Teaching Machines to Read

Written language is a persistent tool for information communication. Many cultures develop it somewhere during their history. A written language allows groups to share records, instructions, and cultural heritage across many years (some examples of written language held by Special Collections & Archives date to 2000 BCE). The modern world still relies heavily on written language for the transmission and storage of data, information, and knowledge. Academic communication is still largely conducted through the world’s written languages, and the internet is an incredibly complex mechanism for moving text between computers around the world, whether that text be in the form of tweets, emails, or webpages.


Over this long history humanity has refined written languages to indicate the nuances of the data being transferred or stored. Bibliographic information (such as title and author) are often set apart from other text, whether that be physically as a title page in a book or typographically with differences in type sizing and decoration. We as readers have learned that large type placed above bodies of smaller type is usually a title. Likewise we recognize the white-space in prose and poetry as paragraph, line or stanza breaks.

These intuitions are not explicit to computers. Strides have been made in natural language processing (as this focus of computer science is called), but it is not perfect enough for robust analysis. The Text Encoding Initiative Consortium (TEI-C) is a group of scholars and institutions interested in joining the computational powers of modern computers with the study of “manuscripts, research papers, historical archives, early printed books, linguistic corpora, anthologies, critical editions, ancient inscriptions, and a wealth of other literary, historical, and cultural material”.

TEI encoded text
TEI encoded text

To this end they developed and continue to refine the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines (TEI). TEI is a suite of technologies designed to make explicit to computers what is implicit to us as readers. The fundamental part of TEI is a markup language expressed through eXtensible Markup Language (XML). TEI encoding is similar in form to HTML. A key difference is HTML provides a computer with instructions for text display, TEI provides instructions for text comprehension.

Visualization of the changes to a Burroughs sentence through drafts.
Visualization of the changes to a Burroughs sentence through drafts.

By providing a computer with a marked-up text, and the rules for precisely interpreting the markup, a computer can access a text in a similar way as to our human readers’ intuition. This level of access also allows a computer to process a text quickly in ways that take humans a long time and a lot of intellectual effort. Traditional bibliographic tools such as index and concordances (which can take humans months or even years to create by hand) can be completed in seconds by a computer with a properly encoded text.

Calendar of the Week July 12 1905
Except from the Egyptian Gazette.

TEI has become a valuable tool in the developing field of Digital Humanities. Florida State University’s (FSU) faculty is using it to open texts up to new kinds of analysis. Dr. Will Hanley, Assistant Professor in FSU’s Department of History, uses TEI to analyze persons and places in colonial era Egyptian newspapers. TEI has the capacity to assign unique identifiers to personal and topological names. Doing this for several regional newspapers for several years allows a scholar to extract names and contextual information from the texts. Techniques from network and graph theories can then be applied to the data, uncovering insights that were buried.

Dr. Stanley Gontarski (Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English) and Dr. Paul Ardoin (Ph.D. FSU 2014) have used TEI to examine the works of Samuel Beckett and William S. Burroughs. Literary analysis is typically done on final published works. Though for some writers it is difficult to establish a simple canonical version of a text. William S. Burroughs, for example, published several different versions of the same text over the length of his career. TEI is used in this case to examine a text as it moves through all of its different versions: manuscripts, typescripts, and variant published versions. Each version serves as a witness to a larger critical edition constituting the full body of the work. An outcome of this work is the Burroughs Archive.

The Burroughs Archive home page.
The Burroughs Archive home page.

TEI is also used to structure information so it can be accessed by visualization tools. The University of Victoria with support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada built the Map of Early Modern London (MoEML). This is a digital edition of the 1561 Civitas Londinum or “Agas Map” as it is more commonly known. Underlying TEI structures such as Placeographies and Personographies drive color-coded filters that highlight different features of the map. The value of the MoEML is not only that it extends the ability of the public to access a rare and valuable map, but also that it provides an interactive layer to further its use for research.

A political cartoon.
A political cartoon from Politics in Graphic Detail.

Another example of the visualization power of TEI comes from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Historic Images, New Technology (HINT) project resulted in a new tool for accessing some of the society’s visual collections. Political cartoons are especially sensitive to a loss of temporal context: politicans change, parties rise and fall, and issues evolve. Understanding this history is often integral to understanding the messages of the cartoons. Politics in Graphic Detail uses TEI to add an annotation layer to the display of political cartoons. Even novices can glean much of the historical context of the cartoons by hovering over the appropriate sections of the image, lowering the barrier to academic inquiry.

If you are interested in getting started with TEI, a good place to begin is TEI by Example. It offers some tutorials and exercises to help you learn the structure of the mark-up language. More adventurous users can visit TEI-C for the full TEI guidelines, including instructions for constructing a custom TEI schema. TEI-C is also the portal for the Journal of TEI and TEI-L mailing list. These are both good resources for seeing how other scholars are using TEI in their research. Finally, for those interested in just having some TEI documents to experiment with, the Perseus Digital Library hosted by Tufts University has a vast amount of ancient texts encoded in TEI for download.

A Storifyed #AskAnArchivist Round-Up

Special Collections & Archives had a great time taking over the FSU Libraries twitter feed for #AskAnArchivist day. We enjoyed getting to answer questions and also share information about our collections and our work in the various areas of the division. We had so much fun in fact that we decided to Storify the experience. Check out the link below for highlights from our conversations on #AskAnArchivist day and keep checking back here for more information as we celebrate American Archives Month!

FSU’s #AskAnArchivist Day Storifyed!

National Archives Hosts WikiConference USA

The National Archives is proud to be the co-organizer and host site of WikiConference USA, which is being held in the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. Oct. 9–11. WikiConference USA is the annual national conference of Wikimedia enthusiasts and volunteers in the United States, and is open to anyone—regardless of their level of Wikipedia editing experience or skepticism.

WikiConference USA logo

WikiConference USA will include speeches, workshops, panels, and presentations on Wikimedia’s outreach to cultural institutions, community building, technology development, and role in education. Aside from hosting, NARA will be putting its stamp on the conference in several ways. I will give the opening address, and I look forward to discussing the ways Wikipedia has changed how we do our work at the National Archives, and in government and cultural institutions generally. In addition, NARA staff are presenting in two regular sessions:

Conference participants will also be invited to tour exhibits in the National Archives Museum and stop by the newly opened Innovation Hub, where they can volunteer to help us digitize records.

Wikipedia represents a key resource for us to make access to our records happen to a wide audience in a way that is relevant to them. We collaborate with Wikipedia because it is in line with our mission. Hosting WikiConference USA reaffirms the National Archives’ commitment to promoting broad public access to government records on Wikipedia. Previously, NARA has uploaded records to Wikimedia Commons, hosted in-person Wikipedia events, and developed Wikipedia best practices for our peer institutions. We were also a (non-host) conference partner for Wikimania, the global Wikimedia conference, when it was in Washington, D.C. in 2012. You can read more about our Wikipedia strategy in NARA’s most recent Open Government Plan. Since our missions and future plans are so intertwined, I look forward to hearing over the course of the conference about the Wikipedia community’s successes, challenges, and opportunities, so the National Archives can participate and learn ourselves.

David Ferriero speaks to Wikimedians at Wikimania 2012

David Ferriero speaks to Wikimedians at Wikimania 2012

We are happy to work together with our conference partners—the Wiki Education Foundation, Wikimedia District of Columbia, and Wikimedia New York City—on this project in support of our shared values: citizen engagement, collaboration, innovation, and the sharing of free knowledge.

To learn more about attending, please visit the conference’s FAQ, program, and registration pages.

The events in the McGowan theater, including my opening address and the keynote presentations, will be livestreamed for remote participants. Tune into the livestream of each day’s event through NARA’s YouTube channel:

Friday, October 9: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj6U22uJzGM
Saturday, October 10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkHbg9V5wnI
Sunday, October 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS-Y-FuzAH4

Take a look back at over 40 years of American history in the pages of the Claude Pepper Diaries

From his first day as a United States Senator on January 1st 1937 to within four years of his death in office as a United States Representative on May 30, 1989, Claude Pepper kept a detailed personal account of his life as a public servant. During the summer of 2015, the staff of the FSU Digital Library Center undertook the project of scanning each of Senator Pepper’s 48 diaries and uploading them, as well as their accompanying enclosures and transcripts, into the FSU Digital Library hosted in Islandora. Now, researchers worldwide have the ability to search the diaries online and have access to over forty years of commentary on some of the most significant events of the 20th Century.

A page from Senator Pepper's diary, dated December 7, 1941.
A page from Senator Pepper’s diary, dated December 7, 1941.

A perusal of the Senator’s diaries allows researchers to step inside the mind of one of America’s most active politicians and glimpse firsthand his thoughts on topics ranging from the Lend Lease Bill, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Social Security reform in the 1980s and hundreds of interactions between Pepper and the many influential figures of his day from Eleanor Roosevelt to Tip O’Neil. In addition to this excellent electronic resource, the Pepper Diaries are also available to be viewed in person at the Claude Pepper Library, which opens its doors Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Intelligence to the First Customer

In a symposium held at the LBJ Presidential Library recently, the Central Intelligence Agency released 2,500 previously classified daily briefings created for Presidents Lyndon B.  Johnson and John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.  The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) began as the President’s Intelligence Checklist (PICL) in June of 1961 as a way to keep the President apprised of the world situation and gathered information from multiple intelligence sources with analysis added.  The released documents include a once top-secret  update on President Kennedy’s assassin and classified briefings on the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

CIA Director John O. Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke at the public event in Austin celebrating access on the CIA website to PICLs from June 1961 to November 1964 and PDBs from December 1964 through the end of President Johnson’s term in January 1969.  The entry in the President’s Intelligence Checklist for 22 November 1963:

In honor of President Kennedy for whom the President’s Intelligence Checklist was first written on 17 June 1961

For this day, the Checklist Staff can find no words more fitting than a verse quoted by the President to a group of newspapermen the day he learned of the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous plaza full;
But only one is there who knows
And he’s the man who fights the bull.

Ernest Hemingway Ticket Stub for Bullfight. National Archives Identifier 192658.

Ernest Hemingway Ticket Stub for Bullfight. National Archives Identifier 192658

Putting the Goad’s 1912 Plan into Open Historical Map

We’ve had great response to making Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance map available as a Vanmap layer and as downloadable open data. We received a request to make it available in a different type of service so that the information can be used a variety of ways. As a result of all the feedback, we plan to contribute the information through Open Historical Map and the Province of British Columbia’s innovative BC Developers’ Exchange is collaborating with us to help make it happen.BCDev-home



The BC Developers’ Exchange is an experiment to find ways that help the public and private tech sectors innovate and collaborate. They are helping share code created by BC’s public sector and collaborating with vendors to make that code better. The Exchange is also supporting the sharing and re-use of other digital resources.

We were told that if we could put the Goad’s Vanmap layer into a web map service (WMS), then the information could be added to OpenHistoricalMap. We asked BC Developers’ Exchange if they could help us, and they very quickly found a server with DataBC and added the map layer.

Screenshot of the Goad’s 1912 layer in the DataBC WMS.

Screenshot of the Goad’s 1912 layer in the DataBC WMS.

With the help of the BC Developers’ Exchange, it is now possible to add the information as a WMS map service. If you have a collaborative digital project you need some help in launching, we encourage you to contact them.


OpenHistoricalMap was created by the same community responsible for OpenStreetMap which crowd-sources current mapping data and makes it freely available for the public or as part of an open application. You may be using OpenstreetMap data already: it’s used by craigslist, Foursquare, and Maps.Me, among others.

OpenStreetMap integrated with rental listings in the Vancouver Craigslist.

OpenStreetMap integrated with rental listings in the Vancouver Craigslist.

OpenHistoricalMap is crowd-sourcing historical mapping data and making it freely available. They want to create “the world’s most universal, detailed, and out-of-date map”. There’s more information in this 2012 presentation on SlideShare. OpenHistoricalMap still has a lot of the world to map and we’d like to see some Vancouver content on there.

There is Vancouver content there now, but it’s just the Vancouver Arena (later called the Denman Arena) and a portion of Georgia Street.

Vancouver 1912 in OpenHistoricalMap as of this writing.

Vancouver 1912 in OpenHistoricalMap as of this writing.

How can we add more of the Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance map to this project?


Vancouver is fortunate to have a chapter of Maptime, an international organization that supports learning about and creating things with maps. Although map professionals do take part, Maptime was formed to help non-professionals—even beginners—learn about mapping and work on interesting projects. In April, MaptimeYVR worked with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team to help map resources in Nepal after the earthquake. In June, MaptimeYVR hosted a meetup to show them what map resources we have, how we digitize them and our future plans.

In July, they held a meetup where attendees learned the step-by-step process of how to use digitized historical maps (such as the ones we provide for free) to make digital interactive maps, and created their own.

Sometime this year, MaptimeYVR plans to hold a meetup to show people how to use the Goad’s 1912 map to contribute to OpenHistoricalMap. If you’re interested in maps or are a history buff keep watching the MaptimeYVR Meetup site for the announcement.

Thanks again to all the partner organizations who are involved in this project, and we hope to see you at the meetup!

Magician of the Week #38: T. Nelson Downs, the Mystic Wonder

This week’s star magician is T. Nelson Downs, who was both a Mystic Wonder and a Celebrated Prestidigitateur.


The image above is an advertisement from the back pages of Will Goldston’s Secrets of Magic (London: A. W. Gamage, 1903).

Downs was a highly successful self-taught magician, performing in well-known venues across the United States and Europe and prestidigitating (is that a verb?) for royalty. Because of his many well-known and elaborate coin tricks–illustrated by the spooky disembodied hands above–he was known as “The King of Koins”, an epithet that is engraved on his tombstone.

Also, and this seems too good to be true: T. Nelson Downs had two wives over the course of his 71 years, one named Nellie Stone and one named Harriett Rocky.

The internet archive has a digitized version of Downs’s The Art of Magicand Brown University’s Library houses the T. Nelson Downs Collection, which includes correspondence, documentation of tricks, photos, programs, and advertisements.

#AskAnArchivist Day


What is it?

October 1, 2015 is #AskAnArchivist Day!  Archivists around the country, including those in FSU Libraries Special Collections, will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archival. The day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists at FSU—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.

What questions can be asked?

Archivists participating in #AskAnArchivist Day are eager to respond to any and all questions you have about archives and archival work.

No question is too casual . . .

  • What’s your favorite thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?

. . . or too practical!

  • What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?
  • How do you decide which donated items to keep?
  • How can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?

How does it work?

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists around the country who are standing by to respond directly to you.  Have a question specifically for FSU Special Collections ?Include @FSULibrary with your question.  We will be answering questions live on Twitter from 10 am to 2 pm on October 1st; questions we don’t get to will be saved and answered on this blog next week.

Don’t have a question? Use the #AskAnArchivist hashtag to follow the action!  Search Twitter for #AskAnArchivist and follow along as questions and answers are shared.

Get those questions ready, and we’ll see you on Twitter!

Conferences: the original social media. From the FSU Digital Library
Conferences: the original social media.
From the FSU Digital Library

Peccadillos and Punishments

In college student life, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between raucous traditions and random acts of stupidity. Traditions often degrade over time, ultimately ending with some egregious incident — or series of them, each progressively worse — that causes their dissolution09-2. At Amherst College, the statue of the mythical nymph Sabrina is perhaps the best known but not the only example. Fraternity hazing rituals, silly pranks, drunken stunts, rivalry-fueled acts of humiliation, stolen vehicles, property damage — these, unfortunately, are constants at colleges and universities. But the nature of such incidents, and the nature of college traditions in general, have a somewhat different flavor in earlier eras as compared to today; it may be the long winters, the lack of entertainment options, the stifling isolation of campus life, and the inherently strict moral codes of its community that have made colleges a breeding ground for antics of every sort.  Many of them are documented in the College Archives, though probably the great majority of them are not.

Last year I wrote about the “Squirt-Gun Riot of 1858,” which seems to have put me on the lookout for more “Acts of Stupidity” (yes, that’s an actual subject heading in our General Files, where we compile odds and ends related to the history of the college). Today let me share a few more of these with you. (Maybe this will be an occasional series?)

1. Chicken Stealing: William Hubbard (AC 1844), Non-Graduate

Hubbard’s problem seems simply to have been impulse control. He was dismissed from Amherst for a string of offenses culminating in the incident of March 5, 1842, involving the theft of chickens. Hubbard later graduated from Brown University (1845), practiced law in Minnesota, and later taught school in the South. Interestingly, despite his unfortunate experience at Amherst, he sent three of his sons there (William 1871, Charles 1876, and Edward 1885).

This letter from Prof. William S. Tyler (PDF) lays out the facts:

Amherst College, Mar. 9, 1842.

Mrs. Hubbard

Dear Madam,

I regret extremely, that I am obliged so soon again to be the bearer of unwelcome intelligence respecting your son. When he returned, he made many fair promises of amendment both as a scholar & a Christian. But he has disappointed our hopes, returned to his former bad habits & even committed higher misdemeanors. You will learn, what I mean, from the following note of the Faculty: “Whereas on Saturday night the 5th of March last, Sophomore Hubbard, after indulging in festivities & cardplaying till a very late hour with several of his classmates at the room of a classmate, proceeded with one of his companions to take without liberty several fowls from a neighboring barn roost for the purposes of continuing the entertainment, & whereas this is but one of a series of offences of which he has been found guilty & for which he has been subject to college censure; therefore vote that he be & hereby is dismissed & that his parent be informed, that unless there is a radical change in his character, it cannot be safe or [wise?] for him ever to return to this college.”

I feel constrained to add, not for the sake of distressing you more, but for the purpose of acquainting you fully with the facts, painful as they are, that besides cardplaying & Sabbath breaking (for by our laws, the previous night is regarded as a part of the Sabbath) the misconduct of your son was aggravated by falsehood & misrepresentation.

I think, Madam, you will agree with the Faculty that unless there is a radical change in his character, there will be as little [encouragement?] for you to send him back to College, as for us to receive him. Dismission necessarily involves separation from College for one year. At the end of that time, should you wish to send him to another College, we shall interpose no obstacle. That you may be sustained & sanctified under this event so painful to us as well as to you, is the sincere desire of myself & all my associates in whose behalf I write.

Yours Truly

Wm. S. Tyler

2. The Burning of the Peagreen Beanies (I) – 1927

Pea-green beanies from ca. 1921

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, several generations of Amherst freshmen in the first half of the 20th century were forced to wear these universally loathed, completely fashion-backward wool beanies (above) when out in public during the first months of college. Ostensibly their purpose was to identify members of the incoming class, but their true purpose, of course, was a not very subtle form of ritual humiliation: the Sophomore class asserting its newfound superiority over another peer group. Because they had to endure it, now it was time for the class below them to endure it too.

Amherst Student, Feb. 24, 1927

Amherst Student, Feb. 24, 1927

In late February 1927, when the members of the Freshmen of the Class of 1930 were no longer required to wear the hated beanies, they celebrated with a ritual ceremony of burning them in a bonfire. This had apparently become a tradition for the past few years. As this report from the Amherst Student (right) entertainingly describes, the celebration got a bit out of hand, with the freshmen taking over the streets of downtown Amherst, blocking trolleys, snowballing the police, turning around passing cars, and generally acting like prisoners released from confinement. The ugliest business occurred with the “liberation” of a trolley conductor’s cap by an unnamed assailant.

The archives has the following letter from the president of the Freshman class apologizing to the president of the trolley company, and the latter’s surprisingly good-humored reply:


(The cap-stealing part of the incident will no doubt remind P.G.Wodehouse fans of the hilarious efforts of several characters in his stories to steal policemen’s helmets on Boat Race Night at Oxford and Cambridge. Is it possible that the Amherst miscreant had Wodehouse in mind? Please enjoy this video homage.)

3. The Burning of the Peagreen Beanies (II) – 1930

The last incident I’d like to present also involves the cap-burning ritual, this time three years later. However, this had a much more serious and tragic outcome, and brought a lot of unwelcome sensational press coverage to the college.

1930_bostonpost1During the week leading up to the February 22, 1930 cap-burning, freshmen had kidnapped some of the sophomore officers, so several members of both classes were ready for a battle. Freshmen arranged a large pile of wood on the lawn in front of Converse Library; if they successfully guarded the pile until 6 p.m., then by agreement they could have their fire in peace and burn their caps. If the Sophomores burned the wood before that time, or in some way prevented the fire, the Freshmen would have to wear their caps for a few more weeks.

The Sophomores gathered on the hill near the Octagon about 5 p.m. Suddenly they rushed down the hill with buckets of what appeared to be water, which they attempted to throw on the wood. They succeeded in getting themselves and the Freshmen as well as the wood thoroughly soaked. They returned to the Octagon, and then again very suddenly rushed down with blow torches. As Richard H. Plock (AC 1930) relates in a letter,

We discovered to our horror that they had gasoline in the buckets. In no time at all there was great confusion. Some of the boys tripped with the torches, others aimed them poorly, and before we knew it, the clothing of several of the sophomores and freshmen was on fire. […] Several of the boys received rather bad burns, but fortunately none were fatally burned.*

The Dean wanted to issue a harsh punishment to the entire Sophomore class, but officers of Scarab (an honor society then active at Amherst at that time which was mainly responsible for overseeing college traditions) intervened and had penalties loosened somewhat. However, this marked the end of the cap-burning tradition forever.

* TLS to Walter B. Mahony (AC 1936), Apr 23, 1936, in General Files: Student Life and Customs: Cap Burning.

Murder in the Keys: Crime and Punishment in Special Collections

Hackley describes a dinner on November 30, 1830, that evolves into a wine-fueled song-and-story time. Goulding Family Collection, 01/MSS 0-128, Box 171C

FSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives has many resources devoted to Florida history. The Goulding Family Collection (01/MSS 0-128) was donated by Professor Robert L. Goulding following his retirement from FSU in 1960. The collection includes several remarkable documents from Goulding’s ancestors, including primary sources chronicling military and civilian life during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II.

However, the most detailed historical testimony can be found in the diaries of Goulding’s maternal grandfather William R. Hackley. Hackley, a Virginia native and alumnus of William and Mary, moved to Tallahassee in 1826 at the age of twenty. The aspiring lawyer soon passed the Florida State Bar Association examination and settled in Key West in 1828, where he established a law practice and eventually became district attorney for the southern district of Florida from April 1849 to May 1857.

Hackley’s diaries detail his life in Key West from 1830 to 1857, giving first-hand accounts of daily life in the recently-established American settlement. Many of the entries are concerned with predictable facets of island life – changes in the weather, and ships sailing in and out of port. However, as a lawyer and man of privilege, Hackley had access to information and events that the average Key West resident would not.

Hackley provides eyewitness details of many court cases, including a first-hand look at an historical event in American Key West – the first known trial for murder.

“Tuesday, Nov 16 [1830]…The case of the Territory of Florida vs. Norman Sherwood for the murder of John Wilson on the 5 day of July last by shooting with a pistol loaded with buckshot came on today. The prisoner being anxious for trial did not make use of his right of peremptory challenge to the full extent allowed by law. I was requested by the judge to take down the evidence in the case and did so. The trial was protracted till nearly two. I left the court house before the jury retired. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty…”

The trial verdict opened the door for another Key West first – order of execution:

“Friday Nov. 19th…At 4 PM went up to the court house to hear judgement of death pronounced on Norman Sherwood—the judge made a most impressive charge and fixed the second Friday in December for the day of execution. The judge was so affected that he could hardly get thru with the sentence and many of the bystanders also were much affected. The prisoner indeed shed a few tears but was not much moved with the hearing of his doom. He walked back to jail and I am given to understand expressed but little sorrow saying that he could die but once…”

“Monday, Dec 6th. I hear that two days since, Norman Sherwood took a dose of poison which was conveyed to him by some one, but it was not sufficiently powerful to cause death. He is however sick from the effects of it and I think that if he can obtain the means he will commit suicide before the day appointed for his execution for which I would be sorry as the execution of a felon will I think have a beneficial effect on this community…”

“Friday Decr 10th…At ten o’clock A.M. Norman Sherwood was taken from the jail to the gallows erected near the road out from the courthouse to the West, and in pursuance of the sentence of the law was hung by the neck until he was dead. He said nothing at the gallows and died stubbornly and did not even change color…”

For more information on crime and punishment in the Keys, check out the Hackley diaries online or visit the Special Collections Research Center!

Rory Grennan is Manuscript and Instruction Archivist for FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives.


Valerie Lester discusses Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World

Remember this guy?:


It’s been a year and a half since we celebrated Giambattista Bodoni and the 200th anniversary of his death. In all those years, no one has written a full-length English biography of the great printer and type designer – until now.

Join us at 6:00pm on Wednesday, October 7th for a lecture by Valerie Lester, whose biography of Bodoni is being published this month. Copies of the book will be available for purchase, and refreshments will be served. We’ll also have a selection of items from our collections of Bodoniana on display.

DLC Behind the Scenes – Turning Books into E-Books

There’s nothing like getting up-close and hands-on with some of the rare books in FSU’s Special Collections department, but sometimes it’s not possible for visitors to visit our Reading Room in Tallahassee to see them. Digitization allows us to make our materials available to a global audience who would otherwise never be able to interact with or use our collections.

To help alleviate this problem, the Digital Library Center (DLC) has been hard to expand access to some of our most important collections. We have digitized thousands of pages of our rare books and uploaded them for the public to access at their convenience. Digital reproductions of these books can be viewed in FSU’s Digital Library as individual pages or with the animated book viewer.

Ever wonder how these collections end up in the Digital Library? Turning books into ebooks is a complicated, but exciting process. So, the burning question is:

How do we get from this…


…to this?

Nonsense drolleries. Edward Lear, 1889
FSU Digital Library spread from Nonsense drolleries. Edward Lear, 1889

Typically our Digital Archivist has a queue of projects lined up for us which range from quick scans of reference material to digitizing vast collections of rare books and manuscripts. Once a project is decided upon, the material makes its way up the production studio where the imaging work is done.

Creating these images using a conventional flatbed scanner is not ideal due to the fragile condition of many of our rare books. Also, many books we digitize in the DLC have tight binding that would be nearly impossible to accurately scan without compromising the integrity of the books themselves. Improper scanning practices can lead to poor image quality and potential damage to the books.

In this case, as it is with most rare books, we’ll head over to our ATIZ BookDrive Pro station to start our work.

ATIZ BookDrive Pro with cradle and lighting kit
ATIZ BookDrive Pro with cradle and lighting kit

As you can see, this setup is specifically designed for book digitization. The V-shaped, adjustable book cradle and platen gently hold the book in place while dual Canon 5D Mark ii DSLR cameras photograph the left and right pages. Freedom to vertically and horizontally adjust the cradle and platen allows us to get the pages nice and flat before shooting, all without putting too much pressure on the book.

Each camera is tethered to the computer via USB and, as they fire, the digital images are automatically loaded into our processing software, Capture One 8 Pro. This powerful piece of software handles the file-management, editing, and exporting of the final image files. Within Capture One we can make any necessary color/exposure corrections, cropping adjustments, sharpening and QC work.

Using our BookDrive and Capture One Pro software to digitize our rare books.
Using our BookDrive with Capture One Pro software to digitize our rare books.

Once all the images are edited and double-checked for errors, they are exported as high-resolution TIF files and are ready for the next step: metadata!

Here in the studio we primarily focus on image production, however we do create basic metadata for certain items. In order for these images to recreate a traditional book-reading, page-turning experience within the Digital Library, we need to provide some basic information about this book’s contents. Some of the metadata we create for digitized books includes the front cover, page numbers, title page, table of contents, back cover, etc… Essentially, we are connecting each image file to its corresponding location in the actual book. This information, along with the more complex metadata entered later by our Metadata Librarian allows the book to be virtually perused and navigated with ease.

By using the Internet Archive’s book viewer within our Digital Library, the individual pages we scanned and edited earlier can be turned back and forth, from cover to cover. This animated display of the full book is designed to give users the next-best experience to actually thumbing through our rare books in the Research Center Reading Room.

So there you have it! That’s our basic workflow from book to ebook. We’ll continue adding more interesting content to the Digital Library, so keep checking back to see what we have to offer. At the moment we’re deep in the middle of scanning a large collection of cookbooks and herbals dating all the way back to the 1400s. There are some fascinating recipes in these books and we can’t wait to share them with you!

Open-book image downloaded from freeimages.com

SRO catalogue enhancement discoveries

David Whiteford
Thursday, September 24, 2015 – 11:45

Where SRO’s old AEON online catalogue could only show item titles – which can be uninformative – our new online catalogue allows us to add content and scope notes to the catalogue record. Work is underway on some 1890s Mines Department files in Consignment 964 and catalogue records are now including names of people applying for positions with the Department, people applying for mining leases, Asiatics applying for miner’s rights, and other detail of value to researchers. Some interesting discoveries have been made, such as the employment file (1896/13575) for Ernest Giles, the well-known explorer, who was employed as a clerk with the Department in Coolgardie in 1896 until his death the following year. The file records his feeling unwell and having to go home from work, and his death a few days later.   Two files relating to David W Carnegie, whose book Spinifex and Sand detailing his explorations in W.A. has rarely been out of print, were also found. The Western Australian explorers’ diaries project is presently working on Carnegie and was excited to learn of these two files. File 1897/03219 covers his arrival in Halls Creek and an offer to immediately leave to search for a missing party and file 1897/09856 has correspondence between Carnegie and the Government regarding remuneration for his exploration expenses. This latter file had escaped online cataloguing and is awaiting commencement of loading of new collection listings into the new system.

Bad Children of History #18: Jack Hall, Masked Bandit

Today’s brief update highlights wayward youth from Robert Grant’s 1888 book Jack Hall, or the School Days of an American Boy.

The book’s illustrator, F. G. Attwood, created the below likeness of some school boys, including the eponymous Jack Hall, who are obviously, blatantly up to no good:


Cigarettes! A variety of casual yet dashing hats! Big mugs! Knives stuck in the table!

These masked marauders are members of “Big Four”, a secret society of fourth-class boys who expressed their “vitality” through hijinks such as “the pilfering of neighborhood hen-roosts, the sealing up of the lock of the schoolroom door, [and] the firing of a tar-barrel in front of the Doctor’s very window”. A later illustration also shows them executing a daring, late-night escape involving a basket and a rope. Dreadful!

Extended Open Hours Start This Week!

Fall and winter are great seasons for settling in to a comfy chair with a good crossword, a compelling book, or a warm quilt– and they’re also great seasons for settling in to a less-comfy wooden chair in our reading room with a compelling whaling logbook, an 18th-century scientific treatise, or a folio of beautiful architectural plates.

To celebrate the arrival of these studious seasons, we’ve extended our weekly open hours. You now have your choice of seven different hours during the week when you can stop by Special Collections unannounced and appointment-free.

The new open hours are:

Tuesdays: 10:00 – 1:00
Wednesdays 3:00 – 7:00

Of course, we’re still open by appointment during other times when the library is open, and you’re welcome to call ahead if you plan to come to open hours and would like to see specific materials during your visit.

Papal Visits to the United States

Pope Francis arrived in Washington, DC yesterday to begin a six-day visit to the United States. This morning, the White House hosted a welcoming ceremony for the Pope on the South Lawn of the White House, and on Thursday, the Pope will address members of Congress.

Pope Francis arrives in D.C. at Joint Base Andrews, 9/22/15. Photo courtesy of the White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/campaign/pope-visit

Pope Francis arrives in D.C. at Joint Base Andrews, 9/22/15. Photo courtesy of the White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/campaign/pope-visit

This is not the first time the Pope has visited Washington, DC. In fact, his visit this week marks the 10th time a Pope has visited the United States.

Since the Federal Government is heavily involved in a Papal visit, the National Archives holds many documents and photographs related to these events.

In honor of the Pope Francis’ visit, here are some records related to previous Papal visits to the United States:

President Jimmy Carter’s handwritten notes on meeting with Pope John Paul II during his first visit to the White House, October 6, 1979. (National Archives Identifier 6207614)

President Jimmy Carter’s handwritten notes on meeting with Pope John Paul II during his first visit to the White House, October 6, 1979. National Archives Identifier 6207614

Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Hollis R. Huvar, 75th Military Airlift Squadron, guides the Popemobile onto a C-5A Galaxy aircraft during Volant Silver, a joint Military Airlift Command/Secret Service operation coordinating vehicle transportation and Secret Service protection for Pope John Paul II while he visits the United States, 09/10/1987. National Archives Identifier 6427134..

Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Hollis R. Huvar, 75th Military Airlift Squadron, guides the Popemobile onto a C-5A Galaxy aircraft during Volant Silver, a joint Military Airlift Command/Secret Service operation coordinating vehicle transportation and Secret Service protection for Pope John Paul II while he visits the United States, 09/10/1987. National Archives Identifier 6427134

Photograph of President William J. Clinton and Pope John Paul II in front of a crowd at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport during the Pope’s fifth visit to the U.S., August 12, 1993. The Pope was in the U.S. for World Youth Day. (National Archives Identifier 3172769)

Photograph of President William J. Clinton and Pope John Paul II in front of a crowd at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport during the Pope’s fifth visit to the U.S., August 12, 1993. The Pope was in the U.S. for World Youth Day. National Archives Identifier 3172769

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush Greet Pope Benedict XVI on His Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 04/15/2008. National Archives Identifier 7582808

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush Greet Pope Benedict XVI on His Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 04/15/2008. National Archives Identifier 7582808

Pope Benedict XVI in the Popemobile outside the White House. 4/16/08

Pope Benedict XVI in the Popemobile outside the White House. 4/16/08

A WNYC Scene Sampler Circa 1939 by Laszlo Matulay

The Art

The figures and scenes, all drawn from life by artist Laszlo Matulay, capture the essence of New York’s public radio station in 1939. Fiorello H. La Guardia ran for mayor in 1933 promising to close the station down to save taxpayer money. Seymour N. Siegel and others convinced La Guardia to keep it going and he became its champion and a regular on-air presence. He is pictured top and center wearing his large trademark cowboy hat, a throwback to his youth as an Army brat on an military base in Arizona, where his father was stationed as a bandmaster. 

The upper right hand corner of this ink and water color work features WNYC Director Morris Novik and his assistant Viola Calder. Calder is sitting on one of the many Warren McArthur Art-Deco chairs that were part of the new WPA-built studios and transmitter site that opened in October, 1937. The live studio audience for the little girl seen framed through the studio window is also sitting on these chairs. We have three in our collection. Some of this furniture was featured in a 1986-7 Brooklyn Museum exhibit, The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941.

In the upper left corner is the Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street, WNYC’s home from 1924 to 2008. Underneath it is the newsroom, complete with an old Associated Press wire service teletype churning out news copy. I can’t say for sure who the staff is, but it’s possible the drawing includes newsmen Dick Pack, Nathan Berlin and Jack Goodman. The lower left corner reveals WNYC’s small Master Control Room, which had just barely enough room for two engineers to work comfortably in.

Just below Mayor La Guardia is WNYC’s then main reception desk at the north end of the 25th floor, where the elevator banks are. The receptionist is sitting in front of one of four WPA-commissioned murals dedicated on August 2, 1939. This one, by Louis Schanker, still hangs there. Another, in the lower right hand corner with the three performers, is in Studio B. We know this because it is Mural for Studio B by Stuart Davis, on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Artist

Laszlo Matulay was an accomplished illustrator, painter, muralist, designer and educator who grew up in post-World War I Vienna, the son of Hungarian parents. His mother was Jewish, his father, Catholic. He was a student and working artist in Vienna.

As a boy, Matulay spent his summers in Transylvania among horses, peasants, gypsies and Jewish laborers. Following his classical training in Vienna at the Academy of Applied Arts, he hitch-hiked to Italy with a sketchbook and went to museums and galleries. Returning to Vienna he began to work in the theater, painting and designing stage sets under the architect Oskar Strnad. Not long after the first Nazi terrorist attacks in Austria, he fled the country and arrived in the United States in 1935 to settle in New York City. For a while he worked with one of New York’s largest commercial art studios. In April, 1937 some of his illustrations were exhibited at the New York Public Library. He became a highly sought after illustrator following an exhibition of his work at the 1940 New York World’s Fair. His work appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Time and Esquire.

During World War II he was a cartographer with military intelligence and earned his U.S. citizenship. After the war he served on the faculty at the Laboratory School of Industrial Arts in New York and was the first artistic director at Rodale Press in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Matulay and his wife Harriet then settled in New Hampton, New Jersey, where he worked as a set designer for the Hunterdon County Repertory Company.

In 1975 he moved to Panama to learn Spanish and put together educational materials on family planning for the poor. Matulay later returned to the U.S. and closed out his career as a freelance illustrator. He  was active until his death in 1999 at the age of 86.

Throughout his life he worked closely with Jewish artists and designers involved with Jewish education. His papers and work are housed and overseen by Rabbi Seth Phillips at Keneseth Israel in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


Original Laszlo Matulay illustration from the La Guardia Artifact Collection, The La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College/The City University of New York.

Special thanks to the La Guardia and Wagner Archives’ Archivist, Douglas Di Carlo and for making a high resolution scan of the original artwork available, Ira Faro from the Matulay Estate for the Matulay portrait permission to publish, and to Neil Kvern for his masterful PhotoShop restoration work on the original scan.

Vintage Viands : 1940s Edition

Vintage Viands, an event where staff from the University Libraries prepare foods using recipes from the Home Economics Pamphlet Collection, Woman’s Collection – Cookbooks, and the online collection Home Economics and Household Collections, is happening this Friday from noon to 2:30 in Jackson Library. The tasting event also includes a contest to reward the tastiest ane most unique dishes.

Here are the categories for this year’s contest:

  • Appetizer
  • Main Dish
  • Desserts
  • Best Hot Dish [AKA Casseroles]
  • Best Jell-O [or other brand of gelatin]

Recipes will be judged by these rankings:

  • Tastiest [Over all categories]
  • Most Unique [Over all categories]

For this year’s interactive exhibit, we are featuring cuisine from the 1940s, which will include “ration book” specials, “meat extenders” and postwar delicacies featuring items that had been unavailable during the war years. There will also be displays of the cookbooks and pamphlets from the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.

What’s in a song? The many melodies of FSU

Continuing with tradition, the University Recreation Association continued to distribute song books after the transition to FSU.
Continuing with tradition, the University Recreation Association continued to distribute song books after the transition to FSU.

If you’ve ever attended orientation at Florida State, most likely you learned the words to the fight song (or at least how to spell F-L-O-R-I-D-A S-T-A-T-E), and probably heard the Alma Mater and “The Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold” two, maybe three or four times each. You can also hear these songs at football games, graduation ceremonies, concerts, and as the tinny and garbled hold-music while waiting to get through to financial aid. These pervasive melodies and chants are just a few among a long tradition of campus songs at Florida State.

Universities all over America have their own campus songs, written to spread school spirit or wax poetic about campus traditions. Often, though, school songs develop from chants meant to trash talk competitors. Our predecessor institution FSCW was no exception – the intracollegiate competition between the Odd and Even classes produced some pretty snarky verses. One such song, an Even anthem, skewers the Odds:

The FSCW Music Club edited the book with “the hope that this material may help toward a real renaissance of information college singing on campus.” This is the first collection of Florida State songs.
The bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For the Odds and not for us,
Up where the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling,
That’s where you will find us.
“The Bells of Hell”
The Odds weren’t going to just take that, however:
Go easy, Odd team,
‘Cause we don’t want to kill ’em quite.
We’re out to beat ’em.
So holler for the Red and White.
That Even team is mighty slow
Because they fear the Odd team so.
Go easy, Odd team,
‘Cause we don’t want to kill ’em quite.
“Go Easy, Odd Team”
The Florida Flambeau made appeals for the University to adopt an alma mater.
The Florida Flambeau made appeals for the University to adopt an alma mater.

After FSCW became co-educational in 1947, the school needed some new songs, specifically an alma mater. On May 16th, 1947, The Florida Flambeau announced a contest to select a new alma mater, and on November 21st, it was announced that Johnny Lawrence had won with his song “High O’er the Towering Pines.” While the song had been selected and performed at convocation and homecoming, the university dragged its heels to adopt the song. Flambeau writers appealed to the administration to make a decision, but were rebuffed by Dean of Music, Karl O. Kuersteiner: “[Choosing] an alma mater is like choosing a wife and that it demands much consideration.” Finally in 1949, two full years after the original alma mater contest announcement, the university officially announced “High O’er the Towering Pines” as the alma mater.

A blurb about the first time the “Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold” was performed at FSU

A little over a year later, a phenomenon happened: “The Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold” was premiered at the 1950 Homecoming by The Collegians (men’s glee club). Written by J. Dayton Smith for SATB choir, the song blew up. Women in their dorms were being serenaded with The Hymn and it was often sung at campus events. Eventually, the song was arranged by Charlie Carter for FSU Marching Chiefs in 1958 and captured the hearts of Seminole fans. FSU alum and friend of Heritage Protocol Paul Ort recounts the time when he committed a little petty theft to get a hold of a copy of The Hymn: “I still remember how guilty I felt when I hooked that copy of the SATB music from a University Singers folio while the choral rehearsal room was empty. But Carter had to have something to start with…”

Since then, there have been several other songs that have developed and shaped the identity of FSU: The Fight Song, written by Doug Alley and Dr. Thomas Wright, and the Warchant, a tradition that has one of FSU’s most disputed origin stories. Campus songs are still written today, in musical styles that are popular with modern students. A few years ago, FSU premiered “I’m in the Doak,” a parody of the Saturday Night Live sketch “I’m on a Boat” featuring famous former-Tallahassee denizen, T-Pain. More recently, FSU student Daniel Stamphil a.k.a. Blak Iron, released a remake of the Drake track “Know Yourself,” titled “Nole Yourself.” While these tracks herald a new era of campus songs, they will always echo FSU.

A Cog in the Machine of the British Empire

Although Lord Jeffrey Amherst married twice, he left no direct heir when he died in 1797. When his brother, Lieutenant-General William Amherst (1732–1781), died in 1781, Lord Amherst took his orphaned nephew and two nieces into his household and raised them as his own. Through a special remainder, the title of Baron Amherst of Montreal passed to his nephew, who became William Pitt Amherst, Second Baron Amherst of Montreal.

John Hoppner. William Pitt Amherst (1773-1857), 2nd Baron Amherst of Montreal and 1st Earl Amherst of Arakan (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College)

The Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College holds a small collection of papers by and about William Pitt Amherst. As with our holdings of material related to Lord Jeffrey Amherst, much of this material was donated to the college by alumni, largely by Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955) who served as executor of the estate of the final Earl Amherst who died in 1993.

After completing his education at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, William Pitt Amherst went on to a career that carried him far from home, but in the opposite direction from the one his uncle traveled. The collection at Amherst College begins with a series of letters to and from Amherst that document his appointment as ambassador-extraordinary to the court of the Two Sicilies in 1809.

Letter from William Pitt Amherst to Sir John Stuart, 26 June 1809.

Letter from William Pitt Amherst to Sir John Stuart, 26 June 1809.

The most substantial portion of the William Pitt Amherst Collection is made up of ten portfolios full of manuscript documents just like this one. Six of these portfolios, containing several dozen items each, cover Amherst’s time in Italy between 1809 and 1812.

There is a gap in our collection until the next portfolio picks up in 1815 when he was called to lead an embassy to the court of the Chinese emperor. While preparing for his departure, Lord Amherst received this letter from the East India House to remind him of the provision preventing “any individuals who should accompany the Embassy to Pekin from attempting to be at all concerned in any Mercantile Transaction during that Service.”

Letter to Lord Amherst from East India House, 26 January 1816.

Letter to Lord Amherst from East India House, 26 January 1816.

In addition to such official documents, the collection also includes some correspondence between Lord Amherst and his wife, Lady Sarah Amherst (1762-1838). During his voyage to China in 1816, he wrote a series of letters that were dispatched to her about two weeks before he arrived in China. He helpfully includes his longitude and latitude at several points, which can easily be plugged into Google to track his progress.

Letter from Lord Amherst to Lady Amherst, 11 May 1816.

Letter from Lord Amherst to Lady Amherst, 11 May 1816.

Thanks to Google, we can pinpoint Lord Amherst’s location off the southern end of Africa when he wrote the above letter to his wife.

William Pitt Amherst's position at sea, 11 May 1816

William Pitt Amherst’s position at sea, 11 May 1816

The collection includes some interesting pieces of printed ephemera that round out this glimpse into the workings of the British Empire at the start of the nineteenth century. Apparently, someone in Lord Amherst’s party brought back an “ourang outang” — though it is unclear whether this violates the prohibition against accepting gifts noted in the letter from the East India House.

Broadside. Ca. 1817.

Broadside. Ca. 1817.

There is another gap in the collection between Amherst’s return from China and his appointment as governor-general of Bengal in succession to the marquess of Hastings. This piece of ephemera, printed by George Pritchard at the Hindoostanee Press, announces the arrival of Lord and Lady Amherst:

John Bull Extraordinary. George Pritchard, Hindoostanee Press, 1 August 1823.

John Bull Extraordinary. George Pritchard, Hindoostanee Press, 1 August 1823.

Unfortunately, Lord Amherst’s time in India was fraught with difficulties. Less than six months after his arrival, war was declared between British India and Burma on 24 February 1824. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article about William Pitt Amherst neatly summarizes this conflict:

What had been predicted to be a short and cheap war of no more than six weeks turned into two years of arduous campaigning that cost nearly £5 million, yielded little loot, gained the unprofitable territories of Arakan, Tenasserim, and Assam, and so demoralized the army that not only was there a spectacular rise in desertions but British troops were forced to put down brutally a mutiny of Indian sepoys at Barrackpore in October 1824. Even the short and victorious campaign against Bharatpur conducted between December 1825 and January 1826 could not expunge the memory of the First Anglo-Burmese War. (Douglas M. Peers, ‘Amherst, William Pitt, first Earl Amherst of Arracan (1773–1857)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009)

The collection includes a very small amount of material about Amherst’s time in India. This letter sent from Barrackpore on 20 March 1826 is one of the few items that provides any detail of the military campaign. (View the entire letter as a PDF: Lord Amherst letter 1826)

Letter from Lord Amherst, Bharatpur, 20 March 1826

Letter from Lord Amherst, Bharatpur, 20 March 1826

What the collection lacks in material from Lord Amherst for this period is more than made up for by the extensive diaries kept by Lady Amherst.

Thomas Lawrence. Hon. Sarah Archer (1762-1838), Countess of Plymouth & Countess Amherst of Arracan. (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College)

Amherst’s first marriage was on 24 July 1800 to Sarah, countess dowager of Plymouth (1762–1838), widow of the fifth earl of Plymouth and daughter of Andrew, second Lord Archer, whom he had first met while touring the continent in 1793. Her diary begins with their voyage from England to India and the seven bound volumes cover the entirety of their stay until they return home in July 1828.

Lady Amherst Diary vol. 1, 1823-24.

Lady Amherst Diary vol. 1, 1823-24.

The diaries are in the queue for high-quality imaging to be added to Amherst College Digital Collections, but these images give a sense of the contents. Lady Amherst took a serious interest in her new surroundings and includes several sketches in her diaries.

Lady Amherst Diary vol. 1, 1823-24.

Lady Amherst Diary vol. 1, 1823-24.

We hope to have the full finding aid for this collection online soon. It will take some time for us to digitize the entire collection, but we want the world to know that all of his material is available to researchers in the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College.

Exhibits, Current and Upcoming

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see our current exhibit, Iterations: From Paris to Providence, be sure to stop by the library soon!


The exhibit is in place until September 30th, and showcases early 20th-century pochoir prints alongside derivative contemporary works from local artists.


(If you’ve already seen the exhibit and it’s gotten you all abuzz about pochoir, you may be interested to know that RISD’s Continuing Education program is offering a class in pochoir printmaking this fall. You can see details about the class here.)

Stay tuned for our upcoming guest-curated exhibit, Stages of Freedom, which opens on October 19th!

Historical Presidential Daily Briefs Declassified

Yesterday at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, the Director of National Intelligence, General James Clapper, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), John Brennan, announced the declassification of over 2,500 historical Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB) dated from 1961 through 1969.

We, the members of the PIDB, congratulate the Intelligence Community, the Department of State, and the CIA in particular for completion of this historic project.  Historians and scholars have long sought access to these important records.  Previously locked in security vaults and unavailable to the public, these newly declassified records will prove a treasure trove to sift through and study.  Covering its first use in the Kennedy administration to the last day of the Johnson administration, the “PDB” was used by the CIA to inform and provide the President and his most senior staff with sensitive intelligence information.  With the declassification of over 19,000 pages in this release, historians will now gain new insight into Presidential decision-making and the intelligence assessments used to make decisions during these administrations.

We first recommended that the PDB be subject to declassification in our 2008 report, “Improving Declassification.”  Up until then, the CIA viewed the PDB as inherently privileged and not subject to declassification or review for public access.  We followed up with this recommendation after President Obama asked us to make recommendations on replacing Executive order 12958, as amended.  We were pleased that he included language in Executive order 13526 that allowed for the declassification review of the PDB.

The CIA led this special review project – over two years of painstaking and labor-intensive “line-by-line” review work.  But, the results are impressive – over 19,000 pages declassified with 80% of the information released to the public.  This project solidifies our recommendations in our Report to the President on “Transforming the Security Classification System.”  It is our view that topical or subject area declassification and a line-by-line declassification review is both possible and beneficial.  This project proves that it can be done – to the great benefit for our democracy.   In an age where information is being created electronically and, therefore, exponentially, the Government must target and prioritize its declassification efforts to focus on reviewing its most important records first – and do so in automated and line-by-line ways that allow our history to be told – “with the bark off” as President Johnson once said.

Congratulations to the professional declassifiers at the CIA, and across Government for your outstanding work!  We are looking forward to 2016 and the next PDB declassification installment from the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Radio’s First Record Review Program – Around the Disc with Peter Hugh Reed

From April, 1929 through January, 1931 music commentator and critic Peter Hugh Reed hosted Around the Disc, a forty minute weekly record review program on WNYC.

Reed was the founder and editor of the American Music Lover, the longest running independent magazine dedicated to the critical review of commercial musical recordings. Beginning in May, 1935, it later was rechristened The American Record Guide. In that founding issue Reed wrote that the monthly would aim to make itself a “handbook” on the best music for the home listener, whether on record or the radio. 

“There will be only one rigid editorial policy pursued in this magazine: to comment upon and to call attention to the all-around best music on records and radio. We will not seek to exploit one type of music above another, but instead will strive to present at all times a sane and unbiased survey of a noble and many-sided art.”

One can only guess that this his earlier broadcasts over WNYC helped to shape this goal which he maintained for more than twenty years as the magazine’s editor. A quarter of a century later Reed was back on WNYC appearing with New York Times music critic Olin Downs and Duncan Robinson of the Berlioz Society on David Randolph’s Music for the Connoisseur. They were part of a panel discussion on the French composer.


More improvements to our online search

We’ve recently updated our online search to add a few new features.Date-range-location


In response to your suggestions, we sponsored development of an improved date search. It’s in Advanced Search, on the left sidebar.

The easy way to use it is through the date picker. In this example, we’re narrowing our search to the dates from February 10, 1975 to July 12, 1976.

Use the Start date picker to select February 10, 1975.Date-picker-start








Use the End date picker to select July 12, 1976.Date-picker-end









Press “Search”. Your results will contain all records that include any part of the date range you’ve asked for. For example, a search for records created between Feb. 10, 1975 and July 12, 1976 will find records with date ranges such as “1956-1980” and “1975-78”, as shown below.


Tip: The example above will give you more than 15,000 results. Date search works better when combined with other search criteria.

Tip: If you are looking for an entire year (say, all of 1975 and 1976), you can just type 1975 in the start field and 1976 in the end field, and the correct time span will be filled in automatically as you press “Search”.





Tip: You may find it faster to enter the dates by hand rather than using the picker. Remember to use the YYYY-MM-DD format: 1975-06-01, not June 1 1975.


In the past, selecting “Browse Archival descriptions”Top-level-browse-location

produced a list of all of our 256,000+ descriptions.Top-level-browse-old-results


In the new system, “Browse Archival descriptions” produces a list of the top-level descriptions (fonds and collections), giving a faster overview of our holdings.Top-level-location

You can toggle between the top-level descriptions and all descriptions in the left sidebar.

This can also be used for an overview of results from a Simple search. Using the Simple search box at the top to search for “dog”







produces 519 assorted results.


Toggling to “Top-level descriptions” will show the 6 fonds to which these 519 results belong.

This may help you narrow your search to the most appropriate records.

Tip: The records of the City of Vancouver are one top-level description containing about half of all our descriptions. There are separate top-level descriptions for Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver School Board.


In the past, if you had search words in the Simple search box, they would disappear the next time you clicked in that search box. For example, if you meant to search for “salmon” but made a typo


you couldn’t change “salmo” to “salmon”; “salmo” would disappear.

Now the term will stay put the next time you click in the Simple search box.


Lists of search results now contain direct links to the top-level descriptions for any record.



Security Upgrade

Some of the underlying code for the system has been changed to secure it from outside attacks. Unfortunately, this has affected one way of searching. Now, when searching for a term inside quotation marksQuotes-search








the results will be shown with the code " instead of a quotation markQuotes-search-results


If you need to adjust this search, you will have to delete it and start again. In other words, if you search using " instead of a quotation mark, the results will be incorrect, as shown belowQuotes-search-results-bad

Another way of searching for records containing these terms is to use Advanced Search and enter the search terms separately. This will give you more results than searching for “dog pound”, since you are just searching for the words and not the specific phrase, but it will allow you to adjust the search terms without deleting them.Quotes-search-Advanced-alternative


We’d love to hear your comments on these improvements.

Bad Children of History #17: The Web of Lies

Today’s Bad Child of History gets himself into a fine mess due to a nest of blackbird chicks. His name is Henry, and he hails from a tiny 1812 volume published in Philadelphia.


(That second photo isn’t blurry; the printing is slightly off and the text itself is fuzzy.)

As for Henry’s troubles: he and his closest friend, George, discover a nest of blackbirds, which they check on frequently. One day, overcome by a sudden terrible urge, Henry picks up the nest for himself and carries it out of the woods, a move which elicits a dire warning from the author:

Evil thoughts insinuate themselves so easily into the hearts of men, that they have need to be always on their guard against their approaches. Children, especially, should be watchful of the first impulse to do wrong, as from their weakness they are prone to error. This attention to themselves is an easy task, because they have their parents, or teachers, at hand, to assist them with their advice. Neither are they sufficiently aware, that a small fault in the beginning, may increase to an odious vice, which will corrupt their hearts, and debase their characters as long as they live.

I’m not certain that Henry’s theft increased to an odious vice, but it did escalate into a fine mess.

Uncertain what to do with the nest, and afraid that his friend George will find out that he took it for himself, Henry hastily trades the nest for a bag of marbles carried by a passing boy. Phew! He meets up with George and tells him that he found the bag of marbles.

While they’re playing marbles, another passing boy says, “Hey, you found my lost marbles!” Henry insists that he bought them. Whoops! As the author warns, “however cautious you may be, you will betray yourselves, for you will not be able to invent so many falsehoods as will be requisite to hide your dissimulation from your companions.

In an effort to defend his dissimulation, Henry refuses to turn over the marbles, resulting in a melee between some Bad Children of History and an unfortunate bloodied nose:


The following twists and turns are too complex to relate here, but the book ends with Henry burning up with fever, sobbing on his knees and begging for forgiveness from George and from his father, the latter of whom is now in possession of the nest of birds. How dramatic!

In a slight deviation from most moral tales, Henry doesn’t die of fever; instead, his big-hearted companions forgive him, and he learns an important lesson about telling the truth. He also grows into a man of “noble and generous sentiments”, which is really the best future scenario we could ask for.

Happy Birthday Senator

Today we would like to wish a happy 115th Birthday to Senator Claude Denson Pepper. Claude was born on September 8, 1900 in Camp Hill Alabama, to sharecropper parents Joseph and Lena Pepper, to whom he would remain a devoted son. After graduating with his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in 1921, Pepper applied and was accepted to the Harvard Law School Class of 1924. From his youth, Pepper nourished a desire to serve in public office, and after a brief stint as a law professor at the University of Arkansas, he moved to Perry, Florida in 1925 where he established his first law practice. Pepper was a devoted public servant who served the state of Florida for over 40 years as a member of the Florida House of Representatives (1926-27), the US Senate (1936-1950) and the US House of Representatives (1963-1989). During his time in the Senate, he was a proponent of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Legislation and was instrumental in the passing of the Wage and Hour Bill as well as the Lend Lease Act.

In the House of Representatives, Pepper served as an impassioned advocate for elder rights, health care and for strengthening and protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government sponsored programs on behalf of millions of Americans. He died in Washington D.C. on May 30, 1989 and was the 26th individual to have lain in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Bob Hope speaking at Claude Pepper's 84th Birthday. Tip O'Neill can be seen to the right.
Bob Hope speaking at Claude Pepper’s 84th Birthday. Tip O’Neill can be seen to the right.

Senator Pepper’s collection resides within the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University and reflects the many of the challenges and changes that took place in American life throughout his distinguished career. Topical strengths within the Pepper Collection include aging, Civil Rights, crime and drug prevention, National Health Care, New Deal Legislation, Lend-Lease, McCarthyism, U.S. foreign and domestic policy, welfare and worker’s rights.

During the summer of 2015, the Claude Pepper Library and the FSU Digital Library collaborated to bring the Senators personal diaries to researchers’ fingertips. Scanned by the staff of the digital library, Senator Pepper’s 1937 and 1938 diaries and transcripts are now available to view online in the FSU Digital Library. Over the coming months, the Digital Library will continue to add to the diary collection, one that spanned 48 years from 1937 to 1985. The diaries offer unique insight into one of the more active American politicians of the 20th Century and the 1937 and 1938 diaries are especially unique as they chronicle the young Senators first two years in office; the beginnings of a career that would span over 40 years.

Pepper Diaries on the shelf at the Pepper Library.
Pepper Diaries on the shelf at the Pepper Library.

The Claude Pepper Library is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Continue to follow our posts as we continue to bring you more interesting finds from the Pepper Papers as well as the Reubin Askew Papers and the National Organization for Women, Tallahassee Chapter Records.

Digital projects priorities, 2015-2016

The University Libraries’ Digital Projects Priorities Team met earlier this summer to hear the status of last year’s projects and to determine the priority projects for the upcoming academic year.

New projects for 2015-2016:

Tier 1:

  • Cello Manuscripts (Phase 2): This will increase the number of items available online. UNCG has the world’s largest collection of cello music. These items are primarily music scores hand-annotated by noted cellists.
  • Maud Gatewood collection: Correspondence, Sketchbooks, etc. from an art faculty member at UNCG. This is very interesting materials and gets us started working with visual arts collections.
  • School of Music programs: Recital programs from UNCG’s predecessor institutions through 1963. Like the theatre programs we digitized a few years ago, this is a heavily used research collection in SCUA.
  • Student Handbooks (Phase 2): This completes what we started with one of the collections in Textiles, Teachers, and Troops. Again, this is a very heavily used research collection that will complement yearbooks, catalogs, and newspapers already online.

Tier 2:

  • Children’s literature project: Vintage children’s books, much like the Lenski items we’ve already done.
  • Student life records: Vertical files covering student activities at UNCG over the years. This will be part of the exiting University Archives collection and is similar to the “class of” files we digitized a few years back.

Additional projects:

  • Digital Greensboro portalWe plan to expand the custom-created Textiles, Teachers, and Troops interface to tie together all our local history collections and to create a framework for adding additional material from our own collections and from our partners
  • American Publishers Trade Bindings metadata cleanup: Fine tuning as we plan to add this final collection to WorldCat and make it more user-friendly.

2014-2015 project status:

Ongoing projects from 2013-2014:

New projects:

“Ad hoc” additional projects:

  • Completed project to standardize place of publication/publisher field in all digital collections to provide better WorldCat/MARC consistency.
  • Worked with OCLC to eliminate substandard MARC records created in initial sync of American Publishers Trade Bindings and Hansen collections in 2008. All but 200 records deleted from WorldCat.
  • Navigation improvements to CONTENTdm site.