Reconstructing BMC… From My Own Home

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been deeply immersed in my newest project—reviewing and cataloging main topics in the Martin Duberman interviews. Duberman is the author of Black Mountain: an Exploration in Community. For his book, Duberman interviewed many former students and teachers of Black Mountain College. (Most of) the interviews have been released to the public, but researchers till run into the problem of shuffling through the extensive amount of materials in hopes of finding a specific topic that they are looking for. My task is to read through each individual interview and create a list of major topics or theme for each. Take, for instance, Josef and Anni Albers. The interview with them contained information about the past, education, how they came to be at BMC, relationships and interactions with other individuals at the college, their individual contributions to art, etc. I took at least 3 pages of notes on the Albers’ alone! The amount of materials that I have to work through is slightly daunting, but this has been perhaps my favorite project to date. As indicated in my last post, I am planning on doing my senior research project on BMC and how aspects of Marxist theory were woven into the politics and community life of the college. I have already run into multiple topics of interest to investigate for my project just within the first two days! I tremble to think of what else I will run into over the course of this semester! When I complete the interviews and my list, I will make a word document that can be used by researchers to see whether or not a certain topic is mentioned in an interview. This will save researchers a huge amount of time that they may then devote to examining other materials for their studies.

As enjoyable as this project is (and will continue to be, I’m sure), I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to go through the interviews. In my first day I only made it through the first 36 pages of the Albers’ interview, and that was only half! Some interviews have close to or over 100 pages. I am positive that I will get faster, but I was still surprised. I had expected the work to go by much quicker. Although there is a very good chance that I will not get faster, as I have also run across the issue of getting lost in the interviews, something that is actually quite easy to do. Upon going through the Albers’ interview (which was the first that I did), I realized that I would spend a large chunk of time on a single page because I has such a desire to absorb everything that was being said as opposed to picking out major topics. Although I know I should try to work on this particular problem of mine, I don’t really know if I want to… because I am enjoying the interviews so much! Reconstructing the world of BMC is completely, utterly fascinating. One major perk of this particular project is the fact that, since the interviews are all released to the public and since the archive allows copies of materials to be made, I have the ability to make copies of the interviews and work from home. As soon as Heather informed me of this possibility, I immediately made plans to take advantage of this! I currently have three interviews resting beside me, just waiting for me to peruse them in the relaxation of my own office! Needless to say, I am very excited about the opportunities and knowledge that this project has and promised to continue providing.


Moonshine, Woodrow Wilson, and Marxism

It has been quite some time since my last post (and for that I apologize), so I have quite a bit to catch you up on! A few weeks back, the Black Mountain College conference was hosted at the Reuter Center on the UNCA campus. Since the WRA holds the majority of the BMC papers, the archives were crawling with last minute researchers the day before! The WRA was also in the process of installing a new World War I exhibit. Needless to say, we were kept busy from start to finish! My first task was to put up a very small exhibit on moonshine. Said exhibit now resides on the third floor just outside of the elevator. After lunch, Heather and I returned to the archive to work on the WWI exhibit. As there has been only a handful of times that I have gotten the opportunity to work on an actual exhibit, I thoroughly enjoyed exercising my creative abilities to create an interactive and attractive exhibit for guests to look at. Perhaps the highlight of my time working on the exhibit was getting to hold a hymnal that belonged to Woodrow Wilson! After the exhibit was complete, Heather and I rejoined Sarah to help researchers with any needs they may have, including pulling more information for them, scanning photos or documents in to be emailed to them, or making copies of documents so they may take them home.

The next day I spent a few hours volunteering for the BMC conference. I include this as part of my internship since much of the information used came directly from our archives. Heather also wanted me to see as much of the conference as possible to see how the information that we provide is turned into presentations and papers. For the most part I spent my time working at the table that sold books, totes, and other BMC paraphernalia (including Heather’s book, Images of America: Black Mountain College). However, I did get a chance to listen to most of the presentation given by the keynote speaker, Helen Molesworth, discussing art and Black Mountain College.

The following week I spent Thursday at the archives. Again there were researchers to be helped, but I also talked to Heather about the next project that she wanted me to do. This particular project is inspired by the topic that I plan on exploring as a possibility for my senior paper–the effects of Marxist theory on Black Mountain College. Since my topic pertains directly to BMC, Heather asked me if I would like to go through the Ted Dreier papers (a sub-series within the BMC collection) and do an item-level description for the remaining boxes that have not yet been done. Heather believes this will help me become more familiar with BMC, its history, the people that were there, and the politics of the place. She also had me look through a book, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community by Martin Duberman, believing (and rightly so) that this would also help me become better acquainted with the world of BMC. Duberman also specifically talked about certain teachers that were accused of being Marxists or at the very least sympathizers. Some teachers were outright in their support of Marxism. On the whole, however, the staff at BMC claimed to be avid anti-Marxists. This does not stop me from thinking, however, that BMC utilized certain aspects of Marxist theory that led to the formation of a socialist democracy. I believe this quasi-Marxist society helps to support another Marxist theory- that of alienation in capitalist, industrial societies. It seems to me that the staff and students of BMC did not experience alienation in the same extreme levels that individuals experienced (and still experience) in predominantly capitalist democracies. Look at me, going off on a tangent about my studies! Perhaps this is precisely why Heather is putting me to the task of working with the BMC collection! One of Heather’s talents is pairing people with topics that they love.

I have attached a couple of pictures for your enjoyment!I am back at the archive today, so I am sure that I will have plenty more to report soon enough!


Inside of Woodrow Wilson’s hymnal


Woodrow Wilson’s hymnal



Part of the Moonshine exhibit at the WRA for “Archives Month: From Moonshine to Microbrews”