The First World War: a postcard with news of Déchelette’s death

In the Institute’s archive there is an old album of postcards collected by Francis Haverfield (1860-1919). We were looking through it when we came across this poignant postcard from Salomon Reinach. Reinach confirms the news that the great archaeologist Joseph Déchelette had been killed in action.


Reinach writes: “Alas! it is true; Déchelette, aged 53 … insisted on going to the front and was struck dead by a shell. It is an immense … loss, but his manuscript was almost finished.”

This month marks the centenary of Déchelette’s death: he died on the 4th October 1914. He was one of the first scholars to identify the link between La Tène culture and the Celts.


All the Serious Artists Have Moved to the East Village

This is the third and final installment of Pan Am’s audio walking tour of New York City.  The clip features areas of the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and Washington Square Park, and much like the two previously posted tours (Midtown and Central Park), the audio offers a lighthearted jaunt that belies the big changes these neighborhoods would face in the near future.   The guide describes the influx of artists into post-manufacturing districts like Soho, the rapidly changing ethnic enclaves of the Lower East Side, and the newly minted ”East Village”, a neighborhood that was just beginning to develop its own identify. Listen to highlights of the three neighborhoods described below and see the interactive map for the full tour.  

The Lower East Side
This section describes the recent influx of Puerto Ricans into the traditionally Jewish areas of the LES as a rather pleasant and relaxed transition.  ”Spanish and Yiddish now seem to be locked in a benevolent struggle for the right to be called the official language of the neighborhood. If there was ever a part of New York that deserved the name international melting pot, then the Lower East Side is it. This district, with its unpretentious, congested living quarters has given the city some of its most successful people in all walks of life.” 

SoHo and The Cast Iron District
Moving on from the LES, the guide takes you to the corner of West Houston and Broadway, an area that was still full of artists inhabiting the huge loft spaces and cast iron district buildings where the upscale shops of boutiques of SoHo now reside. The guide offers a rather strange suggestion that tourists should randomly knock on doors of buildings and that “the artists would welcome a visit from you, in the hope that their creations might attract your attention.”

Washington Square
Young People, Guitars, and Protest Signs —they are part of village life.  The guide describes the village as New York’s counter part of the Left Bank, despite the fact that “most of the serious artists have moved to an area now called the East Village.” 


There will be more than one archival screening at the Vancity Theatre this November!

This fall, the City of Vancouver Archives will present its fifth annual screening “Vancouver – A Progressive City!” at the Vancity Theatre. In recent years, our screenings have been very popular. So, for the first time this November, we will be showing multiple screenings.

In collaboration with local historian Michael Kluckner, we will be presenting new material that focuses on Vancouver from the 1930s-1960s. There will be selections from a wide range of newsreels, home movies, industrial and promotional films.

Flight attendant passing a film to a man at the airport. 1946.  Reference code: AM1184-S1-: CVA 1184-2349. Note: This photograph has been altered for promotional purposes.

Flight attendant passing a film to a man at the airport. 1946. Reference code: AM1184-S1-: CVA 1184-2349. (Note: This photograph has been altered for promotional purposes.)

Michael Kluckner will also provide historical commentary with emphasis on Vancouver’s workforce, celebrations, and the city’s commerce, heritage and culture. Some of this year’s archival highlights will include the construction of the Lions Gate Bridge, early milk delivery service, the Grey Cup and Shriners parades, and television spots reporting on the community. The screening will also feature a special cameo appearance of Vancouver’s first city archivist, Major J.S. Matthews.

Portrait of Major J.S. Matthews. 1961. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Port N941.1.

The archival films were produced with and without soundtracks. For the silent portions, renowned jazz pianist Wayne Stewart will provide live musical accompaniment. We are delighted to be working with Wayne again. His musical touches have brought to life the mood and sentiment of these historical films.

The preservation and accessibility of these archival films would not be possible if it were not for our digital conservator, Sue Bigelow. Before the screening, she will speak about the challenges behind preserving and digitizing our moving image collection.

An archives volunteer uses a shrinkage gauge to measure how much the film has shrunk over time. Film that has shrunk significantly must be handled with extra care when being digitized.

An archives volunteer uses a shrinkage gauge to measure how much the film has shrunk over time. Film that has shrunk significantly must be handled with extra care when being digitized.

In recent years, our annual screenings have sold out, and the theatre has had to turn away many hopeful theatre-goers. This year, we will hold two 2:30 matinee screenings of “Vancouver – A Progressive City!” on November 2nd and November 30th.

Man sitting on chair in front of the Orpheum Theatre ticket booth. 1934. Reference code: AM1535-: CVA 99-4674.

We have also received numerous requests to bring back screenings from previous years. So, back by popular demand, and in collaboration with Michael Kluckner and Wayne Stewart, we will be re-screening our 2012 show, “Vintage Vancouver” at 7:30 pm on November 2nd.

Check out the videos below for a preview of “Vancouver – A Progressive City” and “Vintage Vancouver”. Hope to see you there!

Norman McLaren: Umbrian angels and stereoscopic drawings

A highlight of this year’s McLaren 2014 celebrations was the screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival of Norman McLaren’s stunning 3-D films from the early 1950s, painstakingly digitally-restored by the National Film Board of Canada. The fascinating history of these ‘lost’ films was recently told on the Canadian Animation Blog, and the films will receive another screening at MoMa in New York in November.

McLaren’s interest in the creative possibilities of stereographic art is recorded in a set of papers which were recently donated to the University of Stirling Archives by Prof. Harold Layer of San Francisco State University. Prof. Layer corresponded with McLaren in the 1970s and 1980s about his 3-D film work, these letters forming part of the collection. It also includes copies of stereoscopic drawings and paintings created by McLaren in the 1940s which Prof. Layer has documented on a very useful online resource.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

The material also includes a set of reports and articles written by McLaren in the 1940s and 1950s, noting the new approaches offered by stereographic drawing and providing technical notes for the 3-D films he produced for the National Film Board of Canada. In 1946 McLaren wrote a proposal for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, seeking support for his research into the new field of sterographics which he defined as “the art of doing a separate drawing, painting, sculpture or mobile for each eye, which when viewed together, will synthesize a new additional dimension.”

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

McLaren argued that this method of drawing offered “Freedom from the physical laws of a three-dimensional world.” He went on to argue that:

“The laws of physics such as balance and gravity need not operate in this type of three-dimensional space created by stereoscopic synthesis. Apparently solid objects, heavy substances, complex structures and liquid matter may float in space, needing no support and existing by a sort of auto-suspension. The renaissance painter, with his growing awareness, gradually realized that he, on his flat surfaces, was released from such laws, and the first Umbrian angels who rose a few timid inches from the ground were soon to lead the imagination to a magnificent world of soaring form. Today’s stereographic drawings are like those Umbrian angels, for they point to a world where angels may ascend with a new magnificence into the very three-dimensional substance of space itself.” (Ref. GAA 31/F/7/2/2)

A later annotation to this document shows that many of McLaren’s plans remained unrealized. In the introduction of the paper he wrote that:

“It is my intention to go much further, and open up stereography as a creative medium. I am writing this paper on the basis of my past researches, my present conclusions, and my future plans.”

Beside the words “future plans” McLaren added an annotation in red pencil in 1980 which read “unfulfilled as yet.”

Happy American Archives Month

Beverly (MA) High School is a happening place!  Last week BHS graduate Angie Miller, an American Idol finalist visited.  And the day after, AOTUS spent the day—the first time since June of 1963!

As I said many times during the day, it was not the same Beverly High School that I left.  I was tremendously impressed with the seamless integration of technology throughout, the active participation of the students in the learning experience, and the excitement of the students hosting a visitor from Washington.

AOTUS at classroom at Beverly High School
David Ferriero visits student classrooms at Beverly High School. Photo by The Salem News

I got to visit classrooms, chop onions and garlic in a culinary arts class, and speak to hundreds of students in an afternoon assembly.  I wanted to make my time with them as meaningful as possible so suggested that we do some crowdsourcing of questions in advance.  Lots of great questions arrived which sorted neatly into four categories:  the records, the job, the institution, and personal questions.

What type of documents do you archive?  Do you read all of them? What happens if you touch an historical document?  What is your role in government?  What are your daily duties?  What is your salary?  How do you keep it all organized?  Is there very tight security in the archives?  What do you wear to work?  Have you ever … [ Read all ]

Commemorating Paul A. M. Dirac

On October 20, 1984, Paul A.M. Dirac passed away in his adopted home of Tallahassee, Florida.

Dirac moved to Tallahassee to teach at Florida State University in 1971 after visiting in June of that year to make sure he could handle the heat of Florida’s summers. He also appreciated the faculty of the growing physics department at FSU and that his colleagues treated the Nobel Prize winner like he was simply one of their own.

Paul Dirac is pictured in his office with his last graduate student, Bruce Hellman.
Paul Dirac pictured in his office at FSU with his last graduate student, Bruce Hellman. [See Full Description]

In a 2009 Florida State Times article, former colleagues remembered the at times eccentric physicist during his time here. He loved to walk, saying it gave him time to think and appreciated his daily “commute” to his office at FSU. He was also a man who spoke only when he had something to say. Steve Edwards, Professor Emeritus, Dean of the Faculties and Deputy Provost Emeritus., Ph.D., remembered, “for 12 years I had lunch with Paul Dirac. It was very enlightening, although on some days it was perfectly all right to sit there for an hour and not say anything to each other.”

Dirac is buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Tallahassee. Memorials to his memory in his childhood home in Bristol, England and in Saint-Maurice, Switzerland where his father’s family was from, can also be visited. In 1995, a commemorative stone for Dirac was added to Westminster Abbey in London, England. It is inscribed with the Dirac Equation.

Farewell to PIDB Member Martin Faga

MartinFagaPodiumFaga with Bush 41

Letter Declassifying the NRONRO Memorandum for Release

On behalf of the members of the Public Interest Declassification Board, I would like to thank our colleague, Martin Faga, for his dedicated service as he concludes his third term as a member on the PIDB.  Marty has made substantial contributions while on the PIDB, including service as the Acting Chair.  He was appointed by President George W. Bush as an inaugural member of the PIDB and was present at its first meeting on Saturday, February 25, 2006.  Marty’s advocacy for modernizing the security classification system is long-standing, from his service as Director of the National Reconnaissance Office to his service as a member of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Secrecy.  As a member of the PIDB, he helped craft many of our recommendations, including simplifying the classification system and adopting a risk-based standard on decisions to classify information or not.  He advocated for modernization as a necessity to improve government effectiveness and as essential to build trust with our citizens and aid democratic discourse.

Marty played a critical role in efforts to expand our outreach to stakeholders and involve the public and government as we crafted and revised our recommendations to the President.  He was instrumental in writing both of the PIDB’s Reports to the President, Improving Declassification in December 2007 and Transforming the Security Classification System in November 2012.  Marty possesses a unique understanding of how secrecy affects the functioning of our government and its ability to provide timely information to others in government as well as the public, especially concerning the operation of the intelligence community and its missions critical to our nation’s security interests.  He has been a vocal advocate for the need to modernize access policies and integrate technological solutions in order to reform the security classification system for the digital era.  We have valued and benefited from Marty’s expertise and vast experience and hope he will continue to contribute to the PIDB in his new emeriti status.  On behalf of the PIDB, I thank you, Marty, for your commitment, thoughtfulness, and friendship during your service to the PIDB.  We will greatly miss you and we wish you the best both personally and professionally.

Clyde Pride!

Drama and theater have long played an important role in student life at Amherst College. Our Dramatic Activities Collection contains evidence of student and faculty performances all the way back to the early 19th century. Clyde Fitch (Class of 1886) was a major force in student theatricals, both on and off the stage, during his time at Amherst. He went on to become one of the most popular playwrights in the United States; a spectacular career that was cut short by his untimely death in 1909. On Thursday, October 23, 2014 we are holding an event in the Clyde Fitch Room in Converse Hall to celebrate the life and career of Clyde Fitch as part of LGBT History Month.

The Country Girl 1884 2

Clyde Fitch in “The Country Girl” at Amherst College, 1884.

Although we celebrate him as an icon of Queer history at Amherst, it would be inappropriate (and anachronistic) to project our modern notions of “homosexual” or “gay” onto Clyde Fitch. George Chauncy’s book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 is extremely useful, especially since Clyde Fitch spent much of his post-Amherst life in New York City. Kim Marra’s essay “Clyde Fitch’s Too Wilde Love” (in Staging Desire: Queer Readings of American Theater History) presents clear archival evidence of Fitch’s personal relationship with Oscar Wilde, and suggests they may have been lovers. Both Chauncy and Marra point out the difficulty of recovering Queer history when faced with active efforts to conceal and destroy evidence. It is likely that more letters between Fitch and Wilde were destroyed than have survived.

Cast of "The Rivals" at Amherst College, 1885. (Fitch seated, far right)

Cast of “The Rivals” at Amherst College, 1885. (Fitch seated, far right)

What we can say for certain is that Clyde Fitch was known for his great skill in playing female roles on stage as well as for costuming other performers and decorating stage sets. The Archives is filled with photographs of Amherst men in drag, so cross-dressing should not be immediately conflated with homosexuality, but, by all accounts, Fitch’s whole character was distinctly effeminate. Writing about him in the May 1928 Amherst Graduates’ Quarterly, Chilton Powell quotes Fitch as saying: “I knew of course that every boy regarded me as a sissy; but I would rather be misunderstood than lose my independence” (162).

Clyde Fitch. ca. 1886.

Clyde Fitch. ca. 1886.

After leaving Amherst, Fitch moved to New York City where he struggled to build a literary career. During the summer months he traveled to Europe and London, where he met Oscar Wilde, likely during the summer of 1888. While abroad, Fitch fully embraced the aestheticism of Wilde and his circle. Upon his return home, Fitch wrote his first successful play about the man who defined dandyism for the nineteenth century: Beau Brummell.

"Beau Brummell" Program. Chicago, 1890.

“Beau Brummell” Program. Chicago, 1890.

“Beau Brummell” premiered at Madison Square Garden in New York City on 17 May 1890 and was an instant success. It subsequently toured the major cities of America and launched Fitch’s career as a dramatist.

Early review of "Beau Brummell" (1890)

Early review of “Beau Brummell” (1890)

Fitch wrote thirty-three original plays, twenty-three adaptations, along with a novel and a book of stories for children. At one point, five of his plays were running on Broadway simultaneously. Fitch’s friend Oscar Wilde also had a great success in 1890 with the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. Fitch’s own novel was published in Lippincott’s the following year.

Clyde Fitch. A Wave of Life. 1891.

Clyde Fitch. A Wave of Life. 1891.

Although his works are nearly forgotten today, Clyde Fitch was both a major influence on the shape of American theater and a noted celebrity until his death in 1909. This caricature of Fitch by artist Ernest Haskell gives us a glimpse into how Fitch was viewed by his contemporaries:

Clyde Fitch by Ernest Haskell.

Clyde Fitch by Ernest Haskell.

Amherst College is fortunate to have extensive holdings that document the life and works of Clyde Fitch. The Archives holds The W. Clyde Fitch Collection along with the books from his personal library. Our Clyde Pride event will be held in the Fitch Room in Converse Hall — a reproduction of the study from Fitch’s home at 113 East 40th Street in New York. The room and the collections were the gift of Clyde Fitch’s mother in 1913.

The Fitch Room, as it was in 1950.

The Fitch Room, as it was in 1950.

  • More information about Oscar Wilde and his circle is available through The British Library.
  • Letters that Clyde Fitch sent to Oscar Wilde are part of the Oscar Wilde Collection at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA.

Read All About It! Archives of the Scottish Newspaper Society come to Stirling

The University of Stirling Archives has received a new collection of material which provides a new resource for those interested in the history of the Scottish newspaper industry. The Scottish Newspaper Society is a trade organisation representing local, regional and national Scottish newspapers. Its role is to represent, protect and promote the industry. The collection includes the archives of the Society and a number of organisations it replaced / merged with over the years including the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, the Scottish Newspapers Proprietors Association and the Scottish Newspapers Publishers Association.

Letterhead of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, c 1945.

Letterhead of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, 1940s.

The collection includes memorabilia dating back to 1915 but the earliest papers present come from the mid 1940s and detail the effect of the Second World War on the industry. The minutes of a meeting of the Scottish Newspaper Proprietors Association from 12th June 1943 begin with a statement from the Executive Committee noting that:

“For another year the meetings of the Association have been interrupted by the World War and it has been impossible to arrange for more than a one-day Conference. The improvement, however, in the Military situation raises the hope that the day when our meetings can be resumed in a fuller degree, may not be too far away.”

The war time minutes record the challenges faced by newspapers during the conflict which included loss of manpower, price and supply of newsprint, and censorship and reporting of events.

The next meeting of the Scottish Newspaper Proprietors Association, held in Edinburgh on 9th October 1943, was attended by Admiral Thomson, the Chief Censor. He reminded those present that newspapers should refrain from publishing anything that may be of value to the enemy and gave some examples of material to be avoided including:

  1. Those items which identified a unit or formation by number or which identified the location of a unit
  2. Matters relating to aircraft crashed in this country
  3. Reports of where and when an airman was missing

The extensive minutes and reports of these organisations provide information on a range of issues which concerned the newspaper industry including industrial relations, press regulation, delivery and distribution of local newspapers, advertising and circulation. The changing face of Scottish newspapers can be traced in a collection which stretches from war-time emergency to the challenges of a 21st century digital market.

Campaign against proposed rise in VAT on local and regional newspapers, 1987.

Campaign against proposed rise in VAT on local and regional newspapers, 1987.

Trinity University Special Collections and Archives 2014-10-17 10:32:00

Interested in Erotic Art? Holy art? Classic Literature?

Check out:

The Anatomy of a Book: A Barry Moser Exhibit

Come to our Opening Reception: October 30, 2014, 4:30-5:30pm to hear from the curator of this exhibit, view the exhibit, and enjoy refreshments. Learn what Moser means when he refers to himself as a “booksmith”. Read insightful quotes from the artist. Enjoy incredible illustrations.

Most of all, come and learn what makes a book, a book, in the hands of a master book artist.
If you can’t make it to the opening reception, stop by Special Collections and Archives (Library, Room 208) during our open hours, typically Monday-Friday 1:15-5pm (check this calendar for up to date hours: between now and April.
This exhibit is a celebration of the author, essayist, teacher, and illustrator, Barry Moser, most known for his engraved illustrations.  However, as you will see in this exhibit, he does so much more. He has completed works ranging from classic literature like The Scarlet Letter: A Romance to beloved children’s books such as Jump! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit to religious works like the Bible.  Come and see these amazing works (among many others!) and learn the intricacies that go into designing a Barry Moser masterpiece.
This display was made possible by the generous donation of the limited-edition Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (No. 229 of 400 copies).  This was a wonderful gift of Bruce and Suzie Kovner.

–Brandi Russell, Trinity Student (Class of 2015)

Bring out your film and video! It’s Home Movie Day 2014

Join amateur-film enthusiasts, film and video archivists, and your neighbours for Home Movie Day 2014, this Saturday, October 18 at the Hangar at the Centre for Digital Media. Home Movie Day is a free public event celebrating amateur film and video and honouring the unique contribution of home movies to our understanding of social and cultural history. Home Movie Day is a volunteer-driven international initiative, and this year, events will be held in Japan, Wales, Indonesia, and Austria, among many other countries. The Vancouver edition will be hosted by the Audio-Visual Heritage Association of British Columbia (AVBC) and the Centre for Digital Media (CDM). Check out the Facebook page!

Fun for one and all! Source: Home Movie Day, Center for Home Movies.

Fun for one and all! Source: Home Movie Day, Center for Home Movies.

Home Movie Day is a chance to find out what’s on those old reels or cassettes in your attic, chat with an archivist about care and preservation of your movies, discuss a transfer with a vendor, and share your discoveries and memories with the community, if you wish. Last year, 22 people brought in films on 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm. Among the highlights:

  • A participant brought in an 8mm film, shot on glorious Kodachrome, of his parents’ wedding in early 1960s Uganda
  • An experimental time-lapse film from the late 1970s/early 1980s wowed the audience
  • A couple celebrating their 50th year of marriage saw the film of their wedding for the first time

Below is a 1928 home movie from our motion picture film collection: Greencroft – Badminton ’28. Reference code AM1036-S10-:MI-140.


This year, Home Movie Day will include video as well as film! Video archivists will be on hand to assist in format identification and advise on preservation, and playback decks will be available for VHS and DV/MiniDV cassettes, popular formats in the 1980s and ’90s.

The classic SMPTE colour bars. Who else automatically hears the test tone when they see this image? Source: Denelson83, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The classic SMPTE colour bars. Who else automatically hears the test tone when they see this image? Source: Denelson83, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Don’t have any home movies lurking in a forgotten corner of your house? Come out and enjoy some popcorn, and see what your fellow Vancouverites have to share. The screening will include home movies from the City of Vancouver Archives’ holdings, as well as a selection of orphan films. October 18 has been proclaimed Home Movie Day in the City of Vancouver. See you there!

Home Movie day 2014 proclamation, City of Vancouver

Home Movie day 2014 proclamation, City of Vancouver

Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time: 12-4pm

Place: The Hangar at the CDM, 577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver

Accepted film formats for playback: 16mm, 8mm, Super 8

Accepted video formats for playback: VHS, DV, MiniDV

My Career as a Special Collections Archivist


Now on the verge of retirement from Florida State University Libraries after 34 years, and as my contribution to Archives Month, I’d like to reflect on my work experience as an archivist in the Division of Special Collections and Archives. I wanted to share with you not only the unique aspects of my professional career but also describe some of the most interesting collections I’ve processed, my observations on how the field has evolved, and how I’d like to transfer these experiences and skills into my retirement. I am hoping that for my fellow FSU library colleagues and students wishing to enter the archives field that my narrative will provide an insight into not only how diversified archival work can be, but also how projects can be accomplished with limited resources, and how professional practices in archives have changed over time.


Because the better part of my tenure at FSU Libraries was serving as the archivist of the Claude Pepper Library, most of this story will be devoted to that work.  I arrived in Special Collections in 1981 and was originally hired as the congressional archivist to arrange, describe, and make accessible the Claude Pepper Papers.  Because of the enormous size of the collection, the Papers were housed in a separate room in Strozier Library, and I was fortunate to have a library para-professional and two student assistants to process the collection. The first 900 boxes of the collection originally arrived in 1979, but a library para-professional with little or no archival experience began to arrange the collection. Unfortunately, a portion of the collection had to be reprocessed and it took another ten years to acquire additional materials and to make it accessible.  By that time, the collection and its staff had moved to at least three different locations in Strozier.  Furthermore, in preparation for the opening of the Claude Pepper Library (originally the Mildred and Claude Pepper Library, as a tribute to the Congressman’s late wife) portions of the collection were stored in the old Post Office on Woodward Avenue and the old Dodd Hall Reading Room (now the Florida Heritage Museum) while Dodd Hall was being renovated. I moved into the new Pepper Library facilities at the Claude Pepper Center in 1997.

It was exciting to finally be in a permanent location.  I found my work at the Pepper Library most enjoyable and satisfying.  The collection was fascinating, too. Congressman Pepper served over 40 years combined in the U.S. Senate and House, and his papers truly document all the major events of the 20th Century.  I originally met Congressman Pepper and his staff several times when we were planning the original Pepper Library in Dodd Hall, and continued to work with them at the Pepper Center and with the architect who designed and built the adjoining Claude Pepper Museum.

In my earlier years working at Dodd Hall, I joined the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Congressional Papers Roundtable, an association that continues to this day.  Through my contacts in the early 2000s, I learned that several congressional archives were beginning to digitize their collections. After I visited some of these institutions, and fortunately with the support of the Claude Pepper Foundation and FSU Libraries, John Nemmers, my archivist colleague at Pepper, and I proposed and implemented a digitization project. Over a period of three years (2001-2003), we and several student assistants selected materials to be scanned and made available on our new Claude Pepper website. We also prepared metadata for discovery of the materials and monitored search traffic to the website on a monthly basis. To publicize the project, we also wrote an article for the American Archivist; it served as a case study about how the value of digitization projects and how online finding aids can increase the use of archival collections.

Unfortunately, because Microsoft no longer provided server support for the software client we used for digitization and access, we had to discontinue our project. About that time, the FSU Libraries developed a long-range vision to create a repository of Florida political papers, not just congressional papers but those of Florida governors and senators as well. Subsequently, we began to acquire other papers of Florida statesmen, notably the Reubin Askew Papers, and transferred other Florida political papers from Special Collections & Archives housed in Strozier.  In addition, during the early 2000s, the FSU Libraries began developing a disaster preparedness program and created a “disaster plan working group;” I served as its preservation officer.  It was a monumental task, but our preservation “team” representing all FSU Libraries contributed to the development of the plan.  It has periodically been updated since that time.

Up until the time I began processing this collection, my archival experience had been limited to arranging and describing a collection of 18th Century deeds and other land records between settlers and Indian tribes in Long Island. Before I came to FSU, I lived in Long Island and worked at a local historical society. Once I arrived here, since I was the only archivist in the FSU Libraries (known in professional circles as a “lone archivist”), I had to reach out for help to the staff at the State Archives of Florida and begin attending SAA workshops to gain experience. This really paid off when it came time to reprocess and to add more materials.  However, since the concept of “More Product, Less Process” (MPLP) for archival materials hadn’t caught on yet in the 1980s, processing work was more time-intensive because staff had been removing all the original staples from attached documents and were counting all the documents in every folder! Because I was an archival “greenhorn” when I first arrived, I continued this practice but learned from my professional peers that these kinds of tasks weren’t absolutely necessary when working with large congressional papers. So the practice stopped. And by the time MPLP came to light in the early 2000s, we no longer arranged and described these large collections down to the individual document level. Furthermore, as long as the temperature and humidity were fairly stable, we no longer saw the need to remove every staple, either.


Because there was a growing need to reduce the backlog of archives and manuscripts that were gathering in Special Collections & Archives, and since additional archivists could not be hired to process university and non-university collections due to limited resources, priorities changed and I was transferred to Strozier in 2006 as the sole Special Collections archivist.  Since that time, and with the help of a student assistant, intern, and a graduate assistant, we eliminated this backlog. I supervised the students, interns, and a graduate assistant and it was great experience, because they were fascinated by the work and I enjoyed teaching and training them in archival practices for a variety of individual, family, and organizational collections.


To describe these collections through archival finding aids, many of which were created in HTML, the Digital Library Center’s digital archivist created a template to encode the finding aid using the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard, and content was entered in the template from older finding aids and new collections with the text editor NoteTab.  After some initial training, the staff created finding aids, through NoteTab, to all of their archives and manuscript holdings (including the Shaw Collection). To present the finding aid on the web, the Digital Library Center exported the EAD content through a stylesheet using DigiTool.  I soon learned that it was not a practical tool for creating archival finding aids. There were too many false and irrelevant search results and it was not clear where in the particular collection searched the content could be found.

As more and more Special Collections repositories began using Archon, a platform for archival description and access, Special Collections & Archives decided that Archon provided a more user-friendly way for archival staff to record descriptive information about collections and digital objects and for end-users to view, search, and browse this content through the web.

However, it soon became evident that since finding aids existed in a variety of formats (Paper, HTML, DigiTool, Archon), it was difficult to discover what we really owned. Therefore, shortly after these backlogged collections were processed, I found myself part of a team headed by our Associate Dean of Special Collections, and consisting of the digital archivist, three professionals, and our library associate.   We became engaged in a major project to locate missing collections, classify collections properly as to whether they were university or non-university materials, and consolidate smaller collections into parent collections, since they were all part of one collection. Fortunately, we have now assessed what needs to be done and are in the process of parceling out projects to complete one major goal: enable discovery of our archives and manuscripts through one venue: Archon.


As manuscript archivist, I processed quite an interesting variety of collections.  These ranged from Antebellum Civil War Plantation Records, to Florida Railroad Company records, diaries, turpentine industry records, shipbuilding company records, FSU faculty papers, and church records.  Two in particular stand out:  the Stanley Gontarski Grove Press Research Materials and the Cinema Corporation of America Collection.

The Gontarski materials were used by Dr. Gontarski to research his forthcoming book about Barney Grove Press, and Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press. What I found particularly intriguing, and which formed a major part of this collection, were the intelligence files Gontarski obtained from Rosset’s personal papers, compiled by various branches of American intelligence (FBI, CIA, U.S. Army Intelligence) under the Freedom of Information Act. For example, there were U.S. Department of Justice and CIA memoranda regarding pornography, offensive material, and actions taken against Grove Press for importation of the film “I Am Curious Yellow” and other films deemed offensive.

Scene from Original 1927 "King of Kings" motion picture
Scene from Original 1927 “King of Kings” motion picture

The Cinema Corporation of America Collection documents film director Cecil B. De Mille’s role in the founding of the company – based in South Florida — and its film distribution activities in later years under Vice President Alan F. Martin. Through the work of this company and Martin’s activities, DeMille’s most enduring film, “The King of Kings,” has been in constant theatrical and non-theatrical distribution since 1927. The collection is a real treasure trove for documenting American motion picture history and will have great research value for students in FSU’s College of Motion Pictures Arts. In this collection can be found such unique items as a publicity photo for the original 1927 silent “King of Kings” movie, as shown below.


Now that my career in the Division of Special Collections and Archives is coming to a close in a few short months, when I reflect on my professional work, experience in processing collections, supervising projects, and training potential archivists in this field, I intend after I retire to continue my involvement in the profession by keeping abreast of developments and technology, attending conferences, and networking with colleagues in Florida and across the nation. But more than this, my real passion is to share these insights with students through teaching archival courses, and would like to contribute towards creating an archival studies program at FSU.

These Charming Kids Tell Really Scary Stories

Kids are great at using stories to cope with frightening events in their lives.  In this audio, excerpted from WNYC’s 1979 storytelling festival, we hear some rather creative interpretations of Little Red Riding Hood and Dracula, as well a pretty decent joke about a talking skull.  Later in the episode, the theorist and scholar Brian Sutton-Smith talks about how kids often change, edit, and reinterpret stories to deal with the big and sometimes frightening matters in their lives.

Twenty five years ago, WNYC produced its first (and only) storytelling festival in New York City.  Along with live events in every borough, the station aired a week long series of programs devoted to both the story teller and the story scholar.  Unlike today’s emphasis on the genre’s more confessional or personal form, this series’ focus was more academic: each broadcast devoted itself to the origins and meaning of various oral history traditions, and the stories we hear are the kind of familiar allegoric tales meant to teach a lesson or enforce particular cultural norms.     

WNYC September 1979 Program Guide

That I May Remember: Scrapbooks from Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)

FSCW Marching Band next to Bryan Hall
FSCW Marching Band next to Bryan Hall. Photo from the Victoria J. Lewis Scrapbook (HP-2007-079)

Florida State University Special Collections & Archives Division is proud to present our Fall 2014 exhibit, “That I May Remember: Scrapbooks from Florida State College for Women (1905-1947),” which opens today in the Strozier Library Exhibit Space. This exhibit features scrapbooks from Heritage Protocol & University Archives.

The scrapbook is an expression of memories, unique to each individual. By preserving, collecting, and arranging everyday objects, the creators of scrapbooks shaped a visual narrative of their lives. “That I May Remember” explores the scrapbooks created by the students of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947). Although scrapbooks are generally created for the preservation of an individual’s memory, when taken as a whole, the FSCW scrapbook collection grants its viewers a rare insight into the history of FSCW and the women who made it was it was.  These scrapbooks tell the stories of students’ lives, school pride, friendships, and their contributions to the heritage of Florida State University.

“That I May Remember” will be open Monday-Friday from 10:00am-6:00pm in Strozier until December 1st.

Ring Around the Rosey: A Tony Schwartz Investigation

Tony Schwartz thought people should use tape recorders like cameras to capture meaningful events. Over the years he recorded more than 30,000 sound portraits of New York City life. These included cab drivers telling stories, zoo keepers feeding lions, elevator operators calling out floors and children singing nursery rhymes. The above look into a common childhood rhyme, as Schwartz found out, takes us back to a very different time and place.

For more than 30 years Schwartz produced a weekly program of sound portraits on WNYC. We recently found this broadcast in the Municipal Archives WNYC collection. The bulk of his WNYC, WBAI and Folkways tapes are now with the Library of Congress.

Declassification in Full of the 1954 Oppenheimer Hearing

The PIDB congratulates the Department of Energy’s Office of Classification Management for declassifying the complete 1954 Oppenheimer Hearing Transcript.  President Obama’s Second Open Government National Action Plan tasked Government agencies, including the Department of Energy, to systematically review and declassify historical data on nuclear activities.  The PIDB is pleased to see the Department of Energy actively working to declassify historical nuclear information and supporting the goals in the National Action Plan. According to the DOE’s OpenNet website, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) held a four-week, closed-door hearing in April and May of 1954 to determine the security clearance status of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer.  The AEC previously released a redacted form of the original transcript, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of Hearing before Personnel Security Board, in 1954.  The Department of Energy has re-reviewed the nineteen volumes of transcripts and has released them in their entirety without any redactions.  For the first time, the public and historians can read and use these full transcripts and gain new insight into an aspect of U.S. Cold War and nuclear weapons policy history.   The PIDB also commends the Department of Energy for providing the public with specific information on how to view the newly declassified information and identify the previously redacted/segregated “Classified Testimony.”  This additional effort of creating a cross-reference volume entitled, “Record of Deletions” of the declassified portions will aid researchers in their understanding of the records, an important step in the support of open government and transparency.

Happy Birthday Lois Lenski!

Sketch from chapter 9 of Strawberry Girl
Sketch from chapter 9 of Strawberry Girl [See Full Description]

On October 14, 1893, Lois Lenski was born in Springfield, Ohio. She grew up and lived primarily in the midwest and northeast but because of poor health, starting in the 1940s, she often traveled to the south on doctor’s orders. In 1951, Lenski and her husband, Arthur Covey, built a house in Florida and spend increasing amounts of time in the South. It was thanks to her travels and eventual move to the American South that Lenski’s greatest works were born.

Strawberry Girl, a story about Florida Crackers in the early 1900s was inspired by Lenski’s time in Florida. An installment in a set of regional novels about children around the United States, it would win her the 1946 Newberry Medal and remains her most famous work.

The Lois Lenski Collection at Florida State University was started in the 1950s when the Libraries contacted Ms. Lenski asking for “even just a page or drawing from Strawberry Girl.” Initially, Lenski sent only two drawings but in 1958, she donated a larger collection of books, original drawings, articles and other items of interest to a Lenski or children’s literature scholar.

Lois Lenski with children at the Amos Public Library, Sidney, Ohio, 1961. [See Full Description]
Lois Lenski with children at the Amos Public Library, Sidney, Ohio, 1961. [See Full Description]

In the Spring of 2013, our Lois Lenski Collection was the focus of that semester’s Museum Object class. The course, a requirement of the Museum Studies minor at FSU, gives students a hands-on experience within the museum field. It requires the class to curate and design both a physical and online exhibit on their topic. You can view the online exhibit here.

The Royal Scottish National Hospital Project

This is the first of what will hopefully be a monthly series of blog posts on the progress of Continuity of Care – the project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital. Thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust, this project started in the middle of August and will be completed by July 2015.

In 2013, the Royal Scottish National Hospital was given UNESCO status as a collection of international status (see our previous blog post). This reflects the importance of the Institution in the care of children with learning disabilities at a time when no distinction was made between mental disability and mental illness.

The Institution was founded in 1862 and the collection contains the earliest annual reports and minutes as well as a register of the first admissions.

RSNH first report USED

Title page of the first report, 1862

Amongst the items of interest catalogued so far is a volume of Superintendent’s Reports 1863-1872.

The Medical Superintendent was in charge of the day to day running of the Institution and answered to the Directors. He submitted a monthly report in which he detailed admissions and discharges; the progress of building; donations and finance; requests for information from the Commissioners in Lunacy; recruitment and salaries of staff; and the health of the children. Dr David Brodie was the medical superintendent from 1862 to 1867 and he had a troubled relationship with the Directors. He had run a school for imbecile children in Edinburgh under the auspices of the Society for Education of Imbecile Youth in Scotland. Once the Society had the funds to build its Institution at Larbert, Brodie was the obvious choice as resident physician.

In Brodie’s second report he wrote ‘Seven pupils have been admitted during the month – one full payment, one reduced payment and 5 election cases’. But by his third report he was reporting that ‘the proportion of the uneducable class is already embarrassing and entails too heavy a trial on the patience of attendants…’ He made frequent requests for more staff and better accommodation and in his letter of resignation he made his feelings clear:

IMG 2809 crop

Part of the entry of the Directors’ Meeting, 1st October 1867

There has been a very large surplus revenue which as derived chiefly from payment cases I had a right to expect would be devoted to the practical work in which I have been engaged yet this has…been absorbed in the payment of past liabilities while I have had to bear unaided all the discredit and discomfort attendant on the deficient staff and accommodation and have had to feel and acknowledge that the work that we were professing to do at the Institution was not being accomplished’ (from the minutes of a Special Meeting of Directors 1st October 1867).

This tension between the needs of the Institution and the financial reality in which it operated was to continue throughout its history as later posts will illustrate.

You have the best job ever! A week in the life of a University Archivist

As a University Archivist, each day brings unique challenges, and every day is different. What most people don’t realize are the variety of duties, responsibilities, and actions that take place to keep everything moving forward to acquire, preserve, and provide access to Florida State’s historical collections. In the course of a week, a multitude of activities take place.

FSCW-ScrapbookExhibit-5x7_Page_1Outreach is one of my main duties, and at the top of the list this week is printing and mounting all of the visual components, and then staging everything for our upcoming exhibit on Florida State College for Women’s Scrapbooks. For this project I also get to supervise and mentor two great graduate assistants, work on a postcard, reception, and logistics for all of that. Giving presentations and instruction to support classes on campus is another outreach activity. I presented on using our finding aids database Archon, how to find materials in the FSU Digital Library, and the important aspects of creating oral histories to ensure their long-term preservation and access. Students will make appointments and come in to meet with me and to look at primary resources for their projects. Their topic is FSU students and their experiences, right up our alley! I also spend time on ideas and posts for Facebook, and writing blog posts like these to get the word out about what we do.

First summer in new president’s house. Dr. Doak S. Campbell and Mrs. Edna Simmons Campbell, 1948

Every week I receive multiple requests for materials, most often images for use on the web, in print, and for events. The bulk of the requests I receive are from other departments on campus, especially administration. For example, University Communications contacted us to provide historic images for the President’s House that we will scan and provide for them to print. We have provided images for the scoreboard at Doak Campbell Stadium, for galas, for the newspaper, for student projects, and for local media outlets.

West Florida Seminary Seal
West Florida Seminary Seal

To administer Heritage Protocol & University Archives requires quite a few meetings with groups inside and outside of the libraries. Meetings this week include those to discuss how our Special Collections & Archives reading room operates, how the libraries support scholarly communications, and how the University Archives will preserve all of FSU’s historic seals and logos.I also meet with other departments on campus about transferring their records to the University Archives, which acts as the official repository for FSU.



Professional roles often cross over, and as President of the Society of Florida Archivists, my goal is  to support the profession by collaborating with other archivist across the state and providing support to new professionals. In addition to my duties as FSU, organizing and planning activities for Archives Month this October, and our annual meeting next May in Miami, I stay busy, but also connected to other archivists and institutions across the state which in turn enhances my abilities at FSU. I also participate in different committees and activities related to the Society of American Archivists.

This is one week, and certainly not all that I do as an archivist, but it certainly goes beyond sitting in a dusty room sifting through boxes of old papers (I like doing that too). The collections we have are rich and full of the evidence of the people who created them illustrating FSU over time, including faculty, staff, and students. When I explain to people what an archivist is and what I do here at Heritage Protocol & University Archives, they often exclaim, “You have the best job ever!”

Yes, yes I do.


Are Comics Bad for Children?

Comic Con has descended on New York City. We dug this little snippet from the archives of Angelina Kruppe, a parent of Junior High School 29 in Brooklyn, interviewed on the WNYC show Youth Builders in 1949. When asked about her opinion about the perniciousness of comics on children, she sounds equivocal –probably reflecting the feelings of many parents at the time– but ultimately states that comic books have had no apparent ill effect in her home.

Ms. Kruppe’s concerns were widespread among American parents at the time: while most could not discern the damaging effects of comic books on their own children, reports seemed to increasingly link the medium to delinquent behavior. This culminated in the 1954 hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, where –among many amusing moments– presidential hopeful Estes Kefauver stated that “Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.

Of course such arguments are bound to happen with every new medium: today’s debates over video game content very much parallel those over comic books in the 1940s and 1950s. But such oddly strident statements as Senator Kefauver’s were also a reflection of the times, where post-war optimism gave way to the Second Red Scare and, ultimately, the McCarthy era.

We can only hope to be wiser in our current media discussions –much like Ms. Kruppe above.

You can listen to the entire show here.

New additions to Amherst College Digital Collections

If you’ve been following this blog, then you may already be familiar with the Amherst College Digital Collections — ACDC for short.  ACDC is the result of collaboration between Robert Frost Library Digital Programs and Technical Services departments, and Amherst College’s Information Technology department.  ACDC focuses on digitizing and making available unique or rare content from collections owned by the Library or the College at large, as well as open access scholarly content created by Amherst College faculty.¹  The Amherst College Digital Collection continues to grow with monthly ingests of new content, including materials from the Archives and Special Collections.

Here are a few highlights from recent additions to ACDC:

51 books from the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection

The Native American Literature Collection continues to be a very exciting collection, highly used in classes and by visiting researchers.  Now there are 51 books from this collection freely available to the public through ACDC.



22 Medieval manuscripts:

Thus far, 22 of Amherst’s 24 Medieval manuscripts have been added to ACDC.  These manuscripts, primarily from the late-fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, have been digitized as part of a Mellon-funded Five Colleges digitization project.  More about that project here.  Included in this collection are manuscripts of Cicero, Horace, Persius, and Frontinus.

















20 Years of the Amherst College Catalog:

Amherst College Catalogs from 1975-1997 are now available on ACDC.  These College Catalogs are a source of information about the growth and history of the College as well as the College’s role in adapting to and shaping changes in higher education in the United States.  Recent catalogs include information such as the mission statement; academic calendar; lists of members of the corporation, faculty, administrative and professional officers; admissions requirements; courses of instruction; professorships, readerships, and lectureships; prizes and awards; and enrollment.


And more great material has been added from the Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection:


For a list of all Amherst College Archives and Special Collections’ materials available through ACDC:


¹ Amherst College Digital Collection Development Policy:

Farewell, Renegade V

This past weekend at the FSU vs. Wake Forest football game, one of FSU’s most beloved members was honored with a retirement ceremony. While he doesn’t play football or coach athletes, he is known for his tireless training and impeccable composure on the field. I’m talking about none other than Renegade V, the fifth horse bestowed with one of Florida State’s most prestigious titles. Renegade V’s last performance was at the 2013 BCS National Championship, but has since lost vision in his right eye due to a medical condition. Renegade V has been performing with Chief Osceola since 2000.

Renegade IV’s Retirement Ceremony, 2000. Photo by Ryals Lee.

The Renegade Program was started in 1978 by Bill Durham, 25 years after he originally proposed the the idea for the 1962 FSU Homecoming. His vision for a lone Chief Osceola mounted atop a leopard appaloosa, galloping onto the field and planting a flaming spear before kickoff picked up traction after he approached new head football coach, Bobby Bowden, in 1976. Coach Bowden loved the idea and after securing permission from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Chief Osceola and Renegade premiered at the 1978 Oklahoma State game. Jim Kidder, the first student to assume the role of Chief Osceola, described the selection process as secretive – he didn’t even know what he was auditioning for until he won the position, saying that “they tried to keep it a secret as long as they could.

The Renegade Program is truly a family affair. Since its inception, Bill Durham and his wife Patty both had a hand in training  Chief Osceola and Renegade. In 2002, Bill Durham passed the reins of the program to his son Allen, who had previously been Chief Osceola from 1992-1994. Since the 70s, the Durhams have truly established one of college football’s most beloved traditions.

Chief Osceola and Renegade V plant the spear at the 2013 BCS National Championship. GIF courtesy SB Nation and ESPN.


Check  back for photos of Renegade V’s Retirement Ceremony!

Trinity During World War I

Announcing New Exhibit on Trinity and World War I
Curated by Meredith Elsik
Special Collections & Archives is marking the centennial of World War I with a two-part exhibit available on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the library.  Come learn about the general history of WWI and view numerous books about the “Great War” on the 3rd floor, part of a traveling exhibit that will be here until December. Then come down to Special Collections (on the 2nd floor) to learn about Trinity’s involvement in the First World War.  We hope it will give you an idea of what life was like for students on campus following the United States entry into the war in 1917.  Special Collections is open Monday through Friday, 1:15-5pm unless otherwise posted. 
See Special Collections current hours at
A Brief Overview of the War Years at Trinity  
Written by Meredith Elsik
Come to the exhibit to learn more!
Changes came quickly to the Trinity campus, then located in Waxahachie, Texas. Trinity students soon saw men in military uniform on campus with the War Department’s creation of the Students’ Army Training Corps. (S.A.T.C.)  Their activities outside of class also took on a patriotic flavor as they became involved in activities designed to support the war effort.
The S.A.T.C. program was designed to use colleges and universities as military training facilities, while at the same time it was hoped they would help slow down the declining enrollment of men which concerned college administrators.  Apparently the concern was such that “one visitors committee expressed the fear that Trinity might even become a school for girls”. (Everett, 83)
It also meant that money had to be spent on remodeling for housing the new S.A.T.C. unit on campus. Apparently a new shower and bath house was needed, which along with plumbing and other expenses cost almost $3000 according to the Trinity Bulletin. However, the Bulletin also reported that all claims to the government were paid and “Trinity University lost nothing in a financial way because of its service to the government.”
Just as we hear reports and concerns about the Ebola epidemic today, the 1918 influenza epidemic was also a concern on the Trinity campus during the war years.  The influenza epidemic supposedly killed an estimated 50 million people around the world, while World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives (The National Archives).  Classes on campus were cancelled and the TU Bulletin reported as many as 35 men in a local Sanitarium suffering from influenza.  Luckily, the Bulletin reported that there were no fatalities among students cared for in Waxahachie.
The War came to an end with the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. The S.A.T.C corps was disbanded and apparently the end of military discipline brought about problems with President Samuel Hornbeak reporting that the trainees “went wild” (Brackenridge, 87).
At the first Commencement following the war, there must have been relief that the war had ended, but sadness also, as seven current or former Trinity students, who had given their lives in service to their country during the war, were honored.
If you would like more information, you might take a look at the following sources used for the exhibit and blog post.
Both the school newspaper, The Trinitonian, and the school yearbook, The Mirage, have been digitized and are available online through the following link.
Books covering the history of Trinity University:
Brackenridge, Douglas R. Trinity University: A Tale of Three Cities. San Antonio: Trinity University Press. 2004. Print
Everett, Donald E. Trinity University: A Record of One Hundred Years. San Antonio: Trinity University Press. 1968. Print.
Trinity University Bulletins – Special Collections & Archives
Sources for 1918 Influenza Epidemic:
The Influenza Epidemic of 1918:
The National Archives. The Deadly Virus – The Influenza Epidemic of 1918

The Scan Plan: Our Strategy to Digitize the Vast Holdings of the National Archives

The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes a simple, but audacious initiative: to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. We have over 12 billion pages of records, so yes, this is our moon shot.

To achieve this goal, we know we need to think in radically new ways about our processes, and we have started by creating a new digitization strategy.  From the time we published our 2008 digitization strategy through today, we have scanned over 230 million objects.  This is a huge number, but we have a long road ahead.  Our new strategy pushes us further.

Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford
Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford, Powell Group film scanner, taken April 1961. National Archives Identifier 7665735.

We know we cannot do all of this by ourselves. We will continue to collaborate and build on efforts with private and public organizations to digitize records, as well as branch out to citizen archivists, other federal agencies and institutions worldwide. We will develop clear processes and technologies to support a workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensure that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, and make them available online in a shorter period of time.

We will set measures and track progress for each of these approaches, because we believe we can make digital access happen and we … [ Read all ]

Shirley Zak Hayes: WNYC’s First Woman Staff Announcer

By the time Shirley Zak Hayes joined the WNYC staff in June 1966 as the station’s first full-time woman announcer, she had already distinguished herself as a community activist. In the late 1950s she led the fight against Robert Moses’ plan for a four-lane highway through Washington Square Park. (This activism was duly noted in Jane Jacobs’ book The Life and Death of Great American Cities). Hayes had also worked for the Lindsay campaign, and was a charter member of the National Organization for Women.

A Chicago native, Hayes hosted the overnight classical music program While the City Sleeps and created, produced and hosted the shows Landmark Reports and Planning Board Reports (the above audio is from a 1967 episode of the latter). Hayes had plenty of experience and knowledge for both programs, having been a member of Planning Board 2 since 1952 and organizing the successful campaign to preserve Washington Square Park. Planning Board Reports was launched in conjunction with Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton’s office on June 4, 1967. The show presented capsule reports and meeting dates for the city’s Planning Boards.

On March 8, 1974 Hayes took on the bulk of WNYC’s special programming for International Women’s Day. This included discussions with experts on women’s health, employment, women in broadcasting, and African-American women. She continued to produce special programs focusing on women’s issues throughout the year and into 1975.

Hayes chaired several committees of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) union, and represented fellow broadcasters at annual conventions as chair of the AFTRA Committee for the Creation of a Television and Film Center in New York City.

Hayes produced and announced for WNYC for 10 years and was among the earliest full-time woman radio announcers in New York City. She worked hard to break into the ‘boys club’ of announcing, but her repeated efforts to obtain a management position at the station were ultimately unsuccessful.

Special thanks to: Christopher Hayes; Kenneth R. Cobb, NYC Department of Records; Ted O’Reilly, The New York Historical Society; and Danielle Cordovez, NYPL Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.


Scrapbooks: the Original Social Media

The Special Collections & Archives graduate assistants, Rebecca L. Bramlett and I, are busy preparing for the opening of our exhibit next Wednesday, October 15th. “That I May Remember: the Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)” showcases many of the scrapbooks from the Heritage Protocol & University Archives’ collections and explores the scrapbook as a means of communication, focusing on the themes of school spirit, friendship, and creating self. With each scrapbook we opened, Rebecca and I were struck by the way the unique personalities of the women of FSCW jumped off the pages at us. As a whole, the FSCW scrapbooks provide an invaluable insight into what student life was like at one of the largest women’s colleges in the country – a college with rigorous academics, zealous sporting traditions, vibrant community life, and even secret societies. Individually, they present a visual narrative of each student’s college journey, as seen through her own eyes. Which got me thinking… As a means of creating and communicating self, the FSCW scrapbooks operate in much the same way that popular forms of social media do for students today.



Laura Quayle Benson Scrapbook Autograph Page
Autograph page from the Laura Quayle Benson Scrapbook, 1917-1919 (HP-2007-041)

Wall posts, friends, messages, memes, event invitations, and “likes” – these conventions are not reserved for the twenty-first century. Many of the FSCW scrapbooks, like Laura Quayle Benson’s (pictured right), contain autograph pages signed by the scrapbook creator’s friends. Like a Facebook wall, these pages list a person’s friends along with personal notes from each of them. Some of the notes seem to be the generic words of a passing acquaintance (“With best wishes”), while others are rich with suggestions of inside jokes (“I love Laura ‘heaps’ – I wonder if (?) does?”). The scrapbooks are full of other forms of communication between friends and family – letters, notes, calling cards, package slips, greeting cards, and telegrams. Invitations to join sports teams, honor societies, and sororities are given pride of place as signs of belonging to a group, and collections of event programs read like a personal news feed of where each girl was on a given date. Flipping through the FSCW scrapbooks is a bit like scrolling through each girl’s Facebook wall. It gives one a sense of who she was at a certain point in her life – who she was friends with, what she did, what her interests were – even if the deeper, more personal meanings of the scrapbooks are sometimes obscured from the outside observer.


Annie Gertrude Gilliam Scrapbook Page
A page from the Annie Gertrude Gilliam Scrapbook, 1925-1931 (HP-2007-121)

Tumblr and Pinterest

Creating a scrapbook is an act of curation – carefully selecting texts and images and arranging them in a meaningful way. Although the creators of scrapbooks manipulate physical objects, users of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr use digital media to create collections of text, image, video, and sound meant to express something of themselves. The scrapbook of Annie Gertrude Gilliam (pictured left) contains many excellent examples of well-curated pages. Her clippings from advertisements, theater bills, and magazines are carefully arranged and replete with lively commentary (“A real knock out,” “Exciting and thrilling to the end”). These pages speak of a timeless need to organize our thoughts, express ourselves visually, and voice our opinions, whether in a private scrapbook or a public webpage.



Jewell Genevieve Cooper Scrapbook Page
A page from the Jewell Genevieve Cooper Scrapbook, 1924-1930 (HP-2007-089)

Photographs are a common feature of almost all of the FSCW scrapbooks, and many of these photos include captions written by the scrapbook’s creator, such as those by Jewell Genevieve Cooper (pictured right). Photos in scrapbooks are, in a sense, “tagged” by the scrapbook creator. Jewell Genevieve Cooper’s “tags” tell us what the photos are of (an Odd-Even baseball game, one of FSCW’s wildly popular inter-school rivalries) and who is in them. These social layers added to photographs in scrapbooks are similar to the tags and descriptions users add to photos in social media sites like Instagram. Even though a picture says a thousand words, we can’t seem to resist adding our own words anyway.


The FSCW scrapbooks give a unique window into student life as told by the students themselves. While the scrapbooks present plenty of cataloging and preservation challenges for archivists, they are at least physical objects that can be stored and displayed as such. Students today are also telling their own stories, but they are doing so through social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. How these stories will be preserved and shared with future generations remains to be seen and is a question beyond the scope of this blog post. In the meantime, “That I May Remember: the Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)” will be on display in the Strozier Library Exhibit Space from October 15th through December 1st.

Katherine Hoarn is a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives. She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science degree at Florida State University.

First Draft of History? Or Maybe the Second?

I recently decided to take a look at one of the Benedict Arnold letters in our Updike Autograph Collection, and came across a curious situation. Here’s an image of the letter:

2014-10-07 13.41.33

and the verso:

2014-10-07 13.41.51

The letter is dated May 19th, 1775, just a month after the battles of Lexington and Concord, and it describes Benedict Arnold’s successful raid on Fort St. Jean in Quebec, where Arnold had captured a ship and the small group of soldiers at the fort. Here’s Arnold’s account from the letter:

Manned out two small batteaux with 35 men and at 6 the next morning arrived there and surprised a sergeant and his party of 12 men and took the King’s sloop of about 70 tons and 2 brass six-pounders and 7 men without any loss on either side. The captain was hourly expected from Montreal with a large detachment of men, some guns and carriages for the sloop, as was a captain and 40 men from Chambly at 12 miles distance from St. Johns, so that providence seems to have smiled on us in arriving so fortunate an hour. For had we been 6 hours later in all probability we should have miscarried in our design.

The letter is also notable for a passage in which Arnold describes an encounter with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys:

 I must here observe that in my return some distance this side [of] St. John I met Col. Allen with 90 or 100 of his men in a starving condition. I supplied him with provisions. He informed me of his intentions of proceeding on to St. Johns and keeping possession there. It appeared to me a wild, expensive, impracticable scheme…

What makes the letter particularly interesting, though, is that it doesn’t seem to be the only version that Arnold wrote. An alternate version (addressed to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety) is available in a compilation of Revolutionary War documents published in the 1830s-40s (text | page image). The letters are both dated May 19th, 1775, and are basically the same in content, but there are routinely differences in language, and occasionally major differences in content. Our draft of the letter, for instance, doesn’t include the following passage, which appears in the other version:

I wrote you, gentlemen, in my former letters, that I should be extremely glad to be superseded in my command here, as I find it next to impossible to repair the old fort at Ticonderoga, and am not qualified to direct in building a new one. I am really of opinion it will be necessary to employ one thousand or fifteen hundred men here this summer, in which I have the pleasure of being joined in sentiment by Mr. Romans, who is esteemed an able engineer….

… I beg leave to observe I have had intimations given me, that some persons had determined to apply to you and the Provincial Congress, to injure me in your esteem, by misrepresenting matters of fact. I know of no other motive they can have, only my refusing them commissions, for the very simple reason that I did not think them qualified. However, gentlemen, I have the satisfaction of imagining I am employed by gentlemen of so much candour, that my conduct will not be condemned until I have the opportunity of being heard.

It’s illuminating to note that these lines — which move beyond the immediate reporting of forts taken and cannons captured — were ones that Arnold seemed to hesitate to send.

So why two copies, and why would they be different?* Unfortunately, our letter isn’t addressed, so we can only guess that it was intended for the same recipients (the MA Committee of Safety). But one bit of evidence appears in the last lines. Our copy concludes with this note:

For particulars [I] must refer you to Capt. Oswald, who has been very active and serviceable and is a prudent, good officer.

Indicating, it seems, that Oswald was delivering our copy of the letter. The other letter ends this way:

I must refer you for particulars to the bearer, Captain Jonathan Brown, who has been very active and serviceable, and is a prudent, good officer…

Scholars of the American Revolution (who are hopefully more knowledgeable of the conventions of military correspondence of the time) are encouraged to comment on whether Arnold was more likely to be sending two copies of a letter like this with different couriers, to ensure that it arrived safely, or sending a similar letter to two different sets of recipients.

In either case, it’s a reminder that even what seems like a clear piece of historical evidence might be only part of the story.

Here’s a transcription (spelling adjusted) of our copy of the letter:

Crown Point 19th May 1775


I wrote you the 14th instant by Mr. Romans, which I make no doubt you have received. The afternoon of the same day I left Ticonderoga with Capt. Brown and Arnold and fifty men in a small schooner. Arrived at Skenesborough and proceeded for St. Johns. The weather calm. 17th at 6 PM being within 30 miles of St. Johns. Manned out two small batteaux with 35 men and at 6 the next morning arrived there and surprised a sergeant and his party of 12 men and took the King’s sloop of about 70 tons and 2 brass six-pounders and 7 men without any loss on either side. The captain was hourly expected from Montreal with a large detachment of men, some guns and carriages for the sloop, as was a captain and 40 men from Chambly at 12 miles distance from St. Johns, so that providence seems to have smiled on us in arriving so fortunate an hour. For had we been 6 hours later in all probability we should have miscarried in our design. The wind proving favourable in two hours after our arrival we got on most all the stores, provisions and weighed anchor for this place with the sloop and 5 large batteaux, which we seized, having destroyed 5 others, and arrived here at 10 this morning, not leaving any one craft of any kind behind that the enemy can cross the lake in if they have any such intentions. I must here observe that in my return some distance this side [of] St. John I met Col. Allen with 90 or 100 of his men in a starving condition. I supplied him with provisions. He informed me of his intentions of proceeding on to St. Johns and keeping possession there. It appeared to me a wild, expensive, impracticable scheme and provided it could be carried into execution of no consequence so long as we are masters of the lake, [and] of that I make no doubt we should be as I am determined to arm the sloop and schooner immediately. For particulars [I] must refer you to Capt. Oswald, who has been very active and serviceable and is a prudent, good officer.

Bened: Arnold


P.S. to the foregoing letter

By a return sent to Gen. Gage last week I find there are in the 7th and 26th regiments now in Canada 717 men including 170 we have taken prisoner. Enclosed is a list of cannon here at Ticonderoga:

[list follows]

* It’s also possible, of course, that one or the other letters wasn’t actually composed by Arnold at all, or at least not on May 15th, 1775. Arnold seems to have signed his name in a number of ways, as evidenced by comparing this signature with this one, both dating from 1775. The latter version uses a two-story form of the “A” in “Arnold,” and seems similar in other ways. I haven’t seen a copy of the other letter, which may be part of the Library of Congress’s Peter Force Library, donated by the author of compilation in which that copy appears.

Visit to Berlin

A trip to Berlin had been planned for a long time and this gave me the opportunity to combine research with pleasure.  At the archives, we are digitising glass lantern slides so that this rich bank of history will be available for future generations.   One way for the public to become involved with the project is to visit and re-photograph the sites from the lantern slide and so I went to Berlin with two photographs from the archive.  We had no information what the buildings in the lantern slide image were, but a quick search on the internet identified one of the pictures as the Bode Museum on the Museum Island.  I could not find any reference to the other picture.

AD43408_AHistc3d7img266c-scrBode Museum 1  

The Bode Museum c.1890 (l) and 2014 (r)

The weather was great and on our first day in Berlin we took a bus tour of the city.  I, of course, was armed with the two pictures and almost right at the start of the tour found the “unknown” building  –  there are now traffic lights right in front of the building – it is the Humboldt University on Unter den Linden.

AD43407_AHistc3d7img265c-scr Humboldt Uni 1

The Humboldt University c.1890 (l) and 2014 (r)

While comparing the photographs, differences become apparent almost immediately.  At the Bode Museum, the statue has disappeared, the railings along the river have changed, and modern buildings , cranes and pipework that carries the ground water are now prominent.

The changes at the university are less pronounced, although there is now a busy road rather than a quiet square in front of the building, the main change is the inscription on the building – now in modern German rather than Latin!

Not many of the old buildings survived the war although many have been restored or rebuilt.  Berlin now seems to be a city of glass and steel and many more changes are happening.


Lyndon Johnson reacts to the Walter Jenkins incident, 1964

50 years ago presidential aide Walter Jenkins, a father of six, was arrested for having sex with a man in a YMCA bathroom, weeks before the 1964 presidential election.

Rumors of the arrest circulated for days and eventually Republican Party operatives promoted it to the press. On October 14, after the White House unsuccessfully tried to lobby the Washington papers not to publish the story, the scandal broke in the Washington Star. President Johnson, already facing pressure over the Bobby Baker and Billie Sol Estes affairs, was clearly not pleased, as you can hear in the clip above; Jenkins resigned immediately. For a few days afterward Johnson’s opponent Barry Goldwater made veiled references to the incident by mentioning LBJ’s “curious crew,” and his campaign headquarters printed buttons with slogans such as “ALL THE WAY WITH LBJ, BUT DON’T GO NEAR THE YMCA.” But the event ended up not influencing the outcome of the election (Johnson swept Goldwater), as it was soon eclipsed by other international news at the time such as Khruschev’s deposition and the United Kingdom’s elections. Lyndon Johnson later stated “I couldn’t have been more shocked about Walter Jenkins if I’d heard that Lady Bird had tried to kill the Pope.”

Margot Gayle Saves a Clock

The Jefferson Market Library is an iconic building in Greenwich Village. Located at 6th Avenue and 10th street, the building is known for its bright red brick exterior, gothic windows, charming (and public!) garden, and its 11-story high clock tower. But what is most likely not known is the fascinating history of this building, and the many times it was saved from destruction by a team of active Village residents, led by one Margot Gayle.

The building was originally a wooden firehouse, built in the early 1800s with a tall tower that overlooked Manhattan and kept watch for fires, invasions, and any other threat to the city. In 1875 the wooden structure was torn down, and a brick courthouse was erected, complete with a brick tower that included a 4-sided clock, added to continue to keep watch over the city.

In 1945 the city ceased to use the building, and it sat empty for over 10 years. Eventually the clock – nicknamed “Old Jeff” – stopped running, and the city began to talk about tearing down the whole structure. That is when Margot Gayle and her Committee of Neighbors to Get the Clock on Jefferson Market Courthouse Started (which is a fairly long name with sadly no chance of a catchy acronym) stepped in. They began to petition the city to restore the clock and save the building. While the city refused to do anything on their own, they did allow the committee to take over. Gayle’s committee rented the tower from the city for $1 a month, and hired a repairman to fix and maintain the clock. In 1961 the city commissioned the courthouse to become a branch of the New York Public Library, and the Committee worked to transfer ownership and repair of the clock over to the NYPL. After another threat of closure and destruction in the 1970s, the building was declared a historic landmark, and has been in active use as a library since.

We recently came across a great, brief interview with Margot Gayle about her Committee and the clock they worked to save. In the interview from the 1960s (though the actual date is unknown), she gives a brief history of the courthouse and clock, what the Committee has done so far, and her thoughts on the transition of the space into a library.  Ms. Gayle, who died 6 years ago last week, was a prominent and outspoken conservationist in the Village, working throughout the 1950s and 1960s to not only preserve historic buildings, but to give them a new life in the modern New York City. When fixing the clock, she noted the importance it plays in the daily life of all people in the neighborhood, “children have gone to school by it, people catch their bus, get off to work by it, come home and find out if stores are still open by it…” Fixing the clock meant providing structure to the surrounding community.

Margot Gayle’s work is still present in today’s Greenwich Village.  In the 1960s she helped to successfully lobby for a landmark preservation law to help secure buildings after the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station. She also worked to prevent the construction of a highway in downtown Manhattan. And of course, she went on to help save many more clocks all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.