Farm Security Administration Photographers in Ohio

October is Archives Month!

This year’s theme is Ohio in the Depression. This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting photographs of people and places in Ohio during the 1930s.

Ohio in the Depression: Farm Security Administration Photographers in Ohio

Main Street in Lancaster, Ohio, August 1938 by FSA photographer Ben Shahn.

Main Street in Lancaster, Ohio, 1938 by FSA photographer Ben Shahn.

Photographs can help form or challenge our notions of a place, people, or time. In many ways, Dorothea Lange’s photograph of Florence Owens Thompson and her children defined the image of America during the Great Depression. Lange was one of several photographers that worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), first known as the Resettlement Administration. The agency commissioned a photographic survey of the country led by Roy Emerson Stryker to document rural poverty during the Great Depression from 1935-1943. The project, however, did more than document rural conditions; it also described a diversity of American experiences during those difficult circumstances. The FSA’s aim was to use the photographs to show both the poverty and prosperity of the country in order to justify support for government programs to alleviate economic hardship. Consequently, the captured images illustrate very different experiences during the 1930s. For instance photographs documenting Ohio’s experiences during the Depression are very different from Lange’s photographs of the Dust Bowl migration in California.

FSA photographers Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, Carl Mydans, Theodor Jung, John Vachon, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott documented Ohio’s experience during the Great Depression from 1935-1941. Each photographer covered different regions of the state, segments of society and even the different seasons. The three photographs displayed here of Main Street in Lancaster, Ohio (August 1938), the Thaxton family near Mechanicsburg, Ohio (Summer 1938), and farmers waiting for dinner during the wheat harvest in Central, Ohio (August 1938) were all taken by Ben Shahn. The FSA assigned Shahn to document the harvest in Central Ohio. Some of the themes included: abundant farmland, the hard-working farmer, and the quaintness of small town life. (Ohio: A Photographic Portrait 1935-1941, Carolyn Kinder Carr).

Photograph of Virgil Thaxton and family near Mechanicsburg, Ohio, Summer 1938 by Ben Shahn.

Photograph of Virgil Thaxton and family near Mechanicsburg, Ohio, Summer 1938 by Ben Shahn.

Shahn’s photographs demonstrate the diverse experiences in Ohio during the 1930s. The image of a grim farming family and a group of happy farmers cleaning up for dinner during harvest seem at odds with one another. However, as the photograph of bustling Main Street shows us, some rural communities were prosperous at the time. The caption on the Main Street nitrate negative, held by the Library of Congress, notes that “Lancaster is a very prosperous town, the county seat of Fairfield County, which is considered to be one of the richest farmland areas in the Middle West.” Whereas the image of the worn out Thaxton family is more representative of the iconic sentiment of the Depression. The caption for the nitrate negative of the Thaxton family notes that Virgil Thaxton had already rented four farms to date and each year he hoped to make enough for his family. The FSA photographers that documented Ohio didn’t only capture 1930s rural life. For instance, Mydans and Vachon both documented 1930s Cincinnati; Mydans photographed the city slums and Vachon street life and suburban living. An exhibit of FSA photographs held by the Akron Art Institute in the 1980s showed the different 1930s Ohio experiences, along with an almost smiling photograph of Virgil Thaxton (Ohio: A Photographic Portrait 1935-1941).

Farmers coming to dinner  by Ben Shahn.

Farmers coming to dinner during the wheat harvest, August 1938, by Ben Shahn.

Although the Library of Congress holds the FSA photograph collection, other government programs, like the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), collected prints of the photographs. These prints of Shahn’s photographs, for example, were collected by the FWP to potentially use in the Ohio Guide as well as other publications. The FWP was, like the FSA, a program that came out of the economic hardships of the 1930s. Initiated by the Works Progress Administration, the FWP helped provide employment to writers from 1935-1939. One of the aims of the FWP was the completion of the American Guide Series, which was a compilation of guidebooks for each state. Shahn’s prints displayed here along with more than 4,000 others prints collected by the Ohio FWP can be found in the Ohio Federal Writers’ Project State Archives Series at the Ohio History Center (State Archives Series 1039 AV).

Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant

Sources:

Akron Art Institute, Exhibition organized by Carolyn Kinder Carr. Ohio: A Photographic Portrait 1935-1941 Farm Security Administration Photographs. Akron, Ohio: Akron Art Institute, 1980.

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/ (Accessed September 24, 2014).

 

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What happened on May 4, 1970?

A controversy recently arose surrounding the clothing company, Urban Outfitters, when they began advertising the sale of a Kent State University sweatshirt, with  what appeared to be blood stains splattered across it. While reporting on the controversy, Several established media outlets inaccurately reported the date, details, and even location of the school.  While there are many excellent accounts and sources of information about the events of May 4, 1970, we want to take this opportunity to share the story of the tragedy and correct any misinformation that has been disseminated.

National Guard troops lined up on the Kent State University campus, May 4, 1970.

National Guard troops lined up on the Kent State University campus, May 4, 1970, May 4th Collection, Ohio History Connection Archives.

What exactly happened on May 4th,1970?

On May 1, 1970, students at Kent State held an anti-war protest prompted by President Richard Nixon’s announcement  on April 30 that the Vietnam War was expanding and the United States had invaded Cambodia. That evening, several incidents occurred, including rocks and bottles being thrown at police officers, the closure of bars by authorities before normal closing time to reduce alcohol consumption, and lighting bonfires. Eventually students, other anti-war activists, and criminals began to break windows and loot stores.

The mayor of Kent, Ohio, Leroy Satrom, declared a state of emergency on May 1. He requested that Governor James A. Rhodes send the Ohio National Guard to Kent to help maintain order. Rhodes agreed, and the National Guard members began to arrive the evening of May 2. As soldiers arrived, they found the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building on the Kent State campus in flames. It is unclear who set the building on fire. Kent State officials had already boarded up the ROTC building and were planning to raise it.

Anti-war protesters demonstrate on the Kent State University campus.

Anti-war protesters demonstrate on the Kent State University campus, May 4th Collection, Ohio History Connection Archives.

On May 3, approximately one thousand Ohio National Guard soldiers were on the Kent State campus. Tensions remained high, and Governor Rhodes further escalated them by accusing the protesters of being unpatriotic. He proclaimed, “They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America.” Some Kent State students assisted local businesses and the city in cleaning up damage from the previous night’s activities, but other students and non-students continued to hold protests. The National Guard continued to break up these demonstrations, including threatening students with bayonets.

On Monday, May 4, classes resumed. Anti-war protesters scheduled a rally for noon on the common area at the center of campus which meant that m any students who were not participating in the protests were also in the area.  University officials attempted to ban the gathering but proved unsuccessful in their efforts. As the protest began, National Guard members fired tear gas at the demonstrators. Strong wind blew tear gas away from the protesters. Some of the protesters threw the tear gas canisters, along with rocks, back at the soldiers. Some of the demonstrators yelled slogans, such as “Pigs off campus!” at the soldiers.

Eventually seventy-seven guardsmen advanced on the protesters with armed rifles and bayonets. Protesters continued to throw things at the soldiers.

Self portrait of killed student, Sandra Scheuer.

Self portrait of killed student, Sandra Scheuer, May 4th Collection, Ohio History Connection Archives.

It is not quite known how the next series of events happened, even to this day. What is known is that just after noon twenty-nine soldiers opened fire without an explicit command to shoot. The gunfire lasted just thirteen seconds, although some witnesses contended that it lasted more than one minute. The troops fired a total of sixty-seven shots. When the firing ended, nine students were wounded and four students were killed Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer.William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer were not participants in the protest. In later interviews the soldiers stated that they were afraid.

What happened afterwards?

After the shooting ended, Kent State University professor Glenn Frank pleaded with the National Guard to let the faculty talk with the protesters who had convened on the commons. Once in front of the protesters, Frank explained, “I don’t care whether you’ve never listened to anyone before in your lives. I am begging you right now. If you don’t disperse right now, they’re going to move in, and it can only be a slaughter. Would you please listen to me?”[1]

After 20 minutes, Frank and the faculty convinced the crowd to leave the commons. At the site of the shooting, ambulances were brought in to assist the injured students. One student, Dean Kahler, was permanently paralyzed.

Kent State University was immediately ordered to close. Classes were finished by correspondence and students who were scheduled to graduate at the end of the spring semester were mailed their diplomas. All state universities in Ohio, except for Bowling Green State University, closed their campuses for the remainder of the semester as well.

What effects did the events have on Ohio and the nation?

The photograph taken by John Paul Filo, a Kent State photography major, of activist Mary Ann Vecchio screaming over the body of Jeffrey Miller was published in magazines and newspapers around the world. Filo won a Pulitzer Prize. The events of May 4th shocked the nation. Federal, state and local authorities conducted lengthy investigations in the shootings in an attempt to understand what lead to the tragic events of May 4, 1970. A few months after the shootings occurred, the Urban Institute conducted a national study concluding the events of May 4th were the single factor that caused the only nationwide student strike in U.S. history.  Over four million students protested and over 900 American colleges and universities closed during the student strikes.

Just 11 days later at Jackson State College, a historically black college, in Jackson, Mississippi, city and state police opened fire on a group of student protesters.  Two students were killed  and 12 were injured. This event did not get as much national attention as the shootings at Kent State University despite the fact that the gunfire lasted for 30 seconds and at least 140 shots were fired.

Letter sent from President Nixon to Kent State University President Robert White, May 4th Collection, Ohio History Connection archives.

Letter sent from President Nixon to Kent State University President Robert White, May 4th Collection, Ohio History Connection Archives.

On June 13, 1970, President Nixon established the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest which investigated the events. The commission issued a report in September 1970 that stated,

“Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently, no order to fire was given, and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators.”[2]

Charges were eventually brought against eight of the guardsmen.  In 1974 U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed charges against all eight. Eventually, a civil trial was brought against Governor Rhodes, the President of Kent State University , and the Ohio National Guard. The civil case was settled in return for payment of a total of $675,000 to all plaintiffs and the defendants’ agreement to state publicly that they regretted what had happened.

In 2012, Kent State University opened the May 4th Visitor’s Center as “…an expression of how we have written our own history. It remembers the past so future generations may remember it as well.”[3]

What objects do you have in your collection related to this event?

The Ohio History Connection has several objects in our collection related to this event. A jean jacket (catalog number  H 52549) worn by student protester Alan Canfora on May 4, 1970 when he was struck in the arm by a bullet fired by an Ohio National Guardsman on the campus of Kent State University. After being shot, Canfora became a prominent public speaker, advocating for more legal action to be taken against the U. S. government for their role in the shootings.

We have several objects that belonged to shooting victim Sandra Scheuer, including her freshman beanie (catalog number H 53198),and a corsage ( catalog number H 70425).  The Archives/Library also holds papers from her parents, Martin and Sarah Scheuer, that include more of their daughter’s personal effects and material they collected about her death .  Scheuer was an honors student at Kent State University majoring in Speech Therapy and active in many student organizations. She was walking in between classes on May 4th when she was fatally shot.

A rifle used by National Guard troops at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.

A rifle used by National Guard troops at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.

In addition to objects from the students, we have several objects used by the National Guardsmen that day including a case cartridge (catalog number H 73985), a gas mask (catalog number H 46653), a pistol (catalog number H 46654), and a rifle (catalog number H 46659).  These items were used as evidence in the trial of the Guardsmen that followed the shootings.  These objects compliment the Kent State University Trial Records (State Archives Series 2062) and nine other record series in the State Archives documenting the events of May 4, 1970 and the aftermath.  You can view examples of digitized documents from the Kent State records in our digital library, Ohio Memory.

The impact of these events is still being felt in Ohio and across the world today.

As a Kent State University alumna myself, I hope this current controversy leads to greater conversation and education of the events that happened on and around May 4th, 1970. Through understanding our own history, we can learn and grow, preventing more hurt from occurring and making our world a better place.

Emily Lang, History Curator

[1] Grack, Rachel A.. The Kent State Tragedy. Edina, Minn.: Abdo Pub., 2005.

[2] “The Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest.” PDF. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED083899.pdf (accessed September 17, 2014).

[3] Nobile, Jeremy . “Kent State University Dedicates New May 4 Visitors Center.” News Leader. http://www.the-news-leader.com/regional/2013/05/08/kent-state-university-dedicates-new-may-4-visitors-center (accessed September 17, 2014).

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Emerson Burkhart and Self Portraits

“It’s cheaper than hiring a model and it’s reliable. It’s always there when I want it.”

Emerson Burkhart on Self Portraits

Photo of Emerson Burkhart working on a self portrait, from the Ohio History Connection Collections, SC 22.

Photo of Emerson Burkhart working on a self portrait, from the Ohio History Connection Collections, SC 22.

Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart opened last week in our 3rd Floor Library Lobby and First Floor Spotlight Gallery. Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) ruled the Columbus art scene during the 1950s and 1960s with his honest portraits and depictions of life in the city.While Burkhart was praised for his artistic skill, conflicts in his personal and professional life prevented him from receiving national attention.  Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart displays never seen artwork by Burkhart, including the original sketches for the controversial mural Music.

In his lifetime, Burkhart estimated he painted between 200-400 self portraits. It may never be known how many self-portraits Burkhart completed due to his own myth building. According to writer and friend Ben Hayes, “He (Burkhart) said that he was his cheapest and handiest model, and claimed to keep precise count on Burkharts-by-Burkhart. But I have heard him give total as 173, another day as 227.” [1]

A crowd gathers around a self portrait of Burkhart on exhibit at the Ohio State Fair, from the Ohio History Connection collections, SC 22.

A crowd gathers around a self portrait of Burkhart on exhibit at the Ohio State Fair, from the Ohio History Connection collections, SC 22.

Burkhart was fascinated with documenting his own progression through life. His earliest known self portrait dates back to his childhood on a farm in Kalida. From a young age, Burkhart was encourage to experiment with art from his teachers; one of his first subjects, at the age of 12, was himself. As art historian Michael D. Hall explains in his book about Burkhart, “For an artist concerned with both the truth of nature and the power of imagination, the self does present the most reliable subject. Many self-potrait painters have studied their favorite model since childhood and, as a result, are directly in touch with the subjective emotions of their preferred “sitter.” “[2]

Three Wrecks.

Three Wrecks.

During each period of his life, Burkhart reflected on how he was physically changing. Sometimes he painted a full body length portrait of himself; other times he focused on just one angle of his head. Burkhart enjoyed painting himself so much, he entitled a 1945 self portrait “My Favorite Model”. As technology changed and many artists began to use photos to paint self portraits, Burkhart continued to use his reflection from a mirror, capturing himself as a whole instead of a moment.

Two self portraits of Burkhart are currently on exhibit in Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart. The first self portrait, painted in 1947, was originally entitled, “Three Wrecks” referring to the two crashed cars and himself. The self portraits plays with the idea of his own self destruction.

Self portrait, 1960.

Self portrait, 1960.

The second self portrait, from 1960, shows a softer side of Burkhart. After his wife’s, Mary Ann, death in 1955, Burkhart struggled to make sense of his career and his artistic style. After years of painting death and decay in dark colors, suddenly, his art became bright and lively. In 1956, he was approached by friend Karl Jaeger to become the “artist in residence” for the International School, a program that took young Americans abroad. Burkhart traveled with the International School the rest of his life, visiting places like Japan and Italy. His style continued to lighten as he spent months traveling coastal regions and places where the sun shined brightly. This new take on life is reflected in this self-portrait from 1960. Though he is still truthful about his own aging process, Burkhart uses softer colors and brush strokes to portray himself in a gentler manner than his previous self-portraits.

Spotlight Gallery located on the 1st floor of the Ohio History Center.

Spotlight Gallery located on the 1st floor of the Ohio History Center.

In Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart, visitors have the opportunity to create a self portrait of their own. Located in the Spotlight Gallery on the first floor, visitors can use mirrors to try creating a vision of themselves to understand the methods behind this form of art. Follow the fun at #emersonohc !

Have you ever seen one of Burkhart’s self portraits before? What do you think he was trying to express about himself?

Emily Lang, History Curator

[1]Hayes, Ben . “Emerson Burkhart by Hayes.” Emerson Burkhart by Hayes. http://www.shortnorth.com/BurkhartHayes.html (accessed September 10, 2014).

[2]Hall, Michael. Emerson Burkhart. London: Scala, 2009

 

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Ohio Art Company

The Ohio Art Company's most famous toy, the Etch-A-Sketch, 1960-1969

The Ohio Art Company’s most famous toy, the Etch-A-Sketch, 1960-1969

Recently, we received a large collection of products made by the Ohio Art Company. Most famous for the Etch-A-Sketch, this company has been making lithographs and toys since 1908; this donation has objects spanning 70 years of the company’s products.  While some of these objects were undoubtedly easy to find, other very rare objects took a lot of searching for the donor to find and date.

“Dancer Posing for the Photographer” by Degas, Reproduction 1974.

“Dancer Posing for the Photographer” by Degas, Reproduction 1974.

Who is the Ohio Art Company and what do they make?  In 1908, the company was founded in Archbold, Ohio, by Henry Winzeler, who decided that making oval metal frames would be more interesting career path than dentistry.  Lithographic prints from Germany were inserted into these frames and sold by companies like Sears, Roebuck & Co.  In 1912, Winzeler relocated Ohio Art to its current corporate location in Bryan, Ohio, and began making lithographic prints, the most famous of which was the Cherub Awake and Cherub Asleep series. A few years later, in part due to the halt on German imports because of WWI, Ohio Art entered the toy industry.  Banks, small coaster wagons and carts, spinning tops, and tea sets were just some of the toys that they began making in 1917.

Knight Spinning Top, 1940-1969.

Knight Spinning Top, 1940-1969.

Ohio Art employed talented artists like Fern Bisel Peat, a famous children’s book illustrator during the 1930s and 1940s, in their lithographic department, producing intricate artwork on tea sets and other toys.  Ohio Art also partnered with Disney to depict their cartoon characters on Ohio Art

Little Bo Peep Tea Tray by Peat, 1930-1939

Little Bo Peep Tea Tray by Peat, 1930-1939

toys.  This partnership continued for several decades.  With the advent of World War II in 1941, the Ohio Art Company suspended toy production, switching to producing metal parts for rockets, bombs, and aircraft.  When they returned to making toys following the end of the War, plastics began to be incorporated into the production of new toys.

Pinocchio Tea Cup, 1939.

Pinocchio Tea Cup, 1939.

The early 1960s brought much success to the company.  In 1959, Ohio Art bought the rights to the “Telecran” from Frenchman Andre Cassagnes.  He and the company’s chief engineer, Jerry Burger, spent time perfecting the design before it was released in 1960 under the name “Etch-A-Sketch.”    This drawing toy quickly became Ohio Art’s most iconic and popular toy, with Sears, Roebuck & Co. selling ten million of them in the 1960s alone.  Etch-A-Sketch was one of the many successes the company had during the 1960s; they also began making metal signs and trays for Coca-Cola, including those featuring the famed Coca-Cola Santa Claus.

Coca-Cola Santa Claus Tray, 1988.

Coca-Cola Santa Claus Tray, 1988.

The Ohio Art Company continued making popular toys throughout the next few decades, including the Betty Spaghetty doll in 1998 and the A.R.M. 4000XL, a toy water gun, in 2003.  However, not all of their products were successful, and in the 1980s and 1990s, Ohio Art experienced enough financial difficulty to prompt worries over its closure. The company was forced to move production to China. With the Etch-A-Sketch prominently featured in scenes in Toy Story in 1995 and Toy Story 2 in 1999, sales sky-rocketed and the Ohio Art Company was saved.  Ohio Art continues to be a successful toy company today, though toys are no longer produced in Ohio.

This Ohio Art collection is an exciting and diverse collection that conjures memories of youth hood for multiple generations. It helps illustrate the story of production and industry in Ohio and how companies have had to change based on financially and social circumstances.

 

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

 

Interested in learning more about the Ohio Art Company?

Funding Universe. “The Ohio Art Company History.” Funding Universe. 2004.             http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/the-ohio-art-company-            history/.

Hub Pages. “Entertainment History: The Toys of Ohio Art Company.” Hub Pages. 2013.             http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hub/The-Toys-of-Ohio-Art-Company.

Ohio Art. “Ohio Art Has History.” Ohio Art.  2014.  http://www.ohioart.com/history.

Playground Professionals. “Ohio Art Company.” Playground Professionals, LLC. 2010.             http://www.playgroundprofessionals.com/o/ohio-art-company.

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Flattening Techniques for Documents: Putting What We Learned to Practice

This past May, I attended a workshop on humidification and flattening techniques for documents at the Preservation Lab inside University of Cincinnati’s Langsam Library, with two of my colleagues, Teresa and Carla. The workshop was held by the Ohio Preservation Council and was led by Kathy Lechuga, a book conservator at the Indiana Historical Society. We were very excited about what we learned and immediately started gathering what we needed to practice these techniques. Our results have been very promising and we wanted to share some of the techniques we put into practice as well as some of our results.

Before shot of a certificate prior to being placed in the humidification chamber.

Before shot of a certificate prior to being placed in the humidification chamber.

With archival collections we often receive several rolled documents and photographs. Flattening documents dry is ideal. It is the least risky flattening method to use since it does not involve introducing any foreign elements to the item. If the item can be gently unrolled without forcing or damaging it then flattening dry is possible. This involves placing the item under Plexiglas and weights or placing it in a press. However, if the item won’t unroll easily it helps to slowly humidify it. At the workshop we were shown three methods of humidifying documents and photographs. Teresa and I have started working with two of these methods.

Certificate inside the humidification chamber.

Certificate inside the humidification chamber.

The first method involves a humidification chamber, using clear plastic bins, egg crates, distilled water and blotter paper. We cut the egg crates and blotter paper to fit the inside of the bins. With a clean spray bottle filled with distilled water we lightly sprayed the blotter paper; the paper must be damp, not soaked. The dampness of the blotter paper determines how quickly humidity is introduced to the item. The more delicate the item the slower we humidify. The fragility of the item and the dampness of the blotter paper will also affect how often you will check on the items you are humidifying. Once the blotter paper is damp we lay it at the bottom of the bin, place two supports on top of the paper, and then the egg crate on top of the supports. You can use thick pieces of clean plastic for the supports;we layered leftover pieces of the egg crates. The document is then placed on the egg crate and the bin is sealed. You may want to check on the item more or less often

After shot of flattened certificate.

After shot of flattened certificate.

depending on the thickness of the paper. A good way of measuring the humidity level is by using humidity cards. Once enough humidity has been introduced, the item is placed between blotting paper and inserted in one of our presses to dry. We then wait a couple of days to a week and periodically check it to make sure that the item is completely dry.

Before shot of poster.

Before shot of poster.

The second method we used is called local humidification. This process is more aggressive and is used for creased paper items. Generally this is best implemented for smaller items since the process is aggressive and can be time consuming. That being said, we implemented this process for a poster that had been folded up and stuck into a scrapbook since the 1930s. After unfolding it we saw that the poster was severely creased. Due to the frailty of the poster, Teresa and I thought it was best to encapsulate it. This required flattening out the creases. For local humidification you need distilled water, a clean brush, thin absorbent blotting paper, a bone, and some small weights. This process involves directly dampening the item, so you want to be careful how much you wet your brush. Obviously the more humid the paper, the better it will flatten. However, putting too much water can also cause staining and tearing.

Local humidification being performed on poster.

Local humidification being performed on poster.

Needless to say, Teresa and I were very careful the first time we employed this method on archival materials. Once the damp brush is applied it is important to get some blotter paper on the humid area fairly quickly and place some pressure on the paper by using the bone or by placing a weight on the blotter paper. We used a combination of weights and the bone depending on the area of the poster we were treating. Afterward, we placed it in a press between blotting paper.

After shot of poster.

After shot of poster.

There are certain things that should be kept in mind when flattening something. Be realistic. If the item is severely damaged or delicate (such as parchment) then you shouldn’t attempt flattening it yourself and consider bringing it to a conservator. For instance, you should leave flattening photographs with cracked emulsion to conservation professionals. Also, consider how flat you actually want the item. Sometimes flattening something can also flatten out the texture of the paper which you may want to maintain. It’s a good idea to practice these techniques on scraps of paper and gradually work your way to archival materials. I also strongly recommend attending a workshop and learning from someone who has experience working with these techniques.

Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant

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Artist Drew Ernst visits the Collections!

As we prepare for Emerson Burkhart: Reflections of an Artist, check out this post from our Natural History curators about how another Ohio artist is using our collections!

"Sadness and Alcohol" by Drew Ernst, 36 x 48, oil on aluminum

Last October we published a blog about another use of the natural history collections, as an inspiration for artists. Once again we have an artist in our midst, basing their work on our collections. Working away in the narrow aisles of the natural history collections, between the large shelves holding mammoth bones and the cabinets of freeze-dried fungi, is Drew Ernst. He is an accomplished artist who has exhibited across the United States. Drew is a modern, contemporary, figurative painter (example at left) however he decided to make a foray into natural history. He is using OHC bird specimens for a series of oil paintings. It’s fascinating for us to watch Drew transform a blank canvas, or in some cases an aluminum board, into an amazing painting of one of our specimens!

Speaking of artists, be sure to stop by the Ohio History Center to see the upcoming exhibit “Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart”. He was an Ohio painter who was born on a farm in Union Township near Kalida, Ohio, attended Ohio Wesleyan University and spent most of his professional career in Columbus. This exhibit in the third-floor Library Gallery and first-floor Spotlight Gallery features a selection of Burkhart portraits, self-portraits, prints and mural studies from throughout his career. The exhibit will be open from Sept. 3, 2014 – May 31, 2015.

Drew beginning painting of the Northern Harrier
Drew with finished painting
Northern Harrier, by Drew Ernst

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Red Bird Stadium and Emerson Burkhart

Our latest exhibition, Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart is opening on Wednesday, September 3.  Emerson Burkhart (1905-1969) ruled the Columbus art scene during the 1950s and 1960s with his honest portraits and depictions of life in the city.

Burkhart painting at Red Bird Stadium, 1948, Ohio History Connection Collections, AV 58.

Burkhart painting at Red Bird Stadium, 1948, Ohio History Connection Collections, AV 58.

While Burkhart was praised for his artistic skill, conflicts in his personal and professional life prevented him from receiving national attention.  Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart displays never seen artwork by Burkhart, including the original sketches for the controversial mural Music.

Emerson Burkhart documented life around Columbus, including a series of watercolors paintings done at Red Bird Stadium. Red Bird Stadium was the original  name for Cooper Stadium where the Columbus Red Birds, and later the Columbus Clippers, played.

Cooper Stadium was a landmark in the Columbus landscape. Opened in 1932, the stadium IMG_2279hosted several baseball teams and a football team. It was constructed based on blueprints for Red Wing Stadium in Rochester, New York, but was renovated in 1977 with the return of minor league baseball to Columbus. Though it held several names over the years, in 1984 the stadium was renamed in honor of Harold Cooper, the county commissioner who was responsible for keeping baseball in Columbus in the 1950s. Over the years, Cooper Stadium hosted several players who made it to the major leagues including Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter. On September 1, 2008, the final game was played by the Columbus Clippers in Cooper Stadium to a sell out crowd of 16,777. The Columbus Clippers moved to Huntington Park in 2009. Recently, it was announced part of the stadium would be demolished  for a new racetrack.

IMG_2282Emerson Burkhart documented life as he saw it happening on a daily basis. He helped preserved memories of life and places in Columbus that no longer exists. To see Burkhart’s portrayal of Red Bird Stadium, visit Reflections of an Artist: Emerson Burkhart.

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