Typefaces, Animal Rights and the “It” Girl: Wells College Archives Span Art, Humanities and Politics
October is American Archives Month, a celebration of America’s history and the archivists, organizations and physical buildings that keep them safe and available to the world at large. Each week this month we’ll highlight a facet of how The Crowley Company partners with archivists and historians to help preserve and share American archives.
I recently spoke with Tiffany Raymond, archivist and reference and instruction librarian at Wells College’s Louis Jefferson Long Library. Located in Aurora, New York, the library holdings consist of over 218,000 volumes, numerous electronic resources and some very impressive private collections. The staff – with the assistance of two student workers – has embarked upon an ambitious year-long project to digitize three of their most important collections with their recently purchased Zeutschel zeta book scanner.
Born in 1882 in Vienna, Austria, Victor Hammer is among Wells’ most famous faculty. Secretly fleeing Vienna in 1939 due to antisemitism, he immigrated to the United States where he taught at Wells College until 1948. While at Wells, Hammer created the Wells College Press, a printer of fine humanities texts. A renowned architect, artist, printer, typographer and educator, he is perhaps most widely known for his typography.
Digitized for the first time, the Wells collection includes Hammer’s faculty papers and correspondence in which he discusses his work along with samples of his types and printings. According to Raymond, “We get steady requests for Hammer’s works and papers. Digitizing these will greatly enhance our ability to share them.”
Hammer moved to Lexington, Kentucky where he lived and worked until his death in 1967. You can read more about Hammer in this in-depth and articulate essay.
An Aurora resident, Albert Leffingwell (1845-1916) is described by Raymond as “a physician and social activist known for his championship of animal rights and social reforms.” He was the founder of the American Society for the Regulation of Vivisection, a physician with the Long Island Hospital, an instructor at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, president of the American Humane Association, director of the American Humane Educational Association and the American Consul at Warsaw (Russia). An article noting his death in the National Humane Review states, “Those who had the privilege of knowing Dr. Leffingwell learned to esteem him for his qualities of mind and heart and will surely miss his attractive personality.”
The donated collection includes correspondence and other documents that cover topics from the state of animal rights and mental healthcare in the Victorian era to local early settlement claims to a firsthand view of the 1905 Russian revolution and the persecution of Jews in Warsaw. Among the papers being digitized are his bound personal journals that are in delicate condition and, without digitization, would be unsafe to physically handle and share.
Frances Folsom Cleveland
To write briefly about Frances “Frank” Cleveland, the youngest First Lady and the only to have been married in the White House, is a disservice to all that she was. The firstladies.org website has done a thorough job and the full bio bears reading during your lunch break. Until then, the most succinct way of putting it is that the bride and wife of President Grover Cleveland (POTUS 22 and 24, the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms) is that Frances Cleveland was the “it” girl of her day (Raymond notes that she might be considered the equivalent of today’s Kate Middleton). A graduate of Wells College and eventually a Wells board member, Cleveland gained popularity at a time when the technology of photography and its reproduction was beginning to peak. Her image, simultaneously wholesome and scandalous (the Women’s Christian Temperance Union took umbrage with her gown choices), graced magazines, newspapers, ads, trade cards and more.
After the death of President Cleveland and her subsequent marriage to Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archaeology at Wells College, Cleveland-Preston returned to Aurora and eventually donated her collection of loose papers, photos and bound journals recording her time as a student, First Lady and post-White House.
Scanning with the Zeutschel zeta
Prior to their purchase of a zeta scanner, the Long Library had utilized what Raymond describes as a “typical flatbed” that wasn’t able to accommodate many of the fragile materials contained within these collections (the Leffingwell collection is 100+ years old). The zeta comfort is an overhead scanner without a hinged lid – minimizing wear and tear on the original – and a flexible cradle to further lessen strain on book bindings. The software comes with a unique page correction feature which eliminates the book gutter and makes the facing pages appear as if they were scanned separately on a flatbed.
“Our student staff is excited to be working with the new scanner,” says Raymond. “The zeta is making the process of digitizing much faster as we’re not having to go in and manually correct images. This is important when you consider thousands of images being scanned on a part-time basis.” Documents are being scanned in at 300 dpi as TIFF images; photographic images are being scanned at a higher resolution.
Raymond anticipates digitizing future collections as well as partnering with local museums and the South Central Regional Library Council for source materials and online hosting.
The value of archives
In addition to their historic value, Raymond says that digitizing these archive materials raises awareness of college libraries as a vital research resource. “Wells College is not typically a place people would think to look for materials of this nature but here they are. Having the ability to digitize and host our archives gives us a longer reach to meet the needs of scholars and researchers.”
Interested in scanners for your collection?
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