You Look Glovely Today

By Lauren Amundson

Have you ever wondered why archivists, curators and researchers wear white cotton gloves when handling archival materials? Well, as it turns out, maybe they shouldn’t be. When handling paper, wearing gloves decreases a person’s dexterity. This could harm the paper because the person can’t feel it as well as with bare hands. The best bet is to wash your hands before touching materials. However, when working with items such as photographs, film, and negatives, gloves should be worn to prevent the damage caused by skin oils and fingerprints. Want to learn more? Here are two great articles on the topic:

gloves Gloves-Lintless-Nylon-White-Archival-Methods-v01



Home Sweet Home

By Stacey Christen

In 1957, Dr. Elizabeth “Pat” Roemer moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to be an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory. Pat decided to settle into town by having a new house built. She collected blueprints and brochures regarding aspects of her new home and saved them among the other papers in her collection. One of the highlights of my job is finding these examples of material culture.

img027Blueprint for 3 bedroom house in Flagstaff


img033Montgomery Ward paint colors


img037Rheem water heater brochure


img041Oven choices


img042Asbestos roof shingles brochure




Every Four Years

By Stacey Christen

In American politics, presidential elections occur every four years. The year leading up to election day is filled with primaries, debates, and opinions from everyone. Often in personal correspondence, people voice stronger opinions than they do in their every day lives. Here is a letter from Dr. Elizabeth Roemer to her mother, Elsie Roemer, from April 26, 1980.


In this letter, Dr. Roemer has much to say regarding some of the 1980 presidential candidates:

Everybody I know finds the potential choice among the presidential candidates very discouraging. Carter is incompetent, and I don’t know how much longer the country can survive with him in the White House– ’til next Inauguration Day, I hope, but the prospects for something better then are hardly glowing. Kennedy is too far out, his basic integrity is questionable, and he isn’t too bright. Bush is too conservative and does not have leadership potential that is recognizable to me. Reagan is not very bright, not very hard working, and maybe senile. Anderson has his problems, too, and I really don’t want him in the White House, either. But out of that dreary pack, he’s the most likely to get my vote if he manages to get on the ballot. I hope some new system gets devised that succeeds better at identifying qualified candidates, and getting them on the ballot.

Unfortunately, Dr. Roemer’s hopes of a better system have not yet been realized.



A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

By Stacey Christen

As a rule, I’ve found that astronomers keep detailed records of everything. Many of the collections here at Lowell are filled with journals documenting weather conditions, observation notes, and personal musings.

Carl Lampland (1873-1951) was an American astronomer who came to Lowell Observatory in 1902. He worked closely with Percival Lowell in planetary observation. Lampland also designed telescopes and cameras used in astronomy.

Lampland’s 1941 date book is housed in our repository with the rest of his papers. Beginning on December 7, 1941, Lampland added notations at the top of several pages documenting the events of Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.

img021 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor [illegible] Hawaii today about 8 Hawaii time

img028President’s address to Congress, asking for declaration of war on Japan

img029President’s address to the Nation

img024HM Warships Prince of Wales and Repulse reported sunk by Jap [sic] bombers near Singapore Malay [sic] Reported from Berlin that submarines had followed ships & destruction [illegible] by bombers, near coast of Malaya

img025Germany and Italy declared war on U.S.



If I Could Talk to the Animals

By Lauren Amundson

Animals have always been an important part of Lowell Observatory. In the early days, Venus the cow and her calf lived in a barn on Mars Hill.


There was also Skippy the dog, known among other things as an “astute heckler of skunks.”


Harry Hussey, who was the custodian of the 24-inch Clark telescope premises, tries to read a book with the help of his two cats. As any cat owner knows, they will generally ignore you until you’re trying to get work done!



I have an irrational love of old papers. I’m lucky that my job provides me the opportunity to peruse so many different types of documents. While processing Elizabeth Roemer’s papers, I recently came upon a 1964 pamphlet from the U.S. Department of the Navy. Dr. Roemer was employed at the Naval Observatory and kept many documents related to her work there.


Front cover



Step 3 of the 7 step plan


Back cover

The scope of our collection here at Lowell Observatory does not include a document like this one. This would probably be found in the archives of the U.S. Navy. This copy, however, can be found in my personal archives of, “cool stuff I’ve found at work.”


Postcards from the Edge

By Stacey Christen


One of the joys of processing an archival collection is the discovery of hidden treasures. These vintage black and white astronomy postcards were found among the research papers of Elizabeth Roemer. Dr.Roemer has an extensive collection of postcards in her papers. However, I’m unsure whether or not she was planning to use them or she just collected for the sake of collecting. There are unanswered questions in every collection processed.


Sonnet from the Archives

By Stacey Christen (with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)


How do I empty thee? Let me count the ways.

I empty thee to the depth and breadth and height

My arms can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Original Order and Preservation.

I empty thee to the level of researchers’

Most quiet need, by day and night.

I empty thee freely, as we strive for knowledge;

I empty thee purely, as we turn from chaos.

I empty with a passion put to use

In my old studies, and with my organizer’s faith.

I empty thee with a purpose I seemed to find

With my fellow archivists, I empty thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if the Universe choose,

I shall but empty thee better after death.

Get Reel!

By Lauren Amundson

One of the biggest challenges archivists face is preserving and providing access to legacy materials. This includes items such as reel to reel tapes; 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm film; cassette tapes; and Laserdiscs. Many repositories don’t have the equipment or expertise to play and/or digitize these formats without  damaging them.

AV collection

With a grant from the Arizona Historical Records Advisory Board, we digitized our audiovisual collection earlier this year. We sent the original tapes, film, and discs to Scene Savers in Kentucky. They spent several months digitizing the materials and returned the originals plus digital master and access files. We just uploaded some of the files to the Arizona Memory Project, where they’re now available for anyone to listen to. We’re excited to share this part of our history and ensure access for future generations.



Books of Scraps

By Stacey Christen

Bibles had been used for centuries as a place to keep records and photos of family members. As the desire to maintain records grew, books were created specifically for the purpose of storing photos and scraps of papers.


Many archives are digitizing the scrapbooks they have in their collections. I am currently processing the scrapbooks of Wrexie Louise Leonard (1867-1937), Percival Lowell’s personal secretary. As was popular in her time, Wrexie kept books filled with the ephemera she collected during her life.

11111This page, dated February 8, 1889, documents a night of dancing at the opera house with the rose she was given by an admirer.

WLL129-1WLL130-1A Valentine’s Day card from 1889 is still encased in its original envelope.

Digitizing scrapbooks can be time consuming and challenging. The results are worth the effort. For tips on digitizing scrapbooks, check out this tutorial from The Sustainable Heritage Network.