The Archivist’s Nook: Easter Treasure

Iconic painting of ‘The Last Supper’ by Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1520. Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 18, n. 15, March 28, 1963.
Iconic painting of ‘The Last Supper’ by Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1520. Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 18, n. 15, March 28, 1963.

Readers of The Archivist’s Nook blog well know the popularity of the Catholic comic book, the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, published for most of its history, 1946-1972, by George Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio. The digital version of the collection is especially popular and has been highlighted in three previous blog posts, the first reviewing the origin of Catholic University’s digital collections, ‘Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!’;  the second examining issue covers featuring Jesus Christ, ‘Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus’; and the third an exposition of covers related to the celebration of Christmas, ‘A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!’.

The Last Easter cover, silhouette of Christ’s profile while on the Cross, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 21, n. 16, April 7, 1966.
The Last Easter cover, silhouette of Christ’s profile while on the Cross, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 21, n. 16, April 7, 1966.

It will therefore be no surprise The Archivist’s Nook returns to the Treasure Chest’s remarkable treasure trove to commemorate Easter, past, present, and future. From the first volume of the Treasure Chest in 1946, through the next twenty years, there was usually an annual issue with a cover marking an Easter related event. Occasionally, the Treasure Chest skipped a year, while other years had two Easter related covers. Overall, the most popular were scenes of the empty tomb with the resurrected Jesus Christ announcing his presence (6 occasions) or an angel or angels (3 times) proclaiming the good news to Christ’s followers. Also, there were usually no Easter related stories therein to march the covers, though there were sometimes short features such as ‘Easter Eggs You Can Make’ (April 1, 1947) and ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ (April 8, 1954).

The first Easter cover, presumably the scene from the Book of Mathew, Chapter 28, Verses 1-2, with the Angel of the Lord at Christ’s empty tomb proclaiming the Good News to Mary Magdalene, and another Mary, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 1, n. 4, April 23, 1946.
The first Easter cover, presumably the scene from the Book of Mathew, Chapter 28, Verses 1-2, with the Angel of the Lord at Christ’s empty tomb proclaiming the Good News to Mary Magdalene, and another Mary, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, v. 1, n. 4, April 23, 1946.

Other covers depict the removal of Christ’s body from the Cross by family and friends (3 issues), including one of Michelangelo’s celebrated Pieta; Stations of the Cross (twice); and certain more singular events, including the triumphal Palm Sunday entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, the inspirational and iconic Last Supper, the stunning betrayal of Christ by disciple Judas Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the heart wrenching scene of Christ’s brutal execution by the Romans via the process of Crucifixion.

The Treasure Chest of the post Second Vatican Council era became more secular in outlook and appearance so that few religious scenes, including any depicting Easter related events, appeared in its last five years, 1967-1972. Sadly, this change of direction was perhaps a harbinger of the Treasure Chest’s ending. Gone, but most certainly not forgotten!

The Archivist’s Nook: A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!

A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.
A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.

The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book digital collection is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, so what better archival collection to highlight during the Christmas holiday season? As readers of this blog know, The Treasure Chest is an outreach horn of plenty for any archivist, especially for a somewhat dyspeptic and mildly iconoclastic one as myself. It has been featured or at least referenced in three previous blog posts: Finding Your Way Around the Collections, Hark! The Digital Angel Comes! and Treasure Chest: Your Own Virtual Jesus. So, at the risk of going to the well one too often, we return to investigate the Treasure Chest’s always colorful and often inspiring Christmas covers.

Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.
Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.

The Treasure Chest was published, for most of its history, by George Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio for distribution to American Catholic schools, with a total of twenty annual Christmas covers for 1946-1962, 1964, 1966, and 1968. Not surprisingly, the majority of these illustrated covers (15 of 20) depict some version of the Holy Family in and around the manger, sometimes with the Star of Bethlehem present. One in particular (1955), depicts a Holy Mother Mary who bears a remarkable resemblance to screen beauty and legend Audrey Hepburn, then in her prominence (see right), while some others are reproductions of the works of famous Renaissance artists such as Lorenzo Lotto (1962) and Antonio Correggio (1964). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!”

The Archivist’s Nook: Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus

Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.
Although the 1950s are generally thought of as a White-bread decade, this picture clearly shows Jesus (Sacred Heart) as the humane Savior of all the world’s children. Treasure Chest, v. 14, n 20, June 9, 1959.

As the campus of The Catholic University of America (CUA) and surrounding D.C. community basks in the afterglow of a momentous papal visit and canonization of a new saint, it is not out of order to reflect upon the Christian Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, before anyone gets the notion this archivist is about to impersonate a theologian, let me assure you my mission is an archival one, to study appearances by the Son of God on the covers of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book housed in the CUA Archives.

As any user of the Archives, and, indeed, readers of this blog know (see ‘Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!’), Treasure Chest was a Catholic comic book, with over five hundred issues, distributed to the American Catholic parochial school system from 1946 to 1972. Moreover, it is CUA’s most popular digital collection, with visually stunning covers, including one in ten of all covers (53 of 508) featuring images of Jesus.  The first verse of the 23rd Psalms tell us ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ but let’s reverse things and Shepherd the Lord through his various Treasure Chest incarnations by looking at some of the best examples. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Treasure Chest – Your Own Virtual Jesus”

The Archivist’s Nook: Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!

Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, Vol. 10, No. 14, March 24, 1955.
Treasure Chest, Vol. 10, No. 14, March 24, 1955.

My colleague Dr. Maria Mazzenga has blogged previously about digital materials, especially those used in the American Catholic History Classroom teaching sites. My intent here is to review the separate and distinct digital collections that originated from a 2001 grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Program to The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), of which CUA is a member. Each member was asked to provide materials for digitization via WRLC’s collaborative facilities known as the Digital Collection Production Center (DCPC), and CUA provided a total of ten collections during the DCPC’s era of operation, 2002-2010.

I confess that I am not one of those archivists mesmerized by every new shiny bauble that comes along, so I had curmudgeonly doubts about the utility of putting resources into digitizing at that time. Fortunately, taking a chance turned out to be the right thing to do as the collections selected (or ‘curated’) have been enduringly popular and frequently accessed by researchers. However, things have changed since 2010 and the process to create what many would call these ‘boutique’ collections is now being augmented, if not superseded, by mass digitization of a broader range of materials and formats (which my colleague Paul Kelly will talk more about future). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!”

The Archivist’s Nook: Finding Your Way Around the Collections

Collection of Joseph Novak, former Met set designer
Woe unto the researcher who braves the collections alone. (Collection of Joseph Novak, former Met set designer)

The Archives houses over 500 individual collections, from personal papers to institutional records, totaling nearly 14,000 feet of records and manuscripts. You may be asking yourself, “How in the world can anyone hope to find what they are looking for in such a vastness?” You may even be awestruck when an archivist is able to quickly locate an item. Are archivists wizards? Do we spend too much time with the collections? While the answer to both questions may be “yes,” the truth is that we have a trusty means to locate a needle in the stacks. We have finding aids.

But what is a finding aid and how does one use it? Simply put, a finding aid is a detailed description on what is contained in a collection. It is an inventory of all the materials residing in any given collection, with supplemental information about the collection’s history and nature of its organization. It may be lengthy and meticulous in its descriptions or terse and blunt. It may even offer links to digital copies of the collection. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Finding Your Way Around the Collections”