Miscellanea, Comedy, and Archivists

This letterhead of Tafel's with a cartoon by Gary Zamchick reads "Edgar can't come to the phone right now... He's busy making our home our castle"

Archivists tend to swerve away from creating the dreaded ‘Miscellaneous’ folder, but there are usually odds and ends that one finds in an archive that just do not seem to fit. Even more feared is the folder labeled “Miscellaneous” by its own creator!

Such was the case in Tafel’s archive, where I found dispersed throughout his files humorous and satirical writings or drawings done by Tafel poking fun at architecture, such as letterhead with custom, cut-and-pasted designs by Tafel, chain emails, comics, and mocking phrases (“The flogging will continue until morale improves” was used on one version of Tafel’s letterhead!).

Gradually, however, while gaining knowledge of an architect through their archive, an archivist can sense an overall theme to seemingly ‘miscellaneous’ files. In Tafel’s case, his satirical writings and drawings are proof of his engaging, charming personality. As if the countless letters of praise for Tafel’s lectures also found in the archive were not proof enough! Once the Tafel archive finding aid is published online, examples of his letterhead and other humorous files can be found under his Personal Papers.




3 thoughts on “Miscellanea, Comedy, and Archivists

  1. Thumbs up, such a cool post! I’m a federal historian who has learned A LOT about the human side of people by studying the “miscenllaenous” stuff in their files. Especially enjoy the whimsical (which many — but not all! — people in Fedland shield) when I find it and see it! The dollar bill is so funny. Thanks ever so much for posting this. Glad I discovered your blog today — I look forward to more to come.

  2. Thanks Maarja, I like discovering archive blogs as well! Sometimes miscellaneous files can be a headache, but they always contain something random and interesting!

  3. This is like the miscellaneous, and often quite humourous comments on snakes, hurricanes, old school mens’ shirts, cognac, et cetera, said by Cedric Price during his archival interview for the materials he donated to the CCA I catalogued. I had to somehow record them in the catalogue record I made: http://www3.cca.qc.ca/ipac20/ipac.jsp?session=134P65243B359.574&profile=cca&source=~!cca&view=subscriptionsummary&uri=full=3100001~!201827~!1&ri=2&aspect=subtab62&menu=search&ipp=20&spp=20&staffonly=&term=cedric+price&index=.GW&uindex=&aspect=subtab62&menu=search&ri=2#focus. I orginally had things like “humerous anecdotes on snakes and hurricanes” scattered throughout the Notes section, but it grew too large and unruly. Instead I sadly removed them, and used “Includes personal anecdotes and discussion of miscellaneous subjects throughout” as a catch all-note for all of them. I find it’s in those “Miscellanea” where you engage with the real person behind the work. We are so luckly to work with such intimate documents of these great architects, get to know them so intimately.

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