From the Archives

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

GL00687

GL00687: Charlotte Kelsey acting in Iphigenia

Halloween is upon us, and it is normally a time to dress up as monsters and ghouls and scare each other for candy and treats. But not all dressing up is solely for the purpose of frightening. Often we dress up for enchantment, amazement, and entertainment. The Kelsey family was no stranger to this.

Francis Kelsey was not only an influential force on the field of archaeology and the University of Michigan campus, he was also a caring father to three children. Easton Kelsey is often seen traveling with Francis to Egypt, Europe, and other points. Even Mrs. Kelsey would accompany her husband on occasion to Tunisia or Italy. Less visible in the Kelsey archives are Kelsey’s daughters, Ruth and Charlotte. However, they all were important in the life of Francis Kelsey. While overseas, Francis would write them letters and lovingly sign each “pater.”

The study of Classics has a long history at Michigan, and even the Kelsey children were involved in the discipline. This month’s “From the Archives” showcases Charlotte Kelsey, then an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, performing in the play Iphigenia. In the 1 October 1917 performance, Charlotte plays the titular role of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon who was set to be sacrificed. Here we see Iphigenia praying at the altar.

It should not be a surprise that Charlotte was so involved in theatre. In his book, The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts, John Pedley demonstrates how important music and theatre were to the Kelsey family. Ruth played violin; Isabelle (Mrs. Kelsey) played piano; Francis and Charlotte would sing. Kelsey himself was the president of the University Musical Society, and he and family would often be found at various performances both on campus and off. And Charlotte, according to Pedley, was at home on stage, always performing, even from a very young age. Iphigenia offered a merger of theatre and classics, an endeavor that Francis surely appreciated.

This image is taken from a glass slide. Before PowerPoint, and even before 35mm slides, glass slides proved to be a useful means for teaching and entertaining. It was through the sale of such slides that Francis Kelsey met George Swain, who at the time sold slides depicting battle sites from Caesar’s time. Swain was hired by the University and accompanied Kelsey on his international voyages. Back in Ann Arbor, Swain continued his photographic practice as University photographer. Here we see Swain’s handywork as he captured Charlotte performing, and his hand-coloring skills as well (photography at the time was still black and white).

Though most searching in the archives turns up archaeological evidence and work, we sometimes come across some more personal moments in people’s lives. The archives capture not only the business side of Kelsey, but also the lives of his family, friends, people he regularly interacted with. And sometimes we capture these familiar names and faces playing dress up and having fun.

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