Poetic Express

Art is tough to define, though many have tried.  In one attempt at defining, someone once said that art is what’s left behind after creativity is expressed.  And while there may be artists who hide their work from others to be enjoyed only in private, most artists have a desire to share their creativity.

Art can be visual representation, but it can also be communication: of ideas, of noticing, of one individual’s take on the world. In his book The Sane Society (1955), Erich Fromm talks about what he calls “Collective art.” This is art as a meaningful response to the world in a social setting.

“‘Collective art, is shared; it permits man to feel one with others in a meaningful, rich, productive way. It is not an individual leisure time occupation, added to life, it is an integral part of life.” (p. 339)

Maurice Greenia, Jr., is an artist who likes to share his work. With The Poetic Express, he takes his art to the streets.  He gives it away, he makes it free for everyone, and in this way, he makes it an integral part of the society he lives in.

The Poetic Express is a weaving of image and text, poetry and humor, unique story telling and fantasy.  It communicates, it shares, and it amuses all who come upon it.  And this all started, Maurice tells us in his introduction to the collection, in the mid-1980s with a very unique experiment (volume 1).

Maurice adds to this collection often, and now volume 28 is available. If you haven’t spent some time with The Poetic Express collection in the Maurice Greenia, Jr. Collections digital archive, you’re really in for a treat!

(April, 2015, will mark the 30th anniversary of the first volume that was completed in 1985!  Look for something special to commemorate this creative milestone.)


Fall means Football!

Fall in Michigan is full of surprises.  It’s difficult to know what to expect of the seasonal changes after Labor Day. Not only does the state become a colorful display of red, yellow, and orange foliage this time of year, it can display this foliage against a dramatic backdrop of painfully blue skies or thunderous storm clouds.  Each day is a different but beautifully expressed tumbling towards winter.  And winter can be harsh and unforgiving.

So ancient man (mid-19th century man to be exact) decided to do something about the unsettled nature of Fall and invented football.  Or so one story goes. Actually, Wikipedia says there was only one man, Walter Camp, to give this credit to in this country, since he is considered to be the “Father of American Football.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the thoughts of students at UDM turned to football with the coming of Fall.  The Titans were much beloved and strongly supported, not only by the entire university, but also by fans across the city and beyond. Devoted fans ensured a place for football as part of student life until its sad end in 1964. With each game, fans enjoyed reading about the players in glossy, brightly colored and highly collectable programs available for sale at each game.  These now grace the virtual pages of the University of Detroit Football Collection in digitized form.

And we are adding to this archive all the time! This month, for example, we’ve added 51 new program images to the programs collection and hope to add more soon.  We invite you to take a look at our newest additions this fall football season, and spend some time scrolling through the games of the past. Imagine yourself sitting in the stands among the crush of cheering fans. Smell the popcorn and hot dogs, feel the chill of a crisp fall afternoon, and relive a time when winning this one game was all that mattered in the world.


The digital Football Collection offers viewers a way to revisit the time when the pride of the university was reflected in the powerful Titan team. To complete the experience, click through some of the audio interviews included with the collection and hear first hand the memories of those who were there on the field, who felt the sting of those days before uniforms were designed with safety and comfort in mind.  It’s easy to be proud once again listening to those who still remember their time on the field.


Lore of a People

A culture is defined by the stories it tells and the beliefs it holds about itself. In the English speaking world, there’s a rich oral tradition of teaching with story telling.  These stories become our collective beliefs, traditions, and customs, and they are passed down from parent to child, teacher to student, elders to youth for generations. The collection of these socially particular “truths” about the world allow us to define who we are as distinct from others.  Often the stories of who we are contain advice for daily life along with the grand answers to universal questions.  When these stories pertain to traditional values regarding how to live, local customs, or even songs and riddles, we say they are “folklore.”  In 1964, Dr. James T. Callow, then professor of English at the University of Detroit, was very interested in folklore.

Although there has always been a tradition of passing along the folklore of this country orally, Dr. Callow realized the value of recording it in an archive.  The value here is not just with the subject and advice offered, but with the process of continuing to hand down through generations the ideas and suggestions of those who long ago determined the need for it.  The meaning of saying such as, “loose lips sink ships,” for example, may be lost to those who continue to use it, the urge to continue to pass it along remains.  Understanding this form of communication, of how we interact with our fellow human beings, is where the value lies. The urge is to instruct, assist, and offer benefit, and this is a very human activity.

So, in 1964, Dr. Callow and his friend Frank Paulsen, created the Detroit Folklore Archive. For the thirty years between its founding and Dr. Callow’s retirement, the archive has grown to be one of the finest of its type in the country. In the introduction to this archive, we learn that in 1972, Dr. Callow computerized the collection using a “punch card system.”  And in his 1992 annual report,  Dr. Callow says, “I have motivated my students to take pains with their collecting because it is destined to be preserved for years to come. Nor will it lie gathering dust. Every time what we retrieve from this database (e.g., some of the proverbs, riddles, stories, songs, customs, and beliefs that these students gathered) are read and appreciated, it’s a way of perpetuating one’s own traditions, and those of one’s family and friends as well.”

Spend some time in this archive and you may be amazed at how much of it you have already been taught in childhood. This archive is a great place to find the customs and traditions of our daily world that we’ve taken for granted over the years since we were first taught these stories of ourselves.  It’s fun to just browse through the subjects or keyword search feature until you find something that catches your fancy.

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

Magnets are very Attractive

Did you know that Maurice Greenia, Jr. creates his own refrigerator magnets?  He takes old magnets that are often given away for advertizing or promotions, applies gesso to them, then paints what he feels on top of the gesso.  He’ll often add the name “Maugre” (Maurice’s nom de plume) and the year the particular item was created.  Some magnets depict animals, some people, some just abstract design … but all of them are unique expressions of Maurice’s creativity.  Not only do these look great on your fridge, but with access to any metal, you can fill your home or work space with these great magnetic works of art.

And there are buttons too!  These wearable works of art have gone from mundane to magnificent with just a few colors and brush strokes.  You can often find Maurice wearing one of his own creations.  He’s got enough to wear a different one for every day of the year.

I like the abstract ones with lots of color but there are almost three hundred to choose from in his collection.  The magnets and buttons pictured below are a couple of my favorites.

The Magnet and Pin Collection is just one aspect of Maurice Greenia, Jr.’s archive.  Spending some time in the entire archive is a great way to get to know what this unique urban artist has to offer.


Dark Blue, image 67


Dark Landscape, image 255


Red Figure, image 76

Headache Cure

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive is an interesting place to spend some time before the summer ends.  A visitor can usually discover something interesting, funny, or amazing there.  Each entry is brief but loaded with a bit of America that few other collections offer.

Take this post, for example.  I was searching for something to write about and typed a few lines into Google to see what I could find.  To my delight, this brief story from the collection popped onto the page:


This, to me, is why the term “holy moly” was invented.  The U of D football players of the 1920s were indeed solidly built and … um, “head strong”!

The introduction to The James T. Callow Folklore Collection tells the reader more about this unique archive:

“The University of Detroit Mercy Digital Folklore Archive, founded in 1964 by Professors Frank M. Paulsen and James T. Callow was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries /Instructional Design Studio in 2009. The archives is comprised at this point of over 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work in ‘Introduction to Folklore,’ ‘Studies in Folklore,’ ‘Folk Groups,’ and ‘Folklore Archiving.’ The folklore archive covers traditions gathered between 1964 and 1993. Included in the Archive is the Peabody field note collection containing approximately 12,000 entries from Tennessee and the Southeast.”

Sounds interesting, right?  To discover more, visit this wonderful archive by clicking here.


The 1917 Tamarack (published in June of that year) presents a portrait of a university deeply committed to the war effort.  What begins as 14 pages of interesting advertisements (which capture the readers’ attentions right away), leads subtly into the strongly patriotic support of the country’s entry into World War I.  Reading through the pages of this issue offers visitors a glimpse into a time of war before this country really knew how horrible a world war could be.  There was no precedence for this type of combat as country after country got involved.  This young generation in this country had never known bloody warfare, especially the type that awaited them.  There was no way of knowing how terrible this would be.

Reading this issue of the Tamarack, visitors to the archive may wonder how many of these fresh faced souls came back alive.  How many of the ones who did were able to deal with the scars, both physical and emotional, that time in the trenches left with them.  The traumatic effect of war on survivors has been called by different names over the decades since 1917. Hopefully those returning from the Great War managed to find peace when they returned … if they did return.

By 1917, the war had spread across Europe.  In April of that year, the U.S. had declared war on Germany.  When this issue of the Tamarack was published in June, the country was in the process of losing its innocence.  Two years later (in June, 1919) the Treaty of Versailles would end it.  The world would never be the same again.

Two more issues of the Tamarack would be published after this one. Both focused on questions regarding the war and patriotism. I can’t help but wonder if the sobering effects of war helped to end the Tamarack’s future publications.

tamarack_1917 tamarack_1917-06


Antebellum Education

Slavery in America can be traced back to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. It was legalized in this country in 1641. As it evolved from a cheap source of labor to an economic necessity in the years that followed, more and more restrictions were placed on the enslaved people involved. The governing powers had soon realized that in order to keep control over their laboring human property, they had to keep them ignorant and uneducated. A literate slave, they reasoned, was more dangerous. An educated slave could influence other slaves to question their lack of freedom; could share knowledge and information about the outside world; could encourage revolt and urge escape. If slaves could read and write, they would be able to communicate with people outside of their restricted environment, expand their connection to the world outside of the plantation, and realize their own power as human beings in an unjust world.

So, even though educating the black population was not illegal in the northern states during this period, it wasn’t encouraged or supported. Many schools dedicated to educating black children folded under the pressures of lack of funding and lack of support from the white population. Education in this section of the population at one point became a communal endeavor: literate parents taught their children, friends taught friends, groups formed to help each other learn. In the South where educating slaves was not allowed, this type of communal education (mostly centering on learning to read the Bible) was unstoppable.

During this time, the Black Abolitionists saw the value of education and worked tirelessly to encourage it among the black population, both free and enslaved. An educated population was a more powerful force for change in an unjust society that seemed to turn a blind eye on the horrors that made possible their economic bounty. They knew that improving the conditions of the black people depended upon education for themselves and the generations to follow. The primary focus of editorials written by black abolitionists during this period was on “the mental and moral cultivation of our people.” And into this determination to learn and improve came access to and development of quality schools and libraries (and in the case of the editorial shared here, the Philadelphia Library for Colored People).

In its December 2, 1837 publication, the Colored American filed this report on the educational opportunities the editor visited in Philadelphia. Within this article, the editor notes, “In union, brethren, there is strength.”

Want to read more? Please visit the Black Abolitionist Archive in our Digital Special Collections.

Outer Echoes Still Heard

In 1940, the Sisters of Mercy established a presence in Detroit at Southfield and West Outer Drive. About a year later, Mercy College of Detroit began offering classes on this spot that would leave an indelible mark in this city’s history. Over the years until its consolidation with the University of Detroit in 1990, Mercy College expanded from offering nursing and teaching classes to women into a comprehensive coeducational liberal arts college.

In October 1941, the first issue of the Mercy College newspaper, then called “Outer Echoes,” was published. The first column on the first page of this issue welcomed the first classes to this new college on September 8, of that year. Even in its publication infancy, this first issue is loaded with information regarding the beginning of this new institution of higher learning. We can read about the dedication ceremonies, along with details of the elections and activities involved with the opening of a new college. We can see who was chosen for each important aspect of the governing of this new institution, along with photos of the bright faces of those who could consider themselves the first students in what would become such an influential school for those to follow. On page 3, we get a glimpse into one of the dorm rooms at “McAuley Lodge” (the residence building at the time), along with a brief description of campus life written by excited freshmen.

Four pages of history are here in this issue of the Mercy College Newspapers digital collection for your review. It’s worth the time just to look at the photos! But linger a while in these pages, and I think you’ll be pleased by the treasure you’ll find.

Josiah Henson and Harriet Beecher Stowe

It seems an unlikely pairing, but one theory of the history of slavery assures us that Harriet Beecher Stowe was influenced to write her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin after reading the autobiography of Josiah Henson, former slave and Black Abolitionist.  Stowe’s character of Uncle Tom even looks a bit like the photograph of Henson available on various web sites devoted to African American history.  And according to one site, Henson’s supporters even encouraged this connection after the book’s popularity to call further attention to the horrors of slavery that were going unrecognized by most of the white population.

But Stowe’s character of Uncle Tom was also based on a lack of understanding of the actual depth of the problem with the economic “industry” that slavery had become.  Her fictional character lacked the human element that Henson brought to the cause.  Henson had lived through slavery, he had been a loyal slave, and he had been changed forever by his immersion in the way a lack of human compassion can alter human lives.  His encounter with sick and starving slaves encouraged his escape to Canada and his work with education that followed.

The Black Abolitionist Archive contains a brief but important speech by Henson, delivered in 1851, and published in the Anti-Slavery Reporter newspaper.  Stowe’s novel would not be published until March, 1852.   Henson’s autobiography (written by ghost writer Samuel A. Eliot), The Life of Josiah Henson, was published in 1849.  The “tumultuous greeting” he received was then based on his book and not on Stowe’s.

In this speech (shown below), he praises the way education was offered to those of African descent living in England, emphasizing the work of the Sunday School Union there.

 The Rev - Henson_11608spe

 June 2, 1851, the Anti-Slavery Reporter


Have you ever wondered about the history of UDM’s yearly Convocation?  Each year university faculty and employees gather together to kick off the new academic year.  Did you know that the Digital Archives offers a way to trace the history of this annual event through our Convocation Collection?  And not just the history of these important assemblies at UDM, but also those held when we were known as the University of Detroit and Mercy College.

What can you find there?  Well, you’ll find names (who’s who and who’s new!):

  • of those who were honored,
  • of the current university president,
  • of new colleagues,
  • of retiring colleagues,
  • of current university faculty

And you’ll sometimes find images:

  • of the campus,
  • of maps,
  • of new buildings

In this excerpt from the introduction to this collection, Margaret Auer,  Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology, describes the collection this way:

“The University of Detroit Mercy has primarily held two types of convocations. The first is the annual convocation called by the president of the university. The purpose of the convocations is for the President to provide a “state of the university” speech and the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide a “state of academic affairs” overview. Over the years, convocations have also provided an opportunity to introduce new faculty, staff, and/or administrators and to honor those individuals who have retired from the university during the previous academic year. For many years, a booklet was distributed in which the Deans of the colleges/schools and the Deans of the academic support units provided annual reports on their respective unit’s successes and challenges. As time went on annual reports from major administrative offices, such as student life and admissions and enrollment management were added to the booklet.”

Entering this digitized aspect of the university’s story is only a matter of a few clicks.  Each booklet is like a small opening to a larger history of the university itself.

convocation2013President’s Convocation, Monday, August 19, 2013

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