Saying Goodbye to AHC Friend Hugh Downs

Radio and television broadcaster, announcer, television host, news anchor, TV producer, author, game show host, music composer, and AHC friend Hugh Downs died at his home in Scottsdale on July 1, 2020. He was 99.

Hugh was one of the few television personalities who remembered the medium’s earliest days in the 1950s. By that time, he was already a radio veteran. His smooth baritone voice was heard on TV shows like Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Sid Caesar’s Caesar’s Hour and, most notably, The Tonight Show where he was Jack Paar’s co-host. During those years he was also host of the popular daytime game show Concentration, a job he held from 1958 until 1969.

Although it meant double duty, he could not pass up the opportunity in 1962 to host NBC’s Today Show, which he performed ably until 1971. It was his most high-profile and prestigious assignment to date, one that established him as not only an announcer but a respected journalist. He then went on from 1975 to 1976 to co-host Not for Women Only with a young Barbara Walters, whose career he championed.

Hugh Downs standing next to an NBC TV van, ca. 1962.
A young Hugh Downs on the job as NBC Today Show anchor, ca. 1962. Box 196, Hugh Downs papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Later, while hosting Over Easy, a PBS TV program about aging that aired from 1977 to 1983, he earned a postgraduate degree in gerontology from Hunter College.

He became most known in later years as the Emmy Award-winning co-anchor, again paired with Barbara Walters, of the ABC TV show 20/20, a prime time news magazine program, from the show’s second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999.

His strong work ethic may have come from his childhood when his father Milton, a Lima, Ohio, machinist and battery salesman, lost work during the Depression, forcing Hugh to drop out of college after his first year to help support his family. He was hired as an announcer at WLOK, a radio station located not far from the family farm, for $12.50 a week. Within a year he was promoted to program director at twice the salary. He then moved on to Chicago where he joined the NBC radio network at WMAQ as an announcer, where he stayed until 1954.

He married Ruth Shaheen in 1944 during World War II, a time that saw her decorated by Naval Intelligence for her work on an undercover assignment. She graduated from college, moved to Chicago, and became a radio actress, as well as a director and producer. One of her employees was young Hugh Downs. The two fell in love and married, a union that lasted 75 years until her death in 2017. Their children are Deirdre and H.R.

Hugh Downs, son H.R., daughter Deirdre, and wife Ruth having a musical evening in the publicity photograph from the 1960s.
Son H.R., Hugh, daughter Deirdre, and wife Ruth cutting a rug in the family’s living room, ca. 1960. Hugh was a talented musician and a published composer. Box 195, Hugh Downs papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In an AHC introductory video Hugh narrated in 1993, he explained why he donated his papers to the Center:

Several years ago, I was asked to place my letters, photographs, manuscripts at the American Heritage Center. My staff said, ‘Well, you ought to look at some other archives. There are a lot of them and leave your papers with the best one.’ Well, I said, ‘Research it.’ And they did and they came back to me and said that first one was the best choice—the American Heritage Center. That’s where my collection is placed.

In the same video, he noted that he kept track of the AHC. And, indeed he did. He served on the AHC’s Board of Advisors from 2008 to 2010 during a time of great growth of the Center marked by the establishment of upgraded acquisition policies and a resurgence in public programming.

Hugh Downs was kind enough to narrate an overview video of the American Heritage Center in 1993.

His papers give an excellent overview of all aspects of the public life he led. There are extensive general correspondence files, files about his public appearances, and photographs and audiovisual materials that document his multi-faceted career.

The American Heritage Center has been fortunate to call Hugh not only a donor of materials related to his legendary career, but also a good and gracious friend. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Post submitted by the AHC’s Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.


Posted in announcements, Collection donor, Composers, Current events, found in the archive, Hollywood history, Journalism, Obituaries, radio history, television history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride: The S.J. Moffat Collection

While Pride celebrations have changed to accommodate pandemic restrictions in June 2020, we are highlighting the AHC’s “Out West in the Rockies” LGBT collections. “Out West in the Rockies” seeks to preserve and highlight narratives of LGBTQ people and communities from the Rocky Mountain West.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this month that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Title VII’s new protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender employees are an important legal victory for civil rights.

Shannon Moffat, known professionally as S. J. Moffat, was not able to witness this milestone. Born as Samuel in 1927, she moved with her mother to New York in 1930 after her parents’ separation. Moffat graduated from high school in 1945 and decided to enlist in the Navy, becoming an electronics technician and later attending the U.S. Naval Academy. After her military service, she attended Amherst College and became engaged to Mary Kirkpatrick. The couple married in August 1950.

Shannon Moffat as a U.S. Navy ensign, 1953. Box 14, S.J. Moffat papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Shannon as a young Navy ensign in 1953. Box 14, S.J. Moffat papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Shannon worked as an assistant science editor for the publisher Henry Holt and Company after graduating from Amherst in 1950, until 1952. During this time, she also served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Mary gave birth to their first son Bruce in 1953, and the family moved to Palo Alto, California, in 1954 where Shannon worked as a reporter. Their second son Bennet (Ben) was born in 1956, and their third child arrived stillborn the following year.

Shannon Moffat during her time as a reporter for the Palo Alto [California] Times, ca. 1955. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Shannon during her time as a reporter for the Palo Alto Times, ca. 1955. Box 14, S.J. Moffat papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Shannon expressed great love for her sons, proudly writing in her diary of Bruce’s first steps in 1954. Her need for mental and physical affection became tiresome for Mary, and the couple grew distant from each other, eventually separating and divorcing in 1962. In a diary entry from February 4 that year Shannon wrote, “I had not been given much love as a boy [and] I want it most urgently now.”

Shannon had first worn a dress three years earlier. It likely belonged to her mother or her aunt Mildred. Shannon wrote of the experience, describing her emotions flickering from “compulsive desire to erotic high to anxiety about putting it back in the box to avoid discovery.” She cross-dressed at home and at first feared being discovered. She would marry Kay Cranston in 1966, and over the next two decades, work to become comfortable with purchasing and presenting herself in feminine clothing. Shannon realized her identity as female and began gender affirmation procedures in 1981.

Transitioning in her 50s, she continued her career as a freelance technical and medical writer working for private businesses and universities, including the University of Wyoming. She had donated much of her research and publication material to the AHC. The S.J. Moffat collection, totaling 86 boxes, also contains personal diaries before and after her transition which offer her perspective of how gender transition was perceived and presented in the 1970s and 80s. Shannon passed away peacefully in January 2009 at her home in Palo Alto.

Shannon Moffat in a formal portrait with a fur stole, ca. 1980. Photo courtesy of her son Ben Moffat.
Shannon in a formal portrait, ca. 1980. Photo courtesy Ben Moffat.

For additional insight into her transition, researchers can look in her collection for a file about Jan Morris, a transgender author and British soldier in the Second World War. Her collection also mentions the Venus Castina, a book from 1928 about famous female impersonators throughout history, celestial and human. A copy of Venus Castina is also available in the AHC’s Toppan Rare Books Library.

Shannon Moffat with her son Ben Moffat, 2006. Photo courtesy of  Ben Moffat.
Shannon with her son Ben, 2006. Photo courtesy Ben Moffat.
Shannon's signature soon after her transition reading, "Shannon (formerly Sam)." Box 25, S.J. Moffat papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

– Contributed by Morgan Walsh, AHC Archives Aide


Posted in LGBTQIA+, Out West in the Rockies, Transgender people, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Eyewitness to Racism: Andrew Bugas and the Rock Springs Massacre of 1885

Andrew Bugas (Andrej Bugos) was not quite 20 years old in 1885 when he arrived in Rock Springs to work in the Union Pacific’s coal mines. Born in Austria, he came to the United States in 1880 to join his father in Mahoney, Pennsylvania, where young Andrew worked as a “slate picker” and a “trapper” in the coal mines. Slate picker and trapper were menial jobs usually performed by boys. Slate pickers plucked sharp-edged pieces of slate and other impurities from the coal. Trappers sat underground, usually in total darkness, opening and closing wooden doors (trap doors) located across the mine.

“Boys Picking Slate in a Great Coal Breaker, Anthracite Mines, Pennsylvania.” Photo from Coal Region History Chronicles.

It’s not certain what led Andrew to Rock Springs, but he probably heard of the coal boom in southwestern Wyoming. He had an adventurous spirit, which showed itself in 1888 when he left Rock Springs to travel the United States for eight years.

In 1885, Andrew walked into a situation in the Rock Springs mines that was about to spin out of control. The tensions between white and Chinese miners had reached a breaking point.

Chinese men had worked in the Union Pacific’s mines since the early 1870s. They had proven themselves to be hard workers who would labor for less pay. Even though they were paid less than whites, Chinese miners could earn many times more in the United States than they could in China. If they were careful, in a few years they could save a lifetime’s fortune to take back home.

By 1882, anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant and Congress limited the number of Chinese immigrants. But the new law was full of loopholes, and the immigration question was open-ended and confusing.

Union Pacific Railroad policies did not help an increasingly tense situation. Pay cuts and paycheck gouging by UP company stores led to unrest among the white miners. And, although white and Chinese miners worked side by side every day, they spoke different languages and lived separate lives.

As the anger of the white miners intensified, they staged a number of strikes but with no results. At the end of an 1884 strike, mine managers in Rock Springs were told to only hire Chinese. By the time Andrew arrived, there were nearly 600 Chinese and 300 white miners working the Rock Springs mines.

On the morning of September 2, 1885, Andrew was at his house located only a short way from Bitter Creek,  which was one of the staging areas for a mob of men, women, and even children determined to drive the Chinese from Rock Springs.

In a recollection held at the American Heritage Center, Andrew wrote that at 10:00 AM he was looking through his window and saw that the “[Chinese] dinner carriers, who daily carried the dinners on poles across their shoulders…were being stoned with rocks and chased by boys and men until they had to drop their loads and flee for safety.”

Rock Springs
View of Rock Springs, Wyoming, undated. Photo File: Wyoming – Rock Springs, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Andrew continued watching as “the mob with guns on their shoulders began their march towards Chinatown.” He left his house to follow the brigade “½ curious and ½ scared.”

When the mob came to a place of worship in Chinatown known as a joss house, Andrew saw them halt and send a committee to tell the Chinese inside of the mob’s intent. Confusion reigned among the Chinese men in the building; some seemed to want to stay and others to leave. Andrew heard and saw “loud jabbering and swinging of arms, etc. etc., that could be observed from outside…through the windows.”

As the time to evacuate the joss house neared, the mob grew impatient and moved toward the building. Andrew “saw some Chinese jump out the window upon a bundle of what looked like blankets.” By then, members of the mob were against the house and “some one hit the locked door with an axe or sledge from the way it sounded.” Chinese men (only a few women lived in Rock Springs) poured out through the doors and window while “the mob started shooting into the house and toward the fleeing men.” Andrew noticed that “hundreds of shots must have been wasted for the scare.”

He continued to follow the mob as they advanced into Chinatown “driving out of the houses those that were too frightened to run and setting fire with kerosene oil to all houses after first plundering each house of everything valuable.” He watched as some of the Chinese men were killed inside their houses while most were shot in the back as they ran.

“Here’s a Pretty Mess!” (in Wyoming) – 19 September, 1885 by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast Source: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Soldiers were brought in to restore order. Andrew observed that “at first the soldiers and whites were distrustful of one another and many fist fights took place in the saloons.” But later, soldiers and miners began to fraternize. Discipline was not a strong suit among the soldiers. Andrew reported that “[on] several occasions a Chinaman was caught in darkness and his ‘pigtail’ cut off by soldiers.” That act, he noted, “was held to be a very grave offense by the Chinese and a soldier proven to have committed it was given severe penalty.”

The “blue coats” as the soldiers were known spent their money freely in Rock Springs and “were missed by Rock Springs businessmen when they finally left in 1898 after 13 years in Rock Springs.”

Andrew goes on to write that “…a year or so prior to the final withdrawal of the army from R.S…[o]ne or two companies or detachments of companies of colored soldiers came, the white army leaving. The colored army sojourn in R.S. while brief, was the most trying period for the peace officers as well as citizens in general…R.S. drew a breath of relief when this colored army was replaced by a white one…” He doesn’t elaborate on the what took place except to note that the town peace officers’ “resourcefulness in their line saved R.S. a dangerous outbreak and killing of probably many citizens and negro soldiers.”

Federal troops, shown here on Front Street in 1885, stayed in Rock Springs for 13 years. Wyoming Tales and Trails photo.

Andrew Bugas lived in Rock Springs until 1888 when he began his travels in the United States. But Rock Springs must have been home because he returned there in 1896, married a local girl in 1902, and raised a family. He opened a saloon, invested in a coal mine at Point of Rocks, and served as a state legislator, school district treasurer, and precinct committeeman. But he never forgot what he witnessed upon his arrival in Rock Springs. His account of the Rock Springs Massacre was written in 1933, many years later. The account can be found in the papers of his son John Bugas, which are held at the UW American Heritage Center.

AP Bugas
Andrew P. Bugas, undated. Find a Grave photo.


This post is edited from a previous American Heritage Center blog published in 2018.

Posted in Chinese Americans, found in the archive, International relations, Labor disputes, Local history, mining history, Railroad History, Rock Springs Massacre, Uncategorized, Violence - history, Western history, Wyoming history | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Commemorating a 60th Anniversary: Psycho by Robert Bloch

June 16th is the 60th anniversary of the release date of the film Psycho.

Alfred Hitchcock’s film is based on a novel by Robert Bloch. It is the story of Norman Bates, a lonely motel caretaker who is seething with psychotic rage due to his mother’s domination.

Robert Bloch was an author of pulp science fiction and crime stories. A protégé of H.P. Lovecraft, he grew up reading Weird Tales magazine and after high school began writing science fiction stories for the magazine himself.

Bloch moved away from science fiction and into horror themes like black magic, voodoo and demon possession. He began writing crime stories and in 1959 wrote Psycho which would be adapted into the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film.

Psycho is strikingly similar to the story of infamous murderer Ed Gein. However, Bloch wrote most of the book before Gein was caught. Strangely, while writing Psycho, Bloch lived only 35 miles away from Gein in Wisconsin.

The film’s screenplay is relatively faithful to the novel, although there were some significant changes to the character of Norman Bates. In the novel, Bates is a middle-aged alcoholic who is overweight and blatantly unstable. Screenwriter Joseph Stefano sought a more sympathetic character. In the film, Anthony Perkins portrays Bates as an awkward, shy, semi-adolescent.


Author Robert Bloch wrote Psycho, which was later adapted into the Alfred Hitchcock film. Robert Bloch papers, American Heritage Center.

Although Bloch wrote sequels to Psycho, the sequels to the movie are completely different stories. Bloch wrote a speculative screenplay for his own sequel, but it was never made.

Robert Bloch’s papers are available at the UW American Heritage Center. The collection consists of materials related to Bloch’s personal life and professional career, as well as the development of the horror and science fiction genres. Contents of the collection include extensive personal and professional correspondence, a large selection of science fiction and horror books and periodicals, convention announcements and programs, and annotated screenplays, scripts, and manuscripts produced by Bloch and his contemporaries, among other materials.

Posted in Authors and literature, found in the archive, motion picture history, popular culture, Uncategorized, writers and poets | Tagged | Leave a comment

AHC Supports the Society of American Archivists’ Statement on Black Lives and Archives

On June 2, 2020, the Council of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) issued a statement condemning harassment and violence against the Black community. The American Heritage Center expresses solidarity with SAA in its condemnation.

SAA Council’s statement reads in part:

During this time of dramatic and traumatic historical significance, the Society of American Archivists remains committed to its core organizational value of social responsibility, including equity and safety for Black archives workers and archives of Black Lives. A truly open, inclusive, and collaborative environment for all members of the Society cannot exist without justice for those affected by anti-Black violence.  As the Council, we are committed to developing and advocating for solutions that contribute to the public good and affirm the importance of Black Lives.[1]

The vitality of American archives depends on the safety of archives workers and an explicit commitment to social responsibility, justice, and anti-racism in the work that we do and the organizations we work within. We intend to create and convene a space for constructive discussion toward progressive change in the archival profession and true inclusivity of the archival record, in a profound engagement with our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

You can read the full statement at

The American Heritage Center endorses the SAA Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives. The AHC believes in inclusivity and equity. The Center practices respect and provides our best service to everyone who comes in our doors.

[1] SAA Position Brief, “Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record”: Approved by SAA Council November 2017.

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In A World Not Like Our Own

The Science Fiction or Si-Fi world has expanded and captured the minds of many due to its striking details, other worlds, and personable characters. Today it produces TV shows, box office features, and conventions that bring visitors from around the world, but the phrase “Si-Fi” as we know it today was not always common tongue. Forrest J Ackerman, science fiction writer, editor, and avid collector of Si-Fi memorabilia was the first to coin this phrase.

Forrest J. Ackerman, ca. 1970s.
Forrest Ackerman, ca. 1970s.
Box 105, Forrest J. Ackerman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

While in college at the University of California Berkeley, Ackerman worked as a movie projectionist at various companies before being enlisted in the U.S. Army.  He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and became the editor of the base’s newspaper. This editing experience helped with his next career shift as editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. This magazine, published from 1958-1983, included brief articles, publicity stills, and graphic illustrations that highlighted horror movies and their histories throughout its publication.

In 1947, Ackerman created a science fiction literary agency and collaborated with many Si-Fi writers such as Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard, and A. E. van Vogt. These connections through the Science fiction community also provided Ackerman the opportunity to gather memorabilia from shows, films, conventions, and fans. All of which was housed in his 18-room home and museum known as the “Son of Ackermanison” until his death.

Throughout Forrest J Ackerman’s life, he represented more than 200 writers through his literacy agency, published over 50 books, contributed to film magazines around the world, and introduced the world to the history of science fiction to inspire many artists to pursue their careers in Si-Fi. He has won several awards including the prestigious Hugo Award for “#1 Fan Personality.” Ackerman was the first and only celebrity to receive this special award.

Forrest Ackerman speaks to a meeting of the Count Dracula Society, which was founded in 1962 for the study of horror films and Gothic literature, ca. 1960s.
Forrest Ackerman speaks at a meeting of the Count Dracula Society, which was founded in 1962 for the study of horror films and Gothic literature.
Box 105, Forrest J. Ackerman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The American Heritage Center’s Forrest J Ackerman collection consists of material relating to Ackerman’s long career in science fiction and a portion of his memorabilia collection, including correspondence, fan mail, speeches, and scripts for movies and television shows.

Forrest Ackerman engulfed in sci-fi memorabilia in his home which he called the "Son of Ackermansion," ca. 1960s
Inveterate collector Forrest Ackerman engulfed in memorabilia
at “Son of Ackermansion,” ca. 1960s
Box 105, Forrest J. Ackerman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
  • Post contributed by AHC Accessioning Unit Supervisor Kelly Miller


Posted in Fantasy, Hollywood history, Horror, Motion picture actors and actresses, motion picture history, popular culture, science fiction, television history, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Asked, You Answered: Documenting Life During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Why is the Diary of Anne Frank one of the most important works of literature of all time? How did this book influence how we remember World War II, the Nazi Regime, and the Holocaust? Although the Holocaust can be viewed as a shared experience, not everyone was a young Jewish girl hiding in an attic with eight people hoping not to get caught and tortured by an enemy. Anne Frank wrote her everyday observations of life in hiding during the Holocaust. It was proof of a time, a place, a people, and an event. Currently, our lives are being dictated by a silent enemy, coronavirus, and we are in fear of the enemy catching up to us and causing tremendous harm.

Archives hold photographs, audio and film recordings, textiles, ledgers, and other types of materials that paint a picture of what it was like to live in a certain period of time, to know a person, and to experience a place. When these materials fail the test of time and are not made widely accessible, we as a people lose the chance to learn and improve from the knowledge of the past. Collecting Covid-19 materials, like the AHC Covid-19 Collection Project hopes to do, is a way of gathering evidence that this historic time existed and how it impacted our communities at individual, state, and national levels and, finally, at a global scale.

UW yard sign found on lawn in Laramie, Wyoming. that reads "Better Days Are Ahead Pokes!" in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo taken by AHC Archivist Sara Davis.
Yard sign from the University of Wyoming found on lawn in Laramie, Wyoming, provides a message of hope.
Photo taken by Sara Davis.

The AHC’s Covid-19 Collection Project collects materials that reveal our community’s views on this pandemic through direct donations or via a guided survey. The survey guides participants through a series of questions that prompt reflections on what has made us happy or sad during this time, what changes we have seen, and what we want to be remembered about this time.

As of May 14, 2020, the survey has attracted 26 participants ranging in age from 18 to 85 years and includes a mixture of ethnicities, nationalities, and genders. The responses reflect the diversity of the participants and the different ways this pandemic has affected their lives.

A yard sign at Laramie's Linford Elementary School depicts a message of caring to the community. It reads, "Our Hearts Are Together Even While We're Apart. Always a Linford Lion." Photo taken by AHC Archivist Sara Davis.
Yard sign at Laramie’s Linford Elementary School depicts a message of caring to the community.
Photo taken by Sara Davis.

One survey participant who contracted the coronavirus shared an overview of the experience.

It was not nearly as bad as others get. I did not have to be hospitalized long term. I spent most of my time at home. But it was one of the worst illnesses I have ever experienced and I do not want to ever get it again.

Another participant shared:

Things that make me happy include watching dogs walk by my house. Seeing everyone doing their part to take care of their communities and donate towards finding a vaccine or cure for this disease is making me hopeful that I’ll be able to visit and hug my family again sometime soon.

Others expressed frustration:

[I’m] angry that as I walk into Walmart or the Loaf and Jug people are wandering around with no mask. If you don’t care about your own health, fine. But care about your fellow man and protect them. Getting the virus once does not mean you are immune and can’t get it again…we have to protect each other.

These responses show the human side of pandemic and inform others of the complexity of the situation.

Kiowa Park in Laramie, Wyoming, is shown with signs indicating it is closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo taken by AHC Archivist Sara Davis.
Kiowa Park in Laramie, Wyoming, is closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.
Photo taken by Sara Davis.

Another purpose of the AHC’s Covid-19 Collection Project is to provide a safe space for people to share their experiences with the hope that others will find comfort and peace in the knowledge that they are not alone and the community is here to listen. In addition to the survey responses, the AHC received a few poems, a short essay, and an inspirational quote that fits this second goal. Carol Miller from New Mexico submitted the following quote that has been inspiring her while she writes her thesis:

We must learn to sing our songs in a strange land. We may feel abandoned in an empty, merciless wilderness full of detritus and death, but we who are left must travel through the in between timespace listening, seeing, attending afresh. We need to develop a thriving, forward-looking age by compassionately transforming the mournful terrain into a realm of wisdom, hope, and love. We have the responsibility to faithfully search for the possibilities and implement the discoveries that will bring us into a newly imagined dimension of interconnection with and understanding of each other and our world.

Like many of the submissions the AHC has received thus far, Miller’s contribution helps tell the story of our community’s camaraderie, support, and sense of hope for the future during this pandemic.

In the article, “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Identity,”[1] published in 2000, Elisabeth Kaplan argues that identity can be asserted through the types of historical documentation that are kept inside the walls of archival institutions. As archivists, we collect, preserve, and make accessible diaries, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, and other materials that document a certain period of time, person, and place. If there is no record, there is also a lack of evidence to prove someone or something existed. Similarly, if there is not access to these records, no one will know what and who came to pass. We do not know how long this pandemic will last or the ramifications and eventual outcome, but we can determine how this historical time is remembered by documenting through writing, photographing, and creating artwork that reflects our observations and emotions during this time and then collecting these conceptions in a place where they can safely be preserved and accessed for the long-term.

UW yard sign found on lawn in Laramie, Wyoming, during the coronavirus pandemic encourages a sense of community. It reads, "Kindness, Courage, and Optimism Are Contagious, Too." Photo taken by AHC Archivist Sara Davis.
UW yard sign found on lawn in Laramie, Wyoming, encourages a sense of community.
Photo taken by Sara Davis.

To contribute to the historical record of this momentous time or learn more about the project, please visit the AHC Covid-19 Collection Project webpage at #COVID19WY #alwaysarchiving

  • Post contributed by Sara Davis, University Archivist, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

[1] Elisabeth Kaplan, “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Identity,” The American Archivist vol. 63, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2000): 126-151, accessed May 14, 2020,

Posted in announcements, Collection donor, Coronavirus outbreak, Current events, Digital collections, Flu, medical history, Pandemics, Public health, Uncategorized, University of Wyoming, University of Wyoming history, Western history, Wyoming, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Green River Art Student Receives AHC’s 2020 Undergraduate Research Award

Each spring semester the UW American Heritage Center awards a cash prize to the best undergraduate project based substantially on materials—manuscripts, archives, rare books, photos, maps, audio, film and video—at the AHC.

Typically, the students’ projects are research papers, but they can take many forms, such as creative writing, artistic productions, websites or even group exhibitions, says AHC Director Paul Flesher.

This year’s award was given to Ben Nathan, a student of Professor Mark Ritchie of UW’s Department of Visual and Literary Arts. Ben is a UW senior pursuing a BFA in visual arts. His project titled “Views of the West-Then and Now” used journals housed at the AHC as inspiration for an artistic project.

Photo of Ben Nathan, a senior in the University of Wyoming's Department of Visual and Literary Arts. He won the 2020 American Heritage Center Undergraduate Research Award.
Ben Nathan is a graduating senior in
UW’s Department of Visual & Literary Art.

Ben describes his process of creating art based on journals found in the AHC’s collections:

For the past two years in my artistic practice I have become increasingly interested in landscapes. Most of my work focuses on creating a visual reflection of the memories I associate with specific places and times of year. Because I am from Wyoming, I find it easiest to focus on particular feelings and experiences as related to the landscapes I know most intimately, namely, Wyoming and surrounding states. Until recently, however, I have only made art that was informed by my own experiences in a given landscape. The work was purely introspective.

“Views of the West: Then and Now” is my first attempt at making art about someone else’s experience in a landscape with which I identify. To conduct the necessary research, I utilized the AHC’s wide-ranging archive to identify collections containing extensive journaling. My plan involved becoming well acquainted with the writings of two people who had spent time in or near Wyoming. Using their journal entries and selecting and focusing on a single day from each, enabled me to make a run of sixteen variable intaglio prints that I felt responded to the landscape seen on a particular day by each person. I sought to use one journal from the nineteenth and one from the twentieth century.

With help from the AHC’s digital catalog and leads from AHC staff, I identified several collections that seemed promising. With additional research online and at the AHC, I was able to narrow down to two collections that I thought would best suite my needs: the Gerhard Luke Luhn papers and the Edith K.O. Clark diaries. Once I had selected the two collections, I began to really dive into who these people were through the lens of their own journal writings.

The G.L. Luhn papers, which include Luhn’s journals and correspondence as he served in the 6th and 4th infantries between 1863 and 1895, held particular interest for me due to their brief and quick descriptions of weather and places he marched through. The entry that most caught my attention was a typewritten account of an elk hunt Luhn went on November 4, 1868, with several other officers near La Prele Creek when stationed at Fort Laramie. Many of the portable leather-bound journals found in the Luhn papers also inspired me to design the format for the leather portfolio that holds my “Views of the West” project.

Edith K.O. Clark was the Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1915 to 1919. A dedicated journal writer, Clark’s journals were of interest to me because of her record-keeping style. Her journals are full of ticket stubs, photographs, postcards, plant specimens, and other such keepsakes glued to the pages alongside descriptive sections of handwritten text. In an entry that spans three days – June 14 to 16, 1916 – Clark describes a motor trip from Cheyenne to Denver. Drawing equally from the content of the entries and the interesting format of the journal, I was able to make an artistic composition that, to my interpretation, visually describes her summer journey.

After selecting the two specific journal entries, collecting the necessary information, and reflecting—with sketches and color selections—I was able to etch and prepare two copper intaglio plates, one for Luhn and one for Clark. To my interpretation, the plates served as a good starting point for visually describing the two unique western experiences. By printing these plates through a printmaking discipline known as “Intaglio,” I was able to pull one black and white print—to illustrate the etched qualities of the individual plates—and fifteen colorful variable prints for each plate. While making the prints, I used pre-selected ink colors and materials for Luhn’s and Clark’s plates respectively. By focusing on what I had learned from their journals, I feel that I was able to produce two small series of intaglio prints that visually represent the crisp air and quiet outdoor environment of an elk hunt (Luhn) and the sunny, dusty, nature-filled drive to Denver (Clark).

Upon completion of the thirty-two historically inspired prints, I reflected on one of my own memorable days in Laramie. It was a wintry February day filled with snow drifts and flurries, freezing temperatures, and beautiful vistas of the Snowy Range Mountains. Following the same pattern I used for the aforementioned works, I produced sixteen prints—fifteen in variable colors and one in straight black and white—to echo the work I had done earlier, but using another plate that I created to specifically represent that February day.

Finally, I arranged the forty-eight prints into three similar portfolio flipbooks. Each book was designed to hold the sixteen prints that were particular to myself, Ms. Clark, and Mr. Luhn. These smaller books make use of a blizzard binding technique which allows for each individual print to be easily removed, handled by a viewer, and replaced. I also made a larger leather-bound portfolio case to fit all three smaller books. When considered all together, I like to think that this large leather portfolio highlights the differences, and similarities, between three individuals’ very specific experiences with the landscape in and around Wyoming during three different centuries.

My time spent making research-based artwork has allowed me to recognize how much of ourselves we can project onto others’ experiences and has piqued my interest and motivated me to continue to use historical resources to inspire my prints.

The AHC congratulates Ben Nathan on his award, which is a $500 check. The AHC’s Undergraduate Research Award is given each spring semester. Every faculty member from every UW department is eligible to submit, on behalf of their students, two projects each semester. Students are welcome to initiate applications so long as the submission is accompanied by a letter from a faculty member. You’ll find more information about the award at a link on the AHC website.

  • Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener. Photographs of artwork by AHC Photographer Hanna Fox.


Posted in announcements, Artists, Current events, military history, Student projects, Uncategorized, undergraduate students, University of Wyoming, Western history, women's history, Wyoming, Wyoming history | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poet Drama in the Selden Rodman Papers

Selden Rodman (1909-2002) was a prolific author, biographer, poet, editor as well as an art collector and cultural critic. He published a book nearly every year of his adult life.

He was a rebellious young man who, while attending Yale in the 1930s, co-founded the irreverent campus journal The Harkness Hoot. He didn’t even attend his own graduation from Yale. Instead he rushed off to Europe and befriended literary luminaries such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Thomas Man.

Selden Rodman, undated photo. Selden Rodman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Selden Rodman in undated photo. Selden Rodman papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

He returned to his hometown of New York City and was asked by Alfred Bingham, a leader of left-wing causes, to partner on new political magazine titled Common Sense. It was published from 1932 to 1946. Rodman cultivated contributors for the magazine, who were mostly progressives. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in The Politics of Upheaval, called the magazine the most lively and interesting forum of radical discussion in the country.

Cover of the April 27, 1933, issue of the political magazine Common Sense co-founded by Selden Rodman.
A 1933 cover of Common Sense produced not long after the magazine’s founding in 1932. Selden Rodman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Over time Rodman accumulated an astonishing number of connections in the literary world. He had conversations with Ernest Hemmingway, Jackson Pollock, H.G. Wells, Edward Hopper among others.

In the late 1950s, Rodman befriended poet E.E. Cummings. In a series of letters between them a dramatic scene is played out.

E.E. Cummings, 1953
E.E. Cummings, 1953. World-Telegram photo by Walter Albertin. This work is from the New York World-Telegram and Sun collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.

Rodman and his wife visited Cummings and gave him one of Rodman’s books as a gift. When Cummings read the book, he discovered Rodman wrote biographies of poets, and accused him of being a “professional interviewer in disguise.”

Rodman was hurt by the accusation and assured Cummings he only wanted to be friends and not secretly interview him. The writers seem to have made up and Rodman later included Cummings’ work in one of his anthologies.

See Rodman’s correspondence with E. E. Cummings and other literary figures in his papers at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center.

  • Post contributed by American Heritage Center Simpson Institute Archivist Leslie Waggener.


Posted in Authors and literature, Journalism, Poetry, Political history, Politics, Uncategorized, writers and poets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AHC’s Toppan Library: Moving Toward Improvement

Behind the scenes at the archives, it’s bustling and constantly moving. That’s the case more than ever as we move materials from the Toppan Rare Books Library into one consolidated space. It’s the biggest physical move of our collections to take place since relocating into the Centennial Complex 25 years ago.

And this is only part of it! There were many books to move from the Toppan Library to their new home in the book vault. The Library will now be a teaching space and display space featuring Toppan Library treasures.

When we began this project in early January, moving 950 cubic feet of books from the existing library into the already half-full book vault seemed daunting. Would it all fit? Would it be an improvement to the current system? What troubles would we run into along the way? We had many questions but, with an excellent team, we put our heads together and launched the project.

As the project manager and a full-time UW student majoring in business marketing and management, I had a full plate. I’d been at the AHC for three years, learning the ropes of the archive and immersing myself in a field of work very different from my area of study. I was eager to gain experience from spearheading this book move project; merging my two areas of interest. I was thrilled to dive into the collection and see all it had to offer. I saw the wide range of subject matter, various printing and binding techniques and, most impressive to me, the vast history embedded in each book, all while applying skills of project management I’d developed in my degree path.

The first step was to create a detailed inventory of the existing collections located in both the book vault and the Toppan Library to begin planning the logistics of the move and evaluating the physical space available. From there it was a matter of clearing as many carts as possible to be able to safely transport books down one floor and across the building into their new homes. We soon realized that the movable compact shelving, which maximizes space by eliminating aisles between rows, only allowed us to open one range at a time. This proved to be our biggest hurdle as we sought to maximize efficiency as we re-shelved books.

AHC employee Ashley Dewey hard at work in the book vault, April 2020.

Within the first month of the book move project, we hosted one university-related photoshoot in the ever-changing library, accommodated four class visits, and successfully rehoused 40 collections to new shelves in the vault. During the whole move process, the library collections have been accessible to the public too. As I said, constantly bustling.

Now that we are more than halfway finished with the move, the path to the end of the project is clearer than ever. We have successfully moved 75 collections with just a few remaining cabinets in the library to be emptied. Managing this project has been a whirlwind full of learning experiences and further skill development for me. I even think I got a little stronger moving all these books! We’re excited to have a better-organized system and one cohesive space dedicated to the specific needs of the Toppan Rare Book collection.

– Post by Emily Hakert, AHC Archives Aide and Book Move Manager

Emily Hakert is a senior at the University of Wyoming, and has worked extensively with the AHC’s Anaconda Geological Documents Collection, and also in rare books as a part-time employee. Based on her strong knowledge of AHC collections, and project management skills, she was promoted to Book Move Manager in January in order to plan, coordinate, and oversee this important project. She oversees two additional part-time employees as part of the book move team.


Posted in Authors and literature, behind the scenes, Centennial Complex, Current events, rare books, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment