Meeting Mr. Kelsey: An Archaeologist in Boxes
In the Fall of 2014, my colleague Kathryn Babayan and I began thinking of ways to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide at the University of Michigan.  Anticipating the bicentennial of the University, we envisioned a local project that simultaneously was global in scope. We began by thinking of University’s staff and faculty engagements with World War I in general and were pointed by a number of people toward the Francis W. Kelsey Collection at the Bentley Historical Museum. We were told hat this collection included the perhaps interesting encounter of a Michigan faculty with the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. It no doubt was. The exhibit eventually was based on the materials from two collections housed in the university’s archives: The Francis W. Kelsey collection and the collection of the Michigan staff photographer George Swain, who accompanied Kelsey to the Middle East. Seeking to outline the journey of ordinary Michiganders and to narrate the expedition’s encounter with the everyday of the post-war Middle East, it became immediately clear that the story we were interested in was positioned awkwardly within and lingered at the margins of the two collections that were mostly concerned with Kelsey’s and Swain’s careers and lives in Ann Arbor. Still, the collections allowed us to read about the Armenian Genocide from our local vantage point, the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor. For us, it highlighted not only the far reach of a violent history and global connectivity of the war, humanitarianism, and science, but also the problematic process of targeted reading to disentangle one story from the many contained in the archive.