AHC Director Mark Greene Announces His Retirement

Mark Greene, American Heritage Center DirectorReaders might conclude, from my vita, that I am rather young to retire.  This is unfortunately true.  I am compelled to retire because of the continuing degradation of my health since my lumbar infarction in summer 2012.  I have finally had to accept that I can no longer give the quantity or quality of attention, energy, creativity, and passion to the leadership of the AHC that the Center, its superb employees, its researchers, and its other supporters deserve.  This is a very, very difficult realization for me; I love this job and this institution.  On the other hand, it would be fair to say I should have seen this coming from a long way off.

I began my tenure at the AHC in August of 2002.  It was right in the middle of the Center’s strategic planning process.  Almost before I had unpacked my office I was leading an all-staff retreat in a log structure at Curt Gowdy state park, close to Laramie.  So in some way it seems almost fitting that still in the midst of the Center’s most recent strategic planning process, about 12 ½ years later, I must announce my retirement.  My last day at the AHC will be approximately the end of April, 2015.

Approximately a decade ago I met with an orthopedist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale who suggested at the time that I should have been on disability years before based on the severity and extent of my arthritis alone.  I laughed him off then.  I even, as most readers of our newsletter know, laughed off the notion that paraplegia would keep me from returning to the helm of the AHC.  However, since my stroke I have had serious conditions related to my heart, kidneys and several other internal organs, as well as a diagnosis of diabetes and other complications.  These were added to pre-stroke advanced arthritis in a host of joints and other conditions I’m afraid aren’t easy to discuss in a family newsletter. So my retirement will be for reasons of disability.

I have tried during my tenure at the Center to give my all toward making it a better, stronger, more visible, and more honored institution than when I arrived.  If I did succeed, it was because I had the immense good fortune to work with outstanding colleagues, whose energy and talent equaled or exceeded my own.  I will allow myself the indulgence of saying that I am particularly proud of the AHC having received the SAA Distinguished Service Award, almost a dozen competitive grants (National Endowment for the Humanities, US Department of Education, National Historic Publications and Records Commission—x3, National Film Preservation Foundation, Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund—x4, Wyoming Humanities Council—x2), significantly increased the breadth of UW departments with whose undergraduates we work, expanded Wyoming History Day, developed and/or implemented cutting-edge professional practices (including audio digitization, reappraisal and deaccessioning, minimal processing, backlog elimination, mass digitization, creating web collections, defining and publishing collection development and collection management policies), and influenced the archival profession broadly through the expansive and expert presentations, workshops, and articles produced by our superlative archivists and curators.

It has been a continuing honor as well as privilege to be the director of the AHC, to work alongside the best group of archivists in the nation, to work toward the success of student historians and senior scholars in pursuit of complex research, to work with professional colleagues across this country and beyond, and to work with the support of UW presidents, provosts, division heads, deans, and faculty members.  I have been tremendously lucky to work here. Let me give one specific example, one that also has to do with the change in leadership at the AHC.

For I must also relay the retirement of Rick Ewig, long, long-time associate director and several times interim director.  Rick’s situation is different from mine.  He has reached a combination of age and years of service to the state of Wyoming that would have permitted him to take full retirement benefits several years ago.  But as he has said to me and to others, there were just too many interesting things going on at the AHC to walk away.  But the time had finally come, he told me one day this autumn.

It is important to say that my success at the AHC, whatever success I managed to achieve, depended from beginning to end in no small measure on Rick.  Depended on my having an associate I could trust implicitly, depended on the Center having an associate director who knew more about Wyoming history than all but one other living individual, depended on the AHC having a superb director of Wyoming History Day, a remarkably well-connected and universally respected administrator who ensured that the Center was a partner with the other historical institutions in our state, in sum, a true scholar and gentleman.  When he explained his retirement plans to me last autumn, Rick knew nothing of my decision about my own retirement.

When I divulged my intentions to him we both realized that the AHC could not lose its two top administrators at the same time, for who knew how many months before a new director could be sought and installed (we will be doing an international search, and expect a large and impressive applicant pool).  The reasonable solution to the problem of a potentially leaderless AHC, would have been for Rick to retire as he had already planned—he had a date defined and plans laid—and for me to remain as director until a new one could be hired. That might delay my retirement by 6-9 months, but it seemed like the fair thing to do.

Rick instead insisted that the right thing to do was to permit me to take as much pressure off my strained health as soon as possible, and that his retirement plans could easily be put on hold for the necessary period.  So he volunteered to delay his date of retirement to occur far enough after my retirement that the Center would have had time to do an international search and hire a new director before Rick left.  I will never be able to repay his selfless act of generosity, kindness, and compassion.

But…I just cannot end on a sad note, however gallant.  So….  Most of our readers are by now well familiar with my penchant for quoting from our researchers and others as anecdotal evidence that the AHC is a world-class repository.  In this column, the quotation is a bit different, in that it expresses, better than I’ve ever been able to, the nearly visceral reaction students have to encountering original sources of history—encountering them not under glass or on line, but tactilely, directly, immediately.  Such an encounter can quite significantly change the way a young person views his or her place in the world.  This is a quote from a paper from an undergraduate history course, about a student’s required primary source research exercise:

The collection at the AHC is incredible! I can’t explain the feeling of holding a piece of literature that’s close to a century old. I’ve never been involved in something like this before. I think every student should take some time to go through some of the collections in the AHC. It actually helped me develop pride in my University and it really showed me that our school takes pride in its collections and it’s student’s education. I will be visiting the AHC again soon to handle the Buffalo Bill and Jim Bridger collections. These collections are important to me because of the stories I grew up listening to around the family campfire. In regards to History for undergrads I think this could help us develop an appreciation for Wyoming history that power points and lectures can’t even come close to doing.

Hear! Hear!  I couldn’t have invented a better sentiment on which to exit.  I am deeply grateful for your support of and kindness toward me these past 12 ½ years.  Rest assured that I will, as I know all of you will, bolster and strengthen the AHC in every way possible in future.  I look forward to its continuing prominence and excellence.  Thank you, and farewell.

 –Mark Greene, AHC Director

 

 

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Mick McMurry’s Contributions to Wyoming Extended Far and Wide

ah560001_526In 2010, the AHC began an oral history project to look at the effects of natural gas development on Sublette County, Wyoming.  We interviewed more than forty people; many were residents of Sublette County, but there was also a number of people outside that area who were very influential in that gas development.  One of them was Neil “Mick” McMurry.

In November 2010, Mick sat down with Sublette County historian Ann Noble to talk about his philosophy when it comes to oil and gas development and the chances he took in developing a largely forgotten gas field that became the Jonah Field, one of the largest on-shore natural gas discoveries in the U.S. in the early 1990s.  Mick sold his stake in the field to Alberta Energy (now Encana) and became of the Wyoming’s leading philanthropists.

Here is an excerpt from that interview:

[Jonah Field] was a great Wyoming story because a lot of good things started happening in 1991.  We bought the leases at the right moment as far as value…Fracking technology was quickly improving.  We had a very astute fracking engineer, James Shaw, and he devoted 100% of his time to McMurry Oil focused on fracking wells at Jonah, and we had a lot of other dedicated hardworking people that just focused on Jonah. Our whole company, McMurry Oil, Nerd, and Fort Collins, that’s all we had was Jonah, so we all got focused on Jonah, we didn’t look at any other investments, didn’t need to.  We had lots of needs of spending money in the Jonah. We were having success; nobody else wanted it.  And, you know, I think that just a lot of good things happened at the right moment for the State of Wyoming and McMurry Oil, and the family.

The entire interview (audio and transcript) is part of the Wyoming Energy Boom Sublette County Natural Gas Oral History Project.

The American Heritage Center joins many others in the state of Wyoming in recognizing Mick’s contributions to our state, especially to our home institution, the University of Wyoming.

–Leslie Waggener, Processing Archivist

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American National CattleWomen Films Now Available Online

Good news!  The University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center (AHC) has digitized and made accessible online 16 films and video from the American National CattleWomen records.  The collection as a whole documents the promotional activities of the organization, especially the National Beef Cook-Off contest, in particular. The National Beef Cook-Off materials includes budgets, clippings, contestant entry forms, materials relating to the promotion of the cookbooks, photographs and negatives of the events, and contestant recipes.  Some of the digitized film also documents the Cook-Off, but also covers the National Beef Ambassador Contest.

Third place cook-off winner, Frances Davis, 1974, American National Cattlewomen records, Box 19, Folder 1. Collection #5552,  University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center,

Third place cook-off winner, Frances Davis, 1974, American National CattleWomen records, Box 19, Folder 1. Collection #5552, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center,

A group of fifteen women met at the Four Bar Ranch near Douglas, Arizona, in October 1939 to form the Cowbelles, an organization to help promote the beef industry and friendship among cattle people; by 1951 it development into a national organization. The organization changed its name to the American National CattleWomen in 1986 to provide national leadership and coordinate promotion, education and legislative activities for women in the cattle industry. The collection documents the activities of the American National Cowbelles and the American National CattleWomen in promoting the beef industry and consumer education from 1951-1995. The collection includes correspondence, articles of incorporation, minutes, membership index and rosters, minutes and reports with state members and chairs, scrapbooks, news clippings, photographs, budgets, and audio visual materials relating to its annual conventions, committees, and promotional activities, especially the National Beef Cook-Off.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the American National CattleWomen records can be found in the on-line finding aid at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah05552.xml

–Jamie Greene, Archives Specialist, Digital Programs Department

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CJ Box at the AHC next week!

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We’re so excited to host this event at the AHC and we hope you’ll join us!

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Victor Gruen: Architect of Urban Renewal

Anyone interested in American architectural history, especially those intrigued by the mid-century modern style, will be pleased to learn that the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) has recently digitized part of an important collection in this area.  The AHC has digitized and made accessible online 5 films, 2 audio recordings, and a small sample of blueprints and photographs from the Victor Gruen papers.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back "Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities."  University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing.  American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Victor Gruen was an Austrian-born architect known for pioneering the design of shopping malls in the United States and urban revitalization projects in the late 20th century. He worked as an architect in Vienna until 1938 when he emigrated to the U.S. to escape World War II. He first worked as a set and store designer in New York City and then established Victor Gruen Associates, one of the nation’s leading architectural, planning and engineering firms. Gruen Associates designed the first regional shopping center, the Northland Shopping Center in Detroit in 1954 and the first fully enclosed shopping center, Southdale Shopping Center near Minneapolis in 1956. This collection contains materials relating to Gruen’s architectural career including speeches, clippings, professional correspondence, photographs, audio tape, film, blueprints, and architectural project files on shopping centers, urban renewal, and area planning.

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back "Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities."

Black and white photograph of a Victor Gruen architectural drawing. Taken from back “Project: VG Book, Heart of our Cities.”   American Heritage Center, Victor Gruen Papers, Collection #5809, Box 57.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the Victor Gruen papers can be found in the online finding aid at: http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah05809.xml

We hope you enjoy this new digital collection!

-Jamie J. Greene, Archives Specialist

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Liz Byrd: Pioneering Stateswoman, Educator, and Advocate

Photograph of Elizabeth Byrd, ca. 1960, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center, Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Papers, Accession Number 10443, Box 3, Folder 6.

Photograph of Elizabeth Byrd, ca. 1960, Harriett Elizabeth Byrd Papers, Collection Number 10443, Box 3, Folder 6. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

This week, Wyoming had to say goodbye to one of its heroes: Elizabeth (Liz) Byrd passed away Tuesday at her home in Cheyenne.  Byrd was the first African-American woman to serve in the State Legislature.  It was due to her tireless efforts over almost a decade that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day/Wyoming Equality Day is celebrated in the state.  Byrd also worked to promote the interests of children and teachers in the state, which was what compelled Byrd to first run for office.  Politics was not her first career; she had been a teacher for many years before her election to the State House of Representatives in 1980; she later won a seat in the State Senate in 1988.  She worked in education for 37 years in all, an impressive career on its own, but also advocated for children and their educators in her political capacity as well.  Byrd lived a life that was full of milestones and will be greatly missed.

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Happy Holidays from the American Heritage Center!

The American Heritage Center will be closed from December 24th until January 1st.  We will reopen on January 2nd.  See you in the New Year!

Winter solitude in the Tetons showing a cabin covered in snow with the Teton Mountains in the background. Taken from the back: Snowbound in the Tetons. Fritiof Fryxell Papers, Collection #1638, Negative #22587. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Click on the image to see it in its full glory! Winter solitude in the Tetons, showing a cabin covered in snow with the Teton Mountains in the background. Taken from the back: Snowbound in the Tetons. Fritiof Fryxell Papers, Collection #1638, Negative #22587. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

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