A Moment in Time: Nostalgia in the Shaw Manuscript Collection

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Celita Summa who was our Shaw expert this semester as she shifted through his personal papers to select for a digitization project. She’s going abroad in the spring and we’ll miss her. Bon Voyage Celita!

While sifting through the Shaw manuscript collection, I discovered that many of Shaw’s collecting practices were driven by nostalgia and the important human connections formed during childhood. Although his manuscript collection is vast, both in scope and length (it measures over 46 linear feet in length), Shaw was clearly incentivized to collect in order to preserve the things he held most dear- friends, family, and childhood memories.

One of the objects in the collection is a small pocket calendar used by the 14-year-old Shaw to record his immigration to America. In the margins, he indicated his family’s last day in Scotland, their voyage at sea, and their first day in America. He noted that his devoutly Catholic family did not fail to miss Sunday mass their first weekend in America. The inclusion of this object represents Shaw’s own passage from his Scottish childhood to American manhood, as he would begin employment shortly after settling down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pictured above is John Mackay Shaw’s week at sea.


Shaw indicates another motivator for the collection as he attempts to preserve memories that will forever remain in his childhood years. Throughout the collection, correspondence with some of his childhood best friends is featured heavily. There is a map of Shaw and Jimmy Macaulay’s childhood stomping grounds, mock newsletters the two drew up for each other, and even one of Macaulay’s commonplace books. I wondered what the reason for this might be, until I stumbled across wartime letters between the two long-time friends, along with a notice of Macaulay’s death.


In his death notice, Macaulay was referred to as the “bravest and cheeriest of his platoon.” Here he is shortly before his death.


This is a copy of the letter that informed Jimmy Macaulay’s family of his death.

Both men served in World War I, and Jimmy was not Shaw’s only loss due to the war. Another friend, Alfred Hendricks, was in frequent correspondence with Shaw. One day Shaw’s letter was returned unanswered, in an envelope marked “deceased.” Shaw’s inclusion of Macaulay and Hendricks in the collection depicts the unbreakable bond forged between childhood friends.

Inside this envelope is contained the last letter John Mackay Shaw wrote to Alfred Hendricks. It is returned marked “deceased.”

Another aspect that drove Shaw’s manuscript collection was his own children. In fact, his kids were the very catalyst for the book collection and his own published works of poetry. In the manuscript collection, he includes his own children’s poems along with those he wrote specifically for them. By creating the “Childhood in Poetry” collection, Shaw preserved the themes he valued the most in his life, from friendship and fatherhood to memories of his childhood home and relatives.


The WNYC March!

Edwin Franko Goldman
(WNYC Archive Collections)

On June 21, 1954 The New York Times reported that the Goldman Band would premiere the ‘WNYC March’  on July 9th in Central Park to mark the station’s 30 years of broadcasting.  The work was scored for brass instruments and drums. The composer, Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman, said it was written  “as a tribute to WNYC for the fine work it has been doing.” Goldman echoed this remark on WNYC’s Speaking of Music program where he talked about his career, WNYC’s regular broadcasts of his band’s concerts from Central Park, and this tribute march.

Listen to the March for Brasses a.k.a. The WNYC March by the University of Michigan Symphony Band in a 1955 performance: YouTube

Edwin Franko Goldman (1878–1956) was one of the leading American band composers of the early 20th century. He composed more than 150 works, but is best known for his marches. He founded the renowned Goldman Band and the American Bandmasters Association. His works are known by their catchy tunes, as well as their trios and solos.
Bandleaders John Philip Sousa and Edwin Franko Goldman (WNYC Archive Collections)

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municpal Archives. 

Digging into Class Albums

Earlier this year I wrote up a brief description of the Class Albums we will digitize for the upcoming Bicentennial celebration in 2021. This week I spent a little more time reviewing these materials and came up with some interesting tidbits.


Our class albums range from the 1850s through 1906, but they change considerably over that span. The earliest volumes include photographs printed directly onto the pages of the book, usually with a blank facing page that was used for autographs and personal messages. Here’s an example from 1859:

The inscription from Fred Billings to Thomas Boss (both Class of 1859) reads, in part:

“…we have drank the fragrant mocha in clouds of the divine smoke and I can remember of nothing which has interrupted our friendship through college life.”

After the 1850s, the format of these albums changes. For the 1860s through the 1880s, the albums are commercially produced blank photo albums into which separate printed images were filed, like this example from 1887:

Addison Allen’s album from 1887 is among the very largest in our collection, which makes these items from 1888 really stand out:


Instead of a massive volume filled with individual prints, these two slim volumes include just a handful of pages.


The volume of “Views” holds just two photographs that are composite images of several photographs of campus. Similarly, the pictures of the graduating class have been compressed into just three pages:


Similar albums of composite photographs were produced for the next couple of years, but another big change came with the 1893 “Amherst Portfolio”:

These volumes are remarkably similar to what we think of as yearbooks, featuring photographs of students and faculty along with extensive coverage of student groups.



Although this volume closely resembles a modern yearbook, a glance into the 1893 Olio shows how different the two books are. The 1893 Olio contains very few photographs and contains much more extensive text.

The name of the book changes over the next decade or so — “The Class Book,” “The Class Portfolio,” and “The Senior Class Book” for instance — but the last one appears in 1906. By that point, the Olio included many more photographs and continued to include extensive text about student activities and college life. It appears that demand for two books that reproduced essentially the same information waned in the early 20th century and no class albums were produced after 1906.

Our plan for the Bicentennial is to digitize one class album per year from 1853 through 1906. If anyone has an album from the class of 1892, that is the one year for which we have no class albums!


Magician of the Week #50: Eusapia Palladino

Today’s magician is not technically a magician, but rather an Italian spiritualist and medium named Eusapia Palladino.


Palladino’s “phenomena” referenced in Carrington’s book, above, included levitating tables and stools, bells ringing in the air, mysterious hands touching observers, sounds of ghostly tapping on furniture, and the like.

An orphan and former wife of a traveling conjurer, she was brought to public attention in 1888 by a Professor Chiaia of Naples who wrote a letter to a Professor Lombroso claiming that he had investigated Palladino’s phenomena extensively, was convinced of their legitimacy, and requested Lombroso to investigate them in turn. This led to more than a decade of investigatory seances in which various researchers (including a number from the Society for Psychical Research, and even, at one point, Pierre and Marie Curie) tried to prove or disprove Palladino’s methods. She attracted huge numbers of both skeptics and supporters.


Wikipedia has an extensive entry on Eusapia Palladino, which I won’t summarize here, although I do highly recommend it. Instead, I offer this tidbit from Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena, in which the author describes an incident Palladino’s early life, based on her own recollection:

The villagers took little care of the orphan. Once when she was only a year old, she was allowed to fall, so that a hole was made in her head. That is the famous cranial opening from which, in moments of trance, a cold breeze is felt to issue. On this scar has grown a tress of hair that has always been white since infancy, and which is easily distinguishable in her photographs.

I will also leave you with a quote from psychical researcher Eric Dingwall (nicknamed “Dirty Ding”, according to Wikipedia), who was not convinced of Palladino’s powers, nor awed by her apparent cranial wind tunnel, but rather thought that she was “vital, vulgar, amorous and a cheat.”

Celebrating Dirac’s Nobel Prize

This December is the 85th anniversary of Paul Dirac’s Nobel Prize for Physics. Dirac was an English theoretical physicist who became a fundamental contributor to the development of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. The Dirac Equation, which was formulated in 1928, described the behavior of fermions, or subatomic particles, and predicted the existence of antimatter.

In 1933, just a few years after the creation of this equation, Dirac became the youngest theoretical physicist to receive the award. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics alongside Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist who, like Dirac, developed a number of fundamental results in quantum and atomic theory. Dirac’s discoveries led to him being famously known as the “Father of Modern Physics.”

Telegram from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science informing Paul Dirac that he and Professor Schrodinger are being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics
Telegram from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science informing Paul Dirac that he and Professor Erwin Schrodinger are being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1933. See original item here.

FSU Special Collections & Archives houses The Paul A.M. Dirac Papers which contains photographs, correspondence, books, manuscripts of scientific papers, and calculations. Images of Dirac with famous individuals within the scientific community such as Albert Einstein or Werner Heisenberg and dozens of letters to Dirac after his receiving of the Nobel Prize can also be found in the collection. You can also explore more of the collection’s Nobel Prize materials, as well as other digitized materials, in DigiNole, FSU’s digital repository.

Written by Michaela Westmoreland, an Editing, Writing, and Media undergraduate student working as a Library and Museum Assistant with the Special Collections & Archives of FSU’s Strozier Library. This semester, she has been working directly with The Paul A.M. Dirac Papers to create metadata records for the photographs of the collection for future digitization.

First Live Radio Coverage From NYSE is By a Woman on WNYC

April 13, 1956:  A WNYC press release announces that New York Stock Exchange’s closing prices will be broadcast daily from the Exchange floor, and that a woman will be featured as the reporter.  “Marking the first live radio coverage of the Exchange on a daily basis, the new WNYC series will feature Miss Catherine Whittemore, Chief Receptionist at the Stock Exchange.  Unanimously selected to read the daily report, Miss Whittemore was considered an apt choice for two reasons: first, as women control the major portion of wealth in the country, it was fitting to have a woman financial reporter for the unique new series; and secondly, Miss Whittemore is a financial expert of long standing, having been with the Exchange for over a quarter of a century.”  Whittemore is also known as “Miss Exchange.”

New Video Wall: Goods & Services–Businesses in Vancouver

Our latest video wall showcases the types of businesses that have operated in the city over time. Goods & Services: Businesses in Vancouver introduces the viewer, through the lenses of work, school, home, and play, to a host of different commercial enterprises that have called Vancouver home over the last 150 years.

Saw mills were one of the first types of businesses to operate in the City of Vancouver. Ships loading lumber at Hastings Saw Mill, ~1896. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Mi P26

The Archives’ holdings have a rich array of photographs and textural records related to a number of Vancouver-based businesses. Examples of businesses fonds include The British Columbia Sugar Refining Company fonds (AM1592), Hastings Sawmill Company fonds (AM27), Toni Cavelti fonds (AM1670), and Nelsons Laundries fonds (AM13). Many of the photographs used in this video wall show were found in the Stuart Thomson fonds (AM1535), the Jack Lindsay Ltd. Photographers fonds (AM1184), and the William Bros. Photographers Collection (AM1545), key commercial photographers whose businesses were based in Vancouver.

Employee at Neon Products, 1946. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4221

The types of business highlighted in the video wall range from the saw mills that used to dominate Burrard Inlet to the B.C. Sugar Refinery plant that helped satisfy the sweet tooth of Vancouver’s residents, to barbers and beauty salons. Stationers, sign manufacturers, auto sellers, paint retailers, and furniture manufacturers are also a smattering of the other categories of businesses included in this show. Seeing a glimpse into the economic activities of Vancouver through the guise of businesses gives you a better sense of how the city has developed since its inception.

Store clerk in front of hat display, 1942. Reference code: AM1184-S3-: CVA 1184-1521

The video wall shows can be viewed in the Archives’ gallery space, or in the City Hall rotunda across from the elevators. You can also view them on YouTube.

Uncovering a Childhood Through Poetry

Hi! I’m Celita and I’m a senior studying Editing, Writing, and Media here at FSU. I’ve spent the past couple of months interning for Special Collections & Archives and beginning to dig into the collection of Scotsman John MacKay Shaw.

Shaw’s twofold collection, in addition to including his own works and memorabilia, also includes the works of other writers. To add to his personal collection of poetry, Shaw took to browsing secondhand bookstores, perusing their shelves for books to include in his “Childhood in Poetry” collection. While selecting a batch of these books for digitization, I gained an insight into Shaw’s collection practices and the implications of some of these artifacts in reflecting and shaping society.

Many of Shaw’s books are extremely rare or first edition books, and some are not recorded in any source. One of these is “The Lioness’s Ball,” believed to be the unrecorded sequel to another work entitled “The Butterfly’s Ball.” The 1807 book features six hand-colored plates produced by William Mulready, an Irish-born artist who worked out of London. “The Lioness’s Ball” is among the children’s books he illustrated, and his other artworks are displayed in prominent places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery, and Dublin’s National Gallery. One work is even in the possession of the royal family. The plates in “The Lioness’s Ball” feature vivid color images with a great deal of texture and depth. The frontispiece, which depicts the animals gathering, is shown below–




In addition to some astounding images and engravings throughout the collection, Shaw’s collection of secondhand books reveals the familial and religious significance of poetry. Three of the items I found contained family crests inside the front cover. Several others included dedications (some personal and some religious), orphanage stamps, and other inscriptions.

To me, these artifacts highlighted the importance of books as social tools for spreading religious, moral, and educational values. Oftentimes, books were gifted by family members, organizations, or religious figures, with the primary purpose of serving as a teaching tool. Below is the author, Reverend Grant’s, dedication to a Miss Minshull, which faces her family crest on the inside cover.




Inscriptions, advertisements, marks by booksellers, and dedications make the social significance of poetry books clear. Not only were these books read, but they were also circulated, whether it be as a gift, a prize, a donation, or something else. Preserved by some and marked by others, the books I selected to show how texts develop alongside people, creating a childhood through poetry.

Remembering President George Herbert Walker Bush

Late Friday, November 30, 2018, our nation lost its 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush. We join our National Archives colleagues at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, in mourning the President and honoring his legacy.

In tribute, the staff posted this statement on www.bush41.org/:

President Bush was intimately involved in the Presidential Library and local community, from attending exhibit openings and forums, to frequently being seen in the museum and surrounding grounds. So many people here have been touched by his life and knowing him personally. Through his Presidential Library and Museum, we will continue to honor his life and legacy with our utmost reverence.

A memorial website with the President’s official obituary and funeral information can be found at www.georgehwbush.com.

In his Presidential Proclamation issued on December 1, 2018, President Trump has announced December 5, 2018, as a National Day of Mourning throughout the United States. “I call on the American people to assemble on that day in their respective places of worship, there to pay homage to the memory of President H.W. Bush. I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.”

Together, we remember President Bush and honor his legacy. A patriot, a statesman, a leader who worked ceaselessly for a kinder, gentler America, President Bush promoted the values of democracy that we uphold every day through our work. Please join me in remembering his service to our Nation.

George Bush in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger during World War II,
George Bush, captain of the Yale baseball team, receives Babe Ruth's manuscript of his autobiography which he was donating to Yale, 1948
George and Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas on the night which George Bush was elected to Congress
Vice President Bush picnics on the lawn of his Kennebunkport home with his family,
President and Mrs. Bush walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House after the Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol
President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on the South Lawn of the White House,
Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops
President George W. Bush sits on the edge of his desk Wednesday May 2, 2001, and talks with his father, former President George H.W. Bush who dropped by the Oval Office
President Barack Obama with former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, April 25, 2013
President and Mrs. Bush walk towards their home on Walker's Point after the President's arrival from Washington, 8/24/1989

Announcing Our New Online Gallery

Here in PPL’s Special Collections, we have the immense pleasure of working frequently with amazing artists and designers who use our collections for information, inspiration, and source materials. They challenge us with unusual research questions and dig into our materials in delightful, non-linear ways.


Photo of paint brush and palette from a studio visit with Keri King

Which leads to our exciting announcement: we’ve created an online gallery featuring artworks inspired by materials from our collections! Click through to see artworks, source materials, artist bios, and links to artists’ websites. (Special thanks to our Digital Content Coordinator, John Bent, for all of his hard work on this.)

We’ll be adding to the gallery in the coming months. Have you made something based on Special Collections research that you’d like to see included? Drop us a line.

William P. Bigelow (AC 1889) Papers

You may know from an early blog post, that here in the Archives & Special Collections we are conducting a shelf-by-shelf review of our collections.  This has prompted us to look through collections that do not get the most consistent use or that we aren’t as familiar with.  Recently, I surveyed the William P. Bigelow (AC 1889) Papers, a small collection of personal and professional papers of an Amherst College alumnus and professor.

William P. Bigelow was born in 1867 and was a lifetime native of Amherst.  While a student, Bigelow was active in the Amherst College Glee Club and other musical organizations on campus before graduating in 1889.  He went on to study music in Germany, France, and England before returning as Amherst College’s first instructor in music.  Bigelow became a full professor of music in 1906 and founded the Music Department at Amherst.  Professor Bigelow compiled and edited Amherst College Songs, published in 1926.


Bigelow and Jane Ball were married in 1909 and settled in Amherst.  William P. Bigelow taught at the College until his retirement in 1935.  He died in 1941.

This collection contains materials documenting the professional and personal life of Professor William P. Bigelow including correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, partial memoirs, translation work, music programs, and essays.  The papers include correspondence between Bigelow and his family, members of the Amherst College faculty, and professional acquaintances.  The collection also contains some material relating to Jane Ball Bigelow.

While small in scope, this collection does give insight into the professor largely responsible for advocating for and founding the Music Department at Amherst.  The William P. Bigelow (AC 1889) Papers can be accessed in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

Henry Cowell at 65

On December 11, 1962, the day after his 65th birthday, composer and pianist Henry Cowell sat down with WQXR’s music director Abram Chasins. The occasion also marked Cowell’s 50th year as a composer and pianist. Unfortunately, most of the musical selections have been removed from the original interview tape.

New Music, a quarterly of new music composition founded by Henry Cowell in 1927.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

These two old friends discuss Cowell’s earliest work and innovations such as the tone cluster, a musical chord comprising at least three adjacent tones in a scale, and how he came to write and play them. They quickly move on to their first meeting during the Christmas-to-New Year’s break of 1929-1930 in Havana, Cuba, where the two musicians were presented as contrasting examples of classical and contemporary composition and performance. Cowell then explains in detail his orchestral work and 15th symphony, Thesis, as well as his world travels, which include his 1929 concerts in the Soviet Union (as the first American composer invited there) and his later trip to Tehran to advise the Iranian radio service. Chasins brings up Cowell’s presidency of the New Composers Alliance and his founding of the magazine of new compositions New Music Quarterly, which Cowell started because he wanted a venue for scores by composers who were unlikely to get exposure in the mainstream. They conclude with a brief discussion of Cowell’s Music 1957.


The following are some early broadcasts of Cowell’s works from the WNYC Archive Collections.

Two surviving portions from the world premiere of Henry Cowell’s Anthropos conducted by the composer at the sculpture garden of the Brooklyn Museum on March 15, 1940 broadcast over WNYC. The WPA Federal Music Project’s New York Civic Orchestra performs.



The WNYC Concert Orchestra under the direction of Macklin Marrow performs Henry Cowell’s Old Country Set. Broadcast by WNYC, March 18, 1940.

The first performance of Henry Cowell’s Four Irish Tales performed by the National Youth Administration Orchestra (NYA) under the direction of Fritz Mahler. Cowell speaks at the conclusion. Broadcast by WNYC, November 24, 1940.

 For more on Henry Cowell see: Henry Cowell Talks Modern Music on The Masterwork Hour.


The Archives’ Pre-move project: an inside look through the conservation lens

The James Skitt Matthews building has been home to the Archives since 1972 and after more than four decades of service, the Vanier Park site has reached its full capacity. In response, the Archives plans to move to a larger space where we can continue to serve the public for many more years to come.

Prior to the move, many of the records in our holdings will require conservation before they can safely travel. Following best archival conservation practice, different types of records of varying media and size can be housed in standardized storage containers that are readily available from conservation supplies vendors. However, as widely diverse as these off-the-shelf containers are, there are still a large percentage of our holdings that does not fit into this system, specifically the oversized heavy bound volumes. The construction and size of most standardized containers are not large enough for these oversized volumes, or strong enough to bear their weight. A large part of the conservation effort in the Pre-move project will be focused on providing appropriate storage containers that can withstand the rigors of the move and also double as long-term housing for the item after the move.

Before (left) and after (right) rehousing: Oversized bound volumes of Police Court calendars and City Council minutes that were previously stored on open shelving are now rehoused in custom archival containers. Photographer: Dorcas Tong. Series identifiers: VPD-S182 and COV-S31.


It is not uncommon for our staff conservator to create custom storage containers that are made specifically to the dimensions of an item. However, this is a time-consuming process and is challenging to scale up efficiently. It is also difficult to re-shelve an assortment of non-standardized boxes into the limited space left at the current Vanier Park site. To solve this, our archival box supplier used a specialized digital cutter to pre-cut custom boxes in sizes that we have standardized. Many of the oversized bound volumes have a similar ‘footprint’ (or cover boards of the same size) but varying text block thicknesses. We designed our custom boxes according to the size of these ‘footprints’, but with varying depths. This standardization system allows for maximal stacking and optimizes our shelf space.

Custom archival containers arranged in groupings with the same ‘footprint’. Photographer: Dorcas Tong.


The designs and materials were carefully selected to meet the following criteria:

  • Made with archival materials that are suitable for long-term storage.
  • Provide structural strength to bear the weight of the oversized records.
  • Provide protection for the record during the move.
  • Allow researchers to more easily access the records.

After thorough testing, we decided to make our custom containers in the style of clamshell and drop-front boxes using an archival quality corrugated board (i.e. acid-free, lignin-free and alkaline-buffered).

Example of custom clamshell and drop-front boxes. Photographer: Dorcas Tong.

Detail of custom drop-front box with a Police Court calendar. Photographer: Dorcas Tong. Item identifier: VPD-S182-Police court calendar Vol. 64.

Both styles of boxes have double walls on three sides and a cross-laminated panel on the base (and sometimes on the lid) for additional structural rigidity. For a small number of bound volumes that are extremely heavy and are as large as the size of our work bench, a specialized archival board with a honeycomb inner structure was used instead for added strength.

Detail of the specialized archival board with a honeycomb inner structure as the reinforced base panel. Photographer: Dorcas Tong.


We assembled the pre-cut custom boxes and fitted each box with archival quality foam (polyethylene). The foam spacers create a snug fit that prevents the bound volume from sliding around during the move and causing damage. The newly rehoused volume is then properly labelled and reassigned a new location in the vault.

Assembly of pre-cut custom box: project conservator Dorcas Tong scoring the board using a bone folder. Photographer: Paola Merkins.

Project conservator Paola Merkins fitting pre-cut foam spacers into a custom container. Photographer: Dorcas Tong.

Some oversized volumes can be disbound and filed into folders before housing into a custom container. This makes the textual information more easily accessible to researchers and reduces the risk of damage caused by handling.

Business license registers are an example of oversized bound volumes with post-binding structure that are difficult to retrieve and access. Photographer: Dorcas Tong. Series identifier: COV-S383.

Example of a post-binding volume after disbinding: the pages of the text block are filed in file folders. Photographer: Dorcas Tong.

The process of rehousing oversized bound volumes is well underway and we will keep you updated as the conservation team tackles other challenges in the Pre-move project.

An Awfully Big Adventure! Books for Boys and Girls


We are delighted to be hosting an exhibition of children’s literature from the Library of Innerpeffray, Perthshire. You can see a selection of 19th century books in the stairwell of the University Library.

The Library of Innerpeffray holds books from the 16th century onwards on a wide variety of topics. The borrowing registers reveal a wealth of information about the people who used the library.

Several of the books on display were borrowed by four sisters between 1898 and 1906. We know that the Haxton family lived at Millearne, near Innerpeffray, and that father David was a coachman. Daughters Mary, Sarah, Christina and Jessie all used the library, with one or both parents accompanying them. The children borrowed regularly. The same book was never borrowed twice, so it seems likely that the children took it in turns to read each other’s books.

James Durward’s borrowed books are also on display. Born in 1868 to the Head Gardener at Millearne House, James borrowed 60 books between the ages of 10 and 15.

Victorian children’s books were designed to appeal separately to boys and girls.  The boys’ books featured tales of adventure and mystery, as well as accounts of famous men.

By contrast, the girls’ books featured ‘suitable’ stories about girls (for example, Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women) and a series called The Girl’s Own Library.

The Innerpeffray borrowing registers reveal that, despite attempts to direct children to books for their own gender, girls often borrowed the boys’ books.


Helen Beardsley

Academic Liaison Librarian

Tait and Watson Book Collections

Will you need to consult books from the Tait and Watson Collections over the next few weeks?

The Library will soon be upgrading two of its closed access storage areas.

From 27th November to 20th December, we will not be able to access books in the Tait and Watson Collections. If you want to access books in these collections,  let us know by Monday 26thNovember at the latest, so that we can retrieve stock before it goes into storage.

Only books in the Tait and Watson collections are affected – pamphlets, newspapers and archival material will continue to be available.


Helen Beardsley

Academic Liaison Librarian

NSA Research Director Wants ‘Accelerated AI’ to Augment Human Analysis

The need to accelerate deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by executive branch agencies also requires the development and retention of human expertise, according to Dr. Deborah Frincke, Director of Research at the National Security Agency (NSA).  Speaking at the industry-sponsored media event “Accelerated AI: Shaping the Future of Government with Artificial Intelligence” (11/13/2018), in Washington, D.C., Dr. Frincke argued that vast and growing sets of “noisy data” (volumes of structured and unstructured data), make AI indispensable to human analysts.  Dr. Frincke stressed that as the government digitizes and upgrades outmoded systems to deploy AI, demand grows for more analysts to “say yea or nay on the AI output – the mechanical answer needs human judgment to get to the ground truth.”

Dr. Frincke explained that Federal programs should tailor AI technologies to specific processes where they can be most productive, rather than implementing AI for its own sake.    Where deployed most effectively in the Intelligence Community (IC), the infrastructure underpinning AI innovations focuses on getting the right people working in teams to advance research by using technology to better collect and evaluate data.

As a first principle, guidance from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coates, and his Principal Deputy Director (PDDNI) Susan Gordon, further emphasizes that the infrastructure improvements supporting AI need to facilitate the ability to share information within the IC, across government, and with all American citizens to the greatest extent possible.  Dr. Frincke noted that the need for policies to effectively manage AI, and the issues of privacy and search biases in algorithms that concern “Ethical AI,” will shape how human analysts handle AI output.

At the same event, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Senior Economist Alex Measure presented an AI use case that illustrates similar principles for implementing AI tools at a Federal agency outside the IC.  The BLS receives a large amount of structured and unstructured data, particularly in the form of written descriptions submitted for injury claims.  Mr. Measure led teams in the development of algorithms that were then used to read descriptive narratives to classify these injury claims.

The technical solutions developed at the BLS employ “training data,” a type of AI based on supervised Machine Learning (ML) to find patterns in large amounts of inputs received.  In just the last ten years, this method has resulted in significant advances in AI such as facial recognition.  The technology works by tagging and orchestrating large amounts of “noisy data” into a system.

In the past, the use of training data to produce AI outcomes required supercomputers, but computing power has advanced so far that teams at the BLS are able to train a system on a million data points by using no more than government-issued laptops.  Despite the enormous volumes of data, computing power was not the most difficult piece of the project.

Mr. Measure found that the biggest challenge at the BLS proved to be communicating the need to integrate the AI solutions into the organizational system.  This required cultivating the support of upper management, and benchmarking human outputs to compare with the automated solutions.  Human experts re-coded injury narratives and used standard classification methods, constantly measuring biases to adjust quantitative measures.  He stated that correctly assigning codes also requires the continuous monitoring and re-evaluation of automated outputs.

As discussed by NSA Research Director Dr. Frincke, the DNI’s emphasis on managing AI to facilitate information sharing, and augment the work of human analysts in the IC, reflects the imperative for modernizing the national security classification system long supported by the PIDB.  Just as the DNI recognizes the need for new policies and practices to implement emerging technologies in the IC, the automation of data classification at the BLS demonstrates the power of AI and ML to achieve efficient outcomes.

The PIDB promotes modernization to upgrade the efficiencies of similar processes in the classification and declassification of national security information at the enterprise level across the Federal government.  The success of IC teams in implementing AI projects, and the currently dispersed nature of innovations such as the use case presented by the BLS, demonstrate that the executive branch agencies would do well to follow the example of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in coordinating the implementation of emerging technologies across administrative silos.

Percy Winner, Distinguished News Commentator

Percy Winner belonged to a stable of news commentators heard on WQXR before and during World War II —a distinguished group that also included Quincy Howe, Lisa Sergio, and Estelle M. Sternberger. Some were staff and some on contract, but all were thoughtful and excellent journalists. In this pre-war commentary from Feb. 2, 1938, Winner analyzes the profound changes that have taken place in both Europe and America, and presciently argues that February 1938 marks “the definitive conclusion of the post-war [World War I] period” and the beginning of its successor, “the new pre-war [World War II] period.”Percy Winner is often noted as being the first American journalist to interview Mussolini; but his story, particularly during World War II, is quite the page-turner. According to his son, the journalist Christopher P. Winner, his father played a crucial role in getting spies from London into occupied Europe during the early part of the war, and wrote the text of the first U.S. propaganda leaflet dropped over France after the Germans invaded. (That leaflet read in part, “To you who gave us liberty, we shall restore liberty.”) Percy Winner was also the wartime regional chief of the U.S. Office of War Information for France, Belgium, North Africa, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. After World War II, Winner was a senior editor and foreign correspondent for The New Republic, the author of three novels, and director of foreign area studies at American University before his death at the age of 74 in 1974. Christopher P. Winner writes in detail his father’s encounter with Mussolini in Il Duce’s Crackers.






Stan Lee talks about his creations in 1970

In 1970 Stan Lee sat down with New York Magazine’s Lindsy and Lawrence Van Gelder on WNYC to talk about his super heroes as real people in a real world with real world problems, super powers aside. Contemporary issues and problems figure prominently in the Marvel Comic stories and Lee talks about women’s movement and possibility of women super heroes getting their own series. Responding to the age-old question about their negative influence, he says it’s no longer an issue today and that comics today are a public service. He also argues that ‘there is far more liberalism in children’s books today than in comics.’

Looking Back and Moving Forward, PIDB Promotes Modernization, Efficiency in Declassification

On October 27, 1999, when he introduced the first bill to create the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan cited the founding patriot James Madison: “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Sen. Moynihan argued that in the decades after World War II, arming citizens with knowledge had become increasingly difficult to achieve.  By 1999, more than 1.5 billion documents over 25 years old had been restricted from the public for national security reasons.  He perceived that state secrets not only “impoverish our country’s historical record,” but impede Americans from making the most of their national experience because “both mistakes and triumphs fall through the cracks of our collective history, making it much harder to resolve key questions about our past and to chart our future actions.”

Above all, Sen. Moynihan observed that the “warehousing and withholding” of historical evidence fosters the spread of conspiracy theories, exploited to undermine responsible government by what the mid-20th Century historian Richard Hofstadter called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1964).  Sen. Moynihan understood that greater openness in regulating state secrets would better allow “for the government to explain itself and to defend its actions” against implausible interpretations, and to better promote the informed decision-making that James Madison found so crucial to self-government in the American Republic.

To better inform both policymakers and citizens, Sen. Moynihan’s legislation proposed “a centralized, rational way” for Congress and the White House to lead the declassification of historically significant records, “all the while seeking maximum efficiency and disclosure.”  As an instrument for efficiency in disclosure, his bill put forth the establishment of what became the PIDB: a nine-member board, five appointed by the President, and one each by the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, the House Speaker and the House Minority leader.

This nonpartisan board of Congressional and Presidential appointees, tasked with prioritizing and expediting declassification, was enacted by Congress as “The Public Interest Declassification Act of 2000.”  It derived from one of 16 recommendations presented in the final report (March 1997) of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, also known as the “Moynihan Commission” after its chair, Sen. Moynihan.

In addition to its legislative mandate, the Moynihan Commission’s legacy to PIDB included personnel.  Moynihan Commission member Martin C. Faga, a former Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space, later served as a member of the PIDB (2004-2014) and continues to advise the Board informally. Joan Vail Grimson, who served as Counsel for Security Policy for the Moynihan Commission, also served as a PIDB member (2005-2008).

Today, the exploding volume of information and costs of government secrecy make the PIDB’s pursuit of efficiency in declassification more relevant than ever before.  In 2018, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) reported to the President that for FY 2017, classification cost the Federal government $18.49 billion, and an additional $1.49 billion spent by private industry supporting Federal contracts.  As agencies prepare for the requirement to submit only electronic records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by 2022, declassification processes remain hamstrung by analog technologies, outmoded policies, and an obsolete information management structure that compound the costs and burdens of secrecy.

The final report of the Moynihan Commission included a section on the implications of emerging technologies for information security that continue to grow at the center of PIDB’s role in arming citizens with the knowledge required for self-government.  With foresight, the report warned that the information revolution “requires a fundamental rethinking of traditional approaches to safeguarding national security information.”

The PIDB continues to promote modernization and efficiency in classification and declassification through evidence-based policy recommendations, on the conviction of Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary dictum, which Sen. Moynihan defended in his last address to Congress: “An informed citizenry is vital to the functioning of a democratic society.”

Scary Books for Children?: Edward Gorey in the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection

This is a guest-post by students Josalin Hughes and Julia Kleser, Editing, Writing, and Media majors, whose project for their Advanced Writing and Editing course this semester is to help create content highlighting portions of Special Collections holdings. 
Black and white illustration of a group of children in the shadow of a tall, skeletal man titled The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Child-rearing, Gorey style .

As we progress from the otherworldly and spooky atmosphere of October and deeper into the holiday spirit of November, it can be hard to let go of Halloween. After all, the exciting and haunting energy has been building since the first of the month. We hope everyone had a happy Halloween and want to introduce the work of an author near and dear to our hearts. Edward Gorey was a curious character who created spectacular—or spooktacular, rather, to stay in-season—books for children. Although not gory, as his name may suggest, some readers describe his art as “unnerving” or “creepy.” Marsha Gontarski, the researcher who compiled and donated the entire Marsha GontarskiChildren’s Literature Collection, refers to his style as “subtle and unsettling.”

Girl on Fire

Black and white illustration taken from “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” of a little girl surrounded by a large flame in an otherwise dark room. It is captioned “R is for Rhoda consumed by a fire."
Rhoda on fire!

One of the most well-known works, and perhaps most suitable for this recently passed holiday, is The Gashlycrumb Tinies which you can find in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. As pictured below, the poem takes on the form of a traditional alphabet-style book. Where Gorey’s version differs though, is the somewhat disturbing subject matter of each letter; from Amy to Zillah, each letter names a child who dies in a tragic, absurdor nonsensical way.

The darker tone of the poem bleeds in through the images that accompany the single-line deaths. Each illustration is inked in heavy, purposeful strokes in all black. Without the variation of color, his style relies on different textures and contrast to tell each morbid tale.

Creepy Baby and Bug Book

Illustration taken from An Edward Gorey Bestiary (1984) of a colorful naked baby on a white polar bear skin rug against a black hatched background. It is captioned “The baby, lying meek and quiet upon the customary rug, has dreams about rampage and riot, and will grow up to be a thug."
Baby from Bestiary

Even outside of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Gorey’s other work carries this same eerie quality, one which inspired well-liked artists such as Tim Burton. Taken from his 1984 engagement calendar, An Edward Gorey Bestiary, are a few illustrations that mirror the unsettling style seen in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with some splashes of color. Although his style may vary to include a more clean and colorful appearance, the stories he tells remain a little ghastly.


Bug Book


In The Bug Book, Gorey follows the lives of a family of delightfully cute and colorful bugs, and their murderous plot against the black bug who didn’t quite fit in with their lifestyle.



What makes a children’s book?

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."
More dead children.

Despite the more mature themes of his illustrated poems and short stories, such as death/murder, violence, and alcoholism, his works are often regarded as being made for children. This poses a question of what makes “a children’s book,” an element explored throughout the works included in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. Do illustration-heavy works fall into the category of being “for kids,” simply due to our societal understanding that picture books are childlike in nature? Do children pay attention to the same themes and motifs that catch the eyes of adults? These questions are prevalent in the discussion around Gorey’s work, and can be asked again and again as we make our way through literature assigned to the genre of children’s books.

Two books Dr. Gontarski recommended for those examining this subject include The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettleheim and Don’t tell the Grown-ups: Subversive Children’s Literature by Alison Laurie..

Balefully Although the season of ghosts, vampires, and bogeymen has ended, the spirit of the dark and disturbed doesn’t have to. Edward Gorey has a lot of works that we were unable to include in this post—be sure to come visit them in the Special Collections Reading Room, open Monday to Thursday, 10am – 6pm, or Friday 10am – 5:30pm. The reading room is on the first floor of Strozier Library. Gorey’s books, as well as so many other works using visual elements designed for children, are available in the Marsha Gontarski Collection.

“Remembering Vietnam” this Veterans Day

November 11 marks the annual observance of Veterans Day, a day on which we honor the courageous men and women who have served in the United States military. This year, the National Archives will host a week-long commemoration to honor and pay tribute to Vietnam War veterans.

Helicopter on the lawn of the National Archives for the opening weekend of the Remembering Vietnam, November 2017. National Archives photo By Jeff Reed

Vietnam-era helicopters will once again be on display on the front lawn of the National Archives from November 9-16, as part of the week-long Veterans Day commemoration.

While visiting the National Archives, be sure to see our current exhibition: “Remembering Vietnam.” The exhibit examines 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War to provide a framework for understanding the decisions that led to war, events and consequences of the war, and its legacy. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will be on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum through January 6, 2019. The National Archives Veterans Day Celebration is presented in part by the National Archives Foundation, Bell Helicopter, and the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family.    

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division stand guard over a Landing Zone waiting for the second wave of assault helicopters to land, 7/6/1966. National Archives Identifier 100310308

On Wednesday, November 14, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., join us for a program on support and resources for Vietnam veterans: “Remembering Veterans: A conversation of what happens after Duty, Honor, Country.”

Former Senator and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will deliver remarks, and the program will include a panel discussion with expert panelists including Rick Weidman, Vietnam veteran and Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). The program will be held at the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Learn more and register now. If you are unable to join us in person, you can watch the program live on the National Archives YouTube channel.

Visit archives.gov/vietnam for more information on education resources, to request military records, explore the Vietnam War timeline, and discover more resources.

Join us in the Innovation Hub on Tuesday, November 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., as we host The American Soldier in World War II transcribe-a-thon to make accessible an unusual collection of wartime documents — 65,000 pages of uncensored, handwritten reflections written by U.S. soldiers during World War II.

This event is part of a 72-hour collaborative transcribe-a-thon between Virginia Tech, the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the Social Science Research Council.

It is possible for classes, groups, communities, or individuals to participate both online and remotely. For more information and to register yourself or group, please visit the event web page.

Each year, we acknowledge the work done and sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. The National Archives and Records Administration is proud to serve veterans and their families, especially through our work at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. We are also proud to include many veterans among our staff. Find out how we help veterans access their records to receive benefits, read about the work our Preservation staff do to make these records accessible, watch historic films that our staff have restored and digitized about the experiences of veterans, and plan a visit to an exhibit or event near you.

Digitizing deteriorating negatives safely

This is the first in a series of posts on the 2018 Steffens-Colmer Studios and Don Coltman Company Photographs Digitization Project, funded by the British Columbia History Digitization Program.

We are working on a project to digitize thousands of negatives created by commercial photographer Don Coltman. His photographs are all public domain copyright, cover a wide variety of subjects, and will be freely available for use once the project is finished. These negatives are made of rapidly deteriorating cellulose acetate, which is a health hazard. They are stored frozen to keep them from deteriorating further. We had to develop a way to digitize the negatives that would be

  • safe for our staff (reduce their exposure to a hazard) and
  • safe for the negatives (reduce their time out of freezer storage)

Eric Vale. July 1949. Photographer Don Coltman. Detail from Item Identifier : CVA 586-8194.


We’ve written about the problems of cellulose acetate negatives before. As they deteriorate, they give off acetic acid, which is harmful if inhaled or absorbed by skin, eyes or contact lenses. They also smell like vinegar. The Coltman negatives are some of our smelliest acetate negatives; they were one of the main reasons we hurried to build the Friends of the Vancouver Archives Photographic Cold Storage Facility. In the decades since they were frozen, their deterioration has been almost completely stopped, but as soon as they are thawed for digitization, they give off more acid.

Distorted cellulose acetate negative. Photographer Sue Bigelow. Item identifier : CVA 586-9170.

Scan of deteriorated negative above. “Bristol Engines, shots at plant”. 1954. Photographer Don Coltman. Item identifier : CVA 586-9170.

We are pleased that there are only a few negatives in this project that are so badly deteriorated that they are very distorted. The rest of the negatives are as flat as when they were first frozen.


We considered setting up the digitization equipment in an old photographic darkroom that had been fitted with vapour extraction many years ago. The darkroom has a lot of flat working space, so we would have had room to spread out the equipment. Unfortunately, when the City’s Occupational Safety Specialist tested the vapour extraction system, it was not strong enough to remove acid vapours.

Next, we looked at the fume hood in our Conservation Lab. We knew the vapour extraction was excellent, but it was going to be a tight fit for our equipment. With the computer outside the fume hood, there was just enough room for the rest of the equipment inside.

Digitization equipment inside the fume hood; computer outside. Photographer: Sue Bigelow.

Since the fume hood has a stainless steel sill that is 5cm above the level of the surface inside, we created a platform out of foam to raise the keyboard and mouse to a comfortable working height level with the top of the sill.

Foam platform raising the keyboard and mouse to be level with the sill. Photographer Sue Bigelow.

Digitization technician Mandy Roddick using the equipment. Photographer Sue Bigelow.

This setup has been working well since May.


In order to limit the amount of time the negatives spent thawed, we made many trips into the freezer every day to retrieve and return small batches of negatives. Once they were thawed, the negatives would be scanned onto an external hard drive. The scans would be processed and inspected at one of our digitization workstations elsewhere in the building, using a better monitor. Then the negatives could be returned to the freezer.

We will let you know when these images are available in our database. In the meantime, here are a couple more as a preview.

Odeon Theatres Ltd., Hastings St. – interior of theatre. Dec. 3, 1946. Photographer Don Coltman. Item identifier : CVA 586-9965.

H.B.Co. [Hudson’s Bay Company] display – B.C. Apple window. Feb. 1947. Photographer Don Coltman. Item identifier : CVA 586-9881.

Skeletons In Our Closet: Heavy Small Collections

This blog post is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave last Friday to our regional professional organization, New England Archivists. We have a one-day meeting in the fall, and this year it was held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Our theme for the meeting was ethics in archives, and each of the nine presenters discussed collections or events that dealt with ethical challenges. 

Like librarians and doctors, archivists have a code of ethics that guides our work. You can read ours here: Society of American Archivists: Core Values and Code of Ethics for Professional Archivists. Shared discussion and consideration with colleagues is an important way for us to develop and learn as professionals, especially about ethical questions, which are always matters of judgment.

Describing Archival Collections—Ethical Considerations

It’s hard to say no to your boss, especially when it’s your first job as a professional archivist. Reprocessing the

Frederic Brewster Loomis (AC 1896) Papers

took far more of my time and labor than either of us expected. Negotiating this collection and its ethical demands was both personally and professionally challenging. Looking back now, nearly a year later, I find that I can better trust my own ethical judgments and see more vividly the violence inherent in overly “neutral” or “objective” descriptive practices.

A 1758 portrait of Lieutenant General Lord Jeffrey Amherst in his British army uniform, covered by a large red NO symbol (a circle with a slash through it).
A giant inflatable purple mammoth looms over the quadrangle as new students and their parents walk by.

Replacing an imperialist, genocidal mascot–Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who proposed gifting  smallpox-infested blankets to Native communities–with a huge purple mammoth was an excellent idea. The 20-ft tall inflatable version in the right-hand image above greeted our new first year students this fall.

Why do we have a mammoth?


This guy, Frederic Brewster Loomis. He’s the one on the left.

His friends called him “Mud Puppy.” He’s standing in the workroom next to the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) fossil skeleton he recovered in 1923 and 1925. 

The new mascot meant that this paleontologist’s two boxes of papers were now a priority to reprocess, with an eye towards eventual digitization. This seemed to be an easy job for the new archivist (me). But when I began reading Loomis’s accounts about the 1923 and 1925 digs in Melbourne, Florida,I realized that in addition to mammoth fossils, Loomis recovered human remains and artifacts.

Suddenly, this collection was not as easy as I had expected it to be.

As I continued processing, I began noting the locations of Loomis’s worksites, which could be vague, noted only by a creek or town name. I also began looking for more context in museum and anthropology literature, focusing on the 1990 North American Graves Repatriation and Protection Act (NAGPRA), and the ethical responsibilities of institutions holding Indigenous bodies and artifacts.

NAGPRA reviews and inventories had in fact been conducted for the holdings of the Beneski Museum of Natural History, Amherst’s science museum. Loomis’s work had focused on museum collection growth, and his shipments of  fossils became a large percentage of the holdings.



BOO the UNDEAD T. rex @SUEtheTrex. Portrait shows the T. rex's large open mouth and many sharp teeth. Profile text-Legendary Fossil. Apex Predator. National Treasure. New Suite Getter. All Caps Name Haver. They Them Pronoun User. LARGE MURDERBIRD. Chicago, IL (via South Dakota).I initially assumed that the non-human fossils were not an ethical concern, until I remembered SUE. The T. rex fossil at the Field Museum (Chicago, IL) had been purchased at auction for $8 million after protracted court cases were required to determine ownership after the 1990 dig on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

The Field Museum does science outreach and education through SUE’s Twitter persona, @SUEtheTrex.

The museum’s site about SUE discusses how they came to the museum, and what paleontologists have learned about tyrannosaurus rex.

The non-human fossils were valuable resources, and their removal to Amherst College was not harmless. For more analysis, I recommend Lawrence Bradley’s book Dinosaurs and Indians in the references.


In order to acknowledge where the specimens like our mammoth came from, I used ARCGis (precision map creation software) to map Loomis’s digs with varied precision, depending upon his location descriptions in publications and correspondence.

Overlaying maps of Indigenous nations’ homelands and treaties allowed me to identify the peoples Loomis and fellow paleontologists before and since had exploited.

A map of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Lakota Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation. Arrows and circles show dig sites.

This map shows where South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming meet, with green circles around the locations where Loomis recorded digs. The names of Indigenous nations indicate the recorded names of the nations as different treaties were signed.



But even “non-reservation” land had only been taken barely a generation before: Loomis was digging at Wounded Knee Creek 40 years after the Wounded Knee Massacre of Lakota men, women and children in 1890.

A map of Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, with the label

This map zooms in onto the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Wounded Knee Creek was the only identifier Loomis noted for these excavations, so the entire length of the creek is highlighted.

I wanted to provide researchers with this context and to create description that acknowledged the harmful nature of this creator’s work and how exploration and exploitation entwine in fieldwork and research across fields, and to recognize the Indigenous communities affected by his excavations, without ignoring Loomis’s dedicated work as a faculty member and teacher.

Here’s what I wanted to write:

This dead white guy stole lots of stuff for

Overly blunt summary can be a satisfying reaction when confronting people’s harmful actions, but this phrasing would not help a researcher wanting to understand Loomis and his papers.


I ended up with this:

Throughout his career, he collected both fossils and Native artifacts for Amherst College collections from the homelands and reservations of Native nations.

—Biographical note, Frederic Brewster Loomis (AC 1896) Papers, 1896-1938 https://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma18.html

Furthermore, one paragraph of the biographical note explicitly situates paleontology’s development within the settler colonial wars against Indigenous peoples of the late 19th century, and its contribution to other forms of resource extraction like mining and oil (and other fossil fuel) extraction.

That paragraph took a lot of revision: was I editorializing? Over-interpreting?

My own judgment was that omitting this background would in fact be contributing to the white supremacist and settler myths of science and individual careers as worth more than human lives and well-being.

The second descriptive tactic I used involved the mapping I described earlier.

June-September 1931

Accompanied by Louis H. Walz (AC 1931) and John W. Harlow.

South Dakota: Porcupine and Wounded Knee Creeks, Pine Ridge Reservation. In Oglala Lakota Nation.

Wyoming: Van Tassell. On Lakota and Arapaho homelands taken by the Act of February 28, 1877.

—Expedition chronology, Frederic Brewster Loomis (AC 1896) Papers, 1896-1938 https://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma18.html

In creating a chronology of his fieldwork, I named the nations where Loomis worked. The repetition over his 20+ documented digs helps underline and reinforce Indigenous presence and sovereignty. This example corresponds to the highlighted site on the second map image.


Part of archival work is documenting who and where our collections come from. We keep records about our collections that track how we acquired the materials we hold. In archives, we typically define collections by their source (whether from a person, a family, or an organization like the Office of Admissions). This practice (and related actions like not mixing materials from different origins, even if the documents refer to the same events) reflect a key principle of archival work that we call provenance.


n. (provenancial, adj.) — 1. The origin or source of something. – 2. Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection.

Notes: Provenance is a fundamental principle of archives, referring to the individual, family, or organization that created or received the items in a collection. The principle of provenance or the respect des fonds dictates that records of different origins (provenance) be kept separate to preserve their context.

Society of American Archivists. “Provenance.” Society of American Archivists Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. https://www2.archivists.org/glossary/terms/p/provenance.

By acknowledging the true costs of past scientific fieldwork supported by the College, and refusing to continue the myth-making about unused wasteland and White discoverers, I simply extended the same principle to include the subject of the collection, not just the origin of the physical papers.


Archival description expresses professional ethics and values.

—Principle 1, from the Revised Statement of Principles for Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)

New revised principles for our professional standard for describing archival materials are under consideration by the Society for American Archivists.

These new principles begin with the fundamentals of what we do, and why we do it. Description is ethical work. How we describe records’ creators, subjects, and content is and should be a place where we stop enabling Whiteness and its associated myths. Academic disciplines require sources for fuel like any other fire, and for too long, communities, peoples, and lands constructed as “other” have been those sources.



  1. Bradley, Lawrence W. Dinosaurs and Indians: Paleontology Resource Dispossession from Sioux Lands. Denver: Outskirts Press, Inc. 2014.
  2. Caswell, Michelle. “Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives.” The Library Quarterly 87, no. 3 (2017): 222–35.
  3. Dussias, Allison M. “Science, Sovereignty, and the Sacred Text: Paleontological Resources and Native American Rights.” Maryland Law Review 55, no. 1 (1996): 84–159.
  4. Redman, Samuel J. Bone rooms: from scientific racism to human prehistory in museums. Harvard University Press, 2016.
  5. Society of American Archivists Technical Subcommittee on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (TS-DACS). “Revised Preface and Statement of Principles for Describing Archives: A Content Standard.” under consideration, posted Aug 6 2018. https://github.com/saa-ts-dacs/dacs/pull/20.

Met Opera Announcer’s Career Begins in a Swimming Pool.

In this April 19, 1942 WQXR broadcast, Milton Cross and WNYC’s Tommy Cowan (formerly of WJZ Newark) re-enact their chance meeting in early 1922 at a YMCA swimming pool. During that encounter, Cowan invited the young singer to join him on the air at WJZ, the New York metropolitan area’s first radio station (where Cowan was the station’s first and only announcer at the time), effectively launching Cross’s renowned broadcasting career. Cross later became the first official voice of the Metropolitan Opera, where he announced regularly for forty-three years before both NBC and ABC microphones. Although Milton Cross would become known as the ‘dean of announcers,’ his relationship with the broadcast microphone began at WJZ as a tenor soloist, and continued for a couple of months on various music programs. As he explains to Cowan in this somewhat hokey recreation, the 24-year-old’s modest aim in life was to be a public school music teacher. But this was the dawn of broadcasting, and radio’s popularity was growing with each day. By mid-March of 1922, Cross was hired as WJZ’s second announcer, and it wasn’t long before his career goal shifted, as he became convinced that radio announcing was as much an art as singing.  The scripted program, Stars Are Made, takes us briefly through Cross’s broadcasting milestones and advice for would-be announcers, including women. So it’s no surprise the show was produced and sponsored by John F. Gilbert, the Director of the School of Radio Technique at Radio City in Rockefeller Center. Announcer Don Rich hosts it, a graduate of the school and editor of the syndicated newspaper column Radio By Rich. We also hear from Mrs. William Francis Gibbs, President of the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild and Association, who praises Cross and presents him with an award.

The School of Radio Technique was billed at the time as America’s oldest school devoted exclusively to radio broadcasting. In 1947 the school produced and marketed the ‘Oralexicon,’ the first recorded pronouncing dictionary for classical music. The four 12-inch Vinylite records were recorded by the their ‘oralexicographer,’ Milton Cross.

Another item from Milton Cross’s sonic legacy.
(A. Lanset Collection)


Recapping Archives Month at FSU

October is a special month for those us in the archives. It’s an entire month to celebrate our collections and, more importantly, our work which is often shrouded in mystery. Even for our co-workers in libraries. So, archivists have embraced American Archives Month, held every October, as a way to share what it is we do.

Visitors to our FSU Faculty & Staff Open House on October 26, 2018
Visitors to our FSU Faculty & Staff Open House on October 26, 2018

For us here in Special Collections & Archives this year, we started October by participating in #AskAnArchivist day on October 3, 2018, by staging a takeover of the FSU Libraries twitter feed, answering questions and participating in discussions that happened all over the Twittersphere. You can check out the hashtag #AskAnArchivist and the FSU Libraries twitter page to catch up on those tweets.

We had some celebration of the month here on the blog. We opened a new exhibit on protest in poetry, highlighted our Artist Book and Napoleon collections, shared a new digital collection available in our digital library, talked about our new records on FSU presidents, and looked for the spooky side of Special Collections for Halloween.

Special Collections & Archives hosted our first Open House for Archives Month this year for our faculty and staff here in FSU Libraries. We hope to grow this event in the coming years so more people on campus and in the community can come and see our collections and talk to us about our work.

Lastly, we also had our annual tradition of visiting Paul Dirac’s gravesite and cleaning the headstone. Dirac, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, retired to Tallahassee and taught at FSU while he lived here. Upon his death, his papers and collections came here to FSU and is a cornerstone collection to our History of Science materials.

Cleaning Dirac's headstone at Roselawn Cemetery, October 30, 2018
Cleaning Dirac’s headstone at Roselawn Cemetery, October 30, 2018


Soprano Geraldine Farrar Pays Tribute to Her Teacher Lilli Lehmann

Lilli Lehmann by Julius Cornelius Schaarwächter in 1903.
(Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main/Wikimedia Commons)

On December 10, 1939 opera and film star Geraldine Farrar took to the WQXR airwaves to celebrate her teacher, Lilli Lehmann. Next to her mother, Farrar says, the great soprano “was to exercise the most important influence in my musical career.” Farrar plays classical DJ and illustrates the singer’s career drawing on rare recordings of Lehmann that have survived as well as a number of her own discs to make her points. I should note, the above audio is a ‘reconstruction’ of that program based on the original Farrar broadcast narration with most of the 78 rpm disc recordings inserted afterward.  

Farrar wrote about the first meeting with her mentor in Geraldine Farrar, The Story of an American Singer published in 1916.

A signed Lilli Lehmann photo to Geraldine Farrar.
(From Farrar’s Autobiography)

“About this time I first met Madame Lilli Lehmann, to whose far-reaching influence I attribute much of the success which has come to me. I felt the need of the careful instruction of a master. Of course, the idol of music-loving Germany was then, as now, Lilli Lehmann. I wrote to her, asking if I could sing for her with the idea of becoming her pupil. There was no answer. Lilli, with her extensive correspondence and active life, was probably too busy to consider such a matter as a new pupil. Then my mother wrote. In reply came a very concise and businesslike communication. Yes, Lilli had received the letter from me, but, owing to my eccentric handwriting, had been unable to decipher it. My mother’s penmanship was clearer, and so Lilli wrote that she would be willing to hear me sing, without promising to accept me as her pupil, however.

“An appointment was made for us to call at half-past nine o’clock in the morning at her home in Grunewald, half an hour’s ride from Berlin, and, though the day was cold and wintry, my mother and I were there promptly on time.

“Beautiful Lilli Lehmann—stately and serene as a queen; with a wonderful personality which seemed naturally to dominate every presence in the room; past the meridian of life yet with an unbroken record of world achievement behind her; greatest living exponent of Mozart, of Brahms, of Liszt, of Wagner—what more can I say of her than that I approached her with the deference and respect which were her due? I was an eager and humble beginner; she of another generation. My desire to secure her as my instructor seemed almost presumptuous; yet, after hearing me sing, Lilli kindly consented to take me, and I am happy and proud to state that I have been her pupil at all times since that first meeting.

“Lilli insisted that I should essay one Wagnerian rôle. Under her direction I studied Elizabeth in “Tannhäuser,” and the night I made my first appearance in this rôle in Berlin was a memorable occasion for both of us. The entire royal family was present, and Lilli sat in a loge with my mother. I should explain that Lilli, who had been a notable member of the Royal Opera for many years prior to her American successes, had had differences with the direction of the Royal Opera during the years of her tremendous popularity in America, and had followed her own sweet will by remaining here several seasons without receiving the necessary permission from the Intendant to do so.”


Working with the Napoleon Collection

A guest post by Brianna McLean, who currently works in Special Collections and the Heritage Museum.  She is a history graduate student working on her M.A. in Early Modern European History.

This semester, I have been working with our Rare Books Librarian, Rachel Duke, and learning about the Napoleon Collection here in Special Collections.  As a history graduate student studying Early Modern France, this collection has been extra rewarding to examine.  There are so many exciting pieces, such as Napoleon’s death mask, Eighteenth-century manuscripts, documents about France’s colonies and women during the time, newspapers, pamphlets, secondary scholarship on France, and more.  The best part is that all of these items are just waiting inside Strozier Library to be examined and studied.

Napoleon’s Death Mask

The Napoleon Collection is particularly strong when it comes to Napoleon’s military campaigns and works by and about prominent French Revolutionary and military figures.  The collection includes works by Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Marat, and more.  For me, the best part of this collection are the memoirs.  Memoirs are one of my favorite parts of history because you can learn so much about a person by what they wanted to portray to the public about themselves.  Some of the memoirs are even digitized in E-book form, available on databases like Hathi Trust if researchers want online access as well. But FSU has our own digital repository, Diginole, and some Napoleonic manuscripts are accessible there, such as this 1772 regiment list of revenues and expenses.

In 2018, Special Collections received an incredible donation to the Napoleon Collection: the Michael La Vean Collection.  This over-4000-book collection is the perfect addition to the Napoleon Collection because it adds new dimensions, such as an increase in women’s narratives.  Researchers may be interested in this collection because of its emphasis on gender studies, history of sex, European naval history, military uniforms, and the history of European royalty.  Currently, Special Collections is preparing to catalog the La Vean Collection to make it accessible to researchers.

Walking through the La Vean Collection. 

When collections are donated, they are usually kept in the same order as the donor, or creator, gave them, until they can be ordered by call number.  As a library and museum assistant, I feel fortunate to be able to view the collection in its original order.  La Vean organized his collection topically into different subjects such as “Medieval,” “Vendee & French Civil War,” “Women General,” “Napoleon Family,” and “Naval,” among others.  This semester, I am learning about this collection and figuring out the most important items and what should be cataloged first.  Researchers are encouraged to visit Special Collections with any inquiries about the collection while it is being processed.

More La Vean spines. 

This is just a small glimpse into our French Revolution Collections. If you are interested in seeing what the Napoleon Collection has to offer, please stop by Special Collections and visit the library catalog, setting “Strozier, Napoleon Collection” as your location.




Recollections From a Smoke-Filled Room: The Day Party Boss Meade Esposito Stepped Down

When Kings County Democratic Leader Meade Esposito stepped down from his post in January 1984, he held a farewell news conference with the local press corps, of which the above audio is an excerpt. It was a rare and somewhat upbeat gathering for reporters who had been covering the party boss for the last 16 years. As Village Voice columnist Wayne Barrett once wrote, “selecting a county leader happens once every decade or so. Incumbents have the power to hang on until they go to jail or die. And while in power, they influence the selection of every local and citywide office holder, especially judges.”

In August 1980 WNYC’s Tom Manning interviewed Esposito about his control of county delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The Brooklyn power broker, a title he scoffed at, also talked about his political instincts, Mayor Ed Koch’s anatomy and even his saving of marriages and building of a synagogue.

During his tenure, the gruff Esposito was known and feared for his streetwise approach to politics, heavy-handed tactics, and connection to organized crime figures. He was an ‘old school’ king-maker: a political fixer whose machine was fueled by loyalty, patronage and a quid pro quo system that resulted in a bevy of municipal corruption scandals and inquiries. It is likely that a 1983 investigation into his activities contributed to the announcement of his ‘retirement’ and this press conference, despite his arguments to the contrary. Four years later, Esposito was convicted in the Brooklyn Federal District Court of giving Congressman Mario Biaggi of the Bronx an unlawful gratuity of a luxury spa vacation in Florida.

New Film Examines the Public Life of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Original PIDB Backer

A new film examines the intellectual, diplomatic, and political career of Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), the United States Senator from New York, who in 1999 introduced the first bill to create the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB).  Enacted in December 2000, the PIDB legislation authorized one of 16 recommendations to improve access to government information presented in the final report of the Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy (March 1997).

In the arc of his life-long commitment to evidence-based policy, the film samples Senator Moynihan’s skepticism toward excessive government secrecy, underscoring his concern that policymakers too often ignore even the open facts that are critical for informed decision making in a democracy.  For example, during his first term in the Senate (1977-1982), Moynihan cited the already abundant evidence of economic inefficiency in Russian food production to debunk politicians who exaggerated the stability of the Soviet Union.

While scoffing at credulous politicians, Moynihan never shied from confronting undemocratic governments on moral grounds.  In the film, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recalls that as President Ford’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Moynihan defied more conventional diplomats by dramatically speaking before the UN General Assembly to denounce a notoriously anti-semitic resolution sponsored by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amen.  Kissinger’s State Department officials would have preferred a more quiet diplomacy.

Going back to Moynihan’s rise from a broken home in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, the film makes a persuasive case that the problem of poverty remained central to the policy initiatives that drove his career.  Moynihan arrived in Washington as an appointee to President John Kennedy’s Department of Labor under Secretary Arthur Goldberg. Serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor during President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” he focused on the links between poverty and racial inequality.

After teaching at Harvard, Moynihan made the rare transition from Johnson’s administration and academia to serve as President Richard Nixon’s Assistant for Domestic Policy, and Counselor to the President.  Although Congress failed to pass it, Moynihan drafted legislation that President Nixon supported to provide a guaranteed income to all Americans.  In 1970 he again left government for Harvard.

Moynihan’s diplomatic career began when he returned to public service as Nixon’s Ambassador to India in 1973, and continued with his appointment as Ambassador to the United Nations by President Ford in 1975.  First elected in 1977 to the United States Senate, he served four terms before retiring in 2001.

The film shows that Moynihan’s deep concerns about excessive government secrecy remained consistent with his long advocacy for evidence-based policy that would improve social conditions for the benefit of citizens under democratically elected governments.  The PIDB continues as part of his larger legacy, to implement the idea that by promoting transparency in government, democratic processes must also curtail the excesses of government.

Event: Moynihan (2018), directed by Joseph Dorman and Toby Perl Freilich, written by Joseph Dorman, and showing locally through November 1.  For showtimes, consult: AFI Silver Theatre and Culture Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.



Hugh Pickett fonds now available!

Thanks to the generous attendees of the Hugh Pickett Gala in 2017 and the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, we are pleased to announce that the descriptions for the Hugh Pickett fonds are now available and searchable online.

Hugh Pickett was born and raised in Vancouver. His first job was as an usher at the Colonial Theatre in 1928 – he always had a love for show business. He later worked for Dingwall Cotts Steamship Co. and served in the Canadian Army as the secretary to Brigadier Langdon out of an office in the old Vancouver Hotel.

Portrait of Hugh Pickett in 1943 (from scrapbook). Reference code: AM1674-S8-F09

In 1950 Pickett, along with Holly Maxwell, took over Hilker Attractions and re-named it Famous Artists Ltd. Pickett was Company Manager from 1947 until 1964. Famous Artists Ltd. was “an artistic management enterprise dedicated to sponsoring appearances by artists and by ballet and theatre companies in Vancouver and Victoria.” Known as Vancouver’s impresario it is no surprise that Pickett’s records are peppered with names and photographs of local, national and international celebrities and artists.

George London, Holly Maxwell and Hugh Pickett in 1954. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F06- : 2014-089.0930

Famous Artists Ltd. was responsible for bringing big names to Vancouver such as Pink Floyd, Maria Callas, Vincent Price, Artur Rubinstein, John Prine, Lily Tomlin, Paul Anka, Leontyne Price, Mitzi Gaynor, Neil Young, The Supremes and hundreds more. Pickett played a key role in securing Vancouver’s spot on many international tours.

Ron McDougall, Leontyne Price and Hugh Pickett in 1975. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F01- : 2014-089.0690

During this time Pickett became heavily involved with Theatre Under the Stars and was the manager from 1952 until 1954. He also acted as the manager for Marlene Dietrich for 12 years in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Page from Pickett’s scrapbook from 1943 featuring Marlene Dietrich before he was her manager. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F07

The Hugh Pickett fonds documents Pickett’s professional career and personal life; his role as manager and co- owner of Famous Artists Ltd., his youth and travels in the 1940’s and his involvement with Theatre Under the Stars. The records include publicity materials, news clippings, scrapbooks and photographs that demonstrate his passion for the entertainment industry and his interest in and relationships with celebrities and artists. The fonds consists of a wide variety of records, such as correspondence, invoices, and financial reports; production records such as travel arrangements, artist requests and fees, stage layout designs and cast photographs; as well as promotional records, such as press releases, programs and press clippings.

Hugh Pickett seated at the Malkin Bowl for Theatre Under the Stars in 1956. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F06- : 2014-089.1003

The fonds has been arranged into nine series:

There were a few interesting and unexpected records in the Hugh Pickett fonds. One example is a number of tear sheets from British theatre companies starting in the year 1802, some of the oldest records at the City of Vancouver Archives.

British theatre tear sheet from 1802. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F16

Gaiety Theatre tear sheet from 1892. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F16

Another is his collection of scrapbooks documenting his youth, his work with the Spitfire Fund, his close friends and family, vacations and trips (local and international) and his time serving in the army. The scrapbooks contain some well composed photographs, ticket stubs, correspondence, writing, decorations and greeting cards.

Below are a few highlights from Pickett’s scrapbooks.

Scrapbook page documenting a trip to Savary Island. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F10

Drawing from Pickett’s scrapbook, possibly by Hugh Pickett. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F11

Page from Pickett’s scrapbook containing a Department of National Defence letter from 1943 certifying travel permission for Pickett, as well as a Tijuana, Mexico brochure. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F11

Scrapbook page featuring Elsa Maxwell of the Spitfire Fund. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F04

Scrapbook page with Spitfire Fund pins. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F04

Not only does the Hugh Pickett fonds offer a unique glimpse into the life of Impresario Hugh Pickett and the operations of Famous Artists Ltd., but also the artistic, political, theatrical and cultural landscape of Vancouver through the 1930’s until the early 2000’s. We invite you to come to the archives and have a look at these records. Our reading room staff would be happy to help you with your search. It is our goal to have a portion of the photographic content digitized and available online in the coming year.

We are very grateful to the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, Bill Allman of Famous Artists and Gordon Boyd for their generous support in expediting the processing of these wonderful records. Our thanks go as well to Ron McDougall for his time and work assisting us with identifying individuals in over 300 photographs.