Symposium showcases archives-based research

The Media School Report • Oct. 30, 2018

A history professor from Germany’s Bielefeld University, the chief editor of ChineseInvestors.com and IU Lilly Library’s curator of modern books and manuscripts were among the three scholars who gathered in Franklin Hall on Friday to discuss a common interest: historical archives.

Gene Allen of Ryerson University, Kirsten Bönker of Bielefeld University and attorney Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb speak during the Scholars Roundtable. (Austin Guan | The Media School)

The Roy W. Howard Archive Symposium celebrated the recent digitization of the Roy W. Howard Archive, a 14,000-piece collection of documents originating from United Press and Scripps Howard Newspapers leader Roy Howard, held by The Media School. Investigative journalist James Neff opened the symposium with a keynote speech about opportunities for journalists in historical archives. Friday, scholars presented research and discussed issues and opportunities in archives in three panel sessions.

The symposium was funded by a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Howard family.

Stories from the Archives

By Kara Williams

The first panel session, “Stories from the Archives,” gave examples of the stories historical archives hold and showed how researchers and historians can use this content to learn about some of journalism’s key historical figures.

Panelists Ellen Gruber Garvey, a professor at New Jersey City University; Na Ma, MA’14, of ChineseInvestors.com; and Melony Shemberger of Murray State University presented research they conducted using archives. Associate professor Gerry Lanosga moderated the session.

Garvey used archives to tell the story of Robert M. Budd, one of the earliest newspaper archivists. Budd opened a business in the 1870s that collected old newspapers; sorted them by date, place of publication and title, sold them; and created an archive of newspaper history available to journalists, historians and the general public to buy or read.

“Most people thought of newspapers as things to be reused,” Garvey said. “But he understood there was value in old newspapers.”

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Budd bought old papers from hotels and libraries and created an archive and index of these records. He recognized that these newspapers could be used as historical records, and he charged more for older papers than more recent ones.

Garvey said Budd never sold his last copy of any newspaper, because he recognized the need for an archive.

“He really did understand that he was offering a service, a library of sorts,” she said. “Newspapers were a topic to be treated as history themselves.”

Another story uncovered form archives revolves around the relationship between journalists Roy W. Howard and Ernie Pyle. Ma told the story about this relationship in her presentation, “Ernie Pyle and Roy Howard: An Unusual Hoosier Relationship.”

Pyle — a World War II correspondent — and Howard — a journalist, president of United Press and chairman of Scripps Howard Newspapers — both had connections to Indiana.

Pyle grew up in Indiana and studied journalism at IU. Howard’s first newspaper job was as a paperboy in Indiana, and he wrote and edited for the Indianapolis Star.

Despite these commonalities, Ma found through the archives that the two did not get along particularly well.

“The funny thing was that at first, they didn’t like each other,” she said.

However, both men recognized that they needed the other for journalistic success. Pyle wrote for Scripps Howard, and Howard needed to keep him there, Ma said.

“Pyle was aware of his own ambitions and contributions, but he knew he couldn’t succeed without Howard’s support,” she said. “And Scripps Howard promoted Pyle as a man of the people.”

Ma said this mutual acknowledgement of each other’s talents allowed their personal relationship to improve slightly as well. Pyle’s eventual death while reporting also strengthened Howard’s support for his work.

Through the archives, Ma was able to find correspondences between the two men, as well as commentary on their work.

“In the end, they had an unusual friendship,” she said.

The last presentation in the session focused on Howard himself. Shemberger gave a presentation called “More Distinctive and More Revolutionary: An Examination of Roy Howard’s 1914 Model of War Correspondent.”

This research focused mainly on a letter from Howard that Shemberger found in the archives. The letter, from Dec. 7, 1914, discussed a model that United Press’ reporters used to cover the war.

This model focused on the war reporters getting the “scoops” that the American public wanted. In the letter, Shemberger said Howard described his reporters as “young, independent and full of life.”

She said this model focused on telling untold stories and relying on reporters’ own observations, rather than the official government or military narratives.

“Our method is the only way to be honest with the public and with ourselves,” she said Howard wrote. 

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Scholars Roundtable

By Chris Forrester

Gene Allen of Ryerson University, Kirsten Bönker of Bielefeld University and attorney Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb shared research they’ve conducted using the Roy W. Howard Archive during a lunchtime roundtable session. Distinguished professor emeritus Dave Weaver moderated the session.

Bönker speaks about her research on western media correspondence through Russian and Soviet history, which she conducted with the help of the Roy W. Howard Archive. (Austin Guan | The Media School)

Allen used the archive for his research on the history of the Associated Press. He shared highlights from his findings, including tidbits of the fiery competition between AP and its competitor, United Press — which Howard led as president from 1912-20.

“One, it shows UP’s basic stance of debunking aspects of AP’s self-satisfied image whenever it could,” he said. “And second, the apparent personal delight that Roy Howard took in doing this.”

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Bönker’s interest in the archive came from an interview she found between Howard and Josef Stalin as she conducted research on western media correspondence through Russian and Soviet history.

Silberstein spoke about changes in the ways researchers use archival materials now that the Roy W. Howard Archive collection is available online. Those changes became a talking point for the panelists, who discussed the pros and cons of researchers switching to accessing the archives predominantly online.

Allen noted that standard procedures for using algorithms to comb quickly through mass quantities of archive materials are beneficial in their efficiency, but that they also lose sight of other qualities.

“You get a bit of organizational understanding by seeing the material in the way that it was originally created,” he said.

Other panelists noted the increased accessibility of the materials now that they’ve been digitized.

“Now, because the collection is digitized, any number of people who might not previously have had the resources to come will be able to look at those materials,” Silberstein said.

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Issues and Opportunities in Digital Archives

By Austin Faulds

The closing panel, “Issues and Opportunities in Digital Archives,” provided the perspective of librarians and archivists.

Media School media manager/archivist Josh Bennett presents the digital Roy W. Howard Archive. (Auston Matricardi | The Media School)

Media School media manager and archivist Josh Bennett, Lilly Library associate director and curator of modern books and manuscripts Erika Dowell, IU Libraries metadata analyst Julie Hardesty and IU Archives outreach and public services archivist Carrie Schwier were the panelists. Professor emeritus Dave Nord moderated the session.

Bennett presented the newly digitized Roy W. Howard Archive. The digitization project, which he oversaw, required the scanning and coding of more than 14,000 documents and 3,200 images, now available in a searchable format.

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Erika Dowell, associate director/curator of modern books and manuscripts for the Lilly Library, talks about the Lilly Library’s archives. (Auston Matricardi | The Media School)

Hardesty spoke about IU Libraries’ Archives Online, which has 17 repositories, more than 2,200 collections and more than 120,000 digitized items. However, she said the system is 13 years old, which creates issues. She said it’s slower than desired and requires a knowledge of Encoded Archival Description to manage, which she believes can be limiting.

Dowell talked about the Lilly Library’s archive. She said she hopes its archive – and archives in general – will become more accessible to people of different abilities. For example, it could provide audio with documents or captions with images.

Regardless, all of these panelists agreed on the vital importance of digital archiving.

Schwier said digital archives allow for more remote access, ease preservation-related concerns, offer fortified searchability and present an array of possibilities for more creative use in students’ projects.

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