About Cody Jay Fulerton

I am a current University of North Dakota student double major in History and Classical Studies. I enjoy golfing, playing guitar, reading, and playing with my dog.

Stuart McDonald in the Chester Fritz

Libraries all over the country are going though a process of change right now.  The evolution of technology has pushed them to digitize their collections.  Of course, digitization is a slow, time consuming and expensive process that most libraries can only devote a small amount of time to.  The Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections in the Chester Fritz Library has started digitizing its collections and have chosen a few specific collections to display on their website.

I would like to take a moment and focus on one specific collection, the Stuart McDonald Papers.  Stuart McDonald was a cartoonist who wrote for the Grand Forks Herald and the North Dakotan.  He attended the University of North Dakota from 1949-1951.  He became the vice-president of the McDonald Clothing Company in 1952, which was located at 311 Demers Ave.  Today we would recognize the building as Subway and Olivieri’s Hair Salon; if you look on the side of the building though, it still has the McDonalds logo on the side in the alley.

The collection is dedicated to the political cartoons he drew.  Some of my favorites are his cartoon “He Who Lives by the Sword…” which comments on the impact of the Vietnam on the federal budget and “It Went That-a-Way” which satirizes the cold North Dakota endures every winter.

McDonald’s work is very funny, if you understand the events of the time in which he wrote them.  I invite all who read this to browse through the digital collection on your computer, just imagine if you could access an entire library that way.

The Secret Beginning of “The Fritz”

As many of us know the Chester Fritz Library first opened its doors in the fall of 1961. What many of us do not know is that before the dedication and the official opening of the library, many secrets were kept and packs made.  Chester Fritz did not simply donate his money to the school, he made sure the school, in particular the library system, was in need of his generosity.

In 1957 Chester Fritz first had the idea to donate his money to UND for a library, but he did not immediately send a letter to the University President or even the Head of Libraries on campus.  He instead contacted his aunt living in Illinois at the time, who would become an essential player in the final result of the donation money being given to UND, Kathrine Tiffany.  Tiffany’s role as the intermediary initially between Fritz and the head of libraries on campus, Jon R. Ashton, and then between Fritz and President Starcher, cannot be overstated in its importance.  Fritz’s initial letter to Tiffany outlined his ideas about the donation.

When Tiffany first contacted the university on Fritz’s behalf, she contacted only Jon Ashton. Fritz wanted an opinion on the condition of the current library from the head of libraries only, his unbridled opinion, Tiffany actually swore Ashton to secrecy so that only he was aware of the plot.  About one month after Tiffany contacted Ashton, she, on Fritz’s behalf, sent a letter to President Starcher regarding the possibility of a sizable donation from a former alum.  She did not tell Starcher who the donation would come from, but needless to say, Starcher was on the edge of seat for more information.

It would take a much closer inspection of President Starcher’s personal papers to gage his mood on being left out of the loop and strung along for those first months of communication between Fritz, Tiffany, and Ashton, but it would more than likely make for an interesting blog post, if such papers exist.

Chester Fritz sent Starcher the official donation letter from his villa in Rome on February 8, 1958, which finally named him as the donor and outlined the terms of his donation.  It is evident that Fritz had been planning the donation for a long while because only a little more than a week after he had mailed his donation letter to Starcher, most likely before Starcher even received the letter, he mailed a letter to Tiffany regarding a room in the Fritz that could be dedicated to some of his artifacts he had accumulated on his travels in Asia.

There were a few different ideas about where to place the library initially, here is one of the ideas that was not chosen, see if you can spot the library. Tiffany periodically checked in on the construction of the library to be able to send correspondence back to Fritz about the progress, an activity President Starcher regularly engaged in as well.  Finally on October 18, 1961, the library was dedicated with President Starcher’s speech.

For those of you who read this post, what would you like to see on the blog next?

As always make sure you’re following us on Twitter.

Also, our official website for the Fritz at 50.

Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections

Elwyn B. Robinson, does that name sound familiar?  Ask most students on the University of North Dakota campus and they will tell you it does, but most of them cannot place the name specifically.  The reason the name should sound familiar to UND students is because the Department of Special Collections, on the fourth floor of the Chester Fritz Library, was renamed for Robinson in 1986.

Elwyn Burns Robinson was born on October 13, 1905, on a farm in Ohio.  He earned a B.A. in English at Oberlin College and at Western Reserve University he earned both his M.A. in 1932 and Ph.D in 1936.  In 1935 he moved to Grand Forks, ND with his new wife Eva Foster to take a teaching position at the University of North Dakota.  After he began teaching at UND, he contributed many works to North Dakota History, most prominent among these was his book “History of North Dakota.”  Other important works of his were his radio broadcasts “Hero’s of North Dakota” and his essay “The Themes of North Dakota History.”

Sure, Elwyn Robinson was a great history professor and scholar, but why did the university decide to name the North Dakota Archive after him?  The answer lies with his work outside the classroom at UND.  During his tenure at UND, Robinson fought continuously for more research material and collections on North Dakota history.  In 1961 the Chester Fritz Library was built and there would be from then on a permanent department in which to store collections on North Dakota history.

After his death in 1985, the University, along with Robinson’s two sons, Stephen and Gordon, set up an endowment fund to honor Elwyn Robinson.  The fund was to be used to acquire collection material for the Special Collections Archive.  A decision was made by the University to rename the archive The Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections.  The dedication ceremony included beautiful programs, a portrait of Elwyn Robinson just outside of the department, and many attendees (also, a letter from Governor Sinner congratulating the Chester Fritz Library and apologizing for missing the event).  Before the event there was also an invitation sent out to all history department alums inviting them to attend the dedication and partake in a historic reunion.

Elwyn Robinson’s donations to the discourse of North Dakota history along with his determination to contribute anything and everything he could find on the history of North Dakota earned him the honor of having the very department he worked so hard to expand and nurture renamed for him.  I would urge anyone interested in North Dakota history to refer to Robinson’s works on the subject.

The Process of Photograph Digitization

The process of archiving information used to be cut and dry, file a certain document under a certain number, or groups of numbers, and place it in its spot on the shelf.  As technology advances, however, it is changing the way in which documents are stored and used; even the media is changing.  A photograph used to be available as a negative or as a developed picture, but now it can still be both those things along with a pdf, a tiff, a jpg, a bmp, a png, and a gif.  These are all new formats of digital images, a rather recent development.

The process by which one digitizes photographs, as I know very well by now, is done manually, one at a time.  As I browsed through photo books at the University of North Dakota’s Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, it became apparent to me that digitizing all of the pictures I wanted for the Fritz at 50 website project might take awhile.  Digitizing my chosen pictures was as simple as collecting the pictures I needed, sitting down at the computer in the archive connected to the scanner (they get a little grumpy if you take anything out of there), placing the photograph carefully on the scanning bed, previewing the picture, cropping as necessary, doing the final scan of the picture, and naming the digital file once the scan is complete.  So far I have scanned just over fifty photos, repeating the process above over and over.

Of course, pictures need to be scanned at a certain resolution and what I learned from Curt Hanson, Head of Special Collections, was just how to scan all sizes of photos.  I measured the longest side of the photo in inches and divided that number by 5000.  The result was what pixel amount would be used for that photo.  As an example, a photo that measured 10 inches on its longest side would only need to be 500 pixels, but a photo that measured 5 inches would need to be scanned at 1000 pixels.  Also, the greater the resolution of the picture the more time it took to scan.  One picture I remember took almost fifteen minutes to scan was a photo of the central reading room in the Chester Fritz Library from the early nineties.

Sure, scanning photos is not the most glorious job or the most fun, but it is becoming more and more necessary in this, the digital age.  If students are researching a topic, they go to the internet first.  If photos are digitized and archived properly those students will be able to access them online, saving their time and the time of the librarian who would have to fetch the item if it was in an archive.  The purpose of digital archives, and all digital media, is to streamline the way in which people search.  It is not that it is better or superior, it is simply much faster and more efficient.  Instead of going to the library and asking the archivist where Chester Fritz’s daybooks from China are, ask Google where they are from the comfort of your favorite lounge chair at home; that Google is one of the smartest people I know, he can find almost anything.  As long as the process of digitizing not only photographs, but documents as well, continues, archives of the future may become stacks of servers, not books.