Birds Just Want to Have Fun: The Photographs of Laurence M. Huey (MS 241)

While it is not a secret that I love birds, I will pretend that this is a fact you do not yet know about me.  But my name is Michelle and I love birds. I’m also a peristerophile (someone that loves and cares for pigeons). Now that we’ve been properly introduced… you can imagine how excited I was when I saw the following manuscript labels on a collection I was not yet familiar with:


Photographs of Laurence M. Huey (MS 241). 

Traditionally, manuscript labels are simplistic. They’re in black and white text and include the manuscript identifier (MS 241), the name of the collection, and a box number. So, you can imagine my excitement that there was a bird waving at me, practically screaming, “Look at this collection!” 

Laurence M. Huey was the Curator of Birds and Mammals for the Dan Diego Natural History Museum from 1922 to 1962. His photographs include pictures from his trips across Baja California, the United States, Canada, Central America, and South America. Many of his subjects are birds because Huey loved birds *almost* as much as I do.

Now, I’m not sure where Huey found a single mallard duck in the middle of the White Mountains, but it is plausible. And it is adorable!


(MS241_Box2_Folder3): Young Stephens Whip-poor-will. June 1931. (Photo N-7874).

I was also very excited when I found several different photographs of hummingbirds in their nests. If you’ve ever seen a hummingbird, you know how fast they are. You also know that trying to photograph the tiny birds is extremely stressful, and you often end up with lots of ‘dud’ photographs. Yet Huey had an amazing eye for hummingbirds, their nests, and their young.


Another fun photograph was titled “Little husband, little wife!” and depicts two Phimbious Gnatcatchers creating their home in Western Arizona, near the Lucky Star Mine, in Mohave County. The photograph was taken in April 1938.


(MS241_Box2_Folder9). Phimbious gnatcatchers (N-7891).

Huey took several photographs of different birds sitting on branches. Whether flying solo or playing with friends, it is clear these birds were entertaining themselves and photographers.

Huey also enjoyed capturing birds feeding their young.


(ms241_box2_folder18): Ash Throated Crested Flycatcher building a nest in Yavapai County, Congress Juntion area (n-7888).

Finding odd/irregular nesting locations was a bonus for Huey.


(ms241_box2_folder18): Ash Throated Flycatchers. May 20-25, 1941 in the Congress Junction area, Yavapai County, Arizona. One bird entering a nest (in post!) and one watching for danger (n-8236).

Huey also liked to find groups of birds. As I am sure you have heard, the best things sometimes come in sets of three!

Other birds are interesting specimens because they have some amazingly unique “hairdos” that should be shared with the public.


(ms241_box2_folder19): Yuma County, Arizona (n-7925).

This prominent crest would be passed on to another generation of adorable birds–which Huey also photographed.


(ms241_box2_folder19): Phainopipla feeding young in Castle Dome, Yuma County, Arizona. April 21, 1935 (n-7901).

And if you think I forgot to include a photograph of several different bird nests that Huey photographed… here is the photo you have been waiting for!


(ms241_box6_folder3): Several photographs from the collection that show different styles of bird nests. 

I hope that you now share my love of birds just a bit more. The Laurence M. Huey collection contains a large grouping of different avian photographs–I hope to intrigue you with a few selections from Box 2, which features birds from Arizona. But if you would like to go “bird watching” in the Special Collections library, there are numerous bird sightings to be had in this collection. To take a look at the collection guide, feel free to click this link: MS 241.


Archives, Bean Seeds, and a Sleeping Princess

Kinuko Craf SleepingBeauty_2001

Sleeping Beauty illustration by Japanese artist Kinuko Y. Craft

Having just earned my BA this past May, the 2018-2019 academic year marks my first as a Graduate Assistant at Special Collections and as a graduate student. I spent the last year and a half researching for my honors thesis which focused on the importance of stories, the ways they are told, and how they are preserved. As an example I analyzed fairy tales for their rich history in oral, literary, and illustration traditions, and for their great ability to remain present in our current day.

Gentry Blog p_1My interest in archival and special collections work derives from my passion for stories and how materials of historical significance are being preserved for future generations. For my first processing project I am organizing the papers of Howard Scott Gentry (1903-1993), botanist, ethnographer, zoologist, and most well-known for his expertise on the agave plant. Through my sorting process I am beholding the work of a devoted expert in his craft. His extensive research on a vast array of plant species and attention to detail exhibits his knowledge and passion for his life’s work. Some favorite discoveries: a packet of bean seeds I found in his file labeled “Phaselus” (aka “Wild Bean”), and his manuscript titled “Jojoba the Sleeping Princess” that he wrote for the 1978 International Conference on Jojoba. In this piece Gentry personifies the jojoba plant as a sleeping princess, and like the fairy tale she needs a suitor to wake her, but instead of a prince, it is the skilled botanist who will bring her to bloom, thereby gifting the suitor with her magic oil. You can imagine my delight of finding these fairy tale-like elements within my first project, reminding me of the importance of my research, and excited for what else I will discover in the archives of Special Collections.

Gentry Blog p_4         Gentry Blog p_2



Southwest Enchantments

A month ago my partner, our three chihuahuas, and I made the trek from Oregon to The Old Pueblo. Having lived in other Arizona cities for most of our lives we were excited for our Southwest return. Though only away for a short time, I realized I longed for the Southwest-scape when somewhere in California the luscious green hills evolved into a beautiful mountainous desertscape. When we arrived in Tucson we were greeted by a monsoon storm and unimaginable colors depicted only by a desert bloom. At a short distance away picturesque mountains touched the sky and a javelina pack enjoyed the vegetation. It was a sight dearly missed and it became evident more beauty and adventure lay ahead. Cactus Bloom

My first month with Special Collections has been equally as welcoming as the greeting received by nature on our first day. I am processing the papers of Curtis G. Benjamin, a University of Arizona graduate, author, and publisher who held multiple positions with McGraw Hill Inc., including that of President. I am weeks in and enjoying identifying the concepts discussed in my courses and analyzing how they come to life in the documents. At the same time, I am witnessing the book publishing industry make history in the U.S. through the historical mergers and acquisitions documented by Curtis G. Benjamin. Through the documents, I am witnessing the expansion of McGraw Hill’s international relations, and I sense the publishing industry’s concern for conglomerates taking root. Through the perspective of C.G.B., as I have come to refer to him, I am able to view some of the thought processes behind partnerships and published works that exist today. The work taking place within Special Collections leaves me feeling inspired daily. How could I not be inspired? It is truly a place of enchantments!




Indiana in the Archive

After a year of working at Special Collections as a Student Page I am excited to say that I, Kimberly Ramsey, am moving up in the archival world and will be finishing my last year in the Masters in Library and Information Science program as a Special Collections Graduate Assistant.

Image result for anna kendrick indiana jones gif

*crowd cheers*

Working in an archive isn’t necessarily what I thought I would be doing. The Anthropology department never encouraged students to look into this field and I was so focused on being Indiana Jones that what happened to these materials after they had been collected didn’t even cross my mind, how young and naive I was. Luckily for me I’ve found my way here, call me Indy of the Archive if you’d like.

“That belongs in an archive” – Me

Now that you know a little about me, let me introduce you to my new friend, John Weston. Weston was a writer of a plethora of novels, short stories, poems, articles, plays and screenplays. Though a popular author, Weston also spent time working as a professor at different academic institutions, including the University of Arizona. There are 15 boxes of materials, and frankly they are pretty well organized, maybe he was an archivist too.


One of Weston’s very full, yet very organized, boxes.

His materials contain correspondence, play  material, photographs, and plenty of manuscripts. Weston kept all of his drafts which, along with the correspondence, really create a story of his time as a writer and how hard he worked and struggled to create the legacy he did.

15 boxes is a lot, and arranging them will definitely take longer then I had imagined it would, but I am none the less excited to keep working through his stuff while sharing it with you.

Catch me in the basement,



Collections of Disarray: Cleaning Up and Preserving Archival Materials

The 2018-2019 academic year marks my second year as a GA (Graduate Assistant) at Special Collections, but I’ve held different student worker positions here since 2009. My plan to infiltrate the archive and make myself a permanent fixture here seems to be working.  Processing collections has always been one of the most significant tasks I’ve been given and I cannot stress enough how much I love being able to make sense of collections for future researchers, scholars, and curious patrons.

My first processing project this semester is what can only be (lovingly) described as a ‘Collection of Disarray’. This nickname refers to a collection that comes in with no clear order (everything is haphazardly piled into boxes), lots of dirt and grime, needs a lot of weeding (removing and discarding items that have no intellectual value to the collection–like an old phone bill or receipt from the grocery store), and has condition issues.

The collection I’m currently processing arrived to Special Collections looking like this:


It is not uncommon for collections to come in without any specified order to them. After all, donors are entrusting their materials to an archive because archivists take the time to tidy up the collection: we put materials in folders, clean up any small issues, etc.

Yet this collection was unique because it had significant dirt and grime. This was likely due to storage issues (not everyone has a temperature controlled room, and you should keep in mind that lots of people keep their materials in storage sheds that aren’t dirt and/or animal proof). Thus, as I’ve started sorting these materials, I’ve had to spend a lot of time carefully wiping up dirt, bugs, and other fun treasures. It actually is *very* fun.

The collection itself also has different types of damage.


A significant portion of this collection is letters from the 1910-1930s. The letter pictured above is family correspondence from 1921, and as you can see there are different types of damage to the letter itself. This letter had some dirt on it, which was easy to carefully wipe away. However, there are still some stain “spots” of an unknown origin. The edges also have some significant damage from an unidentified bug. I have a carcass or two that were preserved in these boxes, and I’m not kidding when I say I’m taking photos and sending them to a friend who studies bugs in order to get the true identity of the letter-eaters! You can see little areas where a bug was happily eating away at the letter (the more ’rounded’ areas). However, there are also nicks and tears in the letter (likely from improper housing and, let’s be honest, plain old age and non-archival paper).

The collection is exciting because it is giving me a chance to use different real-world techniques to get some of these materials back into shape. Cleaning dirt off, putting letters in sealed mylar, and arranging the items is proving to be time consuming but well worth the effort. And… I get to use these exciting blue gloves that make me feel like a doctor–skillfully bringing life back to a collection!


Internship Final Thoughts

I am a little bit sad that my internship at Special Collections is over. I wish I was able to spend another semester processing but graduation is coming whether I am ready for it or not. This internship has taught me a lot about what I want in a future career. I would love to become a processing archivist. I love immersing myself in the collections, in the photographs, correspondence, and in the case of literature collections, reading some of the authors writings. But I have learned that sometimes I spend a little too much time looking at the collections when I should be more focused on organizing and arranging the collections.

Two main things I’ve learned from this internship:

  1. Read and follow the manual. Even if you think you’ve done everything you need to do, refer to the manual, because surely there is something you have forgotten.
  2. Processing might take a little longer than first expected. If you give yourself a timeline, add in an extra day or so for leeway.

Overall, my experience as an intern at the special collections library has been amazing. I have learned so much and gained valuable experience which I will take with me wherever I end up after graduation. I have applied to a couple project archivist positions, I am still waiting to hear back. Once finals are over and my regular job at Special Collections has ended, I will have more time to apply for other job positions!

If anyone is interested, I kept a weekly blog throughout my internship. You can access my blog here!

Thorns, towels, and a farewell

Not so very long ago, I made my first post on Archivist Apprenticeship and shared with you the story of Joe Carithers’ water from beneath the Rainbow Bridge. It’s hard to believe that this post will be my last, and will mark the conclusion of my graduate assistantship at Special Collections.

Anticipating my entry onto the job market, I’ve spent much of the past month preparing for and attending conferences so I can share my recent work with other scholars. At the American Comparative Literature Association annual meeting in late March, I presented my current research into archival things and their relationship to theories of materiality. As part of a panel on “Neglected Lifeforms,” I engaged in conversations with professors and graduate students who write about dust, atmospheric particles, equine disease, fungi, wheat, soil, and the erotics of plants. My presentation, in part, reflected on the physical experience of processing the John W. Murphey records and the ways the oversized ledgers dried my hands and made me sneeze, drawing my attention to the non-textual, non-pictorial elements of the ledgers.  I paired the ledgers with another agent of bodily change, ubiquitous in the Sonoran desert: puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris). An interdisciplinary panel of this kind can be really beneficial to archivists, because it introduces us to theories and ways of thinking about archival things that we might not otherwise engage.

The fruit of Tribulus terrestris. Some people use them as a hormonal supplement; I just get them stuck in my feet. 😦

For conference #2, I traveled back East to an archives conference. Outside of Special Collections, I am a curator for the Pittsburgh Queer History Project – an oral history and media archive focused on gay & lesbian after-hours nightlife, 1960-1990. Along with the lovely Harrison Apple, I demonstrated some of the ways community archives can productively complicate our concepts of ‘archival records’ and ‘linguistic tokens.’ Shifting back to my training in sociolinguistics, I used VHS tapes of 1980s drag queen pageants to consider how we might write a history of Pittsburgh English that can take into account queerness and performance. As always, the video of Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope – often called the ‘voice of Pittsburgh’ – detailing the origins of the Terrible Towel brought more than a few chuckles. It was a delight talking to other presenters and attendees afterward about methods for community engagement.

Though our presentation went well, our conference experience started off on a bad foot with an even worse shoe. As we approached the conference registration table, Harrison asked the volunteer at the table for directions to our conference room. The volunteer looked at us and replied, with undue self-assurance: “This is a conference for archivists, actually,” and suggested we might be at the wrong table. Harrison – with discernible annoyance and a tone as pointed as a freshly-sharpened pencil – assured her that we did in fact know which conference we were attending. Another, somewhat embarrassed volunteer gave us directions. As we made our way towards the meeting rooms, I saw archivists with all manner of dyed hair, plaid bucket hats, tattoos, and casual wear. Looking around, it became clear: to that volunteer, we looked too queer or too trans to be archivists.

Me, after receiving my name badge and conference program.

There continues to be a gap between the language of diversity & inclusion, and the personal commitment by archivists and librarians to doing the deep work: processing (emotionally), alone, outside of work hours, all the biases which inform our actions. Changing methods of description and widening collection policies has to be accompanied by attention to interpersonal interactions. In 2018, it was disturbing to find that someone would presume we couldn’t be archivists because of how we looked, but I know that we – as two white scholars with no visible disabilities – didn’t even experience the worst of this kind of behavior.

My conference experience was a timely reminder of the interpersonal work ahead of me in the archival world. With my experiences here at Special Collections – both with people and archival objects – I feel more prepared to be part of the discourse which shapes the field. How can we keep an eye on theory while engaging in archival practice? How can we spot the gap between discussions of inclusion and openness, and the lingering discomforts and prejudices we harbor internally? How can archivists learn from the researchers we serve as much as they learn from us? After a year at Special Collections, I’m ready to take these questions out into the world and work on them – collaboratively, patiently, looking exactly as I do.