Urban development, pamphlets, slavery records, and Civil Rights Greensboro

Annual report and map, City Of Greensboro, North Carolina, 1965-1966

There are many changes and updates afoot in out digital collections, and more are on the way.

Civil Rights Greensboro
This collection, online since 2009, has recently been migrated into our CONTENTdm hosting platform. This move provides some significant benefits, including faceted search capability, full-text search within the oral histories and many other documents, and higher-resolution images. The move will also allow this collection to be added to the Digital Public Library of America and to Worldcat. As part of the upgrade, we have also added to the collection over four hundred newspaper articles dating from the 1960 sit-ins that were digitized by the Greensboro Public Library.

A similar migration is planned for the Women Veterans Historical Project later this year.

Digital Library on American Slavery
The Development Team here in the University Libraries has built an outstanding new interface that brings together the search functions of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project and the NC Runaway Slave Ads project. But this is just the beginning. We will soon be adding other databases from different institutions  to the search interface so as to allow “one-stop shopping” for any number of slavery-related collections. Hats off the ERIT Development Team for pulling this all together!

Greensboro Urban Development
We are currently adding material to a new Greensboro history collection, spotlighting urban development in Greensboro, particularly in the years after World War II. This collection will include planning documents, maps, scrapbooks, and other materials documenting downtown development, urban renewal activities, the growth of historic districts, and more. The collection currently features planning-related content held by UNCG University Libraries but we will soon be adding additional material from the Greensboro Public Library and the Greensboro Historical Museum. In addition, we are currently digitizing the archives of the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association, Greensboro’s first designated historic district.

New material is going online every week.

Home Economics and Nutrition Pamphlets
We have completed the second phase of digitization on this popular project and are in the process of placing online approximately three hundred new pamphlets that run the gamut from product manuals to cookbooks, all of which are held by the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. This is a great look at home culture throughout the Twentieth Century and it’s also a lot of fun.

Three hundred new items should be online by early September.

More soon:
Watch this space for updates coming soon to our Manuscript Collections, Cello Music Collections, and University Archives Images and Documents.

FSU 101: Intro to Florida State History

Have you ever wondered about the long and storied history of Florida’s oldest university and how it came to be known as Florida State University? Well, you’re in luck – welcome to FSU 101: Intro to Florida State History, and class is now in session.

1851 – The Florida Legislature votes to establish two seminaries of higher education, which led to the establishment of the West Florida Seminary in Tallahassee.

West Florida Seminary Seal

West Florida Seminary Seal

1858 – The West Florida Seminary absorbs the Tallahassee Female Academy (formerly the Misses Bates School) and the institution becomes coeducational.

1861-65 – During the Civil War, formal military training began at the seminary and it was briefly renamed The Florida Military and Collegiate Institute. Cadets from the institute defeated Union forces at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865, and because of this victory, the FSU Army ROTC is one of four in the United States permitted to display a battle streamer.

1883 – 1901 – This period was a time of great transition for the West Florida Seminary. In 1883, the West Florida Seminary became part of Florida University (the first state university in Florida), and became the institution’s Literary College. In 1885, the university was briefly recognized by the Florida Legislature as the University of Florida (yes, you read that right!), but the name was repealed in 1903 and transferred to the former Florida Agricultural College. In 1901, the university was reorganized into Florida State College.

Florida State College Seal

Florida State College Seal

Florida State College for Women Seal

Florida State College for Women Seal

1905 – The Buckman Act goes into effect and segregates all universities in Florida by race and gender. The Florida State College is briefly called the Florida Female College, before being officially titled the Florida State College for Women in 1909. FSCW was the pinnacle of women’s education in the south during this period, and by 1933 had grown to be the third largest women’s college in the United States.

1946-47 – With the influx of soldiers returning from WWII and the G.I. Bill going into effect, the Tallahassee Branch of University of Florida opened on the campus of FSCW. Male students were housed in barracks at Dale Mabry Field, west of Tallahassee, and bussed into campus. This area became known as West Campus, and later became the location of the Tallahassee Community College. In 1947, the two schools officially merged and became the Florida State University.

Florida State University Seal, 1947

Florida State University Seal, 1947

1947 – With the inclusion of men to the student body, FSU now has varsity sports teams and needs a mascot. Final potential mascots included the Crackers, Statesmen, Tarpons, and Fighting Warriors, but eventually students chose to adopt the Seminoles.

There you have it – a very brief crash course in the long history of Florida State University. To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

Declassification of the Manhattan District History at the Department of Energy

On August 21, 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) posted to its OpenNet system the multi-volume history of the Manhattan Project, titled The Manhattan District History.  Commissioned in 1944 by General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Engineer District, the thirty-six volume history was “intended to describe, in simple terms, easily understood by the average reader, just what the Manhattan District did, and how, when, and where” according to general editor Gavin Hadden, a longtime civil employee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The volumes detail the Manhattan Project’s activities and achievements in research, design, construction, operation, and administration, as well as contain extensive annotations, statistical tables, charts, engineering drawings, maps, photographs, and derailed indices.

The PIDB congratulates the Office of Classification, the Office of History and Heritage Resources, and the DOE’s Office of Science and Technical information for completing all declassification reviews on these important histories.  In particular, we are gratified that the DOE prioritized these histories for declassification.   This effort illustrates the government’s ability to declassify no-longer-sensitive information related to our nation’s nuclear history, a recommendation made by the PIDB’s 2012 Report, Transforming the Security Classification System, and adopted in the President’s Second Open Government National Action Plan.  The PIDB is also pleased that these records received a line-by-line declassification review, rather than being subjected to simple pass/fail determinations.  We will continue to follow and give encouragement to agencies as they work to implement the President’s Plan.

Shakespeare’s Desk

Last spring, Professor Anston Bosman and I led a seminar on “Shakespeare and the History of Books.” Our seven intrepid Sophomores explored a wide range of readings and primary sources around that topic, much of which they documented in the course blog: https://blogs.ats.amherst.edu/colq-231-1314s/

Over the summer, several of our students worked on an exhibition that will be on display in the Archives & Special Collections for the whole of the fall semester. They took the title for their exhibition from an essay by Peter Stallybrass that we read for class: “Shakespeare’s Desk: Authorship as Material Practice.” This passage appears in the opening paragraph:

The plots of Shakespeare’s plays, like those of his fellow-dramatists, were drawn from his reading. It is extraordinary how little this simple fact seems to have impinged upon Shakespearean studies: Shakespeare’s writing developed out of his reading.

Although the Archives & Special Collections holds a respectable teaching collection of early modern printed books, including nearly 500 books and manuscripts created before Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the exhibition moves from a consideration of what Shakespeare might have read to explore how Shakespeare has been packaged for the desks of other readers over the past 400 years.

A fuller web-version of the exhibition is currently under construction, so I will use this post to highlight just a couple of items.

Illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s works are a fascinating topic, and this exhibition features two fine examples.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

This detail of Caliban in “The Tempest” is taken from the large folio copy of The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of the Dramatic works of Shakespeare by the Most Eminent Artists of Great Britain, which was published by Shearjashub Spooner in New York City in 1852.

A volume from our set of The Dramatic Works of Shakspeare (1791-1802), edited by George Steevens and published with illustrations that match those published as Boydell’s Graphic Illustrations of the dramatic works of Shakspeare. Here is the rendition of Caliban from that edition:

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

The complete history of John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery is a fascinating story. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC mounted an exhibition titled “Marketing Shakespeare: The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805) and Beyond” in late 2007. The online version of their exhibition contains images of some of the original paintings Boydell commissioned for his Gallery and explores the printmaking process, among other things.

These two illustrations were selected for a different reason that ties them into the theme of Shakespeare’s Desk. “The Tempest” is generally regarded as a response, in part, to European exploration of North and South America. One of the cases in our exhibition features books representative of the information Shakespeare might have encountered about the “New World.”

Frontispiece from Ogilby's America (1671).

Frontispiece from Ogilby’s America (1671).

Although our copy of John Ogilby’s book America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World (1671) was written long after Shakespeare’s death, it is the best example in our collections of an illustrated work of exploration. One goal of this exhibition is to suggest some ways that examining early books can open up new paths of research. Clearly, these three images suggest there may be something very interesting going on here. Deeper exploration of representations of Caliban as they relate to illustrations of “New World” inhabitants would require a visit to a library like the Folger.

Installation of this new exhibition will wrap up later this week. In addition to the works shown here, visitors will be able to see our copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio, along with published books ranging from the sixteenth century to the present.

An iconic image? Commonwealth Games mascots

Our Hosts and Champions exhibition has returned from a successful run in Glasgow during the 2014 Games and is currently on display in our Pathfoot Building. In this article Ian Mackintosh, our Exhibition Assistant, writes about the curious tale of the Games mascots…

Copy of original Clyde design by Beth Gilmour

Copy of original Clyde design by Beth Gilmour

Clyde the mascot of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games has been hailed as a great commercial success. It was a unique selection in that the mascot was designed by Beth Gilmour a 12 yr. old Cumbernauld school pupil. Her design was selected from a Blue Peter completion. Her creation is also unique in that Clyde is the first non-animal/mammal mascot for the Commonwealth games.

If the Legal and Concessions Committee of the 1970 Edinburgh Games been as bold as the 2014 Games Organisers it would all be so different. They had been bold enough to commission a mascot for the games because of the success of World Cup Willie in 1966. The mascot for the 1970 games was to be a kilted Haggis dubbed “wee mannie”.

Wee Mannie

Wee Mannie, the unacceptable face of Commercialism and unloved mascot!

From high profile publicity launch in July 1969 followed by a competition launch to name the mascot all soon turned sour. The committee received 23 letters of complaint against the mascot. Yet despite over 400 entries to name the mascot from children from all over Britain “wee mannie” (above) was dropped. The committee claimed that the BCG Crest design (below) was more popular.

The acceptable face of Commercialism in 1970 this crest was used for badges that were sold at the games

The acceptable face of Commercialism in 1970 this crest was used for badges that were sold at the games

While the 1970 Games Committee claimed the idea of a mascot was not a popular one, on Saturday 18th July 1970 they must have regretted that decision. The Scottish Athletics team for the 1970 games had created a mascot for themselves. It was a huge teddy bear was dressed in a navy blue Scottish Athletic team vest and white shorts named “Dunky Dick”.

when Lachie Stewart had just won the 10,000 metres comfortably beating the great Australian runner Ron Clarke into second place. What happed next was one of the most iconic sporting moments in Scottish sporting history? Scottish woman’s 800 metre hopeful Rosemary Stirling ran to the victorious Lachie Stewart and presented him with the mascot. The image of Lachie Stewart and the mascot became a global success. The mascot was to gain world-wide fame as the television and newspaper images were flashed around the world.

Lachie with Dunky Dick the unofficial mascot of the 1970 Edinburgh British Commonwealth Games

Lachie with Dunky Dick the unofficial mascot of the 1970 Edinburgh British Commonwealth Games

Now we should ponder, had the Committee forged ahead with the mascot Lachie would have been presented with a giant haggis instead? How about that for an iconic image? Imagine how many haggis mascots would have been sold? Is it a matter of regret about a missed opportunity? Ironically the 1978 Edmonton games became the first to have an official mascot. So Canada who gave us the commonwealth games also gave us the mascot. A golden opportunity for a Scottish first missed.

World War I in the Archive Images

There are few images in the archive which clearly relate to the Great War. These three were perhaps part of a lecture seeking to raise funds for those orphaned by the conflict.

As with modern conflict images, these serve to remind us that those most affected by war are not always in the military.

This picture was taken in France, though it is unclear whether the orphans were French or Belgian.

This picture was taken in France, though it is unclear whether the orphans were French or Belgian.

The battlefront of April, 1918, is shown on this slide, so it probably was created near the end of the war or shortly after its conclusion.

The battlefront of April, 1918, is shown on this slide, so it probably was created near the end of the war or shortly after its conclusion.

A church showing war damage Kennedybx1im017a

A Sense of the Past: Archives and Creative Writing

The merits of using archives in the history classroom go without saying:

  • They – imperatively – help students understand the basic tenets of source-based research: what archives are; potential biases; gauging reliability of sources.
  • They encourage students to get excited about the past. This, for me, beats any conversation about the principles of historiography (no offense, historiography; you are still important).
  • The immediacy of archives allows students to take a hands-on engagement with histories of individuals, places and situations that are often relatable to their own lives.

However, archives can also play a significant role in a less obvious aspect of the curriculum: the creative writing strand in Literacy.

A few months ago, Professor Dominic Wyse delivered his inaugural professorial lecture here at the IOE, on the topic of creativity and the curriculum. He touched on the potential danger of replacing the creative writing process with didactic, rote grammar instruction. While grammar instruction is an absolute necessity, what is also a necessity is providing students with dedicated time, opportunity and encouragement to simply write creatively.

I apologise for this interminable introduction to today’s topic: archives as a catalyst for creative writing.  Take, for example, the role archives played in one musician’s song writing.

As a transplanted Canadian living in London, I am prone to nostalgia and sentimentality about anything related to Canada: maple syrup; Alice Munro; ice hockey (I don’t even like hockey); excessive friendliness; etc.

But really, what better incites a wave of nostalgia than music? Enter Canadian musician, John K Samson, also of the band, The Weakerthans. Through each of his albums, Samson scatters his lyrics with references to Canada (the loonie, GST, curling and his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba), in songs that are quiet, loud, melancholy and sweet.

Image via CBC

On his most recent solo album, Provincial, Samson took to the archives as inspiration for his lyrics. Samson describes the research-based approach he took for the record:

My idea was to research four different stretches of road in Manitoba and write three different songs about each of them and use techniques and research as well as exploring the places themselves and just try to use different strategies to try and get a sense of each of these places.

Samson went about creating a ‘musical map’ of Manitoba. He ‘talked to relatives, friends and strangers; he visited archives, a tuberculosis sanatorium-turned-RV park, a forgotten cemetery’ (johnksamson.com). With visits to the Archives of Manitoba, Samson was drawn to ‘the way the places were framed by someone’s eye back then. When I visited the sites they were different but unchanged. It gave me a richer idea of places’ (CBC).

We all know archives do their job when it comes to academic, historical research. But a well-referenced thesis or book doesn’t have to be their end point. At the heart of any archive collection is its potential for users (and writers) to piece together a sense of a given point in the past.  Whether it’s exploring a person (characterisation), place (setting), or event (plot), archives can both inform and inspire the creative writing process.

Educators, you can find creating writing prompts in our archive learning resources. They can be used in conjunction with current areas of study (equal rights; women’s movement; etc.)… or as a stand-alone writing exercise for those days you need a last-minute lesson.

Lastly, even if you’re not Canadian, go take a listen to Samson’s Provincial.

A personal favourite is ‘Ipetitions.Com/Petition/Rivertonrifle’ – the title is an actual online petition to get Reggie Leach inducted into Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Again, I don’t even like hockey.  If you like hockey, Canada, or simply a bunch of Canadians in toques, watch this video on the project: We, the Undersigned.

And since we’re a university archive, for the grad school students: ‘When I Write my Master’s Thesis’ (with a nod to cotton gloves in the archives).

CBC ‘Manitoba artists find inspiration in the archives’

Tagged: archives, canada, creative writing, john k samson, learning resource, manitoba

Lindsay Anderson Revisited, An International Symposium

Last week a major international symposium was held at Lund University to celebrate the work of one of British cinema’s greatest talents. Lindsay Anderson Revisited brought together academics, writers, film critics, filmmakers (and archivists!) to discuss the director’s long and colourful career. The many possibilities for research offered by Anderson’s work were reflected in the packed programme with speakers exploring various aspects of Anderson’s career as a filmmaker, theatre director, author and critic. The symposium highlighted the research value of Anderson’s archive of personal and working papers and also its links and connections with other collections both at Stirling and other institutions.

In his paper on Anderson’s friendship with John Ford Charles Barr presented the early correspondence between the two men, reassembled through archival research.  Anderson’s early letters to Ford are part of the extensive John Ford Archive held at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, with Ford’s replies forming part of the collection of Anderson’s papers at Stirling University. Barr’s detailed examination of these letters brought to light the historical significance of a seemingly innocuous passage in Ford’s first letter to Anderson. Writing to Anderson in March 1947 Ford thanks Anderson for his letter and invites him to write with his views of his new film The Fugitive. Ford apologises for typing the letter, explaining that “I am as yet unable to write long hand, due to a bathing accident at Omaha Beach.” This was Ford’s typically understated way of describing the injuries he received when shooting footage of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.

John Ford's letter to Lindsay Anderson in which he mentions his 'bathing accident at Omaha Beach.' (Ref. LA 5/1/2/13/1)

John Ford’s letter to Lindsay Anderson in which he mentions his ‘bathing accident at Omaha Beach.’
(Ref. LA 5/1/2/13/1)

The discussions which took place during the symposium around subjects including Anderson’s ‘Scottishness’ and his work as a documentary filmmaker brought out the links and relationships that existed across the British and international filmmaking community that Anderson operated in. Some of these relationships are reflected in the film-related collections held at Stirling. Anderson’s Archive now sits on the shelves beside the papers of John Grierson, the ‘father of documentary.’ When Anderson emerged as a young filmmaker with his Free Cinema documentaries in the 1950s he challenged the established British documentary tradition started by Grierson in the 1930s. Grierson’s less than enthusiastic response to this new generation of documentary filmmakers and Anderson’s challenges to his Griersonian predecessors are preserved in their papers, a search across both collections highlighting the critical and theoretical distance between the two men.

A selection of Polish films were presented in the Free Cinema Four programme at the NFT in September 1958 (ref. LA 1/2/5/13)

A selection of Polish films were presented in the Free Cinema Four programme at the NFT in September 1958
(ref. LA 1/2/5/13)

Anderson’s connections with his European filmmaking contemporaries were examined in papers relating to his correspondence with the French actor Serge Regianni and his connections with Poland. In 1966 Anderson visited Warsaw to direct a production of John Osborne’s play Inadmissible Evidence which led to an invitation to make a film (The Singing Lesson). Anderson had already visited the USSR in 1957 with the Royal Court Theatre and Czechoslovakia on a number of occasions in the 1960s. The archive includes an extensive photographic collection which includes many images of these trips across the Iron Curtain.

Personal reminiscences, academic investigation and archival research all contributed to an event which opened up many new avenues of research into the life and career of one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers. Thanks must go to the organisers Erik Hedling, Christophe Dupin and Elisabet Björklund for putting together such a stimulating and entertaining programme!

Special Visitors

Tracy Bray contacted us recently and wondered if she could bring her father and family for a special visit to the National Archives in Washington.  It was a surprise for her father, Harry Edward Neal Jr.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have special meaning to all of us and especially to the Neal family.  Mr. Neal’s father, Harry Edward Neal, was the Secret Service Agent in charge of getting those precious parchments into protective custody at Fort Knox during World War II.

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

The Charters had not yet been transferred to the National Archives and were housed at the Library of Congress.  Other documents slated for this secret mission included The Gutenberg Bible, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, and the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta which had been on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Agent Neal’s detailed report to Frank J. Wilson, Chief of the Secret Service, is fascinating.  An armored truck “under suitable guard” moved the material from the Library of Congress Annex to Union Station where a drawing room and adjoining compartments on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train leaving at 6:30 p.m. on the 26th of December 1941.

A wonderful letter from then Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, captured the emotion of the moment in his letter … [ Read all ]

Archival Images at the 2014 Pacific National Exhibition

Archival images from our holdings will be on display in a big way at this year’s PNE!

Couple on amusement park ride in P.N.E. Gayway, 1948. Item CVA 180-1520

Couple on amusement park ride in P.N.E. Gayway, 1948. Item CVA 180-1520

Thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, UBC, we are currently digitizing thousands of archival images from the Pacific National Exhibition fonds.

Loopo plane ride in midway carnival, 1940. Item CVA 180-0798.

Loopo plane ride in midway carnival, 1940. Item CVA 180-0798.

PNE staff have curated a looping show of about 300 images that can be seen on the jumbo screens in Celebration Plaza, where the BBQ Competition is held.

Acrobatic performance in midway carnival sideshow, 1940. Item CVA 180-0799.

Acrobatic performance in midway carnival sideshow, 1940. Item CVA 180-0799.

Be sure to look up when you’re there to see the PNE as it used to be!

Summer School: No longer a fad!

These last few weeks before the College is back in session are quiet around town with most of the camps finished for the summer and few students milling about.  Not like it was at the turn of the 19th Century.  Back then, and for nearly 25 years, summers in Amherst were home to a bustling and vibrant summer school of languages and one of the first schools in the country for librarians.



The Normal School of Languages

Dr. Lambert Sauveur founded the Normal School of Languages at Amherst College in 1877.  Sauveur was one of the first teachers in America to employ the natural method for teaching languages.  Now a common method for teaching and learning foreign languages, at the time the natural method (where all instruction is conducted in the target language) was considered a breakthrough innovation.

The Normal School was intended for but not limited to teachers.  Tuition for the six week course was on average $16 and the school attracted about 200 students a year.

Dr. Sauveur served as Director and a French instructor at the school  until 1883, when Amherst College French Professor W. L. Montague took over as Director of the program.  Sauveur returned as Director of the Summer School in 1895 and continued as Director until the school closed several years later.

Normal School of Languages, 1899

Normal School of Languages, 1899

Additional tidbit: Anna Leonowens, author of The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870), taught Sanskrit at the Normal School of Languages in 1878.  More about this in Alfred Habegger’s recent biography Masked: The Life of Anna Leonowens.

from the 1878 Normal School of Languages catalog

from the 1878 Normal School of Languages catalog


The Summer School for Library Economy

Pince-nez clad W. I. Fletcher

W. I. Fletcher

The Summer School of Library Economy, begun in 1891, was developed  by William I. Fletcher, Librarian of Amherst College and a vice president of the American Library Association, in response to a growing demand for library instruction.  The Library School appears to have been considered a department of the Sauveur Summer School, as the Normal School of Languages came to be known.

The Library School was an intensive six week course intended for people already engaged in library work.  Fletcher instructed classes in “methods of doing library work, such as cataloguing, keeping records, etc.” and gave lectures on “absolutely practical subjects, such as methods of classification and cataloguing, the buying of books, making a library useful, etc.”  The library program could be taken either “as an extra in connection with the regular course of the Summer School, or as a special course by itself.”


In addition to classroom instruction and lectures, Fletcher provided the Library School students with field trips to visit regional libraries, including the Forbes Library in Northampton, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, as well as the Riverside Press, a book printing outfit in Boston.photo011

Fletcher continued to run the one-man Library School for fifteen years until his retirement from the position in 1905, at which time the Summer School for Library Economy was discontinued.


 The Amherst Summer Studentsummerstudent004

The students of the Summer School edited and published The Amherst Summer Student newspaper.

The Summer Student was published every Friday during the Summer School session and was “given up entirely to the interests of the School” with the “endeavor to become the printed representative of the School and all the enterprises connected with it.”

In addition to printing reviews of professors’ lectures, the Summer Student detailed many of the exciting happenings around Amherst, including picnics up Mt. Toby, informal dancing parties at Miss Heaton’s, pickup baseball games in Northampton,  whist club meetings, and excursions of all types.

summerstudent003The Amherst Summer Student of July 12, 1895 ran an article originally published in the Journal of Education that proclaims

Summer Schools: No longer a fad!  The Summer school is now as definite and permanent a factor in the professional training of teachers as the normal school…No teacher grows old in his work who devotes half of every summer to first-class vacation study and student companionship…The teacher’s opportunities for self-improvement to-day are so far beyond anything dreamed of twenty years ago, that he lives in another world.

See more in the Amherst Summer School Collection in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

My Afternoon with Bacall

As the Director of the New York Public Libraries I once had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Lauren Bacall to pitch the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as the repository for her papers.  Accompanying Bob Taylor, then Chief of the Theatre Collection at LPA, we visited her at her home in The Dakota.  To this day, I am torn about which was more exciting—meeting Bacall or being in The Dakota!

Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman

Actress Lauren Bacall sits atop a piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano at the National Press Club Canteen. They are at the canteen to entertain the servicemen. February 10, 1945.
Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, 1957-2004, NARA ID 198606.

Overlooking Central Park, we sat in her bookcase lined living room, discussing her career and family and her collection.  The bookcases were filled with leather bound volumes—one each for every play, movie, or performance of her life!  Each volume contained an annotated script, newspaper reviews, Playbill, etc.  Her collection was so well organized that it was an archivist/librarian’s dream!  Bob was eloquent in pitching LPA as the appropriate place for the collection given her attitudes about Los Angeles and how New York had become so important to her life.  I remember pitching the contribution to scholarship that the … [ Read all ]

Here Come the 70’s!

Christmas trees were burned at the beach. The Champlain Heights neighbourhood was developed. Vancouver submitted a bid for the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. Civic elections were held every two years. The Georgia Viaduct was replaced. Habitat I was held here. The federal Local Initiatives Program funded many labour-intensive projects.

Broadway and MacDonald intersection

North side of intersection of Broadway and MacDonald Street, looking east, April, 1976. Reference code COV-S663-4—: CVA 800-286. Photographer Al Ingram.

Now you can easily explore all the issues discussed by City Council in the 1970s. We’ve made the minutes of Vancouver City Council meetings, along with the accompanying reports, searchable online.


Thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, we’ve digitized the 1970s City Council Minutes. The project included City Council meeting minutes (and the reports filed with the minutes) of both regular and special meetings held from 1970 through 1979. Special joint meetings with Burnaby and Richmond City Councils are included. Keyword-searchable PDF files have been made available through our online search. One file contains the minutes and reports for one meeting; there are 554 separate meetings.

We’ve also made these PDF files available as a subcollection on the Internet Archive. These files have been automatically converted to other formats, such as DAISY and EPUB, by the Internet Archive.

Internet Archive subcollection

Internet Archive subcollection

The Internet Archive search shown above (and our own online search) searches only the descriptive summaries for each set of minutes.

Section of descriptive summary for Minutes of December 6, 1977

Section of descriptive summary for Minutes of December 6, 1977

These summaries relate the topic to the relevant pages within the minutes. Usually they use the large, stamped page numbers given to an entire volume but sometimes the typed page numbers given to the minutes are used.

Stamped page number above, typed number below.

Stamped page number above, typed number below.

On the Internet Archive, you can search each set of minutes by keyword within the book reader. From our site, you need to download the PDF in order to keyword search.


We’ve made a PDF of all 23,812 pages (~480 MB) available in two places.

We’ve also made a smaller, plain text version available on the City’s Open Data Catalogue. It was created from the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) text that makes the PDF files searchable. Where the OCR text differs from the typed original, the original is always the authoritative record. The plain text version can be the basis for future mark-up of the text to make it more useable.


When searching, remember that these are all the original words used in the 1970s and some will not be the same as are used today. For example:

  • There were no Councillors, only Aldermen (even the women!)
  • There were references to “Cambie Bridge”, but most discussion was under the name “Connaught Bridge”
  • B.C.’s “Liquor Distribution Branch” was called “Liquor Administration Branch”
  • The City’s Information Technology Department was called the “Data Processing and Systems Division”
  • Human Resources was called “Personnel Services”
  • Imperial (miles) rather than metric (kilometres) measurements were used
  • Emily Carr University was called “Vancouver School of Art” for most of the decade and renamed “Emily Carr College of Art” in 1978

The content is the official record, including the original typographical errors. We have not corrected original errors.


This was the largest text digitization project we’ve ever done.

First, we digitized all 23,812 pages in separate units by meeting. This resulted in an image of each page.

Next, we segmented the images to show which parts of the content were text, tables or images. We need this in order to tell the program which parts of the page to convert to text, and how. This will help to produce plain text that makes sense.

Detail from page 288 of the minutes of February 20, 1979 showing text, image and table segments.

Detail from page 288 of the minutes of February 20, 1979 showing text, image and table segments.

Next, we performed Optical Character Recognition on the segmented images, to produce searchable text. Trying to produce text in the image area shown above would result in a mess. Trying to produce text from a table without showing where the rows and columns belong would produce a page that is difficult or impossible to read.

A table of numbers as it appears in the image of the original page, segmented as an area of text rather than as a table.

A table of numbers as it appears in the image of the original page, segmented as an area of text rather than as a table.




The same area as plain text. This is a very simple table and it is quite hard to read. Some of the budget tables span a full page and would be impossible to decipher.

The same area as plain text. This is a very simple table and it is quite hard to read. Some of the budget tables span a full page and would be impossible to decipher.

A table of text as it appears in the original image, segmented as text areas.

A table of text as it appears in the original image, segmented as text areas.

The same text-based table with the characters recognized in plain text. The text runs together.

The same text-based table with the characters recognized in plain text. The text runs together.

The same text-based table, segmented as a table.

The same text-based table, segmented as a table.

The same text-based table, with the text placed into readable rows and columns.

The same text-based table, with the text placed into readable rows and columns.

Finally, we proofread the OCR text to ensure it was accurate. Usually the program produced a high level of accuracy but sometimes the old typewriter fonts were hard to understand.

An excerpt from an area in a difficult italics font, as seen on the original page.

An excerpt from an area in a difficult italics font, as seen on the original page.

The same area as interpreted by our normally reliable OCR software.

The same area as interpreted by our normally reliable OCR software.

If you find an error we didn’t catch, please let us know. We will attempt to fix the plain text version as quickly as possible.

We are looking forward to your feedback on this project and to hearing about any projects in which you’ve used these records.

This digitization project was made possible by funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.Irving K. Barber Learning Centre logo

A Tour of 1970s Central Park

This audio, number two of three in a Pan Am series about the wonders of New York City, focuses its attention on Central Park. Part of a worldwide collection of  city walking tours sold by the airline from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, this tape promises to show the listener ”the New Yorker’s New York”, an insider’s guide to the city’s hidden gems. 

There are a few interesting points-of-fact about New York living in the early 1970s here. For one, bike rentals were a mere $3.50 a day!  The tour guide also notes that, aside from being a ”paradise of natural pleasures for the busy New Yorker,” Central Park visitors can also find “ball fields, model sail boating, protest marchesand more playgrounds than a child ever dreamed of.” 

From today’s perspective, the whole idea of an audio walking tour from this time is a little surprising, considering the first portable cassette deck (the Philips EL3300) was only released in 1964.  If one was lucky enough to get their hands on a deck (complete with leather carrying case and strap), they could stroll and listen, stopping and starting the tape at points of cultural and historic significance, no doubt rather conspicuously with map in hand.
The first Compact Cassette recorder: Philips EL 3300. Source
The first Compact Cassette recorder: Philips EL 3300.


The accompanying maps for the Pan Am tours were a great achievement in graphic design.  According to the Glaser Archives at SVA, the celebrated designer George Tscherny “completed a bogglingly wide range of work standardizing the graphics for Pan Am in the early ’70s, redesigning everything from timetables to stewards’ aprons over the course of two years. These city guides are of a piece with the company’s other projects of that era, recalling both the bold imagery of Chermayeff & Geismar’s posters for the company and Tscherny’s own modular environmental graphics.

1970s, airlines, pan am, publication design. George Tscherny
1970s, airlines, pan am, publication design. George Tscherny


Sadly, we don’t have the complete Central Park tour map, so we made our best interactive approximation below. Enjoy!

Before Portable Electronic News Gathering: Re-enactments in the Studio

These days the recreation of news, or what I call near-news events, is not uncommon. On The Media devoted a segment to such ‘re-enactments’ on television in 2011. One can even argue that the genre has a history that goes back to the earliest days of commercial recording, when record companies issued what were described as, ‘tone pictures’ of historical events as skits, monologues, dramatic scenes and literary readings that included musical accompaniment and sound effects. But in this instance we’re only going back as far as the radio newsreel of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

There were no reporters in the field with tape recorders nor ’portable’ fifty-pound recording devices requiring coated aluminum discs and a cutting stylus. It was 1929, and Time magazine began to send out daily releases they called ‘news casts’ along with transcription discs containing five-minute dramas they referred to as ‘news acting.’ They used the name March of Time. Others followed suit. Among them, WBEN Buffalo, owned by the Buffalo Evening News. Their inaugural broadcast in September, 1930, included a dramatization of items from the newspaper. There were other local stations that tried it as well, but Time magazine kept with it and six-months later launched the national broadcast of The March of Time over the CBS network. It was March 6, 1931 that the network began the weekly series sponsored by Time magazine. They would take three to five leading stories of the week and give them to dramatists to script into short recreations for actors in the studio.[1]

Ad for March of Time from Radio Digest, June, 1931.

By 1939 The March of Time’s fifteen-minute program was regarded as the most successful and longest running of the genre. Each week its listener-winning format required 1,000 ‘man-hours’ by some 72 writers, editors, actors, engineers and producers. Its actors were described as “adept at impersonation and can simulate the voices of news figures so well that it is frequently difficult for listeners to believe they are not actually hearing the voices of these news figures…Aiding in accuracy is a library of thirty-second recordings of over six hundred voices that may possibly be in the news. March of Time actors listen to the inflection and accent of these persons and are able to reproduce a startling duplication of them.” [2] These touts were joined with claims of expert fact checking and journalistic objectivity, although listening to them now, it’s pretty clear they towed Time Inc.’s editorial line.

Other pioneers of this genre followed with varied success. Among them was The News Parade, a series produced by The Marben Advertising Company and airing on WMCA in New York. Their broadcasts were a mix of Hollywood gossip, crimes of passion and hard national and international news. In the above broadcast of December 11, 1932 a ‘hunger army’ marches on Washington, a lack of health insurance leads to tragedy in Detroit and police trap ‘the kiss burglar’ in New London, Connecticut.


[1] Fielding, Raymond, The March of Time, 1935–1951.

[2] “Best News Dramatization – The March of Time,” Best Broadcasts of 1938-39, ed., Max Wylie, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1939, pgs. 138-139.

Happy Birthday Paul Dirac!

Born on August 8, 1902, Paul A. M. Dirac would go on to be a Nobel Prize winning physicist, sharing the prize with Edwin Schrödinger in 1933 for their work in atomic theory. Dirac’s work over his academic career at Cambridge and later at Florida State University was in quantum mechanics. His Dirac Equation, which describes the behavior of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter, was among his many contributions to the field over his lifetime. In 1971, he moved to Tallahassee, Florida to work at Florida State University. He died in Tallahassee on October 20, 1984.

His papers now reside in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. You may see a complete finding aid of the collection here. Among his papers are his early works in mathematics, his handwritten dissertation on quantum mechanics and other drafts of his publications along with family papers and photographs. Special Collections also holds the Dirac Equation as written out on the chalkboard by Dirac himself. We’re currently working on a re-housing project and several digitization projects with the Dirac papers. A small portion of the Dirac Papers are already available in the Florida State University Digital Library.

Look for more on his collection and life on this blog as we complete more digitization projects with his collection. In the meantime, a very happy birthday to Dr. Dirac!

The FSU Digital Library Presents: Club Downunder Posters!

Since the 1970s, in the heart of FSU’s main campus, Club Downunder (CDU) has been entertaining FSU students with its eclectic range of live performances, including rock shows, comedy acts, and other recreational events.

David Rañon, coordinator of Union Productions and Club Downunder, recently donated 316 event posters to Heritage Protocol and University Archives at Strozier Library. These posters range from the years 1998 to 2013 and showcase local talents such as Look Mexico and more internationally-renowned bands like Of Montreal, Jimmy Eat World and Rilo Kiley.

The collection consists of promotional posters provided by the touring bands as well as original designs by FSU students and staff, most of which were displayed around campus and in the windows of CDU.













These posters were digitized in high resolution by the Digital Library Center staff in Strozier Library using a combination of flatbed scanners and specialized, overhead camera equipment for the larger prints. To view the posters and their metadata (concert dates and supporting artist information included) please visit the collection at the Digital Library, Club Downunder Poster Collection.

Please note the posters are set to display alphabetically by default. If you’re interested in seeing them sorted by date, click here.

For more information about Club Downunder and Union Productions, including upcoming concerts and events, please go to their website or check out their more active Facebook page for updates.

Stuart Rochford is the Digital Library Center Studio manager at FSU and has worked with Strozier Library since 2011. He graduated from FSU with a BFA in graphic design and is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Library Science.

Sneak Preview: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Amherst College

Initial AA Mellon-funded Five Colleges digitization project began last fall; its goal is to digitize and catalog the manuscripts (created prior to 1600) held by our institutions. The digitized versions will eventually be available through Digital Scriptorium, a database that currently provides access to more than 6,000 manuscripts held at more than 30 institutions.

Later this month, the images of the 24 manuscripts owned by Amherst College will also be accessible via ACDC. You can read a brief overview about these manuscripts here in Lisa Fagin Davis’ blog Manuscript Road Trip. For additional information about several of Mount Holyoke and Smith College’s holdings, check out Brittany Osborne‘s blog Mysteries in the Margins.

So here’s a little sneak preview:



Volunteer Spotlight: Jeremy

Our volunteers have played an invaluable role in our Heritage Lottery Funded outreach project.  The time and care they give to each of their projects is amazing, and we are lucky to see their faces in our office on a weekly basis.  I wanted to share what the volunteers have been up to, but it’s far more interesting to read about their experiences first hand, than to have me ramble on.  As such, here is a guest post by Jeremy, who graciously agreed to share what he’s been up to since he joined as an Archive Volunteer back in January, as well as his thoughts on the significance of archives and of course – the National Union of Women Teachers archive collection.  Here’s Jeremy…

So what is it like volunteering at the Institute of Education?

First of all, I had wanted to do some volunteer work for a while, I needed something to put on my CV and I like the feeling of doing something useful.

I didn’t know what the Institute was or what it did. I did know it was an Educational organisation; I liked that because it suggested a certain higher level of professionalism. Later I found out that a lot of Teacher Training went on here.

But the section I had volunteered for was the “Archive”. It’s a library within a library; far beyond the stacks of books to be borrowed or just pulled off the shelves and read, this was the place where the deep documents were stored; the source material, the stuff that needed to be preserved through time.

I have a long-time love of libraries, I’m a voracious reader, I like the atmosphere, I like being surrounded by books and wherever I go I get a membership at a local branch; so I have a certain familiarity with library procedure and library culture, but this was different, this was …mystery.

Don’t you get the impression archives, any archives, not just the Institute of Education’s, are where the truth is kept, where you get the real story?

No? Just me then.

(Editor’s Note: Jeremy, we are all very much with you on this one!)

But this is neither here nor there. You want to know about volunteering at the archive.

Over the next few months I was to take on a variety of activities; the Archive puts on a number of displays and shows throughout the year, and this involves the preparation of a lot of visual and text material, so I was involved in printing, trimming, and laminating such materials, I also had a chance to visit the archives long-term climate-controlled storage (surprisingly not old and dusty at all, but bright, modern, and clean.) Most of this was to be later.

Well the first person I met was Alix, she is very easy-going and well organised and she put me to work on the project digitising materials belonging to The National Union of Women Teachers. They were big back in the thirties and best of all they left behind a ton of documentation in the form of printed publications and photographs. My job has largely been to scan the photographs.

When you see a documentary about, say the Edwardian era, you’ll get some photos, maybe some talking heads giving you an informed opinion about the time.  Scanning photographs circa 1925 to 35 (very approximately) is nothing like that.  Try this, the faces are not like our faces, they have a characteristic that is of their era, I cannot say exactly how, but they do.  Scanning so many photos gave me strong impression of the era without a lot of specifics; it was heavy on the atmosphere.

Most, but not all, of the images were of women of the Union, officers of an organisation which fought for equal pay, equal treatment, for higher quality in education, and the professionalization of their career; they were passionate about more than just themselves. In some ways they saw their cause as a patriotic one.

I learned a lot, most surprisingly some the members were also barristers and they did the Union’s legal work. I was impressed with the mettle of members who had overcome barriers in what can still be an unfriendly environment for women.

Digitising the NUWT... Voting on banners, c1930s  Document Reference: UWT/G/2/54

Digitising the NUWT…
Voting on banners, c1930s
Document Reference: UWT/G/2/54

I scanned hundreds of photos and I was impressed with the seriousness and toughness of these people; it was a different era, there was no such thing as “having it all” in that era, most of them as I was to later learn were unmarried since the laws and regulations of the time disallowed them from continuing their profession after marriage. They faced having lower wages than their male colleagues (who were assumed to be supporting families); they were often barred from educating older boys because it was assumed an unsuitable position for a woman. They were often passed over for Head Teacher positions despite their seniority. Through all of this they endured.

If there was a phase that came to mind constantly it was “no nonsense”. My education is from the seventies but I could imagine any of them as the tough old fashioned head-teachers of my time; there was something there I recognised very much.

The photographic scanning is largely finished; there still may be an envelope of two marked “fragile “, that remains to be done.

I did (as indicated) go on to other things, including proofing the scans of the Union’s newspaper “The Woman Teacher”. It was here that I got the context for the images. The organisation was not just a political talking shop (although their tireless campaigning was their main activity), it provided an emergency pension for retired members who had fallen on hard times, organised fact finding overseas tours to Canada, Italy, and the United States. It even served as a form for cultural pursuits like literature and the theatre.

Quality Checking the NUWT's journal publication, 'The Woman Teacher'

Quality Checking the NUWT’s journal publication, ‘The Woman Teacher’

They had friends in high places like Lady Astor. They tussled endlessly with successive governments both Labour and Conservative. But mostly they fought of equal pay and treatment for women in the teaching profession.

The photographs are important (OK, I scanned them, I would say that.) But what I mean is the Newspapers tell you what they did, but the photographs show you who they were; they put a human face on those lives. And I think, as you look at them you can see something of the kind of people they had to be, to do what they had to do,

And their struggle is still relevant, I just read that women’s pay has actually decline in comparison to men’s, there is still some way to go.

But As I write this, I think, the story of The National Union of Women Teachers is just one. There must be hundreds, thousands of other stories about British education in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in those cool rooms underground, just waiting to be unearthed and told. And thing is, I can’t imagine what they might be.

So, what is volunteering at the Institute of Education’s archives like?

It’s pretty cool.

Jeremy Denny

As always, a huge thanks to our volunteers like Jeremy.  And Jeremy, thanks for taking a break from all of the digitisation to write this for the blog!

We are members of Volunteer Centre Camden, and highly recommend them in terms of volunteer recruitment and best practice support… it’s a great organisation with lovely staff.

Poetry in the Great War

Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. To mark the occasion, we’re pleased to announce a new collection of books from the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection published during World War I are now available in the FSU Digital Library.

These 32 books were chosen from the larger subject guide to World War I poetry created for the Shaw collection. That bibliography covers 360 poetry books and young adult magazines produced in Great Britain and North America during World War I, many focused on trying to explain to children the conflict and how they could help the war effort in their country.

Today’s reader does not often know most of the poetry collected here but these books offer a unique glimpse into this extraordinary period of history. The Shaw Collection mostly focuses on the experience of childhood through poetry and prose but the books collected surrounding this era by Shaw are wide ranging in their voices. The Child’s ABC of the War explains to British children the words they would be hearing as the conflict escalated and tried to reassure them that Britain would stand tall. Other books included were written on the front by young men like Robert W. Sterling who never returned home. There is poetry written by women left to man the home front and childhood stories turned into propaganda for the war effort.

We hope to add more unique materials from the Shaw Collection to this collection in the coming months as we continue to mark the World War I Centennial.


The Hill Staff

Last night the Young Founder’s Society (YFS) hosted a reception in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The YFS is a membership group for young professionals in the Washington, DC, area who are committed to the work of the Foundation for the National Archives to increase awareness of the cultural and historical value of the National Archives.

YFS invitation
Young Founder’s Society event invitation

While the event was part of the YFS’s membership drive, it was an opportunity for me to thank the attendees for their service to the nation and to single out the members of our oversight and appropriations committees for special thanks.  In my 14 hearing appearances to date (but, who’s counting?!) I have been impressed with the knowledge, expertise, and passion which these people bring to their job.

Many of the attendees have visited the National Archives with their Senator or Representative and to a person have left here inspired by the history they have relived through the original records.  To simulate that experience last night several dozen facsimiles were around the room—the 1868 treasury note for $7.2m with which purchased Alaska, the First Continental Congress’ Agreement of Secrecy signed in 1775 to protect the Founders, the bus diagram showing where Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks was seated on that fateful day, and my letter to President Eisenhower asking for … [ Read all ]

WWI: The War to End All Wars – Featured Items from Randall Library Special Collections

Lauren Love is an intern working in Special Collections

July 28th marked the 100th year since the start of WWI. Selected items from the war years held at the UNCW Randall Library Special Collections will be highlighted in this blog post. For information about additional collections and books relating to WWI please browse the Special Collections and UNCW Archives website.

read more

0.0001% Around the World

Last week’s post discussed the completion of a project to house items from our Wetmore Collection of Children’s Books in archival storage boxes. That project entailed measuring the height width and depth of 540 books in the collection and recording their call numbers. That means that we now have a spreadsheet full of measurements, and so it seemed like an opportunity to present that data with a selection of entirely unrepresentative, un-scientific, and unreliable statistics (done sloppily, for good measure). Think of this as a post authored by an evil Nate Silver.

WARNING: Really, this data is not to be trusted and shouldn’t be used for anything meaningful!

We’ll start off slow:

Based on our sample of 540 children’s books, the average height is 7.6 inches.

The average width is 6 inches.

And the average depth is 0.7 inches.

The ideal height-to-width ratio for a children’s book (in case you’re in the process of designing one) is 0.85 . So if your children’s book is 10 inches tall, you’ll want to make sure it’s exactly 8.5 inches wide.

The total width on the shelves of the newly-boxed books is 1,556 inches. But that number isn’t very easy to visualize, so we’ll use a more standard measurement: If every book were shelved together in a single line it would stretch 0.43 football fields! According to the data gurus at the New York Times, the average NFL field goal is from 35.9 yards out, which means that at 43 yards, children’s books are better than the average NFL kicker.

If you laid every one of the books flat head-to-tail, they would go 0.0001% of the way around the world.

Averaging together the call numbers for all of the books in the spreadsheet, the resulting call number is 529.5. That’s the Dewey number for the “Chronology>Calendar Reform“. Who would have guessed that the Gregorian calendar would be such a popular topic for children’s books?

Words and numbers are alright, but what we really need is some data visualization, so here’s a scatter plot of width (x-axis) and height:

scatter chart

Just ignore the values which seem to indicate that we have books with heights and widths of zero.



Jimmy Hoffa Speaks Out on His Way to Jail

Today in 1975 Jimmy Hoffa, former Teamsters union president, disappeared in Michigan. His remains were never found. 

In March, 1967 reporter Eleanor Fischer interviewed Hoffa prior to his imprisonment for a 1964 conviction for jury tampering, attempted bribery and fraud. Hoffa became involved with organized crime from the early years of his Teamsters work, and this connection continued until his disappearance. He is widely believed to have been murdered by the mob with urban legends placing his bones under the Pulaski Skyway and other locations around the country.

Hoffa was imprisoned in 1967 and sentenced to 13 years, after exhausting the appeal process. In mid-1971 he resigned as President of the union, an action that was part of a pardon agreement with President Richard Nixon, to facilitate his release later that year. Nixon blocked Hoffa from union activities until 1980 (which would have been the end of his prison term, had he served the full sentence). Hoffa attempted to overturn this order and generate support.

Hoffa was a union activist as a young man, and was an important regional figure with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union by his mid-twenties. By 1952, Hoffa had risen to National Vice-President of the IBT and served as the union’s General President between 1958 and 1971. He won the first national agreement for teamsters’ rates in 1964, and played a major role in the growth and development of the union which eventually became the largest union (by membership) in the United States with over 1.5 million members at its peak, during his terms as its leader.

Night at the Museum

Appleton Museum GuideWhen Millicent Todd Bingham and Richard Sewall wrote their biographies of Emily Dickinson, they each included a section about the influence upon the poet of President Edward Hitchcock and Amherst College. Bingham and Sewall sought to show that one can see in Dickinson’s poems – in her ideas, imagery, and unexpected vocabulary – the effect of Hitchcock and the college he helped establish.

The science cabinets at the College were among Dickinson’s Amherst-related influences.  They housed specimens of minerals, shells, fossils, and animals gathered by Hitchcock and his colleagues over the course of their careers and were important campus attractions.  Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, contributed $50 to the Woods cabinet and $100 to Appleton, and his children were no doubt part of the thousands of people who visited them over the decades. There is evidence that Emily attended the opening of the Woods Cabinet (mineralogy, meteorology, geology) in the Octagon in 1848, and she probably also visited the Appleton Cabinet (zoology and ichnology) when it opened in 1855.

The Emily Dickinson International Society meets in Amherst this summer to walk in Dickinson’s town and gather together in the homes she knew, and to absorb as much of her world as possible. They won’t find the same science cabinets that Dickinson knew, but photographs from the collection can recreate something of what she saw.

The photographs below show the campus as it was in middle of the 19th century, as well as some of the exhibitions Dickinson would have seen when she visited the science cabinets and gathered the words and ideas that filled her thoughts and spilled onto paper.


1-College-Row-ca-1855-ambrotypeIn this photograph we see members of the first meeting of the Emily Dickinson International Society, who, ignoring the fact that Dickinson was just a self-professed “nobody,” convened at Amherst College to get a jump on Dickinson scholarship. The Woods Cabinet is next to the Octagon in the structure on the left; Appleton Cabinet, a new building at this time, is on the right. Johnson Chapel (middle of long row of buildings) also housed the early elements of the zoological and ichnological cabinets before they were moved to Appleton. Half-plate ambrotype by E. W. Cowles, ca. 1855.


Visitors Guide - 1862The Visitor’s Guide, published by President Hitchcock’s son Charles in 1862, provides a detailed list of the contents of the “public rooms and cabinets” as they were in 1862 as well as a general history of the collections. It’s still a useful document both for specifics about what was where and for a sense of how people understood and described the contents of the collections.


2-appleton-ca-1855-ambrotypeThe new Appleton Cabinet, housing the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet and the Adams Zoological Cabinet. Half-plate ambrotype by E.W. Cowles, ca. 1855. At least one of the rocks outside the entrance appears to have a fossil track in it – see detail below. The man entering the building on the right carries something under his arm – perhaps more specimens.



3-Appleton-ambro-entrance-detailA track in the rock at left, and what looks like striation in the rock at right. The track on the left looks to this amateur like the 14-20” print of “Brontozoum giganteum,” examples of which Appleton apparently had in abundance.



5-Appleton-Cab-exterior-detailA slightly later (ca. 1865) photograph shows that the rocks in the earlier photograph have been removed, the track probably to the interior of the building and the striated rock perhaps to the area around the “Ninevah Gallery” near the Octagon, which still has an arrangement of boulders near the one moved by the Class of 1857.

7-Appleton-Cab-Register-cover“[Natural history cabinets] deeply interest and instruct the community surrounding a college, and all who visit it, and thus give reputation to it…almost every one will see enough in nature’s products to awaken interest, inquiry and admiration. This explains the fact that as many as fifteen thousand visitors annually have registered their names in the Amherst Cabinets, small and retired as the place is.” (Edward Hitchcock, “Reminiscences of Amherst College,” p. 112).

8-Appleton-Cab-Register-1st-pgsThe Appleton Cabinet register commences in March, 1859. So far, Emily Dickinson’s signature has not been located in this large book (Jay Leyda searched it in the 1950s), but there are many other interesting signatures.
9-Appleton-Cab-Register-Nickleby-et-alAmong the famous people who visited Appleton are Nicholas Nickleby, Smike, and members of the Squeers family. It is not clear whether Oliver Twist was part of their group or visited on his own.

10-Appleton-Cab-Register-Smith-et-alJoseph Smith and 12 ladies (Smith, who had been shot dead in 1844, evidently returned from the celestial kingdom to visit Appleton)

11-Appleton-Cab-11-1-1861Dickinson’s friend Kate Turner and Kate’s friend Gertrude Vanderbilt visited Sue Dickinson in the fall of 1861. There is no record of whether they also saw the poet, who was experiencing a personal crisis at this time – her “terror since September,” as she described it the following spring.


16-AppletonThe Ichnological Cabinet in Appleton was Edward’s Hitchcock’s great joy. He described the history of his collection in his “Reminiscences” and his son described it in the Visitor’s Guide above: “Great care has been taken by the position of the tables, sometimes horizontal and sometimes inclined, and especially by the position of the large slabs on their edges, to make the light fall on them most advantageously….The main principle of the arrangement was to place the specimens so that the light should fall obliquely upon their faces.” (Guide, p. 57) Visible in this photograph: “Near the middle of the room there is suspended from the ceiling the leg of the great Moa, or dinornis, lately discovered in the alluvium of new Zealand, where it may have lived within a few hundred years. The two upper bones, the femur and the tibia, are wooden models of bones in other cabinets. But the lower piece, the tarso-metatarsal and the foot, excepting three of the phalanges, are true bone, from New Zealand. Not far distant hangs the model of an egg of a still larger bird, the Aepyornis, from Madagascar; the original of which is in Paris.” (p. 67)

12-Adams-Chas-B-AC1834-Whipple-crystalotypeCharles Baker Adams, Class of 1834, and a man obsessed with science, especially conchology and entomology. Adams gave the bulk of the specimens for the Zoological Collection while it was located in the Chapel and then the Woods Cabinet but didn’t live to see it gathered in Appleton. In 1852 despite ill health, he insisted on a return expedition to the tropics and could not be dissuaded, even by the discouragement of the trustees of the College. “He went, and stopping at the hospitable residence of a friend in St. Thomas, was advised to keep within doors till the yellow fever had subsided. But his love of science set at nought the suggestions of prudence, with the remark that there was no fever among the shell fish, and a little exposure brought on the fever of which he died.” (Reminiscences, p. 96-7)

At the opening of the Woods Cabinet in 1848, Adams said: “The efforts of naturalists to exhibit the true order of nature, can never fail to gratify a correct and refined taste. Such order is of far higher origin than mere human invention, and is so perfect as to harmonize no less with our emotions of beauty than with our ideas of fitness and method. It is indeed one of the most delightful features of science, that the farther she advances in a correct knowledge of nature, the more systematically and harmoniously are all the powers of the intellect and the emotions of beauty and virtue gratified and invigorated. Nor can the lesson of humility be lost on the lover of science, since his highest efforts consist only in the discovery and exhibition of a beauty and perfection, which not only does not originate in him, but which extends far beyond the most distant flights of his imagination.” (Guide, p. 111) Imagine the effect of these ideas on Dickinson, who is thought to have been at the ceremony.

After Adams’s death, another well known Amherst man, William S. Clark, took over the zoological collection and was responsible for many of the specimens of large mammals seen in the pictures below.

12-Appleton-Cab-interiorThe Adams Zoological Cabinet in Appleton: “The first thing that attracts the attention of the visitor is the paintings upon the walls. Upon the west end of the room is represented an elephant, in the mist of tropical scenery; It appears to best advantage when viewed from the east end of the room…” (Guide, p. 86)

13-Appleton-Cab-interiorRegarding the mammals case, “Upon the third shelf the variety is greater.  Here may be seen the skulls of many small animals; the teeth of many more, such as the whale, camel, elephant, and hippopotamus; the tail of an elephant, the skin of a rhinoceros; feet of a bear; skulls of monkeys; daguerreotype of the Aztec children, etc.  Upon the upper shelves of this and the next case will be seen models of the heads of men distinguished for good or bad qualities, by the side of the heads of various wild and domesticated animals.  These specimens were designed to illustrate phrenology…. Commencing at the right-hand side of the long case at the west end of the room, one sees first some monstrosities.  One is a very fine specimen of a double calf….  Another is a double-headed lamb, and the third is a calf possessing a rudimentary porcine snout.  Next is a fine panther, called also American cougar, catamount, and Indian devil.  It is one of the cat tribe.”  (Guide, p 93-4)

14-appleton-interiorLooking east, “so, too, the representations of Arctic scenery, and of a western buffalo hunt, over the stairs, appear best from the west end of the room…” (Guide, 86)


15-Appleton-interior “Inside the large glazed case, near the stairs, is a representation of the scenery of a Northern winter, in which a moose is located. When this painting was executed, only a solitary moose occupied the case; but now, since the accumulation of specimens, the scene is not so appropriate.” (Guide, 87)


Appleton-Zool-Cab-north-wall-ca1870-detail-007“Upon the north side of the room are represented a South American anaconda attempting to ‘charm’ a parrot, and the huge African ape, the gorilla, the nearest approach of the animal kingdom to man.” (Guide, 86-7)


17-Appleton-Gorilla“Several important specimens have recently been received for the Zoological Museum….  Among them are the stuffed skin and skeleton of the African Gorilla, presented by Rev. Wm. Walker, of Gaboon, West Africa.  No other cabinet in the country, at this date, is so largely represented by specimens of this animal.  It being the nearest approach of the animals to man, these specimens have attracted great interest, particularly as they so clearly show the falsity of the notion that the gorilla could ever have changed into man by the ‘law of selection.’  The skin was stuffed by Jillson of Fentonville, and the skeleton mounted by my oldest son.” (Reminscences, p. 95)


When I envisioned this post, I thought I would write about one item in particular, our daguerreotype of the “Aztec children” who toured with P.T. Barnum in the 1850s. However, Maximo and Bartola, the microcephalic children from San Salvador, received full treatment in a nice blog post from a few months ago. I like to consider that Dickinson probably saw this daguerreotype in Appleton (west end!), even though you would seek in vain for “Aztec children” or “microcephalic” in her poetry or letters. 18-Aztec-children-dag-top-half19-Maximo-Bartola-ca1851-600dpiOur daguerreotype was most likely a purchase by Professor Adams during the visit to Boston by Barnum’s circus in late 1850-51. The daguerreotype, perhaps one of many sold during the tour, was taken by Beckers & Piard of New York, ca. 1850. The half-legible inscription (in Adams’s hand?) pinned to the velvet liner says: “Aztec Children. The boy weighs 20 lbs; is supposed to be about 15 years old. The girl weighs 17 lbs; is supposed to be about 12 years old.” The rest is frustratingly illegible, even in Photoshop.


Hitchcock said of natural history collections in colleges devoted to a liberal education, “they are indispensable to give students a knowledge of the natural productions of different parts of the earth, and without which, their views would be narrow, and they would be liable to constant blunders in their literary productions” (Reminiscences, 111). Visitors today should attend the cabinet called the Beneski Museum, a facility and collection that would make Hitchcock and his colleagues proud and provide inspiration for poets of all stripes.

Rabbits in Boxes

As physical objects, children’s books are notoriously at-risk. Books and ephemera that were originally published for children usually ended up in the possession of… children, not surprisingly. And whatever their other merits, children aren’t typically known for their careful attention to the health and well-being of their toys and books.

That’s why a collection like our Edith Wetmore Collection of Children’s Books is so special. It’s comprised of about 2,000 books made for children, and many of them are still in incredible shape.

Imagine how easily this miniature French set of natural history books and its delicate, decorative could have been damaged in the nearly 200 years since its publication:

petite galerieOr how an avid young reader could have torn the dust jacket of Charlotte’s web:

Charlotte's Web

Or how about the fragile overlays attached to the pages of this guide for young women’s conduct:

The Toilet

Some items weren’t even designed to remain intact, like this assemble-it-yourself toy book of the Puss In Boots story (you can make your own version of one here):

Puss in boots


And in some cases, survival of a book is legendary. Beatrix Potter couldn’t get anyone interested in her story of a rambunctious rodent, so she published 250 copies of Peter Rabbit at her own expense and gave many away. We can be sure that original number of 250 was whittled down by children who loved their books to pieces, which is what makes a copy like this one such a treasure:

Peter Rabbit

With fragile books like this in such excellent condition, we wanted to make sure that they stayed as undamaged as possible, and that’s where the National Endowment for the Humanities* comes in. Thanks to a preservation grant program, we were able to purchase over 500 custom archival boxes for the most needy books in the collection. Individual boxes are great because they isolate books from most of the things that cause damage.

So now Peter Rabbit is safely ensconced and ready for another century of use by anyone (including children) who wants to see his first appearance in the world.

Rabbit in box


Next time: Numbers, numbers and more numbers.

*Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

OCLC Research Update at ALA Annual, 2014: something for everyone

For some time now, we have been doing an OCLC Research Update at the American Library Association meeting (both ALA Annual and Midwinter) in order to, well, give an update on our work. Which is quite wide ranging. logo   Last month several of my colleagues participated in the update. Eric Childress played MC, giving a variety of mini-updates on OCLC Research — for example, Lorcan’s honorary doctorate from the Open University, the ALCTS Presidential Citation, awarded to OCLC Research for the compendium, Understanding the Collective Collection, our What in the WorldCat? lists, and a teaser for Lorcan’s forthcoming book, The Network Reshapes the Library. In addition, meatier presentations were featured during the update:

The presentations, with speaker notes, are available on Slideshare. I’ve given you plenty of links to follow but you can also look for more blog postings on these projects in the future!