Map of New Westminster District – a collaboration

We have a very large and rare 1905 map in our holdings that was dirty and falling apart. Last year, we collaborated with the Land Title & Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) and the BC Archives to conserve and digitize it. This is the story of why that conservation treatment happened and how it was done.

Image of the entire conserved map

Low-resolution version of Map of New Westminster District, 1905. Reference code AM1594-: MAP 138. A high-resolution version is available from our online search.

The 1905 Map of New Westminster District is almost 1 metre wide and over 2 metres long. It shows District Lots and other divisions of land for all of Metro Vancouver and as far east as Hope.

The LTSA has been actively conserving and digitizing the maps in its custody. Its own copy of this map is in very poor condition. The map was originally published for distribution but there are only a handful of copies left in public institutions. Although our copy was in bad condition, it was better than the others. LTSA proposed a pilot inter-institutional collaboration: the best available copy of the map would be conserved and digitized, the digital file would be distributed to the partners, and our paper map would be returned to us for storage and long-term preservation. Conservation and digitization work would be paid for by the BC Archives and LTSA.

The conservation work was complicated, as the map was in rough shape (and huge!). It needed to be cleaned so that all the information would be readable. Many pieces had fallen off or were barely clinging to the worn-out cotton backing fabric. The pieces had to be put back together so that it could be digitized safely. The work was done by Jean Topham, a Victoria conservator with decades of experience, with the assistance of Carly Wemyss. They provided us with photographs of the treatment process.

Long tear

Detail of edge tear before treatment. Photograph Sue Bigelow.

Dark water stains on map and many tears

Detail of staining and tears before treatment.

The surface of the map was cleaned by hand. This had to be done carefully, since the paper was brittle and the map was in pieces in many places.

Dark and light areas of map

This shows the contrast of the light area that has already been cleaned with the area darkened by surface dirt and mold. Fragments of eraser are visible on the surface.

After cleaning with erasers, the surface was wet-cleaned with distilled water. The surface is fragile and becomes more delicate while it is wet.

Hand holding Q-tip next to map surface

Cleaning with Q-tips and distilled water.

The old backing fabric was not capable of providing stable support for the paper map and needed to be removed. Before that could happen, the torn areas of the plan needed to be reinforced temporarily so they would stay in place.

Map with pieces of polyester fabric on face

Hollytex polyester fabric applied to the front surface with an adhesive that won’t dissolve in water.

The map could then safely be flipped over. The old backing fabric was removed slowly, in sections, with water. Once it was gone, pieces of thin Japanese tissue were applied to the back where there were tears and losses.

Map is face down. The cotton backing is missing on the left side.

The cotton backing fabric has been removed from the left and front sections and tissue strips have been stuck down with starch paste.

With the tears and loose pieces secured with tissue on the back, the map could be flipped over and the Hollytex fabric on the front removed.

Peeling a piece of fabric from the face of the map

The adhesive on the Hollytex fabric was dissolved with solvent and the pieces peeled off.

Deacidification solution was sprayed on the back of the map to make the paper less acidic.

Jean spraying with a spray bottle

Spraying a water-based deacidification solution.

While the map was still damp, the back was reinforced with sheets of thick Japanese mulberry paper with wheat starch paste. The map was too large for this to be done easily by one person.

Two people hold a sheet between them over the map

Jean and Carly lay down a sheet of backing paper. It looks very thick because it is being supported by a sheet of polyester fabric during this step.

The backing paper layer, without its polyester fabric support, was tapped to make sure it was well bonded with the map and there were no loose areas or air bubbles.

Two people tap with large brushes

Jean and Carly tap the damp backing paper in place with brushes made for that purpose.

Excess water was removed from the backing paper using blotters.

Woman presses sheet of blotter on back of map

Jean removes dampness. The map is not perfectly flat at this point.

Paper strips were pasted along the edges and the map was flipped face-up again. The edge strips were pasted to the table and it was left to dry. The pasted edges provided light tension as it dried, keeping it flat.

Last, translucent heat-set tissue was applied around the outer edges and linen tape was applied at both ends for added protection.

Hands holding tissue

Heat-set tissue has been applied along the edge shown at left.

Now this map, which could only be viewed on a large table at the Archives, is available online in high resolution for everyone to use. We’d like to thank the LTSA and the BC Archives for their financial contributions and for managing this successful collaboration.


Congratulations to Sandra Carrera and our other Updike Prize finalists

It’s a pleasure to announce that Sandra Carrera is the first ever winner of the Updike Prize for Student Type Design!

Updike Prize Trophy

You may have noticed that the trophy is also a fully-functional composing stick. We had a great evening with a lecture from Tobias Frere-Jones last Thursday, but if you missed it you can still visit the level 3 gallery cases to take a look at the type specimens of our four finalists:

Sandra Carrera, Picara (First Prize)
Chae Hun Kim, Hodoo
Prin Limphongpand, Rizvele (Runner-Up)
Yeon Hak Ryoo, Tranche

The specimens will be on display, with items from the Updike Collection that influenced the type design, until March 19th. Kudos to all four finalists who did a great job!

Picara, the winning typeface, was influenced by a type specimen published sometime in the 1770s by Antonio Espinosa, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve made the book available in its entirety online:



If you’re a student interested in type design, don’t forget that the 2016 competition starts now! Stop in to work with the collection or just learn more about it and the rules for the prize.

And if you want to be notified about next year’s Updike Prize ceremony, stay tuned to this blog, or send us your email address to be added to our mailing list.

‘Stock your mind…’ A Closing Post

Now that our Heritage Lottery Funded project has come to an end, we wanted to write one final post to thank our readers who followed along with the National Union of Women Teachers archive collection.  Both the cataloguing and education outreach projects have allowed us to increase accessibility to the collection, and shed a bit more light on these formidable women, determined to level the playing field of gender equality.  If you’d like to keep up to date with archive related education resources and blog updates (including classroom lesson plans and activities), head to our new site Archives For All, or the Newsam Library & Archives’ blog Newsam News.

Archives get the reputation for being dusty, stuffy places.  What collections like the NUWT prove is that archives are anything but useless papers of the past.  History’s tendency to repeat itself, as issues of the past continue to present themselves as issues in the present, is no more evident than in collections like the NUWT.  The NUWT disbanded in 1961, after achieving equal pay for men and women teachers.  Yet, 50+ years on, women continue the fight for equal pay, equal representation, and equal opportunity.

During a recent school workshop about life during the First World War, I asked a group of Year 3s, ‘Why are archives important?  Why do we bother saving – and looking – at all of this stuff?’  One very clever student raised his hand, and gave the following impassioned explanation:

we need the archives… because we need to learn from our old mistakes so we don’t make them again! – Year 3 student at St Joseph’s in Camden, positioning himself to take my job

On a personal note, this is my last week as the Archive’s Education Coordinator.  I have been so lucky to be a part of this team, this archive, and to have had the opportunity to work with such dynamic schools and community members.

While working with school pupils (whether they’re Year 2 or university students), the focus has always been on the archives – of course.  But alongside that, our objective has been to encourage critical enquiry, investigative skills and above all, to encourage students to question everything both in and outside the history classroom.  Go to the source, and then question that source, that issue, that argument.

I was recently reading Angela’s Ashes, and was struck by this passage, where Frank describes his teacher.  Mr O’Halloran’s words pretty much sum up why we think history education, which fosters all of those above skills, is so important…

Frank McCourt

He says, You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else buy you can’t make up an empty mind.  Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it

- Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Discover Special Collections and Archives: The Helen Miller Jones Collection of American Literature

Helen Miller Jones loved collecting books. She shared this love with Trinity University by gifting her collection containing numerous autographed first editions to Trinity University in 1977, and today the collection can be found in Special Collections & Archives. 
Perhaps one thing making this collection unique is the typescript of an Ernest Hemingway short story. Viewing the typescript it’s not difficult to imagine him sitting at his typewriter composing his story. And what about the changes he made after pulling the paper from the typewriter – why did he cross out a word here or there, only to substitute another?  What was going through his mind that might have made him change a specific word or phrase? 
You can also page through a final typescript of a Willa Cather title, ready to be sent off for printing.  Looking at the typescript, the thought comes to mind of how it must have felt to hold a completed novel before sending it on its final journey to the printers and subsequent release to the public.  Do you hope to someday find yourself in the same position – holding that completed story you have so carefully crafted before sending it off for publication?  Of course, now you’ll probably hit a key on a keyboard, rather than viewing a typed manuscript as did Ernest Hemingway and Willa Cather, along with so many others. 
Additionally, a handwritten note by Somerset Maugham in one of his books, or a book inscribed in 1933 to the collector Miss Helen Cameron, by Robert Frost are only a few  of the special items in this collection. Visit Special Collections to view these, or to page through Hemingway’s story or Willa Cather’s manuscript about to be printed.  This is only one of several collections in Special Collections & Archives and we will be highlighting them over time!  Special Collections is open Monday – Friday from 1:15pm – 5pm, or hours as posted.   
Check out our current exhibit featuring this collection on the 3rdfloor of Coates Library and come Discover Special Collections & Archives
 –Meredith Elsik

Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, LC-USZ62-42538

The President Announces His Intention to Appoint Laura A. DeBonis and Solomon B. Watson IV to the PIDB

Yesterday, the President announced his intention to appoint Laura A. DeBonis and Solomon B. Watson IV to each serve three-year terms as members of the Public Interest Declassification Board.  You can find a link to the White House press release announcing the appointments here.  The members of the PIDB look forward to working with Ms. DeBonis and Mr. Watson as they continue their efforts to improve declassification and modernize the classification system.

The Commonwealth Games Legacy

As we prepare our touring programme for the Hosts & Champions exhibition that will open on the 9th march in Trinity Church, Irvine, Jocelyn Grant, one of our Exhibition Assistants, provides an update on some of the material she has been researching working with the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive.

The Scottish Games

During the 84 year history of the Commonwealth Games, Scotland has now had the honour of hosting this event a total of 3 times. Twice in Edinburgh for the 1970 and 1986 Games, and of course in Glasgow this past year. For 11 days Edinburgh and Glasgow came alive in a flurry of sporting events that engaged and inspired the whole country. However the effect of these Games did not disappear after each closing ceremony, instead each Games has sought to provide a lasting legacy that would continue to encourage and support the surrounding community. In particular each city has often benefited from the addition of new venues.

Edinburgh 1970

The 1970 Games is often considered the Commonwealth Games of ‘firsts’. It was the first to use metric measurements, the first to use new technology to provide an electronic photo finish, and the first Games that the Queen attended. However it also produced two purpose-built venues that continued to serve its community during, after, and for the next Edinburgh Games in 1986! These venues are the Royal Commonwealth Pool and Meadowbank Stadium.

Meadowbank Stadium

Newsletter 9, May 1970

Newsletter 9, May 1970

At the grand cost of £2.8 million Meadowbank Stadium was built to accommodate athletics, fencing, wrestling and had its own dedicated velodrome.

Meadowbank Stadium under construction

Meadowbank Stadium under construction

While this facility was purpose built, the Edinburgh Newsletters in the archive provide an insight into how this stadium was intended to serve its surrounding community after the Games had finished. As the first newsletter released states:

“This centre has been designed to be a lasting asset to the capital city of Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland”

Seen as a ‘Capital Asset’ this centre was refurbished for the 1986 Games and once again played host to a number of sporting events, before continuing to provide a facility for the surrounding sport community. It was this community that launched a petition when threats of closure became imminent (Save Meadowbank Campaign) and helped to ensure that the stadium stayed open. Today it continues to host multiple sporting events such as the Scottish Judo Open, Karate competitions and roller derby (See here for more information about current events).

Royal Commonwealth Pool

Royal Commonwealth Pool

Royal Commonwealth Pool

Royal Commonwealth Pool being finished for the upcoming Games

Royal Commonwealth Pool being finished for the upcoming Games

Costing a totally of £1.6 million at the time, the Royal Commonwealth Pool is now a listed building and has created a lasting impact, with the facility also being used for both the 1970 and 1986 Games. Recently a major refurbishment – costing £37 million – was completed in 2012,  and the pool continues to provide an exceptional facility and venue for events, continuing it long tradition of participating in the Commonwealth Games by hosting the Glasgow 2014 diving competition! Now considered one of Scotland’s key monuments of the post-war period the pool continues to host diving competitions, waterpolo championships and more (the Commonwealth Pool’s events page can be found here).

Glasgow 2014

For the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow received a number of impressive venues and additions that have now gone on to host or benefit the local community. A particular highlight was the transformation of the exciting venue at Hampden Park.

Hampden Park

Hampden Park is well known in Scotland as the home to the national football team and was once the largest stadium in Europe. While this venue is not new, it underwent an impressive transformation for Glasgow 2014 with the playing surface being raised a total of 1.9m to transform the venue from a football stadium to a track and field facility.

This venue has contributed to the Game’s lasting legacy by giving its track to another venue! As part of the Glasgow 2014 iniative to distribute sporting equipment across the country, the track is finding a new home in Grangemouth Stadium and Crownpoint in Glasgow’s East End (more can be read about this story here), adding to the legacy created by the Games that looks to encourage a world-class sporting system.

There were many more venues involved in Glasgow 2014 that are still contributing to the sporting community in Scotland, and will allow the excitement of the Games to continue! If you have any stories of your time playing sports or watching them at these venues, get in touch!


Archaeology Archives Oxford 2015-02-24 10:45:41

The Historic Environment Image Researcher, Dr Janice Kinory, has been thinking about a particular image…

‘As a guest blogger, I’d like to use this venue to write about how old images in the HEIR Project collection can provide a fresh perspective on things we think we know as archaeologists.

I first learned about the innovative Roman rotary quern from text books. Having excavated at several Roman sites I have even found bits of rotary querns. I’ve seen complete rotary querns in museum showcases. I even had a fully developed mental model of the use of this implement, envisioning it being used by a solitary individual, possibly a slave, working indoors, grinding grain. In short, I thought I “knew” about rotary querns.

HMC: Palestine: "HOLY LAND."   "28. Women Grinding."

This image, showing a scene from 1930s Palestine, hit me like a thunderbolt for several reasons. Clearly, the presence of the working rotary quern at that date was the first shock, making me think of the Monty Python movie “The Life of Brian,” in which the question what have the Romans done for us is answered at length; the quern clearly needed to be added to that list.

The second thought was that grinding was shown as a social activity, with the two women, possibly a mother and daughter, sharing the work, each with a hand on the wooden drive handle. My third insight was that the work was clearly being performed outdoors, which undoubtedly minimised the inhalation of flour dust.

Most importantly, though, was my final thought: the recognition of the organic mat and cloth beneath the quern on which to gather the flour being produced. I’d never thought about needing a containment mechanism for the flour. I had virtually no chance of finding an organic mat of any type with a quern fragment in an archaeological context and had never seen one included in a museum display beneath a quern. This was, as they say, a paradigm-shifting moment for me.

This image came from the collection of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford. It was part of their collection of pictures from the Holy Land, with many of the pictures in that group showing sites associated with Christianity. Some, such as this one, focus on the people living in that region in the early to mid-20th century.

The picture leaves many questions unanswered; we do not know whether or not the photographer was aware that the grinding process dated back to the Roman period, nor do we know whether this was an illustration of contemporary 1930’s life or a staged representation of how things were done when the older woman was a child. Was this an activity for the household, or was the grain being ground in sufficient quantity so as to produce a saleable surplus, generating cash income? The longer one stares at the picture, the more questions come to mind.

With almost 10,000 images already available, I believe that the HEIR Project images have the potential to shift many paradigms. I would love to hear from those who read our blog with their thoughts about this picture.’

‘A backward lad’ – records of the children at the Royal Scottish National Institution

The cataloguing work on the Continuity of Care project is still going on, with work well under way on the 3000+ applications. The database to the collection now holds over 1000 items. But the number of items that show the abilities of the children themselves can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Opposite is a rare example of the literacy and numeracy skills of one applicant. His name

Handwriting and long division by George Aitken, 1886

Handwriting and long division by George Aitken, 1886

was George Aitken as he was fully able to write himself, along with his date of birth. To include an example of his numeracy skills is even more unusual. In his note accompanying these samples, A J Fitch, secretary to the Institution writes:

‘I have seen this lad and have difficulty in discovering his imbecility. The boy reads fairly well – writes and does sums. He is a backward lad consequent upon elipeptic [sic] attacks which prevents his attendance at an ordinary school.’

The Institution had a policy of refusing admission to epileptics. At the bottom of the medical certificate that accompanies most of the applications is the declaration:

‘Cases of Insanity, of confirmed Epilepsy, of the Deaf and Dumb, and of the Blind, are ineligible for admission, except upon payment’.

In reality this policy was readily overlooked. As Fitch himself commented in a note to an 1889 application:

‘ you have however somewhat relaxed your rule as to epilepsy and may be disposed to look favourably’.

Although easy to dismiss this change of heart as motivated by the payments anticpated from the parents, one application from 1891  shows an other side of the Institution. Subject to fits and ‘unable to make any payment’, she was still admitted.

Schoolroom at the Scottish National Institution, c1915

Schoolroom at the Scottish National Institution, c1915


Forget Freebies: Fiorello Forks Over $15 for First Fair Ticket

In early 1939 advance tickets to the upcoming World’s Fair were made available in a pre-sale at “bargain prices.” Mayor La Guardia sent his check in, and on February 23, 1939 received ticket No. 1  from Grover Whalen at the steps of City Hall. During the ceremony, La Guardia and Whalen took the opportunity to criticize the practice of giving free passes to city employees, politicians and other people with connections. La Guardia made it clear that this was part of his administration’s stand against corruption. Listen to excerpts from the WNYC broadcast above, or to the complete audio here.

(Audio from the Vincent Voice Library, Michigan State University)

Vintage Viands results

Join us in congratulating the winners of the best and worst recipes for Vintage Viands! The best recipe goes to Bailey Crumpton for Gingersnap Balls which can be found here: on page 11. The worst recipes goes to Paul Hessling (pictured) for his Turkey (Chicken) Aspic (also pictured) which can be found here: on page 4. Thank you all for your participation and we hope to see everyone next year!

Also, if you want to see some pictures of the event (thank you, Cheryl), they are on our Facebook page and Flickr.

Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years. She is still discovering things to this day. Here is one of her recent mysteries:

First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

The John MacKay Shaw Collection at Florida State University has the manuscript for a book by Stephen Graham. It is two or three inches thick. Recently a colleague asked me the source of this manuscript, but we remain confused about its subject and whence it came. About the author, we knew little. Looking for something else a few days later, I opened the Third Supplement of Dr. Shaw’s bibliography Childhood in Poetry near the middle. Surprise! The page revealed the illustration of a letter penned by poet Vachel Lindsay to Mrs. Stephen Graham. The book that the illustration was copied from, Lindsay’s Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, is described on the facing page of the Shaw bibliography. FSU’s library catalog revealed its call number and Special Collections staff retrieved the book from the closed stacks. The letter begins on the flyleaf and continues onto the half title page of the book. It is dated February 13, 1920 and reflects Lindsay’s memories of tramping with Graham and sharing their search for the meaning of life beside their campfires. There is no mention of anything related to the manuscript.

Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

I was familiar with Graham’s name. In 1998, one of FSU’s English professors came into Special Collections and handed me some materials related to Stephen Graham. If the manuscript was part of this offering, it had been handed to somebody else and I never saw it until several years later. Most of these materials I received related to Graham’s leadership of a group who met in the out of doors and shared their poetry not only by reading it, but by performing it as well. These pages too shed no light on the mysterious manuscript.

Further searches of Stephen Graham in FSU’s catalog and in the John MacKay Shaw Collection Finding Aid yielded information but still did not answer my questions. I turned to the Internet. On Wikipedia, an article by Michael Hughes carries a lode of information; Graham’s whole life with titles of many books he had written about his travels all over the world. Hughes wrote this article for the love of it because he felt that Graham has not been given the attention he deserves. He mentions the long “tramps” that Graham and Lindsay shared and their mutual interest in the spiritual aspect of life. After ten years enjoying each other’s company, changes separated them, but they continued their friendship by mail until Lindsay’s death in 1930. Hughes says nothing on Wikipedia about Graham’s interest in poetry however.

Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

Dr. Hughes remarks that late in his life Stephen Graham visited a friend in Tallahassee. Was this friend the professor who gave me the Graham materials?

Hughes has written a biography of Graham, Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham. I have scanned this book on line fairly thoroughly several times and have yet to find any mention of our manuscript or an expose of The Poetry Society. I remain in contact with Dr. Hughes in hopes of some avenue opening up to the manuscript.  The latest from Dr. Hughes is that the Harry Ransom Institute in Texas has a copy of it. Stay tuned!

Perhaps the manuscript was written too late in Graham’s life for him to pursue publication, so he had given it to our professor in hopes that he could arrange it. I have written to Dr. Hughes; perhaps between us we can solve the mystery of the Graham manuscript.

Sudden discovery occurs often in my work in Special Collections – far often enough to keep the interest level up and set me off on new adventures each year. The library life is an exciting one – new mystery leaping out while research lays another mystery back to rest.

Japan Week 2015 – Library display of art books

Scotland and Japan flagsDr Isao Ichige has donated a beautiful set of books, Nihon Bijutsu Zenshu (Japanese art: the complete works) – essentially a history of Japanese culture – to Stirling University.

This valuable set of books contains a comprehensive list of Japanese art objects in full colour and with detailed information for each item from throughout Japan’s long history.

Dr Ichige taught Japanese History and Archeology at Waseda University and its affiliated high school until his retirement in 2008. He is well-known in Japan for his NHK programmes (Japan’s equivalent to the BBC) about archeology and introducing his various discoveries at pre-historical excavations and sites across Japan.

Dr Ichige is a member of the Japan Scotland Association and life-long friend of its president, Dr Taeko Seki. He decided to donate the books when he learned about “Japan Week” at the University of Stirling.

The books are on display outside the Archives Reading Room in the Library.

A teaser: ‘Living off the Romans in the 19th and 20th centuries’

We are looking forward to a talk by our researcher, Dr Janice Kinory, who will be exploring the relationship between commercial photographers in the late 19th century and the Roman ruins they photographed. She will be showcasing many of the beautiful slides from the HEIR database:



If you are a member of the Roman Discussion Forum, we look forward to seeing you at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford next week, but if not, Janice will be blogging about her talk here in the near future (and no doubt there will be a paper forthcoming…)

A Place of Pilgrimage

While assisting with Special Collections & Archives instruction classes as part of my graduate assistantship, I have found the following quote from Michael Suarez, director of the Rare Book School, full of plenty of food for thought:

Great Bible
Great Bible, 1541 (Vault BS167 1541**)

How is the way that your collections are mediated telling those who are in contact with them about their treasureful-ness? About the power of materiality that’s ritually taken out and placed in someone’s hands (or not)? … If we don’t understand our institutions as places of pilgrimage, as places of material embodiments that have profound effects on community, identity, and the expression of humanities, then we do not understand the vocation of the librarian … a high and noble vocation in which we are the custodians of a materiality that is absolutely intrinsic to the identity of our civilization (as cited in Overholt, 2013, p. 19-20).

If at first this seems like an overly lofty vision, I am happy to report that, as a graduate assistant, I have been lucky enough to catch glimpses of this lofty vision in action. Whether it’s watching students interact with 4,000 year old cuneiform tablets or discussing how a 21st-century artist’s book pushes the boundaries of what we think a “book” should be, I am in a privileged place  to help mediate what are many students’ first interactions with rare books and manuscripts.

Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives, discussing printing with Introduction to the History of Text Technologies students.

For FSU Special Collections & Archives, instruction classes are an invaluable means of outreach. By taking materials out of the secured stacks and setting them up in a classroom setting, we are bringing them to students who might not know where we are located, what we have, and what we can offer. Most importantly, we want students to know we exist for them!

When we bring rare books and manuscripts to the classroom, we want to communicate the “treasureful-ness” of these items, many of which are one-of-a-kind. The value of the items means they must be handled with respect and care, and yes, this means rules (no pens, markers or highlighters, no food and drinks), but perhaps these rules can be thought of as part of the ritual of scholarship rather than an imposition designed to make people stay away. Along with the commitment to preservation comes the commitment to providing access, and one of the most exciting things about working in Special Collections & Archives is learning to find the balance between these seemingly polarized goals.

The description of Special Collections & Archives as a place of pilgrimage is an apt one. Students and scholars come to us from across campus, across the country, and sometimes from across oceans; they come from across disciplines. Sometimes they come in person, sometimes they call us, and sometimes they come digitally. During instruction classes, we get to come to them. No matter how simple or complicated their information needs are, Special Collections & Archives has the awesome privilege of putting our unique and distinctive materials in their hands and on their screens.

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


Overholt, J. (2013). Five theses on the future of special collections. RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage, 14(1), 15-20.

The Mascot Family from Victoria!

Klee Wyck from the archive!

Klee Wyck from the archive!

Continuing our introduction of all members of the Commonwealth Games Mascot family, this week we have Klee Wyck!

A large Orca – also known as as a killer whale – Klee Wyck was the proud mascot of the XV Commonwealth Games for 1994 in Victoria, Canada. Seen as intelligent, sociable and graceful, these native animals were regarded as the perfect symbol for the ‘Friendly Games’.

‘Klee Wyck’ was the name given to this mascot in the Nuu-chan Nulth language, which roughly translates to ‘Laughing One’ in english.

The Victoria 1994 Games were unique in that they marked the return of South Africa after a thirty year absence following the end of apartheid. This was also the last time that Hong Kong participated in the Games before the transfer of sovereignty from Britian to China was complete.


Exhibition Celebrates Honors College Anniversaries

University Archives worked together with the Honors College to curate an exhibit on the history of Honors at UNCW. The Honors College is currently celebrating two anniversaries: 50 years of Departmental Honors and 20 years of the Honors Scholars Program. Drawing on materials from the Honors College and University Archives documents and artifacts, the exhibit traces the path of honors from Departmental Honors to the Honors Scholars Program to the Honors College of today. 

read more

With All My Love: The Frances Isaac Letters, 1944-1947

Frances Isaac writing a letter to her fiance Herbert Dotter, ca. 1945.

Much has been written about letters sent during World War II – movies and books chronicle the stories of undelivered correspondence found decades later, letters between young lovers parted by an ocean, advice from mothers and fathers to their sons. Last fall, Heritage Protocol and University Archives were excited to acquire a collection of letters and photographs sent by FSCW student Frances Isaac to her deployed fiance, Herbert Dotter. From 1944 through ’47, Frances “Frannie” Isaac sent hundreds of letters to her fiance who was stationed in Liberia during WWII.

Notes written on the back of a photograph, ca. 1945.

Frances started school at FSCW in 1943, and worked as an attache for the press in the Florida Legislator. She was an introvert, and often expressed in her letters that she preferred the solitude of studying in the library to gossiping with her classmates. In a letter from 1944, Frances wrote that she felt “pretty disgusted with the girls,” describing how her peers would gather at the gates of campus to talk to young military personnel. Many of the letters document the mundane, recounting what she ate for dinner that night, the new dresses she’d bought, difficult homework assignments. In some letters, she would talk about the multiple health ailments she faced, like a pulled tooth she had in 1946.

The binding theme throughout all of the letters, however, was the future of their relationship. In earlier letters, Frances would gush with love for Herbert, soliloquies filled with plans for their marriage and how she felt when she thought about him. But by 1947, her letters had become increasingly antagonistic until she eventually called things off. In a letter from March 1947, Frances compared their relationship to that with her father, explaining that the unconditional love Herbert showed her reminded her of the way her father treated her: “I can’t marry you – it would be like marrying my own father.” A few letters later, with a returned engagement ring, Frances tells Herbert about how she met someone new: “we’re like two lost souls adrift in an ocean who understand the fears hopes, frustration and desires of the other.”

Inside of Valentine's Day Card, 1947
Inside of Valentine’s Day Card, 1947

Unfortunately, we only have half of the narrative from this epic love story. Not much is known about Frances Isaac after she graduated from FSCW. Herbert Dotter eventually married someone else, and passed away at the age of 92 in 2009.

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.

Valentine’s Day in Special Collections and Archives

 By Icely88 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
In honor of February and Valentine’s day, we here at Special Collections and Archives thought it might be fun to explore the different books we have about romance and love and the human heart. This of course is a limited list, there are numerous other books that will not be listed in this post that you should absolutely come check out!
For all you biology lovers, or those who just really want to know how the body works, there are a couple of great books in our collection for you this holiday season. Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis… De humani corporis fabrice libri septem. Cum indice rerum & uerborum memorabilium locupletissimo, by Andreas Vesalius is a book about the human anatomy in the 1500s. It is considered one of the most important books in medicine, and one of his most famous works. Born in Belgium, Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. Another fun read for the biology lover would be The anatomy and physiology of the human body: containing the anatomy of the bones, muscles, and joints, and the heart and arteries, by John Bell. If you’re interested in biology and psychology Fay Bound Alberti’s Matters of the heart: history, medicine, and emotion, covering a range of everything from the physical body to hormones to disease–how romantic!

 By Jonathan Thorne (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re into the more poetic side of Valentine’s Day, not to worry. Special Collections has books for you. Everything ranging from love poems from places like Egypt (by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock) and Greece (by Jacques Le Clercq or Corrinne Ondine Pache), a collection of love stories from Brazil (by Fabio Lucas, Elizabeth Lowe, and Edla van Steen), and finally Henrietta Temple. A love story by Benjamin Disraeli–a fascinating love story (according to Goodreads) about the plight of a man who must now marry well in order to save his family name and pay off his debts. 
For those of you who would like to focus on relationships this February, whether that be friendships or romantic relationships, we have (and again there is much more than this) Brotherly love: freemasonry and male friendship in Enlightenment France by Kenneth Loiselle, Secret love: the effects of secrecy on romantic relationships by Sara Dimitri, and Love Between the Sexes by Henry Miller. 
Any art or photography majors or enthusiasts out there may enjoy our copy of The Face of Love.
Let us not forget those who (with legitimate reason) believe that Valentine’s Day has become a celebration of Hallmark rather than the Saint it was meant to honor. There are plenty of books unrelated to love including, The practical feminism of Rebecca West : three novels in the context of contemporary feminist theory by Elizabeth Schewe, and Marxism & feminism by Charnie Guettel.*
There is something for everyone in Special Collections, whether you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places or if romantic type books aren’t for you, you can find something with us. 

*This is not to say that I don’t believe Feminists cannot celebrate Valentine’s Day, because it is most certainly your right (as it is anyone’s) to celebrate or not celebrate what you wish. These books simply came up when I searched key words related to this February holiday. 

–Brandi Russell, Trinity Student, Class of 2015 

Works Cited
Florkin, M.D. Marcel. “Andreas Vesalius (Belgian Physician).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
Vesalius, Andreas. Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis … De Humani Corporis Fabrice Libri Septem. Cum Indice Rerum & Uerborum Memorabilium Locupletissimo. Venetiis: Apud Franciscum Franciscium Senensem, Ioannem Criegher Germanum, 1568. Print.
“Librivox.” LibriVox. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
Disraeli, Benjamin, and Philip Guedalla. Henrietta Temple: A Love Story. London: Peter Davies, 1927. Print.

Daddy’s Girl: a Valentine

A long time ago I had a boyfriend who used to unconsciously signal that he was about to deliver unwelcome news by saying, “ya gotta love this…” As it turned out, I didn’t gotta, and his “love” was a hollow thing. A more solid love – in this case, a father’s love for his daughter – is this post’s Valentine offering.

Beecher, Henry Ward. 1834 Standing portrait The “valentine” (as I think of it) came to us in 2007 as part of a generous gift from Bruce Gimelson of letters and photographs relating to Henry Ward Beecher, Class of 1834. To reduce a huge life to a few sentences, Beecher (1813-1887) was a wildly popular preacher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn (1847-1887), a rebellious son of Calvinism, an eloquent anti-slavery advocate, and the 50-year husband of Eunice Bullard, by whom he had 11 children, 7 of whom died early.

The Beechers had a troubled marriage and Henry was rumored to have had several affairs, the first as early as his ministry in Indiana during the 1840s. According to Debby Applegate’s superb biography of Beecher, The Most Famous Man in America, the minister may also have been the father of Violet Beach, who is on paper the daughter of Moses Sperry Beach, publisher of the newspaper “The Sun” and son of the founder, Moses Yale Beach, of the Associated Press. Applegate’s biography considers the affair between Henry and Moses’ wife Chloe and the likelihood that Henry was Violet’s father. While we might wish for DNA evidence, what we have in this case is photographic and manuscript evidence. Among the former is this:

Violet Beach, ca. 1890

Violet Beach, ca. 1890

Beecher, Henry Ward. ca. 1840

Henry Ward Beecher, ca. 1845


Henry Ward Beecher & Violet Beach, ca. 1875

Henry Ward Beecher & Violet Beach, ca. 1875

In addition to the convincing documentation of the relationship between Chloe Beach and Beecher that Applegate assembles in her biography, we also have evidence of Beecher’s attachment to Violet Beach in 12 letters that were part of Gimelson’s gift. In 8 of the letters, Beecher signs off as “grandpa,” which he means “in spirit”; in the other 4 letters, he is “Henry Ward Beecher,” safer still. But in a letter signed with his full name in the spring of 1885, Beecher refers twice to a “daughter” and writes with good-humored outrage as a protective father whose child has been slighted. Surely this energetic letter soothed Violet’s wounded heart and made her laugh too. What more could Beecher do, what more could Violet ask? Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he was her “real” father or not.

Beecher-Beach-1885-Apr-8 Beecher-Beach-1885-Apr-8-contd My dear Violet –
You are quite right in all you say about Will’s engagement, but you don’t go half far enough. It is a crime that cannot be excused, nor can language be found that will make it more odious. I am ready to stab him & poison her. Should such conduct go unpunished, the whole world might catch the infection & grow as wicked as they were before the flood. For is it not said that they were “marrying & giving in marriage” – until the flood came & swept them all away” & served them right too! I don’t know – I fear stabbing will be too good for Will. It will let him off too soon. Let’s see if we can’t think of some choice torment. What say you to letting him marry this outrageous sweetheart, & be compelled to live with her? And then, in about 25 years let them have some good for nothing fellow walk up & marry their daughter. Yes, that will be better.

But nourish your wrath. Don’t let it go out. I will send you a vocabulary of words, & a few oaths suited to this occasion – and you can copy them off & recite them morning & evening instead of the good prayers in the Episcopal Book – which are weak & cool affairs whereas you want damnatory & red hot petitions. Trust Providence, my dear. Read the Objurgatory Psalms. Begin with Psalm 137:7-9, Psalm 69: 22-28, Ps. 59: 10-17. But, above all, that choice Psalm 109.

I would suggest, also, that for a while I would let the New Testament alone – as it may somewhat interfere with the sentiments expressed in the psalms.

I will try to help you all I can, & will invent a few new oaths by the time the old [staple ones] get cool.

Yours in the bonds of an Everlasting hatred of all who get married to anyone’s daughter.

Henry Ward Beecher
Apr 8, 1885, three days after Easter

This letter sent me scurrying to find Psalm 109* and vowing to add “objurgatory” to my regular vocabulary.

"New English Bible: The Old Testament," Oxford University Press, 1970.

96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn

96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn

I wish I knew who the odious Will was. I wish I knew whether it was on account of the inexcusable little cur that Violet never married. Instead, she lived out her life in her family’s palatial apartment at 96 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, and died in 1946 two days after Valentine’s Day.


*Psalm 109 from the “New English Bible: the Old Testament,” Oxford University Press/Cambridge University Press, 1970.

The Tugboat, Workhorse of New York Harbor

In the 19th century, New York became a railway hub, and steam tugs aided in transporting rail freight down the river into Manhattan, guiding boxcar barges. By 1929, there were over 700 tugs working in busy New York Harbor. Towing has been largely a family business in the past and many of the tugboat captains you’ll hear in this episode work for McAllister Towing, founded in 1864 and still a leading name in New York tugboats. In fact, McAllister won last year’s Annual Great North River Tugboat Race, which took place at Pier 84. 

In this short piece, you’ll hear the sounds of the harbor, the toot of tugboats, and you’ll hear from the hard-working captains who head out into the harbor tirelessly time and time again. At the time of this recording, the tugboats in New York Harbor were running on diesel, and not steam as they first did. A tugboat can have a life of almost three quarters of a century, so it is possible that one of the McAllister tugboats heard in this episode may still be towing today. 

Below you can hear two clips from the raw tape of the Cinema Sounds interview with Brian McAllister. He describes what it is like to steer a tug and what tug captains do in the event of a disaster in the harbor. You can hear Brian speak more recently about the towing business in a 2005 interview published by the Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America at New York University.

The Art of Steering a Tug


What Happens if There’s a Disaster?

“New York is a city of the sea. It’s strength and greatness come from the sea. And the sounds of the waterfront beat like a pulse in the sound of the city.”


Moving Historical Geodata to the Web

In nearly every case, “historical geodata” means a paper map. Digitizing that map gives us an image of a paper map. While an image can be useful, historical maps turned into actionable data are much more useful. Moving geodata from paper to electronic data can be complicated and involve many actions, including:

  • Describe the map accurately, preferably using standard terms
  • Digitize the map
  • Georectify the digitized image (associate points in the image with their geocoordinates, for example, so that the image can be positioned on OpenStreetmap or Google Maps exactly where it belongs)
  • Extract image features—such as polygons, text, or contour lines—as digital layers
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, flagship building of the New York Public Library. Photographer Sue Bigelow.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, flagship building of the New York Public Library. Photographer Sue Bigelow.

From November 5-7, 2014, I attended a meeting of 54 people from three continents at the New York Public Library called Moving Historical Geodata to the Web. This meeting, including expenses for attendees, was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. We were the only archives and the only Canadian institution represented.

This was not the kind of meeting where participants give presentations and then go home. It was a mix of presentations, discussions and collaborative brainstorming designed to produce long-term working relationships, projects and infrastructure.

virtual pins on a map

Screenshot from NYPL’s Building Inspector application

Our host, Matt Knutzen, Geospatial Librarian and Curator for NYPL, explained the inspiration for this meeting. In 2001, NYPL started digitizing maps and has since digitized thousands. They always wanted them to be more than just images, and to be usable by the public. NYPL Labs has worked with Topomancy LLC to create Map Warper, an award-winning web application which allows anyone to georectify images of maps and extract some features. NYPL Labs also created Building Inspector, an application which allows the public to contribute “bite-sized” quality inspection and correction of map features which have been extracted by machine. Realizing that other institutions also wanted to make their maps actionable in some way, they organized this meeting to organize the community.

Participants work as developers, librarians, researchers, institutional administrators, conservators, educators, artists, geospatial specialists, visualization and public access professionals, bringing diverse perspectives to the group. Lightning talks showed us some of the projects they were involved in and gave an indication of where there might be overlap and gaps.

Here’s a sample of the projects mentioned in these talks:

The National Library of Scotland has, among other things:

Screenshot of side-by-side comparison viewer on National Library of Scotland’s site

Screenshot of side-by-side comparison viewer on National Library of Scotland’s site

The University of Virginia created Map Scholar, an online application that allows georeferencing, annotation, image processing and curation of geospatial data.

Stanford University developed Orbis, an interactive mapping application of transportation (“the circulatory system of human movement”) in the Roman Empire. It would be wonderful to create an Orbis of other times and places.

Screenshot of Orbis

Screenshot of Orbis

Shift (creators of Historypin), based in London, created Mapping Emotions in Victorian London, a crowd-sourced project to annotate a map with emotions from Victorian fiction.

The University of Portsmouth and the Great Britain Historical GIS Project have created Old Maps Online with technological development from Klokan Technologies. Scans of maps in repositories around the world can be found and viewed.

Screenshot of Old Maps Online looking at London

Screenshot of Old Maps Online looking at London

OpenStreetMap has a new OpenHistoricalMap project to make georectified historical maps available in different time layers.

MIT Libraries, Princeton University and Stanford University have collaborated on GeoBlacklight, a project which improves searching and sharing of structured geospatial data and is also useful with scanned map images.

The Library of Congress, working with Topomancy LLC, has created a digital gazetteer (geographical dictionary), drawing on information from over 100 different databases.

Screenshot from Library of Congress gazetteer

Screenshot from Library of Congress gazetteer

Wikimedia Finland is starting to make archival maps available through Wikimaps and would like to contribute to the OpenHistoricalMap project and work toward a seamless online historical experience which would include georeferencing and a gazetteer.

Having reviewed the current state of the relevant technology, we broke into groups to discuss issues. This gave us some useful ideas, including:

  • One big vision, an ambitious common goal, roughly summarized as “the sum total of human geography, rasterized, vectorized, made available to everyone, everywhere for free”.
  • We also recognized that there are many different types of users of geographic data (not just academic researchers), so it needs to be available in different, flexible ways.
  • Tools to automatically extract information from scans are either rudimentary or do not exist: much of this work is being done by hand.
  • It is important to continue to preserve the original paper map and to build digital preservation into our work.
  • It would be useful to adapt Tim Berners-Lee’s 5-star system for publishing data to create a similar system for publishing geodata
Five stars of open data, summarized. Photograph by W3C consortium.  Mug available in W3C shop on Café Press.

Five stars of open data, summarized. Photograph by W3C consortium.
Mug available in W3C shop on Café Press.

We also realized we need to find more ways to collaborate on the large projects. The next step was for everyone to identify people they could collaborate with, and discuss how that could happen. Many specific plans were made for collaboration on digitization, software development on Github, gazetteer development, and more.

Finally, each participant made a pitch for a specific project or idea, large or small, which could be worked on, and participants voted with stickers on which ones they thought were feasible, which they thought would have the greatest impact and which they would commit to working on. Top-voted ideas are here. A sample of these ideas are:

  • United (States|Kingdom) of (Sanborn|Goad). Sanborn Fire Insurance maps exist of the entire United States, held by various institutions; some other countries are shown in Goad’s maps. We should locate them, describe and scan them all.
  • Map CAPTCHA. Create a CAPTCHA-like way for the public to contribute to verifying map data.
  • Build a reliable and automated feature extractor.
  • Contribute data to OpenHistoricalMaps.

This meeting was a great success, as it brought together a community of interest and created several plans of action. We are pleased to be able to contribute to some of these initiatives.

Historical geodata is a valuable resource and we have already digitized and made available some key maps in our holdings. In 2015, we intend to make more historical geodata available, and make it useful in different ways. We will be announcing these projects as they are completed.

Harrison Salisbury, The Reporter as Witness to the Truth

In this March 1, 1988 talk, Harrison Salisbury, a giant of 20th century journalism, explains that a newsperson’s obligation is to report an event “to convey the essence of what happened and why it’s significant.” “This may sound simple,” says Salisbury, a former World War II correspondent for United Press International who then went on to have a distinguished career with The New York Times, “but it is an extremely hard task.”

Salisbury says the parable of “Rashomon,” the classic Japanese film of people who recount multiple conflicting versions of a murder they think they have witnessed, parallels the travails that a journalist encounters on a routine basis. As an example, he describes his first reporting assignment in his home state of Minnesota, covering what he initially thought was a simple automobile accident but which turned out to have as many versions as there were witnesses. Later, his editors killed a story he wrote in the early 1930’s about the unemployed in the Twin Cities because local politicians and business leaders insisted that the Depression hadn’t come to their towns. “People see what they want to see.” The listener can almost hear Salisbury’s shoulders shrug. “It’s a living phenomenon that can’t be stopped.”

His most profound encounter with multiple versions of the truth came during his coverage of the United States air attacks on North Vietnam. Salisbury — reporting from Hanoi during the Christmas of 1966 — described bombs that leveled dwellings and killed civilians. His account did not coincide with the story that was being touted by President Lyndon Johnson and the Pentagon; they insisted that the bombing was “surgical,” only hitting steel and concrete targets of military value. Salisbury, who huddled with North Vietnamese civilians in bomb shelters, knew otherwise, and filed accounts that made trouble for the powerful, who then launched ad hominem attacks against him. But it was later revealed that the information he presented regarding the scope of the bombing damage turned out to have been independently and immediately verified as accurate by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Winner of multiple George Polk Awards, Salisbury insisted that a journalist’s true job is to bear witness. This often requires being confrontational and getting “brickbats rather than bouquets” from those who come under the journalist’s lens. He ironically describes reporters who perceived themselves as having friendly relationships with Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Salisbury says these leaders were all master manipulators capable of swaying journalists to write favorably of them. Salisbury confessed that he was not immune from Presidential blandishments. Thus, he actually found himself more comfortable covering Presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon: neither made any bones about their dislike of the press, which made it easier for the journalist to keep a professional distance.

“To be uppity, to be contradictory,” Salisbury says, “is the essence of the American system” of press freedom. Salisbury reached such a conclusion during the years 1949 through 1954, when he reported from the Soviet Union as Moscow Bureau Chief for The Times. The Soviet government press conferences were attended by dozens of Russian “journalists” who asked no questions and took no notes as Communist officials delivered policy statements and offered statistics. The Russian reporters didn’t need to gather facts: the stories had already been prepared and delivered to their offices in officially approved manuscripts.

Salisbury, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Soviet Union, said all dispatches from the American press during the late Stalin and early Khrushchev years were subjected to relentless censorship. He tells of using subtle techniques with mixed results to get information past the censors.

Journalists in this country have often been challenged for making Americans uncomfortable, too. When Salisbury was seen taking notes by Barry Goldwater supporters at a campaign rally, they demanded that he stop writing what the candidate was saying. “It was as if I would do damage by revealing what he said.” He notes that such an attitude is widely held in this nation. But Salisbury maintains that for America to continue as a healthy society, it’s important that the media be willing to accept criticism by those it covers. “The turbulent mix of ideas brought forth by the press is our strength.”

Salisbury died at the age of 86 in 1993. In addition to his newspaper achievements, which included founding The New York Times Op-Ed page in 1973, he wrote 29 books on world events including the Nazi siege of Leningrad, Mao Zedong’s long march to revolutionary victory in China, the Vietnam War, and the protest at Tiananmen Square.


Note: Harrison Salisbury’s 46-minute talk is followed by short interviews with American journalists Edwin Diamond of New York Magazine and Richard C. Hottelet of CBS News. In this 12-minute segment, the two journalists discuss their own encounters with the “Rashomon” effect.

This program originally aired on WNYC on June 13, 1993.

No spelt, please, we’re Saxon

Originally posted on Not Just Dormice – Food for Thought:

Guest blogger Mark McKerracher considers the fate of foodstuffs after Roman rule…


The boats safely beached, four Germanic feet touched the sands of old Britannia. The heavily moustached faces of Hengest and Horsa looked out over these strange new shores, littered with imperial detritus. A limp, decaying sack lay at Horsa’s feet.

‘Spelt flakes,’ it read, ‘naturally rich in Romanitas.’

‘Pah,’ muttered Horsa. ‘Foreign muck.’


Behind this stirring vignette of the birth of England lies a real archaeological conundrum: why didn’t the Anglo-Saxons eat more spelt? The facts are simply stated. When charred crop deposits are excavated from Romano-British settlements, the wheat component is practically always dominated by one type: spelt wheat. Yet from the 5th century AD onwards, in deposits from Anglo-Saxon settlements, bread wheat takes its place, dominating the wheats to the near-total exclusion of spelt – as it has done, pretty much, ever since…

View original 1,003 more words

US Coast Guard Cutter Oak 1962

Initially launched in 1921, the first Cutter OAK of the US Coast Guard serviced the harbor’s aids to navigation. This included maintaining the buoys and lighthouses in the New York Harbor. By 1962, when this episode of New York: A Portrait in Sound aired, the Cutter Oak managed the same responsibilities from the ocean surrounding the NY area, all the way up the Hudson River to Albany, at times. The OAK worked seven days a week in good, and especially in bad, weather.

In 2002, the present day Cutter OAK was launched, where it continues to service waters surrounding the southeast borders of the United States, as well as areas around the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Song Pluggers: Then and Now

Before pre-recorded music became widely commercially available, a song plugger’s job was to entice customers to buy the sheet music, often by sitting down at department store pianos and playing the latest hits. Many musicians and composers started their careers as pluggers, some of the more notable people including George Gershwin, Ron Roker, and Lil Hardin Armstrong. Song pluggers have come a long way since the early Tin Pan Alley days; by 1962 their duties were adapted, and their job mostly involved pitching to publishers, who were always looking for the next big hit.

This change in a song plugger’s responsibilities caused unease in some. In the words of Redd Evans, music publisher: “We’ve become slaves to the taste of children. This is a very bad thing because pretty soon we’ll start wearing knee breeches again and this is something I want to try to avoid.”

In the background you can hear J. Fred Coots, American songwriter, plugging his biggest hit, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town.

The Clash of Foils: A look into the Fencers Club of 1962

“At the Fencers Club and half a dozen salons throughout the city, you can always hear the ringing clash of foils, the courtly language, and the dancing footsteps.”

This episode of New York: A Portrait in Sound looks into the sophisticated sport of fencing. Listen as champions, such as Dr. Daniel Bukantz, 4 times national champion, describe what it’s like to be a fencer.

Shakespeare in the Park in 1962

In 1962, the Delacorte Theater officially opened in the heart of Central Park as a place for free performances for the public. This episode of New York: A Portrait in Sound takes a look into Shakespeare in the Park, a festival that has turned into a long-running and beloved summer tradition.

Joseph Papp, founder of The Public Theater and director of that year’s show The Merchant of Venice, describes the beauty of these events: how people of all colors, backgrounds, and economic levels congregate to enjoy Shakespeare. One actress describes how “often we found with the tragedies in particular, you start with the daylight and the play usually deepens in its tragic nature as it moves along, so that as the night falls, the drama gets more and more complicated and moving towards its final conclusion.”

Celebrating its 53rd Anniversary this year, the Delacorte Theater still calls itself home for Shakespeare in the Park.

Lost views: ‘Palaces of Mechatta’

This image from our lantern slide collection is labelled “PALACES OF MECHATTA: ON EDGE OF SYRIAN DESERT, CARVING” “SYRIA (6th AD) “XEm”


The monumental unfinished palace of Qasr Mshatta was discovered and excavated in 1840, and lies about 30km south of Amman in Jordan. It probably dates to the mid 8th century. The huge intricately carved southern facade, illustrated in this image, was given as a gift to Kaiser Wilhelm II and transported to Berlin in 1903. A significant proportion of the carvings have been reconstructed and are now on display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, having suffered damage from bombing during WWII.

In an article of 1908, P. Siméon Vailhé described the site as: ‘this fairytale palace, pearl of the Syrian desert, before the facade was taken to Berlin’. He also added that ‘the legendary palace of Mechatta has been measured, drawn and photographed to the last detail’, and noted that the 24 extremely good, large format photographs allowed the facade to be studied as it was when it was still in place.

HEIR, the Historic Environment Image Resource, contains many evocative images which provoke a debate about how and why ancient sites have changed, whether changes are beneficial or destructive, and how the treatment of material culture in the past and present represents a complex interplay of political, social and cultural attitudes. Change is inevitable, and the value of a resource such as HEIR is the opportunity it gives to study lost views of the past, as Simeon Vailhe noted.

P. Siméon Vailhé (1908) Chronique byzantine et médiévale de Palestine (Vizantijsky Vremennik, xiv p462-482)

25 Years Ago Today: Mandela Walks Free from Prison

Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom came after more than 27 years in prison, most of them at the notorious Robben Island in Cape Town harbor. As pictured above, Mandela walked some seventy yards from the car that had driven him from prison gates to the steps of Cape Town’s Victorian City Hall. There he thanked the African National Congress and his supporters at home and abroad and told the excited crowd of some 50,000 that apartheid has no future.

The veteran ANC leader said that the negotiations on dismantling the white supremacist policy and its infrastructure will mean an end to the white monopoly on political power and will address “the overwhelming demand of our people for a democratic nonracial and unitary South Africa.” Mandela closed by referring to his remarks made at trial in 1964:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Out of the Stacks and Into the Classroom

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Prof. Stephanie Leitch and her graduate Renaissance Observation class examining a copy of Sebastian Munster's "Cosmographia," published in 1550
Prof. Stephanie Leitch and her graduate Renaissance Observation class examining a copy of Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia, published in 1550. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

This semester, the Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistants are delving into the world of rare books!

The Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University has an impressive collection of rare books–from Sumerian cuneiform tablets (created in approximately 2000 BCE) to the Grove Press Collection (published in the 20th century) and almost everything in between.  Some areas of particular collecting strength include the French Revolution and Napoleonic era, early English Bibles, poetry about childhood, and the history of Florida.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Theodor de Bry's "America: Part VII" (in Latin); published in 1599
Theodor de Bry’s “America: Part VII” (in Latin), published in 1599. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

Students and researchers can always access the materials held by Special Collections & Archives in the Special Collections Research Center Reading Room.  But students can also engage with rare books and archival materials from Special Collections & Archives as part of a classroom visit.  An instruction session is a unique opportunity for students to analyze rare books and manuscripts in the classroom setting.  With the background knowledge they’ve gained in class, students are able to learn from and interact with primary source materials.

Part of the Graduate Assistants’ job this semester has been to assist Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives, with preparing for the different class instruction sessions in Special Collections & Archives.  Before a classroom visit takes place, there are meetings with the class instructor to discuss the goals for the

session.  This helps us determine what materials from the collection might best serve the instructor’s focus.  While sometimes the professor knows exactly what materials he or she wants to see, because of our knowledge of the collection, the Special Collections staff are often able to suggest additional items in the collection that might complement the themes the instructor wishes to stress.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) Prof. Leitch's Renaissance Observation class examining Peter Apian's Cosmographia, published in 1584
Prof. Leitch’s Renaissance Observation class examining Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, published in 1584. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

One of the great things about assisting with classroom instruction has been this opportunity to discover different aspects of the collection.  With each class I assist, I learn new things about the rare volumes held in Special Collections & Archives.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) A moving diagram from Peter Apian's Cosmographia, published in 1584
A moving diagram from Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, published in 1584. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

In preparing for a graduate class on “Renaissance Observation,” I discovered the 1584 volume of the Cosmographia by Peter Apian.  Peter Apian (1495-1552) was a German mathematics professor and printer.  His Cosmographia is one example of the popular Renaissance genre of cosmography.  In the sixteenth century, cosmography combined areas as diverse as astronomy, natural history, and geography.  Written in Latin, Peter Apian’s Cosmographia is an exploration of sixteenth century astronomy.  One unique aspect of Apian’s Cosmographia is its mathematical focus.  The 1584 edition held by Special Collections contains moving diagrams that help to illustrate his astronomical concepts.  In the illustration pictured below, the images of the zodiac are used to map the night sky.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett) From the 1584 edition of Peter Apian's Cosmographia
From the 1584 edition of Peter Apian’s Cosmographia. (Photo credit: Rebecca Bramlett)

Other examples of the Renaissance cosmography genre held by Special Collections include Sebastian Munster’s 1550 edition of Cosmographia.  First published in 1544, Munster’s Cosmographia is counted as the first German description and categorizations of the world.  Munster’s Cosmographia focuses on geography, the customs of different cultures, and the history of animals and plants.  Its detailed illustrations are considered particularly important.

You can find these volumes (and many others) in the Special Collections Research Center weekdays, from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

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