Photos of the past: An old record of motion
When a horse runs, do all four of its legs leave the ground?
This debate was at the forefront of an experiment in 1872 by photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Leland Stanford, co-founder of Stanford University, hired Muybridge to photograph his racehorse named Occident using a series of photographic sequences.
The Special Collections department, located on the bottom floor of Charles E. Young Research Library, has 26 different collections of Muybridge’s photographs, from landscapes to portraits of animals in motion. Deep in the Special Collections vault, there is one rare, original book named “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion.” This copy is one of only nine in the United States, according to a personal memo in 1963 from Gordon Hendricks, an art and film historian.
In a time before video cameras, Muybridge’s work shows how both animal and human bodies naturally move. He settled the horse debate by rigging up an elaborate system of cameras, compiling the photographs into a very few number of books.
“In this, parallel with the track, are arranged 24 cameras each with an electro shutter, at a distance apart of one foot, measured from the center of each lens. … Each exposure record(s) the animal,” Muybridge explains in the intro of his book “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion.”
UCLA’s copy of “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion” was donated by Albert Boni, who is known for the development of the Readex microprint system of printing photographs. With a diverse range of photographic sequences, the brittle pages hold photographs more than 100 years old.
Muybridge’s role in the history of photography cannot be understated, Hendricks said. In a book originally published in 1975, Hendricks calls Muybridge “the father of the motion picture.” The UCLA Special Collections department allows any curious student to examine Muybridge’s photos, free of charge.
And upon close examination of these photographic sequences, one can see that all four of a horse’s legs do leave the ground when it runs.
The art of the printing press
A large standing hand press lives in YRL inside a four-sided glass box. The 110-year-old cast-iron machine is sharply juxtaposed with olive green boxy couches and fluorescent lights.
“(The press is) part of the legacy of UCLA,” said Johanna Drucker, a bibliographical studies professor. “It’s part of UCLA’s history, but it’s also just a part of printing history.”
Bought in the 1960s by Andrew Horn, UCLA’s first assistant dean of the School of Library Service, the printing press was originally located in the basement of Powell Library. It became a part of the curriculum to teach students about fine printmaking because he wanted his students to have a hands-on experience to enhance their understanding of books. Only two presses remained: one in YRL and the other in Powell Library.
The University of California Board of Regents removed the presses in the early 1990s during the renovations of Powell Library. They were stored in the UCLA Clark Library for about 10 years, Drucker said. The presses were put back on public display at UCLA about two decades later in September 2014.
Drucker said the standing presses get students interested in the history of printmaking. They remain in an exhibit because they are fragile, and if handled improperly, can be dangerous, she said.
Drucker’s class during fall quarter, “Seminar in Special Collections: Exhibit Design,” created both the exhibit in YRL and a website containing the full history of the presses. She said to prepare the presses for display, they were cleaned, polished and oiled. They wanted to preserve them so future generations can still use them and take part in the art of printing.
May the Force be with you at UCLA
The legacy of Clayburn La Force lives on in the courtyard of Anderson School of Management. An inscription on a nearby pillar reads “May La Force Be With You.”
The plaque recognizes the UCLA alumnus and former dean of the School of Management from 1978 to 1993.
“He had a real vision for the school,” said Alfred Osborne, current senior associate dean of the School of Management and colleague of La Force during La Force’s tenure.
Anderson School of Management did not originally have its own buildings to house classes and administrative offices. In 1987, construction of the campus began, along with a $75 million project in 1992. The school was completed in 1995.
Though John E. Anderson donated to the school’s construction, La Force also helped establish the physical campus by advocating and fundraising for the school’s welfare, Osborne said. La Force made key hiring decisions during the school’s foundation, he said.
La Force himself was not a passionate “Star Wars” fan, but Osborne said the faculty collectively decided his name and his efforts were a great play on the famous line. Though La Force was no longer dean when the management school’s campus opened in 1995, the inscription, which has been part of the campus since its ribbon-cutting, maintained his legacy.
“The dean is obviously an important figure for any college or school, and if he is not with you, then he is against you,” Osborne said. “So the notion here, for both students and faculty, is just for his force to be with you.”
While the meaning might not be clear to everyone who sees the inscription, according to Osborne, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The inscription is meant to provoke thought and wish well to those who see it.
“To me it has been very special, whenever I go by that column, I always get a smile, because he’s always with us,” Osborne said. “He is real spirited, he was really a pivotal dean in building the quality of the faculty back in 1979.”