Sepia Saturday - Places in Glass

Saturday, September 17, 2011

For our first Sepia Saturday contribution, we follow the "travel/places" theme with a few shots from the glass plate/lantern slide collection. This box of plates was photographed back in 2007 on the fly when visiting for the homecoming - so I apologize for the poor quality. We used a white piece of paper, taped to a sunny window and held the slides up to photograph with a digital camera. Once I re-locate these slides within the collection, I will reproduce them with greater clarity. The subjects are diverse: mission trip to China, Cincinnati  and the 1937 flood, aerial views of Cincinnati, Union Terminal and the ground laying ceremony for the main temple downtown. Here are a few "places" and "travel" slides for your amusement:
Union Terminal in downtown Cincinnati. Completed in 1933, this Art Deco marvel still serves as the train station for the city. Although, today, it serves a double roll as the History Museum and Historical Society. Seeing all the cars lined up outside, reminds me of the taxi ramps that still exist inside the structure that were designed to facilitate fast travel in an orderly and convenient manner.
This aerial view of the terminal is also from the 1930s and displays not only the multiple railroad lines coming in and out of the city, but if you look up to the far right corner, you can see the skyscrapers of the young Cincinnati skyline. The river is just beyond the city with two bridges in view.
Here is another view of the young skyline, taken from the front of the Terminal. The grounds, including fountain complex are still intact, in their original style - if you've never visited this national treasure, you must put this on your historic to-do list!
As promised, here is a travel photo sent back by Lincoln Park Missionary, Miss Melvina Solman/Sollman. We will feature more of her beautiful photos soon, but this is my favorite. This was a new Baptist Church they built in Swatow China around the turn of the century. For another glimpse into the travels of Miss Solman, I have included a postcard she sent back to the minister's wife in 1911. To enlarge and read the postcard yourself, simply click on the image. It details one of her "vacations" while in China.

Happy Sepia Saturday Everyone!

Moses Brodus and the Mystery Medal

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I will confess that the medal Moses is wearing was only a mystery for a couple of minutes. I suspected what it was based on the age of Moses and the age of the engraving.....but I want to keep a little suspense for the rest of you! Inside a "souvenir" booklet commemorating the opening of the new temple downtown in 1897, was a final page honoring the service of Moses Brodus. The text explains that he was the church's sexton for 13 years and was resigning in "honor" to be replaced by  Joseph N. Hand. This date corresponds to the date of the congregation's move to the new building.

After reading this note in the back honoring a faithful servant, I couldn't help thinking "I don't blame him"! The difference in size between the two buildings was massive, and quite a responsibility. Since this souvenir booklet only included engravings of the prominent members of the congregation, such as the minister, elders, deacons, etc., it was a lovely addition to place Moses on the final page of the booklet. He must have been well respected and loved to have received such an honor. Which brings me to his image.

On his lapel, Moses appears to be wearing a medal, along with a long ribbon of some sort. The details are not sufficient to identify the long ribbon, but the medal has distinguishing marks that reminded me of others I had seen. The eagle and upside down star separated by a short ribbon was very familiar even though I couldn't quite place it in my memory banks. Based on the age of the photo, I knew that Moses was too early to have been in any world wars. Was it military at all? If so, which war was it commemorating? As soon as I found a match, my suspicions were confirmed.

Moses was proudly wearing a medal signifying his membership in the Grand Army of the Republic. I suspected this because I had done some research on this organization previously. My great great grandfather, Madison Daniels, had fought for Ohio and the Union during the Civil War and was very active in the Grand Army of the Republic. We have notations about this in our family collection as well as photographs of a parade in which the elderly gentlemen participating are all wearing the same kind of medal. As you can see from an actual photo of this type of medal, it looks to be a match for the one Moses is wearing. Which leads us to the conclusion that Moses must have been one of the few "colored troops" that fought for the Union during the Civil War. I would love to conduct more research to confirm this assumption and tell more of his story....but for now, we join in the honoring of Moses Brodus in his capacity as a faithful servant, both to his church and to his country!

Good Medicine - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lincoln Park Baptist Temple,
built 1897.
A church is one of the best representations of "community". Church members share in life's struggles, hardships, triumphs and joys. And yet, in many ways they exhibit behaviors very typical of close families: dry senses of humor, irritability, love.....I thought this rogue photograph fit in well with the relationships and dialogue that can be heard on any given Sunday - plus, it made me giggle, and reminded me that church can be a wonderful place of laughter!

The photograph itself is historically a very valuable one. It is one of the very few in existence that shows the Lincoln Park Temple when it existed downtown. Long since demolished, there seems to have been very few pictures taken from the inside - or very few passed on to the church for their collection - which was a fact well known to a previous church historian: Violette Tolbert. From what I've heard already, Violette was a tenacious historian. Far from magpie tendencies, she was methodical, thorough and organized!

According to the notes attached to this photo, Violette documented the symbolism seen in the photo, thanked the donor, and according to the back of the photo - kept in contact with all potential donors. Which brings me to the punch line and the laughter. The back of the photo contains a note from the donor that sheds a little light on Ms. Violette's historical methodology: "Violet Tolbert wants this picture after I am gone. Well I am still here, but give it to her anyway. May 21 - 82." Kudos to you Ms. Violette! We thank you for your efforts!

Here is the rest of the note attached to this photo:

Collection, Condition and Context

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have already come across some gems I can't wait to share, but before we dive in, I thought it pertinent to share some information about the previous and current condition of the collection. Those of you with personal collections may find some of this helpful.

As I related before, I first  encountered this collection at a homecoming event held by the church in 2007. The display was not inclusive, with some handpicked items being put out on tables, while the rest of the collection resided in the lower levels of the building. This was where my love affair with this collection began. The scrapbooks, journals and photographs were extremely alluring. One of the most extraordinary features of this collection was a series of glass plate slides on varying subjects. There were photographs of the 1937 flood mingled with photographs from China. The photos from China were meant to demonstrate the missionary efforts of Melvina Sollman. She was a young woman from Lincoln Park who devoted her life to missionary work in this Asian region. All of the glass slides were in their original boxes, with only a couple that were cracked. The only copies I have of these images are from snapshots I took while holding the slides up to a window. Unfortunately, I have not seen these slides since that homecoming event in 2007. I am hoping that they will turn up as I am permitted to go through more boxes of material, but that is yet to be determined.

The rest of the collection was in cardboard boxes. Some attempt had been made to encase photos and documents in plastic sheathing, but these were several years old, and not in any way stable for document preservation. The plastic was made of a stiff construction and held together with staples. The attempt at preservation was very admirable, and probably saved many of the larger photos from collecting dust or getting bent. However, now is a perfect time to get them out of this older casing of unknown construction. Prior to being handed over to the historical society I will place them in more stable storage containers - stay tuned  as I blog more about how each type of item will be handled.

Collection inside the "Cistern Room" with
Church Historian Carla Lewis
After the congregation merged into the smaller facility across town the collection was moved into a lower level room commonly known as the "cistern room". This was my second encounter with the material and despite my worst fear at such a room being used to house historical documents, the room seemed to be sufficient for temporary storage. I had recommended that the collection be moved to an environmentally controlled facility, but that would have been cost prohibitive. As a side note for those of you with personal collections, it is always preferable to house collections in the main areas of your house where the temperatures do not fluctuate widely with the seasons, and where moisture is not a huge threat.

My worry when seeing the collection in the "cistern room" was two-fold. 1. The pipes that allowed water to flood into this former cistern were still visible coming out of the walls. Despite the assurance that the pipes had been closed off, they hovered over the collections like sentinel cyclops, just waiting to pour forth with the next flood conditions. 2. Moisture in a basement situation can always signal a threat of mold. With this visit, I noticed the collection was now encased in fresh new plastic tubs, which was a good step to keep things a bit dry in case the cistern was not as dry as promised, but on the other hand, any moisture inside a tub could lead to mold. I was told right away that right after the move, the collection was temporarily held in a storage facility that had no environmental stability. Due to this instability, when the collection was finally relocated to the "cistern room", mold was discovered, and they threw a portion of the collection away.

As you can imagine, I couldn't breathe for a minute, pretty much screaming inside....but keeping my composure on the outside. No one could tell me what had been pitched, and therefore, we will never know what was actually lost. They did sequester a small portion into a separate tub with a "mold" label since it only appeared to have a small amount of mold within the documents, but mold is nothing to be treated lightly. That tub will be handled last with special conditions. It is recommended that you use masks and gloves to handle any documents that you suspect might contain mold. Once you have confirmed that there is mold present, please consult a professional. There are many conservation methods that can save the documents or stabilize them for digitization prior to destruction.

My next encounter with the collection was a couple of weeks ago, after the contract was in place, allowing for the digitization project to begin. When I went to pull a few tubs to begin the process, I quickly realized that any original organization of the collection had pretty much been lost. When the collection was moved from boxes to tubs, it was done so in no particular order. Tubs were filled....sometimes it appears from various boxes. The exception to this was a metal box with membership cards inside. These had been filed in there back in the mid 20th century. Due to the container's portability, it was transported intact. Since the organization of a collection is important when putting things into context, this metal box will remain in the same order while I digitize in order to pass on this organization scheme to the historical society. Another untouched organization is a large scrapbook. The pages are falling out, but seem to be in a fairly original state of organization.

Unfortunately, my last visit also discovered that the collection was now being stored in a room that was no longer dark and cool, but very hot.....which makes me even more anxious to get this project underway. I have already encountered photographs that have been stuck together due to the various storage methods. As I encounter preservation problems I will blog them here as a bit of a learning experience for the personal archivist. I have been through the first batch of material and have encountered some context issues which I will post about very soon.....stay tuned!

Welcome to the Lincoln Park Legacy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This blog will feature the historical highlights of the Lincoln Park Baptist Church Digitization Project. The story of the Lincoln Park Baptist Church stretches back to 1841 in Cincinnati Ohio. It existed under a few different congregational names, but its longest existence (well over 100 years) was under the Lincoln Park name. This last and longest running name was applied when the congregation built a beautiful new building or "temple" in 1897. That building happened to be right across from what was then "Lincoln Park", just outside the heart of the downtown area. It was also in a location that was growing by leaps and bounds. By 1933, the area's most well known landmark was constructed within eye shot: Union Terminal

Like any congregation, the member numbers fluctuated drastically. After a long period of steady growth, the numbers reached their top numbers at over 1000 in the early 20th century. Periods of fluctuation continued until the group decided to construct a new building farther out from the city in the White Oak area. The congregation moved with completion of the first building phase in 1958. By the early 1960s, the imposing sanctuary and final phase was constructed. Despite an embracing of this new location, more periods of fluctuating numbers plagued the church until 2007 when they decided to sell their grand building and merge with a smaller congregation just north of this final location.

The small group of congregants from Lincoln Park merged with the Pleasant Run Baptist Church to form the New Hope Baptist Church which is still in operation today! Along with the move of people came a dedicated group that was determined to save the historical legacy that was Lincoln Park. Ironically, the year they merged was the same year they celebrated 165 years of remarkable history. The move included box after box of documents, photos, member cards and journals - all telling a beautiful story of service and faithfulness during adversity. Right away, the board of trustees decided to discuss and pursue options for preserving this wonderful collection. Initially, it was their desire to create a small museum or library to house these beautiful pieces to make them accessible to family, friends, and descendants of former members. Unfortunately, the space, man power and money necessary to properly house the collection on a permanent basis was just not feasible.

Soon, a permanent home for this collection was being sought, all the while access was still an issue. The members did not want the access to be restricted. There were many who wanted to explore this Church's history and reconnect with its people. This is when Pastology stepped in with a partial solution. Since digitization was a great option for instant access, a contract was reached with this company to digitize and make the documents available free of charge. Since digitization is not preservation of the original material, an agreement with a local historical society will mean a permanent and secure home for the originals as each batch is digitized (announcement coming soon). The President of Pastology has a personal connection to this church as a descendant of former members. For more about this personal connection to this collection, please visit my personal blog, Journeys Past.

That's about it for the moment.....we are just beginning this journey. The first documents have arrived and we're already finding some wonderful things! Stay tuned! 
Click on the above image to more closely examine the newest finds.