International Children’s Book Day in the DL

As we adjust to our new realities in the time of coronavirus, and we’re going stir-crazy and already bored with the books in the house, maybe it’s time for a deep dive into the children’s books of yesteryear for some new material. So, on today, International Children’s Book Day, celebrated on or near the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen each year, I would like to highlight some of the children’s literature we have in the digital library (DL) from the John Mackay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection.

Fairy tales abound in the Shaw Collection but Cinderella has always been a personal favorite. We have several digitized but my favorite version is a hand colored Cinderella from the 1800s.

A page from Cinderella, 1800s [see original object]

The story of Cock Robin is in many of the books of the Shaw Collection. This particular spread is from a children’s book titled Cock Robin: a pretty painted toy for either girl or boy : suited to children of all ages, published in 1840.

Pages from Cock Robin, 1840 [see original object]

Alphabet, or ABC, books are also plentiful in our digital collection. This one, Goode’s instructive alphabet for children from the 1800s, uses many professions and expressions that children today would probably not recognize (a reading and history lesson in one!)

Page from Goode’s Instructive Alphabet, 1800s [see original object]

And lastly, in case you are in need of some new songs (possibly the Disney tunes are already wearing on the nerves), Silver carols: a collection of new music for district schools, high schools, seminaries, academies, colleges, juvenile conventions and the home circle from 1874 may have a new set of songs for you and your children to explore.

Trip Lightly from Silver Carols, 1874 [see original object]

These are just a few of the hundreds of titles we’ve digitized and made available in the digital library from the Shaw collection. Happy reading on this International Children’s Book Day!

Favourite Things

Throughout April @ARAScot are running the #Archive30 promotional campaign on Twitter. Like many other services across the UK and internationally we are delighted to join in and meet the challenge of tweeting all 30 daily topics throughout the month! Today’s theme is #FavouriteItem. Last year our Archives & Special Collections team shared their selection. This year we’ve handed over to our users who have chosen their personal favourites from our fantastic collections!

Detail from cover of Japanese edition of The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks

Having spent time volunteering in the University Archives I have worked on many of the documents and artefacts in the collections held there. Perhaps my favourite item is one contained in the papers of the Fife born and Stirling University educated author Iain Banks (aka Iain M. Banks when writing his sci fi works). As well as correspondence with publishers and publicists, annotated cover artwork drafts, and press cuttings the collection features several letters from fans to the author. In one instance an admirer of Banks’ compliments the writer on his previous work. However, the letter quickly changes tone and they express in very certain terms their disappointment in what they see as severe flaws in one of his latest novels. The admonishment ends in the hope (or instruction) that Banks does not repeat this error again. Unintentionally humorous this letter made me laugh while exhibiting the sometimes complex relationship between author and reader. Unfazed, Banks replies with grace and good humour.

David Findlay, Archive Volunteer

Richard Haynes (right) holding mascot from the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

Sometimes items you come across in archives just stand out for their rarity and cultural value. The Scottish humpty dumpty is one of the prized assets Stirling University holds in its Commonwealth Games Scotland collections. As an item locked away in a cupboard for half a century it is well preserved: from the blue and white attire, the ‘Scottish Humpty’ was also decorated with thistle-like arms, a neatly sewn Saltire hat, and the crest and chain of the Commonwealth on its chest. Why is it significant? The very personalised mascot was the property of Isobel Burnett, whose father Willie Carmichael was a well-known sports administrator and Director of the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Its value to Scottish sports fans was emphasised when the rare mascot gained national media coverage in six Scottish newspapers when first exhibited as part of Hosts & Champions exhibition in 2015. Humpty is, without doubt, a star of the university’s special collections!

Prof. Richard Haynes, Professor of Media Sport, University of Stirling

Admission (1910) and discharge (1912) photographs of Margaret Morton
Letter of thanks from David Wardrope, 1912
Stirling District Asylum Archive

The case books of hand-written patient notes are my favourite items from the Stirling District Asylum archives. The patient stories are fascinating – sometimes sad, always touching. The case notes include a photograph of the patient on admission to and discharge from the asylum; being able to put a face to the person you are reading about really enriches the research experience for a writer. The case notes also sometimes have attached to them things like newspaper clippings and letters, including ‘thank-you’ letters which show that some asylum stays were characterised by kindness and care. Such personal contributions are invaluable in providing a rounded picture of what life both inside and outside the asylum might have been like in the early twentieth century.

Elaine Whiteford, author and archive user

Beneath the sometimes dry writing style and seriousness of a trade union journal, The Musician is an invaluable and unique account of what it was like to be a musician working in the UK during the second half of the twentieth century. It covers all the big social and political issues of the period from a singular – but otherwise under documented perspective – that of the musician. Crucially for researchers it does this to a level of detail that is unavailable elsewhere, allowing for the creation of new and more compelling histories of the profession and industries surrounding it. 

John Williamson, author of Players’ Work Time, A History of the British Musicians’ Union

A selection of Brooks’ research material from MK/1/1

It is the material on the United Central Africa Association in the Mackay Archive that I most treasure from my visits to Stirling.  The UCAA has been rarely discussed in academic literature.  The few academic works which do mention the UCAA lack depth and appear to overwhelmingly rely on newspaper accounts. The Mackay papers add a wealth of new dimensions to the limited existing scholarly assessments of the UCAA.  Perhaps most valuably, Mackay has collected documents that provide a behind the scenes take on the activities of the UCAA.  As more scholars make use of the Mackay Archive, these documents will undoubtedly come to play a prominent role in informing our understanding of the … dynamics that underpinned the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. 

Brooks Marmon, PhD researcher, University of Edinburgh

object of the week

While the Pathfoot Building is closed, the Art Collection will each week focus on an object of interest. You can also search our entire collection online here.

Photo by Julie Howden

Wall Construction
Mary Martin
(Aluminium, 1968-9)

The tradition of collecting art at the University of Stirling goes back to its beginnings in 1967 when one of its founding principals was that art and culture should be part of the everyday experience on campus. In these early days, site-specific works were commissioned and an excellent example of this is the wall-mounted sculptural panel by Mary Martin. The original plan was to commission Martin to create more works – just as the Pathfoot Building was described as the ‘parent cell’ of the University, so this work was seen as the first of a potential series of works throughout the developing campus – but in fact it turned out to be Mary Martin’s last public commission and she sadly died before it was installed.

The Wall Construction, or ‘Mural’ as it is usually now known, received very favourable reviews. Cordelia Oliver spoke of it as possessing a ‘spiritual dimension’, stating that most who see it would find:

‘an infinitely variable world of inner tensions, light and shadow, stresses and reliefs; a world that is not only unbelievably rich in spatial suggestion, but that promises as many moods as the day itself ‘.

The Guardian, 29th November, 1969

Very large, at sixty feet long, the Mural was designed to be move-able and modular, so that different parts could be displayed in various locations (although this has apparently not so far happened). The construction has however been moved as a whole at least twice. Its first location was quite low on the south-facing wall of the original Dining Room, and contemporary reviews speak of the ‘light, colour and movement that it takes from its surroundings’. Coloured reflections are clearly seen in the photo below of an early graduation ceremony.

Unfortunately this low position proved too vulnerable a spot – especially in a dining room, where social functions also took place at night. Damage to the work was already being noted by 1971, it was renovated in 1974, and in 1977 a full restoration was necessary. After this date, it was moved further up the same wall, and it can be seen in that position in the video at the end of this piece. When alterations were carried out to the Dining Hall, the Mural was moved again, sometime during the 1990s, this time to its current position in the Crush Hall.

Photo by Julie Howden

Although at first glance it seems to consist of a random arrangement of surfaces, the Mural is in fact very far from that. Mary Martin developed complex sequences: for each plane, there are four possible directions – down, up, left or right (which can be numbered 1,2,3, and 4), and the artist organised these planes in a sliding system, without repetition, so that the left-facing planes (or number 3s) descend diagonally from left to right 6 times in the first series of 24 vertical rows.


This is repeated in the last 24, with each plane in the middle section inverting this system.

Moving on from previous works of the early 1960s, in which she employed solid cubes sliced diagonally through at 45 degrees, Martin here expands on an idea used in her work ‘Inversions’ (1966 – now in the Tate) which replaces the solidity of the cubes with polished aluminium ‘floating’ diagonal planes. These introduce a lightness and modularity, reflecting the design of the Pathfoot Building itself, therefore making the work feel very much part of its environment.

Although the higher position on the wall, and its north facing aspect, now prevent us from enjoying to quite the same extent the multiple reflections and plays of light and colour mentioned in those early reviews, there is still much in the Mural to examine and appreciate.

Click below to see John Martyn playing ‘Rock Goes to College’ in 1981.
The venue is the original Pathfoot Dining Hall and the Mural is clearly visible as a backdrop.

We are very much obliged to Sam Gathercole’s (1998?) draft article ‘Mary Martin’s Construction for Stirling University, 1969’ which provides a fascinating insight into this work. If you would like to read this in full, please contact us.

National Archives Donates Protective Gear for COVID-19 Response

N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, Tyvek suits–these supplies are in high demand across the United States right now as hospital teams struggle to provide adequate protection for their staff responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The same equipment that is in short supply at hospitals is used by National Archives employees, preservation and conservation specialists, to deal with records damaged by floods, fires, or mold. Thanks to our dedicated staff, our agency’s supplies are now making their way to healthcare workers.

In March, the National Archives transferred supplies to Washington, DC’s Emergency Management Response Team, which in turn is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute and reallocate the donated supplies.

Officials from the National Archives and the Washington, DC, Emergency Management Team load a van with personal protective equipment at the National Archives in College Park, MD, March 23, 2020. From left: NARA supply analyst Freddie Freeman, Ryan Lewis from the DC Emergency Response Team, NARA supply analyst Sandy Paulino-Trinidad. (Photo courtesy of Calvin Shoulders)

We are fighting a war against this virus and need to do what we can. I was moved by staffers’ suggestions to donate surplus protective supplies. Continuing support from agencies, organizations, and individuals is essential to getting frontline health workers the protection needed to help those who are sick. We are humbled to play a small role in helping at this difficult time.

Employees at several of the National Archives’ 44 locations across the country are assessing their inventory to make additional donations. We plan to keep a minimal amount for our own use, but we are committed to providing what we don’t need into the hands of those working hard to save lives and keep our communities safe. As a service organization, the National Archives is dedicated to helping internal and external customers, and Americans.

Scottish Political Archive Treasure

For the month of April, the Scottish Political Archive is, along with our colleagues in the University Archives, taking part in ARA Scotland’s #Archive30 Twitter campaign which will see us tweeting about a daily theme for the whole month – or giving it our best, anyway!

The 2nd April gives us an opportunity to look at some of our treasures with the theme #FavouriteItem and what a good opportunity to cast our eyes over the weird and wonderful things our collections contain!

@ARAScot’s #Archive30 themes

After some deliberation, we’ve gone for one of the more random items in our care which we love for its utter uniqueness and the vastness of what it represents. We’ve chosen a bottle of ashes.

These ashes were taken from a brazier which was lit by Democracy for Scotland in April 1992. Democracy for Scotland was a non party political organisation that kept a constant vigil on Regent Road in Edinburgh – which they considered to be the natural home of a Scottish Parliament, should one come into being – from the time of the victory of the Conservative Party in the 1992 General Election onwards.

This vigil was kept for over five years, with the brazier burning that whole time, until the Yes vote in the devolution referendum of 11th September 1997. The brazier was seen as a flame for democracy and an important part of the vigil. The ashes in this bottle are from the brazier’s 1,000th day of burning on 4th January 1995.

A whole lot of history in that little bottle!

This little bottle is something physical and marvellously representative of our wonderful collection of photographs that document the Vigil.

The brazier in action, warming hands and teapots for the duration of the Vigil

Student Traditions – past (and future?)

We can all use a good laugh these days, so here is a post from April 1, 2019 that should do the trick.

Every so often there seems to be a rush of interest in bringing back old Amherst traditions. Perhaps alumni wish that students of today could experience gathering as a class to sing at the senior fence. Or students wonder if they are missing out on quirky old traditions that could build school spirit.

Well, today I’d like to share with you some of the lesser known student traditions and activities from the past, all candidates for reintroduction into the Amherst traditions of today!

A photograph of four students in white full-body pajamas or body suits, posed in a photography studio.

Amherst College Competitive Napping Team, 1882

Let’s start with athletics – while competitive napping was only a recognized intercollegiate sport for 7 years, Amherst had 5 champion teams during that time. This is the team from 1882; Alfred Humbrey, at left, won the final tournament round with a record breaking nap of 6 hours and 43 minutes.

A photograph of eight students in formal wear in front of a painted backdrop of Johnson Chapel. The students appear to be holding invisible flutes.

Amherst Air Flute Octet, 1886

In the musical realm, Amherst’s well known Air Flute Octet charmed campus and area concert goers for decades before dissolving during the economic depression of 1893 when air flute prices became exorbitant.

Photograph of a group of students with canes and top hats sitting on a large rock, probably from the 1880s.

Amherst On-Campus Rock Climbing Society, date unknown

The short-lived On-Campus Rock Climbing Society was dedicated to finding and climbing every rock on the Amherst campus.

The Puritan Cosplay Club, 1952

The Puritan Cosplay Club was a wildly popular student activity in the early 1950s. The group attended both Puritan Con and Colonizers Con annually along with groups from Williams, Wesleyan, Yale and many other New England colleges.

Photograph of a groups of students formally dressed holding very, very long pipes, posed around a table in a photography studio

Amherst Extreme Pipe Club, 1883

Amherst’s Extreme Pipe Club was a selective group that existed from 1882-1885. Members of the club competed fiercely to have the longest pipe, by 1885 the pipes were observed to be nearing 8 feet long. The club was disbanded by the faculty after numerous custodian complaints of puncture marks in the hallways caused by students struggling to navigate their pipes around corners and through doorways.

Photograph of a large group of young men in a variety of fashions. Most of the men are looking off the side of the picture with sultry expressions.

Summer School for Fashion Modeling, 1888

Amherst also hosted a number of summer schools in the late 1800s. In a addition to the better know Summer School for Library Economy and Sauveur Language School, there was also the Amherst Summer School for Fashion Modeling which graduated dozens of young men who went on to renown in the Paris fashion plate scene. Appearing in this image (second from left in the back row) is Ellery Huntington, Class of 1888, who was later pictured in hundreds of fashion plates out of New York.

Photograph of a large group of students fighting, surrounded at a distance by a crown of observers

Annual Student Brawl, 1925

Photograph of clusters of students rolling on the ground in fisticuffs, behind them is a crown of onlookers behind a rope.

Annual Student Brawl, 1928

The Annual Student Brawl was a beloved tradition that began in 1899 and extended into the early 1930s. On a fine spring Saturday, the president would declare it “Brawl Day” and the student body would gather on the quad or the playing fields. The president would shoot a ceremonial pistol to start the brawl; after 30 minutes, any student left standing would be declared a superior specimen of Amherst manhood and given a purple striped ribbon to be worn on his hat for the remainder of the year. The faculty and citizens of the town of Amherst would bring their families and picnic on the lawn after the brawl.

Photograph of a group of students holding a variety of implements including, an ax, paddles, boards, rope, brooms, and sticks. Students are posed in front of a house.

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle, and Broom Society, 1893

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle and Broom Society was a secret society that rivaled the many fraternities at Amherst in the 1890s. Each of the implements in the society name was central to one of the society’s rituals. Unfortunately, the details of their rituals have been lost to time so modern researchers are left guessing. We do know that the club was kicked out of seven rooming housing in the span of three years between 1892 and 1894.

Photograph of three men in top hats with guinea pig images on them, presenting a guinea pig on a tray to a fourth man in front of Johnson Chapel.

Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team presenting their winning guinea pig, 1951.

Last, but not least, is the Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team. The team competed in division 3 guinea pig breeding from 1949 to 1957. Pictured here is the guinea pig that took the team to the national championship in 1951. Numerous alumni guinea pig breeders hoped that the school’s mascot would be officially changed to the guinea pig in 2016, but were, alas, disappointed.

Happy April Fools Day!

(All of the photographs in this post are, in fact, real photographs of Amherst College students, the interpretations however… are not. For more information about Brawl Day, please see the Chapel Rush and the Flag Rush. All the other photographs are unidentified.)


National Archives Operations during COVID-19: Mission Critical Functions Continue

The National Archives is committed to the health and safety of our visitors and staff, and we continue to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While our museums and facilities are closed to the public, we are continuing to perform mission essential emergency services to support our nation and citizens. These mission essential functions include: providing access to records needed to support emergency shelter, medical procedures, and funeral services for America’s veterans, the publication of the Federal Register, and providing emergency records loan services to the U.S. Congress. 

National Archives Building, Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. Photo by Richard Schneider

National Personnel Records Center
Like all other NARA facilities across our nation, I approved the temporary closure of the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to support stay-at-home orders issued for St. Louis City and County and to protect our staff from the potential transmission of COVID-19. However, a select group of NARA staff continue providing mission-critical services. For the NPRC, this means providing access to records needed to support emergency shelter, medical procedures, and funeral services for America’s veterans.

NPRC’s holdings include medical records and patient clinical records from military hospitals across the world. These collections are often referenced to support emergency medical treatments for veterans. The Center also provides prompt access to military service records needed to help homeless veterans obtain shelter and to support funeral honors and burials in national cemeteries for deceased veterans. Working in concert with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration and private sector funeral homes across the country, our staff responds to more than 1,000 burial-related requests each week.

The national pandemic emergency has temporarily disrupted many of the services we provide, including routine access to military records. However, the critical requests described above continue to be promptly serviced. If you have an urgent need for access to military service records, you may fax your request to 314 801-0764. This is a dedicated line for emergencies only. If your request is not urgent, I ask that you consider delaying it until we are past this national emergency.

Federal Register
The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) provides access to the official text of federal Laws, presidential documents, administrative regulations and notices, and descriptions of federal organizations, programs and activities. While the majority of Federal Register staff are working remotely, a very small crew remains on site in the GPO Building to receive documents from agencies, the White House and Congress. 

Despite the disruption, the Federal Register with GPO has published over 1,100 documents in 12 daily issues of the Federal Register, including emergency documents concerning the pandemic from CDC, HHS, FDA, and DHS and other agencies. You may view the significant pandemic-related documents published on the Federal Register website.

The online version of the Code of Federal Regulations is up to date, and the Federal Register team is working with its GPO partners to minimize the effect of the operating constraints on the next update to the hardbound editions.

As a measure to enable more flexible work, the Federal Register added nine additional agencies to the digital submission program and began accepting digitally signed documents from them. This brings the total number of agencies using the digital portal to 205 – accounting for 85 percent of the documents filed in the last two weeks.  

Congressional Records 
Another mission critical service is providing emergency records loan services to the U.S. Congress. NARA’s Center for Legislative Archives serves as the repository and custodial unit for the official records of the House of Representatives and Senate. Congressional holdings span the history of the nation under the Constitution, beginning in 1789 and running through recent congresses, and document the history of representative government at the Federal level.

Although the records of the most recent congresses are closed to public access under House and Senate access rules, they are subject to the recall of congressional committee chairs, and their designated representatives, to support the current business of Congress. These requests for records are sent to the House and Senate Archivists, who forward the requests to the Center for processing. Under normal operating conditions, Center staff locate and pull the relevant records, prepare the associated paperwork and data entries, and deliver the records to the Hill, where they are accepted and signed for by authorized staff. Typically, the Center sends between one to two million pages of textual records and electronic records back to committees each year.  

Under emergency situations such as the current pandemic, designated Center staff currently teleworking are called in to process and deliver the loans. Although the number of emergency loan requests is often limited, the value of the service during a crisis is crucial to the work of Congress and the national interest.

National Archives Building, Constitution Avenue, March 22, 2020. Photo by Richard Schneider

This is an unprecedented and very difficult time for everyone. I am grateful to our staff for their continued dedication and commitment to serve the American people and our nation.

The Inventor and the Virtuoso Reunite: Léon Theremin and Clara Rockmore on WQXR

Headline announcing RCA’s production of the theremin; Courier-Post, Camden, NJ, 23 September 1929.
(NYPR Archive Collections)

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the invention of the theremin, the world’s first electronic musical instrument. Still in production today, the theremin’s original release set off a revolution in music making, giving rise to a whole family of new, influential 20th century instruments, including the Moog synthesizer and the Hammond organ.

Léon Theremin; 3 May 1928.
(Genthe photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

With its ethereal sound, and the almost magical non-contact method of playing it, the theremin quickly captured the attention of European audiences as its 24-year-old inventor, Russian engineer and physicist Léon Theremin, toured the continent debuting his new instrument in demonstrations and recitals.  In 1928, Theremin obtained patent protection for his invention and licensed the technology to the Radio-Victor Corporation of America (RCA), which began manufacturing the instrument in 1929.  Over the course of the century, the theremin gained a passionate, world-wide following among both amateur and professional players, as well as composers – notably Bohuslav Martinů, Percy Grainger, Dmitri Shostakovich, Miklós Rózsa, Elmer Bernstein, Anis Fuleihan, and Bernard Herrmann.

Clara Rockmore and Lev Sergeyevich Termen (Léon Theremin) in NYC, c. 1929.
(Photo: © courtesy of the Nadia Reisenberg-Clara Rockmore Foundation)

After a 50-year absence, Léon Theremin returned to the United States in the summer of 1991.  As part of that trip, on January 4th, 1992, 95-year-old Theremin was an in-studio guest on WQXR’s The Listening Room with Robert Sherman.  Joining Professor Theremin on the broadcast was his dear friend, and the best-known and the most accomplished player of the instrument: Clara Rockmore. With host Robert Sherman (who also happens to be Mrs. Rockmore’s nephew) the inventor and the virtuoso discussed their earliest collaborations in the 1920s —including their first meeting in New York, Rockmore’s influence on the technical evolution of the instrument, and their last meeting in Russia: a brief, surreptitious 1962 reunion on a Moscow subway platform, the location chosen to avoid being overheard by Soviet authorities.

The interview includes two brief musical excerpts from a 1977 studio recording that thereminist Clara Rockmore made with her sister, the celebrated pianist Nadia Reisenberg; also included is the rebroadcast of a complete performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Song of Grusia, which was recorded before a studio audience at WQXR on January 26th, 1979, with Clara Rockmore, Nadia Reisenberg, and the violinist Erick Friedman.

Clara Rockmore and Lev Sergeyevich Termen (Léon Theremin) reunited in NYC, October 6, 1991.
(Photo: © Steve J. Sherman)

                                                    *       *       *

Two of the musical selections presented in this archival broadcast recording, available in the media player at the top of this page, have been edited down to brief excerpts to respect copyright protection of the holder; the interview is presented in its entirety.


Related links:

Romeo Records recently released Music and Memories, a set of rare and never before available recordings of Clara Rockmore; it is available for streaming and as a two-cd boxed set.  More information is available at Romeo Records, the Nadia Reisenberg-Clara Rockmore Foundation website and in the foundation’s March 2020 Newsletter.


From the New York Public Radio Archive:

The Listening Room: January 4th, 1992 episode

Fishko Files: Theremin

The Leonard Lopate Show: Getting to know the Theremin

Studio 360: Theremin 101 

The photo at the top of this article is of Clara Rockmore at the theremin in 1932. (Photo: © Renato Toppo, courtesy of the Nadia Reisenberg-Clara Rockmore Foundation)



Art Collection awarded Festivals Fund Grant

A Northern Gannet dives into the dark waters of the north sea off the cliffs of Noss, Shetland. Kieran Dodds

The Art Collection has been awarded a grant from Museums Galleries Scotland to hold an Environmental Festival highlighting our Under Threat exhibitions and events.

The open day will bring these themes together with music, words and other activities. The day will include public tours of the Under Threat exhibitions which are currently on display within our Pathfoot Gallery, and Danni Thompson, photographer and seabird ecologist, will talk about her exhibition ‘On the Edge’. There will also be the launch of the ‘Pathfoot project’ which is a publication created by students on the MLitt in Creative writing at the University of Stirling. The students have created written works inspired by the Art Collection’s current exhibitions and the event will include a public reading of works from the publication. This will be followed by a musical performance by the Edinburgh Quartet (University Musicians in Residence) and students from the Conservatoire who have composed works inspired by the Under Threat exhibitions. Throughout the event, there will be the opportunity for visitors to go to stalls run by environmental charities and organisations and learn about the work they have been doing in the local community, and the Conservation volunteers will hold children’s workshops and an open garden session in the Pathfoot Garden. In addition, Stirling Active Travel Hub will be in attendance and will bring electric bikes and cargo bikes for visitors to trial.

This event was due to take place on 13th June but has now been rescheduled to 20th September 2020. Further information to follow soon.

A Message to the Archival Community

The National Archives and Records Administration exists to provide access to the records that document the history of the United States. However, sometimes history happens around us and forces us to change the way we approach our work, at least for the time being. All of us are living through a historic crisis as we adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We at the National Archives are keenly aware of the uncertainty faced by our staff and our colleagues in the archival community and cultural and educational organizations. Institutions and individuals are facing unprecedented challenges in an effort to continue their regular operations.

This isn’t easy for any of us. We stand with all of you in our efforts to protect the health and welfare of our families, staff and organization members, archivists, researchers, educators, and other stakeholders. We are also doing our best to continue services you rely on in a highly fluid and challenging environment. Like other institutions and businesses, the National Archives has closed all public spaces and cancelled all events and programs until further notice. As of March 23, all National Archives buildings are closed to staff as well except for those performing emergency functions. National Archives staff are teleworking to the greatest extent possible, which means that we are still operating and available to assist, although some of our capabilities are limited by current circumstances. 

A Bell System switchboard where overseas calls are handled. December 22,1943 National Archives Identifier 1633445

Importantly, many of our services are available online:

Where possible, we will also conduct public events and outreach activities online and through virtual meetings. We will regularly update the event calendar with current information. Follow the National Archives on Facebook (USNationalArchives) and Twitter (@USNatArchives) for our current status. Or share your thoughts here on my blog. 

We will continue to share updates about what we’re doing and the services we can provide as the spring progresses and circumstances change. We send our best wishes for your continued good health and wellbeing and that of your communities during this unprecedented time.

Tinseltown, Talkies, and the Celluloid Frontier

In 1915 Francis X. Bushman made the great migration to Hollywood to do what many established theater actors did at that time: slum it in that little backwater of a West Coast town (part of Los Angeles since 1910) to make some serious cash. Upon his arrival, Bushman —who would go on to become one of the first bona fide movie stars and an accomplished film director in his own right— was introduced around one of the studios to get a feel for the process. One of the first stops on this introductory tour was the set of none other than the great Cecil B. DeMille, where Bushman arrived to see a giant swimming pool filled with crystal clear water and a gaggle of nude actresses frolicking within. Above the pool an array of lights and a motion picture camera had been rigged to catch the action, and DeMille enthusiastically informed Bushman that the goal was to film the actresses in a way that only their backs could be seen as they swam, creating a tasteful yet tantalizing spectacle of grace and beauty.

Advertisement, Moving Picture World, May 1919 for the film For Better, for Worse (1919).
(Paramount Pictures/Internet Archive)

Now, from a modern perspective, there are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea, not least of which is the potentially tragic and gruesome demise that might befall those poor women should one of those high-voltage lights come loose from its moorings. However, as Bushman was later informed by a crestfallen DeMille, the lesson learned that day was the folly in trying to film a reflective surface. (Think of what happens when you take a picture of a mirror). Instead of capturing in celluloid an image of ethereal beauty as tastefully nude nymphs frolicked in the clear water, all he recorded was a few hours of his own camera and lights looking back at him. It seems insane to think that a professional Hollywood director wouldn’t understand that you can’t point a camera directly at a mirror-like surface, but it makes sense when you think about the moment in context: it was 1915 and no one had ever tried that before. We can imagine DeMille smacking himself in the forehead as soon as he saw the developed footage and thinking, “You idiot, of course!” (Click on the audio player above for a snippet of this delightful anecdote.)

Myrna Loy is a host for Memoirs of the Movies.
(Publicity photo by George Hurrell/Wikimedia Commons)

This is just one of the many colorful and informative tales recounted in Memoirs of the Movies, a radio program from the early sixties that featured prerecorded interviews with Hollywood greats, from the silent era all the way through the golden age of Hollywood and beyond. The list of legends who lend their considerable experience and flair to this program is awe-inspiring. It includes Buster Keaton, Dorothy Lamour, Gene Kelly, Arthur Freed, Paul Newman, Ben Hecht, Adolph Zukor, King Vidor, David O’Selznick, Basil Rathbone, Myrna Loy, Harold Lloyd, Cecil B. DeMille, Otto Preminger, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and many, many others. This collection of shows is a veritable treasure trove of film history, and some of the stories related here appear to exist nowhere else. What’s more, those involved in the program are actors and film directors, old-school producers, writers and musicians —in other words, professional storytellers with huge personalities and an immense talent for spinning a good yarn. And, boy, do they bring it! Jack Lemmon recounts his first meeting with Harry Cohn. Ben Hecht recalls the undeserved credit he received for the innovative camera movements of Lee Garmes in Angels Over Broadway (1940). Cecil B. DeMille recounts going to California to shoot 1914’s The Squaw Man and —because he needed a locale with desert and prairie— renting an old barn on Vine Street that would later become the first Hollywood studio. Reginald Denham tells a hilarious story about legendary film producer Sir Alexander Korda and the insanely convoluted process of writing a script and getting it into production.

Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code), cover of a paper copy.
(Internet Archives)

Throughout it all there’s a certain polite reserve to the series indicative of the era in which it aired and frequently absent from contemporary media. The ability to tell a good story, juicy bits and all, while being mindful of the censors and the public tastes was a skill developed early by the Hollywood set due to the rigors imposed by the Hayes Code and, later, the MPAA. It lends the proceedings a measure of class and old-school cool both charming and sophisticated, and makes the whole collection feel warm and inviting. These assets are true treasures and we at the WNYC Archives hope you enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you.

The Cinema Sound collection in the New York Public Radio Archives has several documents and letters related to Memoirs of the Movies that constitute a small treasure in and of themselves. Some of the letters and signatures on these documents are a film buff’s dream find; we’ve included two below. Also, there are a few episodes we’re missing: episode #17 The New Hollywood and episode #18 The Rusk to Reality. If anyone has heard them or has copies, please let us know here at the WNYC Archives —we’d love to hear them.

A letter from Lucille Ball for the Memoirs of the Movies project.
(NYPR Archives/NYPR Archives)


A letter from Cecil B. DeMille for the Memoirs of the Movies project.
(NYPR Archives/NYPR Archives)



FY2020 NDAA Requires Pentagon Report on Declassification Backlog

The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the Secretary of Defense to submit an unclassified “report on reducing the backlog in legally required historical declassification obligations of the Department of Defense” to the Armed Services Committees of the House and the Senate (P.L. 116-92, Sec. 1759). The report is due to these committees on April 18, 2020 – 120 days after enactment of the NDAA.  The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) wholeheartedly support the actions called for in the NDAA.

The FY 2020 NDAA specifically requires that the report include the Department of Defense’s (DOD) plans to reduce backlogs in “legally mandated historical declassification,” and increase productivity. The NDAA recognizes the importance of DOD adopting use of advanced technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other Machine Learning technologies. It requires the Secretary of Defense to include a plan for DOD to adopt and implement technologies into declassification processes. The law also requires the Secretary of Defense to provide an assessment of records released for each of the past three years under 25- and 50-year automatic declassification review programs, and an estimate of how many records DOD will review and declassify in each of the next three years.

In addition to this report, Congress requires that the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on the “progress and objectives” of DOD in reviewing and declassifying records for publication in the Department of State’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, and for public access at the National Archives and Records Administration  and the presidential libraries.

Each of these requirements in the NDAA embody recommendations of the PIDB. The PIDB has consistently advocated for the implementation of AI and other advanced technologies to improve declassification efficiency and effectiveness. First, use of these technologies are essential in reducing backlogs of records awaiting declassification review, and in ensuring consistency of declassification decisions. Second, current manual declassification processes are not sustainable nor desirable in handling the volume of digital data. The PIDB highlighted the need for advanced technologies in its 2016 Report to the President, The Importance of Technology in Classification and Declassification.

The NDAA included specific reporting requirements for DOD to describe its plan for assisting historians and the Department of State in publishing FRUS and assisting National Declassification Center in declassifying records accessioned to NARA and in the Presidential Libraries. These records are of historical interest and should be prioritized for declassification review. In 2014, the PIDB advocated for prioritizing the review of records of historical significance in its report to the President, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification.

Submission of the Secretary of Defense’s report to Congress on the growing declassification challenges at DOD and DOD agencies directly affects the public and its ability to learn about our history and participate in the democratic process of holding Government officials accountable.  As the 120-day deadline approaches in mid-April, the members of the PIDB – and all stakeholders – will be interested to learn of the Secretary of Defense’s plans for modernizing its declassification policies and processes to include technology and his plans for prioritizing the declassification review for records sought for publication in the FRUS and held by the NARA and the presidential libraries.

The PIDB’s Transforming Classification blog and the Information Security Oversight’s new blog, The ISOO Overview, intends to post additional information about the contents of the Secretary of Defense’s report to Congress as it is made available to the public.

A History of Extracurricular Activities at Florida State College for Women

Considering how long students have been coming through the walls of our historic university, it goes without saying that we have a rich and varied history of extracurricular, student-run activities. At Florida State University, many of these long-standing traditions and activities were established during our time as an all women institution, between 1905 and 1947. Campus-wide extracurriculars were an extremely important part of student life during this time. Students felt taking part in events with peers built pride and appreciation for their alma mater. For this year’s Women’s History Month, we’ll be looking into the early years of recreation at Florida State College for Women (FSCW): how our peers of the past made friends, garnered school spirit, and just passed the time.

Two of the earliest student organizations were the Thalian Literary Society and the Minerva Club, founded and run by our female predecessors. These organizations were formed with the goal of “enabling the girls to speak more fluently in public,” but they did much more for the student body (Talisman, April 1906, Pg. 26). They were an expressive outlet for students and encourage peer-to-peer discourse and connection.

In 1906, just one year after our transition to a women’s college, the Thalian Society and Minerva Club began publishing the first college literary periodical in the state of Florida, The Talisman. (The Book Lover’s Guide to Florida, 1992) It served as a recreational avenue for students to express their thoughts and to learn about campus happenings. The Talisman went on to become the Florida Flambeau newspaper in 1915, still run entirely by women.

From the first five years of the establishment of FSCW, our women students were establishing recreational sports teams of all kinds. By 1906 our small campus had facilities for tennis, basketball, field-hockey, croquet, a swimming pool, and a full gymnasium! (Talisman, April 1906, Pg. 30)

Student organizations are a crucial part of university life and this has been the case at our university for over 100 years! The 1910 and 1911 yearbooks from FSCW show us that students were forming all sorts of clubs for a wide variety of interests and commonalities…

Scrapbooking was an extremely common practice between students at Florida State College for Women. Here at Heritage & University Archives, we have over 30 of these student-made scrapbooks and they give us endless insight as to how they chose to spend their free time.

From the Julia Pelot Scrapbook

Many of these records are available online at DigiNole. For more information about our University related collections, please contact Sandra Varry, the Heritage & University Archivist.

Help us to document coronavirus

As this pandemic unfolds, our daily lives have been and will continue to be affected by unprecedented decisions, restrictions and realities. As archivists we started to ask ourselves this week – ‘How will we document this? What can we gather to preserve the reality of this period for the future?’ and we have taken inspiration from our colleagues at Glasgow City Archives and decided to ask for your help.

We’re encouraging residents in the NHS Forth Valley area to keep a daily diary documenting your experiences with coronavirus so that we can preserve the many varied experiences that we are all going through for future generations.

Entries can be as long or as short and as detailed as you would like to make them. You could add drawings and creative writing or keep it to prose. Document how you feel, what your routine is like, what you’re doing with your days, how the situation is affecting you and the people you care about. No detail is too small to record if you feel comfortable doing so, from what you ate for breakfast to what Netflix show or book is seeing you through.

Peter Mackay doesn’t have loads of say about Christmas 1977!

We want to use these to show the whole range of experiences unfolding during this time so you could encourage your children to keep a diary, your parents, and grandparents. We’d love for everyone to have a chance to contribute to this collective account and for it to be as representative of the region as it can be.

Once our lives become a bit more normal, we will post details of how to get your diaries to us. Once they arrive, they will form a part of our NHS Forth Valley collection and be made available to researchers and archive users of the future. Though we will always treat personal information with sensitivity and may, therefore, restrict the public use of your diary for an extended period of time, it is also your choice should you wish to remain anonymous. Whether or not you would like to remain anonymous is perhaps something you would like to consider before you begin writing your diary.

We will accept hand written or electronic diaries, whichever you prefer to keep. We hope that this process might also provide you with a therapeutic way to spend some time and so it is for you, as well as for us. Please don’t worry about what we would like you to be recording, record what life is like for you and, ultimately, the things that are making up your days and you cannot go wrong.

Norman McLaren was often one for a doodle

If you have any questions about the project, email us at

object of the week

While the Pathfoot Building is closed, the Art Collection will each week focus on an object of interest. You can also search our entire collection online here.

Pathfoot Building
Architect: John Richards

Our first object of the week is the jewel in the crown of the Art Collection – the Pathfoot Building itself. Constructed in 1967, it was the first to be completed on the new campus and is now a listed building. 

This is how David Baxandallat the time the Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, began his review of the first building to be constructed on the University of Stirling campus:

[The Pathfoot Building] is probably the most beautiful, the most civilized, the most sensitive and intelligent piece of large scale modern architecture and planning that has been achieved in Scotland. The architect is John Richards, of the firm Robert Matthew, Johnson Marshall and partners and he’s done wonders.

He was speaking on a Radio 4 programme called Arts Review, transmitted on Thursday 8 January 1970, and continued:

It is well outside the town, on a sloping site facing south. As you approach, you see a series of very long low buildings stepped down the hillside on terraces. The emphasis is all in horizontals, and the relation of the buildings to landscape is one of great courtesy.
When you go inside it’s equally successful. It is very humane… Everything seems designed and scaled for the human individuals who use it whether to delight their eyes or to serve their needs. There are pictures or pieces of sculpture all over the place, many of them borrowed and frequently changed. Every now and then you look out on to small grassed and flagged courts between the buildings, rather like Japanese gardens. There is something to raise your spirits on every side.

Even though the Pathfoot Building has been altered and extended over the years, the spirit of the original design remains, and is appreciated by those who visit, study and work there. Alongside the offices and lecture theatres, Pathfoot is a public art space, displaying the University’s permanent art collection as well as a series of temporary exhibitions in its main concourse and corridors, the large Crush Hall and some of its seventeen courtyards.

‘Hanging Mobile’ by Ally Wallace (Artist in Residence in the Pathfoot Building, 2016-17)
The rectangular forms in this mobile are based on the proportions of Pathfoot’s concrete fascia panels, and their floating, constantly changing positions refer to the buildings lightweight, flexible design.

Click here to watch ‘Corridor of Dreams’, a 2013 film which celebrates works of art in the collection through the eyes of the artists who made them, and the people who pass them on a daily basis in the Pathfoot Building.

View of Pathfoot courtyard in the 1960s, with Figure (Archaean) by Barbara Hepworth (Bronze, 1959)

Florida Home Economics Association Scrapbooks

With our work on extension service scrapbooks with the Havana History and Heritage Society for Gadsden County, we took a look at our own collections and found Leon County scrapbooks for a similar period on our own shelves! The Florida Home Economics Association Records holds scrapbooks which are mostly Leon County extension service records from 1923-1966. The collection also holds the administrative records of the Association and Florida State College for Women (FSU’s predecessor) was an integral part of the instruction branch of the association.

Digitization of scrapbooks is always a challenge. The scrapbooks were dis-bound before being brought up to our studio for digitization. Dis-binding scrapbooks such as these and other similar material allows us to capture higher quality images of individual pages faster than if they were left in their original, bound state. From a preservation standpoint, this also reduces the amount of potential wear-and-tear on older items such as these can sustain during the digitization process. 

Since we digitized the material as individual pages instead of bound scrapbooks, we relied primarily on our overhead camera setup to complete this project. This setup utilizes an IQ180 reprographic camera system and Capture One Cultural Heritage software to create high quality, high resolution images. We digitized all material in this collection as 400 PPI (pixels per inch) TIFF images as recommended by our FSUDL Imaging Guidelines document. 

Capturing high resolution images of individual pages using our IQ180 system

Being a tethered system, all images are automatically and instantly transferred from the camera to the computer where the Capture One software handles basic editing of the images including color correction, cropping, file naming, and exporting the final images to our internal server before being loaded into the FSU Digital Library

The Cultural Heritage version of Capture One allows us to increase the rate of image processing by providing helpful features such as auto-cropping and advanced white balance adjustments. The software also acts as a file management tool and allows us to batch-edit and export the images we’ve digitized. We use this to apply the same color and exposure settings to all pages of an item at once instead of performing the edits one-by-one on individual pages, which would take much longer to complete.  

Screenshot of Capture One CH software showing batch editing features

The scrapbooks, once they were digitized and images ready for the digital library, were loaded into the FSU Digital Library. Please enjoy browsing these materials and the fascinating glimpse they offer into the work of the extension services in Leon County over several decades.

The Public Interest Declassification Board Remains Active During the COVID-19 National Emergency

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) members and staff remain active preparing for an in-person meeting to be scheduled as circumstances allow under the current COVID-19 national emergency.  In addition to supporting PIDB members in scheduling the in-person meeting, PIDB staff will continue to publish here on Transforming Classification, and remain responsive to questions and input from the public and stakeholders in the PIDB community of interest.  We welcome your comments to on Transforming Classification, and look forward to better days, as we work together with you in expanding the conversation in the public interest about improving classification and declassification across the Federal Government.

culture on campus online

Following advice issued by the Scottish Government on steps
to be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 the University of Stirling Art
Collection and our Archives reading room are
closed to the public until further notice. However, we aim to continue to
provide access to our fantastic collections throughout this difficult period.

Over the coming months we will be taking our collections online, adding content to our new Culture on Campus website and sharing highlights via social media with #CultureOnStirCampus

In April we will be taking part in #Archive30 a promotional campaign on twitter organised by the Archives and Records Association. Like many other services across the country we will be taking up the challenge of tweeting all 30 daily topics throughout the month!

We will be highlighting some of the treasures of our Art Collection through interviews with the curators, films from exhibiting artists and a featured ‘object of the week.’

Where possible we will also endeavour to respond to your
research enquiries.

We will also be adding newly digitised content from our collections to our new website at

We hope our collections can provide a source of information,
education, inspiration and amusement during these uncertain times. Look out for
updates on social media and on our Culture on Campus blog

University of Stirling Art Collection

University of Stirling Archives

Archives in the Time of COVID-19

Hello, loyal blog readers. We wish that, right now, we were posting under normal circumstances to impendingly welcome you back into our newly-renovated library and enthusing about a soon-to-open exhibition, but alas, that’s not the case given the current COVID-19 situation in the U.S. However, we do have an update on library services and Special Collections access during our closure, as well as some information about where we left off our reopening preparations (with photos near the bottom of this post):

First, as you likely know, Providence Public Library has wisely postponed the date when we will re-open to the public; if you didn’t receive the library’s email announcement, you can find it here. You can also check our website for updates about virtual library services and announcements about our rescheduled opening. (To answer your most pressing questions: no, you don’t need to return your books right now, nor will they incur overdue fines until we re-open; and yes, you can apply for a temporary library card online if you don’t have one and want to access the library’s e-books and other digital services.)

Second, all members of our Special Collections staff are currently working from home. That means that we’re available by email but not by phone, and we don’t have access to our physical collections at the moment. We do have a number of virtual services available:

  • First, please avail yourselves of the plethora of images available through ProvLibDigital. They’re free to download, and could make great additions to online curricula, research projects, or creative projects.
  • We can offer some virtual instruction or reference services: do you want us to offer an online session for your class on how to do primary source research? Have questions about your genealogy research? Need some ideas for your history class? Please get in touch; we’d love to work with you.
  • We’re working to put together additional resources that will be available through our website, such as subject guides to common research topics, ideas for teachers and professors to integrate primary sources and historical materials into their virtual curricula, and information about preserving family history. Stay tuned!

Now, for some pictures and construction/ exhibit updates:

Up until mid-March, we were frantically preparing for the library’s grand re-opening. While construction continued outside our new office doors, we received new furniture for our Special Collections Reading Room, including a bank of lockers for researchers’ personal belongings, new tables and chairs, and an official-looking desk for the librarian monitoring the room. We don’t have pictures to share just yet, so you can act very surprised when you finally sit in our new chairs.

We also got VERY exciting new cases for our VERY exciting new exhibition gallery. The cases were manufactured in Germany and journeyed across the Atlantic on a cargo ship. They arrived via delivery truck on a rainy day in wooden packing crates, having crossed the miles relatively unscathed.

(Don’t worry, we got a replacement for this single broken glass shelf.)

Look at the cool Drop (N) Tell Impact Indicator on the side of the shipping crate that tattles on laissez-faire crate handlers:


Here are a few of the cases set up in the new gallery:

Exhibit gallery

In early March, we started building custom book supports for our annual exhibition and program series. Here are some poorly-lit pictures of Angela doing math, and of freshly-made supports inside our new cases.

We’re still planning to have the exhibit completed whenever the library re-opens to the public; in the meantime, keep an eye here and on our other social media for posts highlighting Special Collections materials, and even a few exhibit sneak-peeks.

We sincerely hope you’re all staying safe and healthy and feeling supported and connected to one another.

Diane Wolkstein and Stories From Many Lands

Early program flier for Stories from Many Lands.
(Courtesy of Diane Wolkstein/WNYC Archive Collections)


Storyteller, author, and folklorist Diane Wolkstein (1942-2013) produced and hosted Stories From Many Lands. Sponsored by the New York City Parks Department, the Saturday morning children’s program aired from 1968-1980. 


Wolkstein’s career as the Parks Department’s first full-time storyteller began in 1967. The intrepid tale spinner visited ten city parks five days a week with props and a full range of folktales, fairy tales, legends, and epics from all over the world. Her captive audiences ranged in age from infants to the very elderly.

By 1971, the city’s fiscal crisis was felt at every level of public service, and the municipal bean counters put an end to her $40 per week salary as New York City’s official storyteller. Instead, they bestowed upon her the honorary lifetime title of New York City’s Storyteller, without pay. The ever passionate Wolkstein, known for her range of performance, became a leading figure in the American national storytelling revival and was reportedly called “one of the greatest storytellers in the Western world” by the myth and story scholar Joseph Campbell

Diane Wolkstein at WNYC in the 1970s.
(Courtesy of Diane Wolkstein/WNYC Archive Collections)

Wolkstein continued with her show on WNYC and, over the years, authored twenty-two books and released more than 10 audio collections and three videos. Wolkstein’s volumes included creation myths, legends, and folktales she collected on trips to Haiti, Asia, and Africa. She later teamed up with Samuel Noah Kramer, a scholar of Assyrian civilization, to translate and retell Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, an ancient tale of the Sumerian goddess of fertility, love, and war. Her titles include The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales, The Glass Mountain, The Banza and First Love Stories.  

In 1980, Wolkstein, along with storytellers Gioia Timpanelli and Laura Simms, co-founded The New York City Storytelling Center which held monthly workshops for seasoned storytellers, novice tellers, and interested beginners. The Center trained an untold number of storytellers and sent them to schools, libraries, and the weekly storytelling at the Hans Christian Andersen statue by the boat pond in Central Park near Fifth Avenue at 72nd Street. Wolkstein was the director of the storytelling program at the Hans Christian Andersen statue from 1971-2012. Several generations of children, including Wolkstein’s daughter, Rachel Zucker, grew up on the summer Saturday morning programs. Many of them brought their own children to listen to Wolkstein or “Grandma D” as she was called by her three adoring grandsons. The program continues today with families gathering in front of the statue of Hans Christian Andersen every Saturday, June through September at 11 a.m. 

Diane Wolkstein was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. She received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s degree in education from Bank Street College of Education. While living in Paris, she studied mime with Étienne Decroux. She was a long time resident of Greenwich Village and passed away at the age of 70 while working in Taiwan on translating and retelling the epic Journey to the West. 

In a 1992 interview with the Daily News Wolkstein told columnist Clem Richardson, “Each time I tell a story that I love, I appreciate it in a different way.” She added, though, “If it doesn’t move you, it won’t move anyone else when you tell it. You’re really sharing your heart, exchanging love with your listeners.” Wolkstein not only told her tales, she lived their values. She was an activist for issues both local -transforming the Jefferson Library parking lot into a garden- and international as a staunch human rights and anti-racist activist. 

To learn more about Diane Wolkstein’s work and legacy please visit or contact the Library of Congress, which houses the Diane Wolkstein Collection of photographs, recordings, galleys, and correspondence. To request permission to reprint Wolkstein’s work or for questions about her literary estate, contact her daughter, Rachel Zucker.  

Listen now to Diane Wolkstein performing stories from her collection, The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales.

In this broadcast Diane Wolkstein joins with Shirley Keller to tell three Native American stories; The Squirrel’s Song, Shingebliss and Sunflower H.

Special thanks to Rachel Zucker for her assistance and permission to post these broadcasts and to Melissa Heckler for her help with fact checking.

1972 program flier for Stories From Many Lands
(Flier courtesy of Diane Wolkstein/WNYC Archive Collections)


Astrological Healing from the Seventeenth Century

An herbal is a book containing the names and descriptions of various plants, and usually contains the effects that were associated with each one. Effects could range from a plant’s toxicity to its magical power. In the 15th century, it was common practice to publish medical journals in Latin, which was only accessible to those with wealth or nobility. In 1652, Nicholas Culpeper published one of his most notable works, The English Physician, in English, allowing those who did not read Latin to be able to practice medicine. 

Culpeper’s herbal was groundbreaking for its combination of the “doctrine of signatures” with astrology. The doctrine of signatures was the idea that plants and herbs that looked like human body parts would help heal ailments that stemmed from that part. Combining this practice with astrology formed what is known as astrological herbalism. Astrological herbalists connected herbs to different signs of the zodiac. They treated specific ailments by determining what sign and planet ruled over the part of the body that needed care, and then prescribing an herb of the same astrological sign.

Culpeper’s British herbal ; and, Complete English family physician. (1802)

Culpeper’s earlier works mainly relied on written descriptions of the plants to be able to identify them. As he progressed, his herbals included more images and color, illustrating them with etchings that are then colored in with watercolors, such as the 1802 edition of his British Herbal.

The heart and blood, for example, are ruled by Leo, which is ruled by the sun, so for ailments such as anemia, the patient would be prescribed “centaury,” or centaurium erythraea. Issues like anxiety are ruled by Mercury, and depending upon your astrological sign you might be prescribed lavender as a treatment. The process goes more in depth depending on your sign and other planetary factors.

While we cannot recommend depending upon Culpeper’s prescribed treatments — medicine has come a long way in 400 years — it is fun to see what herbal applications he found for a variety of ailments. FSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives possesses seven editions of The English Physician, from the 1652 first edition up to one from 1932. Fortunately, three editions have been digitized and are available for your perusal from home!

Culpeper’s English Physician and complete herbal. (1798)

Culpeper’s British herbal; and, Complete English family physician. (1802)

Culpeper’s Complete herbal. (1817)

Update #2 on Coronavirus and FSU Special Collections

As many institutions are doing at the moment, Florida State University is changing operations for a period to respond to coronavirus. What does that mean for Special Collections & Archives?

Original Campus Library Doors, ca. 1940-1944 [original image]

Until further notice, the Special Collections & Archives public areas, including all reading rooms, are closed to the public for the safety of our staff and our patrons. However, our collections are still available even if you can’t come visit them in person. Please contact Special Collections & Archives at for help in doing research in the archives. Also, our online catalog, finding aid database and digital library remain open for remote use. Please be aware much of our staff is working remotely at this time so answers to reference questions or digital reproduction requests may be delayed until we are in the building again.

The Heritage Museum and the Claude Pepper Library and Museum are closed at this time as well.

This is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation and we will do our best to provide updates if and when any of this information changes. Please check back with the FSU Libraries COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage for the latest information. We ask everyone to be safe during this time.

Archives Service update

Following advice issued by the Scottish Government on 16 March 2020 on steps to be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 the University of Stirling Archives will be closing its public reading room from 17 March until further notice.

The closure will have the following impact on our service:

  • A temporary suspension of our volunteer projects
  • Cancellation / postponement of current
    researcher visits
  • No bookings made for future researcher visits at

The University Archives will continue to offer a limited
service to researchers:

  • We will endeavour to answer remote enquiries received by email to
  • Where possible we will provide access to digitised copies of material to researchers unable to visit the reading room to carry out research in person
  • Priority will be given to University of Stirling students currently using our collections for dissertations and projects
  • We will continue to promote our collections and provide updates on our service via social media (@unistirarchives)

The health and safety of our staff and public is important to us and we will endeavour to continue to provide a service to our users through this difficult time.

Karl Magee, University Archivist

Behind the Scenes of The Daily Show

Its creators might cringe at the description, but since its debut in 1996, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has become a television institution. From its constellation of “anchors,” “correspondents,” and “commentators,” the show has spun off stars and superstars like Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Steve Carrell, Mo Rocca, Lewis Black, Michelle Wolf, Wyatt Cenac, Aasif Mandvi, John Hodgman, and others. Like On the Media, it shines a sometimes harsh light on the media, though in a different manner: skewering the media, politics, and popular culture with its satirical send-up of a nightly newscast.

In May 1999, just four months into Jon Stewart’s tenure as the show’s anchor, Kaari Pitkin produced a “Fly on the Wall” segment, bringing OTM listeners behind the scenes of a day in the life of The Daily Show.

Archives services during COVID-19 remote learning

Effective March 11, only current students, staff, and faculty with Amherst IDs are permitted entrance to buildings on campus, including Frost Library. We appreciate your understanding.

We are closed to the general public. On-site services and research hours will be limited to the Amherst College community. We will be open regular hours March 12-13 for Amherst College students, faculty, and staff. Reading room access for Amherst College students, faculty, and staff will be by appointment only beginning March 16. Please contact us at 413-542-2299 or to schedule an appointment.

For those no longer able to conduct research on site, Archives and Special Collections staff will work with you to determine the best course of action. If you are concerned about access to archival material, please email us at

A number of archival collections are digitized and available through Amherst College Digital Collections.

For faculty concerned about class visits to the Archives, we will be in touch with all faculty who have currently scheduled classes to determine how plans can be adapted. If you would like to request a class session, please use this form. We are unable to host class visits from outside the Amherst College community.

Update on Coronavirus and FSU Special Collections

As many institutions are doing at the moment, Florida State University is changing operations for a period to respond to coronavirus. What does that mean for Special Collections & Archives?

Nursing students standing outside Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1950s [original item]

Until further notice, access to all FSU Libraries is limited to holders of FSU IDs and students from the joint FAMU/FSU College of Engineering. Community members or traveling scholars will be unable to visit our collections in person. However, our collections are still available even if you can’t come visit them in person. Please contact Special Collections at for help in doing research in the archives while they are closed to the general public. Also, our online catalog, finding aid database and digital library remain open for remote use.

For our FSU campus community, our hours will reduce, as they normally do, during Spring Break. March 16-20, the Research Center Reading Room, Exhibit Room and Norwood Reading Room will be open from 10am to 4:30pm. The Heritage Museum will be closed and the Claude Pepper Library and Museum will be closed as well.

This is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation and we will do our best to provide updates if and when any of this information changes. Please check back with the FSU Libraries COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage for the latest information. We ask everyone to be safe during this time.

Celebrating Women’s History with a new digital collection

The DLC recently completed processing and started loading materials from the League of Women Voters (LWV), Tallahassee Chapter Records materials held at the Claude Pepper Library into DigiNole. The materials in this first round of digitization with the collection include the newsletters of the Tallahassee chapter from 1962-2012 as well as Study and Action guides for the national LWV agenda from 1975-1999.

The records of the League of Women Voters, Tallahassee Chapter, are comprised primarily of administrative files, publications, and subject files and document 55 years of Tallahassee League activities including the organization of conventions and meetings, coordination of league activities, and the chapter’s relationship with the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Of particular interest is the story one can find in the newsletters regarding the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Florida. First appearing in the newsletters in 1972, it appears in every monthly newsletter throughout the 1980s including the big push to try to get it ratified before the amendment expired in 1982. The League often reminded its members that it was used to a long struggle, having been founded just before women received the right to vote in 1920 by women suffragists. Still, there is some discouragement to be found in the newsletters when, over and over again, the Florida Legislature failed to take up the ERA in any meaningful way.

This is just one of the many stories you’ll find in these materials which offer a unique look at women and politics in Tallahassee, Florida and the United States in some of our most volatile political decades. To get an idea of what you’ll find in the entire collection, please see the finding aid. To browse more of the materials digitized, please visit the collection at DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository.

Did ‘Seinfeld’ Put the Polish Back on The Big Apple?

It was a sitcom that was, by its own admission, about nothing; with an ensemble cast playing (let’s be honest) irredeemably self-absorbed jerks. But was it responsible for putting a polish back on the national reputation of The Big Apple? 

When Seinfeld debuted in 1989 the media trope for New York had descended from the glamour of Breakfast at Tiffany’s to The Big Rotten Apple: a dark and dirty dysfunctional dystopia. Guys and Dolls and On the Town had given way to Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver, Death Wish, and Escape From New York. Even The Odd Couple, the iconic ‘70’s sitcom set in New York, regularly had Oscar or Felix being mugged or otherwise pummeled by a city perceived as beyond control.1 In their 1978 Rolling Stones hit “Shattered” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sung “Go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots.” Or as the guest of the January 4, 1998 On the Media episode John Podhoretz put it: there was “nobody in the country with a good word to say about New York.” 

During that segment of On the Media, Podhoretz, the New York Post Editorial Page Editor, joined host Brian Lehrer and Elizabeth Lesly Stevens of Business Week to discuss the Seinfeld phenomenon and what the show meant to the public image of New York City.

Podhoretz theorized that the show had “reinvented New York in the eyes of America from a city of danger and horror into what New York likes to think of itself as at its best, which is sort of an exciting, action-packed place full of glamorous eccentrics.”  He added that, with its visits to real New York places like actual bodegas and diners, no television program had ever been as much “about a specific setting as Seinfeld.”

And perhaps because of those specific New York settings and the eccentrics who inhabit them, America seemed to have fallen back in love with The Big Apple.

Is that theory, or just more yadda, yadda, yadda?


1TV Tropes. (2019). The Big Rotten Apple – TV Tropes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Nov. 2019].


Public Panels Scheduled Next Week to Discuss Priorities in Declassification Review

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, officials from several Intelligence Community (IC) agencies and three offices within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will join in two public panels at NARA’s William G. McGowan Theater, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408. Panelists will discuss issues concerning the recent past, current state, and future prospects of declassification review.

From 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., senior NARA leadership and agency experts will host a moderated discussion to celebrate the first decade and future activities of The National Declassification Center (NDC). Due to building access restrictions, registration to attend is required before midnight EDT March 10, 2020. For those unable to attend this event in person at McGowan Theater, live streaming of the NDC panel will be available on NARA’s YouTube Channel.

Established on December 30, 2009, by the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero under Executive Order 13526, the NDC coordinates interagency declassification processes to promote the public release of historically significant records, while appropriately safeguarding national security.

Since 2015, the NDC’s Indexing on Demand (IOD) program encourages the public to participate in the prioritization of specific record entries for final declassification processing.  Each year, the NDC website lists classified records eligible for request through the IOD program so that the public may identify those of the greatest interest. This offers one mechanism for prioritizing the review of Government records that come up for declassification review every year in increasingly large volumes, which the panelists will discuss with regard to the future of the NDC.

From 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., NDC officials will join a panel with representatives of NARA’s Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), as well as from several IC agencies to discuss using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request records from the IC. As with the morning panel, registration to attend the event in person is required before midnight EDT March 10, 2020, and NARA will live stream this multi-agency forum on YouTube.

Established under the OPEN Government Act of 2007, OGIS reviews FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance across the Federal Government, and mediates FOIA disputes between Federal agencies and requesters. As with the Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) process—which under Executive Order 13526, ISOO supports through the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP)—the staggering increase in electronic National Security Information continues to impede FOIA review.

Solutions like the NDC’s IOD program represent an earnest step toward the more proactive and thematic prioritization that the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) has consistently recommended in successive reports since 2007 (for links, see the previous entry here at Transforming Classification). The public panels next Thursday offer a welcome forum for considering ways of implementing these recommendations to improve current declassification processes across the Federal Government.

IC and NARA panelists will accept questions from the audience at both morning and afternoon events.