“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
~ Robert Fulghum
You might remember last week when Ruth Bryan was photographed by the Lexington Herald-Leader because of the silver plated tea sets discovered in Keeneland Hall. One of the biggest, and most interesting, things she’s been doing as University Archivist is collecting objects from buildings on campus that have been (are being) torn down. I found her laying out some of these objects on their new shelves this afternoon. She was kind enough to tell me about them. Take this ’employees only’ sign from Wenner-Gren Research Laboratory for instance. Notice the worn spot. It’s as if I can see the scientist’s pushing open the door year after year.
How about these door fixtures from Hamilton House? The ornate decoration of such every day objects took my breath. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. Ruth picked objects that we see and use everyday; things we might take for granted precisely because we use them everyday, like door knobs.
In the case of Wenner-Gren, she broadened her choices to include pieces unique to their research. For instance, they were often forced to make their own parts, so they had need of particular tools such as this grinder (right). They also did research on human skeletal structure, including dental fixtures. The plaster of Paris teeth made me laugh out loud. I wonder whose mouth was cast?
From Jewell Hall (dormitory) comes beautiful brass objects. The old fashioned mail box door when students got paper mail instead of electronic mail. And the beautiful elevator panel with it’s art deco-esque fashioning. You get a sense of the time periods during which each building was erected from these small objects. In part, they reflect architectural styles, but they also relay an essence of the culture, too. Compare and contrast Jewell Hall’s brass objects with manufacturer’s plates from Donovan Hall’s (dormitory) oven and garbage disposals. Technologies advanced between the two hall’s construction, as did style and function.
I gotta say, Ruth may have the coolest job going as far as I’m concerned. What’s more important, however, is how dedicated she is to it. She thought long and hard about what to choose from those buildings. It’s no easy thing trying to preserve for posterity. Kudos to you, Ruth, and thanks for always doing your best.