Site Visit to Cranbrook Educational Community

BY: Maria Bonn, Wendy Burnett, Drin Gyuk, Randy Kemp, Deborah Westmoreland

for ILS 603

DATE: 25 September 1995

Cranbrook Academy

Cranbrook Academy is an educational and cultural center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Originally founded by Detroit newspaper owners, George and Ellen Booth in 1914, it has grown to a 315 acre campus that includes an Art Musuem, Institute of Science, graduate Art Academy, and lower, middle, and upper private schools. In addition, it is home to the Cranbrook House, a model of Arts and Crafts movement architecture and design; the Saarinen house, designed by the memers of the Saarinen house who specialized in architecture and interior design; an Episcopalian cathedral decorated with Arts and Crafts movement artifacts, and an extensive formal garden. The entire campus reflects both the Booth's special support of the Arts and Crafts movement and Cranbrook's continuing philosophy that art should be integrated into every aspect of life.

Description of Collection

The Archive is housed in its own separate building on the Cranbrook campus. This building is currently taxed for space for the storage of all the archival materials. It contains about 250,000 photos and negatives and 6,500 Architectural drawings and sketches, as well as textual archival materials.

The photos, mostly of places, people, and events associated with Cranbrook are now housed in file cabinets and albums. The negatives are regarded as the primary archival collection, and the archive's emphasis is on preserving them. The pictures are a browsing collection and are considered expendable, since prints can be made from the negatives, albeit for a price. The negatives are kept in acid-free envelopes, and are labelled with a number, and description. Currently only some of the negatives are in the acid free envelopes: as the negatives are pulled for use, they are transferred to the envelopes. Money is not available for the staff hours to transfer the entire collection. The photos, in folders in filing cabinets, are organized by subject; frequently by the institution/school represented in them; they are not cataloged at the item or collection level.

The Architectural drawings are stored in large flat folders in cabinet drawers. They are cataloged to the item level in MARC format, but the cataloging system has no image capacity.

The Museum has prints, paintings, and photos. These are mostly works of teachers and students at Cranbrook, covering a variety of subject matter. There are also many prints, photos, and paintings from all periods, scattered over the Cranbrook campus. The Musuem is in charge of cataloguing and monitoring these items.

DataBase Managers

Horizon System

A Horizon System is used by the library and archive at Cranbrook. They are still working out the bugs in Horizon, and they recognize they have an authority control problem (when they typed in a test name for us as a sample search, six variations on the name came up as main entry). Horizon is based on a client/server model with check out and cataloging done in the system; it is a Windows based application, in which multiple windows can be opened at once (as opposed to text-based NOTIS-like systems)


The SNAP system, a Willoughby product, is used by the Cranbrook Museum. It is a registration system with item level description. SNAP is an iteration of Microsoft's Access. It was down on the day we visited.


The goal of the archive staff is to pull all collections held at Cranbrook into one database with image browsing and display capacity as well as text descriptions. As a first step, Cranbrook is in the process of writing a grant proposal to take 35mm slides of the Architectural drawings, scan these negatives, and then create a PhotoCD collection. They would also like to do an SGML markup of finding aids, and make these aides available on the Web, as well as making part of the image collection publicly available on the Web. Currently, they have not digitized any of the collection. Digitizing the archive will require a great deal of storage space, and Cranbrook's administration has been hesitant to grant the necessary space. Cranbrook has just recently hired a new information technology director, and they hope to resolve this issue, as well as have full internet access by the end of the year. Their internal network infrastructure is very powerful, but currently they only have email connections to the outside world.

The Cranbrook Archivists feel that all of Cranbrook's collections are under-used and under-recognized and would like to promote these collections much more extensively. They are eager to work with SILS students who have creative ideas for multimedia projects that would take advantage of and highlight Cranbrook's resources. Bill Landis, a former SILS student and current Cranbrook Archivist, is now putting together an electronic exhibition of a few of Cranbrook's photos; this will be mounted in the SILS Internet Public Library Exhibit Hall shortly.