T.M. Berry Project: HMM. . .

Unidentified Object from Berry CollectionBy Laura Laugle

My work on the Berry Project for much of this week can be best summed up by one word: “wonder.” Many factors have contributed to this conclusion. Unfortunately one of them is “I wonder what on Earth that is!” (Please feel free to tell me if you have any idea what the metal object pictured could be, because I haven’t the foggiest.) For the most part though, I’m referring to the almost constant sense that I’m reading a great epic novel, except that its chapters are all out of order. For instance, I’ve come across items linking Theodore Berry with arguably three of the most influential public figures of the 1960s: John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry Kissinger. The photograph of Berry with Martin Luther King Jr. had, at some point before I found it, been put in an envelope with unrelated photographs from a wide variety of events, places and time periods.  The Kennedy photo comes from a campaign pamphlet andTed Berry with John F. Kennedy offers only the caption reading “President John F. Kennedy greets Ted Berry in the White House” as context. An invitation to “Dinner with the Honorable Henry A. Kissinger” was in a manila envelope overflowing with invitations to galas and birthday parties from the 1960s through the 80s.

Berry and Martin Luther King, Jr.Invitation to Dinner with Kissinger

Even though I know that these items are important, and even to some extent why they’re important, I still have no context in which to place them. “I wonder why Berry met JFK… Could he have been at the White House acting as a member of the NAACP? I wonder if he met Dr. King on the same occasion as he met Kennedy… Did they get a chance to talk much? If so, I wonder how they got along. Did Ted Berry accept the invitation and make small talk across the dinner table with Henry Kissinger? I wonder how that went.” I just don’t know; and that bugs me. This out-of-context experience continues to drive home the importance of the provenance of archival materials; without it, some things just don’t make sense. Now, to puzzle out these mysteries…

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $61,287 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the Archives and Records Administration to fully process the Theodore M. Berry Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library.  All information and opinions published on the Berry project website and in the blog entries are those of the individuals involved in the grant project and do not reflect those of the National Archives and Records Administration.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of NARA.

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