Artists in the Archives – William Mozart McVey (1905-1995)

Bill McVey, artist, teacher, and athlete, was born in Boston in 1905 and moved to his home town, Cleveland, Ohio, with his parents in 1919. Big and athletic, he enjoyed football in high school, and after entering the Rice Institute in 1923 as an Architecture student Bill was promptly recruited for the team. McVey was elected Slime President (president of the freshman class at the Rice Institute) and became notorious for his good-natured shenanigans: there is a wonderful story in the Thresher about his escaping the pursuit of the sophomore class for days before the Freshman Ball. He made All-Southwest Conference as a defensive tackle in his first year at Rice, playing for Coach John Heisman’s football team. McVey fully enjoyed undergraduate life in Texas; however, by 1925 he decided to return to home to attend the Cleveland School of Art.

After graduating from the Cleveland School of Art in 1928 McVey set sail for Paris, became a student of Charles Despiau (an assistant of Auguste Rodin), and attended the Académies Scandinave,  Colarossi, and  la Grande Chaumière. Returning to Cleveland in 1932, McVey sculpted early works for the Works Progress Administration. He also married Leza Marie Sullivan, a ceramics and textile artist. In 1934 McVey returned to Texas to work, receiving the commission for the frieze and bronze doors of the San Jacinto Monument. He sculpted the bronze statue of Jim Bowie in Texarkana and the pink granite memorial to David Crockett in Ozona in celebration of the Texas Centennial in 1936. His most controversial work, a nine-foot statue of Sir Winston Churchill smoking a cigar, stands on the grounds of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. One of his last works was a life-sized bronze of John Heisman, now on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Several pieces of McVey’s work can be seen at Rice University. The figure “Energy” at the entrance of the Abercrombie Engineering Laboratories depicts man converting energy from the sun. Cohen House, the faculty club, is decorated with his bas-relief portraits of distinguished professors. McVey and his wife, Leza, created terra cotta plaques depicting college life for the commons at Will Rice College and the original Hanszen College. The Woodson Research Center in Fondren Library holds a bronze bust of Architecture professor William Ward Watkin that we spoke about here. You can find more about Bill McVey and his work in his papers at the Woodson Research Center.

Images from:
Rice University Review, Vol 2, No. 1
1925 Campanile
Rice University Photo Files, Abercrombie Hall

KTRU Tuesdays: KPFT Bombing

KPFT has been in the news lately with a staff shake-up. While the KTRU archives recount the KPFT Pacifica strike dating from 1971, today we’d like to highlight the news reports surrounding the KPFT bombing by the KKK in 1970 and its aftermath. What follows is a series of news accounts from KTRU, usually featuring KPFT’s station manager Larry Lee, which document the aftermath, the Houston Police Department’s response, as well as the role of the FBI.

Image from: The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 58, No. 6, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 8, 1970

Music in the Archives – Charlotte and Maximilian (1846-1927)

 

The Woodson’s international patrons use our archival collections in wonderful and inspiring ways. Recently Adriana Ruiz Razura of the Universidad de Guadalajara researched the Charlotte and Maximilian Collection, reviewing Mexican sheet music from 1862-1867. Her selections of this music were used in an orchestral concert in Mexico City (and a future concert in Guadalajara) of music that expresses the national character of Mexico.

 

 

Ruiz Razura is also searching for music celebrating one of the Dominican founders of Guadalajara, Fray Antonio Alcalde. She is shown here consulting with the Fondren Music Librarian, Mary Brower, and Music Catalog Librarian, Keith Chapman.

Destroying Digital Media

There will be times when our content creators, especially those that are deceased, have no say over what digital files will end up at the Woodson Research Center. Due to the nature of digital files, future donors may not want to sort through what files should or should not be donated. All of this is to say that sometimes we get media that contain files that are of a very personal nature, have no research value, and could be seen as an invasion of privacy.

When that happens, and we can’t offer it back to the deceased owner, we destroy the media. Erasing the files from the media is not enough. The content can still live in the slack space until it is covered up with new content. Obviously, we will not re-use media, so destruction is the only answer.

We did just that recently with these two thumb drives. We soaked them in water and then smashed them with a hammer. The soaking phase can be skipped next time, but the smashing phase was definitely a winner.

smashed-drives

Art in the Archives – Oil Painting of Frederic William Browne (1877-1966)

 

In 2007 Ray Watkin Strange made another gift to the Woodson Research Center of an oil painting by Frederic W. Browne, framed in 1917. Painted in the impressionist style, the view of a French village, like many of his works of the period, evokes a restful vision of the country washed in a silvery gray light.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Frederic Browne grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1911 he went to France and attended the Académies Julian, Colarossi, and de la Grande Chaumière. He toured France, Sicily, and Tunis during the four years he studied in Paris, returned to the U.S for a short period, and revisited France in 1917, working there for another four years. In 1925 Browne accepted a position as an instructor in Architectural drawing and painting at the Rice Institute; in 1935 he joined the art faculty at the University of Houston, where he remained until he retired.

Art in the Archives – Watercolors of James Chillman Jr. (1886-1952)

 

The Woodson Research Center is fortunate to hold two watercolors by James H. Chillman, Jr. “Chemistry Building Construction Scene”, dated 1924, is an architectural sketch of the construction of the Chemistry Building. This was the first Institute building that was designed by William Ward Watkin in collaboration with Cram & Ferguson.  It was also the only permanent academic building constructed in the interwar period at Rice. Finished in 1925 and renovated in 1998-2000, the building (now W. M. Keck Hall) includes humorous reliefs/sculptures of student life which were designed by Chillman. The watercolor was gifted to Pender Turnbull by Helen Chillman (the daughter of James Chillman) in 1973. Turnbull, a graduate of Rice Institute in 1919 who worked in the library as Bibliographer and Curator of the Rare Book Room, left it to the library.

 

 

The second sketch, “Gardens of Doria Palace, Genoa”, dated 1922, belonged to long-time supporter of Rice and the archives Ray Watkin Strange, who donated it to the Woodson Research Center. The centuries-old gardens belonged to the Doria Pamphili family of Genoa, Italy. Dr. Chillman doubtless sketched the gardens while spending three years as a fellow in architecture at the American Academy in Rome. He returned to an appointment in the Architecture Department of the Rice Institute in 1922, and became the first director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Woodson holds Chillman’s papers, and he will be featured in a future post.

Book Inventory Madness

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As a way to whip ourselves into shape, we’re scanning all of the barcodes on our more than 36,000 books.

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We scan the barcode with the wand. If the barcode works, then it is logged in the inventory. If not, we get an error message.

We want to make sure that all of our books:

  • have barcodes
  • the barcodes are linked to their corresponding record
  • find any other problem children

While the work has been a little slow, we’re moving along at a pretty good clip. We’ve also had a lot of help from Access Services.

Art in the Archives – The Fondren Library of Rice Institute (1952)


Hanging over a desk near the Carroll and Harris Masterson Texana Collection is a pastel/multi- media drawing of Fondren Library in 1952. The drawing is a view facing the library from the quad, showing the cloisters, the ornamental shrubs and cypress trees, and the statue of William Marsh Rice.

The library was not identified in the original Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson General Plan for the Institute; instead, a temporary space was created in Lovett Hall (the Administration Building.) This space became inadequate by the 1920’s, but it was not until the 1940’s that the Institute initiated planning for a library. In 1946 Ella Cochrum Fondren and her children donated the money for construction of the library in memory of Walter W. Fondren, co-founder of the Humble Oil & Refining Company. John F. Staub, one of Houston’s influential architects and a student of Cram’s at MIT, designed the building, the first on the Rice campus with air conditioning. Fondren Library opened in 1949, three years before creation of the drawing.

The mixed media/pastel was created by Texas artist Edward Muegge “Buck” Schiwetz (1898-1984). Schiwetz studied architecture at Texas A & M, but never practiced. After a year studying in New York at the Art Students League he returned to Texas, founded an advertising firm and began exhibiting his art. Schiwetz generally chose historic buildings, oilfields, and natural scenes in Texas as his subject. He exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Watercolor Society, the Philadelphia Watercolor Society, the Architecture League of New York, and the Library of Congress; by 1948 he had one-man shows in five Texas museums. In 1966 he left advertising to focus solely on art. We don’t know the story of Schiwetz’s drawing of Fondren Library, but would love to hear about it if you know more.