Sunday, July 29, 2018

Travelogue: I was in Indiana - Plus, Frankenstein and whatnot in the special collections

The project I'm on at work is a joint partnership between Northwestern and Indiana Universities, and while I've been to Chicago plenty to get to NU (it's my institutional "home"), I'd not been to Bloomington, Indiana where a good chunk of my team lives and Indiana University resides.

Tuesday I flew up to Indianapolis, rented a car and made my way down to Bloomington.  For those not in the know, Indiana is a top tier school for all sorts of things not in the STEM areas (they leave that to Purdue).  After years of working at more scientific and engineering-leaning universities where the arts, etc... get their due but aren't what the school touts quite as much, it's been interesting working with Indiana and Northwestern, who take these areas (more) seriously.

Truth is, I quite liked Bloomington.  It's a smaller city/ large town with a huge university in the middle.  It's easy to get around, green, and the architecture is an interesting mix of mid-20th Century and modern work with much of it made of Indiana's famed limestone.  I'll always love Texas limestone for private homes and whatnot, but for your fancy, official-looking building?  It's a good look.  And keeps your building from looking like dated garbage five years after it opens.*

It was a work trip and not a vacation, so I spent Wednesday in meetings from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM.  You may not know or remember, but larger universities tend to have several libraries and archives.  I visited the film archive, archive of traditional music, and other places on campus.  One stop was a fairly unique effort set up just off campus where they're digitizing literally every bit of audio/ video/ film, etc... owned by campus.  If you think "oh, that's like two months of work" - they're generating roughly 35 TB of video per day with no real end in sight.  So, yes, PB's of data.

I saw the studios they have where they're cleaning up the video using all kinds of cool software I've only ever seen used on special features on BluRay restoration videos where they fix Dr. No or what have you.  As I put it to a colleague, watching someone digitize a wax cylinder of Apache speech samples recorded around 1900, calibrating the recording with a laser is sort of why I love this business.

After that I hit the Lilly Special Collections library - and, yeah, they do keep the cool stuff at many universities in special archives and collections that you need to get special access to see.  Before going to Indiana I'd been told Batman producer Michael Uslan had given part of the comics collection to Indiana (where he has some sort of faculty position), so I asked them to pull a box of those comics and some from another collection.  Nothing in the collection was much to write home about - I suspect he's hanging onto the *good* stuff, but it was a thrill to see what he did have.  I kept my pulls fairly Super-specific.  And I don't have a copy of these comics, so it was nice to get a look at them.

Also at the Lilly, they had an exhibit of materials related to the novel Frankenstein, celebrating the novel's 200th anniversary of publication.  As one can imagine if you've been to this blog around Halloween-time, this was of deep interest.  They also had some letters and whatnot from Kurt Vonnegut, always a proud Hoosier.

a first edition of "Frankenstein", printed in 3 volumes

A 3rd edition, when the publisher added a few illustrations

a 1990's edition

a broadside advertising the first dramatization of "Frankenstein"

A script of a later show

Vonnegut letters with Doodles

I spent two more days there in meetings, all of which is way less interesting to discuss, then flew home, getting in about midnight on Friday.  And, thank goodness, that's the last of my travel for a couple of months before I have a two-week work roadtrip out west.  More on that as it happens.

All in all, a good trip.  You never, ever know what you'll find in the displays and exhibits at these libraries, so check them out when you can.

*opinions on modern architecture: I have them

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