Night at the Museum

Appleton Museum GuideWhen Millicent Todd Bingham and Richard Sewall wrote their biographies of Emily Dickinson, they each included a section about the influence upon the poet of President Edward Hitchcock and Amherst College. Bingham and Sewall sought to show that one can see in Dickinson’s poems – in her ideas, imagery, and unexpected vocabulary – the effect of Hitchcock and the college he helped establish.

The science cabinets at the College were among Dickinson’s Amherst-related influences.  They housed specimens of minerals, shells, fossils, and animals gathered by Hitchcock and his colleagues over the course of their careers and were important campus attractions.  Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, contributed $50 to the Woods cabinet and $100 to Appleton, and his children were no doubt part of the thousands of people who visited them over the decades. There is evidence that Emily attended the opening of the Woods Cabinet (mineralogy, meteorology, geology) in the Octagon in 1848, and she probably also visited the Appleton Cabinet (zoology and ichnology) when it opened in 1855.

The Emily Dickinson International Society meets in Amherst this summer to walk in Dickinson’s town and gather together in the homes she knew, and to absorb as much of her world as possible. They won’t find the same science cabinets that Dickinson knew, but photographs from the collection can recreate something of what she saw.

The photographs below show the campus as it was in middle of the 19th century, as well as some of the exhibitions Dickinson would have seen when she visited the science cabinets and gathered the words and ideas that filled her thoughts and spilled onto paper.


1-College-Row-ca-1855-ambrotypeIn this photograph we see members of the first meeting of the Emily Dickinson International Society, who, ignoring the fact that Dickinson was just a self-professed “nobody,” convened at Amherst College to get a jump on Dickinson scholarship. The Woods Cabinet is next to the Octagon in the structure on the left; Appleton Cabinet, a new building at this time, is on the right. Johnson Chapel (middle of long row of buildings) also housed the early elements of the zoological and ichnological cabinets before they were moved to Appleton. Half-plate ambrotype by E. W. Cowles, ca. 1855.


Visitors Guide - 1862The Visitor’s Guide, published by President Hitchcock’s son Charles in 1862, provides a detailed list of the contents of the “public rooms and cabinets” as they were in 1862 as well as a general history of the collections. It’s still a useful document both for specifics about what was where and for a sense of how people understood and described the contents of the collections.


2-appleton-ca-1855-ambrotypeThe new Appleton Cabinet, housing the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet and the Adams Zoological Cabinet. Half-plate ambrotype by E.W. Cowles, ca. 1855. At least one of the rocks outside the entrance appears to have a fossil track in it – see detail below. The man entering the building on the right carries something under his arm – perhaps more specimens.



3-Appleton-ambro-entrance-detailA track in the rock at left, and what looks like striation in the rock at right. The track on the left looks to this amateur like the 14-20” print of “Brontozoum giganteum,” examples of which Appleton apparently had in abundance.



5-Appleton-Cab-exterior-detailA slightly later (ca. 1865) photograph shows that the rocks in the earlier photograph have been removed, the track probably to the interior of the building and the striated rock perhaps to the area around the “Ninevah Gallery” near the Octagon, which still has an arrangement of boulders near the one moved by the Class of 1857.

7-Appleton-Cab-Register-cover“[Natural history cabinets] deeply interest and instruct the community surrounding a college, and all who visit it, and thus give reputation to it…almost every one will see enough in nature’s products to awaken interest, inquiry and admiration. This explains the fact that as many as fifteen thousand visitors annually have registered their names in the Amherst Cabinets, small and retired as the place is.” (Edward Hitchcock, “Reminiscences of Amherst College,” p. 112).

8-Appleton-Cab-Register-1st-pgsThe Appleton Cabinet register commences in March, 1859. So far, Emily Dickinson’s signature has not been located in this large book (Jay Leyda searched it in the 1950s), but there are many other interesting signatures.
9-Appleton-Cab-Register-Nickleby-et-alAmong the famous people who visited Appleton are Nicholas Nickleby, Smike, and members of the Squeers family. It is not clear whether Oliver Twist was part of their group or visited on his own.

10-Appleton-Cab-Register-Smith-et-alJoseph Smith and 12 ladies (Smith, who had been shot dead in 1844, evidently returned from the celestial kingdom to visit Appleton)

11-Appleton-Cab-11-1-1861Dickinson’s friend Kate Turner and Kate’s friend Gertrude Vanderbilt visited Sue Dickinson in the fall of 1861. There is no record of whether they also saw the poet, who was experiencing a personal crisis at this time – her “terror since September,” as she described it the following spring.


16-AppletonThe Ichnological Cabinet in Appleton was Edward’s Hitchcock’s great joy. He described the history of his collection in his “Reminiscences” and his son described it in the Visitor’s Guide above: “Great care has been taken by the position of the tables, sometimes horizontal and sometimes inclined, and especially by the position of the large slabs on their edges, to make the light fall on them most advantageously….The main principle of the arrangement was to place the specimens so that the light should fall obliquely upon their faces.” (Guide, p. 57) Visible in this photograph: “Near the middle of the room there is suspended from the ceiling the leg of the great Moa, or dinornis, lately discovered in the alluvium of new Zealand, where it may have lived within a few hundred years. The two upper bones, the femur and the tibia, are wooden models of bones in other cabinets. But the lower piece, the tarso-metatarsal and the foot, excepting three of the phalanges, are true bone, from New Zealand. Not far distant hangs the model of an egg of a still larger bird, the Aepyornis, from Madagascar; the original of which is in Paris.” (p. 67)

12-Adams-Chas-B-AC1834-Whipple-crystalotypeCharles Baker Adams, Class of 1834, and a man obsessed with science, especially conchology and entomology. Adams gave the bulk of the specimens for the Zoological Collection while it was located in the Chapel and then the Woods Cabinet but didn’t live to see it gathered in Appleton. In 1852 despite ill health, he insisted on a return expedition to the tropics and could not be dissuaded, even by the discouragement of the trustees of the College. “He went, and stopping at the hospitable residence of a friend in St. Thomas, was advised to keep within doors till the yellow fever had subsided. But his love of science set at nought the suggestions of prudence, with the remark that there was no fever among the shell fish, and a little exposure brought on the fever of which he died.” (Reminiscences, p. 96-7)

At the opening of the Woods Cabinet in 1848, Adams said: “The efforts of naturalists to exhibit the true order of nature, can never fail to gratify a correct and refined taste. Such order is of far higher origin than mere human invention, and is so perfect as to harmonize no less with our emotions of beauty than with our ideas of fitness and method. It is indeed one of the most delightful features of science, that the farther she advances in a correct knowledge of nature, the more systematically and harmoniously are all the powers of the intellect and the emotions of beauty and virtue gratified and invigorated. Nor can the lesson of humility be lost on the lover of science, since his highest efforts consist only in the discovery and exhibition of a beauty and perfection, which not only does not originate in him, but which extends far beyond the most distant flights of his imagination.” (Guide, p. 111) Imagine the effect of these ideas on Dickinson, who is thought to have been at the ceremony.

After Adams’s death, another well known Amherst man, William S. Clark, took over the zoological collection and was responsible for many of the specimens of large mammals seen in the pictures below.

12-Appleton-Cab-interiorThe Adams Zoological Cabinet in Appleton: “The first thing that attracts the attention of the visitor is the paintings upon the walls. Upon the west end of the room is represented an elephant, in the mist of tropical scenery; It appears to best advantage when viewed from the east end of the room…” (Guide, p. 86)

13-Appleton-Cab-interiorRegarding the mammals case, “Upon the third shelf the variety is greater.  Here may be seen the skulls of many small animals; the teeth of many more, such as the whale, camel, elephant, and hippopotamus; the tail of an elephant, the skin of a rhinoceros; feet of a bear; skulls of monkeys; daguerreotype of the Aztec children, etc.  Upon the upper shelves of this and the next case will be seen models of the heads of men distinguished for good or bad qualities, by the side of the heads of various wild and domesticated animals.  These specimens were designed to illustrate phrenology…. Commencing at the right-hand side of the long case at the west end of the room, one sees first some monstrosities.  One is a very fine specimen of a double calf….  Another is a double-headed lamb, and the third is a calf possessing a rudimentary porcine snout.  Next is a fine panther, called also American cougar, catamount, and Indian devil.  It is one of the cat tribe.”  (Guide, p 93-4)

14-appleton-interiorLooking east, “so, too, the representations of Arctic scenery, and of a western buffalo hunt, over the stairs, appear best from the west end of the room…” (Guide, 86)


15-Appleton-interior “Inside the large glazed case, near the stairs, is a representation of the scenery of a Northern winter, in which a moose is located. When this painting was executed, only a solitary moose occupied the case; but now, since the accumulation of specimens, the scene is not so appropriate.” (Guide, 87)


Appleton-Zool-Cab-north-wall-ca1870-detail-007“Upon the north side of the room are represented a South American anaconda attempting to ‘charm’ a parrot, and the huge African ape, the gorilla, the nearest approach of the animal kingdom to man.” (Guide, 86-7)


17-Appleton-Gorilla“Several important specimens have recently been received for the Zoological Museum….  Among them are the stuffed skin and skeleton of the African Gorilla, presented by Rev. Wm. Walker, of Gaboon, West Africa.  No other cabinet in the country, at this date, is so largely represented by specimens of this animal.  It being the nearest approach of the animals to man, these specimens have attracted great interest, particularly as they so clearly show the falsity of the notion that the gorilla could ever have changed into man by the ‘law of selection.’  The skin was stuffed by Jillson of Fentonville, and the skeleton mounted by my oldest son.” (Reminscences, p. 95)


When I envisioned this post, I thought I would write about one item in particular, our daguerreotype of the “Aztec children” who toured with P.T. Barnum in the 1850s. However, Maximo and Bartola, the microcephalic children from San Salvador, received full treatment in a nice blog post from a few months ago. I like to consider that Dickinson probably saw this daguerreotype in Appleton (west end!), even though you would seek in vain for “Aztec children” or “microcephalic” in her poetry or letters. 18-Aztec-children-dag-top-half19-Maximo-Bartola-ca1851-600dpiOur daguerreotype was most likely a purchase by Professor Adams during the visit to Boston by Barnum’s circus in late 1850-51. The daguerreotype, perhaps one of many sold during the tour, was taken by Beckers & Piard of New York, ca. 1850. The half-legible inscription (in Adams’s hand?) pinned to the velvet liner says: “Aztec Children. The boy weighs 20 lbs; is supposed to be about 15 years old. The girl weighs 17 lbs; is supposed to be about 12 years old.” The rest is frustratingly illegible, even in Photoshop.


Hitchcock said of natural history collections in colleges devoted to a liberal education, “they are indispensable to give students a knowledge of the natural productions of different parts of the earth, and without which, their views would be narrow, and they would be liable to constant blunders in their literary productions” (Reminiscences, 111). Visitors today should attend the cabinet called the Beneski Museum, a facility and collection that would make Hitchcock and his colleagues proud and provide inspiration for poets of all stripes.

Rabbits in Boxes

As physical objects, children’s books are notoriously at-risk. Books and ephemera that were originally published for children usually ended up in the possession of… children, not surprisingly. And whatever their other merits, children aren’t typically known for their careful attention to the health and well-being of their toys and books.

That’s why a collection like our Edith Wetmore Collection of Children’s Books is so special. It’s comprised of about 2,000 books made for children, and many of them are still in incredible shape.

Imagine how easily this miniature French set of natural history books and its delicate, decorative could have been damaged in the nearly 200 years since its publication:

petite galerieOr how an avid young reader could have torn the dust jacket of Charlotte’s web:

Charlotte's Web

Or how about the fragile overlays attached to the pages of this guide for young women’s conduct:

The Toilet

Some items weren’t even designed to remain intact, like this assemble-it-yourself toy book of the Puss In Boots story (you can make your own version of one here):

Puss in boots


And in some cases, survival of a book is legendary. Beatrix Potter couldn’t get anyone interested in her story of a rambunctious rodent, so she published 250 copies of Peter Rabbit at her own expense and gave many away. We can be sure that original number of 250 was whittled down by children who loved their books to pieces, which is what makes a copy like this one such a treasure:

Peter Rabbit

With fragile books like this in such excellent condition, we wanted to make sure that they stayed as undamaged as possible, and that’s where the National Endowment for the Humanities* comes in. Thanks to a preservation grant program, we were able to purchase over 500 custom archival boxes for the most needy books in the collection. Individual boxes are great because they isolate books from most of the things that cause damage.

So now Peter Rabbit is safely ensconced and ready for another century of use by anyone (including children) who wants to see his first appearance in the world.

Rabbit in box


Next time: Numbers, numbers and more numbers.

*Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

OCLC Research Update at ALA Annual, 2014: something for everyone

For some time now, we have been doing an OCLC Research Update at the American Library Association meeting (both ALA Annual and Midwinter) in order to, well, give an update on our work. Which is quite wide ranging. logo   Last month several of my colleagues participated in the update. Eric Childress played MC, giving a variety of mini-updates on OCLC Research — for example, Lorcan’s honorary doctorate from the Open University, the ALCTS Presidential Citation, awarded to OCLC Research for the compendium, Understanding the Collective Collection, our What in the WorldCat? lists, and a teaser for Lorcan’s forthcoming book, The Network Reshapes the Library. In addition, meatier presentations were featured during the update:

The presentations, with speaker notes, are available on Slideshare. I’ve given you plenty of links to follow but you can also look for more blog postings on these projects in the future!

ISOO Report to the President

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), established in 1978, is responsible to the President for overseeing the Government-wide security classification program, and receives policy and program guidance from the National Security Council.  ISOO has been part of the National Archives and Records Administration since 1995.  You can learn more about ISOO at

The 34th Annual Report to the President covering 2013 was released earlier this month.

ISOO 2013 Report to President

Several positive developments are noted in this report:

  •  The number of persons granted original classification authority continues to decrease and is at its lowest recorded level, standing at 2,269.
  • Agencies reported a 20% reduction in original classification activity
  • ISOO conducted on-site reviews of five agency declassification programs with all agencies receiving a passing score.

Other report highlights:

  •  Agencies reported 58,794 original classification decisions
  • Executive Branch agencies reported 80,124,389 derivative classification decisions
  • Under automatic, systematic, and discretionary declassification review, agencies reviewed 56,332,029 pages and declassified 27,524,342 pages of historically valuable records.

I am proud of the work of our ISOO staff and encourage you to become familiar with this important function here at the National Archives.… [ Read all ]

Charles Boni Paper Books

Wandering through our stacks the other day, my eye was caught by a small collection of paperbacks with bold modernist cover art and the intriguing publisher “Paper Books” listed on the spine.

The Masters of the Day of Judgement

little leather library

Little Leather Library

The Charles Boni Paper Books series was published by established publisher brothers Charles and Albert Boni with artistic design by Rockwell Kent. The Boni brothers had previously begun the Little Leather Library company in 1916 (they sold their interest in the company in 1917). They ran a successful publishing house, Charles & Albert Boni, from 1923 to 1939, which published many important modernist writers.

The Paper Books series was an experiment by Charles & Albert Boni, in the new fields of American paperback publishing and subscription book clubs. Members paid a subscription fee of $5 per year and received a new book on the 25th of each month. Publication began with a prototype, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder, and the first monthly installment came out on September 25th 1929. The following statement is printed on the last page of each book (along with a title list)

The PAPER BOOKS was founded in nineteen twenty-nine by Charles Boni, to place good books, well designed and carefully made, within the reach of any reader”

The first five books of the series share the same cover art

Prize Poems, 1913-1929
A bound variant of Prize Poems, binding was offered for an additional dollar for some of the titles.

The series lasted for 16 issues (including the prototype), but was not able to weather the financial strain of the great depression and ceased publishing in 1930. Along the way, the brothers created the spin-off paperback series Bonibooks. Bonibooks reprinted many of the Paper Books titles (and shared end paper and title page design) and a number of other titles but was not sold by subscription.


End paper of the first five Paper Books
End paper for the majority of the Paper Books and Bonibooks series.

For a more in-depth look at the cover art in the Paper Book series see:

End matter from Crime and Destiny, the last book in the Paper Books series

The Flexner Incident: Not One of Our Finer Moments

James Thomas Flexner (1908-2003) was a distinguished man of letters writing about American history and art. As a historian and biographer he is best known for a four-volume biography of George Washington that earned him a National Book Award in biography and a special Pulitzer Prize. In 1931, he was the Executive Secretary for the New York City Board of Health’s Noise Abatement Commission. Like many civil servants at the time, he was asked to deliver remarks over WNYC on the work of his agency. Though memorable, it unfortunately was not a pleasant experience. He wrote about it in his 1996 autobiography, Maverick’s Progress:

My experience with radio broadcasting began when, as a twenty-three-year-old, I was scheduled to speak on noise abatement over New York City’s radio station, WNYC. The studios were under the roof of the huge municipal building.

It was with a great deal of uneasiness that I set out with my much-worked-over speech grasped convulsively in my hand. The occasion was so important to me that I expected to be received when I arrived with much attention. But the one elevator that went so high disgorged me into a tremendous empty space, lugubriously lit, with a few dirty sofas, against soiled walls and no humans in sight.

Empty, murky corridors went off in several directions. Dreading to be late, I feverishly sampled one corridor after another, banging on locked doors, forlornly rattling doorknobs. Finally, I sat down on one of the sofas, raising a cloud of dust. I was marooned in an atmosphere so depressing that even during subsequent years when I had become inured to radio, it never failed to lower my spirits. Now, terrified of disgracing myself on my first appearance before a huge audience, the more ominous because it would be unseen, I felt as if I had fallen into a morbid pit in my own psyche.

Finally, an oblong of light sprang onto the floor of one of the corridors. From the door that had been opened stepped a tall, willowy, immaculately dressed young man. Having approached me formally, he greeted me with all the ceremony I could have desired. I was led into a room furnished with a few rickety chairs and an oblong table bearing several microphones. My companion showed me how close I should put my mouth to the microphone, and asked me to say a few words so that sound could be adjusted. Then he spoke into his own microphone a few words of gracious introduction, and pointed to me.

My manuscript before me, I was reading smoothly, without any of the confusions or hesitations I had feared, when I felt a strange sensation on the top of my head. Something was happening to my hair. I felt that I should not interrupt my speech by turning from the microphone to investigate, but finally, as the sensation went on, I dared a quick backward glance. The announcer was running his hands through my curly red hair.

As I could not shout into the air waves, ‘Take your god-damned hands out of my hair!’ all I could do, as I read doggedly on, was to shake my fist backward over my shoulder. This had no effect. The hand continued to move through my hair.

The instant I had got through my speech, I sprang up to face the announcer. He was talking into his microphone, gracefully closing the show. Having finished, he rose languorously, delivered in my direction a deep courtier’s bow, and then dashed for the door, slamming it behind him. By the time I got the door open, the murky corridors had returned to their suicidal emptiness.


Source: James Thomas Flexner in his autobiography, Maverick’s Progress, Fordham University Press, 1996, pgs. 467-468. Reprinted with permission and courtesy of Fordham University Press.

How Wikipedia works, the anatomy of an editathon

Last year, at the RBMS preconference in Minneapolis, I was joined by Bob Kosovsky (New York Public Library) Ryan Cartwright (MNopedia Associate Project Editor, Minnesota Historical Society) and János McGhie (St. Paul Public Library) for what I thought was a great session on the connections between Wikipedia and libraries (you can find a link to the audio from the session by scrolling down here). We had a great turn out (standing room only!), and a lot of interest for further involvement. So for the 2014 preconference in Las Vegas, Bob and I put in a proposal for a workshop on Wikipedia, hoping to capitalize on the interest showed by our colleagues. Unfortunately (for us), there were too many fantastic workshop proposals put forward and we were asked to reapply for 2015. 

Bob and I were disappointed but regrouped — all we really needed, we reasoned, was a room with wireless and projection, and a place where people could sit with laptops, someplace not too far from the conference venue. So, in be bold fashion, we approached the University of Las Vegas Libraries. Fortunately, they had a conference room available that fit the bill so we were back on! Thank you, UNLV!

Editing libraries into Wikipedia [Wikimedia Commons]

Editing libraries into Wikipedia [Wikimedia Commons]

Held on June 27th, the first ever RBMS Wikipedia Editathon was more “how to” than an actual working session (although we did get some editing done!). We covered some basics like editing and creating citations (and took a tour of the Visual Editor — if you have a Wikipedia User account and install this, it will make your editing life much easier, unless you are already a Mediawiki markup wizard). We also looked at Wikimedia Commons, a repository for image and other files. Participants exchanged tips on how to host an editathon for different audiences (I loved hearing about what Mt Holyoke has been up to, with students, staff, faculty and alum all participating). We discussed conflict of interest (an important topic for GLAM professionals) and notability. We also talked about how to react when our edits or contributions are reverted.

So, did we achieve all of our goals and objectives? On the one hand, there was very little “product” in terms of improving articles that came out of our time together. On the other hand, most of our participants came into the workshop with a Wikipedia user account but had not done a lot of editing. Everyone had a little knowledge, but I feel like we are all stronger editors for having shared experiences with one another.

My personal takeaway is that I’d like to do more of these events, however informal, at professional conferences I attend in the future. Fortunately, the next meeting I’ll be attending is Wikimania (which will be wall to wall inspiration) followed by the Society of American Archivists meeting, where Dominic McDevitt-Parks (NARA) and Sara Snyder (Smithsonian Archives of American Art) will be hosting a session called “Editathon: You Have One Hour to Increase Access to Archival Science Info on Wikipedia…Go!” So, the next time you see me at a meeting, please ask about editing libraries and archives into Wikipedia!

WNYC and WQXR: Pioneer Broadcasters of Latin American Music

It began at WNYC as the program South American Way (November 4, 1940 edition above) and ended up at WQXR as Nights in Latin America. Through it all, the source collection of recordings remained the same (and grew) as the show passed from one family member to another.

Evans Clark – South American Way

Evans Clark was a writer, largely on social and economic issues. He was also a teacher, foundation executive, health care official, housing expert and on the editorial board of The New York Times. But it was during his tenure as Executive Director of the Twentieth Century Fund (1928-1953)  that he was able to indulge his love of Latin American music by building a unique collection of more than six thousand discs of both commercial and one-of-a-kind transcriptions containing native folk and popular music from every country south of the U.S. border.  He put this collection to good use by sharing it with WNYC listeners from 1940 to 1946 on the weekly program South American Way. The title and theme music were taken from the popular 1939 song of the same name usually associated with the Andrews Sisters and Carmen Miranda, who sang it in the stage musical Streets of Paris and then on-screen in 1940 for the film Down Argentine Way.

Clark had become interested in Latin American music because he loved dancing and reportedly found Latin American rhythms fascinating. At one point as a member of the Music Committee of Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of Co-ordinator of Inter-American Affairs, a federal agency promoting economic cooperation with Latin America in the 1940s, Clark made a series of short trips to Latin America and wrote up his musical findings. Here he emphasized his focus on popular music.

“It appeals to almost everyone instead of to a few sophisticates and, therefore, has a far greater influence. Also, it reflects national traits and characteristics–it gives the ‘feel’ and atmosphere of a country as concert music never does–even when the latter is based on ‘indigenous themes.’ ” [1]

Pru Devon – Nights in Latin America

Born in Wales in 1908 and raised in Devonshire, Prunella Bodkin was the daughter of English Shakespearean actors and sang at the Welsh Eistedfodd. She described it as, “that fabulous gathering of bards and minstrels imbued with the same earthy exotic quality that you might today find in a remote village in Mexico, in Paraguay, or in a distant gathering of Gauchos far off in the Argentine Pampas.”[2] Her training was certified by London’s Royal Academy of Music. She came to the United States with her mother and brother at the age of 15, settling in San Diego, where she continued her education and discovered Mexican folk music, becoming a devotee. In 1930 she married Karl Kirchwey, the brother of Nation Magazine editor Freda Kirchwey. Freda, it turned out, was married to Evans Clark. They met and remained in touch after Karl’s death in 1943. Acknowledging a mutual appreciation for the music and his own growing work pressures prompted Clark to pass the show on to her, along with access to his unique music library. Devon described a pivital lunch with him to a Times reporter.
” ‘I remember how we both laughed when I off-handedly asked whether I couldn’t take over’…’On further thought the possibility didn’t strike her quite so funny; she auditioned for the station and consequently not only took over Mr. Clark’s show but originated two of her own.”[3]
The WNYC programs aired in 1946 and included a children’s show, and a weekly broadcast of ‘nostalgic’ songs presented under the title of That Reminds Me, in addition to the the program of Latin and South American music. All were done under her maiden name, Pru Bodkin. But, as she explained, it was the Latin American music that sparked the most interest. “I was surprised and delighted at the response and interest of listeners…This naturally encouraged me to develop the program further, and subsequently, when I was invited to present a program of Latin American folk music on WQXR, Nights in Latin America was born.”[4] The show shifted to WQXR in January, 1947 and she adopted the radio stage name of Pru Devon. The program was a regular feature until June, 1971. Over the show’s more than twenty-year run, Devon added tremendously to the Clark Collection with a particular emphasis on the folk content.

The program’s primary sponsor was Panagra Airlines and, for a period, Savarin Coffee. The shows were painstakingly researched and produced reams of fan mail, a sampling of which is in the slideshow at the bottom of the page. But first, a typical program from June 25, 1948 by Devon, opening with her standard, “Saludos, amigos!”

Pru Devon performing in the WQXR studio. (Courtesy of Alister and Wendy Sanderson, WQXR Archive Collections)


[1] Clark, Evans, Brief Notes on Music in Eight Countries of Latin America : A Report of a Flying Trip to Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador for the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, 1941, pg. 2.

[2] Devon, Pru, unidentified magazine article from 1950s.,

[3] Hift, Fred, “Latin American Radio Showcase,” The New York Times, November 12, 1950, pg. 113.

[4] Ibid.

Special thanks to Alister and Wendy Sanderson and Matthew Barton, Curator at the Library of Congress Sound Division.

City in the Sand

As we were scanning a box on Roman sites around the Mediterranean this image of Leptis Magna sprang out at us. Located directly on the sea in what is now Libya, Leptis Magna rose to become one of the great cities and trading ports of the Roman Empire.

Economic decline and environmental change, including the progressive silting-up of its natural harbour, led to a decline of the city after the third century. Conquests and re-conquests added to the fate of the site, which eventually disappeared under sand.

Myres: Libya: Tripoli: Leptis Magna: Great apse SE of Forum from the west

Myres Collection: Institute of Archaeology, Oxford

This is the way ancient historian and photographer John Linton Myres (1869-1954) found it 1,000 years later, during one of his travels around the Mediterranean at the turn of the 20th century.

The image captures the magic and symbolism the site must have held for a European explorer: undisturbed and yet to be excavated, a visual incarnation of Shelley’s famous poem of Ozymandias, Myres being the traveller, recording his image in the full knowledge that his shadow would be as transient as the might of the once powerful rulers…

The Elusive 600

I’m loving Joseph McCormack’s new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less.  The focus is on lean communication.  McCormack terms it Six Sigma for your mouth!  “In our attention deficit economy, being brief is what’s desperately needed and rarely delivered.”

People speak at about 150 words per minute, but we have the mental capacity to deal with 750 words per minute.  That leaves a space of 600 words where we drift—think other thoughts, take a mini-vacation, lose focus, etc.

soldier daydreams while coming home from a deployment.

Military Photographer of the Year Winner 1997. Title: Thoughts Elsewhere.
Major Kurt Tek daydreams while coming home from a deployment, 01/01/1997.
National Archives Identifier 6498091

McCormack’s tips for clear, concise, and compelling oral presentations are simple:  map it, tell it, talk it, and show it.  Outline your remarks—background, relevance, information to impart, conclusion, and follow-up anticipating expected questions.  Use narrative storytelling to deliver the message.  Use a controlled conversation rather than a monologue.  And use visuals to increase engagement.  Most importantly, stop talking and give people a chance to process.  “The mind is a processor, and if you keep hitting the send button, the effect can be maddening and futile.”

I was especially taken with his advice on avoiding TL/DR (too long, didn’t read) on email messages:

  • Make it Inviting—a strong subject line
  • Limit to One Screen
  • Embrace the White Space—instead of 8-10 sentence
  • [ Read all ]

A. Bartlett Giamatti: Baseball as a Meditation and Narrative On Life

The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, was President of Major League Baseball’s National League and a renowned scholar of Renaissance literature and a former President of Yale University, On November 24, 1987 he gave a finely crafted talk on baseball as a meditation and narrative on life at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum.

Giamatti’s extensive academic credentials include the books Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic and Exile and Change in Renaissance Literature. But he was also a lifelong Red Sox fan who wrote extensively about baseball, including articles for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Harpers with such titles as Tom Seaver’s Farewell and Baseball and the American Character.

Less than two years before he was named Commissioner of Major League Baseball — a post he held for less than a year before his untimely death by heart attack at the age of 51 –Giamatti shared his thoughts on how the structure and rhythms of baseball send players on timelessly epic quests while allowing viewers to reach a transcendent state.

Giamatti sees the landscape architecture of the baseball field as a sort of mandala, a sacred construction with circles – the pitcher’s mound and circle around the batter’s box – all enclosed by a larger square turned on its points to form a diamond. He likens to the verse repetitions of a sonnet the game’s ritual repetition of the numbers 3 and 4 or their multiples – three strikes, three outs, nine men, nine innings, four balls, four bases, four-sided batter’s box, 400 feet from home plate to center field. These cycling patterns create a contemplative environment within which, Giamatti posits, the spectator can find the Self or even the Godhead. Home plate becomes the omphalos, the center of the universe, the point where all conscious energy converges.

Yet a baseball game’s beautiful symmetry, Giamatti says, is also a pastoral setting for an epic struggle. Within the confines of its pleasing patterns, violence and unpredictability erupt as counterpoint with players embarking on a quest that will only end with a victor and a loser. The game’s leisurely pace and structure will suddenly give way to speed and dynamic movement towards freedom. Giamatti sees the action of baseball as Homeric in scope: the journey home –Odysseus’s goal — repeated again and again. To go back home, the place of self-definition, is not an easy task. The most violent actions occur just before the player arrives, rounding third and crashing into home plate.

For Giamatti the recounting of baseball exploits after they have transpired is also akin to epic poetry. While the players tell a truth by their actions, those for whom the game is played control the narrative. The late Baseball Commissioner walks his listeners through the lobby of a large hotel in St. Louis during a playoff series involving the home team Cardinals. The talk of baseball comes from many voices — team executives, scouts, grandmothers sipping coffee, baseball writers, boys with their fathers, groupies – all talking anecdotally about the game, each giving their personal slant and color. These loops and segments of talk become the story of baseball passed on to others as the fables are continuously refined. Hearing these many voices all discussing the same thing – baseball – made Giamatti realize what Aristotle meant by talk being the imitation of an action.

At the end of the late Commissioner’s remarks, a member of the audience suggested that baseball players should all be made to listen to this lecture and wondered “who among them would then dare to spit on the field again.” Giamatti, who would go on to ban Pete Rose from the game for gambling, laughed and said “all of them.”


The original WNYC broadcast date for the produced program was April 18, 1993.

The Wikipedia Library Project: what is it, how can you get involved

The Wikipedia Library Owl [Wikimedia Commons]

The Wikipedia Library [Wikimedia Commons]

For some time now I’ve been involved with the Wikipedia Library Project — you can find about more about the project on Wikipedia, naturally, but I’ll also break it down for you here.

The Wikipedia Library Project was started by an active Wikipedia, Jake Orlowitz, who wanted to solve a big problem — although those who edit Wikipedia always strive to use the best sources in their citations, they don’t always have access to those sources. Many of the most authoritative sources are published in journals that aren’t easily available to those without an affiliation to a college or university. In order to solve this problem, Jake conceived of the Wikipedia Library with the help of an Individual Engagement Grant from the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikipedia Library has two strands — the first, working with publishers, and the second working with libraries. In partnering with publishers, Jake and others who are active in the project have secured a number of accounts that can be issued to active Wikipedians who express interest. This part of the project has been quite successful, with many publishers are currently represented (and more in discussions, as I understand).

In partnering with libraries (the area where I’ve been active) the hope is to place Wikipedians as Wikipedia Visiting Scholars – visiting scholars will have access to research resources at that institution, including e-resources, and will be able to improve articles this way. We are also using this as an opportunity to test a script that works with the OCLC WorldCat knowledge base API to show users what resources they have full text access to.

We talked about the project at the recent ALA meeting in a session called Wikipedia and Libraries: Increasing Your Library’s Visibility – though the meeting was thinly attended, we had good audience interchange and there was a lot of interest in the project. We hope to reprise the session as a webinar in the near future so stay tuned! If you are interested in joining in the project, please do be in touch.


An American in Paris: Sheridan Gibney, 1925

Gibney in 1936 from an advertisement in Fortune magazine for Dictaphone.

A recent acquisition that we purchased at auction was a folder of letters written to Sheridan Gibney (AC 1925). Gibney was a very successful playwright, Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter, and three-time president of the Screenwriter’s Guild. He wrote dozens of successful screenplays, two of which, in particular, became film classics: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), both starring Paul Muni. For the Pasteur biopic, Gibney won two Oscars for Best Writing.

The newly acquired letters will make a good addition to our existing collection of Gibney’s papers.

Gibney’s third and final tenure as president of the Screenwriter’s Guild coincided with the infamous anti-Communist “witch hunt” by the House Un-American Activities Committee beginning in 1947. For that reason, his career is a representative case for the fraught relationship between culture and politics. As he wrote in his brief unpublished memoir (available in his biographical file in the Archives), Gibney always considered himself to be against Communism, but his position as guild president brought his career to a halt when the so-called “unfriendly witnesses” at the House committee hearings implicated the Screenwriter’s Guild as a hotbed of Communism — and Gibney was guilty by association.

Gibney's senior portrait in the 1925 Olio, the college yearbook.

Gibney’s senior portrait in the 1925 Olio, the college yearbook.

His success in drama notwithstanding, Gibney’s great love, especially during his undergraduate years at Amherst, was poetry. Robert Frost considered him one of his best pupils. At one critical point in his undergraduate career, Gibney felt alienated by what he perceived as a lack of intellectual seriousness at Amherst. He considered dropping out to write and travel in Europe, citing Frost as his model: he, Frost, never earned a college degree yet supported himself by writing, teaching and lecturing — even, for a time, farming.

Gibney ultimately went on to complete his Amherst degree (and even earned an honorary degree from the college in 1938). His youthful desire to get away to Europe to have new experiences and write was fulfilled after graduation, when he sailed to France. His papers here contain dozens of interesting letters to his mother, as well as to his mentor, the writer, professor of English, and composer John Erskine. His letters from Paris in 1925 — the Paris of expatriate writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and James Joyce — are full of rather earnest but pleasure-filled observations, and flashes of writerly enthusiasm. Gibney was a man ready to make his mark on the world.

Among his many letters home, this one, dated October 26, 1925 (and below it, an excerpt) gives a flavor of his experience at the time:


An excerpt:

I have a drama in mind such as will rattle the teeth out of your head and make you feel like a frightened god who has lost control of the world he has created. I shall have every seat in the theatre provided with smelling salts and soothing syrup. No one will be allowed in without a physical examination and a certificate from the board of health testifying that there is no inherited tendency toward epilepsy, pernicious hysteria, shell-shock, spontaneous paralysis, amnesia, cerebral hemorrhage, or whooping cough. All Kentuckians will be excluded on principle. Married women under fourteen and bachelors over ninety (unless rejuvenated) will likewise be excluded and all pockets will be “débarrassé” of dangerous weapons at the gate. The playgoers will be fastened to their seats by straight-jackets. There will be ambulances at the door throughout the entire performance. Eugene O’Neill will be allowed admittance to the opening night provided he takes thirty grains of morphine in the presence of witnesses and I shall have a box with thirty secret service men and five howitzers. You will be delighted with it.

The franc waxes better and better. In a month or two I shall buy France for you and Italy for your garden.

Paris continues unsettled. It rained for a week so I bought a pair of rubbers and the sun has shone ever since. I dare not buy an umbrella for fear of drought. Shall hear Tosca next Thursday for twenty-nine cents.

My companions. A young German studying for a degree at the Sorbonne lives above me. We converse in a composite language of German, French, and English. Three girls studying music, two of whom have beautiful voices: the other a beautiful face. A Californian international lawyer and family, by name Cerf. Two chaps who graduated in my class last year at Amherst. One divorcee, aged thirty. Very interesting but dangerous. A woman who has experienced much and learned little. I have not undertaken to “uplift” her. One hybrid negro with a pleasing manner and a “life story” studying at the Sorbonne. Two painters with an extravagant sense of color and a most niggardly sense of everything else. One Frenchman; the poor chap is lonely in this foreign land. One barber who has cut hair in Borneo. Et je pense c’est tout.

Erskine writes that he will be in Paris December first to remain until he sails, so I shall not go South until after Christmas if I go at all. I have been writing poetry of late, reading, and preparing for my drama. I think I shall have the drama finished in the rough by the first of March. Then, if I have nothing else to do, I shall rewrite The Harvest Moon. I still have faith in the possibilities of that play.


Last week I went out to Versailles for the day and came home very much depressed. It reminded me of a beautiful sea shell one finds on a desolate beach, dead, uninhabited, and forgotten. It is the melancholy sepulchre man builds for the spirit of his age and then passes on leaving this solitary tomb to the waste of time like an empty shell on some bleak and unfrequented shore. If all could see and feel its vast significance how much of the petty could be rid from life; how much of the noble and beautiful could be saved and garnered in the hearts of men! For we are all born with the power to become seers and thinkers and lovers of this experience of life in the midst of a universe, but too often four walls darken our vision, delusive passions warm our thought, and the love of small things drains from us our strength to love the great. It is not toil that does this. No man need work in a factory so long as a potato will grow in the ground. No man need have wealth so long as he has health. No man need have diamonds and electric light so long as the sun shines. Eh bien! Ultimately a man’s desires and rewards are both within himself.

Tonight I take a boat ride down the Seine to St. Cloud if it doesn’t rain. Living gets cheaper and cheaper as the franc drops again. Good weather and lots of love.




The President Signs Legislation to Extend the PIDB to December 31, 2018

On July 7, 2014, the President signed into law S. 1681, “Fiscal 2014 Intelligence Authorization.”  The Senate passed the bill on June 11, 2014 and the House of Representatives passed it by voice vote on June 24, 2014.  The legislation included a section that amended Section 710(b) of the Public Interest Declassification Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-567; 50 U.S.C. 3161 note) by striking “2014.” and inserting “2018.”  This extension will allow our Members to continue our work advocating for reform of the classification system.  We believe modernization is essential to foster more effective national security policies and practices and improve democratic discourse.

We thank the Congress for including this language in the legislation and the President for signing it.  We would also like to thank Representative Mike Rogers who first introduced H.R. 4681, “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015,” Senators Jeanne Shaheen and James Risch and Representative Darrell Issa and their staff members for their support of the PIDB’s work and for their efforts to see the PIDB reauthorized.

PIDB Holds Congressional Briefing on Transforming the Security Classification System

On Friday, June 20, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) held a congressional briefing on the Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, which offered fourteen key recommendations on how to reform the security classification system to better reflect the digital age.  The need for increased transparency and improved public access to declassified information is greater than ever, and we would like to thank Senators Jim Risch and Jeanne Shaheen for sponsoring the event as well as all congressional staff who attended.  Our visit to the Hill underscores the unique partnership between the PIDB and Congress, and we look forward to closer collaboration in the future.

After an overview of the history and work of the PIDB by our Executive Secretary John Fitzpatrick, our board members outlined the reasons for fundamental framework reform.  Our 70-year-old classification and declassification systems are antiquated and unsuited to processing large quantities of electronic information; in addition, present policies are heavily skewed toward classification – while classification system costs have nearly tripled since 2000, there is relatively little funding for declassification.  These practices highlight the government’s tendency to over-classify and reinforce the public’s lack of confidence in the existing systems to adequately protect their right to information.  President Obama recently committed to implementing many of the Board’s proposals through his Second Open Government National Action Plan.

The PIDB thanks Congress for its continued backing of the PIDB’s work and  appreciates the bipartisan bills aiming for reauthorization of the PIDB.  Vice Chair Congressman David Skaggs in particular highlighted Congress’s role and stake in furthering the mission of the PIDB – congressional oversight, he noted, is crucial to upholding government accountability, and the declassification of Executive Branch records considerably aids Congress’s ability to provide checks and balances.  Congressman Skaggs also discussed the possibility of subjecting congressional committee records for formal declassification review; these collections are invaluable in providing insight to Congress’s oversight and legislative contributions.  In closing, we would like to emphasize that the PIDB – a hybrid of Presidential and congressional appointees – is fundamentally nonpartisan in nature; its purpose is to serve the public interest and our democracy.  Having just celebrated the 238th anniversary of America’s birth, it is vital that we bear in mind the core principle upon which our nation was founded- a government instituted by the people, for the people.  We at the PIDB remain committed to working with Congress and the Executive Branch to uphold this vision.

What We Heard and Learned at our June 19th Public Meeting

20140619-01-017a20140619-01-031aPublic Interest Declassification Board Public MeetingPublic Interest Declassification Board Public Meeting

On behalf of the members of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), I want to thank all those who attended and participated in our  public meeting on June 19, 2014.  We wish to thank the Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, and his staff for hosting the meeting at the National Archives and Records Administration.  We also thank the Archivist for opening the event and for his remarks reaffirming the National Archives’ commitment to Open Government by improving access to government information, strengthening public and employee engagement and supporting electronic records modernization. He acknowledged the hard work of dedicated declassification professionals across agencies and how that collaboration continues to build upon the success of the National Declassification Center.

The public meeting was an opportunity for the PIDB and senior leaders in Government to engage with the public and make progress on a long-standing issue of critical importance to transformation: the design of a systematic process to review Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) information for declassification.  Following the Archivist’s remarks, three distinguished Government panelists delivered a presentation on the Formerly Restricted Data Declassification Working Group (FRD-DWG) at the Department of Defense. We would like to thank Mr. Timothy A. Davis from the Department of Defense, Mr. John F. Hackett from the Department of State, and Dr. Andrew Weston-Dawkes from the Department of Energy for their time and their insight into this important topic. Their presentation highlighted Government efforts to respond to one of our recommendations to the President in our Transforming the Security Classification System report and a key commitment in the President’s Second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). These three agencies are working at length to meet the President’s commitment to developing a systematic declassification process for no-longer sensitive FRD information. We are particularly grateful for the commendable work of our three panelists and their agencies as they work towards developing such a process to be able to declassify no-longer sensitive nuclear information that will shed important light on our Cold War and nuclear weapons history.  Their work has been complex and challenging, as illuminated by their presentation, but we are extremely pleased by the massive efforts they have undertaken so far and look forward to seeing even greater results in the future.

The panelists’ presentation offered encouraging prospects for the declassification of no-longer sensitive FRD declassification, and we were pleased to learn the Department of Defense made this specific project its flagship Open Government initiative for the entire Department.  From the presentations, we learned that the FRD-DWG intends to declassify no-longer sensitive information and will publicize its results on a dedicated webpage (more information can be found on DoD’s Open Government webpage).  We already are seeing real results from efforts of the FRD-DWG.  As the departments develop a systematic process to meet this commitment, we are gratified that the Government is actively responding to the Open Government NAP with enthusiasm and is making this issue a high priority for transformation.  Declassification of no longer sensitive FRD is clearly a topic of interest to historians and the public as well, illustrated by the fact that more than 90 attendees filled the meeting room. As at our past meetings, we welcome and encourage public participation as we work to assist the Government in its efforts at transformation.  We especially encourage the public to use the Department of Energy addresses below to submit declassification proposals for consideration.

The meeting was also an opportunity for us to recognize the outstanding work of Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, who recently completed her third and final term as a member of the PIDB. Elizabeth was an inaugural member of the PIDB, and she actively participated in framing the recommendations of both our 2009 Improving Declassification report and our 2012 Transforming the Security Classification System report. We thank Elizabeth for her passion and advocacy on behalf of the public.

Finally, we would like to thank you, the public, for attending this meeting and for remaining engaged on this very important topic.  As I have stated in the past, the members of the PIDB understand and take our responsibility of representing the public very seriously as we complete our work and respond to the requests made by the President.  We know we would be unable to affect meaningful change without public participation and a willing spirit from the agencies to work collaboratively for the greater good of the people.  We look forward to continuing the dialogue on all issues concerning the transformation of the security classification system, including the declassification of no-longer sensitive FRD, and assisting the President in meeting his Open Government commitments.

You can find more information about the Department of Defense’s Open Government Initiatives related to FRD declassification at:

You can submit proposals for declassification of RD or FRD information to:

Associate Under Secretary for Environment, Health, Safety and Security
AU-1/Forrestal Building
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20585

You can submit proposals for systematic document reviews of given collections or subject areas to:

The Director
Office of Classification
AU-60/Germantown Building
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20585

Register! Free Walking Tour – Activism in Bloomsbury

Well, apparently it is already the month of July.  I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it means our 13-month Heritage Lottery Fund outreach project is wrapping up at the end of the month! While we will be continuing the public engagement programme here in the Archives (more on that later), we’re really looking forward to what July has to offer, including…

A free walking tour: Activism in Bloomsbury


See the full poster here.

Join us for a playful, interactive stroll, as you’re guided by artist Ella Phillips.  Explore corners of Bloomsbury as you hear about the lives and histories of local activists from the past and the methods they used to promote their causes.  From  women’s suffrage, to slavery abolitionists, to personal privacy, and LGBTQ rights, no aspect of active citizenship is off-limits.

Spaces are limited, so email me at, indicating which walk you’d like to attend on Saturday 19 July 2014 (either 11am or 2.30pm) and reserve your spot!

Tagged: activism, archives, bloomsbury, cabmen’s shelter, campaign, collective action, Emmeline Pankhurst, Russell Square, Senate House, slavery abolition, suffrage, ts eliot, walking tour

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences of American Independence

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

The title for this week’s blog is adapted from this 1780 pamphlet by Joseph Galloway, one of dozens of such publications available for use in the Archives & Special Collections. While we don’t claim anything like the comprehensive coverage of the published debates around the American Revolution available at places like the American Antiquarian Society, we do have a respectable teaching collection.

Between these examples and the eighteenth-century manuscripts in the Plimpton French and Indian War Items and the Lord Jeffery Amherst collections, researchers can gain insight into the tumultuous decades between the 1750s and the close of the American Revolution in 1783. [Note that many items from the Jeffery Amherst Collection are now available online, and digitization of that collection is ongoing.]

Beyond these sources, our collections are rich in sermons and speeches from Fourth of July celebrations, particularly those printed in Western Massachusetts:

An Oration, Pronounced at Northampton, July 4, 1810... (Northampton, 1810)

An Oration, Pronounced at Northampton, July 4, 1810… (Northampton, 1810)

It is fascinating the way that these orations capture both the current concerns of their authors and shifting views of the American origin story. The telling and re-telling of that origin myth appears in many other sources in our collections.

This is just one of four editions of Trumbull’s History available in the Archives & Special Collections. I picked this one because of its particularly lurid, hand-colored frontispiece:

Trumbull's History. Frontispiece, 1833.

Trumbull’s History. Frontispiece, 1833.

What makes this Fourth of July different in the Archives, is that we have added the writings of hundreds of Indigenous authors to the many accounts of the Anglo-American origin story.

Eulogy on King Philip... (Boston, 1836)

Eulogy on King Philip… (Boston, 1836)

William Apess features prominently in our collections and is a major figure of early nineteenth-century Native writing. In this work, he reaches back 100 years before the Declaration of Independence to eulogize the leader of the seventeenth-century war with the colonists of New England.

In stark contrast to the violence depicted in the illustrations above, this pamphlet contains a speech by Elias Boudinott during his fundraising campaign to establish a printing press for the Cherokee Nation. The development of the Cherokee syllabary and the establishment of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper in the 1810s and 20s run counter to popular accounts of Native people as unwilling to adapt to the modern world. In his latest book, This Indian Country: Native Activists and the Space They Made, Frederick Hoxie (AC 1969) focuses on the history of non-violent Native resistance to Anglo-American domination. [Listen to Kiara Vigil interview Professor Hoxie about his book on the Amherst Reads site]

Although we do not hold a copy of the extremely rare first edition of this work — originally printed in 1828 — this work is generally regarded as the first history of an Indigenous nation by an Indigenous author published in English. Daniel Radus of Cornell University recently published an article about the complex ways in which Cusick’s History combines traditional Haudenosaunee concepts of history with the conventions of Anglo-American print culture.

Our focus in the Archives is on gathering material evidence that will support new scholarly work on the history and literature of the Native peoples of North America that may transform our understanding of the history of the United States. Soon, we will begin adding the 500+ books from the Joseph Bruchac Collection to our online catalog, adding more recent works to our extensive holdings.

We Have Not Vanished. (Chicago, 1974)

We Have Not Vanished. (Chicago, 1974) Joseph Bruchac Collection

American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. (Norman, OK, 1987) Joseph Bruchac Collection

American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. (Norman, OK, 1987)
Joseph Bruchac Collection

Happy Fourth of July!

238 years ago, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. And John Adams envisioned future celebrations of the event.  In a letter to his wife, he wrote:  “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It out to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward for ever more.”

Stilt-Walking Uncle Sam
A Stilt-Walking “Uncle Sam,” 06/1973. National Archives Identifier 549573

That vision of the future got off to a slow, but no less passionate start.  On July 5th 1777, John Adams wrote to his daughter from Philadelphia describing events of the first anniversary:  Invited to dine with President Washington aboard the frigate Delaware, Adams wrote:  “…we were saluted with a discharge of thirteen guns, which was followed by thirteen others, from each other armed vessel in the river; then the gallies followed the fire, and after them the guard boats.  The President and company were saluted with three cheers, from every ship, galley, and boat in the river.  The wharves and shores, were lined with a vast concourse of people, all shouting and huzzaing, in a manner which gave great joy to every friend to this country, and the utmost terror and dismay … [ Read all ]

Do you want to be the “good guys”? Reproduction, permissions, and copyright assertions

Cowgirl , Mrs. Benjamin F. Russell, George Eastman House [via Flickr]

Cowgirl, Mrs. Benjamin F. Russell, George Eastman House [via Flickr]

Following up on Jackie’s post on the RBMS 2014 Preconference, and Michelle Light’s #bestplenaryever* I asked Michelle to give me a list of the various reproduction, permissions, and copyright policies she found helpful or influential (with the caveat that this list is by no means exclusive and that there are other “good guy” policies out there). Michelle told me that her criteria for “good guy” policies are:

1) no requirement for the institution to grant permission to publish when the institution did not own the copyright or when the material was in the public domain
2) no use fees, or no use fees for public domain materials and materials copyrighted by others
3) some mention about fair use
4) clear statement that it is the users’ responsibility to research copyright and gather any necessary permissions

So with that brief introduction, here’s Michelle’s list of “the good guys:”

And of course I’d like to add Michelle’s recently revised policies:

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Special Collections:

My hope is that in putting this information in one place (quickly) and following Michelle’s amazing talk will inspire many of you to take a fresh look at your own policies, and help you put your institution on the side of the good guys. If you know of other policies that should be included in this list, please leave a comment below, and I will edit this post to include them!

*Update: Michelle has posted a copy of her talk, Controlling Goods or Promoting the Public Good: Choices for Special Collections in the Marketplace, online. See also the comments below for more additions to “good guys” policies.

Wonderpictures, Russian Checkers, Toy Printing, Irish Certificate

Just a quick post with updates on some of the latest additions to Special Collections.

Thanks to donor David Nudelman, we’re now home to 356 Russian books on checkers. They join our already rich Haynes collection on checkers, and they should be of interest to anyone with an interest in Soviet book design. Here are two examples:


Another donor has given us a collection of toy printing/sign-making sets. They’ll join our Updike Collection on the history of printing.


We purchased a rare certificate of membership in the Repeal Association of Ireland:


And a very fun item that you’ll have to visit to get a proper sense of. “Stulz Wonderpictures” is a small advertising booklet that doubles as a visual toy. The images inside are printed in two colors and in such a way that the first image presents a scene and text (“Where are the fish?” for instance, with a picture of a fisherman). When the included red plastic sheet is placed over the image the original scene disappears and a new one takes its place (in the example above, fish swimming in a stream). Not only is it a whimsical complement to our children’s collections, it’s a fascinating piece of printing ephemera. And best of all, this amusing toy, seemingly aimed at children, advertises whiskey made by the Stulz Brothers company in Kansas City, Missouri.


The Allure of the Archives

Arlette Farge, Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, has written a wonderful little book about doing research in archives.

“Contact with the archives begins with simple tasks, one of which is handling the documents.  Combing through the archives—a beautifully evocative term—requires a host of tasks, and no matter how complex the planned intellectual investigation will be, they cannot be bypassed.  They are both familiar and simple, and they purify one’s thoughts, temper the spirit of sophistication, and sharpen one’s curiosity.  These tasks are performed without haste, and necessarily so.  One cannot overstate how slow work in the archives is, and how this slowness of hands and thought can be the source of creativity.  But more than inspirational, it is inescapable.  The consultation of these bundles, one after another, is never finished.  No matter how carefully you prepare beforehand, sampling documents and putting together research guides in an effort to limit the number of texts you will have to consult, your patience will inevitably be tested.”

Archivist reviewing documents

Archivist Matt Law reviews Chinese Exclusion Act Files.; Location: National Archives at Riverside, Perris, CA; Photographer: Joseph S. Peñaranda


“Reading patiently, in silence, you will regularly run up against various obstacles as your eyes travel across the manuscript pages.  Many documents have deteriorated physically, and torn corners or … [ Read all ]

HEIR loves Stonehenge!

One of the best parts about working on the HEIR project has been the opportunity to experiment with rephotographing sites in the pictures. On Thursday, 26th June I had the chance to visit Stonehenge. As well as seeing the new visitor facilities, which are excellent, I took time to take some pictures.

Stonehenge 2014Photo: Janice Kinory

On arriving back at our office, I realized that my photos don’t look much like those from the archive. In our oldest images, from c. 1870, we can see roads and footpaths, which no longer exist, including the one adjacent to the Heal Stone currently being removed by English Heritage (EH).

Approach to StonehengeLantern slide: H.M.J.U. Underhill, c.1870

In general, many of the viewpoints in our images could only be duplicated now by getting special permission from EH as they require entry to places, such as the centre of the stone circle or the rear of the Heal Stone, which are closed to general visitors.

Institute of Archaeology, OxfordLantern slide: H.M.J.Underhill, April 18th 1895
“From the ‘Altar’ looking ENE exactly”
You can’t stand here today without special permisson…

Most importantly, some of the stones were straightened in the 1950s and 60s to stabilize them, so the leaning stones in our modern images are now standing upright – but this is how Stonehenge looked in c. 1910 when photographer R.W. Wylie visited…

Photographer: R.W. Wylie Glass plate negative

Photographer: R.W. Wylie
Glass plate negative

The other major difference I noticed is the large number of tourists in my pictures compared to their virtual absence in the archival images.

One unexpected feature of my trip was the presence of a rook sitting on a fence post next to the visitor pathway near the stones, calmly allowing itself to be photographed. As rooks are usually wary of humans, I wondered about this odd behavior. Later, I recalled that the old visitor centre had been nearby, with its picnic area where rooks and seagulls had begged for food. I’m sure this “rook star” was a veteran of that era, hoping for a handout.

Photographer: Janice KinoryPhotographer: Janice Kinory

I’ll close with a note that anyone planning to visit Stonehenge can greatly improve their day there by taking the time to pre-book their mandatory timed entry ticket on-line at the EH website, You can still buy tickets at the site on arrival, of course, but the queues are long and you may have to wait for entry.

Dr Janice Kinory (

Research Assistant, HEIR


Reminiscence Workshop: Told & Untold Stories

This space has far too quiet lately!  We’ve been busy delivering workshops as well as preparing for several new exciting projects, including a new exhibition, upcoming walking tours, and gearing up for new community-led projects.  I’ll update more on that later, but for now, a recent reminiscence workshop we held…

We all know that archives are a necessary stop for many historical researchers and family historians, looking to gather information.

At the same time, archives (with their many stories, both familiar and unfamiliar) are also catalysts for hearing, sharing, and gathering the experiences of others. With this in mind, we held a reminiscence workshop, Told & Untold Stories: Protecting London’s Children During the Second World War, here in the IOE Archives during May.

Evacuees  Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

The event, offered in conjunction with the Raphael Samuel History Centre’s month-long heritage festival, London at War, explored the experiences of London ‘s children, along with the adults working to keep them safe. We uncovered untold stories from our
archive collections, and heard from participants’ own histories, while lecturers and PhD candidates shared their research.

Discussion often revolved around the theme of evacuation: those who stayed in London and the UK, and those who went abroad. Attendee Margaret described the ‘mutual envy between the people who stayed and the people who went… My parents were a bit smug about not sending us to America or Canada’.

Reminiscence Session

Reminiscence Session

Meg, who was evacuated to America, described her time abroad as a ‘huge educational experience’, having discovered other views. Margaret echoed those sentiments, recalling a friend who returned with surprise that England was a monarchy. Mary
described her childhood in Wimbledon, and the amount of bombing she and her family experienced.

We had our own collections on display: from the bomb damage of schools and the implementation of air raid precautions found in the Girls Day School Trust
collection, to the National Union of Women Teachers and their support of teachers sent to teach evacuated children. Teachers wrote to the NUWT, frustrated at being separated from their former pupils, others wrote to express how enjoyable the experience had been. Upon returning to a crowded London school following the war, one teacher complained of the ’44 hooligans’ she had in her class.

More than anything, the NUWT and its members were concerned about the impact of war on their students.

The shadow of war has darkened our personal and professional outlook; its effect on the education of our children is one of the gravest of its menaces. Whoever made this war it was not the children, and it is our part to see that they suffer no more than can be helped from its horrors and deprivations
Ellen Hamlyn, London Unit President, NUWT
September 1940

A huge thank you to everyone who made the trip to the IOE to attend this session.  The only request from attendees was for a longer session, as everyone had so many compelling stories to share; so, we will definitely offer similar workshops in the future.  Also, a big thanks to the Girls Day School Trust alumnae network for sharing this event with their members!  While we have GDST archives in our collections, it was great to hear the experiences of GDST alum, firsthand.

These reminiscences are in the process of being made available as audio oral histories online, so keep your eyes peeled! If you know of a group that would be interested in a reminiscence workshop using the IOE archives, please send me an email at, or call 020 7911 5483.

Tagged: Evacuation, Girls Day School Trust, National Union of Women Teachers, Oral Histories, Second World War, Wimbledon

Doshisha University and Joseph Hardy Neesima

Last week, Doshisha University President Koji Murata and Amherst College President Biddy Martin met to formally extend the already friendly relationship between the two schools that dates back to 1875.  (See photos of the signing ceremony.)  This recent event prompted me to look back at the origins of our relationship with Doshisha, and consequently at the founder of the University, Joseph Hardy Neesima.

Joseph Hardy Neesima

Niijima Shimeta was born in 1843 in Tokyo, Japan to father Niijima Tamiki, the recording secretary to Lord Itakura.  At age 21, despite Japan’s restrictive policy of national isolation, Niijima stowed away on a ship headed for Shanghai, there transferring to the Wild Rover, a schooner headed for Boston, Mass.

The Manga Story of Jo Niijima

Two pages from The Manga Story of Jo Niijima

Upon reaching Boston in 1865, the schooner’s captain, Horace Taylor, introduced Niijima to Alpheus Hardy, the ship’s owner and a trustee of Philips Academy in Andover and of Amherst College.  With the support of Hardy, Niijima, now legally known as Joseph Hardy Neesima, was baptized into the Congregational Church and studied at Philip Academy.  Following his graduation from Philip Academy, Neesima went on to attend Amherst College, becoming the first from Japan to earn a college degree from a western institution in 1870.  Neesima studied at the Andover Theological Seminary before returning to Japan as a Christian missionary.

From Doshisha University photo album 4

From Doshisha University photo album 4

In 1874, Joseph Hardy Neesima established Doshisha College, a Christian school in Kyoto.  Within ten years, the school grew from six students in a one room schoolhouse to 230 students with several spacious buildings.  In 1886, Neesima raised money to enlarge Doshisha into a university with the creation of graduate departments and an all girls school.  Joseph Hardy Neesima was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Amherst College in 1889 and died one year later in Tokyo, Japan.

From Doshisha University photo album 4

From Doshisha University photo album 4

More information about Doshisha University and the school’s founder, Joseph Hardy Neesima, can be found in the Archives at Amherst College.  The Joseph Hardy Neesima (AC 1870) collection in the Archives and Special Collections contains correspondence to and from Neesima, as well as Neesima’s photo album.  The Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC) has digitized four Doshisha  University photo albums.  The Doshisha University collection in the Archives contains correspondence, ephemera, photographs, printed matter and media documenting the long-standing connection between Doshisha University and Amherst College.  And be sure to read The Manga Story of Jo Niijima, published by Doshisha University in 2009.

Motoi, Yasuhiro. The Manga story of Jo Niijima: a quest for freedom. Kyoto: Doshisha University, 2009.

Motoi, Yasuhiro. The Manga story of Jo Niijima: a quest for freedom. Kyoto: Doshisha University, 2009.

Amherst College and Doshisha University have fostered their friendly relationship for over a century, which has including Amherst – Doshisha faculty and student exchange programs.  Last week, Presidents of both schools have committed to continuing their friendship for five more years.


From the Doshisha University photo album


Second wave of BC Sugar records now available

The City of Vancouver Archives is pleased to announce the public release of the second batch of records from the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company fonds (BC Sugar), donated to the Archives in 2011 by Lantic Inc.

Refinery construction gang, 1891; Reference code: AM1592-1-S5-F03: 2011-092.1737

Refinery construction gang, 1891; Reference code: AM1592-1-S5-F03: 2011-092.1737

The records of BC Sugar document the activities of Vancouver’s first large-scale industrial operation that was not a sawmill or related to the railways. The company continues to operate its historic refinery on Vancouver’s waterfront to this day.

This second release (of an anticipated three) focuses on the business records of the company’s subsidiary, Canadian Sugar Factors Ltd., and the holdings of the BC Sugar Museum, founded as a unit at BC Sugar in the 1970s. This release includes records that document how BC Sugar extended its reach across Western Canada through acquisition of competitors, and how the BC Sugar Museum built its collection and made it available to the public:

  • acquisition and further operations of Canadian Sugar Factories, Ltd., including renovations to their sugar beet refinery in Raymond, Alberta, and construction of the two later refineries in Picture Butte, Alberta and Taber, Alberta;
  • artifacts from the Rogers family, BC Sugar and its subsidiaries;
  • the foundation and operation of Western Canada’s first sugar beet refinery in Raymond, Alberta by the Knight Sugar Company; and
  • the operation of the BC Sugar Museum and their acquisition of records and artifacts from BC Sugar, as well as small collections of records from other Canadian sugar companies.

Unexpected finds in this second release of records include ­­­­ephemera from the Rogers family, acquired by the BC Sugar Museum, including records of family members’ involvement in BC Sugar. Below is Forrest Rogers’ driver’s license from when he was a manager at BC Sugar subsidiary Ozama Sugar Planation and Factories in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic driver’s license; Reference code: AM1592-1-S6-F06.

Dominican Republic driver’s license; Reference code: AM1592-1-S6-F06.

The records of the BC Sugar Museum include a collection of ephemera related to BC Sugar operations, including examples of bags used to package sugar. Packaging sizes went up to 100 pounds!

Sample BC Sugar cotton bag; Reference code: AM1592-1-S8-F122.

Sample BC Sugar cotton bag; Reference code: AM1592-1-S8-F122.

Note the instructions for removing ink from the bag. Sugar bags were commonly recycled for household textiles and clothing.

Detail of sample BC Sugar cotton bag; Reference code: AM1592-1-S8-F122.

Detail of sample BC Sugar cotton bag; Reference code: AM1592-1-S8-F122.

This release also includes records of BC Sugar’s longest-lived subsidiary: Canadian Sugar Factories, which has refined sugar beets in Alberta for almost 80 years. The Company’s first refinery was located in Raymond, Alberta. The following map shows the location of the Canadian Sugar Factories refinery relative to the location of the old Knight Sugar Company Refinery, the first sugar beet refinery in Western Canada.

Plan of Part of NW 1/4 Sec. 16 and Part of SW 1/4 Sec. 21, all in Tp. 6, R. 20, West 4M; Reference code: AM1592-S16: 2011-092.4968.

Plan of Part of NW 1/4 Sec. 16 and Part of SW 1/4 Sec. 21, all in Tp. 6, R. 20, West 4M; Reference code: AM1592-S16: 2011-092.4968.

Over the course of the year, we expect there will be one more release of BC Sugar records, which will consist primarily of the extensive photographic holdings of the BC Sugar Museum. Stay tuned for further information!

The City of Vancouver Archives would like to thank Lantic Inc. for its financial support for the archival processing of the BC Sugar fonds, which has made it possible for the Archives to make these records available to the public at this time.

Lantic corporate logo



Digital Projects end-of-year update, 2013-2014

At the end of the academic year, we do a report to the Digital Projects Priorities Team on the past year’s activities. This is an edited version of that report. It was a very productive year.

My thanks to the team: to Erica Rau and Kathy Howard in Digital Projects, who did such great work on so many projects; to Callie Coward and Anna Craft from Cataloging; and to Scott Hinshaw, Kathelene McCarty Smith, and everyone else in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. Thanks as well to the department where Digital Projects “lives”, Electronic Resources and Information Technology, for a level of support that goes far beyond the call of duty. We couldn’t so many great projects without a real collaborative team and I really appreciate the way everyone pulls together to accomplish all our goals!

Special thanks to Stephen Catlett, who completes his tenure as Textiles, Teachers, and Troops project manager this week after doing some amazing work over the past two years. Stephen did an incredible job working with our partners and students on TTT as well as with community outreach on our CBR/local history grant project and coordination of displays and our launch event in April. We are very much going to miss having him around and hope we can rectify that situation soon!

Also, many thanks to this year’s team of student workers (Evan Chu, Megan Coker, Tatiana Cox, Rachel Sanders, James Stewart, Phil White, and Hayley Whitehead) and our volunteers (Larry Daniels, Bernitae Reed, and Touger Vang). Your efforts are much appreciated and we couldn’t do any of this without you!

An announcement of this year’s approved and continuing projects will be available in the next few weeks.

2013-2014 Project Status:

  • Ege Manuscripts: Complete and online (101 images).
  • Home Economics Pamphlets Phase II: Scanned, should be online by early July at the latest (8184 images).
  • Lois Lenski Rare Books: In progress. 13 books scanned. Should be online by fall. (625 images)
  • Manuscript Collections Scrapbooks: In progress, many already online. Probably 15-20 remain. All should be online by December. (10159 images this year)
  • Music and Theatre Productions: Nearly done, many already online. Should be completely online August at the latest (2843 images to date).
  • Oral History Collections: Approximately 20 new interviews online.
  • Textiles, Teachers, and Troops: Substantially complete and online (no annual breakdown, approximately 15000 images in-house plus 125000 items from the Charles Duncan McIver Records outsourced this year, two-year total of approximately 180000 images).
  • Women Veterans Historical Project: Approximately 15 new oral histories online, 100 other items.
  • Other Projects:

    Some Numbers:

    We now have 251003 digital files in CONTENTdm, our digital content management system, making 25243 items and spanning nearly a thousand years of history…although most are admittedly from the past 150 years or so.

    Included are:

    • 8243 newspapers
    • 4968 photos/photo folders
    • 2223 clippings/folders and items containing clipping
    • 1529 pamphlets
    • 928 pieces of correspondence
    • 702 music scores

    2014 Margaret Medcalf Award Presentation

    Gerard Foley
    Wednesday, June 25, 2014 – 09:54


    Penelope Hetherington’s book The Marriage Knot has won the 2014 Margaret Medcalf Award.

    The 2014 Margaret Medcalf Award was presented on 18 June 2014 to University of Western Australia history research fellow Penelope Hetherington for her book The Marriage Knot: Marriage & divorce in colonial Western Australia 1829–1900. In presenting the Award to Dr Hetherington, the Minister for Culture and the Arts, Hon. John Day MLA, said that the book had been meticulously researched and would form an excellent reference work on a topic that little had been written about. The Marriage Knot is published by UWA Publishing.

    A Special Commendation was also presented to author Annie Boyd for her book Koombana Days, which documents the loss of the S.S. Koombana in a cyclone off the North West coast in March 1912. Koombana Days is published by Fremantle Press.

    Since 2003 the State Records Office has hosted the Margaret Medcalf Award which rewards excellence in referencing and research of archival materials. Named after Margaret Medcalf OAM, the second State Archivist for Western Australia (from 1971 to 1989), it honours her valuable contribution to the development of archives in Western Australia. Works nominated for the Award must demonstrate use of archival sources, and substantial (but not necessarily exclusive) use of State Archives held by the State Records Office. The Award is unique is that is enable works, produced by students and amateurs, and in any format, to be considered alongside books by professional authors.

    The Award is a prize of $1000 and nominated works may be fiction or non-fiction, published and unpublished, and may comprise any format (i.e. book, article, conference paper, website, index, etc.). Nominated works may be submitted by anyone, including the author of the work and must have been completed or published during the previous calendar year – this year from 2013.

    The judging criteria for the Award comprise; the level of use of the State archives collection including original use of archival material; how well archives are referenced in the work; level of contribution to knowledge and presentation of the work. The judging panel for 2014 comprised State Records Commissioner Justine McDermott, State Archivist Cathrin Cassarchis, and Professor Jenny Gregory AM from the University of Western Australia.

    This year six nominations were received for the Award. Apart from The Marriage Knot and Koombana Days, the other nominations were:

    Phil Bianchi – “Work completed, Canning”: a comprehensive history of the Canning Stock Route 1906 – 2010, published by Hesperian Press.

    Michelle Bunn and David J. Gilchrist – “A few good men”: public sector audit in the Swan River Colony, 1828-1835, a journal article in Accounting History. Volume 18, number 2.

    Cliff Burns and Arlene Collings; with special assistance by Lyn Myles – Darlington and Surrounds: Historic Structures and Buildings of Darlington 1829 – 1925, published by the Darlington History Group. 

    Ingrid van Bremen – Western Building Construction. Roofs, published by the National Trust of Australia (WA).