March 2014 Archives

100th Birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug

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Elmer L Andersen.jpeg"What nobler purpose can there be for a University than to gather up the prizes of a culture--preserve them, propagate them, make them available--so that the best of what has gone before can be preserved and built on?" -- Governor Elmer L. Andersen

"I've worked with wheat. But wheat is merely a catalyst, a part of the picture. I'm interested in the total economic development in all the countries. Only by attacking the whole problem can we raise the standard of living for all people in all communities, so they will be able to live decent lives." -- Dr. Norman E. Borlaug

Elmer L. Andersen (1909-2004) embraced many roles: businessman, Minnesota governor and state senator, newspaper publisher and writer, University of Minnesota Regent, University alumnus (B.B.A. '31), philanthropist, and rare book collector.

The University of Minnesota Archives is one of the units housed in Elmer L. Andersen Library, the University's archives and special collections facility named in Governor Andersen's honor, and among its 19,000 cubic feet of material chronicling the history of the University, you will find the personal papers of Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009): University alumnus (B.S. '37, M.S. '39, Ph.D. '42), noted plant pathologist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and father of the Green Revolution.

The Migration and Social Services Collections

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By Ellen Engseth, Curator of Immigration History Research Center Archives and Head, Migration and Social Services Collections

Joining the staff of Archives and Special Collections a few months ago, I have the welcome charge of exploring the contents of four archives, or what we call units. These are the Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives (UMJA), the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Immigration History Research Center Archives (IHRCA), and Social Welfare History Archives (SWHA). The Migration and Social Services Collections is a new administrative construct which includes these four units; individual archives remain distinct within it. Because these four archives complement one another so well, we have an exciting future working with each other to benefit our users, the collections, and staff.

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Though I haven't yet had the time to physically explore the collections, I have been learning from my knowledgeable colleagues and reading our collection descriptions. I am repeatedly struck with how the sources in each of these units are global in scope, though at first glance it might not appear so. For example, a current favorite collection from the YMCA of the USA's Archives, fondly termed "the punch cards," uniquely informs us of Americans serving the final year of WWI in various YMCA non-combatant roles, largely in the European theater. The Y's International Division records contain source material on countries from Angola to Zimbabwe. The rich and deep collections of the IHRCA document among other things the relationships, travels, and culture of migrating people moving across the globe. UMJA's collection also share the story of migrating people, those identifying with a specific culture or religion and who moved to or through the upper Midwest region of the U.S. The SWHA includes an important collection: the records of the International Social Service, USA Branch, an organization which promotes professional and legal social work practices across national borders. As noted in the finding aid, "[the] records reflect human needs and social services in areas undergoing war, enforced migration, or other crisis as well as peacetime social and family services worldwide. In particular, the records deal with methods and problems in international adoption." I am both humbled and excited to begin working with all of these materials that help us in the world understand each other better.

Camping on the Farm

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By Linnea Anderson, Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives


One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching with archival collections is participating in the students' discovery process as they uncover unexpected documents and stories in the archives. It is a chance for staff as well as students to gain new insights about collections.

While preparing materials for an honors seminar on Summer Camps, I discovered Minnie Walker, the "camp cow," in the Hartley House records at the Social Welfare History Archives. Hartley Farm camp in Towaco, New Jersey was the summer camp for children from Hartley House settlement in the "Hell's Kitchen" neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side. Settlements such as Hartley house served as community centers for urban neighborhoods with large immigrant populations. Among many other services, they offered recreational activities and stressed the importance of exercise and the natural environment for children raised in an urban setting. Many settlements sent children to summer camp - often at property provided by a donor. 

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In addition to being a charming peek at the history of camping, the story of the Hartley Farm cows is also a wonderful example of how much information can be gleaned from only a few documents. The Hartley House records include two registry forms for Holstein cows at the camp. The first is a certificate of registry from The Holstein-Friesian Association of America for a cow named Minnie Walker. Minnie's sire was the illustriously named Sir Hengerveld Prilly Walker and her dam was listed as Minnie Abbekerk 2nd. She was born in December, 1915; purchased for the camp from W. S. Phillips of Huntsville, New Jersey; and registered in May, 1919. Using the diagram provided on the back of the registry form, someone carefully drew Minnie's markings in blue ink.

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