Harry Potter’s Photographs

Ok I’ll admit it…I’m fifty-five years old and I like the Harry Potter movies that are based on J. K. Rowling’s characters in her books. I cannot say that I’ve read a single book that she has written, but I do like the movies and the special effects that create the illusions of magic. One of the magical accoutrements that the inhabitants of Hogwarts have at their disposal are magically animated photographs that when viewed, seem to come alive and convey to the viewer something much more expressive than any flat two dimensional photograph in a frame ever could. It is in this area that the History Department has added our own “semi-magical photos” to the body of historical artifacts housed in the archives of the Chester Fritz Library.
During the preparation for the Fritz at 50 celebration the History Department has worked not only to preserve the existing historical documents and photographic artifacts relating to the Chester Fritz Library, but we have also incorporated current technologies—technologies that while not unheard of when the library was built in 1961were still not suited for use by local historians of the day. While the use of a digital “cam-corder” to capture a new era in the history of the library may not seem profound, the recordings made in reference to the Fritz at 50 commemoration stand in stark contrast to the “non-magical” black and white photos that constituted the bulk of the visual historical record of our library. In lieu of simply creating more photographs of the library and its inhabitants we have captured the clear images and voices of some of the people whose personal histories are intertwined with the history of the Chester Fritz Library. Filmed interviews conducted with members of the library staff, former University President Charles Kupchella, and others who have either been impacted directly or indirectly by the library or those who have had an influence on the shape of the institution today have now been added to a growing archive of historical artifacts. These “film clips” have been digitally recorded for posterity and will be available in the archives of the Special Collections of the Chester Fritz Library.
So instead of looking at a photo on the mantle that represents a frozen image in time, or even Harry Potter’s magically enhanced pictures that seem to slightly extend that brief moment, we can watch the people and listen to their unique voices recorded just days ago in a future that will undoubtedly include some new incarnation of the Chester Fritz Library. Perhaps the students at the university today will be on hand for the Fritz at 75, or 100 celebrations where they will have an opportunity to add their images and voices to the pool of the library’s history.

Beginnings of a Journey for Chester Fritz

Last evening we had a presentation by Dan Rylance discussing Chester Fritz. This seemed like an appropriate time to blog about the early years of the man as well. Born in 1892, in Buxton, North Dakota, his family moved to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1898. Always living in poverty, his situation was exacerbated in 1902 when his father, Charles, was seriously injured in a threshing accident.

With the injury to his father, the family lost their main source of income. However, his mother was able to find work as a clerk and bookkeeper. As a result Chester Fritz was able to remain in school, and attended public school in Fargo from 1898 until 1905. It was during this time, in 1903, that the Fargo Carnegie Public Library opened and the young Fritz made daily visits, and consumed volumes of books. He was particularly enamored with Horatio Alger novels that gave the young man of no means hope for the future.

In 1905, when Chester Fritz was twelve years old, his mother apparently could no longer cope with the burdens of caring for a permanently handicapped husband and a young son. Anne Fritz disappeared in Februrary, 1905, and Chester Fritz never saw his mother again. As a result, he went to live in Lidgerwood, North Dakota, with his aunt and uncle, Katherine and Neil Macdonald. The change in his family status would change his life. The young Fritz excelled in Lidgerwood. He grew to become the high school football quarterback, and valedictorian of his graduating class.

Chester Fritz would go on to complete two years of higher education at the University of North Dakota, but he grew restless. Wanting to see more of the world he went west to Seattle, Washington. There he completed his baccalaureate degree in Commerce at the University of Washington. Shortly after he became employed by Fisher Flouring Mills, and it was while employed by that company that he began his journey to China. Selling flour in Hong Kong.

Want to hear Chester Fritz? Listen to a portion of his speech at our Omeka site from the original dedication ceremony in 1961:  Chester Fritz Library Dedication Speech Recording

To learn more about Chester Fritz, check out this video with Wilbur Stolt, Director of Libraries at the University of North Dakota:

Creating Video from an Oral Interview

In our previous blogs we have discussed how to upload documents, digitize photographs, and how we have used those sources to explore the history of the Chester Fritz library. More recently one of our colleagues conducted an interview with Wilbur Stolt, the Director of Libraries for the University of North Dakota, which provided an opportunity to illustrate the role of oral interviews in public history.

Oral history of course has been around a long time. Many societies have relied on oral tradition as a means of recording and preserving the past, particularly in the absence of written histories. The use of oral history developed in the United States in the nineteenth-century when anthropologists began collecting recordings on phonograph cylinders. Later, in the 1930s the Federal government paid interviewers through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to collect oral accounts from various groups, particularly Civil War survivors and former slaves. Today, oral history has developed into an accepted and useful discipline that provides information from different perspectives, especially when they cannot be found in written sources.

In our particular case, the interviewer was able to explore the changing role of the Chester Fritz library from the perspective of the person responsible for the overall operations of the library. Mr. Stolt’s perspective is one of management and general operations. He provides an overview of the major changes he has witnessed during his tenure. Here’s our video.  Later we hope to provide different perspectives as we interview others of the library staff. .

Of course one of the advantages of conducting oral interviews today is the way we incorporate various media formats into a single presentation. The interviewer may take notes of comments of interest for future reference, or for follow-up questions. However, at the same time the answers provided by the subject can be digitally recorded in both audio and video formats. There are several software applications for capturing, editing, and burning videos or slide shows. In our case we have elected to use Nero Vision, from Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD. With this software we were able to overlay music in the introduction, insert titles, still photos, and edit separately the video and audio from the interview.

This raises an important issue regarding oral history. Because what you see is an edited video, it reflects the emphasis that we wished to portray. When conducting research it is always important to check the unedited primary source, rather than rely on secondary sources.

What a library means to me

As we work towards celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Chester Fritz Library (CFL), I would like to reflect upon what the library means to me as a young scholar and its importance to the institution. The library is more than a building to house books, it is a social place, as well as a gateway. While the word library conveys a silent place, colleagues and friends can often be observed quietly conversing on a variety of subjects at many different times of day. Further, it is where academic creativity begins, as patrons scan the shelves, or browse the various databases provided by the CFL, to complete various research projects, both professional and personal. The library is the heart of a university and the Chester Fritz has enlarged UND’s heart over the last fifty years through various changes.

This project causes me to reflect on the changes in the library since its opening. Where students relied on books and bound periodicals in the early days, much more research is done online through the many academic databases the CFL has acquired in recent years. These databases not only change how we engage the library, but are advantageous to the institution, as they allow patrons to access materials from virtually anywhere, while remaining in Grand Forks. I enjoy the ability to access scholarly journal articles in PDF form from the comfort of my home or office through the library’s website.

The other special part of our library is the Department of Special Collections, which not only house much of the material that we rely on for this project, but also three special collections that set the CFL apart from other institutions in the state and nation. The first collection is the genealogy reading room, which houses a significant amount of research material related to Scandinavian immigration to the region. It is one of the major draws for the public to the library, and provides patrons with valuable tools for learning more about their ancestry.

The second important collection are the papers related to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial at the conclusion of World War II. Our collection is one of 22 in the nation and is one of the most complete, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Howard Russell, who was a professor of English Language and Literature at UND before entering government service. Dr. Russell served as the Secretary General of the American Military Tribunals from May 1948 until the conclusion in December 1949. It is a massive collection of over 450 boxes, totaling 600 feet in size. This collection truly sets our library apart as one of a handful of centers in the country for researching one of the most important trials in world history.

The last major important collection is one that is still processing in the department. Earlier this year, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) donated his papers dealing with his lengthy public service career to North Dakota and the United States. This collection is still in the works, but will enhance the CFL as a center for research on a variety of subjects.

While the library is not perfect, it is a wonderful part of our campus and is the heart of UND. It is more than bricks, mortar, and books. It is working to improve its technological capabilities every year and engaging in digital humanities in a number of ways. It also houses collections for research that are unique to North Dakota and afford students and the general public countless opportunities to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. To me, the Chester Fritz Library is an important place that has changed in several ways over fifty years and will continue to improve in the next fifty.

Welcome to our blog!

Hello and Welcome to the Fritz at 50 Weblog,

The Chester Fritz Library has been a center of research, study, and
teaching on the campus of the University of North Dakota for 50 years.
This blog is dedicated to documenting the remarkable history of UND
libraries, the current building, its staff, and the community during
this time.

The blog and related digital content is being developed by students in
a Digital and Public History Practicum conducted within the Department
of History at UND and supported by the Working Group in Digital and
New Media. The students range from advanced undergraduate history
majors to Ph.D. student, and they have not only produced the digital
content presented here on this site, but also developed the strategy
to organize, disseminate, and curate the materials presented on this
site.  It was a remarkable collaborative effort by the students and I
hope that the results of their hard work will attract a wide audience.
Be sure to follow the Fritz at 50 Twitter feed (@fritzat50) and check
out the growing digital exhibit at http://fritzat50.omeka.net/ or get
all the latest news and updates from our main page
http://library.und.edu/fritz-at-50/

Over the next three months, the history of the Chester Fritz Library
will unfold on this blog. The students will coax the artifacts,
images, and documents to narrate the story of this remarkable
building, its equally remarkable benefactor – Chester Fritz – and it
dedicated staff.

Enjoy and be sure to leave comments!