Film and video preservation

This past weekend CBS Sunday Morning ran a piece about film preservation at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation.  (If you missed it, I invite you to watch it now.)  The Packard Campus is a converted Cold War-era bunker with talented staff, impressive equipment and lots of vault storage – all of which is used for the important work of preserving and maintaining important pieces of our nation’s heritage.  For a geek like me, the CBS feature is a glimpse into an archival wonderland.

I already had video and film preservation on my mind, so CBS’s timing was perfect.  The University Archives is in the early stages of a project – so early that it probably does not yet qualify as a Work in Progress (discussed here just a couple weeks ago) – to improve access to videos and films in the University Archives collections.  The first stage of determining what we have and assessing its condition just kicked off last week.

Video&Film800dpiGreg took this photo to show a sampling of
formats with which we will have to contend. 

We have several hundred reels and cassettes of a variety of media formats covering a wide range of subjects: 1960s basketball game footage; Medical School centennial events; promotional videos; commencement and awards ceremonies; and much, much more.  Many of these items have degraded, some significantly.  The vinegary smell when opening a canister alerted us to a deteriorating reel of film, and some of the magnetic media has already lost bits of content.  Once the assessment phase is completed, we will consider the condition as well as the content while developing a digitization priority list and a plan of action.  Cost will undoubtedly factor into our decisions, both for choosing which pieces to preserve in digital form and for selecting the method (or vendor) to use.

Hopefully a future Creighton’s Attic post will report on successful efforts to preserve some of these treasures.  No promises, but when that happens, I will try to present a clip or two for you.


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Study… Study… Study

Final exams start on Monday, so to encourage studying we offer the following:

Billy billyt

The libraries are full, studying rages on;

More coffee, less sleep, a week ’til they’re gone.

(poem by Katherine)

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Works in Progress

Every once in a while, a good idea graces the University Archives – and I think that happened this week with the decision to add a “Works in Progress” section to the University Archives website.  This will give a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at some of what the people in Archives are doing – and it will let you see some items that are a long way from being finished products ready for public access.


The first edition went live today, featuring a current project to digitize oversize items in our collections.  Specifically, we feature four large displays created in 1928 at the time of Creighton’s 50th anniversary.  In addition to the Medical School board (above), there is a general one for the university, one for the Dental School, and one for the College of Pharmacy.  Each board is 4 feet tall, and each is wider than it is tall (widths vary).  I have not seen some of these photos anywhere else in our collections.  So that you can see the individual images better, the University Archives has created online exhibits for all four at the Works in Progress webpage.

Like some of the other oversize items, the original displays are in bad shape.  Years of storage in poor conditions has damaged all aspects of this original display, from the wood slats at its core to the painted, thick paper backing to the photographs and hand-painted titling.  Now that an accurate digital surrogate exists, we will attempt some cleaning and repair of the images on the boards; then we will photograph the improved version so that it, too, is available in digital format.


As some of you know, the University Archives will relocate significant portions of our collections in the near future (although the move date keeps shifting).  The concern that fragile items like these might be damaged in transport provided the impetus to tackle this project.  Greg Hollins deserves much credit for creating the digital surrogate files and then turning these into online displays.  We likely would not have undertaken this project without Greg’s involvement.  So send him a note of thanks – use the comments section, if you like.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Before I forget, all of us here at the Creighton University Archives wish you and yours a blessed, peaceful and joyful Thanksgiving.

As Creighton students celebrate this Thursday, I offer one more thing for which they should be thankful:  Creighton’s Thanksgiving break is more than one day.  That was not always the case.  A column in the November 22, 1946, Creightonian entitled “We Wonder Why?” complained that the university required students to be back in class on Friday after Thanksgiving.  It seems that the university was still adjusting to the end of World War II.


Katherine found the article using the new and improved interface for the online issues of the Creightonian and Creighton Courier.  We have had the newspaper issues online for a while, but I think the new platform looks better and is a lot easier to use.  Try it out and let us know what you think.

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I think they’re dancing

students1970s1This favorite photo popped back up this week, so we thought we’d share it with you in the hopes that someone will answer some questions for us.

Who?  I assume students are on the ground.  Any ideas for the band?
What?  More specifically: What are they doing?  My best guess is a lined-up version of a dance called the Gator (or the Worm), which was popular with college and high school kids who had seen Animal House.  During a party scene, John Belushi yells “Gator” and several people drop to the floor and dance like this.
When?  Our guess is 1970s, but could be early 1980s.
Where?  The area where the Skutt Student Center now stands.
Why?  I’m not sure there is a good answer to this question.

Please leave your answers in the comments section.  Any helpful information will be appreciated.

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Time for basketball

This is one of those weeks where we are going to share some interesting images but not much information.  With basketball season starting – Creighton men open at home tonight (Friday) against Central Arkansas, and the women start the season at Wichita State tomorrow afternoon – we share some images from Creighton’s rich basketball history.

Rasmussen038We’ll start with a face that will be familiar to many of you.  Any guesses on who he is?

WillardSchmidtThis photo of 1930s star Willard Schmidt, standing tall at 6′ 8″, shows the crop marks used when preparing this for publication in the Creightonian.

StJoeBball340068Seeing St. Joseph Nursing students at play prompts the question:  Where are they playing?  There are lines on the floor, but the ceiling doesn’t look like it would be a good place for basketball.

1970swomenbball2Those are some nifty uniforms at the Civic in the 1970s.

MenBBallProgram1964  A bonus: The cover of a program from 50 years ago.

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Veterans Day 2014

Next Tuesday is Veterans Day, a day to honor the women and men who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Celebrations begin this weekend, including Nebraska’s Official Veterans Day Parade in Bellevue, NE, this Saturday morning starting at 10am.  (Let me know if you see me in the parade.)  We thought we would get people in the mood for the holiday with a Veterans Day-themed post.

ParleDougCoHistSocLong-time reader(s) can probably guess that John Parle (Class of 1942) is one of my favorite Creighton alumni.  That said, you will understand how pleased I was to come across some more John Parle materials at the Douglas County Historical Society. I was there for other reasons when I saw a familiar face, along with medals and citations, on display in the Library/Archives Center reading room.  The framed piece only recently returned from being on loan to the Nebraska State Historical Society.

If you don’t know about Parle and how he earned his Congressional Medal of Honor, you should.  (Creighton’s Attic featured him for Memorial Day 2013, and I was honored to speak about Ensign Parle when a section of a street by Creighton Prep was renamed in his honor this year.)

For those who were not at Matt Holland’s reading this past Monday of Ahead of Their Time, a book about the DePorres Club, you missed something very special.  (“Creighton’s Attic” told you about the book this summer.)

Every time I hear Matt speak, my fondness for the DePorres Club grows.  Two early members of the club, Virginia Walsh and Agnes Stark, were on hand, and they answered several questions from the audience.  I was humbled and honored to meet these two extraordinary women.

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Oh, the places you’ll go (Halloween edition)

24 Panorama smallerThe embalming room

University Archives staff get to go in attics, basements and storage rooms all across campus.  This Halloween, we decided to highlight a Creighton building few of you know about, and fewer still have visited.  I’m not going to give the building’s name or location – nor will I confirm or deny any guesses about its identity – but I will tell you a few things:

  • One of its earlier uses was as a mortuary.
  • University Archives previously used part of the building for offsite, overflow storage of collections.
  • A previous Archives student worker refused to go there and is convinced the place is haunted.

EmbalmSinkCornerWideOne of the more interesting rooms in the place is the (former) embalming room.  If you click on this image – or the panorama at the top – you will get a better look at the tile on the walls.  The room also has a drain in the middle of the floor, which was pretty necessary, if you think about it.

ElevatorThe elevator in this building has seen better days.  It wobbles quite a bit when you load it with boxes.  The handwritten yellow sign over the opening reads “No Passengers.”

BasementSinkYou reach the basement by way of a steep, narrow staircase.  I don’t know what the sinks were used for.

BasementMachineThis machine was tucked away, along with a lot of other items, downstairs in a room with no working lights.  I did learn that the flash on my camera phone works pretty well, though.

Now for something really scary.

1112_1917_0001_Panorama1No, not the pharmacy students.  Look at the bottom edge of the composite.
Growth_Zita_1112Look closer – not at Zita (she’s not scary) – at the water stains across the image, and various brown, red and black spots below the photo.

Growth_Bottom_1112Closer.  This zoomed-in shot shows a section at the bottom that is about one inch wide.
growth_zoomAnd even closer.

I don’t know when the stuff started growing on the composite.  The composite’s journey to the Archives saw attics and other damp storage places.  Our University Archives does not yet have storage areas that meet archival standards, so it will not get better any time soon.  We have created a digital surrogate for the composite, so we will be able to reproduce the image in non-mold-bearing format.  To keep these little growths from spreading to other parts of our collections (or to our student workers), we will discard the original.

Hope you all have a safe, happy weekend!

We’ve been thinking for a while of using a few of the regular Creighton’s Attic posts to let you see behind the scenes at some places on campus that many people don’t get to see.  Many of these are the places not open to the public, but University Archives staff have visited while retrieving Creighton’s historical materials.  Let us know if you like the idea and want us to use the “oh, the places you’ll go” concept in the future.

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Thank you, Sisters of Mercy

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha!  For 150 years, ever since seven special passengers stepped off the steamer Montana in October 1864, Omaha has been blessed by the Sisters of Mercy.  A Mass to celebrate the anniversary will be held this Sunday at St. Cecilia’s Cathedral.

StJoeHosp1882The Sisters of Mercy ran St. Joseph’s Hospital from 1870 until 1880, when the hospital was sold to the Poor Sisters of St. Francis.

I’m not an official spokesman for Creighton, but I don’t believe anyone will object to me stating that the university is proud of the history we share with the Sisters of Mercy, which dates from our institution’s very first days.  That’s not an exaggeration.  The Jesuit who started our institution and was Creighton’s first president, Roman Shaffel, S.J., arrived in Omaha in December 1877, and the very next day assumed the duties of chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha.  Avid readers* of “Creighton’s Attic” will recall our July 2013 post about the Sisters operating St. John’s Grade School and St. John’s High School for Girls on campus.  Creighton can also thank the Sisters of Mercy for suggesting the summer program that provided educational training to women religious for decades.

SrMaryKevin1111_0113_1810_0052Sr. Mary Kevin, R.S.M., received Bachelor of Arts (1929) and Masters (1935) degrees from Creighton.  This photo was used in the 1950 Creighton yearbook, when she was Director of the St. Catherine’s Unit for the School of Nursing.

Enough of my rambling.  Recent articles by the Omaha World-Herald and Catholic Voice tell more about the contributions of these dedicated, spiritual women.  The Catholic Voice article includes a list of celebration events.

* I may be wrong, but I like to believe that plural “readers” is appropriate.

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Progress report

INFO FROM SLEEVE: Zuercher, Joseph P., S.J.Ex-FacINFO, BACK OF PHOTO: handwritten, ink "Rev. Zuercher, S.J."OTHER AFFILIATED INFO:“I’ve called this meeting to report on the progress of various projects.”  This photo of past Creighton president Joseph P. Zuercher, S.J., at a meeting – or more likely a fall banquet – was chosen because it fits our second project.  (By the way, if you know where he was speaking, or who any of the folks with him are, please leave that information in the comment section.)

Item #1 (University Archives co-sponsor) - Ahead of the Their Time, author reading


Matt Holland, author of Ahead of Their Time, will read an excerpt and tell the story of Creighton’s DePorres Club, an interracial group that included the author’s father, Denny Holland, and John Markoe, SJ, who fought to end segregation in Omaha early in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1940s and ’50s.  Creighton graduates and members of the DePorres Club, Virginia Walsh and Agnes Stark, will attend the event.

Creighton University Archives proudly joins with CSU, Justice & Peace Studies, Philosophy Department, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Collaborative Ministry Office, IRHG, CCSJ and the Jesuit Community to sponsor the reading.  The reading is open to the public, and refreshments will be provided by CSU.

This is the book that Creighton’s Attic told you about back in July of this year.  And the author, Matt Holland, was the speaker at our 2013 Annual Archives Lecture (featured in the second-ever Creighton’s Attic post).

Item # 2 (University Archives project) – Digitization of photographic collections

Some of you know that the University Archives has been working for quite a while to organize and digitize portions of our photographic collections.  With over 1/2 million images, so this project will take a lot of time.  We got a boost recently when Marcey Gibson (who works at Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library) started working some of her hours to add metadata to the digital files, which will make it easier to provide access to more of our images.Photo-on-3-26-13Thanks also to Katherine and Beth, our two outstanding student workers, for their many hours on this project.

Item #3 (Non-archives project) – St. John’s Church

WP_20141017_004Back in August, we reported on construction at St. John’s Church in the heart of our campus.  The new addition on the west side is coming along, and the addition of precast concrete panels around the concrete-block elevator shaft changed the appearance rapidly this week.

WP_20141017_001The work was quite a production, with large tractor-trailers having to back their way from 24th Street to ConAgra Plaza.  A large crane lifted the panels from the trailers into place, where workers quickly fastened – not sure how, but I did see welding sparks – to frames.  I was not around to see the crane lift the concrete panels, but the photo (above) from this morning shows the crane lifting some heavy metal sections.

WP_20141017_003This photo, taken from the east edge of the library, provides some perspective as to how big the crane is.

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