Military Pension Files: Frakturs

Did you know that military pension files may contain valuable details about family history? While military veterans who applied for benefits had to provide evidence of service, widows or heirs had to provide evidence of their relationship to soldiers. As a result, some military pension files in the National Archives contain very interesting, and sometimes surprising items.

For example, this beautiful Fraktur illustrating a family record was found within the file documenting the military service of Peter Hunt, who served during the American Revolutionary War.

Peter Hunt family Fraktur From the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application File of Peter Hunt. National Archives Identifier 300092


We know from his pension application that Peter Hunt was born on Sept 28, 1757 in Dover, Dutchess County, New York. He married Hannah Benson on September 15, 1779 in Dutchess County.

On October 8, 1832, Peter Hunt made an application for pension while a resident of Kortright, Delaware County, New York, and was issued pension in 1833. According to Peter’s declaration to obtain pension, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1776 as a private commanded by Captain Childs and served in his Company of Infantry. Soon after, he enlisted into a Company of Artillery commanded by Captain Andrew Moody in a regiment of the New York Continental line.

Peter first enlisted as volunteer in the militia in 1775 … [ Read all ]

Glamour Girls, Murder, and the Mayor

We mark the 50th anniversary of the passing of the 100th Mayor of New York City with a look at his 1948 lampooning by City Hall reporters.

The hijinks and revelry of the Inner Circle Club’s annual show in 1948, A Streetcar Framed O’Dwyer, gave little hint of the great scandal—and the enduring gangland mystery—that was soon to envelop its title character.

The “Inner Circle” is the fraternity of city hall reporters who famously gave us Rudy Giuliani in a dress. For over a hundred years now—their predecessor organization, “the Amen Corner,” dates back to 1898—they have put on an annual revue skewering the latest unfortunate in the mayor’s office, and other leading political figures. “A Streetcar” refers to A Streetcar Named Desire, the groundbreaking Tennessee Williams play headlined by Marlon Brando that was setting Broadway on fire at the time. O’Dwyer was Mayor William O’Dwyer, the 100th mayor in the city’s history, though as alluded to here he was too ill to attend the festivities, still recovering from what was thought to be a heart attack.

O’Dwyer (1890-1964) seemed to be a great American success story. Born in County Mayo, Ireland, arriving in the Bronx nearly penniless after dropping out of a seminary in Salamanca, in Spain, he worked as a grocery errand boy, a hod carrier on construction sites (including the Woolworth Building), a stoker of ship furnaces, and then as a beat cop along the Brooklyn waterfront. He went to law school at night to earn his degree, built a private practice, and—as the Inner Circle show mentions—served the public as a Kings County judge, and then Brooklyn district attorney.

As DA, he succeeded in sending no fewer than seven members of the notorious “Murder, Inc.” gang of mob assassins-for-hire up to “the Dance Hall,” the electric chair at Sing Sing, including Louis “Lepke” Buchalter—to this day, the only mob boss ever executed for his crimes in the United States. This success won him the nomination of the “regular Democratic party”—Tammany Hall—to run for mayor against incumbent Fiorello La Guardia in the 1941 race.

O’Dwyer lost narrowly. But during World War II, he was decorated for his outstanding work administering relief to occupied Italy, and returning to the city a hero, was elected mayor by a landslide in 1945, after “The Little Flower” chose not to run again.

 By 1948, “Bill-O,” as he was nicknamed, was still a highly popular mayor, despite the many municipal problems referred to in the show: postwar inflation, a severe housing shortage, a shortage of coal (caused in part by dockyard strikes in the winter of 1947-48), the forced neglect of the city’s infrastructure during the war years, and of course the usual scramble to balance the budget. O’Dwyer was generally credited with at least doing his best to ameliorate these problems, many of which were out of his control, and his efforts would land him on the cover of Time magazine on June 7, 1948, a few months after the show.

“New York,” Time would kvell, “is the biggest, richest city the world has ever seen. Its wealth is incalculable…It is the world’s greatest port, the world’s greatest tourist attraction, the world’s greatest manufacturing city and the world’s greatest marketplace…New York is the fountain-spout of U.S. culture, the intellectual gateway to England and Europe.” It was a city that “prizes confidence and rewards brilliance,” where mica in the concrete literally made the streets sparkle at night, and where the women “shop like stalking tigresses, dress like lady spies, and walk with a provocative air.”

La plus ça change…but this was hardly an exaggeration. New York in 1948 was at the zenith of what many regard as its golden age. It had emerged from World War II as the only great world city both unbloodied and unbowed. It had become, in a sense, the world’s political capital when the United Nations moved in, and was already the de facto world capital of art, architecture, literature, medical research, finance, advertising, philanthropy, and that befuddling new medium, television.

It was still the country’s—and the world’s—greatest manufacturing center, with over one million workers toiling in 40,000 factories. It was the capital of both retail and wholesale, where one-fifth of all of the nation’s wholesale transactions took place. Forty percent of everything imported to America came through its waterfront, and it housed the headquarters of 135 Fortune 500 companies.

It was also a city where every year many thousands of individuals with little but their hopes and dreams—displaced, black agricultural workers from the South; Puerto Ricans with little English looking for jobs; traumatized refugees from war-torn Europe—came to try to find a place for themselves. New Yorkers sympathized with Mayor O’Dwyer’s attempts to run this turbulent colossus, as well as with his health problems, and his anguish over the death in 1946 of his wife (and close political advisor) of 30 years, Catherine Whelan O’Dwyer, after a long battle with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Bill-O briefly announced that he would not run for re-election in 1949, then decided to do so after all. He again won easily, in a three-man race. By this time, too, he had re-married, to a society woman and the most sought-after fashion model in the country, Sloan Simpson. Sloan, 26 years his junior, added a splash of glamour to his administration, and was herself featured on the cover of Life magazine, in a 1950 spread—foreshadowing Jackie Kennedy—that showed her adding art and culture to Gracie Mansion.

Then, it all came crashing down. There had always been something that seemed faintly fraudulent, or contrived, about Bill O’Dwyer —and despite his bluff exterior, he felt overwhelmed by the job. Throughout his tenure, he made crucial transfers of power to unelected individuals, particularly the already powerful Robert Moses. These abdications of public authority would have dire results for the city over the long run.

Only eight months into his second term, O’Dwyer announced that he was resigning for reasons of health, and accepting a State Department offer to become ambassador to Mexico. The O”Dwyers were given a tickertape parade by a grateful city, and at first they thrived in Mexico City. Plunging into Mexican life and culture at all levels, they were well-liked in turn.

In 1951, though, Bill-O returned to New York to answer questions from “the Kefauver Committee,” a special Senate investigative committee headed by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN), to root out the influence of organized crime in American life. It was the first government investigation ever broadcast on the new medium of television, and it held Americans—particularly New Yorkers, who owned far and away the largest number of television sets in the nation—spellbound. O’Dwyer, suffering from the flu and sweating profusely under the hot camera lights, came off as evasive and dissembling.

Worse still, he could not come up with persuasive answers for his wartime meetings with Frank Costello, a leading mob figure of the time, often called “the Prime Minister of the Underworld.” The mafia, enriched by its immense Prohibition earnings, had taken a prominent role in New York politics by this time, particularly in Tammany Hall, which still controlled the local Democratic Party; and it seems likely that O’Dwyer was soliciting Costello’s support for mayor.

Still worse allegations would soon tarnish the former mayor’s reputation, especially during his time as district attorney of Brooklyn. The key witness who had helped send so many Murder, Inc., figures to their deaths was their former colleague, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who was thought to have killed at least 60 individuals himself, at the behest of various mob bosses. Turned “squealer” to save himself, Reles was carefully sequestered away behind a bolted steel door, in a wing of Coney Island’s Half Moon Hotel, along with three other mob snitches and a 17-man, ’round-the-clock police guard. (This bastion was immediately dubbed “Rats’ Suite” by reporters.)

 Despite such precautions, Reles ended up plunging out of a ninth-story window at the Half Moon, sometime in the early morning hours of November 12, 1941. Attempts to make this seem like an escape attempt or some sort of “prank” appeared obviously faked, but with America’s abrupt entrance into the war a few weeks later the case remained unresolved.

Later evidence, though, came to closely link William O’Dwyer with William McCormack (1890-1965), a ruthless businessman who had long held almost complete control over New York Harbor. McCormack, a son of “famine Irish” immigrants, had worked his way up from a humble dock carter to the “Mr. Big” of the waterfront. Keeping a low profile, he wielded his absolute power over the docks through the corrupt International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), and particularly the mob muscle behind this union. While the testimony of Reles had solved dozens of mob killings all over the country, he was due next to testify against Albert Anastasia, the vicious gangster in charge of enforcing McCormack’s will on the docks—a struggle depicted in the film On the Waterfront (1954), also starring Marlon Brando.

McCormack managed to evade indictment by the Waterfront Crime Commission, despite a Pulitzer-Prize winning series about the rackets there by the New York Sun, as well as other exposés. Fearing that he would not be as fortunate, O’Dwyer stayed on in Mexico City for years after his ambassadorship ended. He was divorced by Sloan Simpson, who would become entangled in a number of scandalous affairs and—perhaps more scandalously—actually learned how to bullfight in full matador regalia, her lessons detailed in a smirking Collier’s magazine.

Bill-O did not return to New York until 1960. Now 70 years old and again largely penniless, he was dependent upon the aid of his much younger brother, Paul O’Dwyer, the longtime liberal icon of city politics, who would defend his older brother’s reputation for the rest of his life. The details of just who killed Abe Reles—and on whose orders—remain the greatest unsolved mystery in mob history.

The Inner Circle show recorded above only foreshadows these tumultuous events in occasional throwaway lines. The songs are largely satirical adaptations of popular show tunes of the time, or traditional New York favorites. The acting, at that time, was still all done by the reporters themselves, whether in drag, “native” dress, or anything else. (NB: This is a long show, so we have included the timings of each segment in square brackets. See the complete listing here.)

The opening act’s title, “The First Fifty Years are the Hardest,” and its first number, “In Old New York” [5:01] ,refer to the fact that 1948 marked the 50th anniversary of New York’s “consolidation” into one great city. Prior to 1898 New York City consisted of just Manhattan and parts of the Bronx. On January 1, 1898, they were joined by the city of Brooklyn, by what would become the borough of Queens, and by Staten Island—the last, typically, unmentioned in the song.

The song includes many references to contemporary fads, events, and minor scandals. The “orange drink” mentioned refers to the proliferation of “tropical drinks,” the health craze of the time that gave us all those “Gray’s Papaya” stands. The “ALP,” is the “American Labor Party,” a city third-party at the time, started by unions and liberals disgusted by Tammany Hall’s influence over local Democrats. And the mention of “cops making book” refers to the then recent discovery that the police were wire-tapping phones in a popular bar near Ebbets Field…not to catch illegal bookmakers, but to ensure they were making their full pay-offs to the cops. Ironically, this humorous scandal would eventually burgeon into something much bigger, producing witnesses that would help bring down the O’Dwyer administration.

Grover Whalen “appears” in the next skit [8:31]. Whalen was a former Tammany police commissioner and the city’s longtime “official greeter.” Always dapper, with a small moustache and a fresh carnation in his lapel, Whalen had presided over the enthralling 1939-40 World’s Fair, and would now coordinate celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the five-borough city. This would culminate in a grand parade down Fifth Avenue…one that almost became a disaster when horses pulling an antique stagecoach bearing Mayor O’Dwyer and other dignitaries bolted away from their driver, nearly running down other marchers and wrecking the coach before an alert policeman managed to restrain the animals.

The next song, “Nearly” [11:31], includes several other topical subjects. It first alludes to the imminent doubling of the nickel subway fare, which had been five cents since the underground’s opening in 1904. (The subway, which had reached an all-time record of over 2 billion rides in 1947, would not introduce tokens until 1953.) It also mentions “Jersey Joe” Walcott, a veteran heavyweight from Merchantville, New Jersey who had just lost a split decision to champ Joe Louis that many observers felt he deserved to win. (Walcott would eventually win the title, at the age of 37, in 1951.) The World Series of 1947 had been one of the most exciting and closely fought of all time, with the Yankees (of course) prevailing over Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers. (Curiously, in reviewing all the events of 1947, Robinson’s breaking of the color line doesn’t seem to have interested the reporters.) Gypsy Rose Lee was the famous, and famously erudite, stripper of the time. And the coal shortage, caused in part by waterfront strikes, would in retrospect be seen as one more sign of William McCormack flexing his muscles.

“Long Island’s Winter Wonderland,” sung to the 1934 hit “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” refers to a blizzard that left the perpetual New York punching bag, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)—then still a privately owned subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad—all but incapacitated, and thousands of commuters stranded or even forced to sleep overnight in the stalled trains (“I’ve Been Sleeping on the Railroad”). The surprise “Great Blizzard of 1947” began Christmas night and dropped more than two feet of snow on Central Park over the next 24 hours. It caused a total of 77 deaths throughout the Northeast, and brought the metropolitan area to a standstill. It also provoked another New York perennial, as you can hear: bitter complaints over unshoveled streets. The line “ ’88 was just a flurry,” refers to the even more disruptive “Great Blizzard of 1888,” which killed some 400 people, including 200 in New York City alone.

Act III of the show, “The Iron Curtain” [34:00], moves into the emerging presidential politics of the 1948 election. The skit includes “Red Mike” Quill, the pugnacious head of the city’s Transit Workers’ Union (TWU), and a former city councilman for the American Labor Party (ALP). The Inner Circle expected him to have the TWU back a third-party effort in 1948, to be headed by Henry “Hank” Wallace.

Wallace, a brilliant agronomist and secretary of agriculture under President Franklin Roosevelt, had been dumped as Roosevelt’s vice-president in 1944 because of his far-left leanings and replaced by Harry Truman. After serving for a time as Truman’s secretary of commerce, Wallace had broken with the administration over the Cold War, and in the 1948 election would in fact try to lead the more liberal factions of the Democratic Party into his new Progressive party. Wallace’s vice-presidential nominee would be Glen Taylor (D-ID), the eccentric, guitar-strumming Senator known as “The Singing Cowboy,” who famously rode his horse up the Capitol steps when he first arrived in Washington in 1944.

Wallace was thought to have a chance to draw millions of liberal votes away from President Truman (sneered at earlier in the show as “the Alf Landon of the Democratic party,” Landon having lost all but two states as the Republicans’ presidential candidate in 1936). This was not an unfounded prediction: Leo Isacson, also “appearing” here, was about to score an upset win in a special congressional election in the Bronx as an ALP candidate and Wallace supporter, joining the famous East Harlem radical Vito Marcantonio in Congress. The humorous skit includes both congressmen asking banker J.P. Morgan for funds, and setting up shop across from the staunchly pro-establishment Union League Club.

But much like the Inner Circle, most liberals considered Wallace to be—albeit unwittingly—a dupe of the Soviet Union and Josef Stalin, presented here (in a singing role) as his “boss” [36:54]. Quill would break with his old Communist associates, and all the major unions and liberal organizations would rally around Truman over Wallace, who would receive just 2.37 percent of the popular vote—about 1.1 million votes in all, two-thirds of them from New York—and no electoral votes. Wallace would soon renounce his Cold War stance, and apologize to Truman for his run.

Making a cameo appearance here is the (long deceased) Tammany mayor, Robert Van Wyck [40:26], the first to preside over greater New York. (He was defeated for re-election after taking a massive stock payoff from an ice company.) On hand as well are some of New York’s borough leaders from 1948, including Ed Flynn, the liberal, well-read “Boss of the Bronx,” who had become a power in the national Democratic party; John Cashmore, Brooklyn Borough President, whose ineptitude would eventually aid the Dodgers in slipping out of town; and James J. Lyons, the Bronx Borough President, whose backing would prove crucial to Moses’ efforts to build the Cross Bronx Expressway.

“Mink Me Tonight” [46:55] refers to one of the few “non-scandals” of the time, or rather one created by much of the New York press, which fecklessly reported the story of an erroneous state investigation claiming that a woman with major assets, including a mink coat, and running a bookie operation out of a hotel, had been granted monthly welfare checks. Both The New Yorker and the old daily PM—which was distinguished, and ultimately doomed, for its refusal to accept ads, in order to maintain its editorial independence—had thoroughly debunked the story, proving that the woman no longer had any assets or income, no longer lived in a hotel, and was in fact a destitute single mother with one daughter. The mink in question was a crumbling, “mangy” garment officially estimated by a fur dealer to have a value of $300.

None of these facts, of course, kept most of the New York press from cheerfully asserting here that welfare recipients were all cheating the system—nor would further, bogus reports ever deter it in the years to come. The only redeeming aspect to this number was its tune, lifted from the lovely old waltz “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland,” written in 1903 to commemorate the opening of the Dreamland amusement park in Coney Island.

“Bungle, Bungle” [49:33] is adapted from the 1947 Broadway hit “Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo),” from the musical Angel in the Wings—notable mostly because it was introduced by the late, great Elaine Stritch, making her first big splash on the Great White Way. The various Tammany “braves” are probably dressed as Indians—their own, constant conceit; Tammany was named for a semi-mythical Indian chief, “St. Tammamend”—or perhaps African tribesmen. They are determined to hunt the Republican elephant in the upcoming presidential election, although they are convinced their “Head cheese,” Harry Truman, is a “lightweight.” They worry over more defections from the Democratic party by the “Dixiecrats”—the States’ Rights Democratic Party—which would indeed secede from the Democrats’ national party, and win over 1.1 million votes, 2.4 percent of the vote, and 39 electoral votes behind presidential candidate Strom Thurmond.

The rest of the show includes various unhappy Democrats, including Wallace, former secretary of the interior Harold Ickes, and James Petrillo [59:47]. Petrillo was the publicity-hungry head of the American Federation of Musicians who had instated a recording ban that would last almost the entire year. He was also a sometimes accompanist to both President Truman, who played piano, and his daughter, Margaret Truman, whose nascent singing career would involve the president in any number of scraps. Truman seems to call to Petrillo for help. At the same time, he goes through the leading contenders for the Republican nomination—New York governor Thomas Dewey, former Minnesota governor Harold Stassen, General Douglas MacArthur, California governor and future Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Republican Speaker of the House Joseph Martin (R-MA). He hopes they will instead nominate Robert Taft, the prominent conservative senator from Ohio, who was considered too far to the right to win.

There are jokes about what a mistake it was for Peter Minuit to—legendarily—buy Manhattan from the Indians for $24, and references to meat shortages. There is a rather ugly jest suggesting that Americans are going hungry because their food is being shipped to Europeans under the Marshall Plan, and another, even uglier jibe at Truman, during a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner—a big Democratic gathering at the time—paying worshipful reverence to “Washington—Booker T. Washington” as the founder of his country. The reference to Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), the former slave who had worked his way up to become a university president and leading advocate for civil rights, is an echo of Dixiecrat charges that the Truman administration’s cautious moves forward in civil rights was “pandering” to black Americans.

(Truman was perhaps fortunate in their restraint. Two years earlier, a similar “send-up” of Branch Rickey’s breaking the color line in white baseball by signing Jackie Robinson had triggered a full-out, black-face, minstrely “sketch” by New York’s sportswriters in a similar revue. Neither they, nor the Inner Circle, of course, included any black reporters in their organizations.)

Truman is seen as “going back to Missouri” with the help of the new chairman of the Democratic National Convention, his advisor, J. Howard McGrath, who is also satirized as an incompetent. His replacement is sure to be Thomas Dewey, the governor of New York, whose defeat by FDR in the 1944 election was attributed partly to his remarkable stiffness. But now, he sings, “I’ll be different…I’ll be human, not like I used to be” [1:22:56].

The skits are followed by set speeches from Vincent I. Impellitteri [1:26:44] and from Dewey [1:32:58], in which both men would demonstrate the limitations of their political abilities. Impellitteri, a Sicilian immigrant, had been picked to run for the old office of President of the City Council in 1945, though at the time he was only a clerk to a State Supreme Court justice and a former assistant district attorney in the Bronx. But with O’Dwyer running for mayor, and Lazarus Joseph, a Shomer Shabbos Jew from the Lower East Side, running for comptroller, this was Tammany’s idea of a perfectly balanced ticket: Irish-Italian-Jewish; Brooklyn-the Bronx-Manhattan.

As you can hear, Impellitteri was a less than dynamic speaker, but with O’Dwyer’s sudden resignation, he succeeded to the mayoralty under the city charter of the time. Running in a special election on the “Experience Party” line in 1950, he surprised everyone by winning in his own right, in another, three-man field. More scandals loomed, though, including the widely held belief that Impellitteri was a close associate of the Lucchese crime family, and in 1953 he was defeated for re-election in the Democratic primary by Robert F. Wagner. He went on to a long career on the criminal court bench.

Thomas Dewey’s ponderous speech on the Cold War—not to mention his rather spooky laugh—gives one a perspective into the chilly public persona that ultimately held back a supremely capable public servant. Bizarrely, Dewey here seems to imply that the United States is the only place where people could “poke fun at their government,” thereby ignoring most of Europe, Canada, and other democracies around the world.

A highly successful, three-term governor of New York, and a champion of civil liberties and racial equality, following his career as a gang-busting, public attorney, Dewey would win the Republican nomination again in 1948. Despite all the best prognostications of the assembled city hall reporters here, he lost the general election in a stunning upset—to Harry Truman, who somehow managed to survive the defection of both his party’s right and left wings.

“I know them all,” Truman liked to say about the press corps in general, “and there’s not a one of them has enough sense to pound sand down a rathole.”

Merging Time returns to the City of Vancouver Archives’ gallery

The newest Merging Time exhibit is now on display in the City of Vancouver Archives’ gallery. Since its initial showing at the Archives three years ago, this annual photography exhibit has become an attraction for both historians and photographers alike. This year, the exhibit features 16 new digital interpretations of our scanned archival photographs.

The creators of this year’s Merging Time show: Langara’s Professional Photo-Imaging Class of 2015.

The creators of this year’s Merging Time show: Langara’s Professional Photo-Imaging Class of 2015.

Every year, students in Darren Bernaerdt’s Principles of Imaging Processing course (PHOTO 1248) are assigned to visit the Archives to find historical photographs of Vancouver. After determining the exact location and perspective of each selected photograph, they travel to the original site to replicate the photographs with a digital SLR camera. This year’s students chose a selection of street scenes of downtown Vancouver from the 1890s to 1940s.

Archival photograph selected by Michelle MacDonald for the Merging Time assignment. Granville Street looking north from Robson Street, 1900s. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Str P32.

Archival photograph selected by Michelle MacDonald for the Merging Time assignment. Granville Street looking north from Robson Street, 1900s. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Str P32.

It goes without saying that the historical scenes are very difficult to replicate. More often than not, the original images were photographed from vantage points that are no longer accessible due to relocation of sidewalks or the construction of new buildings that obstruct views.

Digital composite by Michelle MacDonald, 1900s/2014. Granville Street looking north from Robson Street, incorporating City of Vancouver Archives image AM54-S4-: Str P32.

Digital composite by Michelle MacDonald, 1900s/2014. Granville Street looking north from Robson Street, incorporating City of Vancouver Archives image AM54-S4-: Str P32.

Nonetheless, the obstacles are overcome by using digital imaging techniques. Students edit the photos on the computer by skewing, distorting, and twisting the images to replicate the focal length and angle of the original archival photograph. Students then mask and retouch the old and new photographs, merging past and present elements into a seamless digital composite, contrasting old and new.

Archival photograph selected by Warin Rychkun for the Merging Time assignment. View of Pender Street east of Cambie Street, showing the Sun Tower, 1927s. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Str N164.

Archival photograph selected by Warin Rychkun for the Merging Time assignment. View of Pender Street east of Cambie Street, showing the Sun Tower, 1927s. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Str N164.

Upon viewing these photographs, one notices immediately the buildings and structures that still stand today. Looking closer, the photographs reveal elements that no longer exist. Formal attire, street cars, horse drawn carriages, and old fashioned street fixtures are things of the past, but these heritage buildings provide us with anchors to that era. These photographs bring to life what Vancouver used to be, and remind us of the city’s rich heritage, history and growth.

Digital composite by Warin Rychkun, 1927/2014. View of Pender Street east of Cambie Street, showing the Sun Tower, incorporating City of Vancouver Archives image AM54-S4-: Str N164.

Digital composite by Warin Rychkun, 1927/2014. View of Pender Street east of Cambie Street, showing the Sun Tower, incorporating City of Vancouver Archives image AM54-S4-: Str N164.

Merging Time will be on display weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM at the City of Vancouver Archives’ gallery until February 27th, 2015.

The 20-Minute Macbeth

Beginning in the late 1960s, after attending Yale on the G.I. Bill and struggling with a career as a playwright, Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill developed the idiosyncratic storytelling persona of Brother Blue. Usually dressed head to toe in blue, with blue-tinted glasses, and covered in hand-drawn blue butterflies, Hill was a transfixing figure on the streets of Boston.  One could frequently hear him re-telling Shakespeare’s plays, his own personal stories, and folk tales from Africa and Asia to any passer by that would listen. 

In this audio, from WNYC’s 1979 storytelling festival, listen to Hill distill the essence of Macbeth in 20 minutes, all the while employing a steady drum beat and interstitial blues harmonica riffs. When the three witches tell Macbeth that he is destined to be king, Brother Blue’s Macbeth explains, ”That must be jive, cause King Duncan is alive!” 

Retirement of Miriam Nisbet, Director of OGIS

On behalf of the members of the Public Interest Declassification Board, I would like to congratulate Miriam Nisbet on the eve of her retirement from Federal  service.  Throughout her Federal career, she served with distinction as a tireless advocate for transparency and access to government records.  We first met Ms. Nisbet in her role as the first Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).  We were impressed with her vision of OGIS as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman to provide mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Executive branch agencies.  Those familiar with open government and transparency advocacy regard Ms. Nisbet as a trusted advocate for the proper administration of FOIA, as Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero noted in his announcement Ms. Nisbet’s retirement.

I want to thank Ms. Nisbet personally for her support of our work to develop recommendations to modernize and transform the security classification system.  Many similar challenges exist that impede the declassification process and the administration of the FOIA at agencies, and we are grateful to Ms. Nisbet and the staff at OGIS for recognizing that limiting secrecy to the minimum necessary for the national security assists both the agencies and the public in their efforts to access and manage government information.

The members join me in thanking her for her wise counsel and her work to increase transparency and access to government records.  We wish her all the best in her retirement.

The egg came first: Sara Press artist books

Just yesterday in the Archives Reading Room a student was looking over an artist book from our collection that caught my eye.  It is accurate to say that any book that comes in its very own egg casing typically does catch my eye.

IMG_1733The book is Evolve/Unroll by book artist Sara Press, published in 2012 by her imprint Deeply Game Publications.

IMG_1736 The publisher’s website describes Evolve/Unroll:a snake that unrolls out of a felt egg, considers a recent evolutionary theory…Snake Detection Theory…which proposes that humans and certain other primates developed our excellent vision and intelligence due largely to co-evolution with snakes.”

IMG_1737Perhaps needless to say, the egg book got me curious about Sara Press’s other publications, four of which we own in the Archives & Special Collections.

 The Wolf-Girl of Midnapore was published in 2010 and is based on a true story of a feral child from 1920s India as found in the diaries of the Reverend J.A.L. Singh, a missionary to an orphanage in Bengal, India.
This book features letterpress on handmade paper and 6 original intaglio/aquatint etching prints interleaved with decorative block printed Indian papers.  The Wolf-Girl of Midnapore is an edition of 15 and bound by the artist in red and multicolor silk.



20 Short Poems by Zoologists, published in 2005, is a collection of found poems discovered in the texts and field guides of zoologists’ and contains four letterpress illustrations of primates’ hands and feet.


Of 20 Short Poems by Zoologists, Deeply Game Publications writes “these excerpts of unintentionally poetic language are delicious both linguistically and in the unbelievable-yet true bizarreness of the creatures described.  The volume celebrates the poesy and affection inherent in the supposedly objective scientific eye.”


Reared from a Cub: A Selection of Incidents Involving Captive Wildcats is precisely what it sounds like.  This work includes hundreds of excerpts from news articles describing attacks by wildcats on their captors, be it zookeepers or pet owners.


From the publisher’s website: “This is an examination of humans’ persistence in trying to make decorations and pets out of big cats — creatures that persist in being wild.”


“This volume has a clear Plexiglas cover, reminiscent of display habitats in zoos. The text is printed on semitransparent vellum paper, and appears layered, cage-like, over images of the animals. The silk-screened ink drawings feature wild cats in ambiguous settings. Their illustrative presentation refers to their comfortable place in our decorative visual culture, while currents of scarlet color running through the ink suggest otherwise.”


The Sensitive and Vegetable Souls: A Bestiary, published in 2001, is the earliest Sara Press work we have in the Archives & Special Collections.  This is an edition of 30 with each volume containing unique ephemera and hand annotations.


“This Bestiary is a genealogical palimpsest from a parallel universe, with the construction of an antique tintype album. Twenty C-print photographs depicting “beasts”, set in die-cut windows, are bound into a corkskin cover, with a sterling silver closure sculpted especially for the project.” IMG_1766“Biographies of the beasts and their intergenerational history are annotated by fountain pen, typewriter, and silkscreen, and elaborated with inserted ephemera.”


Come check out Sara Press and other artists’ books in the Archives & Special Collections.

All quotes in this post are lifted from Sara Press’s Deeply Game Publications website.

An Autumn Update

I should apologise for how quiet this space has been lately! The beginning of the academic year has been particularly busy here in the Archives. We’ve been out in classrooms, delivering new archive workshops for primary schools. Over the next week or two, I’ll be giving an update on the sessions, the histories revealed, the collections used, as well as posting resources that may be of use to educators out there.

With the centenary of the First World War, schools across the country have been doing amazing projects: digging trenches in the playing field, rehearsing remembrance day plays, and going on field study trips to museums and war memorials to develop their understanding. We’ve been bringing archives into classrooms to investigate what life was like in 1914… how did the war affect men? women? conscientious objectors? children (from P.E. class to school dinners)?

Students practise military style drills in P.E. class C1914 Lilian Flora Best Archive Collection

Students practise military style drills in P.E. class C1914
Lilian Flora Best Archive Collection

Keep tuned into this space, but in the meantime, head over to London Metropolitan Archives’ First World War blog, ‘Emergency! London 1914’. We are this week’s guest blogger, opening up the archives to reveal the impact of the First World War on women teachers.

Libraries & Research: Changes in libraries

[This is the fourth in a short series on our 2014 OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting, Libraries and Research: Supporting Change/Changing Support. You can read the firstsecond, and third posts and also refer to the event webpage that contains links to slides, videos, photos, and a Storify summary.]

And now, onward to the final session of the meeting, which focused appropriately enough on changes in libraries, which include new roles and and preparing to support future service demands. They are engaging in new alliances and are restructuring themselves to prepare for change in accordance with their strategic plans.

[Paul-Jervis Heath, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, and Jim Michalko]

[Paul-Jervis Heath, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, and Jim Michalko]

Lynn Silipigni Connaway (Senior Research Scientist, OCLC Research) [link to video] shared the results of several studies that identify the importance of user-centered assessment and evaluation. Lynn has been working actively in this area since 2003, looking at not only researchers but also future researchers (students!). In interviews on virtual reference, focusing on perspective users, Lynn and her team found that students use Google and Wikipedia but also rely on human resources — other students, advisers, graduate students and faculty. In looking through years of data, interviewees tend to use generic terms like “database” and refer to specific tools and sources only when they are further along in their career — this doesn’t mean they don’t use them, rather, they get used to using more sophisticated terminology as they go along. No surprise, convenience trumps everything; researchers at all levels are eager to optimize their time so many “satisfice” if the assignment or task doesn’t warrant extra time spent. From my perspective, one of the most interesting findings from Lynn’s studies relates to students’ somewhat furtive use of Wikipedia, which she calls the Learning Black Market (students look up something in Google, find sources in Wikipedia, copy and paste the citation into their paper!). Others use Facebook to get help. Some interesting demographic differences — more established researchers use Twitter, and use of Wikipedia declines as researchers get more experience. In regards to the library, engagement around new issues (like data management) causes researchers to think anew about ways the library might be useful. Although researchers of all stripes will reach out to humans for help, librarians rank low on that list. Given all of these challenges, there are opportunities for librarians and library services — be engaging and be where researchers are, both physically and virtually. We should always assess what we are doing — keep doing what’s working, cut or reinvent what is not. Lynne’s presentation provides plenty of links and references for you to check out.

Paul-Jervis Heath (Head of Innovation & Chief Designer, University of Cambridge) [link to video] spoke from the  perspective of a designer, not a librarian (he has worked on smart homes, for example). He shared findings from recent work with the Cambridge University libraries. Because of disruption, libraries face a perfect storm of change in teaching, funding, and scholarly communications. User expectations are formed by consumer technology. While we look for teachable moments, Google and tech companies do not — they try to create intuitive experiences. Despite all the changes, libraries don’t need to sit on the sidelines, they can be engaged players. Design research is important and distinguished from market research in that it doesn’t measure how people think but how they act. From observation studies, we can see that students want to study together in groups, even if they are doing their own thing. The library needs to be optimized for that. Another technique employed, asking students to use diaries to document their days. Many students prefer the convenience of studying in their room but what propels them to the library is the desire to be with others in order to focus. At Cambridge, students have a unique geographic triangle defined by where they live, the department where they go to class, and the market they prefer to shop in. Perceptions about how far something (like the library) is outside of the triangle are relative. Depending on how far your triangle points are, life can be easy or hard. Students are not necessarily up on technology so don’t make assumptions. It turns out that books (the regular, paper kind) are great for studying! But students use ebooks to augment their paper texts, or will use when all paper books are gone. Shadowing (with permission) is another technique which allows you to immerse yourself in a researcher’s life and understand their mental models. Academics wear lot of different hats, play different roles within the university and are too pressed for time to learn new systems. It’s up to the library to create efficiencies and make life easier for researchers. Paul closed by emphasizing six strategic themes: transition from physical to digital; library spaces; sustainable classic library services; supporting research and scholarly communications; making special collections more available; and creating touchpoints that will bring people back to the library seamlessly.

Jim Michalko (Vice President, OCLC Research Library Partnership) [link to video] talked about his recent work looking at library organizational structures and restructuring. (Jim will be blogging about this work soon, so I won’t give more than a few highlights.) For years, libraries have been making choices about what to do and how to do it, and libraries have been reorganizing themselves to get this (new) work done. Jim gathered feedback from 65 institutions in the OCLC Research Library Partnership and conducted interviews with a subset of those, in order to find out if structure indeed follows strategy. Do new structures represent markets or adjacent strategies (in business speak)? We see libraries developing capacities in customer relationship management and we see this reflected in user-focused activities. Almost all institutions interviewed were undertaking restructuring based on a changes external to the library, such as new constituencies and expectations. Organizations are orienting themselves to be more user centered, and to align themselves with a new direction taken by the university. We see many libraries bringing in skill sets beyond those normally found in the library package. Many institutions charged a senior position with helping to run a portion of a regional or national service. Other similarities: all had a lot of communication about restructuring. Almost all also related to a space plan.

This session was followed by a discussion session and I invite you to watch it, and also to watch this lovely summary of our meeting delivered by colleague Titia van der Werf (less than 7 minutes long and worth watching!):

If you attended the meeting or were part of the remote viewing audience for all or part of it, or if you watched any of the videos, I hope you will leave some comments with your reactions. Thanks for reading!

The new virtual life of early analogue photography: digitising Oxford University’s magic lantern slide collection.

Originally posted on History of Art at Oxford University:

The History of Art Department’s Visual Resources Centre makes its archive of glass slide photography available in an online database.

Dina Akhmadeeva

Figure 1 Anonymous Photographer  View of Constantinople The Department of the History of Art, Oxford

Figure 1

Anonymous Photographer

View of Constantinople

The Department of the History of Art, Oxford

There exist strong ties between the discipline of art history and the medium of photography, ties which were forged in the mid-19th century with photography’s development, and which still exist today. In 1947 France’s then-culture minister André Malraux described art history as ‘the history of that which can be photographed’, while more recently art historian Donald Preziosi remarked that, “art history as we know it today is the child of photography”. In lectures, books, classes or articles, art historians have come to rely on photographic reproductions of artworks – whether painting, architecture, design or sculpture – as essential components to the way the discipline functions.

The History of Art Department’s Visual…

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Libraries & Research: Supporting change in the university

[This is the third in a short series on our 2014 OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting, Libraries and Research: Supporting Change/Changing Support. You can read the first and second posts and also refer to the event webpage that contains links to slides, videos, photos, and a Storify summary.]

[Driek Heesakkers, Paolo Manghi, Micah Altman, Paul Wouters, and John Scally]

[Driek Heesakkers, Paolo Manghi, Micah Altman, Paul Wouters, and John Scally]

As if changes in research are not enough, changes are also coming at the university level and at the national level. The new imperatives of higher education around Open Access, Open Data and Research Assessment are impacting the roles of libraries in managing and providing access to e-research outputs, in helping define the university’s data management policies, and demonstrating value in terms of research impact. This session explored these issues and more!

John MacColl (University Librarian at University of St Andrews) [link to video] opened the session, speaking briefly about the UK context to illustrate how libraries are taking up new roles within academia. John presented this terse analysis of the landscape (and I thank him for providing notes!):

  • Professionally, we live increasingly in an inside-out environment. But our academic colleagues still require certification and fixity, and their reputation is based on a necessarily conservative world view (tied up with traditional modes of publishing and tenure)
  • Business models are in transition. The first phase of transition was from publisher print to publisher digital. We are now in a phase which he terms as deconstructive, based on a reassessment of the values of scholarly publishing, driven by the high cost of journals.
  • There are several reasons for this: among the main ones are the high costs of publisher content, and our responsibility as librarians for the sustainability of the scholarly record; another is the emergence of public accountability arguments – the public has paid for this scholarship, they have the right to access outputs.
  • What these three new areas of research library activity have in common is the intervention of research funders into the administration of research within universities, although the specifics vary considerably in different nations.

John Scally (Director of Library and University Collections, University of Edinburgh) [link to video] added to the conversation, speaking about the role of the research library in research data management (RDM) at the University of Edinburgh. From John’s perspective, the library is a natural place for RDM work to happen because the library has been in the business of managing and curating stuff for a long time and services are at the core of the library. Naturally, making content available in different ways is a core responsibility of the library. Starting research data conversations around policy and regulatory compliance is difficult — it’s easier to frame as a problem around storage, discovery and reuse of data. At Edinburgh they tried to frame discussions around how can we help, how can you be more competitive, do better research? If a researcher comes to the web page about data management plans (say at midnight, the night before a grant proposal is due) that webpage should do something useful at the time of need, not direct researchers to come to the library during the day. Key takeaways: Blend RDM into core services, not a side business. Make sure everyone knows who is leading. Make sure the money is there, and you know who is responsible. Institutional policy is a baby step along the way, implementation is most important. RDM and open access are ways of testing (and stressing) your systems and procedures – don’t ignore fissures and gaps. An interesting correlation between RDM and the open access repository – since RDM has been implemented at Edinburgh, deposits of papers have increased.

Driek Heesakkers (Project Manager at the University of Amsterdam Library) [link to video] told us about RDM at the University of Amsterdam and in the Netherlands. Netherlands differs from other landscapes, characterized as “bland” – not a lot of differences between institutions in terms of research outputs. A rather complicated array of institutions for humanities, social science, health science, etc, all trying to define their roles in RDM. For organizations who are mandated to capture data, it’s vital that they not just show up at the end of the process to scoop up data, but that they be embedding in the environment where the work is happening, where tools are being used.  Policy and infrastructure need to be rolled out together. Don’t reinvent the wheel – if there are commercial partners or cloud services that do the work well, that’s all for the good. What’s the role of the library? We are not in the lead with policy but we help to interpret and implement — similarly with technology. The big opportunity is in the support – if you have faculty liaisons, you should be using them for data support. Storage is boring but necessary. The market for commercial solutions is developing which is good news – he’d prefer to buy, not built, when appropriate. This is a time for action — we can’t be wary or cautious.

Switching gears away from RDM, Paul Wouters (Director of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at the University of Leiden) [link to video] spoke about the role of libraries in research assessment. His organization combines fundamental research and services for institutions and individual researchers. With research becoming increasingly international and interdisciplinary, it’s vital that we develop methods of monitoring novel indicators. Some researchers have become, ironically and paradoxically, fond of assessment (may be tied up with the move towards the quantified self?). However, self assessment can be nerve wracking and may not return useful information. Managers may are also interested in individual assessment because it may help them give feedback.  Altmetrics do not correlate closely to citation metrics, and and can vary considerably across disciplines. It’s important to think about the meaning of various ways of measuring impact. As an example of other ways of measuring, Paul presented the ACUMEN (Academic Careers Understood through Measurement and Norms) project, which allows researchers to take the lead and tell a story given evidence from his or her portfolio. An ACUMEN profile includes a career narrative supported by expertise, outputs, and influence. Giving a stronger voice to researchers is more positive than researchers not being involved in or misunderstanding (and resenting) indicators.

Micah Altman (Director of Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries) [link to video] discussed the importance of researcher identification and the need to uniquely identify researchers in order to manage the scholarly record and to support assessment. Micah spoke in part as a member of a group that OCLC Research colleague Karen Smith-Yoshimura led, the Registering Researchers Task Group working group (their report, Registering Researchers in Authority Files is now available). It explored motivations, state of the practice, observations and recommendations. The problem is that there is more stuff, more digital content, and more people (the average number of authors on journal articles have gone up, in some cases way up). To put it mildly, disambiguating names is not a small problem. A researcher may have one or more identifiers, which may not link to one another and may come from different sources. The task group looked at the problem not only from the perspective of the library, but also from the perspective of various stakeholders (publishers, universities, researchers, etc.). Approaches to managing name identifiers result in some very complicated (and not terribly efficient) workflows. Normalizing and regularizing this data has big potential payoffs in terms of reducing errors in analytics, and creating a broad range of new (and more accurate) measures. Fortunately, with a recognition of the benefits, interoperability between identifier systems is increasing, as is the practice of assigning identifiers to researcher. One of the missing pieces is not only identifying researchers but also their roles in a given piece of work (this is a project that Micah is working on with other collaborators). What are steps that libraries can take? Prepare to engage! Work across stakeholder communities; demand more than PDFs from publishers. And prepare for more (and different) types of measurement.

Paolo Manghi (Researcher at Institute of Information Science and Technologies “A. Faedo” (ISTI), Italian National Research Council) [link to video] talked about the data infrastructures that support access to the evolving scholarly record and the requirements needed for different data sources (repositories, CRIS systems, data archives, software archives, etc.) to interoperate. Paolo spoke as a researcher, but also as the technical manager of the EU funded OpenAIRE project. This project started in 2009 out of a strong open access push from the European Commission. The project initially collected metadata and information about access to research outputs. The scope was expanded to include not only articles but also other research outputs. The work is done by human input and also technical infrastructure. They rely on input from repositories, also use software developed elsewhere. Information is funneled via 32 national open access desks. They have developed numerous guidelines (for metadata, for data repositories, and for CRIS managers to export data to be compatible with OpenAIRE). The project fills three roles — a help desk for national agencies, a portal (linking publications to research data and information about researchers) and a repository for data and articles that are otherwise homeless (Zenodo). Collecting all this information into one place allows for some advanced processes like deduplication, identifying relationships, demonstrating productivity, compliance, and geographic distribution. OpenAIRE interacts with other repository networks, such as SHARE (US), and ANDS (Australia). The forthcoming Horizon 2020 framework will cause some significant challenges for researchers and service providers because it puts a larger emphasis on access for non-published outputs.

The session was followed by a panel discussion.

I’ll conclude tomorrow with a final posting, wrapping up this series.

Libraries & Research: Supporting change in research

[This is the second in a short series on our 2014 OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting, Libraries and Research: Supporting Change/Changing Support. You can read the first post and also refer to the event webpage contains links to slides, videos, photos, Storify summaries.]

[Anja Smit, Adam Farquhar, Antal van den Bosch, and Ricky Erway]

[Anja Smit, Adam Farquhar, Antal van den Bosch, and Ricky Erway]

Anja Smit (University Librarian at Utrecht University) [link to video] chaired this session which focused on the ways in which libraries are or could be supporting eScholarship. In opening she shared a story that reflects how the library is really a creature of the larger institution. At Utrect the library engaged in scenario planning* and identified their future as being all about open access and online access to sources. When they brought faculty in to comment on their plans, they were told that they were “going too fast” and that they needed to slow down. Sometimes researchers request services and sometimes the library just acts to fill a void.  But innovation is not only starting but also stopping. The Utretch experience with VREs are an example of a well-reasoned library “push” of services – thought they would have 200 research groups actively using the VRE but only 25 took it up. Annotated books on the other hand is an example of “pull,” something requested by researchers. Dataverse (a network for storing data) started as a service in the library that was needed by faculty but ultimately moved to DANS due to scale and infrastructure issues.  The decision to discontinue local search was a “pull” decision, based on evidence that researchers were not using it. Ultimately, librarians need to be “embedded” in researcher workflows. If we don’t know what they are doing, we won’t be able to help them.

Ricky Erway (Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research) [link to video] gave her own story of push and pull — OCLC Research was asked by the Research Information Management Interest Group to “do something about digital humanities”. The larger question was, where can libraries make a unique contribution?  Ricky and colleague Jennifer Schaffner immersed themselves in the researchers’ perspective regarding processes, issues, and needs, and then tried to see where the library might fill gaps. Their paper [Does Every Research Library Need a Digital Humanities Center?] was written for library directors not already engaged with digital humanities. The answer to the question posed in the title of the paper is, “It depends.”  The report suggests that a constellation of engagement possibilities should be considered based on local needs. Start with what you are already offering and ensure that researchers are aware of those services. Scholars enthusiasm for metadata was a surprising finding — humanities researchers use and value metadata sources such as VIAF. (Colleague Karen Smith-Yoshimura has previously blogged about contributions to VIAF from the Syriac scholarly community and contributions from the Perseus Catalog.) A challenge for libraries is figuring out, when to support, when to collaborate, and when to lead. There is no one size fits all in digital humanities and libraries — not only is it the case that “changes in research are not evenly distributed,” but also every library has its own set of strengths and services which may be good matches for local needs.

Adam Farquhar (Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library) [link to video] talked about what happens when large digital collections are brought together with scholars. Adam’s role, in brief is to get the British Library’s digital collections into the hands of scholars so they can create knowledge. Adam and his team have been trying to find ways to take advantage of the digital qualities of digital collections — up to now, most libraries have treated digital collections the same as print collections apart from delivery. This is a mistake, because there are unique aspects to large-scale digital collections and we should be leveraging them. The British Library has a cross-disciplinary team which is much needed for tackling the challenges at hand. Rather than highlighting the broad range of projects being undertaken at the BL, Adam chose instead to focus on a few small, illustrative examples. In the British Library Labs, developers are invited to sit alongside scholars and co-evolve projects and solutions. The BL Labs Competition is a challenge to encourage people to put forward interesting projects and needs. Winners of the 2014 competition included one from Australia (showing that there is global interest in the BL’s collections). One winner is the Victorian Meme Machine, which will pair Victorian jokes with likely images to illustrate what makes Victorian jokes funny. Another project extracted images from digitized books and put a million images on Flickr (where people go to look for images, not for books). These images have received 160 million views in the last year. These are impressive metrics especially when you consider that previously no one alive had looked any of those images. Now lots of people have and they have been used in a variety of ways, from an art piece at Burning Man, to serious research, to commercial use. Adam’s advice? Relax and take a chance on release of information into the public domain.

Antal van den Bosch (Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen) [link to video] spoke from his perspective as a researcher. Scientists have long had the ability to shift from first gear (working at the chalkboard) to 5th or 6th gear (doing work on the Large Hadron Collider). Humanists have recently discovered that there is a 3rd or 4th gear and want to go there. In the humanities there is fast and slow scholarship. In his own field, linguistics and computer science, there is no data like more data. Large, rich corpuses are highly valued (and more common over time). One example is Twitter – in the Netherlands, seven million Tweets a day are generated and collected by his institute. Against this corpus, researchers can study the use of language at different times of day and use location metadata to identify use of regional dialect. Another example is the HiTiME (Historical Timeline Mining and Extraction) project which uses linked data in historical sources to enable the study of social movements in Europe. Within texts, markup of persons, locations, and events allow visualizations including timelines and social networks. Analysis of newspaper archives revealed both labor strikes that happened and those that didn’t. However, library technology was not up to the task of keeping up with the data so that findings were not repeatable, underscoring the need for version control and adequate technological underpinnings. Many times in these projects the software goes along with the data, so storing both data and code is important.  Most researchers are not sure where to put their research data and may be using cloud storage like GitHub. Advice and guidance are all well and good but what researchers really need is storage, and easy to use services (“an upload button, basically”). In the Netherlands and in Europe, there are long tail storage solutions for e-research data. Many organizations and institutions say “here, let me help you with that.” Libraries seem well situated to help with metadata, but researchers want full text search against very big data sets like Twitter or Google Books. Libraries should be asking themselves if they can host something that big. If libraries can’t offer collections like these, at scale, researchers may not be interested.  On the other hand in the humanities which has a “long tail of small topics,” there are many single researchers doing small research projects and here the library may be well positioned to help.

If you are interested in more details you can watch the discussion session that followed:

I’ll be back later to summarize the last two segments of the meeting.

*A few years ago, Jim and I attended one of the ARL 2030 Scenarios workshops. Since that time, I’ve been quite interested in the use of scenario planning as an approach for organizations like libraries that hope to build for resilience.


Rare Home Movie From the Claude and ZerNona Black Papers Has Been Preserved

We are pleased to share with the world a piece of history that was in danger of being lost forever.  “Home movie: Travel scenes in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, circa 1959” is an amateur film/home movie from the Claude and ZerNona Black Papers that Donna Guerra, our former Project Archivist, had the foresight to protect.  She successfully acquired a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to send the film to Colorlab for preservation.  The film is now available for anyone to watch streaming online.
This silent 16mm film, shot in the late 1950s, is one of three home movies that we are fortunate to have in the Claude and ZerNona Black Papers. Thanks go to Donna Guerra for all her hard work in making this film available to the public and preserving it for future generations!
Donna Guerra has enumerated a number of reasons why this is an important film to preserve and I include them, in her words, below:

  • “Although other areas of the United States have 16mm films available that reflect African American life in the 1950s, I have not been able to locate such films byamateur or non-professional African American persons from the Southwest United States. Therefore, the relative dearth of access to such films, both regionally and locally in San Antonio, makes preservation of and access to our film of critical importance.  One local repository at the University of Texas at San Antonio holds a small quantity of archival materials created by local African Americans.  However, the Claude and ZerNona Black Papers stand alone as the most single and substantial (100 cubic feet) African American collection in San Antonio.  In addition, the two films already digitized are the only 16mm films created by African Americans from San Antonio in the 1950s that are available on the world wide web.  And further, preservation of this film would complement the two digitized films to which we already provide world wide web access.”
  •  “One of the main contexts of the film is that it provides evidence that African Americans engaged in international travel, and that the impetus for this particular travel was faith-based.  Reverend Black was very involved with various local, regional, and national Baptist organizations.  Reverend and ZerNona Black, along with other United States attendees, were part of a Baptist World Alliance (BWA) travel group.  The BWA was established in 1905 in London, England, as a more liberal voice and often times has been a vocal defender of human rights.  The film provides a ground for sociopolitical considerations regarding the conditions that made it possible for African Americans to travel overseas in the 1950s.  Would travel have been made more possible as a faith-based activity, rather than for leisure alone?” 
  •  “The particular portion of the film that takes place in London shows signage that reads, the ‘American League Incorporating the Coloured Peoples Benevolent Association Office,’ at 27 Red Lion Street, Holborn WCI.  There is a speaker standing, with a sign below him that says ‘Coloured Peoples Welfare’. After doing some research on the internet, in British web catalogs and in academic subscription databases, on the association names and the address, I was able to find very little.  I did find a small amount of evidence that revealed that the address of 27 Red Lion Street has historically been home to a variety of radical and socially progressive groups, including the Freedom Press, a radical bookshop and publisher… I believe the evidence of the event depicted at 27 Red Lion Street in the context of the BWA Golden Jubilee Congress holds excellent research value.”
  •  “The rarity of African American home movies depicting work and social life, and events, puts the film in a rare category.”
  •  “There is no real likelihood that the film exists in duplication anywhere, which qualifies it as rare and unique.”

We are grateful to the National Film Preservation Foundation, Colorlab, and Donna Guerra, for making it possible for us to share this rare film with you. 

    Libraries & Research, Supporting Change/Changing Support: Introduction

    Libraries and Research: Supporting Change/Changing Support was a meeting on 11-12 June for members of the OCLC Research Library Partnership. The meeting focused on how the evolving nature of academic research practices and scholarship are placing new demands on research library services. Shifting attitudes toward data sharing, methodologies in eScholarship, and rethinking the very definition of scholarly discourse . . . . these are all areas that have deep implications for the library. But it is not only the research process that is changing; research universities are evolving in new directions, often becoming more outcome-oriented, changing to reflect the increased importance of impact assessment, and competing for funding. Libraries are taking on new roles and responsibilities to support change in research and in the academy. From our perch in OCLC Research, we can see that as libraries prepare to meet new demands and position themselves for the future, libraries themselves are changing, both in their organizational structure and in their alliances with other parts of the university and with external entities.

    This meeting focused on three thematic areas: supporting change in research; supporting change at the university level; and changing support structures in the library.

    Our meeting venue, close to the Centraal Station.

    Our meeting venue, close to the Centraal Station.

    For the first time, and in response to an increasing number of active partners in Europe we held our Partnership meeting outside of the United States. Since we have a number of partners in the Netherlands, we opted to hold our meeting in Amsterdam. We were in a terrific venue, and the beautiful weather didn’t hurt.

    Meeting attendees were greeted by Maria Heijne (Director of the University of Amsterdam Library and of the Library of Applied Sciences/Hogeschool of Amsterdam). [Link to video.] Maria highlighted the global perspective represented by those attending the meeting — which haled from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, the US and Canada. The UofA library is a unique combination of library, special collections, and museum of archaeology. The offer a strong combination of services for the university and for the city of Amsterdam. Like so many libraries in the Partnership and beyond, the UofA library is preparing for a new facilities, and looking to shift effort from cataloging and other backroom functions to working more closely with researchers and other customers.

    Maria Heijne, University of Amsterdam

    Maria Heijne, University of Amsterdam

    Titia van der Werf (Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research) introduced the meeting and our themes [link to video], welcoming special guests from DANS, LIBER, RLUK and from OCLC EMEA Regional Council. The OCLC Research Library Partnership focuses on projects that have been defined as being of importance to partners. Examples of work in OCLC Research in support of the Partnership include looking at shifts in publication patterns and shifts in research (as highlighted in the Evolving Scholarly Record report), challenges in restructuring and redefining within the library (reflected in work done by my colleague Jim Michalko), and studying the behavior of researchers so we can understand evolving needs (reflected in our work synthesizing user and behavior studies). We also see interest and uptake in new ways of thinking about cataloging data, recasting metadata as identifiers (such as identifiers for people, subjects, or for works). As research changes, as universities change, so too do libraries need to change.

    With that introduction to our meeting, I’ll close. Look for a short series of posts summarizing the remainder of the meeting, focusing on the three themes.

    [The event webpage contains links to slides, videos, photos, Storify summaries]

    Claude Pepper in Nuremberg

    The Florida State University Digital Library currently contains over 7,500 photographs from Claude Pepper’s life and career in public service. At the Claude Pepper Library we are regularly making more images available and each new batch provides a glimpse into history through Pepper’s eyes.

    Claude Pepper attending a press conference before the trial (November 13, 1945)

    Claude Pepper witnessed the build-up to, and aftermath of, World War II while travelling through Europe in 1938 and 1945. The stark differences he encountered are demonstrated in the photographs from his parallel visits to Nuremberg, Germany. In 1938, Pepper made a short detour in his trip to see the 10th Party Congress of the Nazis, the last of what is now called the Nuremberg Rallies. He returned to Nuremberg in the fall of 1945 to watch the preparations for international tribunal, meet with the American and British prosecutors, and attend the opening days of the trial.

    The parade grounds at the 1938 Nuremberg Rally

    Claude Pepper, along with his wife Mildred, took a long trip through Europe during August and September of 1938. They were not merely tourists, but met with political leaders and participated in Inter-parliamentary Union events while touring England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The Peppers paid close attention to the military buildup and preparations for war they saw as they traveled through each nation. Simultaneously, the Senator watched with optimism as the major powers attempted to negotiate for peace and placed his hope in the most recent agreement between England and Germany.

    Crowd saluting Nazi officials at the 1938 Nuremberg Rally

    Once in Germany, Pepper determined to attend the Party Congress in Nuremberg on September 7 and 8. He watched the precision marching of troops as well as thousands of “labor boys and girls” in front of the podium where Hitler and Deputy Chancellor Hess gave their speeches. From his place in the stands, facing the crowd, Pepper was able to feel the effect of this “display of mass movement and mass emotion”. (Claude Pepper Diary, 09-07-1938) Pepper would encounter these party leaders again in Nuremberg seven years later when he attended their trials on war crimes charges.

    Within months of the end of World War II, Claude Pepper planned a wide-ranging tour of Europe and the Middle East. He arrived in England in August 1945 and traveled through nations including Germany, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia before returning home in mid-December. Pepper dedicated two weeks, from November 9 to 23, to his stay in Nuremberg.

    Justice Robert H. Jackson giving his opening address (November 20, 1945)

    As a senator, he was given access to observe final arrangements for the trial, hear the prosecution’s evidence, and record of his impressions of the accused. He attended an interrogation of former Deputy Hess, now “thin and…peculiar”, whom he had last heard speak in 1938. (Claude Pepper Diary, 11-15-1945) Pepper spent considerable time with the chief prosecutor for the United States, Justice Robert H. Jackson, and was in the court room for his powerful speech on the second day of the trial. These events allowed Pepper to reflect on his memories of Germany in 1938. After viewing evidence from concentration camps and footage of the Nuremberg Rallies, he asked in his diary “Why couldn’t we all see it?” (Claude Pepper Diary, 11-13-1945)

    More images of Nuremberg and other destinations from Claude Pepper’s trips through Europe are available at the Florida State University Digital Library. Documents from these tours as well as diary transcripts can be found at the Claude Pepper Library.

    The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, “The Most Princely”

    November 21, 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It took much effort and many years for this event to occur, so it is no surprise to hear the awe and admiration in some of the voices who spoke at the opening ceremony: in the audio above you can hear excerpts from Mayor Wagner, Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark, and Roger Blough, the President of the U.S. Steel Corporation.

    In the 1910s and 1920s plans to build vehicular bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey were proposed, as were tunnels between the island and Brooklyn and Manhattan. In 1923, borings for a tunnel under the Narrows that would connect the Fourth Avenue line in Brooklyn with Staten Island were undertaken, but with the arrival of the Great Depression the idea for a subway tunnel was abandoned. Elsewhere on Staten Island connections to New Jersey were realized in 1928 with the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, while the Bayonne Bridge began accommodating vehicles and pedestrians to Manhattan in 1931. Although more attempts were made to resurrect the proposal for a tunnel under the Narrows, eventually it was forsaken in favor of a suspension bridge.

    With the formation of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in 1946, the plan for a bridge spanning the Narrows was advanced as the Authority was headed by Robert Moses, a man who disliked tunnels. At this time, and well into the early 1960s, Staten Island’s mid and southern section still held considerable farmland that profited by the available markets in Manhattan. With the announcement that a suspension bridge would truly be built between Brooklyn and Staten Island land prices began to rise. Much to the regret of preservationists the construction of the Brooklyn tower destroyed Fort Lafayette, an historic military outpost built after 1812, but in the late 1950s historic preservation was in its infancy and most people did not want to confront Robert Moses about such “trivial” concerns.

    Initially Islanders were not as opposed to the bridge as were the residents of Brooklyn: many hoped the bridge would bring economic expansion that would allow the island to achieve equal footing with the other boroughs. Officially, the Narrows span would serve several purposes, among them spurring industrial growth (which had been floundering on the island since the close of World War II) and circumnavigating traffic away from and around Manhattan, while connecting the southern and northern interstate highway system on the East Coast. The end result, of course, was that the bridge allowed for quick and easy access between Staten Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn, and the remaining boroughs.

    Naming the bridge led to numerous arguments. The Italian Historical Society had a lengthy discussion with Moses over the bridge’s moniker. Their proposal was finally accepted by Moses; hence the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano was honored as he was considered to be the first European to enter what would later be called the New York Harbor.

    Ground for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was broken on August 13, 1959. The men who worked on the bridge referred to themselves as “Iron Workers” even though they worked with steel. Some lived in Brooklyn, while others traveled from one bridge job to another throughout the country. Native Americans from the Caughnawaga Reservation near Montreal, who commuted home on weekends, worked on the project. Three men died during construction. Had under netting been in place some of their deaths might have been averted.

    On opening day, November 21, 1964, Mayor Wagner called the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge “the most princely” of bridges, and other officials attending the invitation-only ceremony were equally ecstatic. Designed by Othmar Hermann Ammann, a native of Switzerland, the stupendous bridge towers are 623’ high. The bridge is so vast that the curvature of the earth needed to be considered during its design: for this reason the tops of the towers are 1 5/8” further apart then their bases. The cost to build the bridge was $305 million. In 1969 the lower roadway would open to accommodate the onslaught of traffic that was arriving at the bridge each day. It is still the longest suspension bridge in the United States, and the last large-scale bridge built in the area until construction on the new Tappan Zee bridge started last year.

    By 2009, the bridge was generating $1 million every twenty four hours for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority; travelers can expect a rise in tolls in 2015. Currently, fifteen dollars is required on the Staten Island side of the crossing. With E-Z Pass the charge is six dollars and thirty six cents. Three or more trips in one month decreases the cost by a few nickels. The upcoming toll increase is deemed horrific to most Staten Island residents as was the arrival of numerous Brooklyn transplants after “The Bridge” opened… But that, of course, is another story.


    Muscarum scarabeorum vermiumque, 1646

    Etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1646

    Recently cataloged: Muscarum scarabeorum vermiumque varie figure & formae / omnes primo ad uiuum coloribus depictae & ex Collectione Arundelian a Wenceslao Hollar aqua forti aeri insculptae (Antwerp, 1646) QL543.H65 1646

    These 12 lovely little etchings of “flies, beetles, and worms” are over 350 years old, but look as crisp as when they were printed. The thin paper carries some foxing (the small brown spots that appear with age), and at some point in the past they were mounted onto newer leaves and bound. They are the work of Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) who, though born in Prague, lived and worked primarily in England. He may perhaps be best known for his views of London, especially those before and after the Great Fire of 1666.

    The most complete guide to Hollar’s etchings is A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslas Hollar, 1607-1677 by Richard Pennington (Cambridge University Press, 2002). In that bibliography, these 12 plates are numbered 2164 through 2175, and we can tell from the description that our copies are from the earliest known “state” since they do not have numbers, which were apparently added to the plates later.

    Our copy was a gift to the college from Charles M. Pratt, class of 1879, along with his large collection of other lepidoptera books. This particular volume also has a calling card laid in from “Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Folger” with a note written on the back which reads “1646 strikes us as an early date for butterfly engravings – Sept. 30, 1906,” implying that this copy may have been a gift to Pratt from the Folgers.

    Hollar plate 1
    Hollar plate 2
    Hollar plate 3
    Hollar plate 4
    Hollar plate 5
    Hollar plate 6


    “That I May Remember” Online Exhibit

    "October 27, 1917," Marion Emerett Colman Scrapbook (HP 2007-130 vol. 2).  You can find more information here
    “October 27, 1917,” Marion Emerett Colman Scrapbook (HP 2007-130 vol. 2). You can find more information here

    Currently on display in the Strozier Library Exhibit Room, “That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)” is an exhibit focusing on the scrapbooks made by the students of Florida State College for Women.  See our original announcement here.

    Now, we are proud to present an online extension of our exhibit.  The FSCW scrapbooks are rich with history and full of personality.  However, one of the challenges in displaying a scrapbook in an exhibit is that it can only display one page of each scrapbook.  This limitation makes it difficult to get the full depth of the scrapbook.  The online portion of “That I May Remember” takes an in-depth look at six selected scrapbooks.  The online exhibit includes over ninety images from each of the decades between the 1910s and the 1940s, while also providing additional history about some of the unique traditions of FSCW.

    "19-Freshmen Commission-31," from the Class of 1934 Scrapbook (HP 2007-042) Learn more about this scrapbook here
    “19-Freshmen Commission-31,” from the Class of 1934 Scrapbook (HP 2007-042) Learn more about this scrapbook here

    You can find the online portion of “That I May Remember” here.

    And don’t forget to visit the Strozier Library Exhibit Room to see the scrapbooks in person!

    Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

    Wheat starch paste vs polyester sleeves

    This blog is brought to you by Explore Your Archives week and is the second on 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.

    The project includes funding for a conservator and Liz Yamada started in the post in September. She has already surveyed the collection and identified items which need conservation work. Of particular interest are the first two Registers of Discharges and Removals.

    Page from the Register RS/1/4/1

    Page from the Register RS/1/4/1

    The volumes record where children were sent after leaving the Institution. They record information on the length of stay in asylum and more interestingly the condition of the child – whether recovered, relieved, not improved or incurable. As the photograph shows although all the children are discharged as ‘not improved’ the observations tell a different story.


    But this blog entry is about the conservation of the items rather than their archival content.

    discharges and removals conservation 1

    Covers of the registers RS/1/4/1-2

    discharges and removals conservation 2

    Pages of the registers

    They look very similar from the outside but could be conserved in very different ways. It is likely that the first volume, covering 1864-81, will be conserved in a conventional way: the pages will be cleaned with a latex sponge; the edges and spine folds repaired with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste; the binding re-sewn; and the old cover re-attached and consolidated so that it continues to be used as a book. The second volume, covering 1881-1915, on the other hand, is likely to be disbound, the pages put in polyester sleeves and stored in a folder with the detached cover.

    discharges and removals conservation 3

    Register showing edge tears

    Why the difference in approach? The second volume could be repaired in the same way as the first but it would be more difficult, hence more time consuming and as a result, much more costly. One of the crucial differences between the two volumes is that the paper used for volume 13 is more brittle and as a result, many of the folds have cracked, so most of the pages are now single sheets. Another key difference is that the text is very close to the page edges and there are lots of edge tears in those areas. Very light Japanese paper would need to be used for repair so that the text is visible through it. This would not be very strong and would necessitate repairing both sides which doubles the repair time. The Japanese paper used for conservation is generally cream in colour so it will always stand out on blue paper originals. Although this is not detrimental to the preservation of the item, it is not very attractive. The repair papers could be toned blue with acrylic paints before they are applied but again, this adds to the repair time. Placing the pages in polyester sleeves will ensure that the pages can be handled without losing further information and can be preserved without the need for repair. Should it be necessary or desirable to carry out full repairs on the volume in the future, this will still be entirely possible.

    Polyester sleeves are completely inert and a useful tool for the long-term preservation of many paper-based items. They protect items physically from being torn or creased and in some cases protect them chemically from items that give off damaging fumes. However, they cannot be used for everything in an archive collection. The cost of sleeves can add up quite quickly as can the weight which can impact on boxing, shelving floor loadings and archive staff who have to carry the boxes. They also add bulk, taking up valuable storage space. Polyester also carries static so it is not suitable for friable (powdery) media such as pastel, charcoal and soft pencil because it can lift the image off the paper. Sleeving items also changes the feel of the item, the smell and the overall appearance which is not necessarily desirable.

    Catalogue Updates – November 2014

    Michele Keogh
    Wednesday, November 12, 2014 – 11:14

     There’s always something new in SRO’s online catalogue. Called AEON and soon to become AtoM, we are continuously uploading digitised archives, item dates, new agencies, series, consignments, corrections, checking restricted access, new admin history, etc.; it’s enough to keep you up all night.

    Although SRO is not able to take in regular transfers of State archives from government agencies due to a lack of storage space, the State Archive collection requires plenty of work to describe the 15 kilometres of State archives we already hold.  As well as work undertaken by SRO staff, we were fortunate to have six re-deployees from BOCS Ticketing from late 2012 until early 2014 and we recently started a new work experience project through Centrelink and an employment agency. These additions to our description effort has increased the number of amendments to items, uploads and accurate descriptive details we can provide to you.

    The main focus for SRO staff is to ensure significant older collections are described at each individual item level, so that every file, plan, register, etc., is accessible via our online catalogue. We are currently working on Series 675 – Correspondence files from the Colonial Secretary’s Office and smaller agencies such as police stations that were only accessible via the Archive Notes in the search room. All police stations are now described on our catalogue with the series and item level descriptions planned for 2015. An alphabetical index of divorces working back from 1976 is also being compiled to help SRO staff with enquiries.

    Selections of all the above activities will be expanded on in future blogs, but there are a few that we are pretty excited about.

    Among the records now described on AEON are large collections of contributor record cards and files from the Coal Industry Superannuation Board previously known as the Coal Mine Workers’ Pensions Tribunal.  Apart from the obvious value to family history research, these documents provide some social detail, such as the notable influx of non-British European names following WWII, and the eventual inclusion of women. They are also an interesting record of the vagaries of employment with retrenchments and other such details recorded. The files are restricted from 100 years from date of birth, due to possible inclusion of medical and other very personal information, but the cards are ‘Open Access’. Permission to access files can be sought through SRO. By November 2014, almost 2000 files and 1800 cards have been added to the catalogue.

     Bankruptcy files (Series 165), from the W.A. Supreme Court have, until recently, only been recorded on the catalogue by surname. This has made searching for surnames such as Smith, Brown, or Thomas almost impossible. Starting from 1892, we are working through the collection to add first names and other appropriate identifying data, with nearly 1,400 file records enhanced. This is a fascinating collection including bankrupted Afghan cameleers, Goldfields boarding house and restaurant keepers, farmers, hoteliers, drapers, and greengrocers from all over the state. The life and work or business history detail in many files is extraordinary and so much thematic research could be undertaken in the collection.

     David Whiteford and Michele Keogh


    Second Open Government National Action Plan

    The Open Government Partnership, launched in the summer of 2011 can trace its roots to President Obama’s challenge to the members of the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2010—a challenge to work together to make all governments more transparent, collaborative, and participatory.  The Partnership has grown from eight to more than 60 nations representing more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the world.

    National Action Plan cover


    The United States issued its first Open Government National Action Plan in September of 2011 and the National Archives participated in the process.  In December of 2013, the White House issued the Second Open Government National Action Plan, committing to work with the public and civil society organizations to implement initiatives to increase public integrity, to manage resources more effectively, and to improve public services.

    I’m pleased (and proud) to report that five of the ten action items addressing public integrity have the National Archives written all over them!

    1.  Improve Public Participation in Government.  Our Citizen Archivist Dashboard activities and Federal Register 2.0 are just two experiments in increasing public engagement.
    2. Modernize Management of Government Records.  Implementation of the President’s Memorandum on Managing Government Records and the Directive on Managing Government Records are works in progress in this arena.
    3. Modernize the Freedom of Information Act.  Our Office of Government

    [ Read all ]

    Remembering the Great War through Verse

    It was supposed to be the war to end all wars; a war on a global scale unseen up to that point in human memory. History would change how we would remember World War I but at the time, those who lived it had never experienced anything like it.

    Our World War I poetry collection sheds an interesting light into the experience of those who lived through World War I, both on the battlefield and on the home front.

    A first edition of Yanks: A Book of A.E.F. Verse collects poetry originally published in the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Compiled and published in 1918, it gives compelling glances into the lives of men stationed at the forefront of the trenches. One corporal lamented the myth of Sunny France in his poem:

    Excerpt from Corp. Jack Warren Carrol's poem. See entire poem here.
    Excerpt from Corp. Jack Warren Carrol’s poem. See entire poem here.

    More so that the glimpses you get into the trenches, it is the glimpses into the life of those who are left at home that are most fascinating to this author. In our poetry collection are chapbooks from women who lament sending their men off to war and try to hold down the fort at home while also mourning those who would never return.

    Hit by The War : Reckless Rhymes by Marie-Rose Gabe is one such chapbook and FSU holds the only copy stateside. These poems lament the woman’s life on the home front. A two poem set in this collection, “Tommy Grumbles” and “A ‘Ministering Angel’ Replies” show the desire of those left behind to honor the soldiers who are returning and the soldiers returning not wanting a fuss.

    Companion poems in Marie-Rose Gabe's Hit by the War: Reckless Rhymes. See the entire text here.
    Companion poems in Marie-Rose Gabe’s Hit by The War : Reckless Rhymes. See the entire text here.

    World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. However, a cease-fire had taken affect seven months earlier on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. So when the United States wanted to set aside a day to honor its heroes of the Great War, November 11th was chosen.

    An Act of Congress in 1938 officially made November 11 a national holiday, Armistice Day, to honor veterans of World War I. The act was amended in 1954 to rename the day Veterans Day to honor those who’d since fought in World War II and in Korea. Renaming the holiday allows it to be the day it is now, a day in which we honor all American veterans of war.

    Exhibition from Innerpeffray Library

    There is a new exhibition of books from the Library at Innerpeffray on display in the University Library stairwell.

    The Library at Innerpeffray, near Crieff, was founded in around 1680 and was the first free public lending library in Scotland. The collection contains books from the 16th century to the present day on a wide variety of subjects, including witchcraft, animals, farming, medicine and European history.

    The exhibition features books from two recent exhibitions at Innerpeffray – the Battle of Bannockburn; and Golf and other Scottish Sports. The exhibition was curated by Miriam Eriksson and Joana Krogsrud, who were students on the MSc Environment, Heritage and Policy programme last year.

    The University is fortunate to have a partnership with the Library at Innerpeffray, and it is planned that a rolling exhibition of books from Innerpeffray will be on display in the University Library. For more information about the Library at Innerpeffray and how to access it, see .


    Helen Beardsley

    Senior Subject Librarian (Arts and Humanities)

    A little nonsense now and then

    What’s up with this letter?  For years it’s been lying around in a drawer flaunting its sketches in a come-hither way sure to grab my attention.


    Despite my tendency to swoon at the sight of old paper with writing on it, it was always immediately obvious that it would take some effort to figure out what was going on in this one. Passing glances at the text didn’t illuminate the subject matter in a way that attracted a longer gaze, and fact that the writing laces around and through and between the sketches (kind of like this post) added to the effort required to read it. It was also clear that the writer meant to be entertaining, so a reader would have to catch up with a sense of humor that might belong to another age.

    No one has ever asked to see the letter. It was probably “hidden” in the sense that it doesn’t seem to be attached to a collection and it isn’t catalogued. I have no idea how the letter got here and until recently (until my turn at the blog rolled around) I never had occasion to take it out and really examine it just to satisfy my own curiosity.

    Last week I finally took the letter to my desk to transcribe it, but before I completed that task I did a little research to learn about the writer, Henry Chester Kellogg (1819-1896). Understanding Henry’s background – knowing who comprised his world — provides some context for his letter. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that the 27-year-old correspondent was Emily Dickinson’s neighbor when the Dickinson family lived on West Street, with Kellogg families to their south.

    Dickinson house (1840-55) on West (No. Pleasant) St., ca. 1868.

    Dickinson house (1840-55) on West (No. Pleasant) St., ca. 1868.

    1855 census showing Henry Chester Kellogg's family, his Kellogg cousins, and the Dickinsons.

    1855 census showing Henry Chester Kellogg’s family, his Kellogg cousins, and the Dickinsons.

    Kellogg store in Merchants Row, across from the town common.

    Kellogg store in Merchants Row, across from the town common.

    The young Kelloggs – Henry’s brothers, sister, and cousins — attended Amherst Academy both before and during Dickinson’s attendance. Henry’s sister Eliza Mary Kellogg, later Mrs. Hanson L. Read, figures in Dickinson’s letters, as do his cousins Emeline and William Kellogg. Other records show that Henry and his brother Dwight stayed in town and worked as shoe makers, while brother William Wallace Kellogg worked as a printer in Eastern Massachusetts and was a state senator.

    In our letter, Henry writes to brother William about nothing, or to be more specific about what constitutes “nothing,” about the practice of letter writing when one has nothing to say. He touches on the love life of the recipient (mostly wondering whether there is one). There are some slightly more straightforward (and cheeky) updates about the people they know. It’s reminiscent of some of Emily Dickinson’s letters to her brother in which she strings him along just to exercise her pen, to give Austin something to read while he’s away from home.

    The transcription below is cleaned up a bit to make it easier to read, with punctuation added here and there, a few spellings corrected, and with “clarified” sketches as accompaniment.Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg1-4-sk-b

    Amherst Aug. XXIII, 1846

    “How are you Bill, what’s the NEWS?

    “I’m well enough.  How be you old cove? I didn’t know as you was alive. How did you expect to hear news from me a professional character unless you correspond oftener. Hey?”

    Perhaps you may say Mr. Editor that a poor excuse is better than none but you must know in your peculiar capacity that it’s rather of a hard case to get up an article without “matter,” or (to deviate from the term used by your fraternity), a difficult “matter” to write when there’s nothing to write. For all that, you may say that I may make the attempt. I will, and [if?] you will probably be obliged to spare but a few of your valuable moments to run it over, it may, I hope, command a little attention, for I suppose that it is with you as with us a letter from either is acceptable. Father’s health is a great deal better than it has been. His deafness is almost over with, he is about every day, though he has not worked in the shop for two months. Mother, Eliza, and Dwight’s folks are well, but Mary Taylor is quite sick with the typhus fever. I heard today that she was a little better. Minerva & Phila were up there one day this week. Phila has been with us a few days, she is sick now and has had a physician. Her health for a month or two past has been improving, she has been staying in Ashfield at her sister’s. Laurette is in visiting at Cambridge I believe. Mary Stacy is in town, she was down to our house last week with Stephen Hubbard. Hiram Fox has sold out to Merrick Marsh and is going to Baltimore. Needham has gone home to stay a spell. [Very] dull times since commencement. I understand Hon. Dickinson [Judge John Dickinson?] is going to live with Martha Kellogg soon, and yet another Dr. Fish* is a going to marry that dried up and wrinkled specimen of a maid (Old [Pickle?]alias) Old Priest Nelson’s Daughter. What a number of Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg1-hearts she will break.



    Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg2-sk-cSpeaking of courtship, love, and marriage, the Junior editor of the W. Tower has probably learned by “sad experience long ere this that “the course of true love never did RUN smooth” or that “come weal come woe” go where you will the object of our attachment will surely follow even though we plunge into the foaming billows she “our” adored is near us, close to our HEELS.


    You probably have seen the proceedings here on commencement they were about as usual not over nor above interesting. I think myself that the Circus which was in East Street drew quite as large a congregation of the people as they had two exercises, crowded, and very good. I understand they made a fine appearance as they came in from N. Hampton about ½ past 8 in the morning just as the church open[ed] to ladies. The band looked & played finely, in uniform and “drawn by a splendid omnibus drawn by 12 beautiful cream colored horses.” Who should I see but Severus Brisbee that morning. You know he has been gone a good while to sea, he has been in town I understand several weeks. We did not have much company, Dwight’s folks had the most. Calvin his wife, Hannah, and her son, aunt [Kilton?] went home with them. Horace and his wife were down to Dicks. I did not see them, they are a going out to Mt. Morris, N. York soon I believe. Charles was down. Speaking of Music I did not think the N. York Cornet band 5 of them played near well as the Boston Brass last year, it was the general opinion. They paid them $150.00-. Dewey spent a couple of days with me, the day after we went on to Mt. Norwottuck with half a dozen others, a fine place I assure [you], and a fine view in a clear day. Dewy thinks of going down east on a singing tour again I believe.


    Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg3-sk1Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg3-sk3-b1You don’t inform us what progress you make with the fair sex. I trust in your responsible station your [ideas] of proper respect, & sincere protestations will be strictly adhered to. You have some idea of the pangs of “ill requited hafection” and know that when she loves the lord of her Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-heart  she loves him over all others, and when in your noonday walks she invokes you to admire “the brilliant orb of day,” while you think it round as a cheese and bright as a lanthorn, she thinks and how otherwise that you are the man she took you to be. Then it becomes you a professional character, as a man of character, to put on a bold and confiding face and speak of the ardour of your affections, and the sincerity of your intentions.

    Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg3-sk2  Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg3-sk3-b2Perhaps your mind may wander back to the time when you sipt the delicious current nectar wine without ceremony in her parlour as none but a “lover “ ever enjoyed that privilege, and anticipate the time, when the silken tie that binds 2 willing Kellogg-HC-to-Wm-Kellogg-1845-Aug-23-300dpi-pg3-hearts is consummated, you can sing in character “My wife shall dance and I will sing so merrily & pass the day for I hold it one of the wisest things to drive dull care away” or, if my lord prefers, the WOODEN SHOE DANCE.


    If you are disappointed in this silly article I refer you to my apology and to an oldage [sic] “a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” hem hem. Now William I will thank you to write soon, just insert an occasional adventure anything to fill up (as above). “Mother says tell William to be sure and come home Thanksgiving, and not work so hard as to get sick.” You have it word for word. If there’s anythink [sic] that you care about that I have not mentioned, name it and you shall have it if it is in my power to picture it out or communicate in any way. This is without doubt from your absent brother H.C. Kellogg.

    Addressed to Wm. W. Kellogg Esq, Georgetown, Ma.  With a postmark “Amherst Aug [21?]. Along the edge, “H. C. Kellogg, Recv’d Aug 23, 1845,” presumably in William’s hand.  Did William note the date later? He’s off by a year: the New York Cornet Band was at the 1846 commencement, and Henry’s “6″ is easily taken for a “5.”

    * “Another Dr. Fish” is Dr. Seth Fish.  In September 1846 Dr. Seth Fish married Emily D. Nelson, daughter of “Old Priest Nelson,” Stephen S. Nelson, a founder of the “Amherst Branch of the First Baptist Church in New Salem” (History of Amherst, Carpenter & Morehouse, p. 234).  Amherst College has administrative offices in the building now.  Dr. Fish’s son was Dr. D.B.N. (Dyer Ball Nelson) Fish (AC 1862 but non-grad), the “strange physician” who attended Dickinson when she fainted in August 1884 (see Johnson’s Letters, no. 907).

    Homecoming at FSU

    It’s Homecoming Week at FSU and there have been many exciting events happening around campus for students and alumni. Homecoming is always a festive time of year at FSU, with events like Pow Wow, Warchant, the Homecoming parade, and the Homecoming football game to keep folks busy all week.

    Please enjoy some photographs and ephemera from past Homecoming activities.


    Homecoming Prop Outside Pi Beta Phi House, "FSU's First, Welcome Alums" (Lillian M. Mandyck Photograph Album, 1948)
    Homecoming Prop Outside Pi Beta Phi House, “FSU’s First, Welcome Alums”, 1948 (Lillian M. Mandyck Photograph Album)
    Florida State QB Ed Pritchett of Decatur, Ga., scores FSU's second and final touchdown during the game against North Carolina State. This marked FSU's first homecoming win since 1958.
    Florida State QB Ed Pritchett of Decatur, Ga., scores FSU’s second and final touchdown during the game against North Carolina State. This marked FSU’s first homecoming win since 1958. (FSU Historic Photograph Collection)
    A decorated pickup truck with the name "Jennie" on the front carrying several women dressed in Seminole-inspired costumes makes its way up the street passing the Capitol Radio Labs during the 1948 Florida State University Homecoming parade, as spectators in formal wear watch.
    A decorated pickup truck with the name “Jennie” on the front carrying several women dressed in Seminole-inspired costumes makes its way up the street passing the Capitol Radio Labs during the 1948 Florida State University Homecoming parade, as spectators in formal wear watch. (FSU Historic Photograph Collection)
    Student Cars in Homecoming Parade
    Student Cars in Homecoming Parade, 1948 (FSU Historic Photograph Collection)
    Football program from FSU vs. Stetson (10/27/51)
    Football program from FSU vs. Stetson (10/27/51)(FSU Vertical Files)
    1953 Homecoming program
    1953 Homecoming program (FSU Vertical Files)
    Florida State University's 1970 homecoming Queen Doby Lee Flowers poses in the traditional headdress. On November 13, 1970, she became the first black Homecoming Queen in the history of FSU. She was a social welfare student and was sponsored by the Black Student Union.
    Florida State University’s 1970 homecoming Queen Doby Lee Flowers poses in the traditional headdress. On November 13, 1970, she became the first black Homecoming Queen in the history of FSU. She was a social welfare student and was sponsored by the Black Student Union. (FSU Historic Photograph Collection)
     1955 Homecoming queen Margaret Ann Ballinger shown crowning 1956 Queen Laytie Brown with the traditional headdress, both in formal wear.
    1955 Homecoming queen Margaret Ann Ballinger shown crowning 1956 Queen Laytie Brown with the traditional headdress, both in formal wear. (FSU Historic Photograph Collection)

    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.

    A new “Through the Lens” at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

    John Atkin and Michael Kluckner have curated two new “Through the Lens” shows for the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s digital Planetarium Star Theatre. Using historic photographs from the early 20th century paired with contemporary shots of the same locations, these “indoor” digital walking tours allow you to experience the changes that have occurred in our city over the past 100 years.

    The Canadian Fishing Co. Ltd. and New England Fish Co. building on the Gore Avenue Wharf, 1920. Reference Code: AM54-S4-3-: PAN N163

    The Canadian Fishing Co. Ltd. and New England Fish Co. building on the Gore Avenue Wharf, 1920. Reference Code: AM54-S4-3-: PAN N163

    The historic images come primarily from the Archives’ W. J. Moore panorama negatives, which we’ve featured here before. Remarkably, the Space Centre uses the same high-resolution JPG images that you can download from our online search and projects them to fill the dome of the Star Theatre. They are matched with stunning modern panoramas and other audiovisual elements to produce two unique shows. This year, there will also be some historic aerial views which, on the planetarium dome, promise to provide a unique, if dizzying, perspective on the city.

    Aerial view of Kitsilano Beach and Park, 1945 Reference code AM54-S4-: Air P28

    Aerial view of Kitsilano Beach and Park, 1945 Reference code AM54-S4-: Air P28

    Last year, Through the Lens: Building Vancouver’s History, was so popular it sold out and was repeated earlier this year. Don’t miss your chance to see this year’s shows!

    7:00pm Thursday, November 13 (Michael Kluckner)
    7:00pm Thursday, November 20 (John Atkin)

    Tickets available at the door

    The Poet Laureate of Radio: Norman Corwin on WNYC and WQXR

    There is little doubt that Norman Corwin is the most celebrated writer, director and producer of radio drama ever. At a time when radio was the dominant medium his works helped to ramp-up the national morale and patriotic fervor following the savage attack at Pearl Harbor and to celebrate the victories over Germany and Japan in 1945. Afterward his many works for United Nations radio underscored the need for human rights and international cooperation. He continued to write noted works for the stage, television  and other venues, and to teach, until his death in 2011 at the age of 101.

    Corwin became known as ‘the poet laureate of radio.’ It was a title that had at its root his first radio job with WBZA, a small Massachusetts station owned by the Springfield Republican. There he launched the poetry program Rhymes and Cadences. By 1937 Corwin moved to New York and took the show with him to WQXR where it aired as Poetic License. Hearing the program, William B. Lewis, the vice president of programming at CBS, invited the young talent to CBS. Not quite 28, in December, 1938 Corwin relaunched his poetry broadcasts on the network as Words Without Music.

    Above is a brief interview with Corwin done by WNYC’s Sarah Montague and below, a rare copy of WQXR’s Poetic License from January 5, 1938. In this segment Corwin finds dynamic ways of introducing and discussing poetry and women poets.

    Thirty-five years later Corwin would write to WQXR co-founder Elliott Sanger:

    “I had no idea [WQXR's] beginnings were so humble —$5 for a spot announcement, and a gross monthly income (in the year you took me on) of less than $200 for two summer months. Of course, I was paid nothing for Poetic License, but it seemed to me then that the price was right; and in terms of the good it did me, I might have paid you for the privilege.” *

    By 1942, Corwin was a well established star at CBS. But he took some time-out to consult for a revival of some of his most popular works at WNYC known as The Corwin Cycle. Working with WNYC drama director Mitchell Grayson and the actor House Jameson, (pictured above) among others,  these dramas included Fly Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease, The Odyssey of Runyan Jones, Oracle of Philadelphia, To Tim at 20, My Client Curley, Descent of the Gods, Good Heaven, Samson, Daybreak and Mary the Fairy. The Brooklyn Eagle’s  radio columnist Jo Ranson described the series as  “a fine idea…because the able writer has something to say, and always says it with vigor and wisdom.” The revival garnered the award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1942 from the Institute for Education by Radio at Ohio State University.

    * Langguth, A.J., Norman, Ed., Norman Corwin’s Letters, Barricade Books, Inc., New York, 1994, pg. 314.


    How to Deflect a Wrecking Ball with a Violin

    If you walked by the front of Carnegie Hall 50 years ago today, you would have seen a large crowd gathering, a brass ensemble from the Citywide Junior High School Orchestra sitting, and a small temporary curtain hanging at eye level under one of the brass lanterns. At noon, a fanfare sounded, marking the beginning of a ceremony during which Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall declared Carnegie Hall to be a National Landmark.

    If you were instead listening to WNYC at that hour, you would have also heard Secretary Udall proclaim Carnegie Hall’s historic significance as he then introduced Mayor Robert Wagner, who praised the dedicated committee that led the successful fight to save the Hall from demolition only four years earlier in 1960.  The leader of that group, violinist Isaac Stern, received a loud round of much deserved applause. He had convinced the mayor that the City of New York should purchase Carnegie Hall—the first time the City had purchased a building to save it from demolition. Convincing the City had not been an easy task: saving buildings wasn’t part of the natural mind set of the day.  Old buildings came down; new ones went up.  Some might have protested an impending threat but most just lamented the loss after it was too late.  In fact, Secretary Udall mentioned that George Washington’s plantation, Mt. Vernon, barely escaped the wrecker’s ball, thanks to another dedicated committee; it was made a National Landmark only in 1960.

     In 1959, ground had been broken for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and it was then being heralded as the greatest performing arts complex in the world. A major feature was a new home for the New York Philharmonic, which had used Carnegie Hall as its home base since 1892. It was thought that New York City could not support two concert halls —and Robert Moses, one of the most powerful men in New York City’s political history and whose dream it was to give New York City a performing arts center, wanted no competition. Moses usually got his way, so  Carnegie Hall seemed doomed and headed in the same direction as Penn Station, the Ziegfeld Theater, and hundreds of other historic or cherished structures that were demolished in the name of progress.

    There were other dedicated committees to help “save Carnegie Hall” that came and went, beginning as early as 1955. Their energies and sincerities were in the right place and kept the cause in the public eye. What they didn’t have were the fame, connections, and the power of persuasion that Isaac Stern had. He also had something else they lacked: a vision for what to do with the Hall once it was saved. He assured all concerned it would not be competition for the new music complex. Rather, he saw Carnegie Hall as a center for music education.  He even suggested that it might, one day, become the home base of a national youth orchestra.

    Everyone learned quickly that New York City could indeed support two concert halls. Carnegie Hall and its three stages never closed, its Weill Music Institute now creates some of the most respected music education programs in the world, and the National Youth Orchestra of the USA has just completed its second year. 

    In 1964, Secretary Udall parted the small curtain and revealed a bronze plaque which remains on the front of Carnegie Hall’s building to this day. On it is written “This site possesses exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States.”  Andrew Carnegie would have been thrilled. It confirms his prophetic words of 74 years earlier at the laying of Carnegie Hall’s cornerstone on May 13, 1890. Standing very near where the plaque is today, Carnegie promised, “It is built to stand for ages and during these ages it is probable that this hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country.”