Student Perspective: Importance of Research Skills

I was sent to the Special Collections Book Room with the task of finding items that exemplify the scope of the collection and could make interesting social media posts. In other words, to find cool stuff and take pictures of it. One of the last items Wendy Hall, Special Collections Librarian, showed me on my trip was a limited edition reprinting of the original Mary Marvel comic by Fawcett Publishing. What? As someone who has recently began to delve into the world of comics (see: Gwen Poole, Future Quest, Doom Patrol, Snotgirl, and X-Men), I knew enough to know that I had no idea what was going on: I had heard of Captain Marvel from DC, who was a kid? I think? But there was also Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel from Marvel, whom Rogue totally put into a coma in the X-Men animated series in the 90’s? BUT, I know that Carol is also now called Captain Marvel? Maybe? And what is Shazam? Why does she say that, I thought Shazam was also a superhero? In short, I was confused.


Fawcett’s Mary Marvel

To be able to comprehensibly describe the item, and for my own satisfaction, I knew I had to do some research. Just by flipping through the comics, I found Mary to be part of the Marvel Family. She is a regular girl, until she utters the word “shazam,” which is how she transforms in “The World’s Mightiest Girl.”  Her sidekicks are Uncle Marvel, whom I later discovered was not her real uncle, and his niece, Freckles. To better understand Mary’s origin, I researched Captain Marvel, who turns out to be Mary’s twin brother (sometimes, but bear with me).

I found that Captain Marvel was an original character by Fawcett Publishing. His civilian name is Billy Batson, and he is ten years old. A wizard named Shazam gifted him with the powers of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed), whose names anagram the word “SHAZAM.” Just as I had seen Mary do, to activate his powers, Billy says, “shazam.” This transforms him into his adult, super-powered alter ego, Captain Marvel. In this continuity (timeline), Mary Baston is Billy’s once-lost twin sister, who is also gifted the powers of Shazam, and soon given her own spin-off series titled “Mary Marvel,” which is what we have in our collection.

My main question was still left unanswered, though: why are there so many Captain Marvels? From fan-made forums to DC and Marvel’s official websites, I searched for a definitive explanation, but no one source had the answers I was looking for. Much like any collection we process, I ended up compiling my research from many sources. What I found was that in the 1950s, DC Comics sued Fawcett for the rights to Captain Marvel and the whole Marvel Family, including Mary, over Captain Marvel’s similarity to Superman. As DC cleared the rights to the Captain Marvel character, however, Marvel Comics secured the title rights to “Captain Marvel” for their own superhero, Captain Marvel. In 1968, Marvel’s Captain Marvel took form in an alien military officer named Mar-Vell. Mar-vell and his successors, who would also wear the mantle of “Captain Marvel,” are completely unrelated to the shazam-ing Fawcett family. DC, however, did not want to throw away their own (acquired) Captain Marvel, so, the titles of all of DC’s Captain Marvel projects were carried out under the Marvel Family catchphrase, “Shazam.”

So, how are Marvel Marvel and Billy Baston incorporated into comics more recently? In 2011, DC cancelled all of their ongoing comics and launched 52 new series, creating a totally new continuity, complete with revamped origin stories. Billy Baston made his New 52 debut in Justice League Issue #7. In this new continuity, Billy is a foster child bounced between homes after the death of his parents. Eventually he ends up in the Velasquez home, where he has five adoptive siblings, one being Mary. In the New 52, DC also completely re-brands Billy as “Shazam,” instead of Captain Marvel, most likely to avoid confusion with Marvel’s popular, ongoing Captain Marvel series. While Mary has been temporarily given powers along with the other adopted siblings, it is not apparent whether or not she will develop powers of her own, or be given an in depth backstory in this series.


The New 52 Marvel Family collectively kicking butt.

Recently, DC announced plans for a full live-action Shazam movie. Other than a loose date of 2019 and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being announced as Shazam’s main villain, Black Adam, we know nothing. Who will play young or adult Billy Baston? Which origin story will transform Billy into Shazam? Or will a completely new story be created? Will Mary make an appearance? If so, will she have powers?? Will the dynamic duo make a return to twinhood???

Questions aside, I found this small project to be really fun. It’s a perfect example of the importance research skills, inside and outside of an academic setting. Knowing where to find, how to interpret, and how to compile information are talents that allow us to process our collections, let researchers meaningfully make use of our material, and, now, help me quickly untangle a mess of Marvels.

If you want to check out the Mary Marvel comics in our special collections, just make an appointment!

Works Cited

Bricken, Rob. “The Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel/Shazam Clusterf*ck Explained.” Io9. N.p., 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) – Marvel Universe Wiki: The Definitive Online Source for Marvel Super Hero Bios.” Marvel Universe Wiki RSS. Marvel, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

Holmes, By Adam. “Shazam: What We Know So Far.” CINEMABLEND. N.p., 20 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

“Mary Batson (New Earth).” DC Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

“Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) – Marvel Universe Wiki: The Definitive Online Source for Marvel Super Hero Bios.” Marvel Universe Wiki RSS. Marvel, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

“SHAZAM!” DC. DC, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

Wilson, Matt D. “The Messed-Up History Of Marvel’s ‘Captain Marvel’ And Why It Doesn’t Matter.” Comics Alliance. Comics Alliance, 30 July 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2016. <>.

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Loops and Swirls: Musings on Script

Flowing shapes. Loops and swirls. Unbroken lines of ink linking letters together to form words. Even if you don’t read cursive, you can still appreciate its swirling aesthetics, the art of the form.

Acquiring the skill to write in cursive was the bane of elementary school existence; trying to imitate the flowing letters without adding too many shaky strokes onto the crazy, oversize lined paper was harder than it looked.


The objective, of course, was to learn to read, write, and create in script. Before the computer type replaced the handwritten form, people wrote like this:


From our Phi Sigma Collection


Author George Bernard Shaw best describes it: “the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting.”

Much material held in archives and special collections contain documents written in cursive. In a society where the typed form is the norm, handwritten script is seen as archaic, almost anachronistic, and certainly old-fashioned.

In fact writing in script has been so maligned that the teaching of it ceased in earnest in the early 21st century, dropped from the educational core in elementary schools across the country.

Media decried this practice, including the Columbia Chronicle; in 2011 its assistant metro editor, Vanessa Morton, wrote ““Cursive writing shouldn’t be replaced; instead, it should continue to be taught as a basic everyday skill.”

Now, a generation of American students hasn’t consistently been taught to read and write script; they don’t know the joys of forming words from a continuous line of ink nor the sorrows of trying to read another person’s perplexing, highly individual, and captivating handwritten style.

Where does this leave the material in archival collections, though, if future generations cannot interpret the loops and flows of handwriting? There are efforts being made to solve this problem. In our own archives, for instance, current Phi Sigma members transcribe their own materials. Nationally, the US National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) has addressed this issue through the Citizen Archivist Dashboard where anyone who can read cursive today can transcribe the millions of documents held in its archives to familiar computer type so that future generations can decipher the swirls, the hieroglyphics, and mysteries of script.

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Notes from the Archivist: Welcome Back!

Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Fellowship of the Ring. National Treasure. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What do these all these works have in common (aside from being awesome)? The answer is ARCHIVES.

In films and television, archives are typically portrayed as dimly lit, cavernous spaces filled with towers of papers and artifacts. Characters then spend tons of time digging through boxes and blowing dust off things before they finally find what they’re searching for.


The reality is, of course, a bit different. Yes, archives have documents, books, and items that illustrate history; however, you don’t have to go through daring feats or fight bad guys to access the historical, cool, and unique items in archives. The most you would have to do is read through a finding aid and pick out something that sounds interesting… and you might have to wear some fancy blue gloves to handle material.


The material in Columbia’s archival collection is primary source material, which means it shows the contemporary views of historical events or reflects the culture of the time. The collection documents the culture and history of the College and illustrates the life work of people whose collections are available to research.

Subjects in the collection include journalism, fashion, photography, design, editorial cartoons, activism, music, artist books, radio, and other courses taught at Columbia. Collections soon ready for research relate to World War II and social justice movements.

So welcome back to campus and as you start a new year at Columbia College Chicago, know there is a treasure trove of material available to you, some right at your fingertips and some you’ll have to dig for.


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Intern Perspective: The Worth of a Small Collection

By: Maddie McDermott

Finding internships in archives can be a daunting task. Pretty much every archive has a backlog of collections that need to be processed: worked through, repaired, rehoused, cataloged, organized, and prepared for researchers. Because one of an archives’ main goals is to assist people who come in to learn, these tasks are very important. However, they’re also time-consuming and sometimes tedious. If you have the option of processing a cool collection over a boring one, it’s usually not a hard choice. When I had the opportunity to process a collection of radio scripts here at the College Archives & Special Collections at Columbia, I jumped at the chance. In my mind, I envisioned piles of old radio shows, with scripts for detective mysteries or talent shows, folk tales and story times. What I found didn’t fit into any of the categories I imagined, but surpassed my expectations in other ways.

On the first day of my internship, I sat down with the collection of radio scripts. It was smaller than I imagined – rather than piles of scripts, it was more like a couple small stacks. And as I began the first step of my processing, an initial look-through to get a feel for dates and contents, I realized that they weren’t the hardboiled detective stories or dramatic soap operas I expected, either. No, the first folder I looked through was full of … commercials for a local department store? It was a little disappointing. Here I was, thinking that I’d get to be entertained by radio shows for weeks, and I was wrong. Gone were my plans – outreach possibilities to theatre classes! Opportunities to bring in radio students! Potentially recreating shows for audiences! I was only through the first folder, though, and my radio script luck was about to change.


The scripts in this collection date from 1941 to 1945, the entirety of America’s involvement in World War II. I could see the war reflected in some of the commercials I first ran into, mostly in regards to rationed materials and suggested alternatives (leg makeup instead of nylons, ladies?). Suddenly, though, I was running into war-focused programming. Thanks to a US Treasury-sponsored show that ran weekly during the war, I was now reading interviews where soldiers detailed their experiences in combat and businesses touted their involvement in war bond sales. These interviews were totally unexpected for me, and incredibly interesting. They also meant that this collection could be of interest to a whole new group of researchers. Instead of people interested in vintage radio culture, people looking for soldiers’ experiences in the Pacific Theatre or information on the war bond program could use these scripts. They offer insights into life on the homefront, particularly as to what information about the war was released to everyday people. They even include a few interviews with veterinarians and animal care in the 1940s!


I also did a little research into the woman we believe amassed this group of radio scripts, Helen Mary Knox. I found out that she grew up in northwest Illinois, went to college in Iowa, and then became one of the first women radio broadcasters in that state. She then moved back to Chicago, and worked as a writer, broadcaster, and manager for two different stations in the city. Having a woman radio broadcaster was unusual for the time, and having a woman in positions of power at the radio was even more unusual. Knox continued to defy stereotypes even after moving away from Chicago. While teaching in an inner-city grade school, she noticed that many students needed leadership experience, and also had no contact with nature. She helped found Outward Bound Adventures, an outdoor leadership academy (unaffiliated with Outward Bound). It’s still a community fixture in Pasadena, California, offering outdoor skills and leadership education to underprivileged youths and young adults.

In the end, the scripts I worked with were not the scripts I anticipated. I didn’t spend my days leafing through romantic tales or scary mysteries, and I don’t think that any radio or acting class is going to want to recreate these scripts for practice. But the scripts that I did find are full of information that a whole different group of researchers will want to explore, and I’m proud of my finished product.


I’m happy to announce that the collection is officially available for research. You can view the finding aid online and be sure to make an appointment with us if you’d like to use the collection!

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Student Perspective: Digital Interactivity in Archives

One of the first things I remember about working in the Columbia College Archives & Special Collections as an assistant since the start of my college career was being told that I was the first Interactive Arts and Media (IAM) student to work here. Whenever I told people who I was meeting in the Archives for the first time what my major was, I was met with a bit of subtle surprise that left me wondering if it really was such an out of place thing for there to be an IAM student working here. I had to stop and think… What made it so odd to be an IAM student working in an archival setting? After all, archival work and IAM studies aren’t mutually exclusive.

Throughout my relatively brief time at the Archives so far, I’ve done jobs from editing digitizations, photocopying materials for researchers, sorting through boxes upon boxes of material, to digitizing a large amount of mail order violin lessons from 1937 – 1946. Most of my time was spent in Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for hours upon hours, the simplest functions becoming second nature as keyboard shortcuts became ingrained into my being and satisfaction rising with every document marked complete on a spreadsheet. Every action at the College Archives is accurately organized, physical copies and digital backups essential.


View the complete set of digitized Sherwood Music School’s violin lessons from 1937-1946.

Isn’t this what also makes an IAM student? We spend hours in Maya, Unity, Illustrator, Photoshop and/or Visual Studio, store backups on servers, hard drives, clouds, and flash drives so we don’t lose that work, and make sure we name things well and organize them carefully so we can find them again when needed. These are all things an IAM student can relate to, and they are reminiscent of the same care and practice of the Archives. IAM students still start with pencil and paper, and still require a good deal of research. (Could you imagine how out of touch games would be without time spent researching their subject?) It’s certainly not a department as out of touch with the physical (and archival) world as people might first assume.

I don’t think that archives and people working in the interactive arts and media field realize how similar they are to each other. They both have a penchant for organization and making their work available for others for their respective reasons. Columbia’s own archival collection and many like it across the world spend a lot of time digitizing material for researchers and public viewing, and while extremely helpful, a simple PDF can become lackluster. Isn’t there something IAM could do to help make it even more appealing while keeping its integrity?

Could you imagine a fully interactive way to read an old document you can’t go visit yourself? Digitizing a book in a fully rendered 3D way that a user could interact with in a way closest as physically possible to the real thing? Having the archive using it making it happen with the simple upload of a PDF and a bit of light data entry?

It would be amazing for archives to be able to have their digital and physical copies be even closer in comparison in a way like this, and some archives are already making steps to make their digital collections interactive, though not quite to this degree yet. With a bit of increased intermingling and cooperation between the Interactive Arts and Media and archival fields, I’m sure it could happen. I would love to see something like this bloom into the next big thing in digitizing archives across the globe!


Evangeline Piña is an Interactive Arts and Media freshman at Columbia College Chicago. She has worked in the College Archives and Special Collections as an Archives Student Assistant since September 2015.
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Student Perspective: Exploring the Archives

Since I began working at the Columbia College Archives and Special Collections early last semester, my friends and family have asked me what I do here. When I say, “Sort, digitize, and maintain collections,” usually the response I get is an uninterested, “Oh, okay, how much do you get paid?” Without explaining what exactly that entails, it seems like people lose interest pretty quickly. So I figured it might be easier to put everything into perspective and explain what I’ve been doing at the Archives by talking about some of my recent projects.

Material Sorting: In the process of collecting items and records for an archival collection, the first step after accessioning the items is to sort everything into its correct record group. Although most of the material we sorted was fairly recent or uninteresting (meeting minutes, budget plans, emails, and memos), there were a few standouts. Like an admission ticket to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, an obscene amount of printed screenshots of Columbia’s web pages from the 90s, and a course description for an astrology class offered at Columbia in the 70s (and why each of the twelve houses affect you!)

astrology course

“Each of us has all twelve signs of the zodiac within us.” A course description from Introductory Astrology classes at Columbia in the 1970s.

Organizing Collections: While the sweatiest, this was also probably my favorite project. The Archives and Special Collections recently moved to our current office and storage space at 619 S Wabash Ave, and we’re still settling in. Now, I’m talking about moving an entire archival collection, so it’s been quite a long process to get everything organized, even after the initial move itself. A whole bunch of boxes and collections were out of order and we’ve have been putting them back in the right place. I mean boxes weighing anywhere between 2 and 50 pounds. It was tiring, but I really enjoyed it; getting to handle and explore our collections is a cool way to discover interesting material. Especially Book & Paper Arts, where the duck people painting lives.

duck people

An art piece from the Book & Paper Arts collection.

Sherwood Music School Digitization: This is the project I worked on the longest. I worked with my fellow student Evangeline on digitizing the definitive set of Sherwood correspondence violin lessons from 1937-1946. We scanned them, processed them, and turned them into readable PDFs, which were then uploaded to the Digital Commons and made available to the public. Not going to lie, besides an illustration of a man with five arms, it was a pretty uneventful project, but seeing the PDFs online and accessible to anyone was super rewarding. Being able to provide these rare documents to anyone in the world really puts the work we do into perspective.

violin man

“The Correct Positions of the Right Arm in Bowing” a.k.a. The Man with Five Arms, from the Sherwood Music School Violin Lesson Books.

As far as college jobs go, as an Art History major, I think I could’ve done a lot worse. So, yes, when my roommates ask me what I do at the College Archives, scanning old documents and sorting boxes does sound pretty mundane. But really, it’s not so much about what I do; it’s about the cool stuff I can find while I do it. It’s about sharing what I find with the world. To explore our collections and see what we’ve digitized and made available to the public, visit Digital Commons.


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Why are we named Columbia?

The World's Columbian Exposition

As we welcome our new students to campus this week, many might be wondering why we are named Columbia. It must be that we are somehow related to the New York flagship, Columbia University, right?

Wrong. Typical to Columbia College Chicago fashion, we remain unique even within the context of our name.

The beginning of this academic year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Columbia School of Oratory in Chicago by Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley. Both educators of oratory and elocution, Blood and Riley met while teaching alongside each other in Ames, Iowa in 1887. When both had finished their Master’s degrees in Oration at Emerson College (then Monroe College of Oratory) in Boston, they decided to move to Chicago and open their own school.

At that time, studies in public speaking, elocution and oratory were highly valued. As stated in the 1905 Columbia College catalog, “Nowhere can the precept ‘know thyself’ be so fully realized as in a school of true expression.” As part of the larger Lyceum Movement in the United States, many associations, institutes and organizations were formed to help improve the social, intellectual and moral fabric of society through circuits of lectures.

Think of it this way: Today, we have access to immeasurable amounts of information at our fingertips through our mobile devices. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, access to new information was extremely limited. Therefore, attending these lectures or the World’s Fairs were among the most efficient ways to absorb and access information.

But why did Blood and Riley choose Chicago? And why did they name it Columbia?

When Columbia College’s founders were opening their school, learning the art of public speaking and expression had become a highly-demanded skill. Knowing that the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago would draw thousands people to the city, Blood and Riley cleverly situated their school at this location. They opened their school in August 1890, three years before the Chicago World’s Fair, which was to be called the Columbia Exposition. Blood and Riley named their school in honor of this enormous exposition, as did many other businesses at the time. But unlike Columbia College Chicago, many of these businesses only changed their names temporarily or have since gone out of business.

Columbia University in New York, however, was founded in 1754 and originally dubbed King’s College. After the Revolutionary War, the University renamed itself Columbia to embody the “patriotic fervor that had inspired the nation’s quest for independence.”  []

Although Columbia University and Columbia College Chicago share “Columbia” within our titles, we have very different reasons for our choices. “Columbia” to us means expression, creativity, innovation and connections. From its very beginning and through its namesake, Columbia College has woven itself into the fabric of Chicago. Additionally, the original educational purposes and theories of Blood and Riley’s school have continuously informed the evolution of our pedagogies, curricula and student experiences. The art of self-expression is still embedded in nearly all coursework and concentrations at Columbia.

To find out more about the College’s name, view the video, The Many Names of Columbia.

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How to Archive Your Life

Working at an archives is all about keeping organized. Here’s what I’ve learned from my two years of being an archival assistant, researcher and writer at Columbia College Chicago Archives & Special Collections:

1. Discard duplicates and declutter.

If you have one hard copy and a few digital copies backed up on a couple hard drives and clouds in different parts of the country, there’s no reason to keep that second copy of yesterday’s Columbia Chronicle. In other words, if you have at least one form of back-up, you don’t need the extra physical copy that will probably end up lost anyway, unless you plan to frame it and call it art. Why not, right?

2. The scanner is your friend.

Scanners are your friend

A paperless organization system is easier to navigate through than piles of loose bills, tax information and school work.With a scanner, you can turn paper into PDFs and … Poof! Like magic, you can access the contents of your junk drawer in a simple search if you should need to. The scanner is to thank for the vast majority of our digital collections. I’ll personally be asking for one of these babies for graduation:

3. There’s no such thing as over organizing.archives posterboard

Our team recently covered five poster boards with sticky notes in order to re-organize our storage spaces. We made a master spread sheet to keep track of the 1,500 boxes in our possession and spent days moving and arranging the shelves until they were organized by collection. My biceps have never looked better.

This is only one poster board of five, so I’d probably only need half a poster board to organize my studio apartment.

4. Twitter is the best for networking.

Since creating our twitter profile last year, we’ve garnered over 500 followers. Sure, a fourth of them are spam-bots but another fourth are students and the remaining half are archivists! Being on twitter, we are able to engage with other archives and support each-other’s work. On the internet, we’ve found a valuable and supportive community that we are happy to be a part of. Who said social media was a bad thing?

5. Library databases are everything (not to mention, free).

School and public libraries are absolutely invaluable to studying any trade or skill. There are so many free resources you can access online just by using your library card. I’ve used OverDrive to borrow e-books, the Chicago Public Library’s subscription of Mango to brush up on my French, and Lynda through Columbia Columbia College Chicago to learn more about SEO & Marketing. And of course, the Archives has its own online database to peruse to your heart’s content.





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Student Perspective: On Being A Professional Eavesdropper


A Professional Eavesdropper

Have you ever caught yourself listening in on a stranger’s conversation? If we are being honest, the answer is yes. We occasionally find ourselves pretending to toil on our phones while the guy across the coffee shop implores his friend to sit through just one more story about his obnoxious roommate. The point is that eavesdropping is a habitual practice fused with our human need to feel empathy. When you are hearing about the coffee shop guy’s horrible roommate trouble, you are gaining a little insight into his world, however minute that insight may be.

The reason I bring all this up is because for a month or so I have basically been a professional eavesdropper. As a student assistant at Columbia College Chicago’s Archives and Special Collections, it has been my job to listen to and digitize the audio tapes of a 1950s radio personality named Uncle Jim Christie, otherwise known as Clyde Caswell.

Uncle Jim was a good ole boy from the Midwest, born in Minnesota. He got his broadcasting start in Miami, and went on to host radio shows in Indiana, Illinois, Texas, and Minnesota. He became the host of the radio show called Uncle Jim’s Jamboree, which became one of the largest country music radio programs in the nation at that time. Uncle Jim later went on to become Columbia’s Dean of Students while working in the radio department, which is how we came to inherit this collection of tapes.

Uncle Jim Preparing for a broadcast

Uncle Jim preparing for a broadcast.

Now, I know that listening to audio tapes that were originally broadcasted to thousands of people isn’t exactly eavesdropping, however, there were times when Uncle Jim seemed to get along with his guests so well that the exchanges seemed less like interviews and more like down-home conversations between two friends.

There was a particular instance in which country music legend Red Foley flipped the script and started interviewing Uncle Jim because he claimed that the audience had to be tired of hearing about him and would benefit from hearing more about the beloved host of the show. These kinds of exchanges, along with the occasional reading of original poetry, truly humanized Uncle Jim in a way that made me feel like I was tuning into an intimate conversation every time I played one of his tapes.

Uncle Jim conducting an interview.

Uncle Jim conducting an interview.

In the modern age of celebrity hero worship, it could be argued that intimacy is a quality that is overlooked in the vast realms of broadcast and entertainment. It seems like today’s interviewers are only concerned with scandalous and sensational material that will satisfy the lowest common denominator. I think that somewhere along the way, something changed in what people wanted to see and hear when it came to other peoples lives. With TV channels like E! reducing celebrities to either narcissistic whack jobs, or raising them up to the level of untouchable idols, it is clear that what we value as a society has changed. It has been fascinating to me to see what used to matter to people and how that compares to the values of society today. It has been a refreshing change of pace to be treated to a number of real conversations as an unmolested fly on the wall, a stranger greeted as a longtime friend, and a welcomed eavesdropper on a public, yet private conversation.

You can now visit our department’s Digital Commons to listen to the full radio show.

“It requires character and wisdom in this life to lift the spoon of kindness, and put away the knife”. -Uncle Jim Christie

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Honoring Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy at Columbia College Chicago

To honor the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the actor famous for his role as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, the Archives searched for the footage of his visit to Columbia College Chicago in 1980.  Some of the video skips in parts, but most of Nimoy’s presentation is still discernible through the blur and hiccups in the footage recorded 35 years ago. Nimoy filmed in Chicago for the first time in this particular Columbia College Q&A, which happened to be on his 48th birthday. “So… where’s the cake?” he asked the audience.

He sat on a wooden and leather chair on the small stage, with a voice mic around his neck. He tried taking it off after brief technical difficulties, but the camera man told him that he was filming, and put it back on.

A mural painting of Chicago hung behind Nimroy’s tall frame and gaunt features, donned with a distinguishable red sweater and mustache. Throughout his presentation, he gesticulated wildly, and even jumped off stage at one point to shake a kid in order to demonstrate the natural emotion behind improvisation that can be used to heighten film.

Nimoy took another stage that night in Aurora for his one-man show, “Vincent”, a play about the artist Vincent VanGogh. Student admission was two dollars and Nimoy asked the audience who had a car in an attempt to organize a car pool.

Most of his speech was conversational like this and the crowd intermittently erupted in laughter.

A student asked Nimoy what work of his he was the most proud of, and if any of his previous endeavors embarrassed him.

“I’ve done a lot of work that I’m really very pleased with for various reasons, not necessarily because any one of them I think is the best work I’ve done, but for example when I did “Equus” on Broadway for 16 weeks, I was the happiest actor in the country, I’m sure because I was right where I wanted to be,” Nimoy replied. “When I saw “Equus” a month after it opened in New York going back about four years ago, I was just thrilled, just really excited about the production and that play, and when two years later they called me and asked me to go into that production on Broadway I just went because I really wanted to do that and it was everything that I hoped for… but Vincent is more mine than anything I’ve done before.”

“As far as embarrassment is concerned? Oh I don’t know, I have a sense of humor about those things. I did a project in 1951, one of the very first jobs I ever had in film, that was a Saturday afternoon serial thing… Well I worked in one of those, I guess I was in about five or six episodes of that thing, it was a brilliant piece of work called “Zombies of the Stratosphere”… I think I made about 125 dollars and I needed the money… You have to laugh, it’s a story about another guy and myself from another planet who bring a ray gun and a pick up truck and we’re going to take over earth.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy…Live Long and Prosper.

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