Staff Spotlight: Director Stuart Hinds tells us more than a bit about himself

Stuart Hinds, Director of UMKC Special Collections

Stuart Hinds, Director of UMKC Special Collections

Ever wondered who we, in the UMKC Special Collections department, are? Well, we sometimes wonder, too. Behold, our new “Staff Spotlight” feature! What better person to start off with than our very own Director of UMKC Special Collections, Stuart Hinds? Appropriately enough, he is approaching his five year anniversary (October 15) with UMKC so congratulations to Stuart for not only surviving, but thriving! Make sure you embarrass him the next time you see him. I would suggest congratulating him for his five years of service, but feel free to be creative in how you embarrass him.

Against his better judgment, Stuart agreed to sit down with me [blogninja and reclusive librarian, Sandy Rodriguez] to answer a few serious and sarcastic questions.

Rodriguez: What inspired you to become an Archivist?
Hinds: The thrill of handling what I call the “meat” of history – original documents, photographs, maps, recordings, etc.

Rodriguez: What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an Archivist?
Hinds: We don’t do it for the money.  And, if you love working with the actual archival “stuff”, don’t go into management – you spend your days talking about and planning for the work rather than actually performing it.

Rodriguez: Oh, so I should probably warn you that I’m going to ask you some really important and personal questions in this interview. Here’s the first one. What is your favorite color?
Hinds: Green.
Rodriguez: Fascinating choice.
Hinds: [stares blankly at Rodriguez]

Rodriguez: What do you like best about working at UMKC?
Hinds: The energy and enthusiasm of the students and faculty who regularly use our collections.
Rodriguez: Good answer. I sometimes forget about them.

Rodriguez: How many fingers am I holding up?
Hinds: Three.
Rodriguez: That’s a German three to be more specific, but I see your eyesight is still intact. That’s probably really important for your line of work.
Hinds: A little bit.

IBM typewriter globe

IBM typewriter “globe”

Rodriguez: We hear you have an interesting collection of outdated library technology. Tell us about some of your favorite items in the collection?
Hinds: The various IBM typewriter “globes” – each of which provided a different typeface – bring to mind an era long gone.  The 2nd edition of the ALA Rules for Filing Catalog Cards is absolutely charming.  The “postage stamp affixer” – a stamping machine that spat out moistened stamps – is a fascinating piece of completely obsolete technology.  But my favorite is the small faded typewritten sign bordered with yellowed cellophane tape that reads “THIS CLOSET CONTAINS LIBRARY MATERIALS.  THE LIBRARIAN HAS A KEY.  ALL OTHERS STAY OUT!”.  Talk about “open access”…
Rodriguez: [laughs] That is fantastic.

Rodriguez: What is your favorite comfort food?
Hinds: Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs.
Rodriguez: Wow, really?!
Hinds: It’s so good. A salt-fest. I am from the Ozarks.

Rodriguez: If you could take one item in the archive home with you, what would it be?
Hinds: I wouldn’t want to take anything home – no one would be able to see it.
Rodriguez: [rolls eyes] Such a typical “good archivist” thing to say.

Rodriguez: Have any guilty pleasures you’re willing to share with us?
Hinds: Taking too much pleasure in watching The Real Housewives, specifically OC, Beverly Hills, Atlanta. They’re all crazy.
Rodriguez: We finally have something in common. Don’t tell anyone. Oh, crap.

Rodriguez: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Hinds: I know far, far too much about The Lawrence Welk Show.  I still watch it religiously each week, and a favorite pastime is to guess the year of the show based on cast members and fashions.
Rodriguez: [stares blankly at Hinds]

Rodriguez: Okay, well, as with any well-constructed interview, we saved the most important question for last. [dramatic pause] Boxers or briefs?
Hinds: [laughs] Boxer-briefs.
Rodriguez: [awkward silence] Well-played, sir. Okay, well, thank you for taking the time to interview!
Hinds: You’re very welcome.

Good radio

J. David GoldinWhen J. David Goldin visited UMKC in May 2010, I could not pass up the opportunity to speak with him. He has listened to and annotated thousands upon thousands of hours of historical American radio. He has a passion for radio, as he said in our conversation, “I collected the stuff because I like to listen to it.”

There are not many people in the world with his knowledge and exposure to radio. So I decided to ask him the ultimate question:

“What is good radio?”

He replied, “It’s a tough question. How can one put that in words?”

“It makes you use your mind…it actually makes you think about what you are listening to. A lot of people listen to the radio, but don’t really hear it today.”

“Good radio makes you want to listen.”

“What are you looking at when you listen to the radio? It’s one of the few things that you do, where you don’t need your eyes. And so, do you look at the radio receiver, do you look across the room, let your eyes go out of focus? My favorite program would be the kind where you forget your eye completely and just listen with your imagination.”

I asked him to give me some examples of good radio. He said as far as writers, Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin are high on his list.  If he was stranded on an island with one radio series it would be the Jack Benny program. He also mentioned a specific play titled The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice.

“[The Dark Tower] was totally different from anything else I had ever heard before. I would pinpoint that one as the most interesting program that I ever heard. It was totally different then any of my other experiences.”
The radio play is a fantasy about the youngest and last son in a family of many sons. All of the men in his family including the father have gone to fight a dragon and never returned. As he travels toward the dark tower where the dragon lives, he battles with his loyalty to his family’s history and his own personal desires. The story takes him through many magical and metaphysical situations, and has a profound, thrilling ending (you must hear it!).
“Good radio should be intrinsically radio,” Goldin also said. And The Dark Tower is an example of this. It is a play that is so engaging because it plays in the mind in fantastical ways that would be spoiled in a visual medium.

While the actual recording of The Dark Tower is very hard to get a hold of, there is a recording of an interview with its author and Edward R. Murrow and also a disc of MacNeice reading some of his own poetry in the Marr Sound Archives.

Goldin emphasized at one point, “There aren’t that many people interested in creative radio, or radio as an art form. It seems to have gone far away.” But thanks to Goldin and his preservation of so many historical American radio recordings there is a chance for this situation to change. “Good radio” is worth the listening.

Troy Cummings, guest contributor

Christmas mailings during wartime

2011-12-15_ChristmasMail_Church_ViaWikimediaFor many, the holiday season is a time of family, good food, and gift-giving. During wartime, however, this time of year can be rough for families separated from loved ones serving overseas. I heard just the other day that many troops overseas get so excited to receive any word from home or even better, a care package. Thanks to technology, communication is much easier as we don’t have to rely solely on snail-mail. Could you imagine how useful Skype or instant messaging would have been back in World War II?

Inevitably, snail mail was the only option for them, but they made the most of it. According to a 1943 interview (available by request) with Kansas City postmaster, Alexander W. Graham, millions and billions of people send out Christmas cards, letters, and packages every year, including those serving in other countries. This interview served mainly to inform Kansas City listeners about cut-off dates for Christmas mailings. As an example of these deadlines, Postmaster Graham noted that the cut-off to send Christmas mail to somewhere as far as Australia was mid-September for Army and Navy personnel. Talk about doing some early Christmas shopping!

Since that time, shipping nationwide has gotten faster. I looked on the USPS 2011 mailing deadlines for nationwide shipping deadlines and found that a package can reach its domestic destination within five days. According to postmaster Graham, this deadline, which was subject to change based on how far across the country it would travel, was December 10th. Oh, how spoiled we are, that we have the luxury of Fed-Ex and UPS overnight shipping!

This interview had a specific purpose: to alleviate the shipping issues that the postal service frequently dealt with every holiday season. I think the funniest quote from the interview was the last comment on the subject. The KMBC interviewer asked Postmaster Graham if he had any other suggestions for listeners. His responded with the following: “…a postman is not allowed to loiter on his route, and if Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen would […] indicate the zone delivery district number on the cards and packages they mail, they will do far more to relieve the postal employees of their Christmas headache than offering them a cup of hot chocolate.” Apparently, mailmen of that time were getting sick of drinking hot chocolate. So when you mail out your Christmas cards and gifts this holiday season, think of Postmaster Graham’s wise words, and don’t forget our troops overseas!

Gabby Tuttle, KMBC Project staff/Liberal Arts (BA) student

Kansas City after the Pearl Harbor attack

Pearl Harbor attackIn commemoration of Pearl Harbor day, I thought it might be nice to share with you what glimpse the Arthur B. Church collection offers us of how Kansas Citians reacted to the attack on Pearl Harbor. As you are probably aware, on the morning of December 7, 1941, isolationist sentiment in the United States was dealt a cruel dose of reality by Japanese militarism run amok, thanks to the hypnotic qualities of political syncretism, which had become all the rage at that moment in history.

Because programming relating to the war within this collection is predominantly composed of coverage following the D-day invasion, we have little formal documentation of reactions to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nevertheless, recordings of normal everyday news coverage of local events following December 7 of that year offer us a different and, perhaps, even more interesting lens through which to view this bygone moment of national, but also local trepidation. From the offerings of the collection, this takes the form of words spoken at the Kansas City Man of the Year award ceremony that was held on December 10, 1941—only three days after the attack (to offer a little context, this event fell two days after the United States declared war on Japan, but still a day prior to the declarations of war against Germany and Italy). Although several of those speaking that night broached the subject of war over the course of the roughly 40-minute program, the task of engaging the issue more directly fell to retired Rear Admiral Hayne Ellis of Kansas City, who had recently been designated the city’s Director of Civilian Defense. Although his comments on the coming war were somewhat scattered because they weren’t exactly topical at the award ceremony, they have a certain aggregate coherence and offer a quite plain message, so I have attempted to condense this aspect of his speech as follows:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the bugle call has sounded. In 1942, Kansas City will be a city at war. Kansas City in 1941 was not a war-like city, but it was not a sleeping city either. … Our large steel plants are working day and night to turn out tons and tons of the stuff that we need to lick Japan, yes, and Hitler too. … An industrial future for the Midwest in postwar days has been assured. And what is more important, we of Missouri and Kansas will be able to play a part in the industrial side of winning the war. … 1941 is almost over. Now bring on 1942. 1941 has been a year of peace and progress. 1942 will be an era of death and destruction. But we of Kansas City and we of America have met challenges and responsibilities before. We will not shake from them now. I know something about the caliber of our ships and men in the Pacific. I know something about our adversary, who three days ago struck with such a ruthless, premeditated and cowardly blow. I know something about you— you Kansas City men and women who will work and worry and sacrifice from now on. And lastly I know that, come what may, whether it be weeks, in months, or in years, the ultimate victory will be ours.”

We today might be inclined to wonder how Americans living in such dark times were able to cope with the dread of impending war, but the message to be taken away from both the retired admiral’s talk and the audience’s positive reception of it seems rather clear.  The evidence offered by this artifact from the airwaves suggests that the prevailing attitude—at least among residents of Kansas City—was one of steadfastness and optimism.

Dustin Stalnaker, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student

Chuck Haddix to speak about “Brush Creek follies” tonight on KCUR

Tune into KCUR 89.3 FM KC Currents, tonight at 8 p.m., to hear Alex Smith speaking with our own Chuck Haddix about The Brush Creek Follies and check out this wonderful digital exhibit by the folks in special collections.