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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Sacred Heart statue and global pandemic

statue2014I’ve been talking about the Sacred Heart Statue at the north edge of the Jesuit Gardens a good deal recently in conversations ranging from World War I* to Creighton’s campus to the Ebola virus.   How does the statue fit such diverse topics?  (What an insightful question!  Well done.)

As World War I neared its end, an influenza pandemic spread around the world.  Sometimes called “the Spanish Flu”, sometimes “La Grippe,” the disease was responsible for more deaths than the war.  World War I claimed 16 million lives, whereas estimates of those claimed by the flu range as high as 50 million.  For the United States, approximately 10 times as many died from the flu as from the war – and half of US military deaths in Europe were flu-related.  (I found some good statistics about the pandemic at a National Archives website and at a Stanford site.)

1918FluAtCUAttempts to stop the spread of the disease included prohibiting large indoor gatherings, such as church services.  At Creighton, Mass was held outdoors each Sunday in October 1918, with altar and celebrants on the observatory platform.

In the middle of the crisis, the college prayerfully pledged to erect a Sacred Heart statue on campus if the Creighton community was spared.  Miraculously, Creighton lost only one student – freshman Robert H. Loree – and no faculty members to the disease.  The promise was kept with a marble statue dedicated June 21, 1921.  (Dennis Mihelich’s The History of Creighton, 1878-2003 tells more on page 130.)


The statue has been visited and appreciated by many over the years

statue1in the 1930s
1958, Person by Sacred Heart Statue, Jesuit Gardensand 1950s

and October 2014.  (I used my phone just this morning to take this photo and the one at the opening of this post.)

* This year marks the centennial of the start of World War I, which is being highlighted at Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library.  To learn more, come to the library to see a poster (created by Creighton’s Department of History) and displays (by library staff).  And, of course, the library has books and journals that provide even greater detail.

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Creighton College of Pharmacy

One of our current projects is digitizing oversize class composite photos, many of which are in poor condition.  The project requires skill and patience.  Thankfully, Greg Hollins* is skillful and patient.

1112_1905_0002Some of the first composites Greg digitized are of the Omaha College of Pharmacy’s Class of 1905.  That same year, the Omaha school became the Creighton College of Pharmacy.  Dennis Mihelich’s The History of Creighton University, 1878-2003 reports: “In 1905, the trustees also purchased the Omaha School of Pharmacy (founded in 1901) by granting the proprietor ’40% of the gross receipts for five years. This would be his salary for teaching  and would also be payment for his fixtures, stock, goodwill, etc.’”


We have two different 1905 composites for the Omaha College of Pharmacy – apparently a lot of people wanted to be pharmacists.  Both composites have individual photos glued to paper, which itself is glued to a canvas stretched around a wood frame.  Each one has water damage along the bottom, photos faded as a result of prolonged exposure to light, adhesive letting loose because of temperature and humidity fluctuations, and more.

This digitization project serves multiple purposes.  It expands access to images.  It makes it easier for us to protect originals.  In the case of some severely damaged items – and we have some water-damaged composites with mold growing on them – the digital file makes it possible to keep a record of an image that will otherwise be lost.

* Greg spends most of his working hours over at the Health Sciences Library, but he will be spending 10 hours/week with University Archives.

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Yo ho Homecoming (and a bottle of rum)

Ahoy, mateys! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and we be celebrating here in the University Arrr-chives.  For today only, you can access our online Historical Photos in Pirate English! (Any of ye scurvy knaves who uses the menu on the top-right to switch back to real English will walk the plank.)

#05 - 1922pinAll ye Creighton buccaneers: Swap your pirate parrot for Billy Bluejay and celebrate Homecoming this weekend.   Put on your Homecoming pin (which probably is not as cool as the one from 1922, above) and head to the any of the sporting events to cheer on your Bluejays.  The Creighton Classic presents a weekend of Jays volleyball at D.J. Sokol Arena; the undefeated/untied women’s soccer team welcomes the Kangaroos of UMKC to Morrison Stadium tonight and plays at UNO Sunday; and the #3-ranked men’s soccer team faces 20th-ranked St. Louis University at Morrison on Saturday.   If you don’t know what to yell, click on the list of cheers from the 1928 Homecoming program (below) and pick something you like.  The Big Sneeze looks intriguing.

#10 - 1928 Oklahoma Program Cover1928 Homecoming Program Cheers


Leave a comment to let us know your favorite cheers from your time at Creighton.

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Aurora Borealis

I learned (via student worker Beth) that Omaha may have some good night sky viewing tonight.  An Omaha-World Herald story reports that recent solar flares may create a geomagnetic storm on Earth, which could result in better viewing of northern lights (in addition to disrupting communications and power grids).  It is a long shot that Omahans will see much – we are too far south to see much unless the storm is very strong, plus patchy fog is forecast later tonight – but it is possible.

These days, it will be necessary to drive out of town to see the lights.  (The OWH story relays UNO scientist Dave Kriegler’s recommendation to look for a greenish glow on the northern horizon before making the trip.)  There was a time, though, when the Creighton Observatory provided the best viewing in the area.  Since we don’t have any good aurora borealis photos, here are a couple of favorite images of the observatory.

1893Observatory&TransitRoomThis 1893 image was reproduced in university bulletins and other publications.

1910observatory1In 1910, grading done for the extension of 24th Street (mentioned last month in “Creighton’s Attic”) resulted in the transformation of the observatory into a two-story structure.


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Michael LaCroix

NationalLibraryWeek2008ReceptionReinert-Alumni Memorial Library has had only three directors in its 53 years – Fr. James Kramper, SJ; Ray Means; and the current director, Michael LaCroix.  Michael LaCroix holds the distinction of having served longest.  This week will be his last, though, as Michael retires from the post he has held since 1995.

Anyone who has been around the University Archives quickly comes to appreciate Michael.  The University Archives, as a department of the library, reports to Mr. LaCroix.  We also rely on him, and he has been a great supporter and friend.  There are not enough words – or if there are, I wouldn’t be able to put them in proper order – to express my appreciation for all he has done for the Archives and for me.

To get an idea of what sort of person Michael is, I invite you to read the citation from when Michael won the St. Ignatius Award earlier this year.  The award honors individuals whose lives reflect Ignatian values of Magis (which includes “a quality of soul which desires God’s goodness to be seen”), Cura Personalis (“personally caring for others”) and “being a person for and with others.”  The above photo shows Michael, holding the award, with Creighton’s president, Fr. Timothy Lannon, SJ.

Michael, I will miss seeing you each day, but I am happy for you as you start this new chapter in your life.  May God continue to bless you, and may God continue to bless others through you.


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Jesuit Archives of the Central United States

Missouri Provincial Congregation 1886Jesuits of the Missouri Province at the 1886 congregational meeting.

The Jesuits who established Creighton University in 1878 belonged to the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus.  Creighton Jesuits remained part of the province until 1955, when Nebraska was placed in the newly-created Wisconsin Province.

Recently, the Missouri Province underwent another major change.  On July 31, 2014, the Missouri and New Orleans provinces merged to form the Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province.  At the same time, the Midwest Jesuit Archives became the Jesuit Archives of the Central United States – the name change reflects the expanded responsibility of the archives – which will serve “as the collective memory of the Central and Southern, Chicago, Chicago-Detroit, Missouri, and Wisconsin Provinces and the Jesuit Conference.”  For our purposes, the archives continues to be a valuable resource of information related to Creighton University and the Creighton Jesuit  Community.

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Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, an Omaha college-preparatory school for girls, has in important place in the history of Creighton University.  For a period starting in 1925, Duchesne College – Duchesne had a college from 1908 to 1968 – officially served as the Creighton College of Women.  Duchesne students appeared in the Creighton yearbooks, and the women’s degrees were given by Creighton.  A look through the Duchesne section of the 1929 Bluejay gives an idea of how close the two institutions were.

This summer we added to that shared history.  We at the University Archives have been delighted to have Duchesne High School student Vivian Caniglia volunteer as an intern in the University Archives.  Vivian spent part of June, July and August working on a variety of projects.  Her last day at Creighton was Tuesday, and she is already back in classes at Duchesne.  Thank you, Vivian, for your excellent work!


In Vivian’s honor, we post one of her favorite images from our photographic collections.  This photo of four young women on the steps of the Administration Building (now called Creighton Hall) was taken in 1938.

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