Archives in [or about] Space!

In October 2016, the SCRC brought in an exciting new collection from former NASA employee Martin Sedlazek.  Sedlazek, who trained as an electrical engineer, worked for NASA in numerous capacities from the early 1960s until he retired in 1995. He collected material from the various projects he worked on, including some of the most storied efforts of the agency, such as the Apollo Program and early space station initiatives.

Apollo Configuration Management Manual, Martin Sedlazek NASA Collection, C0293, Box 6, Folder 9, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Apollo Configuration Management Manual, Martin Sedlazek NASA Collection, C0293, Box 6, Folder 9, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Researchers who use the collection can follow a particularly fascinating period in the genesis of the International Space Station dating as far back as 1969.  There is a great deal of space station related material that dates from 1984, when President Ronald Reagan “declared GO for [the] ISS [International Space Station] program”[1] The early development of the space shuttle, which allowed multi-use vehicles to take humans into space, is also well documented in reports from the early 1970s.  In an era when the United States is once again looking to take a major leap ahead through human travel to Mars in the coming decades, it is fascinating to look back and see how far we have come and what has been discussed in the last 40 years.

Special collections and archives are not the sole domain of history and English departments – while we have much to offer these disciplines, we have resources (and hope to collect more) to offer science and technology students and researchers as well.  The Harold Morowitz collection, for example, contains the papers of prominent biophysicist and Mason professor Harold Morowitz, including correspondence from James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA.  Morowitz also corresponded and worked with astrophysicist Carl Sagan, the original host of the television program Cosmos. Stay tuned for more about our collections that are connected to STEM fields. In the meantime, we encourage students and faculty, particularly from the Volgenau School of Engineering and other related programs, to peruse the Sedlazek NASA collection’s finding aid at http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/sedlazek.html, and to come check it out in person!

[1] Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, “History of the ISS project,” Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, last modified May 29, 1993, http://iss.jaxa.jp/iss/history/index_e.html.

A Tribute to Arena Stage Founder Zelda Fichandler

Zelda Fichandler and another woman standing in front of an audience in the Hippodrome, probably in 1950. Arena Stage records, #C0017, Box 633, Folder 1, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“The miracle of theater is that it ever happens at all.”
– Zelda Fichandler, in Laurence Maslon’s The Arena Adventure: The First 40 Years

Zelda Fichandler, a powerhouse of the performing arts, passed away Friday, July 29 at the age of 91.  Fichandler was a founder of the Arena Stage which remains, because of her vision, Washington, DC’s preeminent regional theater, a space of imagination and innovation.  Fichandler’s artistic achievements span the length of her storied career, from the founding of Arena in 1950, to pushing for diversity on the stage with her thesis entitled “Towards a Deepening Aesthetic”, to educating future performers at NYU.  Zelda, supported by her husband Thomas Fichandler, gave opportunities to actors, performers, and visionaries who were willing to push the boundaries of theater, who were “trailblazers”, and who were unafraid of to challenge prevailing notions of race, identity, and class.

With her support, programs such as the Living Stage (an Arena venture) brought the theater to less privileged members of society and encouraged them to find deeper meaning in their lives through art.  Fichandler herself broke traditional ideas of gender roles as not only a founder of the largest regional theater on the East Coast, but also as its first Artistic Director, and a director of dozens of productions.  Zelda proved that theater is not the sole property of Broadway, or the ultra-wealthy, but instead belongs to us all.

Please visit our small photo tribute to Zelda at:

http://sca.gmu.edu/zelda.php

This post was written by SCRC Archives Assistant Nick Welsh.

Arena Stage reprocessing project completed by SCRC staff!

After years of work and a combined effort by many archivists and student assistants, we have finished the Arena Stage reprocessing project.   The project culminated in the creation of a brand-new finding aid, including a 739-box inventory, to help researchers access the riches of the collection.  The scope of the collection covers both the administrative and artistic sides of Arena’s work, documenting over 60 years of the life of a ground-breaking theatre institution.

Arena Stage ’s impact on American theatre is hard to overstate.  Since its founding by the indomitable Zelda Fichandler and her drama professor Edward Mangum in 1950, Arena has challenged the racial and political status quo, while pushing artistic boundaries and presenting high-caliber theatre.  One of my favorite discoveries in the collection, one that I posted on Facebook a few months ago, was a simple brochure advertising the 1967 premier of Howard Sackler’s The Great White Hope.  The ad features a photo of James Earl Jones (pre-Darth Vader!) and Jane Alexander, with Alexander’s head resting on Jones’s shoulder (pictured below).   In the context of the time, this image is deeply significant – interracial marriage was illegal in the state of Virginia until the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967, just months before The Great White Hope’s world premiere at Arena.  An advertising image depicting an interracial couple – married or not – was a brave choice in 1967 Washington, DC, just across the Potomac River from Virginia.  Such courage and principle was typical of Arena, however, particularly in those years.

C0017_09

James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.  Arena Stage Records, Box 143, Folder 27.  Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Aside from documenting Arena’s incredible contributions, the collection is a treasure trove of information on actors, including a number who went on to major careers in film and television.  The collection’s personnel sub-subseries includes  headshots, CVs, and/or correspondence from James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver,  Annette Bening, Ron Perlman, Henry Winkler, Edward Hermann, and many others.  Particularly entertaining is a series of letters, headshots, and a CV from John Lithgow (also posted on Facebook), who very much wanted to act and possibly direct at Arena Stage as a young man in the early 1970s, decades before he was on Third Rock from the Sun and voicing Lord Farquaad in Shrek.

Reprocessing the Arena Stage collection has been an adventure – the sheer scale of the task was monumental, but it was also a source of constant discovery and surprises.   We hope that the reprocessed collection and the finding aid that accompanies it allow researchers to experience the incredible history of Arena Stage and make discoveries of their own.

Picturing the Eastern Front: Postcards and Watercolors from the Gustav Klemp World War I German Graphic Materials Collection

One hundred years ago, Gustav Klemp, a trained artist from Podgorz-Thorn in what was then West Prussia, served as a medic in the German Army on the Eastern Front in World War I. Today, selections from the postcards and artwork he sent home to his wife and family during the war are on display outside of Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) in Fenwick Library.

The journey that the collection took to get to Mason reflects the complex 20th century history of the former German Empire and Eastern Europe. After Germany and Austria-Hungary’s defeat in the First World War, Poland became an independent nation for the first time since the 18th century. The victorious Allied Powers gave most of West Prussia to the new country, and the Klemps and other ethnic Germans in the province were given the choice to become Polish citizens or emigrate elsewhere. Klemp and his family chose to leave for the United States, and they initially went to Iowa before settling in Wisconsin. Their hometown of Podgorz-Thorn is now Torun, Poland. Gustav Klemp’s grandson, Richard Passig, resides in the DC area, and he donated his grandfather’s extensive collection of postcards and original watercolors and sketches to SC&A in autumn 2014, one hundred years after the outbreak and early months of the war in which his grandfather served.

Watercolor by Gustav Klemp of a grenade exploding, March 1916

Watercolor by Gustav Klemp of a grenade exploding (March 1916). Gustav Klemp World War I German graphic materials collection, Box 1, Page 22. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives.

Klemp’s postcards and artwork provide an intimate portrait of what life was like for ordinary men on the front lines of World War I. Klemp himself was not a soldier (he was in his early 30s during the war, and was older than the ideal age to fight), but he lived alongside and experienced many of the same hardships as the men he tended to as a medic. Several of the postcards that Klemp sent home show soldiers and medical staff in the downtime between the German Army’s offensives against the Russian Empire in modern-day Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Klemp himself is featured in many of the photos, playing cards, celebrating Christmas in bunkers, and sitting and smoking with his comrades.

Gustav Klemp (bottom left) celebrating Christmas 1915 with his comrades.

Gustav Klemp (bottom left) celebrating Christmas 1915 with fellow staff and soldiers (December 1915). Gustav Klemp World War I German graphic materials collection, Box 1, Page 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives.

The collection is remarkable for the human face that it provides for an army that was the enemy of the Allied Powers, including the United States beginning in April 1917. In the spirit of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and the French film Joyeux Noel, both of which illustrate the common experiences of soldiers and staff on both sides of the First World War, SC&A is proud to present Picturing the Eastern Front: Postcards and Watercolors from the Gustav Klemp World War I German Graphic Materials Collection, on exhibit until April 2015.