April 2, 2012

The Odyssey for Homer

The Odyssey, written by Homer, described the epic journey of Odysseus and his journey home after the end of the Trojan War. While I wouldn’t describe my recent research pursuits as epic, I did recently embark upon an odyssey of my own – a quest to find Homer… Homer Mitchell.

poster-weaving-thumb-200x123-73021.jpgAt the very beginning of the WAM Files project, my fellow processor Areca encountered a folder full of Gallery posters created to promote exhibits during the 1950s. There are dozens of posters, all neatly contained in a series of folders titled “Posters” that are dated by Academic Year.

Through additional research, we learned that some Gallery publicity posters were designed and created by federal student workers and WPA employees. Yet, there is only one poster that actually credits a designer. If you zoom in closely on the Weaving/General College Poster from 1952, you will see, in the bottom right corner… “Homer Mitch,” the ‘tch’ slightly faded:


I instantly wondered, who was this “Homer Mitch?” Judging by the faded “tch” (and gambling on familiarity with Midwestern names) I guessed that “Mitch” was probably “Mitchell.” And then I started my adventure… with a knee-jerk search on the Digital Conservancy no less.

The search for “Homer Mitchell” offered one result – a University Press Release from May 26, 1952. Titled, “U’ Art Students win prizes in international contest,” the release named Mitchell and four others (all enrolled in an art class taught by University art professor Robert Collins) as recipients of prizes for a poster contest.

Just for curiosity, I proceeded with a general Google search for “Homer Mitchell” AND University of Minnesota. A thumbnail image of a page from the University’s annual yearbook, “The Gopher” surfaced that included an in-text reference to “Homer Mitchell.” For access to the image however, I needed to pay a fee for a subscription to access the site.

Not to be deterred, I turned this minor roadblock into a detour and returned to the resources of the University Libraries. A search of the library collection yielded several collections of The Gopher: annual publication of the student body of the University of Minnesota. Armed with a call number, and the date of the yearbook taken from the digital image, I walked directly to Wilson Library, navigated several flights of stairs to the subbasement, and turned to enter the Annex – where I requested the 1952 Gopher yearbook.

My journey came to an end as I turned page 63 and revealed page 64, which contained a photograph of University student Homer Mitchell, working “at his part-time job doing lettering and silk screen work for art displays.”


Rebecca Wilson is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota, completing a minor in Museum Studies. She also serves as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Weisman Art Museum.

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