Several weeks ago, Ed Frankonis ’19 delivered an excellent and fascinating talk on an internship that he did with the College Archives. This internship consisted of curating items (mainly photographs) associated with Aurel Stuart, a Manchester photographer who was active for over 60 years and worked extensively with the College. We asked Ed to give us a brief summary of his talk (he had to cut a great deal out since he referred to a large number of images on display), and he happily obliged.
Thank you for coming.
I’m Ed Frankonis, a senior History major at the College, and I began this internship as a 4-credit class at the beginning of the semester.
I want to start by defining what an archive is. An archive is a repository for public or historical documentation for preservation. It is, in effect, the permanent memory of a place, person, or thing. A library is information about the past and present, but an archive is information for the libraries of the future.
So, with that in mind, the archive I worked on contained a variety of objects; old books, manuscripts, diaries, and, of course, photographs. The goal of my internship was to take boxes like the ones before you and enter “metadata” into an Excel spreadsheet, that is, information about an artifact like a photograph (e.g. standard measurements, BW or COLOR, amount of copies), and determine if we needed to set it aside for any reason (e.g. poor condition or rips, emulation, crinkling, silvering, etc.). In effect, I was helping to preserve the College’s history. One such key player in the College’s history was a photographer named Aurel Stuart.
Stuart was a New Hampshire native who started his own photography business after serving as a bombardier over Europe during World War II. His love of photography during the war “kept him sane” as he lost colleagues to anti-aircraft fire. After working at a photographer’s studio for six months he opened up his own business, where (according to the job list he gave us) he wound up taking photos for a whole host of events that included many persons of interest. And he did so for 65 years. From the 1950’s into the 1960’s, he took photos of technical objects to train engineers, various shows, and the usual variety of weddings and graduations. Later, starting in the 1970s, he did fewer engineering photos and more insurance company photos as well as more pictures for Saint Anselm College.
Now I’d like to showcase and discuss some of his photos here. As you can see, Stuart shot photos of the College for a wide variety of reasons. Some images show the architecture, others portray social occasions, and still others depict ceremonies. As you can tell, some things at this school just don’t change. Others, however, move on rapidly (hairstyles, clothing, buildings, etc.)
So why focus on Stuart? The College employed more than one photographer to preserve our memory in Alumni magazines and archival collections (these photographs will influence how people remember things), so why this particular individual? Well, he is the reason I am in a HAZMAT suit. As you can see [Frankonis showed an images of a cluttered attic], when Stuart died, aged nearly 100, he left quite a collection behind, over which sat a large, asbestos filled death-trap.
So, at the behest of the College Archivist, Keith Chevalier, I journeyed down one early Tuesday morning, donned this suit, and put small boxes of photographs (which included images of Saint Anselm College basketball teams, army artillery drills, weddings, and so on) into larger boxes, separating the ones with College material from the rest (about 17 big boxes in total by the end). These photos, many of which will require a chemistry lab to clean (as the local fauna of the attic decided to use them as a latrine), are incredibly important. They help preserve the memory of the College.
And that’s what a history major can do; in fact, that’s often how history is made. Such mundane acts put viable material in archives, which shape memory, which shape how people tell the history of a place, which impacts how much change can occur, and which in turn impacts identity, and so on.