Celebrating Paul Dirac

Paul Dirac Teaching
Paul Dirac lecturing at blackboard, Iowa City, Iowa.

Paul Dirac was an English theoretical physicist who provided remarkable insight towards the development of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. His discoveries led to him now being famously known as the father of modern physics and a Nobel Prize Winner. These discoveries constitute his own formula, known as the Dirac Equation, to describe the behavior of fermions, which are subatomic particles, and predicted the existence of antimatter, which are corresponding particles of ordinary matter.

paul dirac in front of house (madison)
Paul Dirac standing in front of house

His contribution to the study of physics and society is commemorated on this day, the day of his death, in 1984 at the age of 82. On October 19th, the day before the anniversary of his death, several librarians and students from the physics department go out and clean his headstone at Roselawn Cemetery and plant flowers to honor the man who spent his last decade at Florida State University teaching physics students and conducting further research.

paul dirac in office at FSU
Paul Dirac in his office at Florida State University







The FSU Special Collections & Archives houses The Paul A.M. Dirac Papers that consists of correspondence, books, manuscripts of scientific papers, calculations, photographs, framed certificates, and realia. A window is even dedicated to Paul Dirac within the Heritage Museum located in Dodd Hall, to remember his work and honor his footprint within physics.

Maharishi Award conferred upon Dr. Paul A. Dirac

Can There Be a New York, The Beautiful?

Can There Be a New York, The Beautiful? is the topic of this 1968 broadcast. Irving M. Levine, the host of New York Tomorrow, questions Ada Louise Huxtable about a wide range of subjects from downtown skyscrapers to outer borough housing projects to the relationship between social environment and bricks-and-mortar construction. Huxtable, an architecture critic for The New York Times, gives a lucid overview of the state of urban planning during this fraught time in the city’s history.

Huxtable’s initial response to the program’s ostensible question is, “No, nor should there be.” Beauty is not some preconceived notion relating to manufacturing a simulacrum of the past but rather creating responses that reflect and enhance “the vitality…the tremendous mixture” of New York today. She lauds the new attitude that has come in with the Lindsay administration, pointing out that the Planning Commission can now influence construction and, in some cases, halt the razing of old buildings. In the past, the use of such municipal power was thought to be impossible. As an example, she points to the recent zoning and bonus provisions that have led to more theaters being built on the first floors of the very office towers that had threatened to overrun the Theater District.

On the other hand, there are many “tragedies,” as she succinctly calls them. The constant building of banks, crowding out more useful businesses. The deadly architectural influence of corporate America, which she scathingly refers to as the “great visual illiterate,” and the urgent need for subsidized lower- and middle-class housing so that neighborhoods can be maintained and a sense of community fostered.

Huxtable’s take is not all gloom-and-doom, but what optimism she shows, mostly relating to the young, idealistic generation of designers and planners now entering the field, is tempered by a clear-eyed view of the bottom-line profit motive that drives a city’s growth. Her prescription for moving forward? One must either “develop an extreme cynicism or preserve an extreme naïveté.” One senses from her measured responses and long subsequent career that she was able to accomplish the even more difficult feat of maintaining both these attitudes.

For six decades, Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013) gave readers, first of The New York Times, later of The Wall Street Journal, the sense that they had a stake and a say in the architecture of New York City, a business which, in the past, seemed to be transacted literally over their heads. Her indictment of soulless office towers and championing of supposedly “dated” gems from the past opened up this hitherto elitist domain to the eyes of ordinary citizens. As the New York Times recounted in its obituary:

At a time when architects were still in thrall to blank-slate urban renewal, Ms. Huxtable championed preservation — not because old buildings were quaint, or even necessarily historical landmarks, but because they contributed vitally to the cityscape. She was appalled at how profit dictated planning and led developers to squeeze the most floor area onto the least amount of land with the fewest public amenities.

An essential element in this was Huxtable’s stylistic approach, which managed to combine scholarship, passion, and a journalistic flair for engagement. Architecture does not appear at first glance to be a “sexy” beat for a reporter, but she made it one, and in doing so acquired an outsized influence both in the popular media and in city government. As Alexandra Lange noted in The Nation:

Big mouth? Yes, if volume is measured in circulation. By making the case for architecture criticism as an essential beat for a metropolitan newspaper, by turning buildings into news and serving on the Times’s editorial board, Huxtable enjoyed a career that epitomized the argument she would repeatedly make in print: architecture is “the art we cannot afford to ignore.” Her irreverent tone, her lean, pointed prose and her willingness to follow the story wherever it led her—to politics and money, to urban history and feats of engineering—made her a critic admired by colleagues who agreed about little else. She approached buildings as a journalist, adapting her style and method to the occasion, and without ever losing sight of her core constituency: the public, who would use the urban fabric, tattered or rehabilitated, long after she was gone.

Like most critics, Huxtable is perhaps best-remembered for her negative reviews. (“Doctors’ offices are where Danish modern went to die.”) Her thundering condemnation of the destruction of Penn Station is a classic and is considered by many to have given birth to the preservation movement. (“We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”) But she was also deeply appreciative of what architecture could provide. Of the CBS Building, 51 West 52nd Street, by Eero Saarinen, she wrote,

“It is not, like so much of today’s large-scale construction, a handy commercial package, a shiny wraparound envelope, a packing case, a box of cards, a trick with mirrors. It does not look like a cigar lighter, a vending machine, a nutmeg grater. It is a building, in the true, classic sense: a complete design in which technology, function and aesthetics are conceived and executed integrally for its purpose.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150908Municipal archives id: T5941 T5942

Vancouver property tax records to 2005 now available at the Archives

We are pleased to announce that after a significant transfer of records from the Revenue Services Department, the Archives can now make available property tax records up to 2005.

Map of assessment wards in the Municipality of Point Grey, with proposed changes, ~1927. Reference code: AM1594 : MAP 360

Unlike the majority of our previous holdings, these records are microfilm of tax statements (sometimes referred to as the tax roll), rather than assessments. However, the tax statements include the assessment information acquired from the BC Assessment Authority, one of the source data sets for the calculation of property taxes.

We have an almost-complete set of tax statements for the years 1976 to 2005 (1991 has yet to make its way to us), and the records include a variety of indexes that provide entry points to the records, which are organised by Tax account number.

Below you can see a sample statement (with owner’s name and address redacted):

Over the years, the statements become a little more complex as provincial grant programs and assessment averaging information are included, but the basics remain the same. The statements include:

  • assessed values of land and improvements;
  • Legal land description of the assessed property;
  • current civic address at the time of billing;
  • name and address of the registered property owner;
  • school, transit and other non-City levies that the City collects on behalf of other agencies;
  • non-tax City levies, such as Local Improvement and water rates charges;
  • information on tax reductions under various grant programs;
  • pre-payments made by the owner; and
  • interest charged on late or missing payments for previous billings.

With this transfer of City records, the CVA’s holdings of property tax records now include:

City of Vancouver (incorporated 1886-present, with significant additions 1911 and 1929):

  • 1887-1890 and 1929-1977 Property tax assessments: series COV-S435
  • 1971: Real property tax roll: series COV-S434
  • 1978-1990 and 1992-2005: Property tax statements: series COV-S289

Municipality of South Vancouver (incorporated 1892-1929, included Point Grey 1892-1908):

  • 1893-1895 and 1913-1927: Property tax assessments: series COV-SV-S221
  • 1895-1896: Property tax rolls: series COV-SV-S222

Municipality of Point Grey (incorporated 1908-1928)

Assessments for property in the region but not incorporated:

  • 1880-1898: New Westminster Assessment District assessments: AM619
  • 1896-1913: Vancouver Assessment District assessments: AM619

As a result of this transfer, we’ve taken the opportunity to update and revise our Property Tax Records Finding Aid, which lists and describes all the record series we have in our holdings relating to assessment and levying of property taxes going back to before the incorporation of the City.

You can download a copy of our new Property Tax Records Finding Aid from the Archives’ website or view it in the Archives’ Reading Room.

For researchers unable to come to the Archives to view these records, it is possible to have Archives staff conduct searches on your behalf. The charge for this service is $25.00 per property per year searched. Please contact the Archives by phone at 604-736-8561 or email archives@vancouver.ca to order tax records searches.

Sleepover at the National Archives

Washington, DC is home to some of the most fantastic museums in the world. Museums where visitors see one of a kind objects, are transported around the world through expositions, and participate in unique programming. The National Archives is one of those museums.  Here, visitors contemplate our democracy while examining the signed Constitution of the United States, travel the world as they view records documenting our interactions with other nations, and become inspired and engaged through programming for everyone pre-K to adults.

Adult and child in the National Archives Rotunda

Four years ago, the National Archives, in partnership with the National Archives Foundation, began a sleepover program for young museum goers. Designed for children 8-12 years old and their accompanying adults, these sleepovers are inspiring the next generation of historians, stewards of our nations records, and advocates for the work of the Archives. The themes for the sleepovers change, offering a glimpse into the diversity of holdings in the Archives and an opportunity for participants to come back again and again.

This past weekend, 120 participants from across the country embarked on this year’s space themed sleepover in commemoration of the JFK centennial. These participants got the “star” treatment right from the start as they paused to look through a telescope set up at the museum’s entrance.  After getting checked in, and being welcomed by both the Archivist of the United States and the Executive Director of the National Archives Foundation during orientation, sleepover goers set out to see if they were suited for space.  Hands-on activities throughout the museum engaged participants and ignited imaginations. A few examples of activities include making mission patches, putting together astronaut John Glenn’s genealogy scrap book, dressing like a space explorer, and training like an astronaut using neutral buoyancy. NARA also collaborated with the National Air and Space Museum who brought over telescopes, meteorites, and astronaut underwear, with Catherine Kruchten who taught participants how to engineer their own rockets, and astronaut George Zamka who shared experiences of his time in space. If you would like to see some of his experiences in space, look in the holdings of the National Archives. At the end of the night, everyone slept in the Rotunda next to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Setting up sleeping bags in the National Archives Rotunda

With Archives Sleepovers, participants not only see one of a kind objects, but sleep next to them. They are transported not only around the world but out of the world as they encounter the universe of space exploration. The unique programming that happens here could not happen anyplace else. Each one of the billions of records in the holdings of the National Archives unlocks a piece of what it means to be an American and adds to the stories told here.

Each amazing sleepover experience would not be possible without ideas, planning, creating, and enacting of many interns, volunteers and staff.  Each person involved in the process helps to make the Archives sleepovers a success from A to Zzzzzzz.  If you are interested in joining us, the next sleepover is set to blast off on February 24, 2018.

Anulus Nuptialis

We do quite a bit of patron-driven digitization in the Digital Library Center. A lot of it is for researchers who are unable to visit Tallahassee and we like to share these materials in DigiNole as often as possible because, as our manuscript archivist notes, if one researcher needed one, there is probably another one out there too! These sorts of requests have gotten large parts of the Admiral Leigh papers online and are the reason we’re currently working on the Sir Leon Radzinowicz papers as well. However, this one might be one of my recent favorites.

Page from Anulus Nuptialis
Page from Anulus Nuptialis

Anulus nuptialis: De amore sponsi celestis dyalogus incipit, cuiu s titulus est iste is a 1450 bound manuscript. Written in a humanistic hand by a single scribe on parchment with initials in red with gold, blue with gold and green with gold ornament, it is an unrecorded text in the form of a dialogue between Mother Scolastica and Symona and Felix, all brides of Christ, written by nuns in a convent. Ph.D. student, Rachel Duke,  here at FSU is working with this volume for her dissertation and needed high-quality reference images of the object for her work. We’re happy to be able to share out this incredibly unique work with everyone else now. I asked Rachel to share some information about the work to help people understand what it’s about. It somehow got even cooler:

It’s a dialogue, which you can see pretty clearly from the images, between Felix, Symona, and their mother Scolastica. Their lines are marked “Fe,” “Sy,” and “Ma” (for Mater). Symona and Felix are twin sisters and the biological offspring of the mother of the convent. This is during a time where a father would die and the widow and her daughters would all enter the convent.

I’m writing my dissertation about how the text demonstrates the rise of some humanist leanings in northern Italy in the 15th century, even in convent communities. Most convent literature doesn’t just have a dialogue between women, and the dialogue found here is so kind and understanding. Felix and Symona express their doubts about their ability to live up to the hefty role of brides of Christ, and Mater Scolastica repeatedly reminds them that they can find the strength within themselves to succeed in this life. It really is quite encouraging and loving. While I have a pretty good guess as to which convent this is related to (and have presented on those inklings at conferences), we don’t have a definitive answer to who these people were. Scriptoria were fairly common within convents, so there is the possibility that it was composed and even copied within a convent.

The text is in Italianate Latin, and in an extremely legible humanist hand. We can see many different colors of ink in the margins and in the decorations: (Brown, pink, purple, green, etc.). There are some locations where a space for a larger initial should have been left but the scribe likely forgot, and the letter has been squeezed in right next to it.

The book has gold brushed edges, something you can’t see in the images but is beautiful to behold in person. It is perfectly sized to fit in your hands comfortably, a little larger than the length of my hands in person.

We don’t have an exact date or location because someone has excised any information that could help us track down provenance. If you look on the first decorated folio, you can even see where someone attempted to wash out what was probably a library stamp. The colophon has an excision (actual rectangle CUT OUT from the text identifying the target audience). It is very frustrating.

We purchased this book from Laurence Claiborne Witten II, who was a pretty famous bookseller of the middle of the 20th century. He was famously involved in the sale of a likely forgery! Anulus Nuptialis might be a good starting point for a study into somewhat dubious antiquarian book sales.

Be sure to check this volume out! Even if the language isn’t familiar, the object itself is lovely to page through online.

Unexpected Names

Amherst College’s records are filled with names that would seem unusual today, like Preserved Smith (grandfather – 1828, grandson – 1901), or Heman Humphrey (2nd college president, 1823-1845). It’s less common to come across a name that stands out because it sounds modern to our ears. I was surprised when I found letters to a Crystal Thompson, curator of the Zoological Collection—written in 1923.

At first, I thought that the name might be an example of a name’s gender association changing, as with the name Leslie1, because the first letter, from Feb. 20, 1923, was addressed, “Dear Sir.”

Milton Bradley Company, Springfield, Mass. Feb. 20, 1923 Dear Sir: We have your favor of the 15th and believe your trouble can be corrected by loosening up the screw, which goes through the adjusting button on the left hand side of the rule, and taking an ordinary carpenter screw, laying it against the straight blade, square up your rule. Be sure the rule sets in position when you tighten the screw in the cam button. We enclose herewith direction card. If this should not overcome your trouble, please advise us further. Very truly yours, G. Falek.

Instructions for fixing a troublesome paper cutter, from Milton Bradley Company

However, the second letter (sent Mar. 13, 1923) was addressed to Miss Thompson. Now I was very curious.

Springfield, Mass. Mar. 13, 1923 Miss Thompson, The Zoological Collections, Amherst College. Dear Madame: We are today returning to you the Monarch Cutter. This machine has been thoroughly overhauled, and we are sure you will find it does the work you require in a satisfactory manner. We are enclosing circular showing the other sizes we manufacture. Awaiting your further favors, we remain Very truly yours, G. Falek. Milton Bradley Company.

This following letter, to Miss Crystal Thompson, reports the successful return and repair of the troublesome paper cutter.

Here was someone even more unusual—a woman working as curator of Amherst’s natural history collections. These letters are in the Department of Biology collection, with others concerning laboratory and museum supplies and material orders.

The Amherst College Biographical Record, which lists alumnae/i, college administration, and faculty, had no listing for Crystal Thompson, but the Amherst College Catalog for 1919 shows Crystal Thompson, M.A. as Curator of the Zoological Collection (as well as one Harriet Oakes Rogers, B.S., as Curator in the Chemistry Laboratory).

With a bit more research in the Board of Trustees’ Minutes, I found that Crystal Thompson had come to Amherst from the University of Michigan.  Their online yearbooks and other digital collections revealed that she had received her B.S. in 1909, her M.A. in 1910, and worked as an assistant in the Zoology Museum from 1911-1919. She co-authored several publications on regional reptiles and snakes, and their archives (via the Bentley Historical Library Image Bank, which is a digital library like our own Amherst College Digital Collections site, ACDC), has this 1918 photograph.

A young woman wearing a camp shirt, khaki pants, and field boots, sits on a tree stump in the woods.
Crystal Thompson, in woods of North Carolina, 1918. Image HS14930. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

She worked here at Amherst from 1919-1927, then returned to Michigan to be the curator of visual education when they opened a new museum building. She spent the rest of her career at Michigan, retiring in 1958.

There’s a lot that remains unknown about women employed here at Amherst College, especially before the 1940s. The first woman hired to teach was Madeleine Utter, as an interim French instructor just for the 1918-1919 academic year. Crystal Thompson was hired as curator the next year, along with Harriet Rogers for the Chemistry Laboratory.

As World War 1 was underway, there may have been a relative shortage of male candidates available, creating opportunity for these women at Amherst. Thompson’s arrival could also have resulted from the hiring of Professor Otto Glaser (who had been at the University of Michigan) as Chair of the Biology Department in 1918.

From around 1914 or so, the secretary to the President and other administrative positions are listed in the college catalogs, and names like Gertrude and Esther begin to appear. A systematic listing has not been created, but the catalogs are always available for anyone who is curious.

1. In 1900, Leslie was the 91st most popular boy’s name, while in 1997 (the last year it was within the top 1000, it was 881. As a girl’s name, Leslie was 646 in 1900, jumped sharply in the 1940s to the top 200, and remained there (hitting 56 in 1981) until 2010, when it began falling in popularity. You can search for any name at “Popular Baby Names.” Social Security Administration, 2017.

An Update on the FOIA Advisory Committee

On October 19, 2017 the FOIA Advisory Committee will meet in the William G. McGowan Theater. The three subcommittees will each present their ideas to the full Committee and the public for how to improve the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and improve FOIA processes.

As I blogged about last June, the FOIA Advisory Committee is charged with looking broadly at the challenges that agency FOIA programs are starting to face in light of an ever-increasing volume of born-electronic records, and chart a course for how FOIA should operate now and in the future. The Committee is chaired and staffed by the FOIA Ombudsman’s office located within the National Archives, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and includes twenty members with FOIA expertise from inside and outside of government who represent a wide range of interests and perspectives.

Photo of David Ferriero

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, gives welcoming remarks during the FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2016. Photo by Brogan Jackson.

At the Committee’s first two quarterly meeting, members discussed the greatest challenges in the administration of FOIA and determined in October 2016 to focus its efforts on three areas: increasing proactive disclosures; improving searches for records; and maximizing efficiencies and resources. To carry out its work, the Committee organized itself into three subcommittees, each of which is co-chaired by a government and a non-government member. Over the last year, these subcommittees have studied the issues and worked collaboratively to begin to develop recommendations to address key problems in the administration of FOIA.

One of the central themes that has emerged as the Committee work has progressed is the undeniable close relationship between a strong records management program and an effective FOIA office; and this relationship will only become even stronger as the volume of electronic records continues to grow. During the last Committee meeting in July 2017,  Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer spoke to the Committee about recent changes to federal records management policy and the steps the National Archives is taking to help transition federal agencies to an electronic recordkeeping environment and speed up the adoption of modern electronic recordkeeping practices. At the upcoming meeting, the National Archives former Director of Litigation, Jason R. Baron, will also address how the transition to electronic recordkeeping impacts an agency’s FOIA program.

I look forward to hearing about the subcommittees’ work, and to receiving the Committee’s final recommendations at the end of its term. Please join me for the October 19 FOIA Advisory Committee meeting in person and register using Eventbrite. The meeting will also be livestreamed via the National Archives YouTube Channel if you are unable to attend in person.

“Yes, type is sexy…”

We’re just over a week away from this year’s Updike Prize award ceremony, and we’re excited to welcome our featured speaker, Nina Stössinger, to Providence. If you want to get a head start and read a short article by Nina, try this one. Or maybe check out this interview with her and then follow her on Twitter.

But whatever you do, be sure to join us on Monday, October 23rd, at the RISD Metcalf Auditorium and hear from Nina in person!

From the College of Nursing: Florida State’s Part in the Cuban Missile Crisis

The College of Nursing at Florida State University has a significant history. Recently, Heritage & University Archives received a new accession from the College that illustrates when the College played a key role in being prepared for a nuclear catastrophe on American soil.

The newspaper clipping presented is from the spring of 1961, describing a “disaster drill” in an event of a plane crash and was given to the College by alumna Judith Butler White. White writes that this article describes the beginning of the implementation of the “worst-case scenario” preparation instated by President John F. Kennedy during the Cold War and that the Florida State University nursing students were part of this preparation plan. She recalls that a “Radiation Sign” and a “Location of Campus Assignment” in case of a nuclear disaster, was always hanging on her door in her room in Dorman Hall.

In October 1962, President Kennedy was informed by aircraft spies that Soviet nuclear missiles were placed within Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not only were crisis plans in an event of a nuclear disaster methodically and rapidly developed, the nursing students in the state of Florida were being trained within their programs for emergency care in an event of a nuclear attack within Florida.


newspaper clipping
Article originally from The Miami News, 1962


Although most of America views the Cuban Missile Crisis as a tragedy that never occurred, White stated that the reality of a nuclear attack was very much a possibility and the State of Florida would have actual drills for its nursing students to aid the masses of victims if such a crisis did occur. In the article, it refers to nursing students collaborating in a “disaster drill” for a plane crash, when in reality they were being prepped for the first nuclear war that the world had ever experienced.


CON POST Letter white
Excerpt from a letter sent with the newspaper clipping from donor Judith Bulter White.


Please check out our extensive materials related the College of Nursing at Heritage & University Archives. Also, portions of the College of Nursing collection are available in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository.

1964 National Book Awards Ceremony

The 1964 National Book Awards ceremony, hosted by former quiz show personality (now Rutgers University president) Mason Gross, kicks off with the prize for Poetry being awarded to John Crowe Ransom. Ransom, grumbling about the five hundred word limit imposed on recipients, delivers a rather ornate and florid defense of lyric poetry, seeing it as “a homage to external nature, despite the griefs it causes us, and to human nature, despite its hateful and treacherous tendencies…” Valery and Bergson are then cited in an argument for the poet’s seeming immorality. The Devil, after all, must exist, or the job of temptation would fall to God. As if reveling in this excuse to behave badly, Ransom notes he has exceeded his five hundred word limit.

The prize for History goes to William H. McNeil, for The Rise of the West, still a much-respected work in the field.  The winner for Science, Philosophy, and Religion goes to Christopher Tunnard and Boris Pushkarev for Man-Made America: Chaos or Control? which warns of creeping urban blight and suburban sameness. The Art and Letters award goes to Aileen Ward for John Keats: The Making of a Poet. In her acceptance speech, she graciously recommends a rival biography of Keats published in the same year, Walter Jackson Bate’s magisterial John Keats.

The Prize for Fiction goes to John Updike for The Centaur. Updike, just days short of his 32’nd birthday, sounds strikingly young and endearingly nervous, a far cry from the self-assured media smoothie of later years. He makes a plea for “accuracy or lifelikeness” in fiction, which he admits sounds strange coming from the author of a book about Greek gods and goddesses appearing in rural Pennsylvania. But this, he insists, was reality for him. “…each of us who claims to be writers should strive, I think, to discover or invent the verbal texture that most closely duplicates the tone of life as it arrives on his nerves.” He goes on to describe the current writer’s condition as being one of isolation, both from other writers and from those of the past. “The writer now makes his marks on paper blanker than it has ever been.”

The second part of the ceremony is reserved for a paper delivered by the distinguished physicist and Nobel laureate I. I. Rabi. Entitled Science and the Other Culture, it makes the by a now familiar plea for a cessation of hostilities, both real and imagined, between science and the humanities. Rabi doesn’t do his cause much good by first reading a nasty description of scientists in academia by former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins and then responding in kind. He goes on to envision a future shaped by what he sees as the three most important scientific achievements of the age: weapons of mass destruction, the great advances in communication, and the challenges posed by automation. Poets, scholars, and other representatives of the humanities “missed the bus” in the 18’th century when the Industrial Revolution was changing the face of the earth. Rather than sneer at and retreat from scientific advances they should have plunged in and tried to integrate the new earning with the old. He makes a plea that in this upcoming revolution, which he predicts will be just as earth-shaking as the last, such notables as the members of this group do not make a similar mistake. One senses a great deal of sincerity in this request. Rabi was a man of striking moral and ethical principles. He refused to work on the Manhattan Project and never patented any of his discoveries. One also senses a fair degree of exasperation.

The official part of the ceremony concludes with the reading of a telegram from President Johnson.

John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974) is best remembered now as a founding member of the literary group known as the Fugitives (later called the Southern Agrarians) and for his championing of the New Criticism. Both in his poetry and later critical writings, he extols virtues associated with a long ago and perhaps non-existent past. As Richard Gray observes on the Poetry Foundation website:

…the thesis that nearly all of Ransom’s writing sets out to prove, in one way or another, is that only in a traditional and rural society—the kind of society that is epitomized for Ransom by the antebellum South—can the human being achieve the completeness that comes from exercising the sensibility and the reason with equal ease.”

John Updike (1932-2009) was a prodigious talent, writing short stories, novels, poetry, casual humor pieces, and, in its quiet, unassuming way, probably the most far-ranging and penetrating critical oeuvre in American 20’th century literature. Updike’s closing plea in this speech, that the writer make something “useful and beautiful and, in a word, good,” dovetails neatly with the assessment handed down by the magazine he was forever associated with. In its obituary notice of Updike, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker writes:

Updike’s great subject was the American attempt to fill the gap left by faith with the materials produced by mass culture. He documented how the death of a credible religious belief has been offset by sex and adultery and movies and sports and Toyotas and family love and family obligation. For Updike, this effort was blessed, and very nearly successful.

Isidor Isaac Rabi (1998-1988) was a brilliant physicist but also, as his contribution to these proceedings shows, deeply committed to the advancement of a cohesive, morally aware culture. A government insider, he was a strong voice for arms reduction and international control of atomic energy. Regarded by many as the conscience of the scientific community, he seemed utterly uninterested in personal gain. In his New York Times obituary he is quoted as recalling:

In the late 1930’s, I and my friends sat around and talked about what we’d do if we had a million dollars. I thought and thought and finally I said, ‘I think I’d buy a new hat.’


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150015Municipal archives id: T53 and T54

Deep-C Joins the Digital Library

One of our brilliant student workers just finished describing a born-digital collection for the University Archives. We’ll let her tell you more!

My name is Meg Barrett, and I’m a junior studying Art History and French. I started working as a Special Collections & Archives assistant last summer. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really interesting projects. Most recently, I finished creating the metadata for the Deep-C Consortium papers.

The Deep-C (Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico) Consortium was a four-year, interdisciplinary study of deep sea to coast connectivity in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. The study, which began in 2011, investigated the environmental consequences of petroleum hydrocarbon release in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health. Deep-C examined the geomorphologic, hydrologic, and biogeochemical settings that influence the distribution and fate of the oil and dispersants released during the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) accident, and used the resulting data for model studies that support improved responses to possible future incidents. You can still visit the study’s website for more information as well.

As somebody who enjoys studying arts and languages, the idea of going through the Deep-C files, which are focused on scientific research, felt very out of my comfort zone. However, as I began sorting through the posters, images, and graphs from the study, I found the information presented so interesting. I really enjoyed the project, and I’m happy to have had the chance to work on it!


One of the posters in the Deep-C Consortium collection. See the original object here.



Helen MacInnes

 “An adult Ian Fleming,” is how Helen MacInnes, acclaimed author of international spy thrillers, is introduced to the audience at this 1964 Book and Author Luncheon. She is here to promote her recently published novel The Venetian Affair, but first considers the objection that she has not, in fact, been a Resistance fighter during World War II or engaged in counter-espionage against the Soviet Union, both subjects she has treated in her fiction. “Does a novelist have to commit a murder before he can portray a murderer?” she asks. She relies on instinct, “fully alive and responsive,” and creative imagination to supply what experience cannot. This she combines, however, with rigorous research. “There is no room for imagination in composing a factual background.” She then plunges into the real-life inspiration for The Venetian Affair, detailing Soviet and East German agents’ methodical forgeries of supposed US State Department documents as part of a master plan to discredit our reputation abroad. The talk quickly becomes a dire warning about the evils of communism, which MacInnes equates with the rise of Nazism, a phenomenon she witnessed first-hand with her husband, classics scholar and MI6 spy Gilbert Highet, in pre-War Europe. By the end of the talk the book is forgotten as she counsels against any form of humanitarian aid to the USSR which must first wake from the delusions of its “political religion.”  

Helen MacInnes (1907-1985) turned out bestselling novels of international intrigue with an almost clockwork regularity (one every two years) many of which were then made into movies. Her early work dealt with the fight against Fascism. As the New York Times reported in its obituary: 

On their honeymoon in Bavaria, the Highets were disturbed by the activities of the Nazis, and Miss MacInnes kept a diary filled with examples of Nazi violence and the Hitler menace. A few years later she fashioned her notes into the novel ”Above Suspicion,” the story of a young British couple who sought a British anti-Nazi agent in Germany in the summer of 1939 while seemingly on a vacation. An immediate best seller, the book was made into a 1943 motion picture starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray. 

Another novel in the same vein, Assignment Brittany (1942), was reported to be required reading for agents being sent into France to work with French Resistance fighters.  

After World War II, MacInnes (who along with her husband had moved to the United States) turned her attention to the Cold War. As can be heard in this presentation, these are hardly escapist works, rather a blatantly political call to arms very much capturing the spirit of the times. Looking over MacInnes’ career, crime and espionage writer Ken Salikoff, writing for the website Jungle Red Writers, judges: 

The sweet spot for Helen MacInnes’ writing career was the 1960s — the height of the Cold War —during which she produced what is arguably her best work.  The Venetian Affair (1963), The Double Image (1966) and The Salzburg Connection (1968) are all about the legacy of World War II and the lingering fallout from the Nazis’ failed attempt to conquer the world.  In these novels, World War II still casts a giant noirish shadow over the decades following the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945.  The first two novels take place in sunny locations—Venice, Paris and Mykonos—but there is a pervasive chill that blows through these stories, like the one that runs through the obviously more coldly climacteric Alpine setting of the third novel. 

As noted in the introduction, MacInnes is more in the black-and-white tradition of Ian Fleming rather than the later more ambiguous and nuanced world-view of John Le Carré. This increasingly “retro” stance gained her both admirers and detractors. As a 1974 profile in People Magazine noted: 

…she hotly defends her political moralizing: “With Snare [of the Hunter] some critics said, ‘There goes old Helen MacInnes, beating the same dead horse again.’ But I hear a great silence from those same people when poor Willy Brandt has to resign because a supposedly bona fide East German refugee turns out to be a spy. …” While her good-versus-evil themes have put off some critics, they have also won MacInnes her share of professional admirers. Says one former counterintelligence officer, “She’s very perceptive about us types. She has a gift for understanding that we’re not just machines. Prick us and we bleed like hell.” 

With this formula, MacInnes retained her audience to the very end. The week she died, her most recent novel, Ride a Pale Horse, made its first appearance on the New York Times Bestseller List.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150523Municipal archives id: RT159

Hugh Pickett Gala

The Friends of the Vancouver City Archives with the support of Famous Artists, is hosting the Hugh Pickett Gala, Monday, October 16, 2017, at the Sylvia Hotel. It will be an evening filled with live music, bubbly and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and illustrated presentations. Funds raised at this event will go towards the processing and digitization of  long-time Vancouver impresario Hugh Pickett’s records. The records were recently donated to the City of Vancouver Archives by Gordon Boyd, Hugh’s life partner.

Hugh Pickett at home. Reference code pending

The Hugh Pickett fonds is vast and colourful, filled with theatre programmes, scrapbooks, event files and photographs emanating from Hugh’s long and rich career in the entertainment industry. The event files include documentation from an array of touring artists and entertainers ranging from pop singers to comedians, circuses to dance companies, classical and opera performers to country artists. Many of the photographs are of early Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) productions, as Hugh was one of the creators of TUTS. Although not directly related to Hugh’s career, there are rare Spitfire Fund scrapbooks included in the fonds from when his mother was involved with the fund in Vancouver.

Some of the Theatre Under the Stars programs. Photo by Heather Gordon

With a successful fundraising effort, we anticipate being able to make the records available to the public in mid to late 2018 and to have a portion of the photographic materials digitized and available online (as rights permit).

A small portion of the 1000+ photos in the fonds. Photo by Heather Gordon

Tickets are $50 per person, purchased via Eventbrite. The gala runs from 7:00 – 9:00 PM, on Monday, October 16 at the Sylvia Hotel (1154 Gilford Street).

Dress code – dress cool, for as Hugh would say, “Tuxedos are for waiters.”

Hugh with material promoting some of his shows. Reference code pending

Time for #AskAnArchivist Day!

Image credit: NARA Annotations blog

FSU Special Collections & Archives will be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day again this year! We’ll be taking over the FSU Libraries Twitter account (@FSULibrary) from 10am to 2pm on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, to answer all your questions about our materials, what we do and why we do it.

Not sure what #AskAnArchivist day is? —On October 4, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to
connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity. You can take a look at how FSU participated for last year’s event on Storify.

So, if you have a question for us, tweet at the @FSULIbrary handle and make sure to use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist with your question. Or, if you have more general questions about archives around the country, ask your question with that hashtag and you’ll get answers from lots of archives and museums that will be participating around the country.

We look forward to hearing your questions!

1990s Throwback

This week we’re taking a quick visual trip back to Amherst in the 1990s:

Click to view slideshow.

In our ongoing work to preserve the photographic materials in our collection, we’re preparing many of our slide collections for frozen storage. Freezing color slides both slows the fading of the dyes and stabilizes the underlying acetate film. The original slides will still be accessible to researchers with a few days of advanced notice, but we’re making basic scans of all of the sheets of slides to make it easier for researchers to find images without needing to remove any materials from the freezer. All of the images above come from slides of campus scenes taken by Amherst’s Office of Public Affairs in the 1990s.

Enjoy this little trip back in time and rest assured that these images will last long into the future!

Nikita Khrushchev Bids New York Farewell

Nikita Khrushchev bids New York farewell. In this 1959 recording of a brief airport ceremony, the Soviet Premier is addressed by Mayor Wagner’s representative, Russell W. Patterson, who gives him a book about the city to peruse while he flies to the West Coast, as well as flowers for Mrs. Khrushchev. Khrushchev, in his remarks, is polite but noticeably more blunt, pronouncing that “The conviction we found was the leaders of this city and especially its people do not want war.” He regrets he was not permitted to meet ordinary citizens. Being an old miner, he finds it “pleasing to be surrounded by working men.” But he was told that such a meeting could be used for “provocation.” He points out that working people provide “the core of the city, creating its wealth.” He justifies his meeting with business leaders by pointing out that in a socialist state the Premier represents the “business world” of his country. Robert W. Dowling then thanks Khrushchev for permitting the many recent cultural exchanges including a visit by the Bolshoi Ballet. Khrushchev ignores him, returning to the subject of world tension, insisting that his proposals made to the UN General Assembly mark a real effort on the part of the Soviet Union towards “disarmament and peace.” Finally, Henry Cabot Lodge, who will accompany Khrushchev on his trip, thanks the police for their efforts to maintain security.

Khrushchev’s visit to the United States was not seen as a success for either side. Each party regarded the other with suspicion. No major initiatives resulted from his two days of talks with Eisenhower. His visit to New York was rushed, its major event being the address to the General Assembly, of which PBS.org reports:

…He ends his speech with a plea for universal disarmament: “Let us compete in who builds more homes, schools and hospitals for the people; produces more grain, milk, meat, clothing and other consumer goods; and not in who has more hydrogen bombs and rockets. This will be welcomed by all the peoples of the world.” After Khrushchev’s UN speech, Governor Nelson Rockefeller visits the Soviet premier at the Waldorf-Astoria to welcome him to New York. [In] early evening Khrushchev tours Manhattan with Lodge by car. He would later reflect on his unenthusiastic impressions of the Empire State Building: “If you’ve seen one skyscraper, you’ve seen them all.”

The trip is probably most remembered for the unlikely diplomatic incident over a proposed visit to Disneyland. It was argued that securing the site in advance would be too difficult. The Soviets were aware of this but, as Foreign Service officer Richard Townsend Davies remembers on The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training website:

…Khrushchev made great publicity about this, and he was attempting, in what I regard as typical Soviet fashion, to put the Americans on the defensive, and Henry Cabot Lodge – whom I had met and gotten to know a little bit during the few days when he visited Afghanistan and was a very nice man — in this kind of head-to-head confrontation with this very shrewd peasant, this very rough infighter, it took [Lodge] a while to figure out that he was being attacked, but he was, you know. Initially, he thought, well, he really wants to go to Disneyland. And maybe for all I know he did. However, my perception of it was that this had been worked out rather carefully, and it was a ploy. “Let’s say that you want to go to Disneyland. They of course will say, “No, it’s impossible,” and then you have already established your position as a demandeur, whose reasonable request, so far as the American people — the American people will say, why sure, of course, everybody wants to go to Disneyland…It’s a free country.”

However, his much-publicized travels to some extent demystified the Soviet Union’s leader who, in contrast to the more sinister Stalin, appeared accessible and down-to-earth. He ate a hot dog, met movie stars, and stayed with an Iowa farmer. Unfortunately, this thaw in the Cold War proved to be temporary. As politico.com recalls:

On returning to Moscow, Khrushchev insisted to his skeptical colleagues in the Politburo that Eisenhower was a reasonable man and that he could continue to deal with him through personal diplomacy. Another summit was set for the near future. Eisenhower also announced he would visit the Soviet Union in 1960. But it was not to be. On May 1, 1960, a Soviet surface-to-air missile shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Sverdlovsk, deep in Soviet territory, and the Soviets captured the pilot, Gary Powers.

Eisenhower initially denied knowledge of espionage flight, thus compounding the problem. The scheduled summit meeting in Paris was scrapped, as was Eisenhower’s planned visit to Moscow.

The following year saw Khrushchev’s famous shoe-banging performance at the United Nations, which for most Americans supplanted the more positive images of this visit. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150249Municipal archives id: LT8643

Help Advance Open Government

The purpose of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan is to advance transparency, accountability, citizen participation, and technological innovation across government. Now, thanks to an effort supported by the General Services Administration, you have until October 2, 2017 – just a few more days – to share your ideas to advance open government and provide feedback on others’ suggestions using GitHub.

Github is a social coding platform that the federal government has adopted to gather public feedback on policies like the federal source code policy. The National Archives is using the site to allow the public to contribute to our current Agency Open Government Plan, and to foster discussion about our new Strategic Plan.

As the Archivist of the United States, one of my priorities has been to show how a small agency like the National Archives can not only contribute, but lead in fulfilling the vision of open government’s three principles: transparency, participation, and collaboration. Since 2010, the National Archives has made and delivered on close to two hundred specific commitments in our agency open government plans, and the National Archives has had responsibility for critical components of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plans, including leading work to modernize recordkeeping across the federal government and help agencies transition to a modern, electronic world.

There is always more to do, though. One of the commitments proposed by the National Archives for the Fourth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan is tightly aligned with the vision laid out in our new Strategic Plan to streamline digital access to our nation’s records and accelerate the adoption of electronic record-keeping practices by federal agencies. This proposed commitment requires NARA to no longer accept transfers of records to the National Archives in a non-digital format after December 31, 2022. In response to feedback the National Archives received on our Strategic Plan from staff and external commenters, we have updated the Plan to modified the language of this objective to recognize that NARA may need to accept a limited number of analog records after the deadline.

We are eager to hear from you! I hope you will take the opportunity to browse the ideas that have already been submitted and share your reactions. In addition to the commitment to streamline access to digital records, the National Archives has submitted several potential commitments involving the work of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Ombudsman housed within the National Archives, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS); these commitments include efforts to improve the efficiency of the FOIA process through the use of advisory opinions and to increase coordination between agency records management and FOIA offices.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and feedback, and to working with you to continue to drive forward open government.

Habitat Forum photographs now online

Thanks to funding from the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives and the generous support of a private donor we are pleased to announce that over 6,800 photographs showing the 1976 Habitat Forum are now available online.

Habitat Forum compass rose painted on the Jericho Wharf by Lenore Barron and Frank York. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-05267

Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th to June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition that happened in conjunction with the “official” U.N. Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the Archives’ United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds, “Habitat  Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.” Entry to the “official” UN Habitat conference was limited to government delegates, selected NGO officials and press. The Habitat Forum provided a space for members of the public to engage with the conference and monitor the U.N. sessions via closed circuit television remotely from the Forum site.

Habitat forum crowds in front of Hangar 3 with Bill Reid mural. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0208

The Habitat Forum program lists four main objectives for the conference:

  • To increase public awareness around problems related to human settlements and the solutions required
  • To build support and understanding around decisions and actions needed to manage these problems
  • To co-ordinate the stance of NGO’s and public for presentation to official U.N. Habitat conference
  • To encourage the U.N. to look to NGO’s and other organizations for expertise and input

In order to address these objectives, the staff and volunteers at Habitat Forum invited speakers, panelists, dance groups, performers and workshop leaders including: Mother Theresa, Buckminster Fuller, Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau.

Lead organizer Al Clapp with Margaret Trudeau at the Habitat Forum site. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0351

To better support the activities, participation and spirit of Habitat Forum the staff and volunteers, led by Al Clapp (pictured above), renovated and built an impressive site. A majority of the photographs show the construction, innovation, people and materials involved in this process. Most of the photographs were taken by Erol H. Baykal, crew member and Habitat Forum site photographer.

Habitat ID photo for Erol Baykal. Crew member ID photos were very useful for identifying individuals in the Habitat Forum photographs. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-01087

Hangars and Habitat Forum site before construction. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0454

Habitat Forum general site plan. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-05970

Habitat Forum staff and volunteers converted the five airplane hangars at Jericho Beach Park (former air force base) to an exhibition site for the Habitat Forum. They worked at the site from October 1975 until May of 1976 to prepare. Features of the purpose built site included: meeting rooms, theatres with custom bench seating, a stable, outdoor exhibitions, areas for food vendors including restaurants and snack bars, indoor exhibitions spaces, a bar, lounges, workshop space, wharf, stage and performance area, and more.

Here is a selection of photographs highlighting some of these features:

Custom built seating inside Hangar 5, the Plenary Hall. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0520

Blue dome, Habitat Forum outdoor exhibition. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-07009

Maiden Japan, Japanese Food vendor. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.1092

Habitat Forum bar in Hangar 7. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0656

Habitat Forum display about radioactivity, with human hair. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-08351

Hannelore Evans, Habitat Forum banner designer and batik artist, in the banner studio with textiles. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-06657

Habitat Forum drew big international crowds and was a chance to highlight the political and activist landscape of Vancouver and British Columbia. Various exhibitors, including vendors and local, national, and international organizations set up tables and engaged with visitors.

National Association of Friendship Centres and Indian Friendship Centre Association of B.C. table inside one of the Hangars at Habitat Forum. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-07991

The Habitat Forum photographs are not only a rich resource for learning about the Habitat Forum, but they provide insight into the culture, style and political landscape of the 1970s. They also highlight local, national, and international personalities and depict unique views of Vancouver’s cityscape and Jericho Beach that have vastly changed since 1976. We hope you will enjoy looking through the images online. If you are interested to know more about the Habitat Forum and enjoyed these images, look for some of them to appear in Lindsay Brown’s new book Habitat ’76.

Bold Updates to Our Strategic Plan

The new administration has required agencies to create strategic plans covering 2018-2022. Our updated Strategic Plan was circulated for public comment over the past couple of months. We asked for input and you gave it.  You can see the history of comments on our GitHub page.  With updates informed by those comments, we provided OMB our new Strategic Plan on September 11.

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building. “What is Past is Prologue” is written on the base of “Future.” National Archives Identifier 7657960

Some of the goals in the new plan include:

  • By FY 2020, NARA will have policies and processes in place to support Federal agencies’ transition to fully electronic recordkeeping. We added this new objective under our Strategic Goal Connect with Customers based on comments from our customer Federal agencies who asked us to make a commitment to assist them in transitioning to a fully electronic environment.
  • By December 31, 2022, NARA will, to the fullest extent possible, no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata. We added the phrase “to the fullest extent possible” based on extensive feedback from both staff and external commenters. We modified the language of this objective to recognize that NARA may need to accept a limited number of analog records after the December 31, 2022 deadline.
  • By FY 2020, NARA will have a career development program in place to support NARA’s transition to electronic records. We added this new objective under our Strategic Goal Build our Future through our People to make an express commitment to our staff that we will provide training and opportunities focused on electronic records and online access.

Your comments and suggestions have made our Strategic Plan a stronger document that describes a clearer vision for the future.  Check out the full plan at: https://usnationalarchives.github.io/strategic-plan/


An Unexplained Death and an Unacceptable System

“Power to the People!” Young Lords Puerto Rican activist Julio Roldan chanted from his holding cell in Manhattan’s infamous “Tombs” prison in 1970. A few hours later he was found dead, having hanged himself according to an official investigation, murdered by guards according to his supporters. In this press conference, civil rights attorney William vanden Heuvel answers questions and summarizes the findings of a committee appointed by Mayor Lindsay in the aftermath of Roldan’s death and the subsequent riot that eventually resulted in the closing of the facility. Calling the events “sad and tragic,” vanden Heuvel nevertheless maintains that evidence indicated Roldan did, in fact, commit suicide. He saves his wrath for the criminal justice system itself, which suffers from overcrowding and under-funding. The Manhattan House of Detention, as it is officially called, is operating at 151% capacity. Prisoners are doubled and tripled up. At Roldan’s arraignment, during which he yelled, “This is not justice! I have not seen my lawyer! You are doing this to me because I am a Puerto Rican!”, the judge, working straight through the day with no break, had less than two minutes to hear each case. The courtroom itself resembled “a crowded subway.”

Vanden Heuvel’s chief recommendation is the construction of a minimum security prison in Manhattan to both alleviate overcrowding and provide medical and psychiatric services for inmates who are either drug addicts or mentally ill. Indicating that the language of the report has been watered down, he urges that members of the City Planning Commission visit the Tombs or, if he had his way, be locked in a cell for a day. As an immediate fix, he presses for teams of lawyers and social workers to go from floor to floor in the jail, speaking directly to the prisoners, listening to their grievances, trying to give legal or humanitarian aid whenever possible. More Spanish-speaking personnel are also needed, considering the large Puerto Rican jail population. In addition, the prison guards are over-worked. Unless these conditions are addressed, he calls another riot “inevitable.”

Vanden Heuvel’s dire warnings proved all too true, though not perhaps in a way he could have foreseen. Mayor Lindsay had promised not to punish the leaders of the riot (they were holding five prison guards hostage) but after regaining control he had all the identified “troublemakers” shipped upstate…to the Attica Correctional Facility.

Julio Roldan’s case is still a matter of controversy. After a second examination of the body, the pathologist called in by Roldan’s family, Dr. David Spain, reversed his initial finding (reported in this press conference) of suicide, citing possible evidence of a beating. A grand jury empaneled to investigate charges of brutality against several guards after four other prisoners died in similar circumstances did not return an indictment. But, as the New York Times reported:

Mr. Vanden Heuvel…said the report of the grand jury was “neither complete nor useful in a public understanding of what happened” in the death of Mr. Moore. He said testimony presented to the jury was in conflict on several major points: on whether there had been “false official reports” and “the use of excessive force, including black jacks on prisoners.”

Roldan is still regarded as a martyr by the Puerto Rican nationalist movement. In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now! Juan Gonzalez, at one time the Young Lords Minister of Education, recalls the group taking over the First Spanish Methodist Church:

…when one of our members who had been arrested on a minor charge, Julio Roldan, was found hanged in his cell in the Tombs, and mysteriously hanged, because supposedly he should have had his belt removed before he was put into this particular wing. And this had been after a period when about, I think it was fifteen or sixteen blacks and Latinos had been found hanged in their cells in a variety of jails in New York City. It was a rash that many suspected were actually guards actually hanging black and Latino inmates. So we then did a second takeover or occupation of the People’s Church. This time it was an armed takeover of the church, and it lasted for several days, and demanding justice in the case of Julio Roldan. 

The fate of The Tombs itself was sealed by the negative publicity that came out after the riots. The New York City Legal Aid Society filed a suit on behalf of detained inmates. The trial revealed conditions which the judge found to be unconstitutional. The city closed the facility, although it is still argued if the treatment of inmates at their new address, Rikers Island, was any better.

This at times chaotic and refreshingly unscripted press conference, with Vanden Heuvel passionately calling for prison reform, complete with wailing police sirens in the background, provides a fascinating, if melancholy, portrait of New York City during one its most difficult times.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151473Municipal archives id: T7687

Scottish History and Witchcraft: The Dr. George Fraser Black Collection

Dr. George Fraser Black, a librarian for the New York Public Library and later the Associate Director of the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, was a distinguished researcher who was active in the late 1800s until his retirement in 1931. During this time, he researched and published on several topics, most notably Scottish history. His works include a history of Scottish Clans, several bibliographies on Scottish history, and an examination of the Romani language.

Dr. Black
Dr. George Fraser Black

Much of Dr. Black’s research is devoted to looking at how modern Scotland formed and the influence of the Scottish people. A huge topic of interest within the realm of Scottish history was the poet Robert Burns. Among the materials are copies of Burns’s work, photo references, and images inspired by Burns’s poems.

Burns Images
Images inspired by Robert Burns’s works.

Dr. Black compiled most of his research in a series of scrapbooks that included newspaper articles, photocopied book excerpts, and handwritten notes that he found relevant. The collection contains over 30 of these scrapbooks on a variety of topics from folklore to the history of Scottish Clans arranged alphabetically. Perhaps his most intriguing research involved witchcraft. Seven of the scrapbooks in the collection contains detailed information on trials, rumors, and myths surrounding witches and mythical creatures. These scrapbooks hold newspaper articles detailing witchcraft trials as late as the 1920s in the United States while also covering famous accounts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The Witches
Image found in the Witchcraft Scrapbooks of the George Black Collection

This collection is currently still being processed by the Special Collections & Archives team, but it will be available for the public to view soon.

The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness

The National Declassification Center’s newest special project release concerns U.S. and Panamanian foreign relations: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness, 1959 – 1973.

NDC Panama Canal Records Release Poster

2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the official celebration of the completed construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. Although the Canal was officially opened to shipping on August 15, 1914, few realize that the official celebration had to be postponed due to the start of World War I a few weeks later. The official recognition of its completed construction was not celebrated until March 1915 at the San Francisco Exposition.

To celebrate this official recognition, the National Declassification Center (NDC) focused on recently declassified records in our custody that celebrate what the American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Seventh Civil Engineering Wonder of the World, the Panama Canal. The majority of Americans may have heard of the Panama Canal but few may know the United States’ role in its construction and maintenance, let alone the part that it played in our foreign relations with Panama. Debate continues to swirl around issues of why the U.S. turned the Canal over to Panama, Panamanian distrust of the U.S. Government in general, and the imperialistic image associated with U.S. employees that administered and lived in the Canal Zone.

Many historians have examined our early pre and post construction relations with Panama but not many have examined the period just prior to the Canal turnover. The records that have been recently declassified focus on that pre turnover era and may assist U.S. citizens as well as scholars in understanding the story that led to one of the biggest changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Canal was built.

Learn more and view images from this project on our website: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a little Military Madness, 1959­-1973

The images selected and scanned for this release are a sampling of the records, 255 pages from a total of 229,160 pages. The records give insight and perspective into treaty negotiations, interactions between the American Embassy and U.S. government agencies on the Canal, the impact of Panamanian politics and elections on treaty negotiations, and the general unrest caused by the U.S. presence on the Canal Zone. The newly released records are from the Department of State.

I am very proud of this work done by our National Declassification Center, as well as the assistance from our office of Research Services and the Office of Innovation to make the release of these important records happen.

Naturalization Ceremony

As part of the celebrations for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, 30 new citizens from 22 nations were sworn in last week as new U.S. citizens in front of the Constitution in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

The new citizens are from Benin, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, India, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Togo, and Vietnam.

Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives.

As Archivist of the United States, I was honored to welcome these new citizens to the National Archives and hear remarks from Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, presided as the petitioners took the oath of citizenship.

On this same day, several National Archives locations around the country also hosted naturalization ceremonies to coincide with Constitution Day, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

It is a privilege to host this ceremony and witness these new citizens pledge an oath of allegiance to the United States and to honor the Constitution in front of this country’s founding documents.

Congratulations to our new citizens!

Discovering the Path: The National Institutes of Health in the Claude Pepper Papers

U.S. Senator and House of Representative Claude Pepper was an exemplary public servant who was solely committed to unifying healthcare opportunities for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Throughout his career, he became a fierce advocator of health care reform in strengthening social security funding and Medicare/Medicaid benefits. Thus, creating provisions for at risk populations to receive equal medical coverage.

Claude Pepper maintained a rare awareness of the hardship that many Americans faced in obtaining efficient healthcare. Pepper used his voice to spark change in the U.S. healthcare system to dispense sufficient resources that would generate affordable care and enhance medical treatment. For years, Pepper worked tirelessly to lobby legislators to develop strategies that would allocate funding to provide public health services that would improve health outcomes. Because of his concern for medical care, Pepper established thirteen National Institutes of Health to support innovative endeavors in treating or curing chronic diseases through research. In 1937, during his term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute to support cancer research. Subsequently, he helped to establish ten research centers for the cure and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Later in the 1940s, he sponsored legislation to create a national health insurance program to enforce equal healthcare opportunities. Pepper’s legislative efforts have served as a compass for many who are interested in improving health care policies and those who seek to learn the process of how legislators present bills to be passed into law to improve our society.


The Claude Pepper Library & Museum offers insight into the establishment of the National Institutes of Health on behalf of Senator Pepper’s instrumental legislative work on varied Health Institutes. These materials are available for researchers and can be discovered online through the collection’s finding aid.

Bess Myerson Starts Her Career in Government

“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement.


“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement. 


This 1969 press conference captures the city government at its most condescendingly genteel, with Lindsay praising her “eleemosynary” work while at the same time paying tribute to her “beauty” and “winning smile.” Myerson, in contrast, sounds determined to lay her glamorous past to rest, reading a prepared statement promising to “exorcize from this city the persistent cancer created by greed and advantage-seeking…” She points out that consumer fraud has a particularly devastating effect on the poor who are often the victims of illegal installment contracts, are unable or unwilling to take law-breaking merchants to court, and have no lobbying power. On the other hand, she seems aware that the Consumer Affairs Department must compensate for its relatively weak enforcement tools by functioning forcefully in the area public relations, by pointing out unscrupulous business practices and shaming those who rely on such deception. The office’s aim, she concludes, will be warning consumers “not so much what to look for as what to look out for.”

Bess Myerson in 1957.
(Unknown photographer/Wikimedia Commons)

In 1945, at the age of 21, Bess Myerson (1924-2015) became the first Jew to be crowned Miss America. For the next forty years she was rarely out of the public spotlight. As a beauty queen, television personality, fund-raiser for various charities, public servant, politician, and finally the focus of a bizarre scandal, Myerson had an extraordinarily eventful ride on the roller-coaster of American celebrity.

Although it might seem a minor milestone now, Myerson’s being crowned Miss America was a major news story, and not all of it positive. As Susan Dworkin, who wrote about the event and its aftermath, reminisced:

…when Bess won, she went on this tour and expected to be loved and applauded. Instead, everywhere she went, she was met with terrible bigotry. People didn’t want her at their country clubs. People didn’t want her at their hotels. There was a horrible incident with the parent of a World War II veteran at a hospital who screamed at Bess that it was because of the Jews that her son was dead. After a couple of months, she had to go home. She had nothing left to do.”

Myerson was more than a pretty face. Driven, articulate, musically talented, and ambitious, she was faced with the dilemma of how to parlay her dubious fame into something more significant and long-lasting. Television provided an initial career. She was a longtime panelist on I’ve Got a Secret and regularly substituted on The Today Show. Her 1969 appointment to the Department of Consumer Affairs was a surprise. But it turned out that an agency whose clout depended a great deal on publicity was a good fit for Myerson, who had developed a professional’s command of the media. Though derided within the Lindsay administration as something of a loose cannon, she was one its most recognizable and, as the financial crisis tainted almost every other branch of government, most beloved representatives. The New York Times, in its obituary, noted how:

Some Lindsay critics initially called her appointment “window dressing.” But she became highly visible in the job, issuing the first city regulation in the nation requiring retailers to post unit prices on a wide variety of products to make comparison shopping easier. She pushed through consumer-protection laws against deceptive trade practices, chastised restaurants selling hamburgers that were less than 100 percent beef — she called them “shamburgers”— and criticized manufacturers for putting too many peanuts in jars labeled “mixed nuts.”

Myerson’s political journey then took a wildly unpredictable turn when she was enlisted by Ed Koch’s mayoral campaign to appear with him as a kind of surrogate wife to counteract rumors of his homosexuality. This led to her own unsuccessful campaign for Senate in 1980 and to her appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1983. However, her involvement with Carl Capasso, a sewer contractor involved in a contentious divorce proceeding being overseen by a judge whose troubled daughter Myerson appeared to have hired with an eye towards influencing the judge’s rulings, led to widespread unflattering news coverage and a corruption inquiry. Myerson’s imperious behavior was gleefully reported and shortly before she was to stand trial she was convicted of shoplifting. Although she was eventually acquitted of bribery, the “Bess Mess,” as it was known, effectively ended her public career. She was forced to resign her position and went from being one of the city’s most prominent figures to near-invisibility, the self-imposed obscurity providing a strange coda to such a public life.

This press conference captures Myerson at what must have seemed like the beginning of yet another triumphal chapter: the poor girl growing up in the Sholem Aleichem Houses in the South Bronx rising to a high-profile job in city government. A few years later, New York Magazine captured her at her zenith, the way she would probably most likely want to be remembered:

A tall, elegant brunet steps out of the car. She’s attired in a classic Jerry Silverman blazer, skirt, and turtleneck sweater, low-heeled black boots, and green sunglasses. She is nearly six feet tall; she looks men in the eye and towers above women. The congressman puts his arm around her so that it appears that he is guiding her, but it is the other way around. 

Over seventy years later, Myerson remains the only Jewish woman ever to be crowned Miss America.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151726Municipal archives id: T4118-T4119

The Evolution of the Florida State Administration Building

Florida State administration building has changed often since the founding of the University in 1851. Originally, the administration building was known as “College Hall” and was built in the same spot where the current administration building is today.

college hall FSU 1901.jpg

College Hall at Florida State College – Tallahassee, Florida. 1901. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

However, in 1910, because “College hall” was deemed structurally unsafe, it was knocked down and rebuilt into the administration building we know today and named “Florida State College’s Administration building” until 1936, where it was named after James D. Westcott, Jr. Westcott was a former student and Florida Supreme Court justice who left a large sum of his estate to the university and declared that the profits only be used towards teacher’s salaries.

james d westcott jr

Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911. Portrait of Supreme Court Justice James D. Westcott, III – Tallahassee, Florida. Between 1868 and 1885. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

In 1969, the Westcott administration building suffered severe interior damage, due to a fire. Although much of the interior was destroyed, the university was able to preserve the original collegiate gothic exterior that we know today. Renovations on the building were not completed until 1973 and Westcott is now deemed as an exemplary element of the university.

Westcott fire 2

View showing TFD personnel fighting fire at the Westcott Building from an aerial ladder – Tallahassee, Florida. 1969. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

Animals in the Archives

How about some cute animals to kick off the start of the school year? We in the Archives noticed the National Archives’ new social media campaign – the Archives Hashtag Party! Each month follows a differently themed hashtag (you can follow @USNatArchives to see the themes). Last month was #ArchivesSquadGoals. This month’s theme is #ArchivesCute, and in the Amherst College Archives we’ve decided to join the party.

We’ve found animals in a variety of different archival collections, from our rare books stacks to the College Archives to the manuscript collections. Hopefully these examples will give you a sense for the breadth of the Archives’ holdings. Let’s get started!

In our rare book stacks, we have a lovely 1883 folio edition of Monograph of the Felidae or Family of the Cats, by Daniel Giraud Elliot.


Elliot, a zoologist, was a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He produced a number of this type of work, commissioning artists to produce plates to accompany his text. Other works in this same vein include Monograph of the Paradisae and Review of the Primates. These large volumes were made possible by subscription; future owners would pledge money for the production of the book and in the end receive a copy. The artist for Monograph of the Felidae was Joseph Wolf, a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. This plate depicts the Snow Leopard, native to the mountains of Central and South Asia.


For something completely different, we turn to the College Photographer’s Records, part of Amherst College’s institutional archives. Since the 1960s the College has employed an official photographer to record important events and daily life on campus. On at least two occasions in the 1990s, the photographer captured a series of faculty dogs on campus. Here’s one example:


Look at that old-school desktop technology in the background!

The College’s Scrapbook Collection also offers a variety of cute animals. These examples come from the scrapbook of Edson Alexander McRae, a graduate of the class of 1906. His scrapbook shows that he was a member of the baseball team – and includes many photographs of this fine pup:


Apologies for the poor image quality! But you can see in the background the Amherst Town Hall.

Also a sketch of cats on a calling card:


Calling cards, a precursor to the business card, were left when visiting a home while the residents were absent.

The Lincoln Barnes Negatives Collection also yielded cuteness. Lincoln Wade Barnes was a photographer in the town of Amherst for many years during the first half of the twentieth century; he was also photographer to the College for some of that time. A collection of Barnes photography is also available at the Jones Library.


We truly hit the jackpot in Lucius Manly Boltwood’s photograph albums. These albums were compiled in the late 19th and/or early 20th century and include images of friends, family, pets, and views of Amherst. Boltwood was very involved in the College and local communities. A graduate of the class of 1843, Boltwood went on to become the librarian at Amherst College and the town’s postmaster.





And last but not least, look who we found hanging out in the Archives’ Objects Collection: