Link for the Finding Aid for the Bebe Miller Collection

As promised, the persistent link to the Finding Aid for the Bebe Miller Collection:






Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

EAD OhioLINK Finding Aid Submitted!

Good news everyone!

The EAD OhioLINK finding aid has been submitted. This is a big accomplishment since the collection is quite large and putting up the finding aid was a main component of my archive fellowship.  Once I have the persistent link to the collection, I’ll post it here.

It generally takes about 24 hours for it to show up on the web once it has been submitted.  While you probably won’t be able to see it today, it should be viewable shortly.  The finding aid will also be searchable in Google.  For those of you who are just bursting at the seams to get out there and see it, here’s the link to the EAD OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository. Just keep hitting refresh until it shows up.  Until then, there are plenty of other great finding aids to browse like the  Finding aid for the International Al Jolson Society Collection, 1912-1994, or the Finding Aid for the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance From Burlesque to Clubs,  which are also at the Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio State University.

Go, search, be merry!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Archiving is whatever an archivist is doing.

Yellow "Gotham Dance" crate. This crate holds the copper painted scaffolding, which I found out today makes a bookshelf for Nothing Can Happen Only Once.

Confession: this post is a week overdue.  Nena and I went to Ackerman last week to go through the materials for Series 14 Sets and Props.  The OSU library catalogue showed that there were “5 boxes,” which it turns out were the 5 shipping crates that were used to hold all the pieces when they were originally sent and during TRI’s move from Lincoln Tower to Thompson Library.  Once we got into the stacks, we had to find all the pieces and figure out how they fit together – organizationally speaking rather than set construction-ally speaking.

There was a row of rolls which turned out to be the marley sections for the floors and some of the drops; a box for the bird case; a series of hanging flats; and two LARGE wooden crates for the remaining pieces.  Because of their sizes, they were all stored in different parts of the stacks, so we had a little running around to do at first to locate everything.  (At one point in the day, I saw the boxes for the costumes and had a minute panic about there being more unknown sets/props, but since they were the costumes they were good to go and did not need our attention.)  Some of the pieces had barcodes on them, but none of them were marked with BBM catalogue numbers.  We decided that our time would be best spent not on cataloguing while we were there, but processing into more suitable storage containers and photographing each piece so that I could catalogue it after we left Ackerman.

Marley rolls

It was very cold there, which would have made sitting work uncomfortable, but since we were moving around a lot, the cool air felt nice. If anyone was ever at the Ackerman Library location during the Thompson Library renovation, you will know that it is a giant warehouse type building kept at archival temperature by HUGE fans in the ceiling.  Now there is quite a lot of security, and we had to enter the building by key swipe access and then pass through two sets of locked fences over 10 feet high.

We set up a plastic covered area to photograph each piece.  And after that it was a matter of hauling the pieces over, photographing, and hauling back.

A wood flat from Trapped in Queens.

A lot of heavy lifting – if you have ever had to roll/unroll and carry marley floors, you will understand.  If anyone had told me, “Part of your archive fellowship will be  re-rolling marley,” I wouldn’t have believed them.  I have realized through this experience that archivists do a lot of different tasks that you would not necessarily expect. Variety!

It reminds me of the answer my college friend Sarah Blair would always give when asked what physics is: “Physics is whatever a physicist is doing.” It was a cheeky response that was meant to convey the complex breadth of theories, calculations, and experiments she and her colleagues worked with.  Physics isn’t just one thing one could thoroughly describe in a single sentence.

So, archiving is whatever an archivist is doing. Especially pertinent, I feel for performing arts archivists, and “archivists in the studio.”

A drop from Allies. All the Allies drops had a theme of organs showing. In this one, the man seems filet-ed to let his circulatory system out. Bebe told me these were originally photographs that were then blown up to be painted at this large scale.

The sensory information of the sets and pieces I did not expect at all – the smell, the textures.  The smells struck me most.  The flats had a fresh wood and paint smell just like being in a theater.  Some of the drops from Allies even had a make-up/foundation type scent to them.  Not sure why…  The rough scrim-like cloth felt chalky.  I would imagine a  researcher could want to have physical access to these pieces for their sensory information.

The gaffer’s tape on the marley was still surprisingly sticky and strong and was hard to undo to unroll the sections.  I felt an instinct to be very careful with the painted floors, these are after all archival materials now, but seeing the foot and shoe scuffs and scrapes in the paint reminded me that people danced on these.

Marley section from Heaven+Earth. These floors are sort of glow in the dark, in that they change colors with the right kind of lighting and get really flourescent!

They were in good condition, and of course, I ought to take care to keep them in good condition; I was just amused by my heightened feeling of preciousness about handling something that was essentially made to be walked, jumped, rolled, ran, and slid on.  If you want to see the floors put together, you can go to Caroline Beasley-Baker’s website, the artist commissioned to paint them: And you can see the Allies drops at Robert Flynt’s website: Scroll down near the bottom for this one.

Gaffers tape note on the pipe for one of the Hendrix floors. It reads: "Have Fun! Greetings from Spoleto (the garden ...)" and "What a Blast," "on the boards & D9 Seattle 1997"

We nearly completed the work, but we’ll have to return to Ackerman tomorrow to finish re-rolling the floors, mark the pieces with their BBM numbers, and apply bar codes.  The work in the finding aid is done, and having the pictures really helped.  Because the shipping crates had been previously bar coded (and the wood flats), I had to match the five previously BBM numbers with bar codes to the right pieces.  There were also some questions about which dances some of the pieces went to — the bird house, the yellow crate of scaffolding, the wood flats — but having seen Bebe today, I’ll be able to add that information into the finding aid.  And of course, new BBM numbers had to be made for pieces that were no longer in any crates, namely the drops and the floors.

This birdhouse is from Landing/Place. Nena and I were curious about the handle screwed to the floor on the inside. Bebe said it was because Kathleen slide across the floor toward it and put her hand inside it, and needed something to hang on to while she shook so that it wouldn't go flying off.

Had a productive meeting today with Bebe, Talvin, Jerry Dannemiller, Nena, Nicole Garlando, Chuck and me about the online archive and installation.  It turns out that 2012 is going to be a year of dance for Columbus, Ohio.  In terms of History and Dance Fort, there will be the premiere of History in the fall, the installation with Maya also in the fall, the online archive launch for Dance Fort, a dance-centered exhibit in the Thompson Library gallery of TRI materials (to include the BBM collection and coordinate materials with the installation if possible), and a potential staging of one of Bebe’s other dances.  Having a meeting with Nena, Bebe, and Nicole next week to look at potential materials for the online archive and the installation.  So exciting.  In fact, at the end of the meeting Nicole actually exclaimed, “I’m so excited!”  No one could argue with that! Skype meeting tomorrow and return to Ackerman.  Should be able to get the finding aid submitted to OhioLINK by the end of this week!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Information Architecture in the finding aid

I’m embarrassed to say that I did not post for about a month while I was working on the data entry for the OhioLINK finding aid.  I really don’t think my adventures in Copy and Paste Land would be of interest to most people, but for posterity’s and narrative’s sake, I’ll give a summary now that it’s almost done.  I exaggerate; it’s a lot more than just copying and pasting information into the web-based repository.  It’s actually about information architecture, which is (to me) interesting.

OhioLINK sponsors several online finding aids for various special collections around the state of Ohio.  You can visit the OhioLINK Finding Aid Respository here. Many of these special collections belong to colleges and universities, but not all.  Our particular finding aid for the Bebe Miller Collection is not up currently because I haven’t verified it yet.  Verification should happen within the next few weeks (once I have finished entering Series 14 Props and Sets).  The OhioLINK Repository goes through the EAD (Encoded Archival Description) to create XML-based finding aids.  I don’t have to be an expert at XML encoding since information input is through the website.  However, any XML encoding gurus who are would-be archivists could edit XML to suit their needs for their finding aid.  The finding aid data is organized in two main levels: Collection Level, and Component Level.  Collection Level encompasses global information about the collection – overal dates of the collection, summary of the collection, biographical/organizational narrative, arrangement, scope and content, etc.  Futher down, in the Component Level live the entries for the actual boxes, folders, and items in the collection.  Some of the same categories exist in the Collection and Component levels, like arrangement or cope and content, because sometimes the organization of the materials gets complex. 

Luckily for me, most of the materials for the Bebe Miller Collection were previously processed and catalogued, so my job this summer did not entail much in terms of creating new organization or processing new items.  I basically had to translate the organization of the current finding aid (in Word docs and Exel files) into the terms of the EAD.

I’d better explain a little about the organization of the Bebe Miller Collection to give you an idea of how this all goes together.  Most of the collection is organized as such — Series:Box:Folder (items inside folder). Components in the collection are assigned numbers such as BBM.3.4.1 – BBM for the collection, .3 for the series number, .4 for the box number, and .1 for the folder number.

There are fourteen series — large categories of items by type and/or content, such as Engagements, Photographs, Audio/Video Media, Sets and Props, Funding, Costumes, or Press (and more not named here).  The series were determined based on the organization used by the company at the time Bebe gifted the collection to the library.  This is a common practice to keep materials organized by the logic of the dance company.  This can let a researcher understand a lot about company organization and logic, how they categorize information.  The exception to this practice would be if all the materials were not organized in any logical way, if all documents were kept willy nilly mixed up together in a box, in which case the archivist processing the collection has to implement an organization based on the materials present.

Within those series are boxes (organized alphabetically, by date, by location, or even by happenstance), and within the boxes are folders (further organzing by date, location, or alphabetically as appropriate).  And in some cases, within the folders are individual items.  Sometimes, the folders are skipped for individual items if the items aren’t paper documents and don’t fit into folders (as in the announcement placards series, the binders series, orthe audio/video media series). 

To break this all down, let’s look at Series 3 Engagements, BBM.3.  This series has four boxes, which when processed into the library retained the company’s organizational order of alphabetically by location.  New engagements have been added since the collection was processed, so new entries are processed by year at the end of the series — it would be cumbersome to add these and any subsequent additions by location because it would require re-numbering everything with each addition.  For example, box 1, BBM.3.1 contains engagements from states Arizona through Illinois from various dates.  Box 4, BBM.3.4 contains engagements from states Pennsylvania through Wisconsin from various years, and new additions from 2000 and later from various locations.  Inside box 1, BBM.3.1, are folders of each location, like BBM.3.1.5 California: Long Beach 7/98 CSU Summer Arts.  This folder contains various paper documents and files relating to the CSU Summer Arts engagement at Long Beach in California during July 1998.  And so on. 

Sometimes the folders can be “skipped” for items, as with Series 13 Announcement Placards and Series 12 Binders.  Series 13 contained the beautiful announcement placards carefully wrapped and numbered in a box together.  No folders were needed, so the first placard is numbered BBM.13.1.1, for series 13, box 1, item 1.  In Series 12 Binders, there were two boxes each containing one large binder.  They were processed as BBM.12.1 and BBM.12.2 for series 12 box/binder 1 and series 12 box/binder 2. 

Whew.  I’m going to end with that for now.  I’ll be back pronto with some delicious posting on going to Ackerman, the off-site location, to get cracking on the props and set pieces in Series 14. In the meantime, you should go to DHC Archive Fellow Kat Bell’s blog on her work at the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s archives, Preseving the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Archives. She’s doing some interesting and exciting work there, and recently met up with DHC Archive Fellow Patsy Gay to join her on David Gordon’s Pick Up Performance Company archives.  Go now!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

back in the stacks

The end of last week and the beginning of this week I returned to the Thompson Library Special Collections TRI and stacks…

some of the media boxes. there are three shelves above this. the other boxes are just to the left.

Friday’s exciting event involved a trip with Nena to the Ackerman location off-site to pick up the boxes of video and audio media to reunite them with the boxes in Thompson.  We hauled about 20 boxes in the van across campus.  This basically doubled the amount of material of the BBM collection, so we also needed to do a quick move to another part of the stacks – relocate to a more permanent place among the TRI materials, rather than living in the “in processing section.  We now take up two full shelf sections.

One exciting feature of our “new” location is that a special scale for jockeys (19th century?) is at the end of our aisle.

the jockey scale! the chair is on the other side, and I think the weights hang from the pole.

We’re just a few shelving units away from the map cases and dioramas.  It’s going to be a nice neighborhood.

Now that the media are here in Thompson Library, I was able to solve the mystery of the unlabeled folder – it belonged to a box of two films.  I also discovered that there are more Series than I thought – Series 12, 13, and 14.  Series 14 includes the sets and props, so those will stay at Ackerman (too big to bring over and store!) – will need to make an appointment to go over soon to catalogue those items into the finding aid.  I want to get everything as “catalogued” as possible since I am now moving on to putting the finding aid into the OhioLINK repository (more on that later).  This means adding the few boxes and items that are left in these later series.

Today’s exciting cataloguing finds:

Series 13 Announcement Placards.  I wish I knew what these went to! They could have been props or set decoration (but not processed in the props/sets Series, so can’t be sure) or an advertising enticement.  The placards were of a sturdy card board construction to be held together and hung with a dainty blue ribbon.  The writing was done in charcoal with an interesting old-time kind of font.  They were slogans that must have related to one of the dances, maybe Tiny Sisters in the Enormous Land.

an announcement placard – “enormous language takes over”

Series 12 Tiny Sister Binder.  Wow-y woah whee! This seemed to be an artistic binder of working and choreographic materials.  It had notes about sections, about structure, maps of media time codes relating to movement, working notes from Bebe and Collaborators, drafts of texts sources, and note cards to storyboard the sections.  This was a treasure! I would love to sift through it more thoroughly some time.  I didn’t think there was anything like this in the collection since all of Bebe’s notebooks are still in her possession (she still draws from them and uses them).  In terms of thinking about the History dance (Tiny Sisters is out of the scope of the time frame), here was source material, the kinds of things that may go into the Dance Fort online archive/installation, a look into the how-they-make-the-work.

Meeting this morning with Beth Kattelman, a TRI curator.  She showed me the ropes on the EAD OhioLINK web-based finding aid repository.  The EAD will hold the finding aid on the web, which will make it searchable via OhioLINK as well as google once we have finished it.  This will mostly be a data entry sort of endeavor, taking the information from the “paper” finding aid and fitting it into the EAD format, adding the previously un-added materials, writing descriptions and summaries of the content.  The Great Copy and Paste Venture of 2011 begins!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

pre-breakfast wrap-up on travel day

Yesterday was the last day of the residency at Krannert (today being the traveling home day).  We had a crew download meeting to discuss logistics of passing on documentation of the technical aspects of the piece and arrange to move digital files on to hard drives.  A second production meeting ensued with the larger Krannert/UI faculty/staff to discuss larger logistics of table building, setting up a touring contract rider, shipping/transport for equipment, sharing what the company got out of this residency and what may still come in terms of support moving forward.  The Krannert residency was backed by a generous grant, and I have just been amazed at the amount of support given and with the student collaborators.  It really seems the Krannert is geared at professional training and does this quite well – it’s a shame Mershon/Wexner Center doesn’t have something like this both for supporting arts to develop work and to support students in professional training/preparation.

In the afternoon there was some re-cap and discussion of the dance while watching the performance documentation, and then everything was packed up.  I will have a meeting on Wednesday with Chuck (Wexner Center), Jerry Dannemiller, and Bebe in Columbus about some of the materials going toward the website/digital archive aspect of the Dance Fort project.  Bebe and I will also need to have our wrap-up/follow-up about what I need to do next for the archive fellow.  I know what I will be doing for Nena in the OSU special collections archive, but there are some questions about what to do with the remaining audio I did not get catalogued, going through/possibly adding digital and physical materials to the OSU catalogue, getting media transferred, and any other expectations about what I can do as the “creative archivist” or “archivist in the studio” to continue support of what we started during the residency.

Left to right: Lily, Bebe, Talvin, Rachael, Kendra, Yeseul, Cody, Bradford (not pictured: Darren, Angie, Darrell)

On a more personal level, I’ve enjoyed this experience and look forward to avenues it might open up for putting archivists and other documentarians into the creative process.  Getting to know Bebe, Talvin, and Lily has been a privilege – sitting in on the evening downloads while I blog, unwinding at dinner.  There’s a not-quite-over-but-something-is-over feeling this morning.  Tomorrow I’ll be back in the OSU archive to pick up where I left off there, and there will be the meeting and its resulting tasks that are connected to the History residency support.  Nevertheless, traces of that bittersweet-ending/goodbye-energy hang about.  A final hotel breakfast with the gang, and then on to the open road!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

work in progress showing, video doc in HD

Our last rehearsal day was Saturday (today is the final day of the residency with Sunday being a day off), culminating in a work in progress showing for a few people in the theater as well as on skype.  It was incredible to see a 53-minute dance emerge from all the of scattered pieces and sections of movement, video, an audio/text.  I got to use one of the OSUDance HD video cameras (generously on loan to the company for the residency) to do some performance video documentation.  Did a documentation/notation shot from house left; a second camera was center.  What a difference the HD camera and video tape make!  Lily Skove (video artist collaborator) shot all of the movie footage for the dance in HD, and using the HD camera for performance documentation, the video components on the stage screen showed up incredibly clearly. The company will be able to use my footage to send out to presenters and grants because the video filming is HD is SO CLEAR.  I could hardly believe it while I was taping, and previewing afterward.  If/when HD becomes more affordable, it really ought to be used whenever possible.  Amazing.

Some “backstage” shots during the cue-to-cue (forgive the quality – shot from my phone in the dark):

Bebe, Darrell, and Angie

Talvin (dramaturg), Lily (video artist), Bebe, on the apron. Audience for the showing also sat on the apron.

setting and spiking the table

lighting the table

I finished the audio from Bainbridge August, and will need to get directions about what, if anything, needs to be done with the Bainbridge December audio and some of the Krannert audio. Will also likely need to collect the performance audio files, but we will find all of this out later this morning and this afternoon at the production and wrap-up meetings.  More information to come on what’s next once I know it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment