Celebrating Service to the Public

Yesterday, at our annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony, we celebrated Public Service Recognition Week by recognizing staff across the country for their exceptional contributions to the mission of the agency.

2016 Archivist's Award Ceremony program cover

In my remarks, I said:

As you have heard me say before:  for me every week of the year is Public Service Recognition Week because I am so proud of the work that you all do across our agency in service to the American people.  Whether you are redacting pages from a service record in St. Louis, or refiling an IRS return in Lenexa, or helping someone navigate the FOIA process, or connecting someone with their family history, or ensuring that our staff and users are safe, or restoring a deteriorating film, or ensuring the a First Lady’s correspondence is accounted for, or educating a school group about how our government works, or safeguarding NARA holding from leaks, condensation, and frost problems, or doing any one of the hundreds of tasks the comprise the work of the National Archives—thank you for your passion and commitment to our mission.

Since 1985, the first week of May has been set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation as Federal, state, county, and local government employees.  In this year’s proclamation, President Obama writes:

“Our Nation’s progress has long been fueled by the efforts of selfless citizens who come together in the service of their fellow Americans to change our country for the better.  At the birth of our Nation, our Founders fought to secure a democracy that represents the people, and the civil servants who pour everything they have into making a difference are the individuals who keep that democracy running smoothly and effectively.  During Public Service Recognition Week, we honor those who dedicate themselves to ensuring America’s promise rings true in every corner of our country, and we recommit to upholding the values they fight for every day.”

“Throughout this week, we recognize the tireless efforts of the women and men who strive to make ours a government that stays true to its founding ideals.  With 85 percent of the Federal Government jobs located outside the Washington, DC area, our Federal workers…play key roles in ensuring the voices of the American people are heard.  And even in the toughest of circumstances, including a politics that does not always fully recognize the value of their work, our public servants—often at great personal sacrifice—continue striving to build a better country and to bring lasting change to the lives of ordinary people across America.”

“Serving the public is not just a paycheck—it’s contributing to the steady effort to perfect our Union over time so our democracy works for everyone.  This week, let us embrace the hopeful spirit that embodies the extraordinary work of our civil servants.  It is the same spirit that built America, and because of the hard work of compassionate and determine public servants, it will continue to build us up for generations to come.”

More than 50 nominations were submitted for this year’s awards.  144 NARA staff were recognized for their individual or group accomplishments ranging from improving employee engagement to volunteer service to citizen archivist to information technology quality assurance to reduction of declassification backlogs to customer service to a Presidential Library digital pilot project to helping a record number of researchers to safeguarding records at risk to creating a training program for archives technicians eligible for promotion, for example.  The ceremony was broadcast to our sites across the country and staff enthusiastically celebrated the accomplishments of their colleagues—a true One NARA event! I am so proud of this staff.

Much Adieu About Something: Reflections of Our Undergraduate Assistants (Part 2)

In our final farewell post to our graduating student assistants, view the previous post by Mary Kate here, Blaise Denton and Shelby Yant reflect on their experience in Special Collections. Both work exclusively in Special Collections with our rare books, manuscripts, historical artifacts, Napoleon, Shaw and various other collections. I should also add that both have found time, between graduate school, to stay with us for part of the summer. And we are happy to have them for a bit longer.

Shelby, Blaise and Mary Kate in the Special Collections Research Center


Paradise lost
One of a variety of Artists’ Books found in Special Collections: Paradise Lost: an allegory. This book has a case and is accordion shaped. (N7433.4 Z56 P37 2013)

“My name is Blaise Denton and I have been working here for a little under two years. I had walked into Special Collections before, but been scared off by an unfriendly and perhaps confused receptionist. When I came back for my interview, Lisa Girard was so friendly and painted such a glowing picture of Special Collections, I was excited to work here. My first week I went through the Special Collections Vault, pulling out and examining the rarest and most valuable books in the collection. It was incredible. There were ancient pirate biographies, 4,500 year old stone sale receipts and [Salvador] Dali paintings. It was like being in a museum, except you can touch the art and you’re getting paid. The artists’ books are definitely my favorite collections. All the books that fit under N7433 are designed less to be read but more as pieces of art. They’re beautifully made and bizarrely interesting.
After graduation I am hoping to go to graduate school here at FSU, for Urban Planning and Public Administration. I am going to be very sad to leave Special Collections. This is by far the best job I’ve ever had. If there were one thing I wish more people knew about Special Collections it would be that we want you to come in and we are happy when you get to look at something unique.”



“Prior to working at FSU’s Archives and Special Collections, I was a little apprehensive about applying for the job. While I loved all literature, I knew very little about what occurred “behind the scenes” of a library and did not feel completely qualified to fill the position. As I began my work, throughout the following months, I immediately felt at ease. Although I did not know the ins and outs of Library Science my supervisor Lisa Girard, as well as other staff, showed me all that I needed to know. I felt welcomed, supported and appreciated and to this day I feel that is what facilitated my growth of knowledge and passion in this field.

History of Pirates
A General History of the Pyrates is one of our rare books housed in an area called the vault, which means it requires extra care, and is always available to all visitors (F2161 D4 1724)

I generally love the items that are located in the vault. My favorite book however is volume one of A General History of the Pyrates from 1724. On my mother’s side of the family, one of our ancestors is Bartholomew Roberts- a notorious pirate. It was incredible getting to read all of the family stories about him in this book! I would say that my favorite project is any sort of reshelving or pulling a work for a patron. It is like a scavenger hunt replacing an item or looking for the call number! I tend to make a game out of anything.

Working in Special Collections helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for the text I read as an English Literature major. The ability to know firsthand about how books were created during the Renaissance, for example, is simply priceless. After graduation, I plan on staying in Tallahassee and continuing to work in Special Collections until the end of July. Then, I intend on moving to Jacksonville to attend the University of North Florida for my MA in English. Eventually I hope to teach high school English, Theatre, and German.

I think that the most important thing that I would want people unfamiliar with Archives and Special Collections to know is simply all that we have to offer and how easily accessible everything is. I tell people all the time about the amazing glimpses into history that I get to hold (with utmost caution, of course!) in my hands, and that the same materials are available to them as well! People think that we only have very old and specific books, but our variety spans centuries and it is always growing!”


Robert Frost is honored at a 1958 Poetry Society Dinner

“Does wisdom matter?” Robert Frost asks. The answer is a resounding, No!  America’s most famous poet, being honored at this 1958 Poetry Society dinner, forcefully tries to disassociate himself from the public’s image of him as a bardic sage. “I can’t describe myself as I’ve heard myself described,” he says, referring to the preceding testimonials (which are not included in this record of the event.)  He then somewhat contradicts himself by addressing what he considers the essential problem of mankind: the anxiety we feel “lest the spirit should be lost in the material.” We all experience this anxiety of being too material. Just look at the scales people now have in bathrooms! But we cannot shy from the material, either. “God, at the risk of spirit, descended into flesh.”

Turning to poetry, he twits his colleague John Crowe Ransom who complained that Frost always “writes on subject.” “Yes,” Frost retorts, “and you write on bric-a-brac.” He defends the use of rhyme and meter (Howl had just been published two years ago) and then reverts to his own fears that the material will “clog” his spirit. He speaks of the late psychiatrist and poet Merrill Moore who, when Frost would complain of this or any problem, would counsel, “You must do the best you can.”  

Frost looks back over his career, saying “I had so much luck,” and then turns to what is clearly the main event of the evening, a reading of his poems. But he does not “read” or “recite.” As always, with Frost, he makes a point of announcing that he will “say” a few poems, neatly emphasizing how much the quiet, spoken voice permeates his poetry. It is the music of a man “saying,” not singing or declaiming. Working from memory, he stumbles a few times (Frost was eighty-four) but still leaves a valuable record of the way he intended his poems to sound. He makes some interesting asides, particularly about Mending Wall. When taxed by an English novelist about the line “Good fences make good neighbors,” he defended himself by saying, “I was only quoting!”  And when he gets to the lines:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down. I could say “Elves” to him,

…he says, in an aside, “…as Yeats would.” 

There is then a break in the recording. Two poets are summoned up to the dais. It is not clear if their tributes took place before or after Frost’s reading. John Ciardi reads “A Sonnet for Robert Frost” and Donald Hall reads his sonnet, “T. R.” The recording then breaks off abruptly.

Robert Frost was born in 1874. His career was slow in taking off—he worked as both a school teacher and a farmer—but when it did, first in England, then in the United States, he quickly rose to become not only the nation’s preeminent poet but its most popular as well. The reasons for this are easy to see. He achieved the almost impossible-sounding feat of fusing the simple, homespun voice of a skeptical, modern, unpretentious man with the commonly accepted devices traditional poetry. The website poets.org describes this seeming contradiction: 

Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England—and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time—Frost is anything but merely a regional poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony.

In his performance at this dinner, as he did in countless appearances throughout the country, Frost reinvents the notion of the public poet not by stressing a social or political agenda but by offering his poetry as a spoken remedy, as embodying possible clues to curing whatever ails the listening audience. The website of the Poetry Foundation lauds how:

He wanted to restore to literature the “sentence sounds that underlie the words,” the “vocal gesture” that enhances meaning. That is, he felt the poet’s ear must be sensitive to the voice in order to capture with the written word the significance of sound in the spoken word.

By the time of this dinner, Frost had attained an iconic status unheard of for 20th century poets. What differentiates him from subsequent “media creations” of our time is perhaps the degree to which his reputation was based solely on his books and readings. He did not endorse toothpaste, appear in films, or host a radio show. As The Paris Review noted a few years later, when choosing him as one of its first poets to interview:

The impression of massiveness, far exceeding his physical size, isn’t separable from the public image he creates and preserves. That this image is invariably associated with popular conceptions of New England is no simple matter of his own geographical preferences. … His special resemblance to New England is that he, like it, has managed to impose upon the world a wholly self-created image. It is not the critics who have defined him, it is Frost himself.

Robert Frost died in 1963. 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 8733
Municipal archives id: LT7888

Bad Children(‘s Books) of History #25: Folly of the Beasts of the Earth

Special Collections has recently acquired an eye-popping addition to our Whaling Collection: Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere, a 19th century German children’s  book about hunting animals. (The title translates as “The Hunting, Catching, Taming and Dressing of Animals”.)


The book’s frontispiece shows a spectacular, full-color whale-hunting scene, complete with befuddled walrus, spectator seagulls, and a very morose whale with a baleen mustache.



(Let’s pretend those dual arches are an exaggerated version of the southern right whale’s “characteristic double spout“, and/or that the sad whale is blocking our view of a smaller, simultaneously-spouting cetacean.)

This generally text-heavy book contains five plates, each of which bears nine tiny engravings. (I don’t recommend scrolling through the following section of engravings if you are 1) a small child, despite the fact that this is a children’s book, or 2) of a delicate constitution.)


The engravings, as you’ve likely gathered from the above, exhibit all manner of grisly ways in which humans kill other animals (some of which I consider anthropologically suspect, but I’m not a hunting expert).

For instance, there’s the old “bear impaled on a spiky board” trick:


There’s also the “scaring seals with weird faces over a grassy cliff onto curved spikes”  approach:


And, lest we forget, the “whipping birds while mounted upon a galloping horse” technique:


The digitized book can be viewed in its entirety online, either here or here. If you do look over the digital version (or come to Special Collections to view our copy in person), I challenge you to find the engraving of the sneaky person hunting reindeer while dressed in a reindeer suit. Really.

Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell Have a “Conversation”

Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell had very different approaches to their work.

Rockwell painted magazine covers for Look and the Saturday Evening Post. These were funny, beautifully realized illustrations of everyday American life. A girl with a black eye, beaming on a bench outside the principal’s office. A family saying grace in a diner. Accessible, relatable images.

Warhol, in his Factory, pushed the boundaries and the buttons of the art world with mass-printed images.

They had a lot of differences… but also a lot in common.

Back in the 1970s, Douglas Cooper interviewed artists, authors and scientists for a series of radio shows. They were broadcast by Iona College and syndicated to a number of stations, including WNYC. He spoke to everyone from Salvador Dali to B.F. Skinner.

In Cooper’s interviews with Rockwell and Warhol, the two artists keep touching on similar themes and questions. Whether their work is art. The value of an award. Capturing and communicating the everyday. It’s just that the way that they interpret those themes is very, very different.

Now Available: The College of Nursing Collection, 1948-2014

Group of nursing students in operating room. College of Nursing Collection (HPUA 2014-111). 1950-1959.

We are excited to announce that the College of Nursing Collection, 1948-2014, is now available! The College of Nursing Collection finding aid can be viewed on Archon, our Finding Aid Database, and selections from the collection have been digitized and are available on DigiNole.

The College of Nursing Collection consists of papers, ephemera, and photographs that document the history and activities of Florida State University’s College of Nursing from its development in 1948 through 2014. The collection includes records from the deans, the graduate nursing program, various faculty committees, student organizations (Student Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau), and the Legacy Project, as well as materials created for special events such as pinning and graduation ceremonies, homecoming events, conferences, and presentations.

In early 1950, Florida’s Board of Control (the predecessor of the Board of Regents) approved the establishment of a School of Nursing at Florida State University and appointed Vivian M Duxbury as the first Dean of the School. By September, the School of Nursing admitted its first students: a group of twenty-five young women. FSU’s SON was only the second collegiate school of nursing to be set up in Florida, with the first at FAMU.

In 1952, the School of Nursing awarded its first degrees to three women students. In the fall, faculty members Agnes Salisbury and Karleen Gillies began teaching the first extension courses in Jacksonville and Miami, respectively. In 1958, the SON became the only nursing school in Florida accredited by the National League for Nursing and was one of less than 100 in the nation.

At first, there was no particular building reserved for the nursing program; offices and classes were held in various buildings around campus. The School of Nursing moved into its new building, Vivian M Duxbury Hall, in the fall of 1975. The most recent milestone in the nursing program’s history is the change of its name from “School” to “College” in the summer of 2006.

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.


Art//Archives: International Workers’ Day

In honor of the just-past May Day holiday, we’ve pulled items representing work and workers for this week’s open research hours. Swing by before 1:00 today (or make an appointment any time) to see these in person!


Above, from L-R: image from Old London Street Cries and the Cries of To-Day (London: Field & Tuer, 1885); title page from John Gay; Or, Work for Boys (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1864); image from an untitled Italian book of men and women dressed for different occupations (let us know if you know more about this one!).

Here’s the table of contents from Charles Quill’s The American Mechanic, published in 1838.


Fun fact regarding this book: the Providence Public Library was founded in 1871 when members from The Franklin Society, The Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, The Franklin Lyceum, and the Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers joined together to form a free public library (and art gallery and natural history museum). When the library first opened its doors in 1878, its collection contained a great number of books from the Mechanics’ Library. Many of those books are still here today, housed in Special Collections, and identifiable by the Mechanics’ Library stamp on the title page. Here’s the (rather faded) evidence that The American Mechanic was part of PPL’s original collection:


For those with a deeper interest in Rhode Island labor history, I recommend checking out some of the labor-related images in our digital collections. I also highly recommend the gorgeous and heartbreaking collection of digitized photographs from the National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress. You can search within that collection for photographs taken in Rhode Island, of which there are more than 100. (These investigative photographs were taken by Lewis Hine between 1908 and 1924, while working for the nationwide National Child Labor Committee. They’re an incredible glimpse into the lives of factory and textile workers, as well as immigrants and working class families, in the early 20th century.)


Living Opera with Alan Wagner

From 1958 to 1968, New York-area radio audiences made time on Sunday mornings to listen to the friendly and informative voice of Alan Wagner on the program Living Opera, which he wrote, produced and hosted. For its ten-year run on WNYC AM and FM, Wagner played new recordings and interviewed hundreds of luminaries from the music world. From Rudolf Bing to Eileen Farrell to Franco Corelli to Eleanor Steber, during that period virtually every major operatic name passing through New York appeared on Living Opera at least once. Listen here to his brief talk with the great soprano Licia Albanese.

Most of these interviews were recorded at his home or office. Sometimes, though, he had to travel to wherever the subject was, carrying a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder with him. On one notable occasion, he drove to Idlewild Airport (now JFK International Airport), young wife and baby son in tow, to record a conversation with Richard Tucker before the great tenor had to catch a flight.

The program had to be carefully written and timed in order to fit into its allotted slot, and for that reason it was almost always pre-recorded on Thursday nights, and delivered to WNYC on Friday mornings. There was one notable exception: the Sunday in 1960 after the great baritone Leonard Warren passed away suddenly during a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. On that occasion, the program was quickly rewritten and was broadcast live from WNYC’s studio.

In 1961, he published — with research assistance from his wife Marti, herself a professional in an opera-related field — a lively book of anecdotes, Prima Donnas and other Wild Beasts, a favorite among opera fans to this day. So great was Alan Wagner’s love of opera, The New York Times later that year reported on his pre-empting of his regularly scheduled Sunday program to scold “all parties concerned in the current Met labor negotiations,” for the apparently cancelled Met Opera season. Citing them with “indefensible intransigence,” he charged that “opera lovers may have been had.” [1] At the eleventh hour an accord between the Met and its musicians was reached allowing for the 1961-1962 season of performances.

Living Opera ended only because Wagner’s burgeoning career as a television executive required a move to Hollywood. Opera was Wagner’s passionate avocation. Professionally he was a renowned and award-winning television programmer, producer, and consultant. After active duty in the Navy and a tour of the U.S. as a stand-up comic with the Navy Talent Show, which included a live appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he found work in the television department of advertising agency Benton & Bowles. In 1961 he moved  to CBS, rising to become a senior creative executive. In his time at CBS he developed such now-classic series as All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Kojak, The Waltons, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He was also responsible for many arts-related broadcasts, including Vladimir Horowitz: A Television Concert at Carnegie Hall and Sills and Burnett at the Met, and for the cultural landmark specials A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In 1982 he was appointed the first President and CEO of The Disney Channel. After establishing the channel’s successful creative and business plan, he left to form an independent film and television production company, Alan Wagner Productions, also known as Boardwalk Entertainment, which has produced films and series for HBO, CBS, ABC, Hallmark, Lifetime, and other outlets, and consulted on creative and new-network development for clients such as Cablevision. He was honored by the Writers Guild of America and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for his rich and successful body of work.

Even after Living Opera ended, though, Wagner remained a presence in the opera world. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, back in New York, he was the host and commentator for multiple New York City Opera radio-broadcast seasons. More recently, he made regular appearances on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast intermissions. His on-air highlights include an interview with James Levine, and talks on Richard Wagner as a closet feminist, how to be a Jewish Wagnerite, the devil figure in Romantic-era Europe, and the theology of Parsifal. He served as both moderator and panelist on numerous opera quizzes, hosted a Richard Wagner retrospective for a Season Preview broadcast, paid tribute to the late Robert Merrill, and participated in several round tables, including one on the guilty pleasures of a record collector, and another that he moderated which featured the great African-American divas Martina Arroyo, Reri Grist, Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry.

For the Met Opera website, Wagner interviewed beloved broadcaster Peter Allen on the occasion of his retirement. For the Conductors Guild, he was a panelist for a Great Conductor Retrospective program on the Metropolitan Opera. He was also a hugely popular lecturer, and enjoyed giving colorful and informative talks on a broad range of operatic subjects for The Metropolitan Opera Guild, The City University Graduate Center, and the Wagner Society of New York.

He wrote for Opera News and the Metropolitan Opera Playbill. His writing also appeared in such publications as High Fidelity, Musical America, Stagebill, Reader’s Digest, and the New York City Opera souvenir program.

Alan Wagner passed away in December, 2007, but left behind a powerful legacy of music fans who joyfully learned to love opera and other classical musical forms because of his infectious passion for the arts, his warm personality, and his talent for communication. As he once told The New York Times, his WNYC radio show was “not a hobby, it’s a passion. There are no lukewarm opera lovers. You can’t ‘kind of’ like opera.”[2]


Thanks to the Wagner family we are currently digitizing some 38 reels of interview tapes from Alan Wagner’s WNYC program and expect to have them available to listen to at wnyc.org before the end of this year. Stay tuned!

[1] Hammel, Lisa, “Alan Wagner of WNYC Show Scolds All Concerned in Possible ‘Met’ Cancellation,” The New York Times, August 14, 1961, pg. 45.

[2] Hammel, Lisa, “TV Man With Sideline,” The New York Times, December 31, 1961, pg. X15.

Original Living Opera press release from April 1, 1958.


Much Adieu About Something: Reflections of Our Undergraduate Assistants (Part 1)

The division of Special Collections and Archives, of Florida State University, is privileged to have the assistance of our undergraduate student assistants in addition to our graduate assistants. In coordination with our Manager of Special Collections, Lisa Girard, our undergraduate assistants may also work between Heritage Protocol and University Archives (HPUA) and the Claude Pepper Library. Our undergraduate student assistants comprise a variety of different majors, have spent many semesters in our division and are imperative to our daily operations. The first of two posts, that follow, serve as our means of honoring them as well as reflecting on their time spent here as they graduate and become alumni of FSU.

“My name is Mary Kate Downing and I’ve been an student assistant in Special Collections and Archives for the past two semesters. I’m graduating this semester, so I was thrilled to learn that I’d have the chance to write a part of a guest blog post as a way to reflect on the fantastic time I’ve had here.

Miniature New Testament Bible
One of Mary Kate’s favorite books: the miniature New Testament Bible. It is smaller than the size of a quarter (BS2085 1895 G6)

I first learned about Special Collections and Archives in spring 2015 from one of my professors, Dr. Davis Houck of the School of Communication. I was in Dr. Houck’s speech class and wanted to give an informative speech on the history of FSU’s Westcott Building and Fountain. He encouraged me to pay Special Collections a visit. I had not heard of the division before, but I wanted to do some research for my speech, so I took the plunge and walked through the fancy wooden door. Everyone I met from the division was friendly and helpful and I was able to find more than enough information for my speech. The rest of that spring semester was extremely busy, so I didn’t think too much about Special Collections again until the end of the summer when I was applying for jobs for the fall. I was looking for a part-time library job because I already knew that I wanted to be a librarian, but I had only previously worked at public libraries. With my fingers crossed, I filled out the application to work at Strozier Library checking off that I was interested in almost every division, including Special Collections. I was invited to interview for positions in three different divisions, but I was the most excited about my Special Collections interview. As you can imagine, then, I was elated to eventually be offered a position in the division!

When I started working at Special Collections and Archives, I realized that the division

Letter from Stephen Hawking to Paul A M  Dirac
Another favorite item Mary Kate worked with: a letter sent from Stephen Hawking  to Paul A.M. Dirac (1980)

didn’t only have materials related to FSU history. I learned about the huge variety of manuscripts, rare books, maps, sound recordings, ephemera, and more that call Special Collections home. I was impressed. I couldn’t believe that all of those materials were readily available for people to look at. I was so excited to be able to interact with items, ranging from a Napoleonic death mask to letters written by Dr. Seuss, on a daily basis. During my two semesters here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects in three divisions of Special Collections and Archives – general Special Collections, Heritage Protocol and University Archives (HPUA), and the Claude Pepper Library.


Some of my favorite projects in general Special Collections have included different inventories, like the Dirac book cart inventory, where we went through carts of books and journals that belonged to late Nobel laureate and FSU professor Paul A.M. Dirac. As well as the vault inventory, where I made sure all the especially valuable materials in Special Collections were accounted for.


Victoria J  Lewis Scrapbook
The scrapbook of Florida State College for Women alumna Victoria J. Lewis ’44

In HPUA, my main project was creating a comprehensive timeline of FSU history using primary source documents. In searching for primary sources, I came across a lot of awesome FSU-related materials, like the enormous Victoria J. Lewis scrapbook and the 1968 edition of the FSU yearbook Tally-Ho


At the Claude Pepper Library, some of my favorite projects have included the CDA to WAV conversion, where we worked to convert CD recordings of late Florida Senator Claude Pepper to digital files, and the ongoing inventory, where I went through almost a hundred boxes of Senator Pepper’s correspondence and mementos from 1936 to 1951. I also enjoyed working with the collection of phonodiscs, which contain the original recordings of many of Senator Pepper’s speeches and interviews, and a program from the 1944 Democratic National Convention that was in one of Senator Pepper’s correspondence folders.

FDR Phonodiscs
The National Political Campaign of 1944 pamphlet and records that Mary Kate worked with at the Claude Pepper Library

After graduation, I will be earning a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida and working part-time in the Youth Services Department at a public library in the Tampa area. I’ll miss FSU’s Special Collections and Archives, but I plan to look for another special collections or archives position in the near future. If I could tell people who are unfamiliar with Special Collections and Archives one thing about the division, it would be to come check it out! Don’t be intimidated by the door that separates the Special Collections Reading Room from the rest of Strozier Library. There’s so much you can learn, and the librarians and archivists are some of the coolest people on campus.”

A Question for Complex Cataloging

This frontispiece from a 1703 library catalog shows a classical figure engaged in cataloging a collection. In real life, cataloging has fewer cherubs and more computer screens.
This frontispiece from a 1703 library catalog shows a classical figure engaged in cataloging a collection. In real life, cataloging has fewer cherubs and more computer screens.

Catalogers work behind the scenes in the library. We’re usually found in our very quiet building, examining books, checking over bibliographic records, or typing lines of code. The catalog records that we work on are mostly used by people whom we will never meet. But the Cataloging & Description department occasionally receives questions from researchers, and those questions help explain why we put certain pieces of information into our records.

For example, we recently got a question about the historical theses and dissertations that we catalog. A researcher compiling a bibliography of theses and dissertations for The Hymn Society found the record for a thesis or dissertation written by an FSU student in 1973. The question was: was it a thesis, written for a Master’s degree, or a dissertation, written for a Ph.D.?

As technology has advanced, catalogers have been able to provide an increasing amount of metadata for each item they catalog. We no longer have to limit ourselves to the space of a 3×5-inch catalog card, and changes in our digital platform have allowed us to include more information for electronic resources as well. The record in question had been created in 1976, using older cataloging standards, and it didn’t contain the information that the researcher wanted.

As we’ve been updating the records of historical theses and dissertations to current standards, however, we’ve been including this information in each record. Once we got the question from the researcher, we updated this record as well, so that now anyone looking at the record should be able to see that it’s describing a dissertation, not a thesis.

This screenshot shows the information we entered into the catalog record: the 502 field includes the degree for which this work was written.

By a Lady

Yesterday marked the last class visit to the Archives & Special Collections for the Spring 2016 semester. The class was “Early Women Writers” taught by Amherst English Professors Amelia Worsley and Ingrid Nelson, and it was a great excuse for me to dig into our collections to see what we have in this area.

Austen 1818

This rather plain looking four-volume set was one gem I was well aware of in our collections. Although it may not look like much from the outside, this is the original publisher’s binding on a completely untrimmed first edition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The Archives holds a complete set of Austen’s novels in first edition.

Austen TP

Austen died in July 1817. Even though this set includes a “biographical notice of the author,” he name still does not appear on the title page. By contrast, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) does get her name on the title page of The Banished Man, one of ten novels she published in the late eighteenth century.

Banished Man

Curiously, we only hold volumes 3 and 4 of The Banished Man. Stepping back a little further in time, we have a copy of Sarah Fielding’s The Adventures of David Simple published in 1744.

David Simple tp

I’m curious if the first edition of David Simple included the Preface by the author’s brother, and best-selling novelist of the age, Henry Fielding. The number of editions of a work is one way to gauge its popularity; the last two novels had at least two editions; this copy of Aphra Behn’s collected works — All the Histories and Novels —  was in its sixth edition in 1718:

Behn tp

Behn died in 1689, so the demand for at least six editions of her collected works nearly 30 years after her death is an excellent indicator of her popularity.

The very earliest published book in the collection written by a woman appears to be Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America published in London in 1650:

Bradstreet tp

Our copy lacks a few pages at the front, which have been replaced by facsimiles, but the very last page of the book is very special:

Bradstreet ms page

I have not even attempted to decipher the handwriting here. Sounds like a good student project…

Jumping back to the Romantic Era, our copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark has the signature of its former owner on the title page:


This copy once belonged to William Wordsworth and is now part of the Cornelius H. Patton, Class of 1883 Wordsworth Collection.

We do not hold a copy of the first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London 1773), I was pleased to learn we have this 1834 edition of Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley.

Wheatley 1834 cover

Wheatley 1834

The title page dedicates this volume to “Friends of the Africans” and it was published the year after William Lloyd Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.

A final gem in our collections is also authored by a woman of color: Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave (Boston: Printed for the Author, 1850).

truth tp

Like many of the books in our collections, this one bears the marks of having spent part of its life in the Frost Library circulating collections:

Truth port

We will leave the old library “tattle-tape” attached to the title page of this copy until we can pay for the careful conservation treatment it will require to remove it. At least our copy still has the portrait.

While we do not have a vast collection of women writers, it’s always rewarding to find out that we have some fascinating high spots. I’ll end with this example of provincial printing from the early nineteenth century.

Charlotte Temple

Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple was first published in 1790 and was the best-selling novel in the United States until Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in book form in 1852. This edition was published in Brookfield, Massachusetts. It’s likely E. Merriam & Co. printed up a couple hundred copies of this best-seller to satisfy local demand and make some easy money.

Our Expo 86 holdings

Thirty years ago on May 2, 1986, Vancouver’s World’s Fair, Expo 86, was officially opened by TRH Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales. Originally known as Transpo, Expo 86’s theme was “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion – World in Touch”. The 173-acre exposition site featured 65 pavilions representing countries, provinces and territories, and corporations.

Expo Centre, August 1986. Photo: CoV Archives, Ernie Reksten, 2010-006.440

Expo Centre, August 1986, Ernie Reksten. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.440

Expo 86 Information Board, August 1986. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.396

Expo 86 Information Board, Ernie Reksten. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.396

While the official records of the Expo Corporation are part of the holdings of the BC Archives, we do have some related materials in our holdings. Here’s an overview of what we have.

  • Film footage shot by Mike Collier of Yaletown Productions, the official videographer for Expo 86. From raw footage to television ads to promotional films, the Yaletown records capture the Expo site before and during the exposition, and show the daily goings-on at Expo as well as the transformation of northeast False Creek.

Expo 86 ads by Yaletown Productions. Reference code: AM1553-8-S7-: MI-351

  • Photographs taken at Expo by amateur photographer Ernie Reksten (1912-1997). In addition to the Expo site, Reksten’s photographs show Expo 86 legacy building and construction projects.
Expo 86, Yellow Zone (BCTV broadcasting studio on right). Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.397

Expo 86, Ernie Reksten. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.397

Looking north at Expo site and fireworks barge moored in False Creek. Reference code: 2010-006.437

Looking north at Expo site and fireworks barge moored in False Creek, Ernie Reksten Reference code: 2010-006.437

Expo 86 water park - UFO-H20. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.401

Expo 86 water park – UFO-H20, Ernie Reksten. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.401

  • Pamphlets galore! Our pamphlets collection includes handouts from many Expo pavilions, entertainment guides, and other promotional materials and ephemera.
  • The Official Expo 86 Cookbook by cookbook author Susan Mendelson. It includes a recipe section entitled  “Restaurant Favourites”, which is a guide to the multi-ethnic mix of restaurants in Vancouver circa 1986.
Cover of the Official Expo 86 Cookbook by Susan Mendelson. Reference code: TX 715 .M462 1988.

Cover of the Official Expo 86 Cookbook by Susan Mendelson and food photographer Derik Murray. Reference code: TX 715 .M462 1988.

The six-month-long exposition closed October 13, 1986 with a final attendance of 22,111,578 visitors.

Expo 86 gondola and crowds. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.392.

Expo 86 gondola and crowds, Ernie Reksten. Reference code: AM1551-S1-: 2010-006.392.

Please let us know if you’ve found these resources useful. And we’d love to hear about your own memories of Expo 86!

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Jana Grazley and Christine Hagemoen]

Closing Out the Cruelest Month

I don’t know about all of you, especially if you’re reading this in Australia, but I’m pretty darn excited that it’s finally spring.

The flowering trees here in Providence are really doing their thing.


Illustration from Les roses: peintes par P.J. Redoute, decrites et classees selon leur ordre naturel par C.A. Thory (Paris, 1835). Yes, I know that a rose is not technically a flowering tree.

People are throwing open their windows and doors, and flooding out onto the sidewalks.


Frontispiece from James Thomson’s The seasons: containing, spring. summer. fall. winter (Philadelphia, 1795).

Baby animals are being small and hilarious.


Nothing to do with Special Collections, everything to do with ducklings in ramekins, via GIPHY.

People are sweeping off their driveways, painting their fences, and pressing seeds into the ground. Here’s a 100% accurate description of me in my garden, courtesy of Henry Ward Beecher’s 1857 Plain and pleasant talk about fruits, flowers, and farming:


When the winter lets us out, and we are exhilarated with fresh air, singing birds, bland weather, and newly-spring vegetation, our ambition is to lay out too much work. We began with an acre, in garden… By reference to a Garden Journal (every man should keep one), we find that we planted in 1840, sixteen kinds of peas; seventeen kinds of beans; seven kinds of corn; six kinds of squash; eight kinds of cabbage; seven kinds of lettuce; eight sorts of cucumber, and seven of turnips… Although we worked faithfully, early and late, through the whole season, the weeds beat us fairly.

You shall not discourage me, Henry Ward Beecher! I’m planting fifteen more kinds of peas as soon as I get home from work today.

Enjoy the warm(er) weather, dear readers, stop by Special Collections to look at historical field guides to flowers and sea shells, and stay tuned for a blog post on the most questionably-themed historical children’s book we’ve seen to date.

I Am Twenty: Soviet New Wave Filmmaking in the Khrushchev Thaw

The film I Am Twenty (Mne dvadtsat’ let), directed by Marlen Khutsiev, follows Sergei, a young man recently returned home from serving in the military. He reconnects with his friends only to find that they are drifting apart into their own versions of adulthood. He meets Anya during a May Day parade, and as their relationship becomes more serious, they struggle to find common ground between his modest, working class world, and her urban intellectual world. This production of Radio Moscow dramatizes a selection of scenes from the film in English.

Though the film began production in 1959 during the Khrushchev Thaw, a nationwide movement of creative freedom, the final release in 1965 was censored to half the original three hour run time and given the title I Am Twenty. The original title Ilyich’s Gate (Zastava Il’icha), meaning “Lenin’s Gate” or “Lenin’s Guard,” is taken from an industrial neighborhood in Moscow where the film takes place.

Khutsiev’s version was interpreted by the government as too critical of Stalinism and portrayed Soviet youth as pessimistic, westernized and disrespectful of elders. In 1963, Khrushchev singled out the film in a public lecture to roughly 600 artists and writers:

Even the best of the characters – the three young workers – do not personify our wonderful youth. They are shown as not knowing how to live or what to live for. And this at a time of all-round building of communism, a time illuminated by the ideas of the Communist Party Program!

These are not the sort of people society can rely upon. They are not fighters, not remakers of the world. They are morally sick people, who have grown old while still young, who have no high aims or vocation in life…

The idea is to impress upon the children that their fathers cannot be their teachers in life, and that there is no point in turning to them for advice. The film-makers think that young people ought to decide for themselves how to live, without asking their elders for counsel and help.[1]

Given this vilification from the highest office, it is curious that Radio Moscow would distribute a segment about this film to western audiences. The host in this recording applauds the filmmaker:

There are film directors who turn out movies as quickly as they are forgotten by the audiences. There are others, however, who work long and painstakingly on a picture. Their films can rightly be considered works of art. This is true of the young Soviet director Marlen Khutsiev, who has only three films to his credit, but all of them have had a great impact on our audiences.

I Am Twenty shares many stylistic and thematic similarities to French New Wave, Italian neorealist and German rubble films made in Europe in the wake of WWII. For example, Khutsiev uses long tracking shots, non-professional actors and documentary style footage taken at public locations. The young characters amble through day-to-day life pondering existential questions. I Am Twenty follows a disillusioned soldier returning home from military service, still reconciling his family’s experience during the war with modern comforts and opportunities. The film opens with three men in WWII uniforms walking down an empty cobblestone street. As they march into the distance, three figures take their place, this time casually approaching the camera in modern attire. Next we follow Sergei in his modern military uniform returning home through eerily quiet streets. 

Historian Joan Neuberger notes, 

…the twenty-somethings we’ve been hanging out with were members of the first generation to come of age after the war. Their search for purpose suddenly no longer seems purely ideological, materialistic, or individual. They are, in fact, each shadowed by the devastation of war-time loss even as the richness of their everyday experiences seems to have put the war behind them. [2]

Though liberally rewritten to fit with nationalist doctrine, the scenes dramatized by Radio Moscow illustrate Sergei’s post-war existential crisis. In the first scene Sergei and Anya reject the bourgeois lifestyle of her parents. This contrasts with the next scene in which Sergei’s mother describes digging for potatoes on the front lines to feed her hungry family during WWII after misplacing food rations. This causes Sergei to explode with anger in the following scene, at Anya’s birthday party, when one of her friends dismissively steps on a potato. In the final scene, Sergei confronts a vision of his father, a soldier who died during WWII. Sergei begs him for guidance on how to live his life, “…I was only 21, so how can I advise you,” he responds.

The radio adaptation attempts to bring a resolution to the film. As his father disappears, Sergei proclaims, “…the most important thing in life is not to be alone. Alone one is helpless. I must live for Mother, for Vera, for Anya. I must live for all people and only then I will be a real person.” This film, however, is purposefully vague. The audience does not see what becomes of Anya and Sergei. Like these characters, we are left to decide for ourselves. 

I Am Twenty is available to rent or purchase on Amazon.

[1] Woll, Josephine, Real Images: Soviet Cinemas and the Thaw, 2000, pg. 146-147

[2] Neuberger Joan, “I am Twenty (1961, released 1964)“, Not Even Past, 2011

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150292
Municipal archives id: T4062

My Year in Special Collections

As I sit down to write my final blog entry as the Special Collections and Archives graduate assistant, I can’t help but think about the pivotal moment that started me down this whole career path.


It was the Fall semester of 2011 and I was the nerdiest college sophomore that you’ve ever met. I was completely obsessed with a class I was taking called Illuminated Manuscripts, which my brother still, to this day, jokingly refers to as “laminated manuscripts.” Once a week, our class would meet in one of the classrooms in Strozier Library to study the medieval facsimiles from Special Collections. The rare books librarian, who I thought had the greatest job in the whole world next to Alex Trebek, would administer over these extraordinarily recreated works of art as we students examined the pages with the unflinching attention of a neurosurgeon and took notes (in pencil, of course) on our discoveries.

The Book of Kells, 800, ND3356 .B7S8 1914

The facsimile I found the most impressive was the iconic Book of Kells. Likely created around the year 800 CE on the Scottish island of Iona, the Book of Kells is widely regarded as the finest European medieval manuscript to survive. Comprising of the four gospel books of the New Testament, it is created in the Hiberno-Saxon, or Insular, style, which refers to a time period in post Roman Britain before the Viking Age when indigenous artistic conventions, such as stylized interlacing knot and animal motifs, were popular. There are a total of ten full page illustrations, including a whimsically blonde Christ and a vignette of cats eating the Eucharistic host, with numerous decorated initials and smaller abstract illustrations surrounding the text. The manuscript is massive, lavishly decorated, and constructed from the finest materials. Its pages are made of vellum, the highest quality calfskin parchment, and the colorful inks are made from a wide variety of imported materials. Ultimately, this manuscript is a showstopper. It’s the medieval equivalent of a modern day Ai Weiwei or Damien Hirst masterpiece.




And now as I wrap up my assistantship and prepare to graduate I realize I’m sincerely going to miss my friend, the Book of Kells, who sparked my interest in medieval manuscripts and beckoned me to pursue this opportunity in Special Collections. It’s true; those of us who seek a career in libraries envision being surrounded by the materials that we feel the most passionately about. And as great as blonde Jesus is, it’s the people of Special Collections that really make the department so special. Looking forward to commencement and the nebulous unknown of the “real world” that will follow graduate school, I honestly hope that I can find a work environment as supportive and team as cohesive as the one I’ve spent the last year with.


400 Years of Shakespeare

A page from Shakespeare’s Second Folio (1632)

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Although the exact dates of his birth and death are disputed, they are both known to have occurred in late April. In honor of 400 years of Shakespeare, libraries and museums throughout the world are putting on exhibits to celebrate his life and works. The Folger Shakespeare Library, partnering with the Cincinnati Museum Center and American Library Association, is hosting a First Folio Tour, which will bring the famous first edition of Shakespeare’s plays to universities and museums in every state.

An illustrated adaptation of Shakespeare (circa 1895)

While FSU Special Collections & Archives is not fortunate enough to have one of the 234 known extant first folios (out of the approximately 750 printed), there are over 350 volumes by and about Shakespeare available through our research center, including facsimiles of the first folio and extracts from the fourth folio, published in 1685. As Shakespeare’s genius and influence have firmly entrenched him in the canon of English literature, his works have been constantly published, republished, edited, re-edited, repackaged, illustrated, and re-illustrated ever since his death in 1616. Many famous authors, printers, and illustrators have tried their hands at Shakespeare over the years, from Laura Valentine’s Shakspearian Tales in Verse (PR2877.V3 1899) to the Kelmscott edition of Shakespeare’s poems (PR2842.E4).

One of the most exciting discoveries we’ve made in the stacks lately is an uncatalogued leaf from Shakespeare’s second folio, printed in 1632, nine years after the first folio and sixteen years after Shakespeare’s death. Our leaf is pages 195-196 from The Taming of the Shrew and includes Pettruchio’s famous lines to Katerina:

For I am he am born to tame you Kate,

And bring you from a wild Kat to a Kate

Conformable as other household Kates …

I must, and will have Katherine to my wife.

This page from the second folio and other editions of Shakespeare’s works will be on display in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the first floor of Strozier from Friday, April 22nd until the end of May. Stop by and see it Monday-Friday 10am-6pm!

The First Warsaw Ghetto Memorial: From the Perspective of the Forverts

On April 20, 1944 the Forverts edition ran 8 pages for your four cents. As might be expected, headlines followed the war abroad —6,500 airplanes were having an acute effect—Sebastopol was burning and there were counterattacks in Galicia.

Beneath the banner headline, in smaller print, but still bolded, was news from closer to home—hundreds of thousands of New York’s Jews honored Polish Jewish heroes and martyrs—keening in the Warsaw Synagogue and on the streets.

Though aimed at describing the scene on New York’s Rivington Street where the memorial demonstration began at the Warsaw Synagogue, the Forverts delivered uplifting news of spontaneous uprisings in ghettos of leading Eastern European cities such as Vilnius, Bialystok, Lodz, Lemberg/Lwow and additional sites throughout Poland, doubtless inspired by the Warsaw ghetto uprising one year prior.

The Forverts remarked that folks had already gathered hours before this image featuring prominent figures addressing the memorial on a WNYC mic was even taken. The synagogue, they reported, was beyond capacity with over 2,500 people. 10,000 more were estimated to be standing out there attempting to gain access to the synagogue’s interior, in order to honor the Warsaw ghetto heroes.

Far from detailing the celebrated camera ready folks seen alongside his honor, Mayor La Guardia, Forverts reporters wrote viscerally of the neighborhood chronicling scenes inside the synagogue—on the street before it and in shops and factories across the city. The energy of which propelled the historic march to City Hall.

Inside the Warsaw Synagogue the Watenberg family sat with their two recently rescued daughters having had the fortune to arrive to New York City on the ‘Gripsholm’ ship straight from Nazi occupied Europe. The significance of the occasion wasn’t lost on the working folk gathered on the sidewalks of the Lower East Side pressing to be a part of it. From beyond the barricades, the Forverts recalled the sounds of unrestrained weeping never before heard both inside and outside the locale.

At 11 a.m. when the speeches ceased the entire gathering bowed their heads for two minutes of silence, and the Forverts recorded faces inscribed with a deep grief. And those were the faces chosen for the front page diptych to underscore the headlines. New York’s finest (Gentile) policemen were said to have been similarly affected and stood wiping their tear filled eyes.

Acclaimed Yiddish theatre composer Joseph Rumshinsky accompanied everyone’s darling Cantor Moyshe Osher on a pump organ as the El Mole Rakhomim [Lord Full Of Mercy] prayer was intoned for the dead. A member of the crowd rose up and spontaneously recited the Kadish [Mourner’s Prayer]—and again, the entire crowd irrupted in tears.

Before leaving Rivington Street a slight challenge could be heard from the crowd, when controversial Yiddish writer Sholem Asch attempted to speak of faith. Known for his Christological novels, and a rumored conversion, those gathered were seemingly unsettled by Asch’s declaration that God will avenge the Jewish blood spilt. Individuals in the crowd challenged Asch demanding he tell them where god’s son was currently? Was he also going to help them? Who invited him here?— was heard from the audience. Though immortalized in the event’s official photographs, standing next to Julian Tuwim, Poland’s Jewish poet of great renown, organizers later clarified to the Forverts that nobody had in fact invited him.

The entire gathering then formed a long impressive entourage making its way to City Hall. Thousands of Jews en masse walked the streets silently with heads cast down in anguish. At the head of the demonstration was the Watenberg family carrying an American flag.

Placards were carried saying The Ghetto Heroes Blood Cries Out For Revenge! and Three Million Jews Murdered By Nazis—Help Save The Surviving Ones! Thousands stood on the sidewalks watching the Jewish demonstration pass. They could be seen, the Forverts wrote, asking each other about it and listening to explanations.

Despite being unable to attend the march due to work constraints, 4000 shops participated in a work stoppage that day, and an estimated half a million workers honored the memory of their fallen brethren. The Forverts reported that cloakmakers and dressmakers, furriers and tailors, grocery clerks and painters, pocketbook makers, millinery workers and workers in dozens of other fields stopped the wheels of production for 10 minutes as a memorial to those heroic individuals who with their bare hands, led an uprising against the Nazi murder machine.

By evening, thousands attended a concluding memorial event at Carnegie Hall People in the trades, and shops came straight from work to honor the martyrs of the Polish ghetto expressing their desperation at saving what remained of European Jewry. Also not seen in the officially recorded image at City Hall, was Yiddish poet H. Leyvik who that night, read a piece created especially in memory of the heroic uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

When listening to the WNYC recording of the day’s events, one easily absorbs the depth of New York’s willingness to acknowledge the unique historic significance of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Reading the Forverts’s accounts of the crowd’s participation helps turn the camera around to observe the people participating in history as they created it. By 1947, only three years after the war, their unflagging energy led to the formation of a memorial plaque at Riverside Drive and 83rd Street.

On October 19th of that year, the Forverts was still 8 pages but had gone up a penny in price and cost you five cents. More than 15,000 people attended the unveiling lasting over three hours in the pouring rain. The Forverts reported it as one of the most extraordinary Jewish ceremonies New York had ever witnessed.

Mayor O’Dwyer was in attendance as were Senator Robert Wagner and several European ambassadors. Cardinal Spellman sent a representative and Manhattan’s Borough President was there too. Cantor Moyshe Osher sang the national anthem while Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky, himself a recent refugee from Warsaw, sang the El Mole Rakhomim prayer. No photos accompany the reporting of that day.


The Forverts online (1897-1949)

The stone—as the plaque is now known—is part of the New York City parks—and also, a ceremony still takes place annually on April 19th, sponsored by a The Congress for Jewish Culture.

The Forward

The Yiddish Forward

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Lenin’s Family History According to the Soviet Union

A Bedtime Story from Radio Moscow, might be the more apt title of this 1963 program, rather than “Lenin’s Family.” Never broadcast on WNYC (it was labeled “Prop” for Propaganda and relegated to the archives) this strange mix of radio drama and homespun instruction is a good sample of mid-century Soviet revisionist history. A schoolmarm-ish announcer spoonfeeds us the facts of Lenin’s early life before actors voicing the roles of his father and mother take over.

Little Vladimir “couldn’t keep still for a moment.” His mother, who played the piano, instilled in him a great love of folk melodies. (This, oddly, is accompanied in the background by a Beethoven sonata). The family’s upper-middle class background (some historians even call them “minor nobility”) is downplayed, with great emphasis placed on how hard his father, an inspector of schools, worked, and how his mother made sure he read no “trashy novels.” The irony here is how stuffy and bourgeois the hagiography sounds, all while clumsy attempts are made to graft Marxist-Leninist principles onto an idealized Victorian background. Thus in the midst of this wholesome, hard-working family, it comes as a shock when Vladimir’s older brother Alexander is arrested for “terrorism” and hanged. From this experience Vladimir (not yet “Lenin”) learned, “the way of terror is senseless. We shall go another way.” The story follows him as far as his exile to Siberia. The mother did not live to see, the announcer laments, “the most just order on earth established.”

The story of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Lenin, (1870-1924) needs no fairy-tale embellishments. What he accomplished is extraordinary enough. As always, what makes propaganda worth studying is where it diverges for the truth. Here, Lenin’s upper middle class roots are obscured. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

“It is difficult to identify any particular events in his childhood that might prefigure his turn onto the path of a professional revolutionary. Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was born in Simbirsk, which was renamed Ulyanovsk in his honor. (He adopted the pseudonym Lenin in 1901 during his clandestine party work after exile in Siberia.) He was the third of six children born into a close-knit, happy family of highly educated and cultured parents. His mother was the daughter of a physician, while his father, though the son of a serf, became a schoolteacher and rose to the position of inspector of schools. Lenin, intellectually gifted, physically strong, and reared in a warm, loving home, early displayed a voracious passion for learning. He was graduated from high school ranking first in his class. He distinguished himself in Latin and Greek and seemed destined for the life of a classical scholar. When he was 16, nothing in Lenin indicated a future rebel, still less a professional revolutionary—except, perhaps, his turn to atheism.”

A more glaring omission is Lenin’s Jewish ancestry. One would think that by 1963 it would no longer be a taboo subject, however this “shameful” fact about Lenin, in a country where anti-Semitism still thrives, has never been fully admitted. As recently as 2011, the French newspaper Le Temps, in a story picked up by Time Magazine, reported that an historical exhibition:

“…adds a key new element to the official narrative. In a letter to Stalin in 1932 — six years after Lenin’s death — Anna Ulyanova, Lenin’s older sister, wrote that their maternal grandfather ‘came from a poor Jewish family and was, according to his baptismal certificate, the son of Moses Blank.’ Blank was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine. In her letter, Ulyanova said her brother ‘had always thought highly of Jews.’ She also urged Stalin to reveal Lenin’s Jewish background, concluding that ‘it would be wrong to hide it from the masses.’ Stalin, however, ordered Ulyanova to keep Lenin’s Jewish roots under wraps. A few years later, Stalin began to purge Jews from among the leaders of the revolution. Prior to his death in 1953, furthermore, he was preparing to send the whole Jewish population living in the Soviet Union to concentration camps in Siberia.”

Radio Moscow, for many years the most public face of the Soviet Union abroad, is now mostly remembered for its later phase, when it produced such clumsy propaganda that only the most credulous listeners could take it for a serious news outlet. But at its inception the station was much more serious in intent and in the role it played. The magazine Rossiyskaya Gazeta, publishing in the Telegraph newspaper, reminds how:

“On October 29, 1929, Radio Moscow…became the first radio station in the world to broadcast to an international audience. It was followed three years later by the BBC, and then by Voice of America in 1942. By 1939, the station was broadcasting in English, French, German, Italian and Arabic and warning the world about the growth of fascism in Europe. Mussolini personally ordered Radio Moscow to be blocked, as did Hitler following the onset of the Second World War. The station would continue to inspire those involved in opposition movements throughout Nazi-occupied territories.”

FOIA Federal Advisory Committee Report

I am pleased to announce that the inaugural Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee, under the direction of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), submitted a final report and recommendations regarding FOIA Fees, Proactive Disclosure, and Oversight and Accountability.

The Committee’s report and their recommendations is the product of two years of hard work by the Committee to study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch, to provide advice on improving FOIA administration, and to make recommendations to the Archivist of the United States.

Members of the 2014-2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee. From left to right: James Holzer, Mark Zaid, Ginger McCall (forner member), Brent Evitt, Larry Gottesman, Melanie Pustay, Nate Jones, David Ferriero, Lee White, Sean Moulton, Marty Michalosky, Jim Hogan, David Pritzker, Clay Johnston.

Members of the 2014-2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee.
From left to right: James Holzer, Mark Zaid, Ginger McCall (forner member), Brent Evitt, Larry Gottesman, Melanie Pustay, Nate Jones, David Ferriero, Lee White, Sean Moulton, Marty Michalosky, Jim Hogan, David Pritzker, Clay Johnson.

OGIS provides leadership, administrative and logistical support for the FOIA Advisory Committee. Director James Holzer serves as the Committee’s Chair, and a member of the OGIS staff acts as the Committee’s Designated Federal Officer (DFO).

Much of the Committee’s work was done by its three subcommittees: FOIA Fees, Oversight and Accountability, and Proactive Disclosures. The DFO attended all of the subcommittees’ meetings and was included on all correspondence between members. OGIS staff also ushered the Fees and Oversight and Accountability Subcommittees through the process necessary to gather new information from agency FOIA professionals about how fees are used and the role of FOIA Public Liaisons. This information improved Committee members’ and public understanding of the issues, and influenced its recommendations.

The Committee prepared this report prior to the final meeting of the 2014 – 2016 term of the Committee, and documents all of the work done by the Committee over its two year term. The report also includes background on the Committee’s creation, summaries of the Committee’s quarterly meetings, and a summary of the work undertaken by the Fees, Oversight and Accountability, and Proactive Disclosures Subcommittees. Far from an end result, Director Holzer intends to use the report as a starting point for the next term of the Committee. The Committee is accepting comments on the recommendation and on the Committee’s Final Report. Please direct all comments to: foia-advisory-committee@nara.gov

The Committee’s development of a consensus recommendation is an important milestone: it shows that agencies and requesters can work together to improve the FOIA process. The Committee’s unanimous decision to send forward its first recommendation to the Archivist is also a testament to the importance of transparency, participation, and collaboration.

This report reflects the Committee’s thoughtful and thorough work on this important topic, and I want to thank Director Holzer, the Office of Government Information Services, and the entire FOIA Advisory Committee for their hard work and dedication to this important topic.

W. H. Auden, an Appreciation

First, an Invocation, borrowing Auden’s own words*: It is impudent of me to trespass at all inside a field where so many great and good people have spent their lifetimes. I can only try to limit the offense by confining my remarks to one aspect of his thought: Time

Auden only occasionally focused his attention directly on time, approaching the subject more often in tangent to other thoughts. But he did approach it in the recording above, harkening back longingly to an earlier era, when the poet held greater sway. I suspect he might begrudge us for pulling him so jarringly into the present, disturbing his high strangeness for our present purpose, but I’ll do it nonetheless:

Wystan Hughes Auden, born 109 years ago, has been following me. He has been for months.

This is, of course, both unlikely and impossible. Unlikely, in that it would be decidedly out of character for him to do so, but more so, in that we hardly share affinities:

He was reborn into Christianity by and in the stirrings of the Second World War, by philosophy, by the loss of his mother, through the slipping love with Chester Kallman, and of course much more – while I have abstained almost entirely from religion, tracking from the aggressive atheism of the young to a respectful agnosticism, while in the main seeking rational explanations for the numinous.

He was a Major Poet, winning, as we hear in the above recording, the 1956 National Book Award for poetry for The Shield of Achilles. A 1948 Pulitzer precedes it, for Age of Anxiety. No slouch. I, on the other hand, am generally uninterested in poetry. I barely read it, in spite of otherwise omnivorous reading habits, and I certainly don’t write it. Moreover, though I like to think I have my moments, my prose is choppy, shallow, and stubborn, rendered like a once tall wave, puttering ashore. His is somehow both more fluid and crisp, smoothing into rich sand across the page.

There are other differences between us, to be sure, mostly trivial. But it’s more than just unlikely that I would be a figure of fascination for him. It’s impossible: Auden, the so good, so great, so dead author of some of the finest poetry of the last century, shuffled off this mortal coil in 1973, in Vienna, Austria. I was born years later, and half a world away; we quite simply could not have crossed paths. But we cannot reduce these suits to a man, nor can we easily account for the connections we forge. For the now seven months since my wife and I moved to New York City from Austin, Texas, he has been a close companion.

So I will rephrase. Auden has preceded me in time, true. But I have preceded him in space, and my awareness of his past presence has followed, almost to a rule, in a fitting echoic neighborly decency, by anywhere from hours to days:

From dining at St. Mark’s and 3rd (“valuable property” he tells us in the recording above), only to learn days later I was mere feet from his home – to our offices at WNYC, where he first emerged coiled upon the core of a quarter inch reel on my third day on the job; and again months later, a few days after we received a new shipment from the New York City Municipal Archives, astride a pair of waxy acidic 16” transcription discs for me to transfer and archive; and then later still in praise of the namesake of our archives’ catalog, Constantine Cavafy – to the basement of McNally Jackson, pursuing another author’s intriguing plug for Kierkegaard after an anxious two-day wait, to see Auden’s name staring back surprised on the book’s spine aside Either/Or and Fear and Trembling – and from there, still summoned unbidden, across pages on St. Mark’s, about Shakespeare, and by Lewis Carroll, and, eventually, learning about Kierkegaard and unlearning Arendt.

When Julie and I grabbed our first cab from La Guardia to South Slope, I’m pretty sure we rolled over his February House, since razed by Robert Moses to make way for the BQE. Just today (February 21), I discovered the sly bit of reconnaissance Auden took of my adopted home of St. Louis, winning a late-in-life literary award from SLU. And again just today (February 21), as sat down to commit finally to beginning this appreciation, I learned it is his birthday.

In a way, it’s not surprising that he should take advantage of his strange power and so frequently skip days and hours and even years: the dramatic mystery is that we should always so unanimously agree upon exactly how many hours and days and years to skip. Years, then hours and days, nearly every time.

Our connection is trivial, of course, and increasingly less serendipitous, as I’ve increasingly sought his work out, but it doesn’t feel trivial. And it doesn’t feel chosen. It feels like kismet. It feels meaningful. Actually, no, not meaningful. This: It makes me more prone to appreciate what is meaningful in what he left behind. And it makes me wonder what he would have made of all this odd flitting about time.

Auden taught at Swarthmore from 1942 to 1945, during which time he composed The Sea and the Mirror, an “ars poetica” in which he enlists characters from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, speaking directly to the audience after a performance, to provide a poetic exploration of his thoughts on art and poetry. It is brilliant, deliciously high-concept, fascinating in premise and execution… and utterly beyond our scope.

But during his time at Swarthmore he also left behind a chart (a portion of which is pictured below), used in his seminar “Romanticism from Rousseau to Hitler,” meant to dispel our instinctive Manichean leanings, in poetry and life. Here is an easier inroads.

On either side are the Hells of Pure Deed (seeking refuge in nature) and Pure Word (seeking release from it) and at the center, This World. Through this triptych he wound the themes of sin, sex, politics, and myth… symbols, theories, and disease… And time.

In the Hell of Pure Deed, time is a circle; the Hell of Pure Word, a turbine. In This World it was (and is) a spiral. Untangling the meaning behind Auden’s spiral metaphor is tricky without a clearer context, but perhaps we can be seen as crossing paths there, as separate stories mingling in the spiral’s memorial churn. Or, alternatively, time on either side of hell remains an eternal round now. But time in This World isn’t quite a spiral; time is a wave, sinuform and regular. Auden at the crest, the apogee, me in its undertow, the base, swimming with the currents of an insistent pressing time – never quite meeting (how could we?), but mirrored nonetheless.

Were I forced to pick a point when our paths might more properly intersect, in real time, where we are not split by those hours and days and years, I would probably join the fellow irresponsibles and sit in on his Swarthmore class. This is perhaps due in part to the fact that this predates the earliest audio available of Auden in the WNYC Archives by a good 3 to 6 years –  in anyone’s life a good stretch, in a life like Auden’s, an eternity. 

1948, Reader’s Almanac

That earliest-Auden-audio is from a 1948 episode New York University’s Reader’s Almanac, captured originally on transcription disc at the WNYC studios, later reformatted to compact disc in 2007, and transferred into our digital repository just this year. On it, we get to hear him in the role of the critic, discussing the role of evil in Charles Williams’ All Hallow’s Eve with Richard McLaughlin and Warren Bauer. It begins in media res, with Auden telling us that a person’s attitude to life must emerge in the work they write – a promising place to start if we’re in search of Auden’s own attitudes towards his work, his life, and time. Still, as insightful as this brief recording is, I prefer a more direct address, and the above is sadly incomplete and the audio suffers from an assertive and distracting crackle.

1956, National Book Awards

Virgilia Peterson, conferring upon Auden the National Book Award for poetry for The Shield of Achilles, tells us that “he stands symbol for the treasure that the old world has in our times bestowed upon the new.” This is true these times too.

Acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies are a strange genre – somehow simultaneously pandering and sincere, a place of cloying superficiality and naked emotion, and a platform for thanks and gratitude, but also for the persistent and egregious misuse of the word “humble.” At their best, though, they can be home to elegant statements of grand ideas (sometimes political, hopefully not) and serve as summations of the best of human hopes achieved.

The best summation for Auden would have been a recitation of The Shield of Achilles, of course, which he wisely eschewed, lest he face the National Book Council’s no-doubt exquisite play-off music. No, Auden’s speech that day instead dealt with the place of the poet – in society, and in time. For Auden, the poet was the only kind of person to want to have existed in an earlier age, one that he describes as briefly and eloquently as allowed in his allotted time – one where the poet held a richer social and spiritual presence, one where a poet could have read his sacred work aloud at such a solemn and meaningful occasion. But one can’t help but feel he is dissembling a bit.

Since we are so focused on time, we should note that in a quick slip into rhetorical symmetry, he pinpoints that very much earlier age at 1956 BC, an age in which the sacred was a public experience shared by all, and in which real men spoke in verse. There is no doubt that the numinous permeated a wider swath of human experience in the actual societies of 1956 BC, but wouldn’t the poet’s envied eye more likely focus on what Auden had earlier in his career considered “the first and last time in history [that] an art, drama, became the dominant religious expression of a whole people, [with] the [poet] the most important figure in their spiritual life,” i.e. the golden age of Greek theater? Is it fair to guess that the fudged the dates by more than a millennium, or that this is likely what he had in mind? I suspect so, though it’s probably not fair to judge him for it.

But this is quibble, a minor complaint, even if we’d rather he didn’t play it so fast and loose with time. Perhaps we should forgive that falsely symmetrical flourish. We should worry, though, about the wider view.

We all spin little stories so that we might weave our lives in them. Auden is no different. But the tale he tells of time at the National Book Awards is partial. To fill it out, we must look to Auden’s interpretation of Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard looked to mankind and saw three attitudes to life – The Aesthetic, The Ethical, and The Religious. If these seem vaguely familiar, I encourage you to peruse again Auden’s chart, here, or above. I’d also note that Auden mentions the distinction between The Aesthetic and The Ethical enough times in his prose anthology, The Dyer’s Hand, that I quickly lost count.

Auden, in his 1952 edited edition of The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard, had the wisdom to set these to a historical narrative of the development of religion, enriching what was a narrative of individual personal development, granting them a societal breadth and historical depth missing (to me) in what I’ve read of Kierkegaard’s work, by the simple act ordering them in historical time.

His narrative, while brief, is still too long to repost here. I encourage you to seek it out.  I’ll reiterate my agnosticism here. I paraphrase:

The Aesthetic (e.g. The Greek Gods)

Humanity began with a sense of the self struggling in opposition to an overwhelmingly powerful “not-self.” The Greek Gods came to solve this by taking over the role of the passions – human emotions belonged to the Gods. In fact, emotions were the Gods. Art was the performance of rituals meant to draw in the sacred. Strength was virtue, weakness was sin. Humans themselves were blameless, but their experience of the sacred lacked acknowledgement of the sense of choice they knew was part of their conscious lives. On the basis of that, the lack of accounting for good and evil, and the failure to deal with anxieties concerning death, this theology failed.

The Ethical (e.g. Greek Philosophy)

To resolve these anxieties, Greek philosophers began to search for something that transcended death – universal truths, science, ideas. These ideas became the divine. Knowledge was virtue, ignorance was sin, but art existed merely to coax the unenlightened into belief and the deification of ideas could not rationally account for the will to pursue those ideas. On this account the religion of ideas failed.

The Religious

Humanity sought something more permanent in its place. Humanity sought that permanence in the fulfillment of the Ethical in revealed religion, in a relationship with God that could not be severed. In both Greek theologies the relationship with the divine was intermittent – either Gods chose to enter an individual, or the individual sought to pursue the divine. The Gods of the Aesthetic – feelings – and the God(s) of Ethical – ideas – became in the new religion the ideas and feelings of individual human beings. In the new theology, evil was the rebellion against this more permanent relationship. This is the first theology that accounts for the feeling of choice, but in order to to retain that choice, God became a distant figure.

To consider this little narrative historically true would be generous, but that’s hardly the point. Its purpose is to provide a place to house belief, to provide a religion, a philosophy, a code of behavior, call it what you will, [without which one] cannot live at all. In this, I think, it succeeds, even while I disagree with it. It succeeds because it is narrative, because it enlists the forces of time to its purpose. It forces one to consider one’s place in it, and one’s movement through it. 

The Auden of the National Book Award address, flirting as it does with the Romantic idea of sacred (read: artistic) possession, seems to live in the Aesthetic age. Much as I loath to admit it, I probably would be classed in the Ethical, Aesthetic in fits. Auden the man, arguably all three, but ultimately, the Religious.

Oddly though, we don’t get a sense for the place of art in the “religious” life. Oddly too, that in order that we are left a God to commune with, God must not only remain an utter mystery – lest faith lapse into certainty, and our autonomy vanish as well – but also that each person must forge their own connection to that God. So perhaps he isn’t dissembling in his acceptance speech when he bemoans the loss of shared sacred experiences. In the Aesthetic-Ethical-Religious arc, we really do see a shift to individualist relation to God. The numinous can’t be shared, at least not easily, even through art.

The Sea and the Mirror ends in what Auden would call The Reconciliation of Art and Life in the Religious, with poor players making atonal, near-noise, frantic failed music, before approaching first the void of nonexistence and ultimately the sounded note [of] the restored relation, a musicoserio expression of the bridging of the gulf between God, art, and life, enlisting the metaphor of puissant pure sound.

In one of his Dyer’s Hand essays, “Notes on Music and Opera,” Auden wonders What is music about? What does it imitate? Answering that it imitates Our experience of Time in its twofold aspect, natural or organic repetition, and historical novelty created by choice. I’d argue this sells both Time and Music short. Perhaps this is again unfair – the essay was really more of a mash of notes than a reasoned critique, but still, both Time and Music are richer concepts than he allows. Time and music are more than repetition and novelty; they are narrative and memory too.

He may be thinking of measured metre or poetic pulse, a formal appreciation of poetic structure grew throughout his long career. Or perhaps he’s thinking, existentialist that he was, of the eternal present of which we are only ever aware. But the second a second-hand clicks to the next, isn’t it lost to memory already? Memory will forever win every battle, every Pyrrhic victory, but will forever submit to the whims of the present. In The Sea and the Mirror, Auden’s Caliban mocks his demiauthor’s felicitous claim to put a mirror up to nature, arguing that, in a mirror, art and nature provide a mutual reversal of value. This is worth reflecting on, but the phrase is perhaps truer of Time: Time, History, Memory, put a mirror up to Now. And it is Art that finally reconciles Memory with the Present. 

1972, Douglas Cooper

In one of his final American interviews, which likely aired on WNYC in 1972, Auden would speak with Douglas Cooper about the meaning of art. Auden answers to Cooper’s earnest questions on the role of art in life verge on the nihilistic, at least they did to my ears, three days into a new career in a new town. Asked whether people act differently as a result of poetry, Auden provides what by now was something of a pat answer about the role of not just poetry, but all arts: 1) Paraphrasing Samuel Johnson: The sole aim of writing is to enable readers a little better to enjoy life, or a little better to endure it; and 2) from Auden himself, The arts are our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.

Breaking bread with the dead is an pithy expression of the significance of time, but is spoken with its distant wit drained by repetition, dried into aphorism. Bread isn’t manna, ambrosia, or milk-and-honeyed cake; there is no transubstantiation; The dead remain dead. Still, it is worth reflecting upon. The Cooper tape was one of the first things I’d done on the job, and one of my first genuine encounters with his work. It took a while, though, before I came to consider the phrase. And it finally occurred to me that it cuts both ways.

*Any language taken or derived from Auden is in italics.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

Readers Almanac – WNYC archives id: 5837Municipal archives id: LT 6790, LT5396

National Book Award – WNYC archives id: 150222; Municipal archives id: LT7121

Additional audio from the Douglas Cooper Distinguished Contemporaries Collection – WNYC archives id: 92067

A Creative Fellow

If you regularly check the library’s facebook page or other social media, you may already know about Special Collections’ 2016 Creative Fellow, the inimitable Walker Mettling. Walker is working with our collections for the duration of Portals, and is using his fellowship as an opportunity to create new illustrated work related to the exhibition’s theme. Stay tuned for details on where and when you can see some of his fantastical creations!

In the meantime, here are photos of Walker reading a comics newspaper that he printed on a risograph, inspired by the large-scale format of 1860s issues of the Providence Journal that he read in PPL’s Special Collections.



The 1971 Westcott Talk-In

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, FSU was fraught with student protest, and Westcott was the primary site for demonstrations and sit-ins. FSU earned its moniker “Berkley of the South” during this time as students became more concerned with equal rights for women and minorities, free speech, and the anti-war movement. While some of the protests were accompanied by increased police presence and arrests (most famously The Night of Bayonets in 1968), some protests were peaceful. One such event was a “talk-in” organized by black students at FSU.

“200 Blacks confront Marshall,” The Florida Flambeau, April 26, 1971

On April 23, 1971, a group of nearly 200 black students descended on President Stanley Marshall’s office, demanding a moment of his time. Fed up with discrimination on campus and disillusionment about FSU possibly being merged with FAMU, the students approached President Marshall at his office at Westcott to ask him to use his administrative powers to intervene in two situations on campus. The first demand was for President Marshall to re-appoint Gayle Andrews, FSU’s first black cheerleader, to the cheerleading squad. The second request was for President Marshall to grant amnesty to Enoch Saunders and Skip Young, two black students accused of assaulting a white student.

Prior to the talk-in, students from FSU’s black community staged a protest outside of Westcott on April 20th, 1971. “FSU Blacks Stage Protest,” The Florida Flambeau, April 21, 1971.

Gayle Andrews previously participated on the FSU cheerleading squad for two years before she wasn’t elected onto the following year’s team. Claiming discrimination by the squad, the Black Student Union officially demanded on Gayle Andrews’ behalf that she be placed back on the squad. In an interview for the Florida Flambeau, Andrews stated “[when] they overlooked me, they overlooked all blacks at school.” Neither the squad nor President Marshall would reinstate Andrews, but two other black cheerleaders, Shirley Preston and Jim Wilson, were chosen to join the next year’s squad at tryouts.

In 1971, FSU students Enoch Saunders and Skip Young were accused of assaulting a white student. Both men cited self-defense and felt they were unjustly arrested. Speaking about his arrest experience at a rally at Moore Auditorium, Saunders stated “We are the victims of selective law enforcement,” and that he “was told by [his] arresting police officers that they were going to kill [him].” Young, a basketball player who would eventually go on to lead the FAMU Lady Rattlers to their first state championship in 2004, also spoke about his experience at the rally. “My actions were provoked by the slurs of the white cheerleader whom I attacked, and I feel the charges brought against me are false.” President Marshall, not having the authority to grant amnesty in legal matters, declined to do anything about Enoch Saunders and Skip Young’s charges.

Even though not much was accomplished by the talk-in at Westcott, student leaders applauded administration for handling it without the intervention of police force. After the talk-in at Westcott, relations between the student body and began to improve.

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.

The DPLAfest: Making Access Happen

On Friday, the PIDB participated in the Digital Public Libraries of America (DPLA) Festival.  As a non-profit organization, DPLA brings together America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them available to all users.  The festival is an annual series of workshops, presentations, and discussions that brings together librarians, archivists, and museum professionals, developers and technologists, publishers and authors, teachers and students to applaud DPLA’s milestones in the previous year.  This year, the DPLAfest was held on April 14 and 15, 2016, at three Washington, DC, institutions: the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution.  The festival agenda and presentations are available here

Mr. William Cira, Acting Executive Secretary of the PIDB, discussed the substantial impact of the PIDB’s recommendations on policy development in the Executive Office of the President and how those recommendations directly impact the joint mission of NARA and the DPLA: simply put, to make access happen.  Mr. Cira and Ms. Ellen Knight, Senior Analyst with the PIDB staff, shared information about the current study the PIDB is undertaking concerning technological modernization of the classification and declassification system for long-term sustainability.

The PIDB wishes to thank the DPLAfest organizers for the opportunity to share our work with a new and broader community of users interested in bringing technology to the information management field.  We look forward to next year’s DPLAfest and future opportunities to collaborate with DPLA supporters.

Amherst 120 years ago

Today we’re taking a quick peek at the Amherst of 120 years ago. William J. Newlin was a student at Amherst College from 1895 to 1899, he later returned as a Mathematics and Philosophy professor and taught here for nearly fifty years. We have a handful of glass plate negatives that Newlin took as a student and that now reside in our photograph collection. Followed by the photographs of Allan W. Forbes a mere ten years later, these images tell an interesting story about life at Amherst College a little more than 100 years ago.

click on an image to see it larger

The Octagon, 1896
Appleton Hall, 1896
Fayerweather Hall, known at the time as the Physics Lab, 1896
Inside of 30 South College, a student dormitory room, 1896
Inside of 30 South College, a student dormitory room, 1896
Inside of 30 South College, a student dormitory room, 1896
A view from the window of 30 South College, 1896
A view from the window of 30 South College, 1896
South College, 1897
Known at the time as College Grove, now known as the Freshman Quad, this image also shows the college well directly behind Johnson Chapel, 1896
Labeled "Three Jacks", this image shows three students on the steps of a store, 1897
Members of Psi Upsilon prepared for a Mountain Day outing, 1897
Students in the parlor of an unidentified fraternity house, 1897
Walker Hall, 1898
Students on their way to the Amherst train station to see Doc Hitchcock off, January 25, 1898

e. e. cummings

Synesthesia, the automatic, involuntary experience of one of the five senses overlapping with another, is one of the more curious quirks of the mind – for Vladimir Nabokov, the french letter “a” drew the color of “polished ebony”; for others, the word “moonlight” might dissolve on the tongue with a felt tinge of sweetness; or the number 9 may strike one’s field of vision on the arching march of a number line. It’s unclear whether e. e. cummings, featured here in a broadcast that aired shortly after his passing in 1962, was among the .25 to 4% of the population who experience synesthesia, but people have not unreasonably read into his work a link between the visual and the verbal. If this is a tangent you’d like to pursue, here, let us get you started. Regardless, synesthesia is an alluring phenomenon, the kind of thing that can elicit envy in some, fascination in others, and inspire the purchase of hallucinogens in both. But it bears considering that you’re experiencing something very close to it right now, just by reading this sentence.

In reading, as with synesthesia, one sense, sight, calls forth another, hearing, instantly and effortlessly – direct and unbidden. It’s something we learned, yes, but is now so deeply ingrained that it feels close to instinctual. Much has been written about the implications of reading and writing on the mind, most of it covering its two most dramatic historical events – the evolution of the alphabet in ancient Greece, and the invention of the movable type printing press as Europe awoke into the renaissance. The orality and literacy dichotomy coincidentally hit the public consciousness most deeply in the year of this recording, 1962, sounding out from the Toronto School with the publications of Eric Havelock’s Preface to Plato, a book length study of the rise of literacy in Athens and Plato’s puzzling banishment of the poets, and Marshall McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy, which made an excited case for the great change begat by the print revolution.

Following this tradition, the more recent (and more-levelheaded) literacy theorist David Olson has remarked that “the history of reading is largely the history of attempting to cope with what writing does not represent.” From this single simple invention, the written word, and this single attendant struggle to cope with its failures, he argues, are born two often antagonistic cultures – with a drive towards single definitive readings of the written word, science; and in the search for a richer reading of inward states, literature. And from this, I’d add, we have an interesting place to consider cummings’ work.

In a sense, writing not only led to science, writing is a science – a quixotic quest for an ever more exact approximation of the act of speech. It is, however, a social science (of a sort) and always has been, defined by high and low use from willing and unwilling practitioners – nothing less than the whole of humanity over the rush of millenia. Somewhere along the line, spaceswereintroducedbetweenwords, then commas, :colons; periods. question marks? Capitalization (parentheses) “quotation marks” ampersands & ellipses… the very marks of cummings’ art. But also tools to describe tone, emotion, and the ever-deepening introspection missing from the written word – the study of the human mind. As Olson notes, these became models for speech and thought as much as or more than the representations of the spoken word they were perceived to be.

We now have ever more refined means of capturing language, not the least of which is recorded sound. The audio file at the top of the page came to us as a 12” “acetate” disc, itself partially borrowed from a 1953 Caedmon Records LP, which we transferred via the digital recording software Pro Tools. Below is a graphic representation of the waveform of e. e. cummings reading his poem “dying is fine)but Death.” Nice, but useless without a means of decoding it.

What is left out of this bit of “writing” is not merely a means of decoding it however, but a means abstracting it – a way to let other people read the poem their own way, without exhaustively matching e. e. cummings tone for tone, tempo for timbre, something that is still probably best accomplished by reading the poem as written.





wouldn’t like


Death if Death




when(instead of stopping to think)you


begin to feel it,dying

‘s miraculous



cause dying is


perfectly natural;perfectly


it mildly lively(but




is strictly


& artificial &


evil & legal)


we thank thee


almighty for dying

(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death


If, as Olson claims, the history of reading is a coming to terms with what scripts can’t capture, as scripts evolve, so will reading. In our age, where all scripts have been pared down to 0 and 1, new ways of reading have evolved, and new ways coping. For instance, at my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin School of Information, there is the wonderful project HiPSTAS, which would use cummings’ and others’ archival digital audio to scan, catalog, and tag every poetic lift, lilt, iamb, and caesura, developing a new grammar of the digital word. On the darker side, consider also the copybots that trawl (and troll) YouTube for copyright infringing materials – a different sort of machine reading, enlisting powerful new technologies.

But writing is an art too – one that e. e. cummings exploited to near its fullest, and, if we may read into his recitation of “dying is fine)but Death” pictured above, one that he felt superior to science. As the host of the 1962 WNYC Memorial program for e. e. cummings tells us, “he made a poetic art of commas and parentheses, and the typographic oddities of his poetry were an expression of his fierce individuality.” True, but his idiosyncratic approach to typography enlists a more standardized typography’s powers and would mean far less without it; he uses them to reconsider not only the symbols themselves, but the very act of writing, and whether its tether to oral expression had become an all-too-exacting mutual leash. cummings’ experiments in typography have been called emblematic verse, figured verse, concrete poetry, shape poetry, figured verse, and versive. He was not alone in using them. American pragmatist philosopher C. S. Peirce called similar works “Art Chirography.” Chirography, as you may know,  is the art of handwriting. cummings’ work would be more properly considered “art typography” if it didn’t sound a bit tedious. But then, I suspect he might have found the whole idea of categorizing his art a bit tedious.

At this point one would be tempted to say we should return to the source, let it “speak for itself.” It’s hard to escape the feeling there are two sources though, with whatever the core “poem” might be being bandied about an uncomfortable volley between paper and sounded word. So on the one hand we have cummings’ written legacy, and it’s hard not to grant primacy to it given the “fierce individuality” it represents, flying in the face of standardized typography. But we also have this 1962 recording, which includes no less a figure than e e cummings himself reciting some of his finest work, along with the capable Dave Allen. Some of us will end up envying the rare person who is both illiterate and synesthetic, but for a far different reason than simple fascination over an odd mental quirk – we envy them first for their lack of choice – their experience is inborn and cannot be changed, and is probably often quite beautiful. And we envy them for not having erected written scaffolding that builds the looming Babel of our tottering literate world. So for the rest of us, better both, really – better that we should learn to rest in Keats’ negative capability, toggled between the written and the aural, better that we should find succor in the strengths of what each has to offer, and better that we have the likes of cummings to teach us how.

Track List – Poem (reader):

  1. dying is fine)but Death (cummings)
  2. anyone lived in a pretty how town (Allen)
  3. pity this busy monster, manunkind (Allen)
  4. all in green went my love riding (Allen)
  5. Santa Claus: A Morality (cummings)
  6. Spring is like a perhaps hand (Allen)
  7. my father moved through dooms of love (Allen)
  8. what if a much of a which of a wind (Allen)
  9. life is more true than reason will deceive (cummings)
  10. no man,if men are gods;but if gods must (Allen)

Reprinted from E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, edited by George James Firmage. Copyright © 1956, 1984, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Caedmon Recordings of e. e. cummings are used with permission of Harper Audio.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150265
Municipal archives id: LT9390

The 2016 New Improved PIDB Wikipedia Page

It has been some years since the Public Interest Declassification Board (the Board) updated our Wikipedia page.  In March 2016, the Members and staff received help from a technically savvy Management Information Systems intern, Jordan Sparks of Wayne State University.  Ms. Sparks took on the task of analyzing the Board’s make-up, including statutory history, researched the Boards activities, developed and coded content for a newly formatted Wikipedia page.  All in the space of one week!  We are grateful to Ms. Sparks for her dedication and hard work transforming the Wikipedia page into a user-friendly document for the public and those interested in classification and declassification policy.  We also appreciate the assistance provided by ISOO analyst YuJin Kim who kindly posted the page.

For more information about the PIDB’s activities, you may also visit the PIDB’s website: https://www.archives.gov/declassification/pidb/

Claude Pepper & Edward Ball: A Long History & A Brief Summary

Spring is in the air, the sun is out and that usually means it’s time to find a body of water to sit by and enjoy since we live in Florida. One of those places you could visit this spring and summer (or anytime really) would be the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

Wakulla Springs Contest Winner Austin Hackimer "Manatee"
Wakulla Springs Contest Winner Austin Hackimer “Manatee”

This Florida State Park is home to plenty of wildlife including alligators, deer, birds, and of course the majestic manatee. There are guided water boat tours and a spring for swimming where the water is always a nice, cool temperature. Find more information about this beautiful state park here.

The park is named Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, you might wonder, “who is Edward Ball?” According to the Florida State Parks website, he was a “financier” who “purchased the property in 1934 and developed it as an attraction focusing on wildlife preservation and the surrounding habitat.” The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was built in 1937 as a guest house on the 4,000 acres Ball purchased the same year. In the 1960s’ Ball donated land to Florida State University for a marine lab which is now the Edward Ball Marine Laboratory.

Now you could be wondering, “what does any of this have to do with Claude Pepper?” The former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper and Edward Ball were like the Cady Heron and Regina George of their time, publicly civil with one another, but deplored each other in reality. Pepper writes about his relationship with Ball in his autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness To A Century.

Ed Ball was a financier who amassed a great amount of wealth and power due to his family connections. His brother-in-law Alfred I. duPont was one of the wealthiest men in the country in the early 20th century. After duPont’s death in 1935, Ball took over control of the duPont Trust and emerged as a wealthy political dominant force in Florida in the 1940s’. Ball never ran for political office himself, but backed and tried to defeat political candidates running for office. One of those candidates he tried to defeat in the 1944 Florida Senate election and eventually succeeded in defeating was Claude Pepper in the now infamous 1950 Florida Senate election.

Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A (33)-08
Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A (33)-08 Front
Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A(33)-08 back
Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A(33)-08 Back










The history of these two men is long and extensive and I encourage any reader of this blog entry to read more on the subject. A great place to start would be Tracy E. Danese’s book, Claude Pepper & Ed Ball: Politics, Purpose, and Power published by the University Press of Florida in 2000. These two men played a great role in shaping the political history and future of Florida. I hope this blog gave you a brief summary of their relationship and intrigued you to read more about it.

Robert Moses, Master Builder, Rap Genius

Some of the Internet’s finest developments revolve around hip hop. One of my favorite examples is the discovery of the date of Ice Cube’s “Good Day” (January 20th, 1992). Better still is the website-cum-app WhoSampled, one of the web’s finest wikis, which allows users to “discover… direct connections” between sampled songs and the songs that sampled them. The greatest, and most ambitious, is undoubtedly Rap Genius, which began as a means to annotate rap lyrics, but has expanded its mission to annotating the Internet… all of it. Indeed, we will use Rap Genius to annotate this very page, by clicking here.

In a way, it’s not surprising that hip hop should be such an inspiration to the Internet. Coming of age at roughly the same time, both developed a pronounced hypertextuality, a willful indifference to copyright law, and an affinity for the artful diss, on street corners and in “comments” sections everywhere.

One could argue that New York’s Master Builder Robert Moses, too, shares some affinities with hip hop. Moses composed Swinburnian poetry in his Yale days, so he’s been known to spit a rhyme or two, and as befitting a man who ruled his Triborough fiefdom from beneath a bridge, he had a trollish gift for verbose insults. That gift is on full display in this speech, entitled “The Critics Build Nothing,” given at a 1959 New York Builders Association luncheon. When it comes to his critics, Robert Moses asks, a full 29 years before Public Enemy, that we “Don’t Believe the Hype.”

One wonders what would have happened had Moses spent his days trading dozens in the South Bronx, rather than razing its neighborhoods for yet another super-highway. We’ll sadly never know. But, in tribute to this imagined B.o.B Moses, we give his speech the full “Rap Genius” annotation treatment. Below is a transcription of his November 1959 address. To see our annotations, or to add your own, simply add “genius.it/” to the front of this page’s url. Or just click here.

Haters to the left. Annotations to the right.


“The Critics Build Nothing”

(This transcript was created using the free open-source software Gentle. Punctuation and additional edits were added to their computer-generated script.)

Bradford N. Clark (Chairman, New York Building Congress):

we are indeed fortunate today to have gilmore clark introduce his long-time friend, commissioner moses. gil clarke, as an eminent engineer, educator, and planner, has contributed greatly to the satisfaction of the needs of his fellow men. for these accomplishments, he has been the recipient of tributes and honors too numerous for individual mention. his name and that of his firm clarke-rapuano have been associated with almost every major construction project in the metropolitan area over many years. he is a man of action. ladies and gentlemen it is my privilege to introduce to you, gilmore clarke. [applause]

Gilmore Clarke (Architect, Clarke-Rapuano):

mister chairman,  commissioner moses, honored guests and members and friends of the building congress. if there is anyone who needs no introduction to a new york audience, it is robert moses. his many magnificent accomplishments in this city, in this state, and elsewhere in the united states, indeed beyond these continental limits, are well known. his name is and always will be linked inseparably with eminently distinguished projects, including power dams that harness great rivers, bridges that span wide waterways, networks of expressways and parkways that are the vital arteries of our vast metropolitan area, spacious parks and playgrounds of all sizes and variety, housing, cultural centers, worlds fairs. and a myriad of other enterprises.

i should like to tell you briefly something about robert moses in the role of the artist. dr. l. p. jacks, erstwhile principal of manchester college, oxford, said these words. i quote: “art is the name we give to the wisest way of doing whatever needs to be done. do anything as wisely as it can be done and you stand at the growing point where all the fine arts begin. there are some people who seem to think that in order to promote the fine arts, you must turn your back on the common work of the world as it goes on for example in a great city and betake yourself to another sort of society where the mysteries of art can be studied without disturbance by the toil and din and turmoil of industrial civilization.

“i suggest another method of looking at the matter. i would suggest that we take the toil of the world as it stands, the toil of business, the toil of industry, the toil of the professions. that we find out the wisest way of doing all that. that we accept it and close with it and make the best of it, lifting to the highest level of excellence it is capable of reaching, and i venture to the say we will have taken the most effective steps we could toward a revival of the fine arts, not excepting the finest of them all. art has always grown out of the common work of the world out of the effort to close that work with all the excellence it can bear.” bob, this you have done, you have closed your work with all the excellence it can bear. every project you have sponsored and directed has been done superbly well. consequently, i opine, you belong in the ranks of the artist, for you have dated in making effective a revival of the fine arts and added to that you are the greatest public works administrator this country has ever known. the bard of stratford expressed eloquently my predicament that this moment. he said, “i have not skill enough your worth to sing for we who now behold these present days have eyes to wonder but lack tongues to praise.” gentlemen, i take pleasure in presenting the honorable robert moses.

Robert Moses:

bradford clark, gilmore clarke, ladies and gentlemen. if as i hope you have followed with interest our moving picture of st. lawrence and niagara power, i want to point the morrow. licensing on our two frontiers was fought over by extremists for many years with great bitterness, recriminations, random charges, and fantastic claims, all admirably calculated to befuddle the public, obscure the real issues, and postpone the inevitable conclusion for the public authority was the only logical and acceptable answer. i started on this work as a junior assistant to governor smith almost forty years ago. i have been in the middle of it as head of the state park system for thirty five years. five years ago governor dewey made me chairman of the power authority which has enabled me with the aid of my fellow trustees, commissioners, staff, and consultants to coordinate major improvements on the saint lawrence and niagara rivers. at both messena and niagara i made the statement that our purpose was to live up to a fast schedule. that we aim to be respected rather than to be popular but that perhaps some day we might achieve both. i think we are now well liked on the saint lawrence and perhaps some day we will be on the niagara. nobody escapes grossly prejudiced and unfair attack, who has taken the solemn oath of office to follow, in work like that of the power authority, a middle course between the left-wingers who want government to do everything including challenging and driving out private business, and the old fashioned tycoons who still demand that the state giveaway its basic legally inalienable natural resources to utility companies with a record too recent to forget.

No doubt some of you would think that i was ducking if i said nothing about the so called title one housing program, in which so many of your people are engaged. the purpose of title one – which was lost sight of because the air was full of old vegetables, rotten eggs and dead cats – is to attract private capital to the pitfalls of slum clearance. our official committee here in new york works gratis. it is able to show that this city is undeniably first and foremost in the entire country in actual achievement, and yet we have been vilified by snarling critics at home, and without reliable political support or full citizen understanding.

nobody can tear down ancient rat infested rookeries without first moving people. we have not been heartless in the process. we may at times have been clumsy, but we’ve steadily improved our techniques. I admit freely that one test of democracy is concern for the individual subject to inconvenience, discomfort, and hardship, but our categorical imperative is action to clear the slums and we can’t let minorities dictate that the century old chore will be put off another generation or finally abandoned.

the left-wingers have no monopoly of hatred of injustice. if i did not believe the people at least potentially way ahead of many of their present leaders, if i did not think that given time they can see through demagoguery, i would despair of democracy. i’ve been through these disturbances before and they don’t bother me too much. perhaps it’s the long view or the applause of conscience or the hide of a black rhinoceros that helps me to maintain balance in such situations. occasionally too, i lift up mine eyes unto hills from whence cometh my help. at the end of these periodic uproars some odd blessings appear, comingly disguised but still recognizable. among other things we learned to be grateful for friendships which have proven durable.  

in our unprotected public service you must always be ready to quit when the elected officials no longer want you, or when there is no further opportunity to get results. you must accept most of the rules of the game no matter how brutal and unfair, always reminding yourself that you can retire to other fields, more interesting, productive, and i may add, more restful. those who have large objectives simply can’t brood over their enemies. it’s not nobility. unlike some of the tuscarora indians we forget where the hatchet is buried. Fame is not for little bureaucrats. we must get our fun out of our work. the most i can possibly expect is to be remembered for their a short time as the “archie moore” of public works. [noise]

you can put this in your pipe and smoke it. the professional vomiters and mud throwers, jealous and unhappy chairmen and secretaries of moribund civic societies, with their excited maggoty brains, the rattlesnake element in the press hot after sensational disclosures, the junior bloodhounds, and unlicensed sleuths, in other words those who under the guise of civic righteousness and news fit or unfit to print, habitually and constantly malign new york, are doing our city no good. Stephen Vincent Benet in one of his prophetic poems told about a new variety of termites who eat away the granite, steel, aluminum, and glass of our big buildings. we also have two legged termites, busily disemboweling and undermining our city. we are told by the planners and pundits that cities like new york are too large for comfort and government. the real trouble there so if they’re too big for most of those who try to interpret them.

there’s another type of critic like the guided tour american traveller who has read a book by doctor hassenpheffer and finds that everything is ordered better in post-war europe. look, he says , at swedish co-operative housing. well i’ve looked and being neither a jingo or a groveler, find much that is admirable on practically nothing we can use in view of fundamental differences in conditions in the two countries. these critics have no time for praise, no pride in our astonishing accomplishments, and the attractions the indomitable energies the visions and hopes which make new york what it truly is, the greatest metropolis in the world. god knows we have our manifest deficiencies. but if a tenth of the talent and energy hired to tout our expensive wares and fabled rialtos were spent on counting our blessings,we would confound the caricaturists who picture new york as only a place of wrath and tears and become the envy of gath and ashkelon.

my mail often takes its tone from whiners and bricks-throwers. nervousness and irritability are on the increase. so are stomach ulcers. maybe the youth problem is simply dramatic evidence of general malaise. it is indeed almost pathological. some of these belly-achers may need treatment to get back balance, a sense of fairness and the native humor which is always been the great american life saver. i hear more and more complaints about hard surface tennis courts, slides without cushions, weak coffee, half buttered sandwiches, under-beefed hot dogs. shuttering desiccated aristocrats curse us because gay ragamuffins splash in our fountains in the hot weather. women complain that the nearest playground is eight blocks, that is, sixteen hundred feet away. the fact that we increase the total number playgrounds from a hundred and seventeen almost eight hundred makes little impression. few mention the miles of new parkways and expressways, but a hole in the pavement, misplaced or illegible sign, or broken light will elicit howls of rage. speeders yell that they are the targets of speed traps and grafting cops. writers wax sarcastic about riveting noises at night, manufacturing topsoil out of sewage, failure to grasp relations between the city in the suburbs, the alleged preference of rubber over rails, the proportion of friendly not to say complementary letters is still large but declines. the anonymous grievous and threatening ones increase.

when those of us who for years have studied road accidents conclude that speed makes all the difference between major or minor accidents and therefore refuse to raise speed limits, we are ridiculed by critics who insist on faster travel and the right to kill innocent people.  for years the automobile industry blindly opposed gas taxes and modern highways and called us every name that was printable. by the time the folly of this position was realized, we were years behind in our road building. i won the general motors top highway award in the competition involving some forty two thousand contestants and nineteen fifty three for telling publicly what everybody in detroit already privately knew, namely that a car is no good without a road to run on.

at niagara we are expected to excavate out conduits, reservoirs, and  powerhouses without blasting of the slightest community disruption. solomon’s temple the good book says was fashioned with prefabricated and doubtless pre-stressed stone so that no sound of hammer, ax, or any tool of iron was heard in the building. somehow with all our modern gadgets we’ve lost the art of building noiselessly. a word of encouragement real or fancy that city hall and the critics shriek with delight, they think that they have driven a wedge between the mayor and the department head. out come the headlines: mayor appoints investigating committee, mayor slaps down zilch, commissioner blatz on way out, a scandal ridden bureau to be abolished, racketeers denounced, underworld link to be broken, and so forth. the final payoff, reputation, denouement, retraction or correction appears on one of the last pages with the dow jones stock averages, brazilian coffee exchange news, and death notices. [noise]

one of the favorite press gags at every state capital county seat and city hall is to needle a governor, comptroller, chairman of the board, supervisors, or mayor with the question “who is the chief executive anyway? you or your subordinate?” Then the top man is expected to fly into a rage beat his chest like tarzan and say “i am.” such questions was never got a rise on of abraham lincoln. he allowed he could get along with the eccentricities and even arrogance of his aides. if they contributed to his administration and the winning of the war. and he asked mildly where general grant got his cigars and his whiskey on the assumption that they might benefit the generals critics. at the height of one of these tea kettle tempests i was getting out of an elevator in the municipal building at a conference attended by a number of officials. i was one of the last ones off and heard a man say to the operator “who are those bozos?” the operator answered “commissioners, a dime a dozen.”

some of nicest signed letters i get are in longhand or marked “personal.” they are from prominent people who just can’t afford to come out and they open, so they thunder in the index. their testimony is offered incognito and in absentia. now and then one of them writes a letter that in spite of crudity, bad manners, rough tactics and so forth, my heart seems to be in the right place. these forthright communications remind me of senator royal s. copeland’s campaign for reelection in nineteen thirty four. his principal asset was a syndicated health column in the daily press and one day of the following colloquy appeared: “dear doctor copeland, my aunt emma has cold feet. what shall i do for them?” the reply was “there must be something the matter with your aunt’s circulation. see your local doctor.” of course the senator was triumphantly reelected.

i do not argue for immunity from criticism. that would be silly. i ask only for fair unbiased decent criticism consistent with loyalty to our town. criticism kept within the bounds of decency is a form of competition, it sharpens the wits. and is the very essence and hallmark of democracy. Criticism in the form of irresponsible sensationalism, rabble rousing, slander, and malice is a poison in the body politic. the public official who takes it lying down is a weakling and a coward and probably deserves what he gets. no one who does not love his city is fit to live in it. and no one who fouls his own nest can do it again good. our domestic snivelers are always apologizing because they live here. paul the apostle, the greatest of all missionaries boasted that he was a citizen of no mean city and everywhere boldly claimed the privileges and immunities of roman citizenship. the yahoos of the world would accept us more readily if we followed this precept. you think there is anything new in all this? we need not make absurd or sacrilegious comparisons in appealing to the muse of history.

i have no illusions of grandeur, no thirst for martyrdom and i’ve had too much fun to invite or beg for sympathy. as governor smith used to say let’s have a look at the record. they ostracize the leading citizens in greece. they  tired of hearing aristides called “the great.” they tossed out Baron Haussmann after seventeen years of service, which saved paris from rot and strangulation. mr. dooley sapiently remarked that the triumphal spanish american war arch at madison square was built out of temporary material so that the crowd could throw the bricks at admiral dewey when they got tired of him.

there is to be sure another possible approach to this problem, perhaps we should not be indignant about those smear their their neighbors and foul their own nest, perhaps we should become mellow or philosophical about them. I’m not positive myself that all skunks should be deflowered, dehydrated, desegregated, deceased or driven forth to their waste their sweetness on the desert air. Who am i to disturb the balance of nature? who knows what will happen when the polecat closes his pole? will he be freely accepted at lodges and lawn parties? suppose he suffers the fate of fellow who cured his halitosis and found he was still unpopular. maybe nature intended of their shall be at least one blankety-blank in every dozen.

we little bureaucrats to a level best, poor and inadequate though it may be, to accomplish something in our span of office. we have to rely a good deal on timing. as it says in ecclesiastes, there’s a time for every purpose under heaven – time to strike out, time to stick religiously to what we have, a time to devise novel expedients to fit new inventions, and a time to act as custodians to great traditions. there’s quite a gap between the veteran public official who naturally seeks to mop up his program in a neat orderly way, without frantic haste in the time remaining to him, and the critics who mull over his political and physical life expectancy and devoutly hope he won’t make it.

all progress calls for courage, determination, and a stomach for a fight. the question of method is always in dispute. there will always be people who say they agree with your purpose but don’t like the way you go at it. action is a rough business compared to thought. any persistent civil works administrator is bound to be tagged as ruthless inhuman and even sadistic. in the second war, we had two great supply chiefs, admiral moreell and general somervell. the admiral was as effective but less ruthless than the general. that is there was more mopping up to do after the general who had a marvelous company of trained dog robbers under him. there’s not to reason why. no civilian administrator possibly hope to have such crew. i often think of the general’s aid with wonderment not unmixed with envy.

the chesterfieldian ‘fortiter in re, suaviter in modo’ precept never appealed to me because in the rough and tumble of public building and administration i have never known it to work. the chesterfields are in their drawing rooms elegantly attired and nonchalant, sipping port and eating cake, while the battles rage in the marketplace and at the barricadoes. it should be noted in passing that the belted earl of chesterfield is remembered today only as the man whom samuel johnson wrote the most excoriating, shriveling letter in history.

i’ll make another assertion which may astonish some of you, there’s hardly an undertaking for which we get credit which we invented or discovered. wise men were living before agamemnon. we were called in to build because the progenitors had the idea, but lacked the support, the finances, the know-how, and in some instances, the guts and elbow grease to beat their way to the goal. these things are not done by easygoing people who thumb a ride through life. we were not selected because we were popular, or because our toughness was admired by everybody. we slap no backs and kiss no babies. we were given the chore “faute de mieux,” as the french say, “for lack of anything better.” our only claim is that we have produced. can you know imagine metropolitan new york choked, throttled, tripped, coffined, and confined without the bridges, tunnels, parkways, expressways, and throughways built to open it up by those who had to beat and hack down opposition? do you think the increase in values around the old slaughterhouses where the united nations was build occurred by accident? the riverside park and the henry hudson parkway were done by leprechauns? that the belt parkway dropped from heaven? that the park at jones beach rose like an exhalation? or that magic reclaimed our marshes and waterfront? do you go with the sour-bellies and say that if we had not done these things someone else would?

you are the builders. you will have little on which to use your skill and earn your living if the snarling critics and breast-beaters, wise-crackers, beatniks, and squares take over this town, which in spite of them is still today the envy of all the great cities of the world. if we are slipping, it is because or home detractors, cynics, and apologists are doing their damnedest to hurt us. if you want prosperity, look to your laurels. you have strong competitors in the hinterland and ruthless ones abroad. life is a battle. and those who tolerate foes of their own household will have no one to blame if prouder, stronger, and more constructive workers elsewhere elbow them aside.

that is what my canadian power opposite jim duncan said about communist china. those who have any understanding of world competition should listen to him respectfully. “wherever one travels or one’s travels take one in china, unbelievable activity of material progress are in evidence everywhere. Factories, the building trades, basic industries, operate around the clock on a 3 eight-hour shift basis every day of the year, excepting the days of national rejoicing, which are six in number. in the city of peking alone more building has taken place in the last seven years than since the beginning of the ching dynasty in sixteen forty-four. everywhere new factories are being constructed: public buildings, apartment houses, schools, universities arising from their foundation with amazing rapidity. railway lines are being laid down, airports and sewage systems are being built, more food is being grown, more goods are being produced, more children and young people are being educated, and the specter of starvation no longer stalks the land.”

this building congress has a great role to play in a free society. it represents united brains, skills, brawn, and a stomach for competition. you take risks. you asked for a good market and the fair chance of reward. i speak for those who employ you on public and quasi-public works and i can promise you a busy and prosperous if not uneventful future, given conditions which make it possible. the critics by and large build nothing. there will always be new problems in a spreading metropolis. problems are, in a very real sense, signs of growth, without them we would stagnate. some of them to be sure represent lags which have grown so aggravating that they can no longer be tolerated. none of these are beyond our powers to alleviate if not wholly solve if all of us are willing to make some sacrifices for the common good. we have the tools. we have the means. we have the men. give us respected leadership that will breathe confidence, not dismay, into the people of new york and give loyal support and we will rebuild this city.

Bradford Clark:

On behalf of the congress, commissioner, many, many thanks.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150533
Municipal archives id: LT8865



DPLAfest 2016

I have the honor to be co-hosting DPLAfest 2016 in Washington, D.C., next week, April 14-15, 2016. Along with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress, we will host DPLA’s third annual series of interactive workshops, hackathons, and discussions.

The National Archives plays a major role in this year’s DPLAfest. Together with DPLA’s Executive Director Dan Cohen and representatives from other host organizations, I will be welcoming members of the public to DPLAfest 2016 as we kick off this year’s event.

Various staff from across the National Archives will be presenting on innovative projects throughout the event, including sessions on Making, Finding & Using Animated GIFsDigital Collections in the K-12 Classroom, as well as Transcription Projects at the National Archives.

With our colleagues at Historypin, we will provide a presentation on APIs, Apps, and Audiences. The National Archives and Historypin have been working together on a project to digitize World War I content and increase the creative reuse and impact of these collections. Based on the information gathered, we are creating a mobile app to deliver World War I content to museums, teachers, and coders. This presentation will provide an opportunity to share more about the process we followed and the app we’ve built, as well as to engage with the digital humanities communities and experts in the field.

WWI app image

Staff from the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian will also serve on the panel discussion: “Opportunities and Challenges in Collaboration.” We are proud of the innovative work we are doing at NARA, and we are eager to share it with the community.

DPLAfest 2016 will appeal to anyone interested in libraries, technology, eBooks, education, creative reuse of cultural materials, law, open access, and genealogy research. DPLAfest brings together librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers, technologists, publishers, authors, teachers, students, and many others to celebrate DPLA and its community of creative professionals.

You can keep up to date about DPLAfest 2016 by subscribing to its news list, bookmarking the DPLAfest 2016 homepage, keeping tabs on news and blog feed, or follow #DPLAfest on Twitter and Facebook.