Friday, June 10, 2011

LDS Church Archive Trip

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011, some of my family got together and drove down to Salt Lake City. I rode down with my brother Jim, his wife Sarah, and their baby CJ. We arrived early so Sarah suggested we stop at Ruby Snap for cookies.

If you haven't heard of Ruby Snap, go to their website and check it out. They used to be called "My Dough Girl" but then Pillsbury sued them for trademark infringement. Pillsbury was right to be worried, the Ruby Snap née MDG cookies are far better than anything the dough boy company has ever or will ever produce. I hate to admit it, but these were even better than moms (don't tell her!).

The cookies are big and come in a variety of delicious and imaginative flavors. The taste, texture, and smell were all amazing. I can't describe it so you are just going to have to drive to 770 South 300 West in Salt Lake City, Utah to try them. Or you can order the frozen dough and bake them at home...I suggest driving, no dishes to do afterwards.

The cookies come in adorable white and red polka dot gift boxes that are tied up with black ribbon. The whole shop has a retro/vintage feel to it. I'm just glad they don't have a location in Logan or I'd weigh 200lbs and be broke. I had the "Maris" which was a soft chocolate cinnamon cookie with a chewy caramel center, yum!

The only thing Ruby Snap needs to be completely perfect is to sell quarts of milk to go with the cookies.

After stopping for cookie heaven we headed downtown to meet up with everyone for the main event of our visit.

My father has an old pioneer journal that belonged to his great grandfather Henry Ballard. Henry was the first LDS bishop in Cache Valley and he served in that capacity for over 3 decades. The church had acquired 2 other journals that belonged to Henry and wanted this one as well. Our journal was the oldest of the 3, dating from 1857 before his marriage to my great great grandmother Margaret McNeil, and running several decades. He was a first hand witness to many important events in Utah, Cache Valley, and LDS history. This journal is an important primary source of information from that time period and it needs to be preserved.

The journal was starting to disintegrate, some of the sections had faded so badly that you couldn't read them. It would have been too expensive to hire a private preservationist to work on it for our family. My father decided to donate the journal to the church so that they could preserve it through the efforts of their full time conservation lab in the church's new library and archives building.

So we were invited to bring the journal down, tour the archives, and show the book to the professionals in the lab.

At the library everybody had to check in with a photo ID and get issued a guest ID badge. We were escorted to a lower level and shown a film about the preservation efforts of the church.

Our tour guide then showed us some of the books and documents they had in the archives. Some of you may remember the LDS film "How Rare A Possession" about the Book of Mormon. In the film there was an Italian man studying to become a priest and then he finds a Book of Mormon without a cover and spends years trying to find the church that published it. The man was a real person and his name was Vincenzo Di Francesca. We were able to see his BofM, letters to the church, and passport. We were also shown Henry Ballard's other 2 journals as well.

Probably the coolest pop culture moment was when we got to see Elvis Presley's BofM, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine & Elvis didn't secretly convert. He had a fan and friend named Cricket who had converted and then she gave him these books. Despite his lifestyle in his later years he was raised a devote Christian and was interested in all faiths. He signed his name on the title page and actually read this BofM and made positive notes in the margins.

Next we were taken up several floors to the conservation lab where they showed us the lab and explained the work that they do, this is where I started taking photos with my phone.

All of us in the lab.

Our tour guide in the man in the white shirt.

The lab boss. We found out by coincidence that he was related to my sister in law Stacey, it really is a small world...or at least a small state.

The view from the lab...I want to work there.

The book binder/intern joined us to share her knowledge.

I like that among the fancy and highly specialized tools and products we found regular old Cut-Rite wax paper. Old school!

This is the journal. They have lasers and special equipment, we have a 50 year old plastic bag from Macey's, I think dad made the right decision in donating the journal.

The journal. This cell phone photo is blurry and poor quality but the handwriting is exquisite.

The pros assessing our crumbling treasure. It was proclaimed "Beautiful!"

A demonstration showing us how they seal documents into archival plastic sheets without damaging them. Never laminate old paper, heat is very destructive.

This video is my brother Rob and his best buddy, our nephew Tate. Tate is a handful but Rob was great with him. I can't imagine why the toddler was bored...aren't all 18 month olds interesting in document preservation and historical books? Sheesh, some kids.

After the lab we were taken into the climate controlled vaults. Notice everyone commenting on how cold it was.

Me, my oldest brother Rob, and our father Lou with the journal.

Rob and our brother in law Craig reading the journal.

Dad signing the donation papers. The family retained the rights to publish the journal and also the rights for any of Henry's direct decedents to handle and view the original at any time. We will be receiving a digital copy as soon as they work on it and have it imaged. I think I will post interesting excerpts here when we get it. I am fascinated by old books in general and journals in particular. The are even better when you are related to the people being written about or doing the writing.

After the archives my sister Heather and her mother in law headed home, and my sister in law Stacey went back to work. My parents took the rest of us out for lunch. After lunch Sarah and Jim headed back to Logan. Those of us that remained headed up Immigration Canyon to Hogle Zoo.

I haven't been to the zoo in years and it has changed so much it was almost unrecognizable. It made me nostalgic for the very dated looking buildings that I remember from my youth. Does anyone else remember those machines that you could put money into and it would mold you a plastic zoo animal? Those are all gone now, I kind of miss the smell of hot plastic.

The zoo was a lot of fun and very, um, er, uh, educational. It seemed like spring was in the air and several species were getting frisky, see the tortoise videos and the peacock video below. There was a monkey with a pet stuffed monkey, asneezing elephant statue, a smiling and vomiting juvenile orangutan, animatronic dinosaurs that spit water, a machine that produced the smell of a rhino when you pushed a button, and a prancing baby elephant. I had forgotten how fun and funny the zoo could be.

My oldest sister and her two oldest daughters at the zoo.

Caden, Megan, Elysa, and Kyla at the zoo in front of one of the dinosaurs.

Caden getting sprayed by the spitting dinosaur. He was REALLY excited about the dinosaurs, he carried around a zoo map the whole afternoon, searching for all the dinosaurs.

Caden and his map. He LOVES T-Rex. He kept telling me "T-Rex has 2 fingers like this.." and then he'd show me. At every animatronic dinosaur he'd look at the claws and then say "Nope, not a T-Rex, more then 2 fingers" and then he'd walk off saying "I know they around here somewhere!"

Holly, Kyla, Megan, and I headed over to check out the elephants and tried to find out how many of us it would take to equal the weight of a baby elephant.

Kyla hanging out on the trunk of the sneezing elephant statue.

The sneezing elephant statue in action.

There were dinosaurs that moved and made sounds, there were dinosaur bones in a sand pit that you could dig up, and there was even one you could sit on. No, Cordie, they didn't have a smaller dinosaur that you could use as a weapon while riding the big one into battle, I checked. Caden and the girls loved it, Tate on the other hand...

...he was also against sitting on gorillas...

...but luckily the other kids didn't share his prejudices.

In the empty outdoor gorilla exhibit we found a peacock who was all decked out to go courting. I should have spliced in the song "Courtin' In The Kitchen" by Gaelic Storm, but I have no idea how to edit videos, so just hum it to yourself.

In our wanderings we found these horses that used to be in the old west style fort at the East end of the zoo (it is closed off to the public now, sad.), and Megan shared with Kyla the horsemanship skills she's been learning at her equestrian lessons.

While checking out the primates we found this monkey with its very own pet monkey. In the video you can see it holding the toy and stroking it. Cute or Sad?

In between the monkeys and the new construction (where the polar bears used to be), was a playground. Caden was practicing for a career in construction.

Almost everyone who came to the zoo (I was taking the photo and dad was chilling in a shady spot with his book).

Crossing the bridge we could hear something roaring. We followed the noise and Caden hit the dinosaur jackpot! He finally found his T-Rex and there was even a zoo worker there with replicas of T-Rex teeth and bones to explain all about dinosaurs.

We went up to see the tigers in the Asian Highlands exhibit and stopped in at the replica of a Himalayan house. Elysa and Caden learned how to use chopstick...sort of.

Then we took a stroll around the reptile house. At one exhibit I looked out the window and noticed the 2 giant tortoise. The bigger one was approaching the smaller one with what can only be explained as, contrary to popular myth, great speed. They are NOT playing leap frog.

Then my niece Nicole came in from outside. She'd seen the same display and according to her they were quite noisy about it.

And then the amorous couple went for round two. All I can say is that it wasn't that much different than our neighborhood...People, learn to shut your windows! It was definitely an Animal Planet kind of day.

We finished the afternoon at the Discovery playground where the kids could run wild. The girls made a new friend on the teeter toter and Elysa had fun at the gopher exhibit.

Word to the wise, avoid the pink cotton candy at the zoo, it tasted like cherry cough syrup. I miss the old regular cotton candy on the paper cones.

We left the zoo right at closing time and the first drops of rain for the day started to fall as we were heading for the cars. Up until then the weather had been beautiful. We had dinner and then headed home. When we got back to the valley there was a huge double rainbow over the East mountains...unfortunately I was stuck in the backseat of the van between 2 car seats and couldn't get a picture of it.

All in all it was a fun day. Not a bad way to spend a day off of work.

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