Jan 2000 Volume 22 Number 2
by Stephanie Simon, in the Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2000.
It's filthy. And it's dark: It's completely black, as it descends for a full anxious minute--lurching and rumbling down, down until it creaks to a bumpy stop. It's not very welcoming, that's for sure. And that's exactly the point. For the only place this elevator goes is a high-security cavern--an unusual warehouse crammed full of treasures about 650 feet beneath the Kansas prairie.
Here in a salt mine, a local firm, Underground Vaults & Storage, has built quite a business keeping important stuff safe. Tornadoes can't touch its vault burrowed the equivalent of 60 stories underground. Floods cannot permeate the thick shelf of salt that doubles as the warehouse ceiling. There are no seismic faults nearby that anyone knows of. Plus, the mine naturally retains a year-round temperature and humidity considered nearly ideal for preserving paper and film.
So it is that secret government documents, hospital X-rays and generations of records from insurance providers, banks and international corporations all end up here, under a heartland wheat field. So it is too that the original prints and discarded outtakes of Hollywood history--from Charlie Chaplin to "Gone With the Wind" to "Star Wars" --have landed in a town where the skyline consists of a peeling grain elevator.
"The salt is so pretty, the way it glistens on the walls, that you feel very safe and comfortable here," said Caryl Davis, a data clerk who has worked in the warehouse for 20 years. "I find it relaxing. I get almost mesmerized by it." There's also the thrill of working around history.
On one shelf, you might find original negatives of "The Simpsons." On another, prints of "MASH"--every single episode. Elvis films. "Casablanca." In this box, appropriately enough: "Journey to the Center of the Earth."
Studios ship archives here not only for security but also because the mine's climate can preserve color film for hundreds of years. (The ideal environment would be a bit colder, so some studios use air-conditioned above ground facilities). The hollowed-out mine holds an eclectic assortment of personal treasures, including coin collections, rare Bibles, wedding dresses, and an historic McDonald's sign that was once a Kansas landmark. Anything that can fit on the elevator (or be chopped up and reassembled below) can be stored here for an annual fee of $1.80 per cubic foot of space.
by Suzanne Muchnic, in the Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1999.
The Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino will announce today its acquisition of a vast collection of works by William Morris (1834-1896), a multifaceted British artist and designer known as the father of the anti-industrial Arts and Crafts movement. The collection of stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, tapestries, embroidery, carpets, drawings, ceramics and more than 2,000 books--amassed by Sanford and Helen Berger and currently stuffed into every nook, cranny, closet and shelf of their Carmel seaside home--is the world's most important Morris holding in private hands, according to leading scholars.
The Huntington is planning to inaugurate a small rotating display of pieces from the collection in about six months. A large exhibition will be presented in three to five years. The Huntington declined to disclose the purchase price of the collection, but experts pegged the market value at three to four million, adding that the scholarly value of the Berger holding far exceeds that sum.
Several libraries have complete sets of books published by Morris' Kelmscott Press, and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York has "a fabulous collection" of books and related manuscripts, he said. The Berger acquisition will put the Huntington in a league with the Morgan Library but also give the California institution a vast assortment of decorative objects. The most spectacular example is an 18-by-11-foot stained-glass window that depicts 10 three-quarter-scale figures on separate panels, displayed in various windows of the Bergers' home.
They also have squirreled away dozens of rolls of hand-printed wallpaper and intricately carved wood printing blocks, a richly embroidered silk fire screen, a ceramic tile panel that illustrates the story of Cinderella and delicate watercolor sketches for a variety of functional products.
There is the famous dye book from the Merton Abbey workshops, with formulas for the chemistry involved in the dye process and swatches of fabric. There are two registers of all the stained-glass windows executed, more than 700 of them. And there are endless files of photographs of cartoons of the windows, which members of a church committee could look at when they were choosing subjects for new windows.
Far more than ordinary acquisitors, the Bergers are also assiduous researchers. The record of the windows is an invaluable resource, but incomplete, Sanford said, so he and Helen set out to fill the gaps. After 25 years they have visited 360 churches in England to document the windows and correlate their findings with material in the archive.
"The whole thing was assembled--partly because of our love of the design process--to show how a concept develops and becomes the final object." For example, proof sheets provide a step-by-step look at "what it takes to put together a book that's a work of art," Berger said.
in the The Washington Post, November 30, 1999
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History announced Monday that the body of Hsing-Hsing, the National Zoo's beloved giant panda, will be preserved and go on display early next year. The museum, which was given the panda's skin and skeleton, will put him on display in its rotunda at first, then move him to a prominent place in a new Hall of Mammals that will open in 2003, a museum spokesman said. Hsing-Hsing had enthralled visitors to the National Zoo since 1972, when he and Ling-Ling, his mate, arrived from China.
by David Lamb, in the Los Angeles Times, December 10,1999.
Imelda Marcos' 3,000 pairs of shoes may have been an international joke, but here in the shoe-making capital of the Philippines they're no laughing matter. The former first lady, city officials say, put Marikina on the global map. Within the next month, Marikina will formally say "thank you" to Marcos. In a stone building on Shoe Street this city in metropolitan Manila will open the nation's first footwear museum.
On display will be 200 pairs of shoes that the irrepressible, flamboyant jet-setter Marcos wore on her worldly wanderings." Newspapers around the world made a big fuss about madam's shoes, and some of the stories weren't so nice. They didn't even say the shoes were made in Marikina," Villanueva said. "So now we hope people will realize she really helped the Philippines' shoe industry.
When President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife fled Manila the first lady left behind 3,000 pairs of size 8 1/2 shoes in the basement of Malacanang Palace, arranged by color and neatly stacked on row after row of wooden racks.
With the Marcoses in exile, the government opened the palace to the public. The display there showing 1,200 pairs of the former first lady's shoes proved to be one of the Philippines' top tourist attractions, for locals and foreigners alike. The government tired of all the attention given to the Marcoses and put the palace off-limits to the public in 1992.
A humbler celebrity might shudder at being the star attraction of a shoe display. But not Imelda Marcos. "As soon as I told her Marikina wanted to build the museum," recalled her friend Sol Vanzi, "she said, 'That's perfect. What can I do to help?'" Marcos has promised to show up at the official opening and provide personal histories for each pair of shoes at the museum. She supported the century-old shoe industry in Marikina by sending tanners and designers abroad to learn their craft and, of course, by wearing Marikina shoes, about 60% of which are still made by small family-run businesses.
by Tony Perry, in the Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2000.
Ten valuable and artistically acclaimed pieces of Native American pottery have been stolen from a museum on the eve of a major exhibit--the first theft in the museum's 85-year history. A thief invaded the Museum of Man in Balboa Park about 2:30 a.m. Monday by breaking a small side window and then took the pottery from display cases, police said. The break-in was detected by motion sensors installed by a private security firm but, for reasons that have yet to be determined, the firm did not notify police.
The thief walked past items of greater value and equal portability to take a piece by Maria Martinez and nine by relatives of the Hopi potter Nampeyo. This selectivity has led to speculation among museum officials that the thief was seeking specific works, but police said they have no evidence to confirm that.
"At this point in the investigation, we do not know if was committed by a passerby or by an organized ring of thieves," said police spokesman Bill Robinson. None of the stolen pieces were by Juan Quezada, the legendary, self-taught artist from northern Mexico credited with sparking a revival of an ancient art form.
The Quezada pieces are the centerpiece of the "Magic of Mata Ortiz" exhibit, scheduled to open Saturday. The stolen pieces, insured for $26,000, were pots and bowls and other ceramic forms in the traditional colors of brown, sandstone and red. All are owned by the museum and etched with the museum's name.
The Martinez piece dated from 1915, the pieces by Nampeyo's grandchildren and great-grandchildren from the 1960s to 1980s. "Any ethical gallery owner or collector will not buy them because they'll know they're stolen," said Grace Johnson, a museum curator. Even for art that has been marked, however, there is an illicit market of dealers and collectors, said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alexis de la Garza, who prosecuted the former director of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles for stealing and selling art.
The thief left behind fingerprints, footprints and a bloody handkerchief. There were no signs of ransacking, but two pieces of pottery were chipped, apparently as the thief was opening the cases.
The "Mata Ortiz" show will feature 250 pieces done by Martinez, Nampeyo, Quezada and native potters influenced by them. Quezada, the only one of the three still living, will attend the exhibit.
in the Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, November 30, 1999.
Medical students completing their training in private hospitals as residents, interns and fellows are entitled to form unions to negotiate wages and hours, a divided National Labor Relations Board has ruled. The 3-2 decision overturned a 23-year precedent that had classified doctors-in-training as students, denying them collective bargaining rights.
Interns, residents and fellows while they may be students learning their chosen medical craft, are also "employees," protected under the National Labor Relations Act, the board said in its Friday decision. Dr. Andrew Yacht, chief resident for internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, said many interns and residents were hopeful the board's ruling will bring relief, for example, from the notoriously long hours they typically work. "Resident physicians deserve a voice in determining their working conditions in order to deliver the highest quality patient care," he said.
The NLRB decision cited other professions in which individuals serving as trainees, such as associate lawyers and apprentice architects, are considered employees protected by federal laws. There are about 100,000 medical interns, residents and fellows working in the nation's hospitals. They generally have completed four years of medical school, but several more years of hands-on training is typically required for certification in their chosen medical specialties.
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