Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Red berries for Christmas

Heavenly bamboo in front of the Coe Library.
PEOPLE WHO THINK L.A. doesn't get fall and winter color aren't paying attention.

We may not have the dramatic holly and ivy of England, source of all those Christmas carols, but we have plenty of red berries in heavenly bamboo (above), cotoneaster and pyrocantha. They put us in a holiday mood, along with spectacular Pacific Ocean vistas (cleared of the usual haze) and ragged gray clouds scudding across the sky between rainstorms.

Chalon is a spectacularly beautiful campus all year 'round, but for the few of us working in this quiet week before Christmas, it is glorious.

Merry Christmas to all. Deck the halls with nandina domestica, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-LA!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Postcards from Doheny, Part I

Looking south down Chester Place toward West Adams Boulevard.
The tower on the right is part of No. 7, home today of the Mount's
Student Affairs department and Campus Ministry.

WE OBSERVED AWHILE BACK that it is a lucky archives indeed that owns a batch of antique postcards.  We're fortunate today to have a batch of the digital equivalents, courtesy of our friend and historian, Don Sloper, and our St. James Park neighbor Jim Robinson.

Jim, who lives in the landmark Dockweiler House a block west of the Doheny Campus, has collected photographs and postcards from the historic neighborhood that date back to the turn of the 20th Century. His company, Robinson Residences, leases several vintage homes in the area.

In researching his book Los Angeles' Chester Place, Don availed himself of some of Jim's collection and in the process digitized nearly all of it. Don recently turned over his entire research collection to the College Archives, and Jim gave us permission to showcase his images.

We're looking forward to adding them to the Mount's online repository and making them available for viewing. There are other sources for viewing these postcards online, but we believe that we've got the largest collection in one place. That's an asset both to the Mount and Los Angeles history buffs. Watch this space for updates on availability.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tucking in the kids

Catalogs stacked by decade, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
PARDON US IF WE INDULGE in some motherly behavior, but we're very glad that all the children are safely back in their beds. Or more literally, back on their shelves and tucked back in for the long sleep of archives.

The thousands of yearbooks, catalogs, literary journals, newspapers, newsletters and other publications of the Mount's 87 years were shipped out in June to scanning centers in Indiana and North Carolina. They've been coming back in, first in a trickle and then in a rush of boxes and bubble wrap.

With the final batch -- catalogs -- back in order, all the collections are back home. With most of the collections easily readable and searchable on line (http://archive.org/details/mountstmaryscollege) we need no longer disturb the aging originals.

Yearbooks back
on the shelves, 1947-2012.
We can hear you thinking, "Oh, so you're not throwing them away?" It's a common misconception (among non-archivists) that scanning something means that originals can be safely discarded. That's true only in the event that you know how to preserve digital objects forever -- and very, very few people understand how to do that, let alone say with confidence that it can be done.

If we may offer another dumb metaphor, with the return of the collections the chickens have come home to roost. If you think that implies something a little ominous, you're correct -- and I invite you to the College Archives for a chat about (cue the violins) metadata. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ode to a poem, found

Sister Joseph Adele joins students on the lawn near the
Doheny Mansion for English class. Photo is about 1990.
SISTER JOSEPH ADELE EDWARDS, CSJ, '58, was a poet and longtime member of the Mount's English faculty who passed away last Christmas Day. She is still greatly missed by her many friends and former students.

The Public Relations department sent to the Archives a poem of of hers that turned up the other day in an old file. Inspired by John Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn," Sister wrote this paean to the Doheny Mansion in 1965:

If beauty changes for each person and age,
Then who are we to say wherein it lies?
For some it is a garden trimmed and formed,
A roof with gables pointing to the sky,
Two lions standing guard while cold and still,
Or marble panels matched by pillars tall.
An Angel's face, a crystal lamp, a trace
Of pastoral art -- all meant for one, at least,
The source wherein great beauty does reside. 
A marble lion guards the entrance to the Doheny Mansion.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Special times with Sister Pat

Campus Ministry girls surprise Sister Pat with a card and
flowers for CSJ Appreciation Day at the Mount, March 23, 2011.
FRIEND AND FELLOW Benedictine oblate Ann Kinkor suggested titling this little memorial "Better, Different, or More Special Times with Sister Pat." Our prayer group of oblates had many occasions to pray for Sister in the nine months Sister volunteered in the College Archives. And now she's gone, passing away in her sleep two nights ago in the Alzheimer's unit at St. John of God hospital.

Sister Patricia Gage, CSJ, was a Mount graduate and Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for almost sixty years. Sister Pat was well known in her community for "having mind of her own," and that was before Alzheimer's started taking its toll. Okay, she was quirky, and therefore no ordinary volunteer.

She arrived in the College Archives unannounced one day, bright-eyed, smiling, and raring to go. She had with her two of her Sisters from down the hill at Carondelet Center.  "Sister would like to volunteer in the library," they said. It did not sound like a question.

Sister among the books with Shakespeare
on her lap.
Pat had volunteered at the University of San Diego library and proudly presented a well-worn, much folded and grubby sheet of letterhead from the director there describing her sweet disposition and dedication. There was no telling how long she'd carried it with her, but it didn't matter, Sister Pat was going to volunteer at the Chalon Campus library and she was going to start right now, today. As the other Sisters headed back to Carondelet Center, we cast about (a bit desperately) for something she could do.

Alzheimer's robs its victims very quickly of short-term memory. Pat's diagnosis had come just the previous month, and its progress was swift. She handled with ease the to-and-fro between the college and Carondelet Center and occasionally clutched little slips of paper with reminders about appointments. But it rapidly became difficult for her to stick to any task that requiring much organization. She did pretty well sleeving the old photographs in mylar, and could even identify an occasional Sister or student from the 1950s and 1960s. But filing and foldering were out, because remembering what item went in which folder is kind of fundamental to archives work. It didn't take long for chaos to start creeping into the files.

Nevertheless, Sister Pat was happy as a kid with a new kitten. She radiated pure joy at being busy. She was joyful, too, at being expected, at having somewhere to go, at having somewhere to be. If one isn't paying attention, one will miss the profound lesson in this. To see these photos is to witness a soul in genuine harmony with her life -- which is wildly ironic because at the same time the rest of Sister's life was rapidly unraveling.

Like all independent spirits, she was deeply resentful of having been uprooted from her apartment in San Diego, where she had been missioned for a quarter century (dietitian by training, she taught impoverished mothers how to nourish their new babies). In spite of the spectacular ocean view from her room at Carondelet Center and plenty of companionship, she wanted only to get to her "job" in the Mount archives.

So the agreed-upon two half-days days a week became three, and three full days became five, and soon she was charging up the steep hill on weekends and even holidays, her spindly 5-foot-10 frame bent permanently into a 5-foot-5 question mark. She'd be confused at finding the Archives locked and would sit unhappily on the library steps until she remembered to go home or someone came to fetch her.

It's no small Providence that Sister Pat, with most archives work beyond her, settled on just the right task -- dusting the rare books. "Dusting" is a term used loosely. It doesn't do justice to the spit-polished, elbow-greased renewal that went on with our neglected volumes.  Glistening gold leaf and shiny leather spines reemerged from the residue of the ages, and though her methods would make a book conservator cringe, the shelves started looking a lot better.

We finally had to lock up the Scotch tape because she used it, and inventively, for everything from leather binding repair to minor tears in 18th Century paper. She didn't seem to mind when it disappeared, although she asked for it every day. One day we found her in a blizzard of tiny shards of yellowed paper, rubbing furiously at the deckled edges of a century-old vellum-bound Bibliophile Society volume. She was apparently resolved to remove the deckling altogether. But what is fine paper compared to some small happiness and peace of mind for someone with an evil disease?

Tending the books could have blessedly gone on forever, because Sister Pat would forget which ones she'd cleaned and give them a second and third -- and fourth -- going-over. She renewed faded labels, and then renewed the new ones, singing little songs and talking to herself. The books gradually got out of order but were easily put to rights. Except for the occasional kerfuffle -- ack! how did she get the tape again? -- thus was the even tenor of our archival partnership.

But came the day when the CSJs went on retreat and the archivist on vacation -- no work up the hill for a full, terrible week. What was described to us later as a "meltdown" resulted in Sister Pat's being uprooted again, this time to St. John of God. She was too big a handful by then even for her Sisters.

We were busy cleaning up after a mold outbreak in the archives room and didn't have much time to register Pat's day-to-day absence. We would send her an occasional card and get back a remarkably lucid letter. Her family and Sisters would visit and take her to lunch, and she had the beautiful grounds of the St. Benedict Menni wing to enjoy. Oh, and there were reports that she'd thrown away her clothes again, or slipped her caregivers and headed out -- where? Back to the archives?

Sister and archivist.
Many people have pointed out that we have a guardian angel now looking over the archives and rare books. Seeing these pictures again reminds us how much Pat brightened our days, even with the battle over the scotch tape. 

God bless you, Sister Pat, you're where you wanted to be at last -- someplace you're expected, somewhere you can be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sr. Ignatia's works on virtual view

Sister Ignatia in the mid-
1970s when she was about
90 years old. 
THE MOUNT'S Sister Ignatia Cordis was a prolific painter but, as we noted, original, hanging works are rare, and nearly everything she did prior to 1961 was lost in the Bel Air Fire.

The discovery of an unlabeled box of slides on a shelf in the College Archives was exciting indeed, because the contents give us a glimpse of her diversity of styles. Among her later works are watercolors and oils that documented the aftermath of the same fire that destroyed her artistic legacy.

All of the digitized slides can now be enjoyed in the MSMC Archives space on Flickr. If you can contribute a description or comment, feel free. The slides came with no information, and only bits and pieces in the Mount records suggest that the photos were taken at the time of a retrospective exhibit of Sister's work in 1979.

We'd love to know where her cityscapes were painted, and is that Yosemite Valley and the Ahwahnee Hotel we see?
Arches in a quiet corner of Carondelet Center.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy Six-Oh, Pi Theta Mu

Pi Theta Mu members were the Mount's official "hostesses."
THE HISTORIAN OF PI THETA MU, Connie Diwa, paid a visit to the Archives yesterday. Like other sororities, this  venerable Mount institution is interested in rediscovering its history and reaching out to alumnae. Founded in the 1952-53 academic year as an honor society for graduating seniors, that's six decades' worth.

Fortunately for the sorority, about 3 feet of shelf space in the archives is devoted to Pi Theta Mu's scrapbooks, so Connie and her sisters have lots of history to work with.

In the first years of Pi Theta Mu's story, graduating seniors were elected to membership based on their service to the college and community during their four years at the Mount. In 1963, the charter was changed to a service organization for sophomores. According to Sister Germaine McNeil's History of Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, 1925-75, members were the "hostesses" of MSMC, "serving at luncheons, teas, and banquets, officiating at student body elections, and ushering at formal college events on and off campus."

The PTMs are easy to spot in the historic photos -- they are all dressed alike, right down to their black pumps.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A week of 'Doheniana'

Poster collage of historic Mount bulletins.
THE COLLEGE HAS BEEN CELEBRATING the anniversary of the Doheny Campus, which opened to about 250 students on September 12, 1962.  

The annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on at Doheny on September 13 was followed by lunch and the 50th Anniversary Fair, comprising several booths showcasing different aspects of campus history:  changes to the physical plant and landscaping, notable films and TV shows filmed there, a look at dorms through the decades, Weekend College and the Graduate School, alumnae and the CSJs. Nearly 200 Mount students took advantage of the opportunity for a rare look inside Doheny Mansion and signed up for tours held continuously all afternoon.

'Documenting Doheny' exhibit is on display
at the McCarthy Library through December.
Running between now and December, an exhibit of "Doheniana" -- items from the College Archives illustrating the Doheny family, the College and Chester Place -- is on display in the J. Thomas McCarthy Library on the Doheny Campus. The "Documenting Doheny" exhibit is available for viewing during regular library hours, including weekends. Included are historic photos and books, yearbooks, bulletins and newsletters. Check out those 1960s fashions!

Touring a 'weekend getaway'

Central courtyard of the former 
Doheny hacienda in Ojai.
ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN THE DOHENY MANSION at 8 Chester Place is not going to associate the words "rustic" or "country" with Countess Estelle Doheny.

Nevertheless, we had the privilege of joining the Doheny Docents on a tour of St. Thomas Aquinas College in Ojai, whose beautiful, remote valley was once part of the Ferndale Ranch acreage of Edward L. Doheny. Near the oil-rich hills of Santa Paula, Doheny's company drilled at Ferndale, but in 1928 it became the family's rustic weekend retreat during the dark days of the Teapot Dome hearings and in 1929 after the sudden death of Doheny's only son, Ned. 

The simple, almost austere, pantiled hacienda, designed by Wallace Neff, was legendarily built under Countess Doheny's direction in just six weeks. For many years it has served as the residence of the president of St. Thomas Aquinas College, and recently underwent its first extensive renovation without losing any of its classical California charm. President Michael F. McLean and his wife, Linda, graciously opened their home to the docents, the first time these Doheny history experts have had a look at this hidden treasure.

For more photos, please click here for the MSMC Archives page on Facebook, 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lost and found: the art of Sister Ignatia

Mount convent (Rossiter Hall) in ruins after the 1961 Bel Air Fire.
SISTER IGNATIA CORDIS, CSJ, founded the Mount Art Department in the 1920s and passed away in 1986 at 99, renowned for her sometimes avant-garde work and for pushing the boundaries of what was considered suitable for a Catholic nun to paint.

In a film cabinet drawer in the College Archives, a yellowed envelope tells a familiar story of pictures borrowed and never returned. A typewritten label dated December, 1985 -- a few months before Sister Ignatia's death -- reads:
Lost -- set of slides of Sr. Ignatia's art show. The set was removed from the archives and never returned. I have asked the Art Department, the press, etc., but no positive results.
It's signed by Sister Margaret Lynch, then the College Archivist.

Every archivist knows that kind of frustration, but for Sister Margaret it had to be especially painful. When the Mount convent (Rossiter Hall) was destroyed in the Bel Air Fire in November, 1961, most of Sister Ignatia's early work also went up in flames. She continued to paint -- including documenting the damage to the College in a series of impressionistic watercolors like the one above -- and in October, 1979, the College staged a tribute exhibit of 50 of her paintings. Photographic copies were carefully made of the hanging work by Los Angeles photographer Gerson Bender and a set handed over to the Treasure Room (as the Mount's Archives & Special Collections were then known).

We are happy to report that after nearly 27 years, the slides have surfaced. Our intrepid volunteer Vivian Santibáñez unearthed them in a shoebox full of unmarked yellow slide boxes, and the Skirball Cultural Center archives kindly let us scan them there last week.

We'll post some of the images over on Facebook at MSMC Archives. Mostly buildings and interesting landscapes, some paintings have historic value, like the one below, a drawing of 21 Chester Place. This imposing white mansion next to the Doheny Campus was torn down and the land sold to L.A. Unified to build Lanterman High School.

That's life in the archives world -- you lose a few, you find a few. Some of Sister's originals hang here and there around both campuses, but the location of many from the 1979 show is unknown. At least now we know what we're looking for. We're sure Sisters Margaret and Ignatia are pleased.

21 Chester Place was the model for the Addams Family home in the
classic 1960s sitcom. No other images exist in the MSMC Archives.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Digital payoff time

Student body officers 1946-47.
From 1947 yearbook, page 14.

Statement of first issue, page 9.
WE GOT A REQUEST from our colleague Faraah Mullings for information about the first yearbook at the Mount. Faraah is director of Student Activities and Commuter Services and also moderator of the yearbook staff. She wanted to provide some historic background for the new yearbook team about their distinguished predecessors and the 65 years of annuals they produced.

Digitization payoff time! The student editors can now see the yearbooks online, including the very first in 1947. Here's the link: http://archive.org/details/mount1947msms.

We spent a couple days last week with our volunteer Mary M. Ugianskis poring over yearbook metadata and making sure each edition was properly digitized. It's great to see that kind of time investment pay off so immediately.

Lest we forget, the Archives also has all the hard copies. It's a phenomenon of digitization that the results often spur a lot of interest in seeing and handling the originals. Faraah sent out a few students last week to find the Archives (first floor, Coe Library), and once they were here they promised they'd be back.

Student sketch of Brady Hall on page 25. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doheny logos then and now

THE SLIDE TROVE mentioned in yesterday's post turned out to be copies of pictures assembled for the 30th Anniversary of the Doheny Campus celebrated in 1992. Among the treasures was the logo from 20 years ago (in pink). We've placed it next to the 50th Anniversary version above.  Both feature line drawings of the Doheny mansion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Treasure chest

A classic American design: the slide carousel.
Photo by Vicky McCargar.

THIS OBJECT, BOYS AND GIRLS, IS A SLIDE CAROUSEL. Just being able to identify it dates us as well into middle age. It is full of slides -- rich, colorful, jewel-like little windows of light. About the Doheny Campus!

Our director of public relations, Debbie Ream, handed this off to the archives last week with a skeptical look, as if to say, "Do you really need any more old slides?" But we Lone Arrangers are loath to say no to pictures, so we "accessioned" them, in the jargon.

Boy, oh, boy -- what a timely find. The original Eastman Kodak Co. box is intact. The slides represent a big range of dates between the 1920s and 1980s, but all appear to be historic shots pertaining to Doheny -- faculty like Sisters Pancratius Cremins and Aline Marie Gerber; students in fashionable 1970s twinsets, and best of all, lots of photos of the Doheny Mansion and grounds in the olden days, including the Doheny family's ornate old greenhouse (torn down around 1960 or so). There are about 75 slides in all.

Our colleagues a couple of hills over at the Skirball Cultural Center have kindly offered the services of their slide scanner and a volunteer to operate it. We'll post some of the images here and over on our Facebook site, http://www.facebook.com/MSMCarchives. (And if you're there, please give us a Like!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

A prayer for students

Downtown students pray in what is now the Gillin Conference Room. 
The 'stained glass' is painted onto the black and white print.
GAILE KRAUSE OF OUR WONDERFUL Campus Ministry team sent out a thoughtful meditation for  the start of the 2012-2013 academic year:
O God, in your wisdom and love,you surround us with the mysteries of the universe. Look upon us all -- always students, always teachers -- and help us enjoy our learning and take delight in new discoveries. Help us to persevere in our studies and desire to learn all things well. May you walk with us this year, and enlighten our hearts and our minds. Amen.
Prayer is what made Mount St. Mary's College: the CSJs' prayers for funding and resources to open a new college on a bare, chaparral-covered hilltop; prayers for safety and deliverance from the Bel Air Fire in 1961; prayers of thanksgiving for benefactors, prayers for students and their families and loved ones. 

We thought an appropriate picture for today's blog would be another marking the Doheny Campus' 50th Anniversary. Three young ladies -- in the required chapel veils of the day -- kneel on prie dieux in what appears to be a chapel with stained glass. The photo was taken in the early 1960s.

A not-very-close look reveals that the "stained glass" was painted in by a newspaper artist, who also altered the rounded shape of the upper part of the window to make it look "Gothic." The photo was evidently published, but it's not known in which newspaper. (Mount events were frequently publicized in the Los Angeles Times, Herald-Examiner and The Tidings.)

The untouched window identifies the room as what is now known as the Gillin Conference Room in No. 10 Chester Place. In the first years of the Downtown Campus, a chapel where students and faculty could attend Mass or stop by to pray was every bit as important as classrooms or a dining hall (as was, indeed, the case in the early days at Chalon). The makeshift chapel sufficed for more than 20 years, until Mercy Chapel was dedicated in 1984.

While chapel veils have gone the way of daily Mass on campus, prayer still makes the Mount go. Our two chapels, Mary and Mercy, often have a student occupant or two in quiet reflection between classes -- more during finals week.

Visitors often remark that the Mount campuses have a special "feeling." It's our opinion that they're picking up on the prayer vibe.
O God, may you walk with us this year, and enlighten our hearts and our minds. Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Marble halls of the academe

Sr. Mary Helen Pettid, CSJ, teaches a U.S. government class in
the Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion, 1962.
STATELY BUILDINGS ARE, FRANKLY, A DIME A DOZEN even on utilitarian college campuses. But there is stately, and then there is spectacular.

Yesterday (Aug. 16) was the Convocation of the College, and high on the agenda was marking the 50th Anniversary of the Doheny Campus. Our colleagues in Student Affairs put together a slideshow of historic photos -- many from the College Archives -- pairing a shot from 1962 with the same view today.

The photo that got the most oohs and ahhs was the one above, which shows some of the inaugural class of Downtown Campus coeds crammed into the Pompeian Room in the Doheny Mansion. Amid the Moorish-Gothic Roman-Tiffany fantasy in marble is a prosaic blackboard and bubble-hairdo'd students on folding chairs. The lecture is on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

In her book The Doheny Mansion: a Biography of a Home, Mary Ann Bonino '61 PhD describes the room thus:
...perhaps the most spectacular room in Los Angeles -- a breathtaking spectacle of gold, marble and colored glass, accented with bursts of Pompeian Red. A triumph of Beaux-Arts splendor, the Pompeian Room is a Mediterranean vision built in Los Angeles, the Rome of the American West.
The Pompeian Room was not original to the Doheny Mansion, built by the Posey family in 1899 and purchased by Edward L. and Estelle Doheny in 1901. It replaced a patio and was inspired by a lavish hotel ballroom the Dohenys visited in Chicago. It hosted many a prominent businessman, foreign dignitary or church official among the Doheny coterie, who dined on a mirrored table beneath the famous gold glass dome.

Sr. Mary Helen and Downtown Campus
students survey their ornate new classroom.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were less interested in their spectacular new surroundings than they were in getting the Downtown Campus up and running quickly in the fall of 1962. The Pompeian wasn't the only grand salon to see the sudden influx of desks and blackboards -- classes were also held in Nos. 7 and 10, and No. 2 served as the library.

It's not known how long classes continued in the Pompeian Room, but one of the first additions to the Doheny Campus was the Classroom Building in 1965. That would suggest that students met in these rooms for at least three years before moving into modern quarters.

One has to wonder what a distraction that golden dome would have presented, at least for the first few class meetings. Did students get stiff necks staring at the ceiling?

One of the reasons for the oohs and aahs at Convocation, perhaps, is the Pompeian Room's current holy-of-holies status; most Mount students will graduate without ever seeing it. That is, unless they catch it in a movie like The Princess Diaries or one of the many films and TV shows that have been shot on location there.

Next month after the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Doheny celebration will continue with tours of the Doheny Mansion. We're hoping lots of students will take advantage of them and get a firsthand look at their Pompeian treasure. And they won't be distracted by a U.S. government lecture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital frustration

PRESERVATION STUDENTS and others are often surprised to find that we archive mostly on paper, even digital stuff. It's the least expensive, simplest solution for the Mount. It will take a college-wide commitment to the kind of technology infrastructure that can handle formal digital archives, and right now that doesn't exist.

Screen capture of PDF.
The college has a fascinating series of public lectures lined up for this academic year, Women in China. Most of the information about it is strictly what's on the college website. It is possible to create a PDF of a website to a specified number of layers of hyperlinks, so we pointed Acrobat Pro at the URL and watched the screen merrily processing all the bits and bytes. The results (top image) looked pretty good.

Scanned laser print of PDF.
Good, until we printed it out. For reasons known only to our web designers, Adobe (makers of Acrobat) and Hewlett-Packard (makers of our laser printer), many of the letters were replaced with rectangles. (bottom image).

Yes, yes, we know that there are workarounds and that it's possible to include these website PDFs in our growing photo archives online.

The problem is time. For "lone arrangers" like us, the time it takes to normalize, tag, catalog, upload and quality-check a PDF in a repository takes about 10 times longer than hitting the "print" button and placing the results in an acid-free folder. And we don't have to worry about backup, migration, or bit rot with our paper document.

We'll go digital eventually, but for now it's yet another exercise in frustration. At least the email promoting the lectures has been looking fine on paper.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ireland calling

A HISTORIAN FROM DUNMANWAY in southern Ireland, Michelle O’Mahony O’Driscoll, called the Archives today seeking information about the U.S.-born nephew of a famous Dunmanway denizen. Such denizen, we were told, is called a "Doheny," which in Ireland is pronounced "Doh'ny" or "Donny." Dunmanway has a lot of them, naturally, including the Gaelic-rules football club, the Dohenys.

Back in the mid-19th Century, a hero of the Young Irelander nationalist uprising, Michael Doheny, fled to New York and remained in the United States. He died in 1863.

His American nephew was none other than Edward L. Doheny, Sr., Los Angeles oil tycoon and philanthropist.

According to Ms. O'Driscoll, the newly formed Dunmanway Historical Association is interested in American Dohenys, and she came across the Los Angeles Dohenys on the MSMC website.  She's got her own family connection to the Mount. One of her close cousins is Sister Kathleen Mary McCarthy, a CSJ of the L.A. province.

We put Ms. O'Driscoll in touch with the Doheny Docents and wished her happy historical hunting.  She hopes to visit the Doh'ny Campus someday.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Digital travelogue, 1956

THE EXPLORATION of our newly digitized collections on the Internet Archive continues, a process that is both frustrating (owing to the limitations of search engines and problems with the metadata) and fascinating (because of what's there).

The various yearbooks, catalogs, and literary journals are readable in multiple formats, including online or downloaded for Kindle, iPad, other e-readers and generic PDF. The entry link for the Mount's collections is here: http://archive.org/details/mountstmaryscollege. (The online collection was made possible with a donation by an alumna of the Class of 1957 and the LYRASIS Mass Digitization program under a Sloan Foundation Grant.)
Sacre Coeur in the 1950s.

The Internet Archive software
 even lets us embed a "mini-reader" in the middle of a blog. How cool is that? Here is a fun example -- "Letters from Abroad," an extensive travelogue from France and Italy in 1956, mostly by Sister Rose de Lima Lynch. Groups of CSJs from L.A. visited Paris, Le Puy and Rome and wrote back to the CSJ community, which published the letters in Inter-Nos, the all-purpose campus journal. Take a look!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Grips and grins

Sister M. Rebecca Doan, CSJ, president,
with alumna Dorothy Lieb Von der Ahe '29.

IN PHOTOJOURNALISM, THERE IS A CATEGORY of photograph called the "Grip and Grin," in which two people with broad smiles are shaking hands or passing something between them -- like a large check.
Sr. Rebecca with Alumnae
Association president.

Looking for photographs for Doheny's 50th anniversary, we noticed that Sister Rebecca Doan's picture file holds a lot of grip 'n' grins.

And no wonder. Sister, who was named Mount president in the spring of 1961, took office for academic 1961-62 -- just in time for the terrible Bel Air Fire of November 6, 1961, and the launch of a new Associate of Arts program at the newly acquired Downtown Campus planned for academic 1962-63. In other words, she was president during a very costly time in Mount history.

Faced with rebuilding much of burned-out Chalon and preparing to take students into a handful of frankly decrepit Victorian mansions on Chester Place, Sister undertook an unprecedented fundraising campaign, launched in the spring of 1962. 
Sr. Rebecca with A.C.
Pearce of Sears Roebuck.

It was known as the SPACE Program, echoing the excitement of the new Space Age and Mercury astronauts, but standing for Scholastic and Physical Advancement Centered on Excellence. With a goal of an astonishing $10 million ($75 million today, adjusted for inflation), SPACE designated $5 million for scholarships and other academic priorities, and an equal amount for construction on both campuses.

Fifty years ago this summer, the money was starting to come in. The kickoff donation was $25,000 from the Vons Foundation, led by Mount alumna Dorothy Lieb Von der Ahe '29. The $25,000 check is the equivalent of almost $190,000 today.

Companies, individuals and campus organizations contributed, including the Alumnae Association, Mothers' Guild, Gulf Oil, Crown Zellerbach, and Sears Roebuck. At the end of the summer of 1962, Sister Rebecca had collected nearly half a million dollars with a long fundraising road ahead.

The archives don't have records of the final accounting of the SPACE Program, but some of the immediate results can be seen today: the Humanities Building at Chalon and the Classroom building at Doheny, both constructed in 1964 and 1965. By then, Sister Rebecca and the College had a lot to grin about.

Sr. Rebecca with unidentified donors. The architectural model in front of them  shows
the proposed Humanities Building and the existing Chalon Library.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Welcome to Doheny, 1962

Picture courtesy of the Carondelet Center Archives. Used with permission.
WE SPOTTED THIS PHOTO on the "Archives" page of the December, 2011, edition of Designs, published by the CSJ province in L.A. (Vol. 28, No. 10, p. 19). Sister Patricia Rose Shanahan, CSJ, the province archivist, was kind enough to send us a copy for the Doheny 50th anniversary celebration.

The seven CSJs have posed on the marble verandah of the Doheny Mansion. We're thinking that this is a formal portrait of the inaugural Associate of Arts faculty on the Downtown Campus, as it was known then. That would date this picture to the opening of the Associate of Arts program in the fall of 1962.

First schedule, with hand-lettered cover, 
for the two campuses, Fall 1962.
A quick look at the class schedule confirms that these are some, but not all, of Doheny's first religious faculty, along with the Mount's then-president, Sister Rebecca Doan (third from left).

Sisters from left to right with the courses they taught are: Mary Williams (Language & Literature, Journalism), Regina Clare Salazar (Educational Measurement in the teaching credential program), Rebecca Doan, Raymond Mary Braun, (Typewriting, Shorthand and Business Math), Eloise Therese Mescall (Spanish and French conversation; she was also the inaugural director of the Downtown Campus), Mary Irene Flanagan (Apparel Construction and Personal Appearance, Food Management for Homemakers, Child Study and Family Relations), and Mary Helen Pettid (History of the United States).

There were, of course, many other religious and lay faculty members teaching almost 80 classes and labs, with eight faculty covering 26 classes in the Music Department alone. Other offerings were in Art, Secretarial Science, Economics, English, Health and Physical Education, Home Economics, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Psychology and Theology. Classes ran from 8:10 a.m. into the evening and all day Saturdays. A parallel "Sister Formation" program was offered for religious teaching in Downtown parish schools.

On the day it opened, September 12, 1962, Doheny was a very busy place.

Friday, July 20, 2012

This just in ... Collections online!

LAURIE GEMMILL at Lyrasis notified us today that the first collections for digitization are already online at the Internet Archive. That was fast! We just send the last shipment a couple weeks ago. There are a few hundred yearbooks, catalogs and lit. journals already with plenty more to come.

Here is the link: http://bit.ly/NPO3st.

Check out this interesting hand-drawn map from the Bulletin for 1941.

It's so exciting to see these familiar tangible items in their shiny new digital form. So crisp! So clear! We'll be doing a formal announcement for Homecoming in a couple of months, but blog readers get a sneak preview. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Stimson

Doheny students boarding in Stimson House.
WE NOTED IN AN EARLIER POST that Stimson House/Infant of Prague Convent served as a dorm for students on the Doheny Campus at various times since the Downtown Campus (as it was known) opened in the fall of 1962. Here's a group of students in 1969. 

The beautifully carved hand rail and balusters visible at left is typical of the whole mansion. This was taken on one of the upper floors in a landing and sitting-room area.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guillotine guilt

Tight binding, no gutter. Won't work.
WE'VE RECEIVED THE GOOD NEWS that the Lyrasis Mass Digitization scanning work is proceeding  fast, fast, fast. Tucked into the message about the completion of the first shipment (Inter-Nos), though, was the unhappy news that binders 1, 4, 7 and 8 of The View are too tightly bound to scan successfully. In the example above, the folio disappears into the binding, obscuring the date. Text and photos disappear the same way, meaning the articles are digitally incomplete.

Yes, they're called guillotines. The
modern models aren't much different. 
In our instructions to the scanners, we included a note that it was okay to "disbind" the newspapers "if unavoidable." The judgment is between preserving the bound volumes or digitizing the contents. The binding has served an invaluable preservation purpose up to this moment, making sure that these fragile, brittle newsprint pages have remained intact over the decades. Removing the binding will shorten their life.

But it's a tradeoff, to be sure. Having digital access to the newspapers means that there will be zero need to handle the fragile originals. Every turn of an old page is one step closer to the whole thing snapping off (see the "double fold" test). So, in that sense, we're risking the papers to preserve them.

It's not so simple, though. Digital files have yet to prove that they will enjoy anything close to the longevity even of old newsprint. We have more confidence in the 1945 newsprint than the 2012 JPEG.

We have no intention of discarding the disbound newspapers. Our friends at Kater-Krafts can create nice custom-made boxes for loose sheets. Then we can hope that The View and its successors will be around for whatever comes next... for surely JPEGs won't be the last word in digital access.

And by the way -- happy Bastille Day tomorrow!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A famous face

International Meeting on Catholic Higher Education, April 1989 (?). 
L'Osservatore Romano photo.
PREPARING A FEW FILES FOR DIGITIZATION, we came across this otherwise dull photograph showing a lot of very bored-looking cardinals, priests and others listening to something or someone.

The future Pope B16.
We knew we'd find Sister Magdalen Coughlin, CSJ, president of the Mount 1976-89, because this print was in a box of her papers. But before I could pick her out in the fourth row (tweed jacket and big glasses), there was this other familiar face in the the crowd -- front row, third from left.

His name nowadays is His Holiness Benedict XVI, pontifex maximus -- Pope Benedict, or B16 to the rest of us. In this photo from the late 1980s he was Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. He seems to be paying pretty close attention.

This box contains Sister's notes and documents from her participation (and leadership) in high-level meetings in Rome during the 1980s about the nature of Catholic higher education. A new Digital Humanities class in the M.A. program next year will undertake to study and transcribe some of the documents along with Sister's handwritten notes from various meetings.

It's an exciting project with some "big" church names. The outcome -- two years after Sister's untimely death at age 64 in 1994 -- was Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a so-called apostolic constitution promulgated by Benedict's immediate predecessor, John Paul II, to "define and refine" Catholicism in higher education. Ex Corde is a bit of important history, and we know that the Mount's own president had a significant role. We'll find out more in the semesters ahead.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stimson House and the Mount

AFTER OUR TOUR the other day, Sister Judy Peters, CSJ, loaned us a precious record of occupancy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in their Infant of Prague Convent, known to the public as Stimson House.

The photographic prints, included together in a spiral-bound booklet, are the work of famed architectural photographer Maynard Parker. They show the transformation of the mansion into a convent, with a new chapel and dining room with tables set for a crowd. The rooms don't evidence any sign of occupancy yet (even by the meticulous sisters), so perhaps the photos were taken to record the changes on the eve of the CSJs moving in.

The full album is available on our Facebook site. Take a look!

Stimson House/Infant of Prague has also served as a dormitory for Doheny Students, in the late 1960s and again in the early 1990s. Among the Parker photos is a room that matches up with one of our dorm photographs, including the bed frames. Those lucky students! 

A dormitory room for a pair of CSJs in 1948 ...

... is home to two fortunate Mount students almost fifty years later.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Magnificent Stimson

The Infant of Prague Convent (Stimson House),
owned by the L.A. Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 
(V. McCargar photos)
WE HAD THE RARE PRIVILEGE last week of visiting Stimson House, a towering monument of early Los Angeles and since 1948 the home of some of the CSJs of L.A.

Even better, we were in the company of a trio of historians: Don Sloper, author of Los Angeles' Chester Place; Greg Fischer, a Downtown News columnist and former city planning official, and Jeffrey Malin, a business associate and friend of Greg's.

Rare pyramid-beveled glass
in the front door.
Visits to Stimson House (or the Infant of Prague Convent, as the CSJs refer to it) are rare because it is, after all, a private home. The five resident Sisters work in the downtown area, including Sister Judy Peters, principal of St. Vincent's School next door. The Sisters were kind enough to let us in for a look because Greg and Jeff are wrapping up a book about downtown building use, including the exquisite Douglas Building at Third and Spring, which was built by Thomas Douglas Stimson. Don, who helps organize the Doheny Docents, has seen the house a couple of times and came prepared with a history tour.

Stimson was a lumber baron from back East who is remembered as one of Los Angeles' foremost early developers. When he built his own home on fashionable Figueroa Street, he spared no expense nor architectural detail. The house, with its multicolored stone exterior and lush interior woodwork, would not be out of place in Chicago. A crenelated turret, on the other hand, is a little more alien in this city. But the overall effect is absolutely stunning, and that's just the outside.

Foyer woodwork. The whole house
looks like this.
The CSJs in Los Angeles received the deed to the house in 1948. According to USC and Mount legend, Countess Estelle Doheny was fed up with the antics of the USC architectural fraternity that occupied the historic home. (A section of parquetry flooring in the foyer was damaged by a pogo stick.) She purchased it out from under the frat boys and gave it to the Sisters. At one time there were a couple dozen nuns in residence, and in the early 1990s Stimson House/Infant of Prague served as a dormitory for Doheny Campus students.

The home has been beautifully maintained by the CSJs, who had extensive work done in the 1990s under the direction of Sister Jill Napier, CSJ. One of the many unusual features of the home is the graceful woodwork in the servants' quarters -- something wealthy homeowners typically didn't bother with. 

Sister Judy told me that she and the other occupants are aware that they are living in a national treasure. "We know this is special," she said. "We're thankful every day that we get to live here." 

We're thankful, too, that Mount St. Mary's College has such wonderful neighbors. If you'd like to see a few more pictures from our visit to Stimson House, consider connecting with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MSMUArchives.

The wraparound porch on the southeast corner of the first floor. 
Even the glass is curved. (V. McCargar photo)