroit Chorus Madrigal Dinners.  You can hear songs from a CD of the 1965-1966 event here.  This is bound to add to your holiday celebrations. While you’re there, check out the rest of our University of Detroit Chorus Collection.


“Children of the Cloud and Frost”

It’s often difficult to believe that some of the Tamarack publications are from the 19th century. The writing, refined and thoughtful, could have been written today. The end of the 19th century usually brings images of horse drawn carriages, oil lamps, and mustachioed male students in Bowler hats. And the women? Oh, they were at home, cinched into their corsets, raising children or reading or dusting or staying off bicycles.

By 1897, the Victorian Age (which began in 1837 when Queen Victoria was crowned and ended with her death in 1901) was nearing its end. The students at the University of Detroit had no reason to think the world would not just continue on in its refined and peaceful way. They would graduate into the world of their father’s and continue on the path towards success already created for them.

Within the pages of the early Tamarack issues, lies a truer image of individual life in 1897 Detroit. The country was changing, the peace and relative prosperity of the Victorian era would have to soon give way to the troubling changes that waited with the early years of the new century. For now, though, 1897 was filled with an idyllic view of life exemplified in the poetic view of winter described in William F. Foley’s youthful and romantic essay.

William F. Foley contributed often to the Tamarack issues between 1897 and 1901.  He would graduate in 1902.


Print Theses Bibliography Now Available

Writing a thesis can be a daunting task.  A lot of emotional blood, sweat, and sometimes tears goes into the process.  The immense dedication, often enormous amounts of independent research, late nights and weekends spent on this is not only inspiring but amazing.  And then what?  Often the value in this achievement is not the finished work but the benefit to others that follows.

The culmination of all the knowledge and learning received during a student’s time at the university is laid before a panel of brilliant professors to be read and judged, and a lot of them are shared with the library. A good many of these have been digitized and submitted to our library database accessed through our Special Collections page.

But did you know that the library also holds 8,000 print theses in our lower level?

This month, we introduce a new section of our Special Collections page where users can easily find the call numbers and location of any of these print theses by searching through an easy to use digital bibliography. Searches can be made by author, degree, program, year, or title.  It’s really worth a look, even if you aren’t doing research.

In the introduction to the Print Thesis Collection, users are reminded that:

“If you are the author of one of these works and are interested in having it digitized and made available via UDMs digital theses collection, please contact the Associate Dean for Instructional Technology (1-313-578-0579, davidsor@udmercy.edu). UDM Libraries and Instructional Design Studio would be happy to digitize your work and return the print copy to you.”



The Varsity News

January 1, 1918, the first publication of the Varsity News appeared on the campus of Detroit College. From the first issue to today (for almost 100 years), the Varsity News has been a very important part of campus life.  It keeps students informed and connected; it offers a bridge between students and faculty activities; and it continues a tradition of providing news to the university community that may not be found any other way.

Over the years the emphasis in reporting has gone from light to heavy to a balance between the two. Most issues of the Varsity News are eight pages long.  Yet, within these few pages, we learn how war affected the student population; how the unsettled rumblings of a discontented youth movement were felt on this campus; how the quirky and mysterious were discovered within the halls and buildings across the university; the raising of the new and the razing of the old; the things that gave us joy and those that caused us pain; the things that made us think, and the things that made us laugh. These things were all there in the pages of the Varsity News, and available still within the Varsity News archive.

We invite you to spend some time in the Varsity News digital archive. This is part of your university experience, and something you can be proud to share.


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