Burn your corsets!

The other week, while perusing our oversize materials, I ran across a drawer that had previously escaped my notice. It was labelled “Dr. Phillips’ Figure Study Charts” and was full to overflowing with great big pages of simply drawn figures, obviously advocating for the health and aesthetic benefits of proper posture and unrestrictive clothing. These charts are a fantastic example of the complicated, contradictory character of nineteenth century science, medicine and health advice.

These charts, “Outline Studies of the Human Figure,” are a published collection of teaching tools created by J. H. Kellogg and published in 1898 (2nd edition) by Kellogg’s Modern Medicine Publishing Company in Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey Kellogg is a well known character in the late nineteenth century health craze. Best known as a co-inventor of corn flakes (with his brother), he also ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan with a focus on healthy eating, exercise and enemas. He published extensively and advocated for many causes, from the very reasonable to the merely quirky to the downright terrible. He was a champion of vegetarianism, an anti-smoking advocate, and was clearly opposed to corsets. However, he also promoted almost complete abstinence, was so opposed to masturbation that he recommended genital mutilation to prevent it, and was a significant player in the American eugenics movement.

_DSC1043A prospectus for the Figure Study charts reads:

“This series of charts… illustrating the influence of dress, bad posture, and the neglect of physical development, in the production of disease and deformities. These original studies are selected from the results of a careful observation of thousands of different nationalities, including the following: American, English, Welsh, Scotch, German, French, Italian, Icelandic, Scandinavian, North American, Mexican, Chinese, Samoan, Egyptian, Nubian, East Indian, and Congo.

These outlines are not diagrams but

Tracings made Directly from the Human Body

By an apparatus devised by the author for the purpose.”

It goes on to promote the utility of the charts to all teachers of physical culture and the appropriateness of the charts for all schools and gymnasiums. From the final page of the prospectus, we learn that the charts can be purchased for $6.00, or $10.00 with an exhibition and carrying case.

Even in the service of the admirable anti-corset movement and the goal of proper posture, these materials point out the tenuous relationship that science once held with objectivity in evidence collection and presentation (for instance, how was he making these tracings, exactly? Of whom?). To me, the most astonishing piece of  scientific “evidence” presented in these charts are the following graphs… nowhere could I find any explanation of what these graphs were measuring! (Also, holy sexism and racism batman!)


Because I’m in the process of arranging the Physical Education Department Records (I’ll tell you all about it when I’m done, promise), I knew right away that these charts would have been used in Dr. Phillips’ Hygiene classes.

Hygiene classes?

Dr. Phillips, Professor of Hygiene and Physical Education

Dr. Phillips, Professor of Hygiene and Physical Education from 1896 to 1929, also class of 1888.

Why yes, the Amherst College Hygiene and Physical Education Department was founded in 1859, not just for the teaching of muscular development, but also the teaching of a healthful and wholesome lifestyle, which was encompassed by the dubious title of “Hygiene.” The courses seem to have resembled our modern high school health classes – they covered nutrition, the importance of exercise, the evils of alcohol and drugs, the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, a certain amount of anatomy – although they also covered good manners, actual bathing tips, the horrible dangers of masturbation, how to properly address faculty and upperclassmen and, of course, what to wear and proper posture. Hygiene was a required course from the founding of the department up to World War II. I like to hope that generations on Amherst men told their wives to burn their corsets, all on account these charts…

Amherst’s hygiene courses and Kellogg’s charts are both artifacts from a larger societal interest in modern, “scientific,” healthful living in the nineteenth century (some of the goofier products of which can be found in our Pseudo-science post); they are artifacts from a time when science and medicine were still young, when “evidence” lived in quotation marks, and anyone could be an expert.



Happy Holidays!

Four unidentified students setting up outdoor Christmas decorations in front of the Westcott Building during the 1950s.
Four unidentified students setting up outdoor Christmas decorations in front of the Westcott Building during the 1950s.

We here at Florida State University’s Special Collections & Archives division would like to wish you a happy holiday season!

Our Special Collections Research Center will be available by appointment only December 22-23, 2014. Please contact Lisa Girard at (850) 645-0909 or email her at lgirard@fsu.edu to schedule an appointment. The Norwood Reading Room and the Special Collections Exhibit Room will maintain their normal operating hours on those dates.

Special Collections & Archives division will be closed starting Wednesday, December 24th. We’ll resume normal operating hours on Monday, January 5, 2015.

The Pepper Library Reading Room will be closed starting Tuesday, December 23rd and resume normal operating hours on Monday, January 5, 2015.

We’ll see you in the new year!


Presidential Innovation Fellows at the National Archives

Throughout the halls of government, perhaps no word is more often cited than ‘innovation.’ While there’s no doubt that innovation holds the key to envisioning government’s work in the future, I’ll admit that innovation itself can be a challenging word, given that it has so many meanings to so many people.

At its core, I believe innovation is the ability to think, envision and act audaciously, to set far-reaching, often disruptive goals and enlist a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team to meet them. At the National Archives and Records Administration, our mission is to drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value records. In order to do this, and to do it well, we must be audacious.

One way NARA is working toward this vision is by partnering with the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Established by the White House in 2012 and now led by a dedicated program office at 18F in the General Services Administration, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly competitive program pairs talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community with top civil servants to tackle many of our Nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact.

Out of … [ Read all ]

Girl’s Own Annual now available in the FSUDL

Thanks to the efforts of our graduate assistants, Katherine and Rebecca, Volumes 38 and 39 of The Girl’s Own Annual is now available in the FSU Digital Library as part of our Poetry during World War I collection.

Published in Britain from 1880 until 1956, The Girl’s Own Annual, alternatively known as the Girl’s Own Paper, was a story paper catering to girls and young women. It includes serialized fiction, advice columns, current events, life and fashion tips for its readers. The issues published during World War I were titled The Girls Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine.

For more information about the collection, see Katherine’s post on Christmas in the magazine and Rebecca’s post on the effect of World War I on the paper’s contents.

This is the first serial we hope to digitize and make available as part of our Poetry during World War I collection so stay tuned for more additions in the coming year!


2014: End-of-year review

Phew! Well that was 2014. It was a year in which a combination of cultural centenaries, major sporting events and academic projects resulted in a huge increase in demand for our collections (and the political events of the past twelve months also kept our colleagues in the Scottish Political Archive pretty busy!) As in previous years we’ve put together an end-of-year chart of our most popular collections in 2014 by combining the information recorded in our enquiries database with the records of visitors to our archives reading room.

Interest in our most used collection in 2014 has been growing recent years (it was our third most popular collection in 2013) and it’s quite fitting that in a year when the centenary of his birth was celebrated with a Scotland-wide series of events our No. 1 is the Norman McLaren Archive. Born in Stirling in 1914 McLaren was an award-winning filmmaker whose work has inspired generations of animators and artists. The film screenings, talks, animation workshops and events presented during the year by McLaren 2014 provided a fitting tribute to his extraordinary career. We were delighted to be able to contribute to the celebrations with our exhibition A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn at the Stirling Smith.

Exhibition poster for A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren's Scottish Dawn

Exhibition poster for A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn

Last year’s most popular collection continued to be one of our most-used with the NHS Forth Valley Archive taking second place in our end-of-year chart. Genealogical interest in the historical records of Stirling District Asylum has remained constant with an increase in academic interest in the material also being noted. Access to this collection will be increased in 2015 with our Wellcome Trust funded project to conserve and catalogue the archives of the Royal Scottish National Hospital opening up the records of a hospital of international importance.

A new addition to our end-of-year lists sees the archives of Commonwealth Games Scotland take third spot (or should that be the bronze). In the year of Glasgow 2014 it was inevitable that this collection that documents over eighty years of participation and achievement by Scotland in the Commonwealth Games would generate a certain degree of interest! During the Games our Hosts and Champions exhibition was on display in Glasgow, providing an historical perspective on a modern international sporting event. In 2015 we look forward to putting together a touring version of the exhibition which will be updated with a selection of material from the Glasgow 2014 Games (which we are currently collecting).

Memorabilia from Glasgow 2014 recently added to our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive

Memorabilia from Glasgow 2014 recently added to our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive

Those results in full:


1. Norman McLaren

2. NHS Forth Valley

3. Commonwealth Games Scotland


1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. Norman McLaren


1. Musicians’ Union

2. John Grierson

3. Lindsay Anderson


1. John Grierson

2. Lindsay Anderson

3. University of Stirling

Growing cello collections

Two new additions to our digital cello music collections premiered this morning as we added selections from the Laszlo Varga Musical Score Collection and the Janos Scholz Musical Score Collection.

These are sixth and seventh additions, respectively, to the cello music project, which made its first appearance in 2011 with selections from the Bernard Greenhouse Collection.

UNCG’s Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is home to the largest single holding of cello music-related materials in the world.

Gifts for archivists and librarians: from the practical to the luxurious

We asked for suggestions for gifts that would be suitable for librarians or archivists and the community responded! Thank you so much for all the wonderful and thoughtful gift ideas!

Here are the nominations: if you have other ideas please leave them in the comments below. To ensure that you get what you want, think about leaving this page on computers in your reading room or information commons — I’m sure that certain someone will get the hint.

Lumio Book Lamp

Lumio Book Lamp

Practical gifts: some information professionals are very focused on getting the job done. For these folks, a gift that helps them do the work at hand is just the thing. Gifts in this category include:

  • A mobile scanner: Laura suggests that perhaps the Flip-Pal might be useful for those who are zipping around “scanning madly.”
  • Of course it’s not all about shelving books or arranging collections. We also attend lots of meetings and conferences. How about a fountain pen? Nadia Nasr suggests the Cross Stratford as a nice looking model that’s affordable.
  • For all that professional reading, what about a book shaped lamp? Lumio’s book lamp (although pricey) was suggested by Stephanie as being “pretty rad.” Comes in dark walnut and blonde maple to compliment any decor.
  • What is more painful that losing your place in a book? Hunting around for a bookmark. Lynn Jones suggests the Albatros Bookmark — you never need to look for your bookmark because it’s in the book — it also places itself.  Comes in packs of 6.
  • What about a card catalog shaped flash drive? These will be available soon from Unshelved. Thanks to Carol Street for the suggestion.
The Archivist Wine

The Archivist Wine

Food and drink: everyone likes to eat and drink. Here are some suggestions vetted by librarians and archivists

  • The chefs among us might appreciate cookbooks from historical societies. Melissa M. loves her cookbooks from the King’s Landing Historical Settlement in New Brunswick. I couldn’t find those online but you can find plenty of good ideas in Cookbook Finder. I noted that King’s Landing does have an historic inn that serves period food, so check with your local historical society!
  • Beer for archivists: Although I normally hate to reinforce stereotypes about archivists that involve either attics or cellars, I was pleased to hear Jill Tatem’s nomination for Cellar Dweller, which is only available at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. Since this is the site of the 2015 Society of American Archivists annual meeting, I know many archivists will take a rain check on this brew.
  • A toast to archivists! From Sonoma Estate Vintners, the Archivist. Pick your poison: cab, chardonnay, or pinot noir. The description includes the word “appraise” so you know you are in the right place.


Pride and Prejudice Tote

Pride and Prejudice Tote

Clothing and accessories: suggestions range from items that are practical to those that show your style.

  • Melissa M. says, “every processing archivist could use steel-toed boots (required for the first archival job I ever had, and I actually managed to find quite a stylish pair).” Melissa was not able to find her boots, which fetched compliments outside the workplace, but perhaps something like these engineer boots would work.
  • To go with your boots, perhaps some library card socks from NYPL? (Hat tip to Bruce Washburn.)
  • You can wear your heart on your sleeve, and now you can wear your favorite book, as a t-shirt, or water-resistant tote. From Lithographs. Also available, posters and (temporary) tatoos. From Lorcan Dempsey and Pam Kruger.
  • A favorite from last year was the microfiche jewelery from Oinx. Styles have been updated and now you and spread the “I’d rather be fiching” message via t-shirt and bumper sticker.
Mini Hollinger Document Cartons

Mini Hollinger Document Cartons

Little luxuries: sometimes it’s the little things

  • Candles are a great seasonal gift. You can choose between The Archivist candles from Greenmarket (lots of choose from, particularly if you like the idea of “fragrance records accumulated to preserve moments, stories, and people they represent”) and Library candles from Paddywax (which feature scents that will conjure your favorite author). Thanks to Casey Davis and Carol Street for calling these to our attention!
  • Hollinger boxes are a staple for archivists, and mini document boxes have long been a popular giveaway at conferences — so popular that Hollinger now sells them as a separate item. Jennifer suggests that in addition to being just plain adorable, they would be the perfect way to pop the question.
  • Cream for hands, dried out from processing documents and handling other materials, was a popular item on last year’s list. This year, Melissa M. recommends Lush’s Charity Pot lotion.

Can’t buy happiness: of course, the things that everyone really wants can’t be purchased. At the top of almost every information professional’s wish list is space (to put anything, as our anonymous contributor put it). Another thing that we’d all like to see is reflected in this lovely blog post by Maarja Krusten:

…the greatest gift you can give archivists and librarians is the opportunity to share physically and virtually the knowledge found in their collections and holdings.

Now, that sentiment is something I think we can all get behind! Happy holidays to all of you!

Theories on Down syndrome in the 1930s

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

Although very short the featured letter is of significance to scientific debate of the time. As it is out-going correspondence it is not signed but was written by Dr Robert Durward Clarkson, the Medical Superintendent. It comes from one of the correspondence files.mongols RS-2-8-2

The Dr Crookshank mentioned in the letter was Dr Francis Crookshank, author of ‘The Mongol in our Midst’. This book established the theory that ‘mongoloid’ children were a throw back to an ‘inferior race’. The evidence he provided were examples of physical characteristics shared by ‘Mongolian imbeciles’ and those of the Mongoloid race such as small earlobes and a propensity for sitting cross-legged. These features resulted from the shared distant racial history of the parents and were caused by under-development in the womb.

The book was very popular in its day and the third edition was published in 1931, the year before this letter was written. It is interesting that both Dr Clarkson and his correspondent, Dr Lionel Penrose, clearly rejected the hypothesis.  Indeed Penrose went on to do considerable research on the genetic causes of mental retardation, further discrediting Crookshank’s theory. The paper that Penrose is sharing with Clarkson was ‘The Blood Grouping of Mongolian Imbeciles’ published in The Lancet in February 1932. Unfortunately his covering letter has not survived. A later letter from Penrose to Clarkson in June 1932 thanks Clarkson for allowing him to visit the Royal Scottish National Institution and asks for Clarkson’s help in gathering data on epiloia or tuberous sclerosis.

Crookshank committed suicide in 1933.

“Ultima Thule” and the Squirt Gun Riot of 1858

There are two places on the Amherst College campus I have never been to but would give my eyeteeth to visit someday: the tower of Johnson Chapel and the 4th floor southwest corner of South College. The Johnson Chapel thing is easily explained: the building is the most iconic structure on campus, and its bell tower affords the finest views of the college and the surrounding town of Amherst. South College, its next-door neighbor, is less obvious. Aside from this dormitory being the first structure built on the campus (1820), its 4th floor, southwest corner room is said to have been the site of a number of important (or infamous) occurrences.

South College in 1878

South College, 1878 (Buildings and Grounds Collection, box 19, folder 29)

South College today (December 12, 2014)

Southwest corner of South College as it looks today (December 12, 2014). Johnson Chapel is behind it.

George Cutting’s Student Life at Amherst College (1871) informs us that in the early years of the college, the 4th floor, southwest corner room of South (officially, no. 30, South College) earned the name “Ultima Thule.” I had to look that phrase up. “Ultima Thule” generally refers to any furthermost place, the remotest possible location; in medieval maps, it often referred to Greenland or any other quasi-mystical place that lay beyond the boundaries of any map. Therefore, on the Amherst campus, “Ultima Thule” was an out-of-the-way, forbidding place — a place desired by many but possessed by few. It is possible to imagine that at one time, 30 South College fit that description. (I often wonder how the current inhabitants of that room feel about it.)

Student room, 30 South College, 1896 (Photograph Collection, glass plate negatives, box 42, no. 16)

30 South College, 1896 (Photograph Collection, glass plate negatives, box 42, no. 16)

What went on in “Ultima Thule” that made it so mysterious and forbidding? According to Cutting, it was where one of the earliest and most ambitious student publications was founded, the literary monthly Horae Collegianae (1837). It was here that the editors (all exclusively members of the senior class) had their office, and where they held their vaunted symposia. It was also in this same room that another notable student magazine, the Indicator, was founded in 1848. (The Indicator continues to the present day.)

View from 30 South College, December 1896

View from 30 South College, December 1896  (Photograph Collection, glass plate negatives, box 42, no. 22)

So “Ultima Thule” was a place for the elite to meet. The room also served at other times as a place for student recitations and regular meetings of various student societies — and it was said to have been the birthplace of at least one fraternity.

The mystique of “Ultima Thule” is further enhanced by the notorious Squirt-Gun Riot of October 6, 1858. That squirt-guns even existed as early as 1858 was interesting to me (I am clearly a neophyte in the history of squirt-gun warfare). Cutting, again in Student Life at Amherst College, recounts the incident, from which I will quote passages:

The class of ’61 had magnanimously determined to abandon the practice of hazing the Freshmen, and, in token of their good will, proposed to bury the squirt-gun, the emblem or instrument of warfare upon the lower class. Imposing ceremonies had been arranged, with all the paraphernalia of a funeral, a solemn procession, a funeral oration and dirge, and music by a tin band. The corpse was properly laid out in a genuine coffin, and deposited for safety in ‘Ultima Thule,’…

The “riot” consisted of a battle between the Sophomore class of 1861 and the Junior class of 1860. Apparently the ’61 boys had stolen the squirt-gun from the ’60s the year before, and as it was property which the ’60s had paid dearly for (and was a fine specimen in any case, “large and powerful […], and capable of drenching a Freshman at one fell squirt”), the Juniors were not cool with their younger class presuming to prepare a burial ceremony for it. While the Sophomores were away at dinner, just one student was left behind to guard the squirt-gun, which was kept in “Ultima Thule.”

[…] South College, south entry was found to be thronged with Juniors in the greatest state of phrenzy. A few of the Sophomores succeeded in reaching the upper entry, by passing over through the attic from the north entry, and found the panels of the doors of ‘Ultima Thule’ broken in, and the plastering cut through from the attic above. But the Juniors were at bay, for the guardsman stood calmly with pistol in hand, eyeing both the gap in the door and that, overhead. The few Sophomores who had reached the spot succeeded in getting around the door or into the room, and, by dint of hard work, kept the Juniors back till their classmates began to come up the stairs in force. The Juniors chopped down the attic stairs in the early part of the fray, and armed themselves with the pieces, but the Sophomores, with an esprit de corps which the Juniors had outgrown, steadily fought their way up the stairs, wresting the clubs from their antagonists, and dragging them by the legs down the stairs.

Just as the Sophomores had reclaimed their territory and rebuffed the attackers, who should burst in on the scene but President William Stearns. He ordered the Juniors to leave the building and restored order. There were many injuries, and South College (“Ultima Thule” in particular) received a lot of damage. The president, fully supportive of the Sophomores’ vow to give up hazing (at least with a squirt-gun?), allowed the burial ceremony to proceed as only it could in classic mid-19th century college fashion:

Lemonade and the pipe of peace passed freely round, and an oration and poem, and several songs, made up a part of the festivities. The distinguished corpse was buried between South and East College, near the carriageway, and the bier stood over the grave unmolested for weeks.

One wonders if the object of contention is still buried somewhere on the quad. This would have to be somewhere between present-day South College and Stearns Hall…

Ultima Thule (South College no. 30) in more peaceful times, 1939.

Ultima Thule (South College no. 30) in more peaceful times, 1939.

The history of student dormitory rooms, as well as the very interesting history of 19th-century mock-burial ceremonies (this one involving the squirt-gun was by no means unusual) are subjects I will have to take up in future blog posts.

The Rise and Fall of the East Village Art Scene

Artists in the City was produced in cooperation with the Public Art Fund. The program featured interviews with artists, curators, administrators, and other participants active in the arts scene in the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s a story that seems to repeat itself again and again in New York City. Artists, seeking large affordable live/work spaces, move into cheap and oft-neglected neighborhoods. The influx of the creative class signals to the upwardly mobile that it’s OK to relocate. Quickly and inevitably, costs rise, and the artists uproot to the next affordable enclave. 

The classic example of artist-led gentrification is SoHo. And although the idea that artists are actually responsible for New York’s gentrification is hotly debated, there is a prevalent sense in this 1983 interview that the East Village offered what SoHo no longer could: reasonable real estate prices and a community of like-minded artists and gallery owners.

“Why the East Village?” is the first question host Jenny Dixon poses to Peter Nagy and Alan Belcher from Nature Morte Gallery and Dean Sevard of Civilian Warfare. It’s partly economic they say, but the move to the East Village also reinforces their philosophical and aesthetic differences with the SoHo scene. For example, gallery owners in the East Village are often artists themselves (mainly in their early to mid-20s), who live behind the storefronts where they show work. Nature Morte focuses on two- and three-person group shows, largely consisting of their artist friends, and Sevard describes Civilian Warfare’s shows as “anti-SoHo” and having a tacitly political focus. His list of recent openings includes “Black Art Now”, “The Art of Tyranny”, and “Hit and Run Numbers One and Two.”

There is something suggestively violent in both the descriptions of the gallery shows and the names of the two galleries themselves.  Dixon jokes that the East Village identity is very much caught up in Reagan-era Cold War concerns. However, there is also a sense that the names Nature Morte and Civilian Warfare address a distinctly local character. In a 1983 article in the New York Times entitled “Gallery View; A Gallery Scene that Pioneers in New Territory“, arts editor Grace Glueck writes that the neighborhood is still “hairy” enough that the word “dealer” takes on a double meaning. And the writer and filmmaker Gary Indiana – reminiscing nearly 20 years later - describes the neighborhood as a “piquantly semi-dangerous place for kids” that has a “full dance card of subterranean amusements.”

David Wojnarowicz from Civilian Warfare in 1984

The conversation quickly shifts from talk of curation and neighborhood identity to the bureaucratic details of arts organizations in the 1980s.  Dixon is interested as to why these particular galleries chose to open commercial spaces rather than following the lead of popular non-profit art/social centers like ABC No Rio.  Dixon wonders, did the formation of the NEA in 1965 and the subsequent influx of federal funding change the culture of art in New York City? Is there an attempt by the new generation of artists and gallery owners to go back to what Dixon describes as “art before the dole”?  

Belcher, Nagy, and Sevard suggest that terms like “community arts non-profit” or “alternative space” are concepts from a different generation.  Dixon thinks that perhaps these new galleries are looking back to a pre-NEA time when artists like Claus Oldenburg opened his Lower East Side store front in the early 60s. “There’s a great feeling of OK the NEA is here” Dixon says, “but sometimes, often, perhaps artists can do more when they don’t feel like they have their fingers tied [with federal money].”

In recent years there has been a fair amount of ‘looking back’ to this time in the art world.  In 2004, the New Museum mounted a large survey of the East Village scene. And many artists who emerged from the era went on to become influential pillars of contemporary art (Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons). Peter Nagy was only 23 at the time of this interview and shut down Nature Morte in 1988 (the original location on 204 east 10th street is now the home of a ‘fine dry cleaning and tailoring’ establishment). Civilian Warfare closed in 1988, and by the end of that year, the media was signaling the demise – and fading allure – of Manhattan’s “third art district.”

In a 1987 article in the New York Times titled “Art Boom Slows In the East Village“, explaining the shift in the East Village art scene, gallerist Doug Milford said ”It’s less of a happening and more of a business. When we opened, we were just trying to start something for ourselves and our artist friends. When they started to achieve success, they needed professional representation, and that meant getting up a little earlier in the morning, being a little more serious.”



NEW ANNOUNCEMENT: The PIDB Releases its Supplemental Report, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification

Today, the Public Interest Declassification Board released online its latest report recommending additional changes to transform the security classification system.  This Supplemental Report, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification, focuses on topic-based declassification prioritization.  In it, the PIDB makes the case for the government to adopt a centralized approach to topic-based prioritization and recommends specific policy and process changes aimed at improving access to historically significant records most sought-after by the public.

With input from the public, agency classifiers, declassifiers and historians, the recommendations found in this supplemental report are meant to assist the Records Access and Information Security Interagency Policy Committee/Classification Reform Committee (RAIS IPC/CRC) in its work of evaluating the PIDB’s 2012 Report recommendations and developing a government-wide approach to transforming classification.

We concluded that automatic declassification should no longer be the sole policy driving declassification programming across government. We found that this policy no longer supports the President’s policies from Executive Order 13526, “Classified National Security Information,” as intended.  In practice, automatic declassification has fueled a risk-averse process limiting quality declassification review, brought about expensive re-reviews, and added unnecessary costs to an overburdened system.  As the volume of information continues to increase exponentially in the digital era, topic-based prioritization would ensure declassification review of records of the greatest potential for use by the public, historians, public policy professionals and the national security community itself.  It also would more closely align with electronic information management practices designed to ensure discovery and access to relevant information.

We provide six recommendations in support of topic-based prioritization by giving attention to records of greatest public interest.  They are:

  1. Topic-based declassification should be the normal process rather than the exception.
  2. The National Declassification Center (NDC), in consultation with the public and with agencies, should design and implement a process to solicit, evaluate and prioritize standard topics for declassification government-wide.
  3. End pass/fail determinations and identify necessary redactions for topic-based reviews.
  4. The government should require agencies to develop and use new technologies to assist and improve declassification review.
  5. Agencies and the NDC must improve risk management practices.
  6. Revisions to the current Executive Order are needed to lessen the burden of automatic declassification on agencies in support of topic-based declassification review.

Our Supplemental Report details the reasons our recommendations and makes the case for these needed changes.  The report also includes a list of topics solicited from the stakeholders inside and outside government.  This list should provide a suitable starting point for government policymakers to begin designing and implementing a prioritization process.  We recognize that change will be difficult, but know the consequences of inaction will be far more negative than will steps made in the overall effort of transformation.

Ready or Not, Listeners Hear John Cage Composition Over WNYC in 1945

In 1945, America was still at war, and WNYC’s annual American Music Festival wasn’t just a celebration of American composers of all stripes; it also took on unavoidable and perhaps inadvertent patriotic overtones as well.  This particular moment from that year’s February Festival is notable for several reasons: first, we have the performance of John Cage’s music by the piano duo for whom it was written.  Second, we have all the information now that the radio audience had back in 1945, since the announcer’s introductory remarks are included. 

For radio and history fans, this second element may be even more remarkable than the music: both before and after the performance, the announcer (anonymous, as was often the case back then) informs us that the music is being recorded by the Office Of War Information, for rebroadcast overseas.  I know, I know – what troop of GIs dodging sniper fire on a Pacific Island was waiting breathlessly for the next transmission of avant-garde classical music from New York? But spare a thought for the totally unlikely combination of government war effort and contemporary music that allowed this recording (on a single-sided 33 1/3rpm disc) to come down to us all these years later. 

Of course, it’s music fans who will pay the most attention, and there’s plenty to pay attention to: John Cage’s Three Dances for Two Pianos, as the announcer puts it, is in fact a set of three pieces for two amplified prepared pianos.  I can only imagine that in 1945, that missing information would have rendered the opening moments of the first dance a complete shock.  Imagine a mid-century American family, gathered around the radio, being told that three dances would be played by two pianists, and then hearing the clangorous, metallic pounding of the opening work.  In fairness, I suppose that even an attempt to explain what a prepared piano was would probably have left the audience mystified. 

In terms of Cage’s works for prepared piano, the Three Dances are not unknown – a famous recording was made by Michael Tilson Thomas and company in the early 1970s on an album that also introduced a young Steve Reich to a wider audience (with his piece Four Organs).   But this is one of his most intricate “preparations,” with metal screws and bolts, rubber erasers, and the like being affixed to a large number of strings inside the instrument.  The play of “natural” and “prepared” sounds is especially striking in the third of the dances. 

And finally, this is one of the earliest performances of the work, which was written specifically for the two pianists, Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, who performed it here; they premiered it only three weeks earlier.  This must also be the first time the work was ever recorded.  And the Gold/Fizdale reading of the piece, which we presumably consider authoritative, is surprisingly rockin’. They take the Three Dances at a brisk clip, and I only wish the recording included the audience’s reaction afterwards (stunned silence?  Cheers and jeers?  The telltale squish of rotten tomatoes being thrown?) instead of taking us back to the announcer in his studio. 


Special thanks to Jonathan Manton, Sound Archives Librarian, Archive of Recorded Sound, Braun Music Center, Stanford University for making this audio available to us.


State Archives in the National Anzac Centre, Albany

Gerard Foley
Thursday, December 11, 2014 – 17:44

State Archives used in the National Anzac Centre, Albany

The SRO applauds the WA Museum’s work in developing, building and so successfully launching the National Anzac Centre in Albany in only 14 months. The SRO recognises that the development of exhibitions content for the new Anzac Centre required a lot of research of the WA Museum’s own collection and other key collections within and without DCA portfolio agencies, including State Archives held by the SRO.

When approached by the WA Museum’s diligent curators, multimedia developers and creative directors the SRO was more than happy and ready to assist them in the development of exhibitions for the National Anzac Centre. We recognised early on that there are archival items in the State Archives Collection that could potentially assist in telling the stories about the site of the new Anzac Centre and the departure of the Anzac convoy from Albany 100 years ago.

The SRO also recognised that exhibition research and content development is far from an easy task. Furthermore, we understood that not all material researched would make it into exhibitions and that content choices are necessarily made through determining the most effective, engaging and appropriate methods of communicating exhibition messages and stories.

So, with the news of the 1 November launch of the new National Anzac Centre, the SRO was delighted to see that digitised plans of Albany, Princess Royal Harbour and King George’s Sound (found in Series 235 and 2168), were used in a key ‘touch table’ interactive and multimedia display which was created by Sydney-based media company Mental Media. The SRO holds the official plans of the harbour in Albany dating from the 1830s and, along with many other historic plans of WA’s towns and regions, these were digitised and made available online several years ago. The archived and digitised plans of Albany have now been transformed by the WA Museum and Mental Media in such a way that visitors to the National Anzac Centre in Albany can use them to learn about the stories of the men and women who left Albany in the convoys 100 years ago, destined for ANZAC Cove and beyond.


The War at Home

From "The Girl's Own Annual,"  vol. 39, issue 8
From The Girl’s Own Annual, Vol. 39, No. 8. “T.M. The King and Queen at a London Elementary School”

As Katherine previously mentioned here, our latest project in the Special Collections & Archives Division has been digitizing issues from “The Girl’s Own Annual.”  A British serial intended for girls, young women and their mothers, “The Girl’s Own Annual” offers unique historical insight into the contemporary perceptions (and propaganda!) of World War I.

Overall, the tone of “The Girl’s Own Annual” is a mixture of edification and entertainment.  There are articles on domestic projects (knitting patterns, sewing patterns) and serial fiction (the romances of the day!)  These types of articles appear consistently in each issue.  For this project, Katherine and I have focused our digitization efforts on volumes 38 and 39, which cover the period 1916-1918.  Scattered between serial fiction and instructional pieces are articles that directly and obliquely reference the Great War.  These articles give scholars a glimpse into the domestic attitudes toward the ongoing war–its portrayal and the propaganda.

Page from the article "The Women's Land Army," in The Girl's Own Annual, vol. 39, issue 9
Page from the article “The Women’s Land Army,” in The Girl’s Own Annual, Vol. 39, No. 9

Perceptions of the War

Articles such as, “The Women of the Army: Work that is being done in France by the capable, adaptable, cheerful contingents of our newest military service,” (vol. 39, no. 5) praises the efforts of women directly contributing to the war effort in France.  Women are portrayed as supporting the war effort by performing necessary and sometimes complicated tasks.  They performed the traditional secretarial and domestic duties, but the article also highlights some of the mechanical work the women perform on “aeroplanes” in need of repair.

Even the life of the Queen is touched by the war, and she actively supports the efforts of the soldiers fighting abroad.  The article “The Queen’s Working Year:  An unique account of Her Majesty’s activities, some of which have not hitherto been recorded,” (vol. 39 no. 7) gives an almost daily accounting of the Queen’s activities January through June 1917.  These activities include paying “a visit to one of the cottagers near to condole with her on the death of a son who had laid down his life on the Front” and raising funds for “totally disabled soldiers.”


The accounts of the work of the Queen walks a fine line between inspiration and propaganda.  Other articles in “The Girl’s Own Annual” are more blatant in their attempt to shape public opinion.  In Vol. 39, issue 9 from 1918–after hostilities with Germany have stopped–Germany is presented as a continued threat.  Writing on the “On the German Menace After the War,” the editor calls for a boycott of German goods, among other things.  Through text and image, the continued threat from Germany is hammered home.

The Girl's Own Annual, Vol. 39, No. 9: On the German Menace After the War
From The Girl’s Own Annual, Vol. 39, No. 9: On the German Menace After the War

The layout of the article is striking–placed at the bottom of the page is a sketch of a sleeping baby, under which the caption reads: “We are fighting now to save the children of today from wholesale butchery at the hands of the Huns in the future.”  The distrust and continued suspicion of Germany is blatant: “No matter how many treaties Germany may sign undertaking that hostilities shall end, how can we be certain that she will not continue to murder humanity wherever it is possible to do it without being actually caught in the act?” the editor rails.

It has been a pleasure to make “The Girl’s Own Annual” more accessible.  It is my hope that both scholars and students will be able to gain fresh insight into the perceptions of World War I on the British homefront through this project.

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.

Creating a 21st Century Museum for the Mind

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece on the digital Einstein Papers Project, Walter Isaacson, waxed poetical about the “tingling inspiration of seeing original documents.”  Every day I am lucky to witness that “tingling” in the Rotunda of the National Archives as visitors stand in line to be in the presence of the Charters of Freedom.  On the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 9,000 people stood in line for a weekend display of the original document.  Across the country in our many facilities, ordinary citizens get to examine original records in their family history journeys, researchers use originals to track down evidence, and our government is held accountable for its action by review of the records of decisions made or not made.

Isaacson is no Luddite!   He understands the value of digital access.  “…my brooding soon gave way to marveling about the benefits that will come when millions of curious people, with new technologies in hand, get to dive into the papers of historical figures.”  And he cites our Founders Online as an exemplar.  The ability to search across the papers of six Founders, including early access to unpublished letters, has already proven to be a great boon to historical research. Einstein

“Artwork: ‘Albert Einstein’ Artist: Elin Waite” National Archives Identifier 6343429

I, like Isaacson, “…hope that archives will remain inspiring … [ Read all ]

Wallace Stegner and the Art of Fiction

In this 1988 lecture,* Wallace Stegner (1909-1993), one of the heavyweights of 20th Century American letters, talks about his long journey as a writer and the process of creating fiction. His novels earned him the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose and the 1977 National Book award for The Spectator Bird, but he also wrote short stories, histories, biographies and essays. His subject matter was largely people and places of the American West, particularly California and Utah. He relied extensively upon material from his personal life for his fiction, including his first novel, Big Rock Candy Mountain, published in 1943.

Although Stegner later founded Stanford University’s esteemed Creative Writing Program, as a novice he was hopeful that there was a way to learn the process of writing. He remembers taking a course in the 1930’s entitled “How to Write a Short Story, Though Ignorant.”  Stegner describes a creative writing teacher who treated the craft as akin to carpentry, a process by which stories are made not born or discovered, where the circumstances of a tale “had to fit a Procrustean Bed” of tried and true narrative technique with characters in conflict and readers’ expectations reversed.

“Beginners and hacks pay more attention on how to write than what they should write,” says Stegner. But he claims that writing from a blueprint does not allow for passion, “illuminates nothing and leaves no wonder in the reader’s mind.” While he admits that faithful application of the writing rules contained in George Polti’s literary rubric “Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations” might achieve results in the right hands, such formulas did not suit him. The best fiction writers – Chekhov, Kafka, Joyce, Hemingway — are more sculptors than carpenters, striving for epiphanies and revelations. He advises beginning writers to “take something that meant a lot to you, that you brooded about, and try to see it as clearly as you can.”

Disagreeing with Stendhal, Stegner did not see a writer’s purpose as precisely mirroring reality. He believed a writer functioned more as a lens than a photocopier, illuminating reality with his or her own viewpoint. Such fiction “contains the astigmatisms of its maker,” portraying what is uniquely important to the writer.

While acknowledging that the fragmentary styles of modernist writers like John Barth or Thomas Pynchon can open new doors to viewing reality, Stegner considered himself more of a realist. He was not averse to innovation in style but only if it served to “make everyday life memorable.” Furthermore, unlike many avant-garde writers, Stegner had no solid family background or overbearing cultural traditions he wanted to declare his independence from. Rather than be a loner, he wanted to belong to the common life around him.

The renowned foreign correspondent, Martha Gelhorn, complained that Stegner’s portrayal of quotidian lives of mostly Western Americans did not interest her. She urged him to seek adventures in the world and place himself into new environments. But he saw that as “slumming” — an effort to seek experience in order to develop something new, when what he needed as a writer was already around and within him.

For Stegner, the real world exists and literature imitates it. The necessary raw material for his work are the places and people he knows, including his family, which lived an itinerant, hard-scrabble life in Montana, Saskatchewan and Salt Lake City. Not surprisingly, his fiction is often described as semi-autobiographical. Stegner makes no apologies for this. Like John Cheever, he “wrote to make sense out of his life” because “an unexamined life was not worth living.”

Since novelists are so prone to drawing from their lives, Stegner says that few of them write autobiographies. The story of their lives – Philip Roth’s, for example — has been told in their work.   But he also notes that, paradoxically, that a writer’s remembrances used when making either fiction or autobiography are often really “factions”, embellishments of reality due to the imperfection of memory. “Mark Twain often said he remembered a lot of things very clearly that never happened.”

Ultimately, Stegner views the writer as on a quest to be receptive, skeptical and watchful, like a photographer of found objects shedding indirect light on a subject to see it at a different angle and thus develop something new. His ultimate advice: “See the thing as clearly as you can and try for the clearest, least obscured image,”


*Broadcast over WNYC as part of the Voices At the New York Public Library series on May 30, 1993.

The Olio and Breaking Racial Barriers

As we have mentioned in earlier posts, newly digitized material from the Archives will be added to Amherst College Digital Collections on a regular basis. This week I want to call attention to the nearly complete run of Amherst College yearbooks — The Olio — now available online.

The very first instance of what eventually became the sort of yearbook we know and love today appeared under the title The College Olio in October 1855. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary definition of “olio” is “1. A mixture; a medley. 2. A miscellany; a collection of various pieces; applied to musical collections.” That term fits perfectly for this first effort with its mix of membership lists, award winners, and items of college news. The student paper — The Amherst Student — would not appear until 1868.

The next year, a similar publication appeared under the title Amherst Aurora. It is numbered “Vol. 2 No.1″ indicating that it is a continuation of the publication originally titled The College Olio.

By 1857, the third volume of the paper settled on The Olio as the title, which has stuck ever since. After the Civil War, The Olio appeared in a pamphlet format with many more pages in a smaller size.

It was another ten years before The Olio included any photographs, but early issues are filled with illustrations:

The Olio (1884)

The Olio (1884)

By the end of the 1880s, The Olio took the form of what we now think of as the standard yearbook format — a hardcover volume with photographs documenting college life. Though few in number in 1889, the spread of photography would eventually result in yearbooks that were almost entirely photographs with very little text.

One striking feature that is consistent from 1855 until 1984 is the prominence of “Secret Societies” or, as we now know them, fraternities. Secret societies dominate the front pages of the very earliest issues (shown above) and remained a major element of The Olio until fraternities were abolished in 1984.

The 1951 edition of The Olio prominently features a fraternity that took an important step in the long history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. In 1948, Thomas Gibbs III, an African-American student at Amherst, pledged Phi Kappa Psi. A fuller account of what followed can be read in The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities by Nicholas Syrett, so I will just give the short version here.

A white fraternity wanting to admit a black student made national news back in 1948. In spite of some strong opposition, the men of the Amherst chapter decided they would rather lose their affiliation with the national fraternity than refuse to accept a member because of his race. The fraternity changed its name to Phi Alpha Psi. Gibbs graduated in 1951 and this page from The Olio refers to the scandal surrounding his membership. Gibbs is seated in the second row toward the far right in the group photo:

After the college abolished fraternities in 1984, the house in which Thomas Gibbs III lived with his fraternity brothers was rechristened Drew House, in honor of Charles R. Drew (AC 1926). Although Drew was highly respected as a scholar and an athlete during his time at Amherst, Thomas Gibbs was the first black student at Amherst — or anywhere else in the United States — to break the fraternity color barrier.


Thanks, Natalie

In September 2010, I blogged about a Revolutionary War spy whose descendant, Natalie Nicholson, was one of my early mentors in the MIT Libraries.  When I started shelving books in the Humanities Library at MIT, Natalie was the Associate Director of Libraries.  The Director’s Office suite shared the second floor of Hayden Library which gave me unprecedented access to power!  I actually got to see the Administration!

Natalie took an early interest in me, stopping to ask about my studies at Northeastern University or comment on the full pre-shelving section at the end of term.  We worked together for ten years—1965 to 1975—and throughout, Natalie, appointed Director in 1972, kept an eye on me.  As a young librarian, she looked for opportunities for me to learn and grow.  She asked me to chair my first task force—converting the MIT union catalog to microfiche.  It turned into a learning experience for me with lessons in diplomacy, persistence, the power of data, marketing, return on investment, strategizing, space planning, communication, quality control, and the role of humor in defusing tense confrontations.  Natalie was a great teacher and in my regular meetings with her, she offered encouragement and perspective, but never prescription.  She always turned my questions into “What do you think?”

As I made each transition in my career, I would call Natalie and let her know … [ Read all ]

It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!

On November 26, 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law Public Law No: 113-187, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014. This new law modernizes records management by focusing more directly on electronic records, and complements efforts by the National Archives to implement the President’s 2011 Memorandum on Managing Government Records.

HR 1233 signature page

Key points of this law include:

  • Strengthening the Federal Records Act by expanding the definition of Federal records to clearly include electronic records. This is the first change to the definition of a Federal record since the enactment of the act in 1950.
  • Confirming that Federal electronic records will be transferred to the National Archives in electronic form.
  • Granting the Archivist of the United States final determination as to what constitutes a Federal record.
  • Authorizing the early transfer of permanent electronic Federal and Presidential records to the National Archives, while legal custody remains with the agency or the President.
  • Clarifying the responsibilities of Federal government officials when using non-government email systems.
  • Empowering the National Archives to safeguard original and classified records from unauthorized removal.
  • Codifying procedures by which former and incumbent Presidents review Presidential records for constitutional privileges.

We welcome this bipartisan effort to update the nation’s records laws for the 21st Century. H.R. 1233 could not have become law without the efforts of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking … [ Read all ]

Some big news…

We have two fairly big announcements to make!

Firstly, some of you are likely up to date on this, but the IOE has now officially merged with UCL.  As of December 2nd, we are now the IOE Archive at the UCL Institute of Education. For more information on the merger, visit here.

Secondly, our Archive has been awarded National Archive Accreditation status (which was also made official on December 2nd… December 2nd was a pretty big day around these parts)!  The IOE Archive is the first archive of an educational institution in London to be accredited.

Accreditation is the new UK quality standard that recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery. To achieve accredited status, an archive must demonstrate that it has met clearly defined national standards relating to the management and resourcing of the care of its unique collections and the service it offers to its users.

The accreditation panel that made the award noted the following:

[They] were very impressed with the application and the range of ways in which the service is delivering its mission. They noted specifically the excellence of the documentation submitted, which reflects on the service’s strong management and planning. They congratulated the service on its achievements and innovative good practice in many areas, specifically developing outreach, broadening the volunteering offer and tackling digital preservation issues which many larger and better-resourced services have struggled to address.

We are so pleased to now be fully accredited, and want to thank the accreditation team for all of their help and support as we went through the application process.

For more information on accreditation, head to the National Archives.


Tagged: Accreditation, IOE, National Archives, UCL

The Special Collections Christmas Selections

                Tis the season, everyone!  Can’t you feel it in the air?  The crying students furiously searching for books and typing their papers here in the library, all with matching Java City cups…yes, finals season is truly the most magical time of the year.
                Jokes aside, here in Special Collections we want to get into the holiday spirit, and perhaps you too would like a breather from those five tests you have coming up.  So I went searching through our collections and found an eclectic array of Christmas-themed books and items that I think are definitely worth checking out.  So without further ado, I present to you “The Special Collections Christmas Selections”!

They look so at home next to each other, don’t you think?
                This first book is entitled Stories of Christmas and the Bowie Knife, and if that seems like   There’s hardly a connection or a proper defense given for it—rather, it seems the author just wanted to include his history of the knife to fluff out the book a bit.  Said author is J. Frank Dobie, a Texan folklorist and newspaper columnist.  Most of his best remembered work was much like the included Christmas stories: tales from his youth about the life and culture of rural Texas in the late 19th century.  Bowie Knife backstory aside, reading about his typical Christmas experiences and how greatly they differ from todays is definitely worth the short break out of your day that it will take.

kind of a strange combination to you, let me assure you: it definitely is.

                However, if you’re looking for a slightly more recent story, That Terrible Night Santa Got Lost in the Woods is set in Larry L. King’s childhood in the Depression Era.  It details one tale in particular about his father –all around it is a more focused, dramatic tale than Dobie’s Christmas memories, and comes in at about the same length.  Both are wonderfully illustrated and paint a picture of a beloved holiday from a different but not so long off time.
If you enjoy King’s childhood tale, you maybe also want to read A. C. Greene’s A Christmas Tree.  Being at about the same age, he tells another Christmas story about a father from the 30s.  A bit less dramatic and more humorous than the last, he details the year his father chose a cedar tree that, much to the young author’s delight, was much too big to display in their small home.  I think many of us who celebrate Christmas and buy or cut down live trees can relate to the sentiment of wanting that impressively massive tree that just cannot be chosen, especially as children.  Despite these three books showing the change that our culture has taken around the holiday season, they also reflect those things that have stayed the same, which makes them doubly interesting.
If the Christmas tree tradition is more your interest than history, you may be interested in Mimi Cavender’s poem Cedar: A Hill Country Christmas Night.  This locally published work is about Cavender’s personal experience with the tradition of searching for and cutting down a Cedar Christmas tree.  The poem lends a certain air of mystery and magic to the affair, and complete with the seemingly self-taken photos, it is a very personal look into a widespread tradition.
When I saw the title, I knew this was going to be the best one.
Of course, I’ve saved the best for last.  If the history of sentimentality of all these other The Spectral Santa Claus.  This published book is a collection of stories written in the yearly Christmas letters of former Trinity mathematics professor Harold T. Davis.  The stories are all quite varied, from the titular tale of the ghostly Santa Claus appearing on Christmas night that is said to grant the wishes of the pure of heart, to the musings of his own pet birds Dickie and Sugar, to the ongoing tales of the immortal Saint Nick helping historical figures of all sorts, Spectral Santa Claus has a lot to offer.  If you come for nothing else, I think you should definitely give this book at least a glance.

selections isn’t your thing, or even if it is, I would recommend you come in and take a look at

So, next time you find yourself staring blankly at that ten page paper you’re struggling to find sources for, come take a break in Special Collections and refresh your mind with a bit of Christmas cheer.
We hope to see you soon!
Post by Darcie Marquardt, Class of 2017

A Girl’s Own Christmas

Cover of The Girl’s Own Annual Vol. 39, No. 3.

In our latest adventures as graduate assistants, Rebecca Bramlett and I have been learning how to digitize serials for the FSU Digital Library. This process involves scanning materials in the Digital Library Center, editing them, uploading them, and creating metadata for each issue. Using metadata to describe important features of the serials – such as date issued, subjects, and summary of contents – will make them easier to locate through database searches.

Illustration from The Girl’s Own Annual (1917)

For this project, we are digitizing Volume 39 (12 issues) of The Girl’s Own Annual, a British serial for girls and young women that was published from 1880 until the 1950s. Volume 39 was published in 1917-1918, during World War I, when the girls’ and women’s publications were combined into The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine. Each issue of The Girl’s Own Annual contains a mixture of serial fiction, recipes, knitting and sewing patterns, housekeeping advice, and articles on topics of interest, such as the royal family, women’s education, and women’s contributions to the war effort. The Girl’s Own Annual is part of the John M. Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection and will be added to the Poetry in the Great War collection in the FSU Digital Library.

Since winter break is almost upon us, this is the perfect time to take a look at the 1917 Christmas issue of The Girl’s Own Annual (Vol. 39, No. 3). For your reading enjoyment, let me present you with:

Five Ways to Have a Girl’s Own Christmas:

  1. Curl up with a stack of serial fiction. It’s the early-twentieth century version of a Netflix binge. The Christmas issue is fourteen pages longer than usual and full of extra stories. There’s the first two chapters of “The White Towers” – the story of a mysterious artist and the young art student who captures his attention – as well as two chapters of the romance story “Cicely Ann,” “The Typewriter’s Story: Which Ends with a Wedding,” and several Christmas-themed morality tales. A cup of tea and a roaring fire are optional but highly recommended.
  2. Then read something a little more substantial. Once you’ve satiated your serial fiction needs, you might want to turn to something more informative, such as a discussion of future inventions by Alexander Graham Bell (predicting a time “when we may be able to talk with a man in any part of the world by telephone and without wires”) or the editor’s article on women working outside the home.
  3. Sketch a snowy landscape. Issue No. 3 contains “When Snow is on the Landscape: The Fifth Article on Sketching in Colour,” with advice for sketching in the snow for those who won’t be spending their Christmas in Florida. Just remember, “If you begin to feel unmistakably chilly, pack up straight away.”
  4. Cook an elaborate Christmas dinner. 
    Children’s styles from 1917

    If you’re looking for a break from the usual turkey or ham, perhaps you could serve roast goose, venison, or pheasants? They would go well with potatoes baked with meat and mashed Jerusalem artichokes. And of course, no holiday is complete without old-fashioned Christmas pudding and a prune mould!

  5. Give everyone a homemade present. In a sea of mass-produced consumer goods, perhaps nothing says “I love you” better than a hand-crocheted cap or bonnet, a set of d’oillies with embroidery and filet crochet, or a homemade children’s coat (shown right).

Volume 39 of The Girl’s Own Annual is available to read online at the FSU Digital Library. Additional volumes from the 1880s-1920s are also available in the John M. Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection and may be accessed through the Special Collections Research Center.

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.

How do we teach the First World War in Schools?

‘Whatever else war is, it is always horrific’

- Richard Aldridge in ‘IMPACT 21: How ought war to be remembered in schools?’

Last month, IMPACT (an initiative of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain) organised a seminar led by David Aldridge, lecturer at Oxford Brookes. Held at the Institute of Education, Aldridge and his co-panellists discussed: ‘How Ought War to be Remembered in Schools?’

History teachers aren’t faced with the easiest of tasks; it’s already a challenge to engender a memory of events that students (and often teachers, themselves) didn’t experience first-hand. Teaching the First World War, a war often seen as morally neutral, can be doubly tricky. In history lessons, there are aspects that are black and white: Asquith was Prime Minister in office at the outbreak of war; the Battle of Liege began on the 5th of August, 1914; the war was primarily fought in trenches. But it’s the grey areas that also need addressing whenever we teach, talk, or even think about the past. Aldridge pointed out that, as educators, whenever there’s reasonable disagreeance on an issue, we need to teach that variance.

Aldridge argues that the horrors of war need to be communicated for students: images and narratives of soldiers – including children and young adults – killed or wounded. He advises educational institutions to ‘consider whether the rituals and practices they engage in around remembrance successfully communicate the horror of war’ (Aldridge, 2014: 6).

Aldridge’s fellow panellists also shared their thoughts. Jerome Freeman, Director of the First World War Centenary Battlefields Programme (run by the Institute of Education and Equity), emphasised the importance of going beyond the horror to encourage students to really discover the First World War. While schools often opt to teach the Second World War over the First, the FWW has been largely undertaught. The Battlefields Programme enables two students and one teacher from every state-funded secondary school in England to visit battlefields on the Western Front between 2014 and 2019. Students are encouraged to research their own family connections to the war, but the tours are important historically, not just emotionally. Freeman emphasised the significance of discovering the political and social consequences of war, while also engaging with historiography – was it a just war? What were the consequences? The tours are built around these key questions, while also probing the issue of remembrance. Who, what, why and how do we remember?

In the IOE Archive workshops we deliver in local primary schools, we use archives to tell the stories of ‘ordinary’ individuals during the war. How did the Great War impact men, women, children? These details range from photographs of children setting up gardens to address food shortages on the home front, to letters describing life in the trenches, to applications made to tribunals for exemption from military service. Working primarily with primary schools, we ensure the horrors are not overplayed; rather, children develop a sense of how nearly every aspect of life was impacted by the war in some way.

Pupils tend to a school garden. Image via Imperial War Museum via www1schools.com

Pupils tend to a school garden.  Allotment-style gardens were developed in available areas of land during the Great War – including school playing fields.
Image via Imperial War Museum via www1schools.com

However, that doesn’t mean skirting around the terrors and tragedies of the war, including the realities of Britain’s own role. We worked with a Year 5 class in Camden who were busy learning about conscientious objectors. Through the archives and classroom discussions, students were fully aware of the harsh consequences faced by COs. Moreover, as pupils carefully considered why pacifists objected to serving brought to the fore the daily realities of war: the very fact that, as Aldridge pointed out, ‘war is killing, not just dying’.

A Year 6 student commented that he had recently read Private Peaceful, a Michael Morpurgo novel (spoilers ahead). In the novel, a young soldier, Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful, reflects on his life in the trenches of the First World War. It’s revealed that Tommo is to be executed by firing squad in the morning for cowardice, and serves as an honest examination of soldiers killed on the grounds of cowardice or desertion. The student simply, and thoughtfully, remarked: ‘I couldn’t believe stuff like that happened by our own army… wasn’t there enough killing?’

As with teaching of any sort, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. But we also have the knowledge that history too often repeats itself.  One of the best things we can do as educators is to ensure students have a multi-faceted understanding of the range of issues and perspectives which surround any historical event, particularly when it comes to conflicts and peace-keeping.  Aldridge suggests it’s imperative that we remember the horrors of war, ‘so that we continue to make every effort to avoid or at least condemn unnecessary conflict in the future’ (Aldridge, 2014: 5).

Relevant Educator Resources:

The Interwar Peace Movement: lesson plan from the IOE Archives
While our archive collections don’t contain a great deal on the graphic horrors of war, the National Union of Women Teachers collection contains papers, leaflets and correspondence relating to the post-war peace movement and their support of/for conscientious objectors.

Learn Peace: An education project by the Peace Pledge Union

Tagged: archives, Battlefields Programme, David Aldridge, First World War, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Primary School, Teaching

Key Prize of War – WW1 in WA

Gerard Foley
Wednesday, December 3, 2014 – 16:24

Key ‘Prize of War’

Anzac Centenary commemorations have been the impetus for Archivists at the SRO to examine the State Archives Collection for First World War stories. One of the stories about WA’s official ‘War’ file has already been presented in an online exhibition called “Tipsified Germany Glyphic” - revealing the actions and responses of government, administrators and the community to the comencement of the First World War a century ago.

Recently, a fascinating collection of legal records have been found documenting the seizure of three German ships – ‘Neumunster’, ‘Thuringen’ and ‘Greifswald’ – off the WA coast at the start of the war. These ‘Maritime Prize Court’ files (WAS 938, cons. 4230, items 1-3) are Supreme Court of Western Australia records, in the court’s capacity as a Colonial Court of Admiralty, and were deposited in the State Archives in 1991. The court cases for the three ships are also detailed in ‘Minutes – Maritime Prize Court’ (WAS 939, cons. 4335, item 1).

In 1914, upon declaration of war, enemy vessels and cargo which were captured in port or at sea were processed through the courts of the captor’s country. A “Prize Court” was especially constituted for this purpose, deciding questions of maritime capture in time of war according to international law. This court decided whether the capture was lawful, the ownership of the vessel, whether the cargo was “neutral” or “enemy” and what should be done with it. The archived files in the SRO contain relevant Prize Court documents as well as seized ships records, such as ships certificates, log books, bills of health, sailing and arrival codes, port clearance papers, manifests, etc.

For the Thuringen a key from the ship is also retained as an archive. In one of the Prize Court depositions the circumstances of the taking of the Thuringen are described. Lieutenant Dalglish of the HMAS Pioneer is recorded as saying that when they boarded “I was received by the third officer, and was taken up to the bridge where the captain was. I informed him the ship was a prize and he asked why. I informed him that war was declared between Great Britain and Germany … I then went down to his cabin and he produced all his confidential books, which I locked up in a safe. Then pay master Ramsay came in, and we examined them together …”. This evidence indicates that the key could well be for the ship’s safe.

The seizure of these ships and subsequent Prize Court adjudication were covered in the newspapers in 1914 and 1915. The Norddeutsher Lloyd ship Greifswald arrived in Fremantle Harbour the day war was declared and was detained by naval authorities. The liner Neumunster was captured off Fremantle on 16 August 1914. ‘The West Australian’ newspaper reported that the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamer Thuringen was seized off Rottnest on 27 August 1914. [1]

For weeks these ships sat in Fremantle Harbour, their cargo off loaded and crews interned at Rottnest while Prize Court proceedings ensued. On 8 October 1914 ‘The West Australian’ reported that Acting Chief Justice Burnside granted an application made by the Crown to hand over the ships to the Admiralty and also handing the cargoes to the Crown for delivery to consignees.

On 23 December under the headlines


‘The West Australian’ reported that Mr. Justice Burnside had “delivered his reserved decisions with respect to the applications made by the Crown for the condemnation of the German ships Neumunster and Thuringen.” Furthermore “leave was granted to the defendants to appeal in the Privy Council, and all questions other than costs, were deferred till the issue of that appeal”.[2]

In June 1915 word came that the appeals “would not be persisted in” and the ships became crown property. The Thuringen was renamed the Moorina and was leased to the Indian Government. This ship, carrying Indian troops, was torpedoed by German submarines in the Mediterranean on 10 November 1915. The Neumunster renamed Cooee remained in service in Australia until 1926 when it was sold to a Finnish shipping company. The Greifswald was renamed Carina in 1915 and was engaged by the navy to transport cargo to and from Europe during the First World War.[3]

The crews of these merchant ships remained interned on Rottnest until late 1915 when they were transferred to Holsworthy Internment Camp in New South Wales, most remaining there for the remainder of the war. 


[1] 1914 ‘GERMAN STEAMER THURINGEN.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 28 August, p. 8, viewed 25 November, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28565954

[2] 1914 ‘PRIZE COURT.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 23 December, p. 7, viewed 24 November, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28578628


Gifts for archivists (and librarians)?

[Update: our holiday gift guide is now available! Thanks for the contributions]

Last year we asked on the ArchiveGrid blog for suggestions for gifts for archivists — and we were blown away by the number (and quality!) of suggestions (posted in 24 fun and practical gifts for archivists). This year, we’re moving the conversation over to HangingTogether and extending the fun to librarians. So, librarians and archivists, what would you like as a gift? We’ll assemble the best of the best and post them in a week or two. Then it’s up to you to leave the link for that special someone to find. Or use it to treat your colleagues. We look forward to your suggestions in the comments below!

[Untitled, Anacostia family c. 1950. Smithsonian Institution]

[Untitled, Anacostia family c. 1950. Smithsonian Institution]

Being Human Festival Part 2: LiveFriday at the Ashmolean

As we mentioned in a previous post, we love LiveFriday at the Ashmolean and were delighted to be invited to do a special display of our lantern slides for the latest event, which just happened to co-incide with the Being Human Festival week.

We were asked to produce ‘Christmassy’ images, so we chose ‘Snow and Camels’ as our theme. ‘Snow’ gave us an opportunity to show off some of the beautiful images from the Plant Science Library held at the Radcliffe Science Library. The PSL lantern slide collection is fascinating from an anthropological and archaeological perspective – the teaching collection of images of agriculture and forestry from the late 19th century illustrate the social, political and physical realities of european and colonial life, as well as capturing landscapes and environments at a point of change.

These images also show that what we see when we look at a picture is affected by our cultural, educational and contextual gaze – two viewers will look at the same photograph and take different information from it. In the context of the Ashmolean exhibition, this image is cheerful, snowy and Christmassy…

live friday 1

The photograph was taken by E. A. Smythies, and its caption shows that he saw something very different:

“Ash bent by snow, Sihlwald, Switzerland. Note effect spruce behind. Late snowfall May 24, 1908″.

Smythies, who became a pioneer in forestry studies (and a groundbreaking philatelist), took this image as part of his research into forestry management for his Oxford University diploma.

By contrast, here is one of our ‘camel’ images from Harris Manchester College’s lantern slide collection:

Live Friday 2

This is from a Victorian travel lecture called ‘Holy Land’. This image is number 30 in the series and is entitled ‘Camels on the March’. The idea of a Victorian travel lecture brings us on to our next Being Human Festival event – more on that in the next post…

Sally Crawford

Thanksgiving at FSCW

Schedule of events during Thanksgiving week (1941)

FSU’s campus during Thanksgiving is usually pretty quiet – students and staff are visiting their families over the break, or maybe traveling for the annual FSU vs. UF game, or others might be holed up in their dorm room and getting an early start on studying for finals. However, at FSCW, Thanksgiving week was bustling with events, which included presentations, band drills, a dance, and culminated with Florida State’s original rivalry – the annual Odd-Even basketball game. Festivities surrounding Thanksgiving became so enormously popular that college officials designated the entire week as Homecoming in 1926.

Programs from Even Demonstrations
Programs from Odd Demonstrations

The first event, a tradition that started in 1913, was the Color Rush. At the beginning of the week, selected students would race around the school and “capture” buildings by affixing ribbons in their class colors to the highest point (and later on, the front doors, due to safety concerns). Odd class colors were red, white, and purple, and the Even classes adopted green and gold.

The fountain at Westcott was designated “Forever Odd,” because it was gift from the 1915 and 1917 classes. Similarly, the entrance arch was declared “Forever Even,” and was gifted by the classes of 1916 and 1918. The Color Rush began at the morning bell, and traditionally Dr. Ralph Bellamy would start the race not with a whistle, but his shotgun – ready, set, BOOM!

Three Women in Baby Costumes (Even Demonstrations) (Betty and Katharine Autrey Collection, 1932)
Odd Demonstration (Heritage Protocol General Photograph Collection, circa 1926-1927)

Many of the events revolved around the intense rivalry between the Odds and Evens, the groupings of the odd and even graduating classes. Each side developed their own songs, cheers, and even had their own honorary societies – Spirogira (Odd) and Esteren (Even). Elaborate student productions, called demonstrations, were held by each group, complete with costumes, musical numbers, and dancing.

Odd-Even Game (Thanksgiving) (Elizabeth and Katharine Autrey Collection, 1930)
Odd-Even Game (Thanksgiving) (Elizabeth and Katharine Autrey Collection, 1930)

Nothing was more popular than the Odds vs. Evens basketball game. This event, one of the few times that women at the school could participate in athletic competition (as FSCW officials did not think competitive sports were ladylike), became so popular that in 1924 Katherine Montgomery added a volleyball game to the day’s activities. Thanksgiving activities culminated with a dinner on Thursday night. Admission to the dinner cost about $1 for students, and was an elaborate feast that was enjoyed by all.

Various Thanksgiving Week programs
Various Thanksgiving Week programs (circa 1930-1941)

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.

We here at FSU Special Collections & Archives wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. We will be closed Thursday, November 27 and Friday, November 28. We resume our normal operating hours on December 1.