Shure Inc. Archives

In 1925, Sidney N. Shure founded a company in Chicago that supplied radio parts.  Eventually, the Shure Radio Company evolved into a company known for its high-quality microphones.  In 1939, the company created a microphone known as the Unidyne, which eventually became its most iconic one.  Not only did famous rock stars, such as Elvis Presley, use it, but so did John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. during some of their famous speeches.

This is a 1993 U.S. postage stamp of Elvis Presley singing into a Shure Unydine microphone.

With several international offices and thousands of staff, Shure Inc. has a library that provides resources for its many employees.  Therefore, Shure Inc. has a librarian who manages all of these resources, many of which are databases and ebooks.  The librarian is also the company’s archivist.  I was privileged to have the opportunity of visiting the (usually inaccessible) Shure archives with an archivist group.  The archivist/librarian led the tour.  However, it was also led by another Shure employee who is currently creating a digital collection of their archival materials, since having that information handy is beneficial to their staff. 

Shure’s headquarters were originally located in Chicago, and then in suburban Evanston, Illinois from 1956 to 2003.  They then moved to their current location in another Chicago suburb, Niles.  The public area on the current building’s main floor has a mini display about the history of Shure, which the archivist created.  She walked us through this display before taking us to the actual archives.  In addition to collecting their many models of microphones, the archivist collects microphones that survived unusual situations unharmed.  People often send these microphones to them.  For example, one microphone survived being run over by a truck, and although slightly bent, still worked.

In addition to seeing the actual archives, our tour also included Shure Inc.’s top-notch recording studio, where staff test the quality of their newly-created microphones.  However, the best part of the tour included a stop in one of their many anechoic chambers.  Anechoic means “no echo.”  Basically, this is a heavily padded room, where Shure staff can test the quality of their microphones and headphones.  The room was extremely quiet, so once we exited the anechoic chamber, the surrounding noise in the room outside was dramatically noticeable. 

Anechoic Chamber

Although microphones may not seem important enough to have their own archivist, the fact that NASA, the United States army during World War II, and famous musicians have all used Shure microphones, means that the company’s impact on history has been significant enough to document it.

Sources and Further Reading

Holmes, Allison Schein. “Wrap Up for Shure Inc. Archives Tour and Photography Demonstration.” Shure. November 18, 2019. http://www.chicagoarchivists.org/news/8127341 (accessed March 27, 2020).

“Mysteries and Treasures in the Shure Archives.” Shure. January 27, 2016. https://www.shure.com/en-US/performance-production/louder/mysteries-and-treasures-in-the-shure-archives (accessed March 27, 2020).

Rochman, Davida. “Shure History.” Shure. https://www.shure.eu/company/history (accessed March 27, 2020).

University of Chicago: Regenstein & Mansueto Libraries

The University of Chicago (not to be confused with the University of Illinois in Chicago) was ranked the 6th best National University in the United States in 2019.  Founded in 1890, this prestigious university is known for graduating Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as employing famous faculty who have made important contributions to their fields.  Additionally, Barack Obama taught at the University’s law school from 1992-2004, before he became U.S. President.

The University of Chicago has several libraries, such as a law library, math library, and archaeology library.  I believe that the current science library, the John Crerar Library, was the University’s first library. Additionally, although I have not visited it, I was told that the William Rainey Harper Memorial Library has an amazing reading room reminiscent of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books.

Currently, the main library at the University of Chicago is the Joseph Regenstein Library, which has five floors and two basement levels.  The photo on the main page of my blog was taken from this amazing library’s stacks.  I had never seen so many books in my life.  Just walking through the library gave me an exhilarated feeling, and reminded me of how much knowledge there is in the world, but how little of it a human mind can actually obtain and retain.

In 2011, the University completed an addition to the Regenstein Library, called the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library.  Because the University of Chicago is one of the largest research libraries in the United States, they do not weed (get rid of) their books to make room for more, meaning that they have accumulated several million books.  With limited real estate in Chicago, the University needed to find more space for them.  That is why the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library was built.  However, the majority of it is underground.

Below are photos of the outside and inside of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. The area located above the ground houses a bright reading room, as well as conservation and digitization labs. The glass has three layers, which blocks out 99% of the sun’s ultra-violet light.

When I visited the conservation lab, a conservator was working on a 50-pound music book from Spain dating to the 1600s.

Since I visited the Mansueto Library with a librarian group, we were given the opportunity to visit the lower levels of the building, which are not open to the public. The two underground levels house a total of approximately 3.5 million books and journals that have historically not been used or checked out often. They are stored in high-ceiling rooms reminiscent of a hardware store such as Menards, with towering rows of bins filled with books in each “aisle.” If someone wants an item housed in this area, all he or she needs to do is request it from the library’s catalog. Within five minutes, a robot retrieves the correct bin containing the book, and brings it up to the librarian upstairs. This is called an Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Only a handful of libraries in the world have this system. The room housing the books is climate-controlled and, thus, also stores the University’s rare books and special collections. If a fire should ever occur down there, the air is supposed to suck out of the room, theoretically putting out the fire. This prevents the need for a sprinkler system that could ruin the books, but also means that humans would need to leave the premises immediately.

The University of Chicago’s library system is the 9th largest academic library in North America, and the 19th largest library in the United States (The Library of Congress is #1, and two other Chicago libraries rank higher: Chicago Public Library is #5 and University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign is #6.).

Since I visited the library with a librarian group, I am not sure how easy it is for visitors to enter the library.  I believe that university students at other schools do not have much trouble if they show their student I.D., however, the Library’s website is vague about non-student visitors.  You should probably check with them ahead of time if you plan to visit.

Although the Regenstein Library’s architecture looks bleak (building in the foreground), it contains a treasure trove of books. It is located on the University of Chicago’s original football field, which was the site of the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction on December 2, 1942. This monument commemorates the event.

Sources and Further Reading

“About the University of Chicago Library.” The University of Chicago Library. https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/about/thelibrary/ (accessed January 11 2019).

“History.” The University of Chicago. https://www.uchicago.edu/about/history/ (accessed January 11 2019).

“The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library.” The University of Chicago Library. https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/mansueto/ (accessed January 11 2019).

“The Largest Libraries in the U.S.” Infoplease. https://www.infoplease.com/arts-entertainment/literature-and-books/largest-libraries-us (accessed January 11 2019).

“Libraries and Museums.” The University of Chicago. https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/libraries-and-museums (accessed January 11 2019).

“National University Rankings.” U.S. News & World Report. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities (accessed January 11 2019).

Rolfing Memorial Library

The Chicago area has many universities, both private and public.  Undoubtedly, all of them have interesting stories and materials.  Trinity International University is an example of one of them.  Located in Bannockburn, Illinois (a small suburb about 30 miles north of Chicago) since 1961, the University can trace its roots back to 1897.  During that time, Swedish immigrants, who were members of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, started a Bible school.  Eventually, this school merged with a Danish-Norwegian Evangelical Free Church’s Bible school.  Over the first half of the twentieth century, the university changed its name and location several times, and was even a part of Moody Bible Institute and Chicago Theological Seminary on different occasions.  Today, the University has over 2,000 students, although this number includes two other smaller campuses in California and Florida.

The university’s current library is called the Rolfing Memorial Library, and was built in 1974.  It was named in memory of James E. Rolfing, who was the son of the president of the Wurlitzer Company, which makes organs and pianos.  Sadly, James E. Rolfing died prematurely in an airplane crash, so his parents donated money to the library in memory of him (although, I do not know if he had any connection to Trinity).

The university’s archives is located in the library, and is named after Gleason Archer, who served as an Old Testament and Semitics professor at Trinity from 1965 to 1986.  His office was located where the archives are currently housed.  Archer knew at least eighteen languages and, according to his son-in-law, taught himself Egyptian hieroglyphs as a young boy.  Trinity has one of his typewriters, which typed in Greek.

Other interesting items in the archives include a signed copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first book, This Side of Paradise.  Because the book has library stampings in the front, it must have circulated in the library at one point, until someone realized its importance.  Additionally, the archives contains about 200 theological books, mostly written in Latin, and mostly dating from the seventeenth century.  Obviously, the archives also houses documents relating to the University’s history.  However, perhaps the papers that are of most interest to scholars are those of Carl F. H. Henry, the cofounder and first editor of the magazine, Christianity Today.  He taught as an adjunct professor at Trinity occasionally, and ultimately donated his papers there. 

My favorite items in Trinity’s archives are 11 unique book pages, mostly dating from the seventeenth century.  They originally came from the collection of Stanley Slotkin, but Trinity does not know how they obtained these book pages, which range from a musical score page, to a Hebrew and Greek commentary page, to a Quran page from 1207.  Interestingly enough, it appears as if the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History also has a page from this same Quran that Trinity has: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_808673

Stanley Slotkin was born in the U.S. to poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, but became wealthy by renting furniture to people, which was not a common practice in the 1930s.  With his wealth, he started several hobbies, which included collecting books and donating them to different libraries.  However, to ensure that many places could benefit from these donations, he disassembled the books and gave each page to a different place.  Clearly, archival practices have changed since then! 

Slotkin had other hobbies as well, such as funding peoples’ plastic surgeries.  After Slotkin funded his secretary’s plastic surgery on her nose, she found a husband soon afterward, so this inspired him to sponsor plastic surgeries regularly.  Additionally, Slotkin created the first blood bank in Israel during its war for independence in 1948, and also gifted different museums with stones from Bethlehem.  More information about this unusual man can be found in the links below.

One final noteworthy artifact at Trinity is a 500-year-old Torah scroll from Germany (meaning that it survived the Holocaust), which was donated to the school in 2014.  It is currently on display in the library.  A Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible, and is read on a weekly basis at the synagogue, so that the entire scroll is completed each year.  Trinity’s scroll was donated by Kenneth R. and Barbara Larson, a Christian couple who have been purchasing unkosher Torah scrolls (meaning that they cannot be used in a synagogue anymore due to various reasons), and donating them to Christian universities.  Trinity was the third recipient, of what has been 55 donations thus far. 

Although Trinity does not have an archivist, you can contact the friendly library staff to see if they can give you a tour: http://library.tiu.edu/archives

Sources and Further Reading

“Archives and Special Collections.” Trinity International University. http://library.tiu.edu/archives (accessed October 25, 2019).

“History & Heritage.” Trinity International University. https://www.tiu.edu/about/history-heritage/ (accessed October 25, 2019).

Oliver, Myrna. “Stanley Slotkin; Began Abbey Rents.” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1997 https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-sep-30-mn-37823-story.html (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Page from Koran.” National Museum of American History. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_808673 (accessed October 25, 2019).

Stocker, Joseph. “He Gives People New Faces.” The Evening Independent, December 13, 1959. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19591213&id=6ZQLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bVUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4146,2427726 (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Torah Recipients.” God’s Ancient Library. https://www.godsancientlibrary.com/recipients (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Trinity Receives Rare, 15th Century Torah Scroll.” Trinity International University Newsroom. https://news.tiu.edu/2014/09/19/torah-scroll/ (accessed October 25, 2019).