Tag Archives: Black Mountain College

Housing 220 Drawings from a Black Mountain College Student

[This post was written by Kate Vukovich, conservation technician for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Don Page, a young man wearing glasses, sits at a vertical loom, weaving. The picture is taken through the warp threads of the loom.

Figure 1. Don Page, a young man wearing glasses, sits at a vertical loom, weaving. The picture is taken through the warp threads of the loom.

Black Mountain College was an experimental liberal arts college in Western North Carolina, active from 1933-1957. One of its students was Don Page, who went on to become an architect, graphic and interior designer, and artist. The Western Regional Archives (WRA) has a collection (PC.1924) of his drawing studies and textile designs from his time at Black Mountain College, 1936-1942. These drawings are done in mixed media, mostly on paper (with a couple on wood) and were stored in folders organized by genre, but needed new housing to stabilize them. Because many of the materials used to make the drawings are friable—pencil, ink, charcoal, pastels, and other similar media—placing many drawings together without interleaving had led to smudging and media wearing off onto adjacent drawings.

A collage of six images of varying sizes and genres from the collection. Three are studies of violins, two are flowers, and one is an abstract color study on wood.

Figure 2. A collage of six images of varying sizes and genres from the collection. Three are studies of violins, two are flowers, and one is an abstract color study on wood.

Ultimately, we decided on making sink mats to accommodate groups of 5-10 drawings, which remained sorted by genre as they had originally been. Sink mats are a type of mat

Figure 2. A collage of six images of varying sizes and genres from the collection. Three are studies of violins, two are flowers, and one is an abstract color study on wood.

Figure 2. A collage of six images of varying sizes and genres from the collection. Three are studies of violins, two are flowers, and one is an abstract color study on wood.

that allows for the pressure of the cover of the mat, and anything that might rest on top of the mat, to rest on the material of the mat and rather than on the items themselves. It also allows for storing multiple items or thicker works than a traditional window mat.   Because many of these drawings were made with friable media like charcoal and pencil, it was important to make sure that they wouldn’t wear on each other any more than they already had. We chose to use PhotoTex paper as interleaving between each drawing. PhotoTex is designed to be ultra-smooth to not abrade photographic materials, textiles, and works on paper. Its smoothness means there’s little friction for it to pick up friable media.

We constructed the mats out of archival quality corrugated cardboard, making hinges on two sides so the drawings could be removed easily, and making a cover out of heavyweight cardstock. This was hinged to the mat with linen tape. While the mat base and cover were cut to a standard size, each mat is custom-fit to the drawings within (you can see the differences in the sizes of the drawings in the images below!).

Figure 4. Two completed sink mats of the same size are placed next to each other. One holds a small set of drawings (about 9 inches by 12 inches) and the other a large set (about 19 by 23 inches), demonstrating how mats are custom built to different drawings.

Figure 4. Two completed sink mats of the same size are placed next to each other. One holds a small set of drawings (about 9 inches by 12 inches) and the other a large set (about 19 by 23 inches), demonstrating how mats are custom built to different drawings.

The completed mats—with interleaved drawings inside—are put in boxes for convenience and additional protection. Forty-eight sink mats were made for about 220 items.

Figure 5. Five boxes are stacked on a table. The top box’s lid is removed, so the contents (the completed sink mats) are visible. A ruler is included for scale: the boxes are 25 inches by 32 inches.

Figure 5. Five boxes are stacked on a table. The top box’s lid is removed, so the contents (the completed sink mats) are visible. A ruler is included for scale: the boxes are 25 inches by 32 inches.

The WRA finding aid for the Don Page Collection is here. If you want to learn more about Black Mountain College, check out the NCPedia article, the NC Archives Digital Black Mountain College Collection, and the WRA finding aids of the Black Mountain College collections.

Advertisements

Treasures of Carolina: Pictogram Letter from Black Mountain College

PC_BMCPP_Blaine_Lorna_Rhebus_Letter_1941_001

Letter, 1942. Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

 The first Wednesday of each month features a document or item from the State Archives considered a treasure because of its significance to the history and culture of our state or because it is rare or unique. Sometimes the featured item just illustrates a good story. The items highlighted in this blog have been taken from the exhibit, “Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives” and its companion catalog.

 Black Mountain College operated from 1933 to 1957 in Black Mountain, N.C. and attracted leading artists, both in in this country and abroad, to their faculty including painter Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Ruth Asawa, architect Buckminster Fuller, and artists Joseph and Anni Albers.

This first page excerpt is part of a four-page letter written by Lorna Blaine (later Halper), an artist who attended the college.  She wrote to her parents around 1942 using pictograms. Part of the excerpt reads, “Dear Mother and Dad, I really do not know how to thank you enough for the wonderful trip to Boca Grande. It even started off well on the train, that snappy Silver Meteor. Then all the tennis and swimming and sunbathing and loafing and food etc. Gosh but everything was so marvelous!”

 

Treasures of Carolina: Summer Edition

Each week this summer we will highlight an item from our North Carolina Digital Collections in hopes of inspiring you to discover new-to-you materials. For the month of August our theme is school.

Erwin_Straus_Black_Mountain_College_faculty_19381945

Erwin Straus at Black Mountain College. BMC Research Project. Series VII (Visual Materials). Box 91. Folder:North Carolina Division of Archives and History – Straus, Erwin.

Erwin Straus, a German-American philosopher and psychologist, taught at Black Mountain College from 1938 through 1945.  A German refugee fleeing from the growing anti-Semitism promulgated through Hitler’s rise to power, Erwin Straus and his wife, Gertrud (who also taught at Black Mountain College) were part of the growing population of refugee faculty.

Faculty_meeting_Black_Mountain_College

A faculty meeting at Black Mountain College. From left to right: Robert Wunsch, Josef Albers, Heinrich Jalowetz, Theodore Dreier, Erwin Straus, unknown, Lawrence Kocher. Black Mountain College Records. Photographs. Folder 83.1.

With an emphasis in phenomenology (philosophical study of experience and consciousness) and neurology, Straus taught such courses as, “The Psychology of the Human World” and “Nicomachean Ethics.”  Erwin Straus was considered to be a serious teacher, a seeming rarity at Black Mountain College where professors were often known by their first or nicknames.  He was described by one student as, “… serious, humorless and on the extreme conservative side.”  Despite the somewhat reserved views held about him by the student population, he was influential in pioneering a holistic approach to medicine, treating the mind and body as a whole rather than just the individual symptoms.  Author of numerous books and articles, Straus’ works includes Language and Language Disturbances and On Obsession: A Clinical and Methodological Study.

Treasures of Carolina: Lorna Blaine Letter

[This blog post was written by Andrea Gabriel, Outreach and Development Coordinator for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Lorna Blaine Letter, 1942, Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

First page of the Lorna Blaine Letter, 1942, Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

Black Mountain College operated from 1933 to 1957 in Black Mountain, N.C. and attracted leading artists, both in this country and abroad, to their faculty including painter Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Ruth Asawa, architect Buckminster Fuller, and artists Joseph and Anni Albers.

This first page excerpt is part of a four-page letter written by Lorna Blaine (later Halper), an artist who attended the college. She wrote to her parents around 1942 using pictograms. Part of the excerpt reads, “Dear Mother and Dad, I really do not know how to thank you enough for the wonderful trip to Boca Grande. It even started off well on the train, that snappy Silver Meteor. Then all the tennis and swimming and sunbathing and loafing and food etc. Gosh but everything was so marvelous!”

Last page of the Lorna Blaine Letter, 1942, Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

Last page of the Lorna Blaine Letter, 1942, Black Mountain College Project Papers, Western Regional Archives

———————————————————————

A selection of the state’s historic documents will be exhibited in Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives of North Carolina at the Museum of History, October 24, 2015–June 19, 2016. Documents from the Archives vault, unique letters, historic photographs, public records, and other media will illuminate the myriad of ways in which the holdings of the State Archives document the workings of our government, provide evidence of civil liberties, and preserve the history and culture of North Carolina. This exhibit is sponsored by the Friends of the Archives and runs through June 19, 2016. Additional funding was provided by the N.C. Bar Association Foundation, the Raleigh Times, and Wells Fargo.

To learn more about the exhibit, please see: https://ncarchives.wordpress.com/tag/treasures-of-carolina/ and http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/See-Our-Exhibits/Current-Exhibits/Treasures.

See the State Archives Facebook calendar or Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources events calendar for more upcoming events.

A Housing for Cigarettes

[This blog post was written by Emily Rainwater, Conservator for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Closed housing for the David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76

New housing for the David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76. Click the image to see a larger view.

David Tudor (1926-1996) was a pianist and composer of experimental electronic music. He was an instructor and pianist-in-residence at Black Mountain College during the summer sessions from 1951-1953. On July 4, 1953 David Tudor gave a concert at Black Mountain College with programs printed on cigarette papers by BMC Print Shop. The State Archives of North Carolina holds two of these programs at the Western Regional Archives, one printed horizontally in red and one printed vertically in blue. These programs are in their original rolled cigarette form and remain filled with tobacco.

H-frame during construction for the David Tudor concert programs.

H-frame during construction for the David Tudor concert programs. Click the image to see a larger view.

David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76

David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76. Click the image to see a larger view.

The concert programs needed a new housing which would better protect the fragile objects. A support structure was created for them by cutting an “H” shape out of several layers of museum quality mat board. The legs of the H hold the cigarettes in place while the cross of the H allows for easier handling if they ever need removing from the housing. After adhering multiple layers of mat board together, the frame is thick enough to protect the programs from pressure coming from above. The cut edges of the H were lined with Japanese tissue to help smooth the transition between the layers. The H frame was adhered to several more pieces of mat board to form a backing layer. The completed frame was inserted into a custom cloth covered clamshell box which will provide additional protection.

A view of the new housing for the David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76.

A view of the new housing for the David Tudor concert programs, BMCRP Series VI Box 76. Click the image to see a larger view. A closer look at the programs is available through the NC Digital Collections.

WRA Partners with Documentary Film Makers for Unique Opportunity

Our collections are used daily by all sorts of researchers.  Scholars, genealogists, historians and documentarians visit us on a regular basis and while we help all with their exploration into the past, it is rare that the archives (or archivist) plays a feature role in the project we assist on.  That’s what makes the new Danu Collaborative Fully Awake project so unique and exciting for the Western Regional Archives.

Fully Awake: Black Mountain College is a documentary film created nearly a decade ago by Cathryn Davis Zommer and Neeley Dawson.  Through archival research, photographic history, interviews with former Black Mountain College students, teachers, artists and historians, the film gives a glimpse into the progressive liberal arts school hidden in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

“Black Mountain College (1933-1957) was an influential experiment in education that inspired and shaped twentieth century American art.”  It was a special place that inspired all who experienced it, so much so, that the long-term impact is still being studied today by scholars and artists from across the country and literally around the world.

neeley, catherine and dan 1

Cathryn and Neeley research acting for part of their project. Cameraman Dan said he loved filming at the WRA.

While there are many BMC projects using the collections at the WRA for research, only the Fully Awake project has collaborated with the archives and integrated the archival collections as part of their endeavors.  Thanks to new collections coming to light and advances in technology, Cathryn and Neeley are embarking on a new project to take Fully Awake further.

There are several goals of this new ten-year anniversary re-imagining of the film.  Not only will they be telling more of the story in more clear and profound ways, the most thrilling element for the WRA is that they plan on digitizing over 100 hours of original interview footage to be donated to the archives for permanent public use!

For more information about the project, check out archivist Heather South on the latest campaign update- she is super excited about the collaboration with Cathryn and Neeley: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/fully-awake-a-black-mountain-college-documentary?c=activityheather- fully awake

Dancing in the Corn… Archives Week in Western North Carolina

Many of you already know but this week has been proclaimed to be NC Archives Week.  That means we really showcase our collections and advocate for archives and preserving the historical record beyond what we do the rest of the year.  This year, the theme is all about food culture in NC.  From farming to eating, we have documents and photos that capture it all.  In Western North Carolina, this year’s theme of “Home Grown! A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History” is being featured in a number of ways but none as interesting or exciting as Dr. David Silver’s work with the Black Mountain College Farm.

Josef Albers (left) hanging out in the cabbage patch

You may have heard about the college or some of its famous alumni and faculty but did you know those same folks were farming on the campus?  Can you imagine Josef Albers tending cabbage?  Or how about Merce Cunningham dancing in the corn fields?  Ok, so maybe we don’t have proof that  Cunningham was cutting a rug in the corn, but it could have happened!

Dr. Silver is an associate professor of media studies and environmental studies and coordinator of the urban agriculture minor at the University of San Francisco and is currently working on a multimedia history of the farm at Black Mountain College.  He has been using the collections at the Western Regional Archives and telling the food story of a college that normally is only looked at through artistic lenses.   Not only was he the first researcher at the WRA, he is a cheerleader for NC archives and continues to champion the collections we’ve preserved and direct scholars and students from around the world to NC!  Check out his blog http://silverinsf.blogspot.com/ or scope out the photos of his research journey and discoveries at flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/sets/

Who knows, you might just find out they were dancing in the corn!

Dorothy Cole eating in the dining hall at BMC