A Book About All the Things

1485 imprint of De proprietatibus rerum (Vault oversize AE2.B27 1485)

The Liber de proprietatibus rerum Bartholomei angelici (On the Properties of Things) is a medieval encyclopedia that was written by the 13th century Franciscan scholar Bartholomeus Anglicus, who sought to gather the rapidly expanding corpus of knowledge of the Late Middle Ages into a single volume. As Bartholomeus himself says in the epilogue to De proprietatibus rerum, he wrote his book so that “the simple and the young, who on account of the infinite number of books cannot look into the properties of each single thing about which Scripture deals, can readily find their meaning herein – at least superficially.”¹ A single source for surface-level knowledge about everything? In other words, medieval Wikipedia. De proprietatibus rerum is arranged into nineteen books, moving in order of importance from spiritual beings, to human beings, to the natural world.

Little pointing hands, called manicules, in the margins indicate lines that were of interest to a former reader.

Over one hundred manuscript copies of De proprietatibus rerum survive, indicating its popularity and widespread use, and it continued to be printed into the seventeenth century, purportedly being used over the years by the likes of Shakespeare and Dante.² FSU Special Collections & Archives has two printed copies of De proprietatibus rerum – the first edition in English printed in London in 1582 (Vault oversize AE3.B313 1582) and a 1485 imprint from Strassburg (Vault oversize AE2.B27 1485), which is featured here.

Manuscript waste used as endpapers inside the front covers to protect the text block.

The 1485 imprint is a stellar example of an incunabule, a book printed before 1501 in the first half-century after Gutenberg’s invention of movable type. FSU’s copy is in its original binding of alum-tawed pigskin decorated with blind fillets and stamps of popular Gothic imagery such as the griffin and the Agnus Dei (the sacrificial Lamb of God). The cover is also stamped with a small banner tool of Gothic lettering (unfortunately illegible) that could be the name of the bookbinder. The endpapers inside the front and back covers are made from re-purposed medieval manuscripts on vellum. In early printers’ shops, paper was always at a premium, and it is not uncommon to find fragments of older manuscripts used as endpapers, bindings, and sewing supports in newer books. Discoveries like these are one of the great joys of working with rare books in-person. In fact, fragments of yet another medieval manuscript have also been re-purposed on FSU’s copy of De proprietatibus rerum to make tabs, which aid the reader in turning directly to specific sections of the encyclopedia.

FullSizeRender (4)
A tab made of manuscript waste and an unfinished decorative capital.

The study of incunabula provides a fascinating glimpse into a period of history when the book was adapting to the challenges and demands of new technologies. On the opening page of the 1485 De proprietatibus rerum, the capital letter “C” is sketched in, perhaps in preparation for illumination that was never completed; on early printed books, decoration and rubrication (red lettering) was still done by hand. Throughout the rest of the book, however, the space where a decorative capital would have been drawn is left blank and marked by a small, printed letter. As printing increased the output of new books, forms of decoration that were routine for scribes and illuminators fell to the wayside. This is not to suggest that a total break with the past occurred, however. To the contrary, the very act of printing De proprietatibus rerum is an example of new technology being used to spread old ways of thinking. The presence of manuscript waste and marginalia on FSU’s copy are physical manifestations of the links between the old and the new that can be discovered in early printed books.

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


1. Quoted in R. J. Long, Bartholomaeus Anglicus On the Properties of Soul and Body, Toronto, 1979, p. 1.

2. R. J. Long, Bartholomaeus Anglicus On the Properties of Soul and Body, Toronto, 1979, p. 2.

There’s old Sam Bowles — and young Sam Bowles…

..And young Sam Bowles’s son–

And young Sam Bowles is old Sam Bowles

When old Sam Bowles is done.”

This jingle, which appeared in “Time Magazine” on Oct 15, 1934 but which was said by the reporter to have been sung for decades by “the beery compositors of the venerable Springfield (Mass.) Republican,” refers to the three generations of “Sam Bowleses” who ran the Springfield Republican newspaper between 1824 and 1915, when the last editor named Sam Bowles died.  The fifth Sam Bowles broke the pattern: he didn’t run the paper. Instead, his cousin Richard Hooker took over the paper as editor and publisher. Subsequently, Sam’s younger brother Sherman worked for the paper as business manager, and then in other capacities for what had become the Republican Company, comprised of several papers.*


The “Springfield Republican” building, ca. 1900

That the first Samuel Bowles (1762-1813), the father of the Republican’s founder, was determined to have a son named after him is proven by his naming four infant sons Samuel until one lived long enough to make it stick:

List of the children of Samuel Bowles I (1762-1813), from

List of the children of Samuel Bowles I (1762-1813), from “Genealogical and historical notes of the Bowles family” (1851)

The verse about the Bowles men was running through my head when I resealed a daguerreotype that I believe to be the youngest image extant of Sam Bowles III (1826-1878).  The daguerreotype has excellent provenance: it came to us through direct descendants of Sam Bowles along with many other photographs and papers of the Bowles-Hoar family.  Because the daguerreotype’s dirty original glass obscured the image, and because the sitter lacks the facial hair we’ve seen in so many other photos of the most famous Sam Bowles, it took a while to realize who the sitter was.  But in resealing the image recently I was able to see that we had a view of a Sam Bowles taken around 1848, before he took over the paper from his father (1851), met the Dickinsons of Amherst (1858), or became a trustee of Amherst College (1866-1878).   Here it is, shared with you and shown for the first time:

Samuel Bowles III (1826-1878),

Samuel Bowles III (1826-1878), “the Editor,” here ca. 1848.

Let’s look at that verse again, then, taking the opportunity to illustrate with some of the images at Amherst College of the Samuels involved with the paper.

There’s old Sam Bowles:

Samuel Bowles II (1797-1851),

Samuel Bowles II (1797-1851), “the Founder,” ca. 1850.

And young Sam Bowles:

Samuel Bowles III, a little older in ca. 1852.

Samuel Bowles III, a little older in ca. 1852. Shown earlier at: https://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/holdings/BHFP/bowles

And young Sam Bowles’s son:

Samuel Bowles IV (1851-1915), whose son Sherman was the last Bowles to run the paper.

Samuel Bowles IV (1851-1915), whose son Sherman was the last Bowles to run the paper.

But young Sam Bowles:

A third cased image of Sam Bowles III, this time ca. 1856.

A third cased image of Sam Bowles III, this time ca. 1856.

Is old Sam Bowles:

Cabinet card of Sam Bowles  III, ca. 1875.

Cabinet card of Sam Bowles III, ca. 1875.

When old Sam Bowles is done. In keeping with the verse, we should have another photograph of the founder, Samuel Bowles II. So far, only one photograph of him is known — the one five photos above — so we’ll end with his grandson again, Sam Bowles IV, and then another of his sons Sherman (below, at left) and Samuel V:

Cabinet card of Sam Bowles IV, ca. 1884-5, probably taken in connection with his marriage to Elizabeth Hoar of Concord, Mass.

Cabinet card of Sam Bowles IV, ca.1877.

Sherman and Samuel Bowles, ca. 1896-7.

Sherman and Samuel Bowles V, ca. 1896-7.

It’s easy to confuse the Bowles men, especially given differences in counting the Sams (whether to start with the founder or, as the Bowles family did, with his father, who died a decade before the paper was founded), or in knowing which one was at the helm of one of the papers in a given year. We hope this post helps link names with faces and dates.


*The history of Springfield newspapers — dailies, weeklies, Sunday editions — is detailed in “The story of an independent newspaper, by Richard Hooker; one hundred years of the Springfield Republican, 1824-1924″ and “The Passing of the Springfield Republican,” by John J. Scanlon (1950).

Bound with Trouble: A Cataloging Mystery

Have you ever wondered how a book is cataloged or who constructs the records that allow you to find a resource within the library? If so, then today is your lucky day. Special Collections’ Complex Cataloging Unit created a Film Noir short on the cataloging process. Directed, filmed, and edited by Dominique Bortmas, Complex Cataloging Specialist, and written by Cataloger Elizabeth Richey, the film provides a comical yet insightful view into the world of cataloging.


Bad Children of History #14: A Macabre Maiden

Today’s story comes from Dolly and I, an 1872 volume penned by the improbably-named Oliver Optic.


The star of our tale is a ten-year-old girl named Katy, daughter of a factory agent, and a “pretty good girl”, although we’re told from the get-go that she was a demanding baby and, as she grew older, “she did not like to see others have any thing which she could not have.”

The text of Dolly and I is full of the detailed goings-on of dolls (I imagine this is appealing to the book’s intended audience), but to make a long story short: Katy is gifted a beautiful wax doll, and she doesn’t want to share it with her sweet-tempered sister Nellie, who must make do with numerous broken-ish dolls.


Despite Katy’s meanness, Nellie is still kind to her. As a reward for her kindness and good nature, Nellie herself is gifted a wax doll– and this one has eyes that open and close!!



As I’m sure one can imagine, Katy is 100% furious. How dare Nellie have a blinking doll, when Katy only has a beautiful non-blinking doll? (Mind you, Nellie is so empathetic, she feels guilty about her doll’s niceness and her sister’s anger.)

What does Katy, blinded by her envious rage, do? She stumbles up the dark stairs after dinner one evening, makes her way into her poorly-lit play room, and then:


Golly. The accompanying narrative makes it even creepier:


‘Your dolly shall not be better than mine any longer,’ she said to herself. As she said this, she took the scissors from the work basket on the bureau, and finding one of the eyes with her fingers, she struck one of the points right into it. Then she turned the scissors, so as entirely to destroy the eye. Not content with this, she spoiled the other eye in the same manner.

Sneaking the defiled doll back into her drawer, Katy slinks downstairs and tries to act cool. When dear, sweet Nellie suggests some pre-bedtime doll-playing, Katy demurs, feeling “just as though she should sink through the floor”. Nellie, completely unaware of her sister’s inner turmoil, runs upstairs, grabs her blinking doll, brings it down to the table, and…

…wait for it…


Is it magic?

No, it’s the retributive tendency of the otherwise marvelous universe, for in her jealous frenzy, Katy accidentally poked out the eyes of her very own wax doll.

Our story ends with Katy’s mother scolding her, Katy crying herself to sleep, and the non-blinking wax doll being “utterly ruined”. Tell us, Oliver Optic, what’s the moral of this sad, sad tale?

When you envy others, although you may not punch out the eyes of your own doll, you hurt yourself more than any one else.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: Anthropometry at Amherst College


A few weeks ago I wrote about our facial goniometer, an instrument that measures the precise angles of the human face, and wondered whether it had been acquired by Amherst’s college physician and professor of physical education and hygiene Edward “Doc” Hitchcock (AC 1849). This led me to further pondering about the interesting 19th century origins of anthropometry, the science of measurements and proportions of the human body.


Edward “Doc” Hitchcock, Class of 1849

In the fall of 1861, “Doc” Hitchcock, as Professor of Physical Education and Hygiene at Amherst, introduced his system of anthropometric measurements documenting the physical size and strength of every freshman for more than twenty years. These measurements became an American standard for comparative purposes and earned Hitchcock the reputation as a pioneer in this field.

The anthropometric protocol for students as instituted by Dr. Hitchcock involved over fifty different measurements in six different categories: heights, weights, lengths, breadths, girths and strengths. It required many kinds of specialized devices and an elaborate system of record-keeping to register them. The practice of measuring students was in fact so accepted and indeed so entrenched in the culture of Amherst in the 19th century (as well as at many other American colleges that adopted Hitchcock’s methods) that it was customary to include physical data even in an annual list of graduates:

statistics_class_1879The table below lists not only the average measurements of the college population, but also the record highs in each category — as well as the name of the student holding that record:

Anthropometric Manual 1900 Box 18 Fol 9

Table from An Anthropometric Manual Giving Physical Measurements and Tests of Amherst College Students Between 17 and 26 Years of Age, and the Method of Securing Them. 4th ed., 1900).  Edward and Mary Judson Hitchcock Papers, box 18, folder 9.

What was the purpose of all these measurements?

The Need of Anthropometry: A Paper Read by E. Hitchcock. Brooklyn: Rome Brothers, 1887.

Hitchcock, in a paper entitled “The Need of Anthropometry” (1887), explained the rationale this way:

To learn what is the condition of all the young men as they come to us and how, and in what way can we help them to grow while connected with us, is the ultimate aim of the Anthropometric work of Amherst College. And the carrying out of this object involves the accurate observation of the physical characteristics of the students, and by a patient and long time process of comparing data, finally enabling the Department to declare to them a standard by which they may be judged.

“Doc” Hitchcock is widely credited as “the father of college physical education.” He took quite seriously Amherst president William A. Stearns’ emphasis on the goal of mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body, as the answer to the observable increase in morbidity among a sedentary class of college-educated Americans at that time in the country’s history. Many colleges and universities began to adopt European regimens of exercise for their students and built the first gymnasiums on their campuses. Amherst, under Stearns’ leadership, went one step farther in establishing the first department of Physical Education and Hygiene (and an endowed professorship to secure it).

This advertisement on the back cover of

This advertisement on the back cover of “The Need of Anthropometry” shows Hitchcock’s influence as a exponent of anthropometry and the range of colleges and schools where it was practiced.

The elaborate system of body measurements that Hitchcock introduced, then, was intended not (as one might queasily suspect) as a reference (veiled or not) to relative judgments on racial “purity” (eugenics being a hideous malformation of science that was to have its full bloom in the early decades of the following century). Rather, it indicated an attempt to educate the whole man — mind, body, soul — and encourage each one individually to be mindful of his body as a temple. I have little doubt that it was influenced by the Victorian ideal of “muscular Christianity,” a piety built on a foundation of fresh air, wholesome diet, sport and exercise.

Below, preserved in the college scrapbook of Shattuck Hartwell (AC 1888) is his personal booklet of anthropometric measurements, entered in pencil next to the printed average values for men in his height range. As can be seen from the numbers, Hartwell was probably told he should work harder in Amherst’s calisthenics classes to make up for many deficiencies!

physical_measurements_hartwell1888_a physical_measurements_hartwell1888_b

Physical education class in Pratt Gymnasium, winter 1899.

Our Archives holds a wealth of material on anthropometry. The Edward (AC 1849) and Mary Judson Hitchcock Family Papers hold most of Doc Hitchcock’s writings on the subject and on physical education generally, and show too what a leading figure he was not only on the Amherst campus but nationwide in his field. The records of the Department of Physical Education and Hygiene contain annual reports, manuals, correspondence, articles by Hitchcock and other educators, and many tables of anthropometric data. Our Photographs Collection holds a few rare images showing anthropometry apparatus in use, as here:

physed_anthropometry03 physed_anthropometry02 physed_anthropometry01

The mustached man in the third photo above, by the way, can be identified as Leverett Bradley (AC 1873), a member of Amherst’s famed crew team that took the championship at the Springfield Regatta, July 1872. A formidable athlete, Bradley went on to become an Episcopal priest in Boston and Philadelphia. Muscular Christianity, indeed.

“A Firm Liberal”: Robert Griffin and the Florida Flambeau

Bob Griffin, 1952.

It was with great delight that Heritage Protocol & University Archives welcomed Robert Griffin and his family for a two day visit at FSU. Bob Griffin attended FSU from 1948-52, and left a lasting impression as a student journalist. While he was involved with many campus groups and activities, including The Collegians (men’s glee club), Omicron Delta Kappa, and Gold Key, nothing captivated his attention quite like working for the Florida Flambeau.

Mr. Griffin started writing for the Florida Flambeau as a freshman, and worked his way up to editor by his senior year. During his tenure as editor, Mr. Griffin pushed the envelope at the paper and often published articles dealing with controversial subject matter. After reprinting an editorial from the St. Petersburg Times that boldly criticized FSU’s decision to cancel a football game against Bradley University because there were black team members, Mr. Griffin was almost expelled from FSU. Fortunately, this judgment wasn’t handed down to him after the student body president, Milton Carothers, had advocated for him.
Bradley Cancellation Slaps Shame, Disrespect on FSU, 1952.
Bradley Cancellation Slaps Shame, Disrespect on FSU, 1952. This article almost caused Bob Griffin to be expelled from campus.
His tireless dedication to the Florida Flambeau earned him high praise in the 1952 yearbook, where he was described as “a worker with ideas” with “editorial policies [that] were carried through with vigor and sincerity.” Prior to becoming the Flambeau editor, Mr. Griffin served as the Business Manager of the paper, and was “notorious for grabbing unsuspecting students and putting them to work as solicitors or in various other capacities.” His methods may have seemed unorthodox at the time, but were successful – he nearly doubled the income from advertising in a year.
Robert Griffin and his family try on FSU championship rings and check out some of the HPUA memorabilia collection.
While visiting campus last month, Mr. Griffin brought along a complete set of Florida Flambeau from 1948-52, which are now available on the FSU Digital Library.

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2015

In June, I attended the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hotel Saskatchewan

The venerable Hotel Saskatchewan, site of the 2015 ACA conference

The Association of Canadian Archivists is the national professional organization for archivists in Canada outside of Quebec. Here are some highlights of this year’s event.

TAATU – the technology unconference

If you’re into tech, one of the best parts of any ACA conference is The Archives and Technology Unconference (TAATU). Hosted by the Technology and Archives Special Interest Section (TaASIS), TAATU is laid-back and designed to be non-intimidating for non-techies, but it also has its serious side, perhaps this year more so than others. As more and more Canadian archives adopt AtoM as their holdings management database and experiment with its sister product, digital preservation system Archivematica, TAATU has become a valuable venue for sharing information, including success stories and lessons learned, for both open source products.

This year’s highlights included lightning talks on:

  • a new Archivematica feature to accommodate the hierarchical arrangement of digital records;
  • Artefactual Systems’ work with the Museum of Modern Art to develop a repository management system, Binder
  • The development of a Canadian accession standard and opportunities for community feedback
  • Updates to donation agreements to take into account digital preservation considerations, including issues around ownership and fair market value, the ethics of forensic disk imaging, and options for Creative Commons licensing
  • Physical storage management functionality improvements in AtoM.

There was also useful speculation and debate regarding the role and nature of the national and provincial/territorial network databases (MemoryBC in British Columbia, for example, and Archives Canada at the national level) and the issues surrounding their maintenance and synchronization. It is likely that this will be a key issue to be dealt with by the archival community over the next year or two.

The lightning talks were followed by a meeting of the Canadian AtoM development working group, for now a loose affiliation of AtoM users who are looking for ways to pool resources to develop requirements and fund development of the software.

News from Library and Archives Canada

The biggest buzz of the conference came during Friday’s plenary session by Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Guy Berthiaume. Part status report on Library and Archives Canada’s activity since his appointment in June 2014, part articulation of his vision for the future, Berthiaume took the opportunity to announce the restoration of some federal funding to the archives sector. The new Documentary Heritage Communities Program will provide $1.5 million in project funding to archival organizations that do not receive regular funding from any level of government. Unlike its predecessor, the National Archival Development Program which was cut in 2012, this new program excludes government and university archives. Nevertheless, it represents a step forward for LAC and its leadership role and hopefully bodes well for the future direction of the Canadian archival system.

Guy Berthiaume

Guy Berthiaume addresses ACA delegates during a plenary session

Almost lost in the clamour of the funding announcement were references to two key reports published within the last year. The first, The Future Now: Canada’s Libraries, Archives and Public Memory by the Royal Society of Canada, examines the state of library and archival services and the expectations of 21st century users, and outlines recommendations for LAC, professional associations and councils, and provincial and territorial governments to strengthen both communities. The second, Leading in the Digital World: Opportunities for Canada’s Memory Institutions by the Council of Canadian Academies examines how archives, libraries, museums and galleries may embrace the opportunities and challenges posed by changes in digital technology, especially regarding their traditional roles and relevance to society. Both are well worth reading by those interested in the future directions of these institutions.

For more on M. Berthiaume’s address, the Government of Canada has made his speaking notes available.

Sessions of note

Other sessions of interest included a thought-provoking presentation on digital preservation challenges. Allana Mayer presented her independent survey results on the current state of born-digital preservation in Canada, while Adam Jansen looked at preservation requirements for records in cloud storage. Paul Wagner talked of Library and Archives Canada’s efforts to build a trusted digital repository.

Heather MacNeil and Elizabeth Shaffer gave two papers that explored the idea of archives’ role in social justice and the social consequences of poor recordkeeping. MacNeil focussed on the investigations of abuse in Scottish residential schools while Shaffer examined the design of information systems in the context of the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Both papers reminded delegates of the fundamental role of archivists as keepers of evidence and of archives in citizens’ quests to prove rights and obligations.

On a lighter note, as part of a session on transformations within the profession and our holdings, Greg Bak of the University of Manitoba gave a whirlwind tour of the history of electronic recordkeeping from punch cards to cloud storage. Young archivists in the audience laughed at images of early Apple computers, considering them museum pieces; those of us in mid-career were horrified to realize we used them as undergraduates.

Obsolete technology

One of Greg Bak’s slides illustrating obsolete technology

It was also refreshing to hear Red Deer and District Archivist Lindsay Ballagray report on her institution’s new approach to copyright. Rooted in a desire to remove barriers on access and use, they now take a more simplified view with the elimination of commercial use and permission fees, greatly reducing paperwork and eliminating the need for enforcement. Delegates almost cheered Lindsay’s presentation, which was gratifying to witness. Our own decision to eliminate these in 2008 was certainly not as popular among our colleagues.

I had the pleasure of chairing the session ‘Building and Sustaining Archives’ and delivering commentary on the to papers. One reported the results of a recent Society of American Archivists survey of municipal archives and the other the tale of starting a municipal archives from the ground up, near to home at the City of Coquitlam.

Saturday’s plenary was also worthy of note. Anthea Seles, currently with the National Archives of the UK, told a cautionary tale of a future where archivists are not part of the conversation on managing and preserving big data, arguing that our continued convergence with other memory organizations emphasises our cultural function and ignores our more important role as facilitators of accountability and transparency. Encouraging alignment with auditors, lawyers and scientists, she challenged delegates to change the way we talk about archives, to build relationships and reach out and take in new knowledge.

In his commentary, Seamus Ross of University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Science agreed that the profession is at a crossroads, but that we cannot lose sight of the fact that ours is an ancient profession and one with a robust intellectual body of knowledge. Arguing that there are many areas where we used to control the field, including knowledge of authenticity and provenance, he noted we need to engage in research across disciplines and demonstrate how our theoretical framework can inform those disciplines, including those of law, finance, and data science. He noted that we also need graduate students who understand data, suggesting that most archival studies students still come from the humanities and social sciences, which enables them to write a narrative, but does not give them the necessary scientific and technical background they need to truly succeed. And he suggested our professional associations are failing to meet the need as well, and must be more creative to remain relevant and effective.

Association business – state of the union

Probably the most critical topic at both the members input session and annual general meeting was the report of the Canadian Archival System Working Group. Formed after the Canadian Archives Summit in 2014, the working group has produced a renewed vision and focus for the Canadian Archival System and has published that draft strategy document for broader public consultation over the summer. As with the Royal Society and Council of Canadian Academies reports above, the re-envisioning is prompted by today’s digital challenges and the changing public expectations the digital age brings with it.

East vs. West Ball Game

And finally, no ACA conference is complete without the traditional East vs. West softball game. The West was set to defend its title and secure the coveted Doughty Cup for another year, but sadly, a prairie thunderstorm conspired and the game was called on account of rain.

Play ball!

Ahead of the thunderstorm, Melanie Delva of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster Archives keeps her eye on the ball

Ever on the hunt for a silver lining, however, this archivist took solace in a leisurely evening walk to and from the field. It made for some pleasant if distant reminders of my own youth on the prairie, albeit a bit further west of Regina. Still, the architecture was familiar, as were other reminders of prairie life, like this one:

Spotted on the way to the ball game….what’s out of place in this parking lot? At least as far as a Lower Mainlander is concerned

Spotted on the way to the ball game…. What’s out of place in this parking lot? At least as far as a Lower Mainlander is concerned

Power outlets

The outlets for plugging in your block heater!

We were there, fortunately, during a gloriously warm and dry June. Thank you to the organizers for a great conference and a chance to connect with old friends and new colleagues.

Help Strengthen Open Government

The PIDB encourages you to participate in the planning of the Third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP 3.0).  

The Second Open Government National Action Plan included recommendations the PIDB made in its 2012 Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System.  These recommendations established the Security Classification Reform Committee, called for the implementation of a process to systematically review and declassify no-longer-sensitive information on nuclear activities, and encouraged the piloting of technological tools to assist declassification and decision-making.  

Still, more work is needed and public participation in drafting the NAP 3.0 is critical to our collective goal of transformation.  There is still time to consider including other recommendations made by the PIDB, including those in its latest Report, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification.  The PIDB, therefore, urges you to participate in this drafting process by learning more about the Open Government Partnership and how you can contribute your ideas and recommendations.

The following post was written by Corinna Zarek, Senior Advisor for Open Government to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Ms. Zarek outlines how you can be a contributor to US Open Government initiatives:

Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.S. to corrupt individuals, our efforts to advance open government are making an impact.

Consistent with the commitment to the Open Government Partnership, later this year the United States plans to publish a third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) including new and expanded open government initiatives to pursue in the next two years. The first U.S. NAP was published in 2011 and the second NAP — which is still being implemented through the end of 2015 — was published in 2013.

These plans are a true team effort — governments work alongside civil society in all 65 OGP countries to develop and implement the efforts within the plans. Over the next several months, we encourage you to contribute your ideas and work with us to build an ambitious third NAP!

How can you contribute?

Please share any NAP suggestions with us via email at opengov@ostp.gov or tweet us at@OpenGov. You can also contribute ideas to a publicly available Hackpad — an open, collaborative platform — that the General Services Administration is helping coordinate. (You will need to create an account on that site before viewing and contributing to content on that platform.)

You may wish to suggest expanded commitments on topic areas from the first two plans such as public participation, open data, records management, natural resource revenue transparency, the Freedom of Information Act, open innovation, or open educational resources, among others. You may also wish to suggest entirely new initiatives — and we hope you do!

The OGP provides guidance on creating NAPs and directs that commitments should be:

  • Ambitious: pushing government beyond current practice by strengthening transparency, accountability, and public participation;
  • Relevant: advancing one of the four open government principles of (1) transparency, (2) accountability, (3) participation, and/or (4) technology and innovation;
  • Specific: describing the problem to be solved and expected outcomes; and
  • Measurable: allowing independent observers to gauge whether the commitment has been completed.

As you suggest possible initiatives for the next NAP to help ensure the United States pursues bold, ambitious efforts, please tell us how those suggestions would achieve these criteria.

We look forward to working together as we update our roadmap for open government in the United States. Join us!

Corinna Zarek is the Senior Advisor for Open Government to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Bad Children of History #13: All the World’s a Stage (for Badness)

With all the grumbling about “kids these days”, one has to wonder: are kids worse now? Was there a golden age when children were well-behaved and sweet? How long ago was that? Maybe 500 years? What were children like in the 16th century?

I know who can tell us: Shakespeare. Take a look at this monologue from As You Like It:


Old Will, describing the “seven ages” of man, begins with the infant, “mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms”, followed by “the whining school-boy, with his satchel, and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school”. (If you keep reading, you can see that Shakespeare is a firm believer not just in bad children of history, but also in bad young men, hotheaded soldiers, annoying middle-aged guys, and helpless senior citizens.)

Shakespeare’s seven ages of man have inspired countless artworks, including a series of paintings by Robert Smirke, a totem-pole-like sculpture in London, a chaotic painting by William Mulready, and a woodcut by Rockwell Kent. They also inspired a series of colored lithographs by Henry Thomas Alken, printed in 1824 and released in book form.


The first print in Alken’s book is a beautiful representation of the innocence of early childhood:


Look at that smart little child methodically disassembling a doll! Look at the welcoming chaos of enriching reading material strewn about on the floor! Look at that energetic baby developing his motor skills, and that little boy getting his hair styled while his mother gives him some serious side-eye! Delightful, I tell you.

Alken shows an equally appealing scene of the next stage of childhood, when children begin to gain some independence and roam about the countryside unsupervised.


Here you can see a very young Uncle Sam carrying a sack and a chalkboard across a bridge. He’s maintained the inquisitive nature of early childhood, gazing thoughtfully at the water below him where a young scallywag and a shepherd without pants are rushing toward an unidentifiable swimming animal. (Is that a nutria? Is it about to get raked with some twigs? Why is the shepherd rushing from the river’s right bank while his pants are heaped on the opposite shore? What is that weird-looking tree to the left of the picture?)

I can’t actually confirm the badness of the children pictured above, aside from the fact that two of them are carrying big sticks and definitely don’t seem to be headed to school, “creeping like snail” or otherwise. But, hey, at least they’ve moved on from “mewling and puking”, am I right?

Reflections from RBMS 2015

Special Collections librarians are constantly learning–both from the collections we curate and from each other.  We share our research, knowledge, and best practices through journals and the meetings of professional societies.

The Bancroft Library is the University of California Berkeley's rare book and manuscript repository
The Bancroft Library is the University of California Berkeley’s rare book and manuscript repository

In late June, I traveled to Oakland and Berkeley, California to attend the conference of one such professional society, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, better known as RBMS.  The topic of the RBMS 2015 Conference was “Preserve the Humanities! Special Collections as Liberal Arts Laboratory.”  Session topics ranged from incorporating digital humanities, engaged collection development, community archives, and, of course, instruction with Special Collections materials.  You can find a full schedule of the RBMS 2015 Conference program here.

For myself, RBMS 2015 was inspirational.  Ethics, the politics of collection development, innovative practices, instruction, and outreach were all up for discussion during the conference.

Sather Gate, The University of California Berkeley
Sather Gate, The University of California Berkeley

Having spent the spring semester immersed in rare book instruction, most (though not all) of the sessions I chose to attend at RBMS 2015 related to instruction and public services.  I took over eighteen pages of notes over the course of 10 sessions (including three plenaries).  My favorite sessions focused on breaking down the barriers that keep students and researchers from visiting Special Collections, and raised the question of how to best provide access to Special Collections materials.  With this in mind, three especially notable sessions were:

Seminar H: Meeting Researchers Where They Are: A User-Driven Manifesto

The presenters of this seminar wrote a “manifesto,” advocating that user needs should drive all aspects of a Special Collections library–from technical services to public services, and then presented on their efforts to do so at their institutions.

Seminar K: Mess is Lore: Navigating the Unwieldy World of Social Media

Panel presenters centered their discussion around the idea of social media as a conversation with users.  Special Collections libraries can use social media to highlight their holdings, but at its best, social media is a conversation.

Papers Panel 10: Special Collections and Credit Courses: Opportunities and Challenges

In designing a for credit class on the history of the book, presenter Anne Bahde approached her class visits to Special Collections as a science teacher would approach a “lab session”–an opportunity for hands on learning.  Scheduling four Special Collections for her semester long class, she further broke down each visit thematically, allowing the students’ knowledge to build with each visit.

This is just a brief sample of some points that stuck with me, a week after I’ve returned to Florida.

For those interested in attending a future RBMS conference: RBMS 2016 is in Coral Gables, Florida.

I look forward to attending again next year!

If You Build It, They Will Come

For several years we have discussed the possibility of an Innovation Hub as a place dedicated to incubating, accelerating, and promoting innovative projects that staff could work on with the public. We envisioned students working with our volunteers to learn about handwritten documents and to try transcribing them for our catalog. We talked about holding scanathons and hackathons with local chapters of coders and hosting Wikipedian meetings throughout the year.

Our Innovation Hub Coordinator, Dina Herbert, on opening day.

Our Innovation Hub Coordinator, Dina Herbert, on opening day.

The Innovation Hub is open.  Located on the first floor of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., the Hub has two sections: a meeting area, and a citizen scanning room where researchers can scan our records with state-of-the-art equipment at no cost as long as they also contribute a copy of their digital scans for our online catalog.

Staff preparing for first group in the Hub.

Staff preparing for first group in the Hub.

The Hub is already buzzing with activity. Our first week, we hosted the Primarily Teaching group of educators, who scanned almost 100 records, equaling 432 pages, on Chinese immigration to be included in our online DocsTeach system, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, and our Catalog. We have planned transcription parties as well as hosting Wikipedian meetings as well.

Here is our very first scan coming from the Hub: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/20014029 (the Civil War Compiled Military Service Record of William E. Strong, which even has his picture at the end).

Perhaps you would like to transcribe it? It’s easy to log in and start transcribing.


Original record: “Victory Waits On Your Fingers – Keep ‘Em Flying Miss U.S.A.” National Archives Identifier 515979


Char Miller’s Papers: So You Want to Be a Forester…

By Sarah Alger, Processing Archivist, 
Trinity University Special Collections and Archives

Over the past six months, I have learned a lot from Dr. Char Miller. I’ve reviewed his research, studied his syllabi, skimmed numerous articles he both wrote and is quoted in, and puzzled over countless photographs and letters. No, he was not ever my professor – although I would have loved to take one of his classes. Instead, my knowledge comes from the records Dr. Miller donated to Trinity University’s Special Collections and Archives a few years ago.  These records include coverage of his time on Trinity’s History and Urban Studies faculty from 1981-2009.

Dr. Char Miller
Going through Dr. Miller’s records was overwhelming at times. Forty bankers’ boxes of paper is a significant amount to sort through. Whenever I came across something that caught my eye, the frantic sorting stopped and for a moment I was lost in a comic book version of the story of Hanukkah, an interview with a woman who escaped the Germans’ invasion of Romania in 1940, or a particularly funny letter from a long ago friend. 
In late November 1951, Frank L. Miller III and his wife, Helen, welcomed their fourth child, and first boy, into the world. Following in the footsteps of Millers previously, they named their son Franklin Lubbock Miller IV. However, the Millers, in order to avoid one more Frank around the house, came up with the nickname Char, which means ‘four’ in Hindi. 
Miller kept meticulous notes on all of his work, with multiple folders labeled and organized according to Miller’s own system. Countless newspaper clippings, email printouts and hand written notes fill his research files. I worked hard to help ensure that Dr. Miller’s system remained intact, while developing a comprehensible and accessible hierarchy for potential researchers. 
Within Dr. Miller’s records, there is substantial information about the great Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the US Forest Service and the evolution of the study of forestry. Dr. Miller wrote and edited many articles for the Journal of Forestry, Forest Magazine Review, and Society of American Foresters. Additionally, Miller’s dissertation research looked at the Bingham family: Hiram I, II, III, Alfred and Stephen. The first generations were some of the pioneer Christian missionaries to the Hawai’ian islands, while the latter Bingham spent time as a fugitive in Paris. 
Dr. Miller was not only interested in other families, like the Binghams, but his own as well. His records contain extensive genealogical materials on both the Miller family and his in-laws, the Lipsetts. Dr. Miller’s father, Frank L. Miller III, served at Kelley Air Field base during World War II. When Miller III passed away, Miller IV inherited and organized all of his personal effects. For a good snapshot on the daily life of a local Texas soldier during WWII, Miller III’s papers provide much insight.
Mitzi Lipsett and Heinz in Israel
Dr. Miller is most known at Trinity for his work in the history and environmental studies departments, however his interests extend far beyond that. In addition to his academic endeavors, Dr. Miller was an active member of the San Antonio community. He wrote multiple opinion pieces and is quoted in articles in local San Antonio publications as well as some international periodicals. He even ran for the board for the Alamo Heights Independent School District. Additionally, Dr. Miller and his wife, Judi helped start the Beth Am Congregation. Consequently, a number of essays and research within the records pertain to the Jewish faith. 
Another hidden gem in the collection includes Dr. Miller’s interview with his wife’s step-grandmother, Mitzi Lipsett, and Mizti’s brother, Artur. There are some amazing photographs from this time in the mixed media collection. 
Peter Sobel and Nurse Sinara in Rumania (sic)
Cypress, 1947
Sifting through Dr. Miller’s records taught me a great deal – most of it was totally unexpected. If you are curious about the history of forestry, or the community of San Antonio from the past thirty years, Dr. Miller’s records provide a multitude of research opportunities. I encourage you to peruse our finding aid or stop by during reading room hours to learn more about what this unique collection has to offer.

25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Signed on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA was the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.

The National Archives holds many records that relate to American citizens with disabilities. In addition to the historic legislation itself, the holdings of our Presidential Libraries contain personal letters and stories that provide insight into disability history.

This Braille letter, for example, was written by a 13 year old boy to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, offering campaign advice in the fall of 1956:

Letter from John Beaulieu to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Braille

Letter from John Beaulieu to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Braille, National Archives Identifier 594353

As part of the 25th anniversary commemoration, the National Archives and Presidential Libraries participated in the collaborative #DisabilityStories initiative on Twitter. We were pleased to join the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Kennedy Center’s Office of VSA and Accessibility, and others who took part in this international conversation.

We joined #DisabilityStories on Twitter from @Bush41Library, @FDRLibrary, @OurPresidents, and @USNatArchives. Our archivists were on hand to answer questions from the public about FDR’s personal disability stories, and about George Bush’s involvement in the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Bush Library also invited Lex Frieden to join them in their Twitter chat session. Frieden is an advocate for people with disabilities who worked closely with President Bush to develop and enact the ADA.  In 2014, Mr. Frieden donated his private collection of artifacts related to the disabilities right movement to the Bush Library.  Frieden answered questions on Twitter alongside the Bush Library, bringing another important voice to #DisabilityStories.

This initiative was designed to spark reflection and connections, encouraging people with disabilities to share their own stories and perspectives. On the day of the chat, more than 8,000 tweets were sent as part of this conversation.

While we shared many documents, photos and stories of disabilities found in our records, we also shared personal stories from our staff, including a wonderful piece by Danica Rice, an archives technician currently working at the National Archives at Seattle.

Disability stories are powerful, and play an important role in telling the story of our American history and culture. We welcome the opportunity to share our information, experiences, and pieces of our history with the world as we celebrate this landmark legislation.

More resources and information can be found on our website.

Bringing a Hidden Collection to Light

Discussing “hidden” collections is a popular pastime in archival circles. We all suffer from collections that have simply never been processed or made discoverable enough for our patrons to find them. It becomes even more difficult when archives staff doesn’t even know when collections exist and there is no discovery tool either for them to easily find them.

This is what we found a few months ago when our graduate assistants, when searching for a newspaper issue we supposedly had, found 4 boxes of newspapers no one knew we had down in our sub-basement shelving unit. There were no finding aids or catalog records; just inventories inside the boxes themselves which, as you can imagine, were not all that helpful unless you knew to go looking for the very helpfully named “map case oversize box 1.”

When this unknown cache of newspapers was found, along with a list of newspaper sources dug up from our associate dean’s desk cupboard, we decided digitizing the newspapers as well as creating finding aids and catalog records was a good idea. Not only were these newspaper collections interesting and hitherto unknown to us and our patrons, they fit some digitization goals we had for the summer; mainly, using and training more with our large format overhead camera.

Front Page of the Gadsden County Times, Quincy, Florida. November 11, 1918.
Front Page of the Gadsden County Times, Quincy, Florida. November 11, 1918.

This newly minted collection in the FSU Digital Library actually holds materials of nine different collections, some entirely composed of newspapers and some the newspapers are only a piece to the overall manuscript collection. The newspapers range in dates from the mid-1600s to the early 1920s. Geographically, they span from the British Isles to the east coast of the United States. The collection is particularly strong in antebellum and Civil War era newspapers published in the American south. Enjoy exploring the new digital collection of these previously “hidden” materials!

Research Leave Second Report: Native Publics

Today marks the end of my three month research leave from my daily duties in Frost Library. I have spent some of my time away digging through the holdings of other repositories, including the Library Company of Philadelphia, The American Antiquarian Society, the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress, New-York Historical Society, and New York Public Library. There are still many other collections on my list — my goal is to personally inspect as many copies of Samson Occom’s Sermon as I possibly can, a project that will take much longer than three months to complete.

Another chunk of time was spent presenting my work in progress at conferences, most recently at the annual conference of The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing in Montreal. Earlier this summer I spoke about Samson Occom at the Digital Antiquarian conference at AAS and at the annual conference of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. One of the great benefits of these conferences is the opportunity to hear presentations by other scholars followed by long conversations about a wide range of subjects.

Each of these conferences involved different, but overlapping, networks of scholars; each also involved a mix of public performances, casual conversations, old and new friendships, and the sharing of print resources. Samson Occom lived and worked in a similar universe of overlapping and interconnected networks, both professional and personal.

For example, the Archives & Special Collections holds a copy of the first New London, CT edition of Occom’s Sermon:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

The first edition was published in New Haven in the first week of November, 1772; the New London edition appeared around November 13. Newspaper advertisements are a key resource for bibliography; they help pinpoint publication dates, but they can also tell us much more.

Here is the ad for the first New Haven edition:

The Connecticut Journal, And The New-Haven Post-Boy. October 30, 1772

The Connecticut Journal, And The New-Haven Post-Boy. October 30, 1772

The Connecticut Journal was owned and operated by Thomas and Samuel Green, the only printers in New Haven in 1772; it was common practice for printers to include announcements of their other publications in their newspapers. The paper came out every Friday, so “next Monday” means the first edition of the sermon was available on November 2.

Timothy Green ran The New-London Gazette and was the only printer in New London, CT in the early 1770s. The November 13, 1772 issue of his paper included this advertisement:

The New-London Gazette. November 13, 1772.

The New-London Gazette. November 13, 1772.

The first striking detail of this ad is the mention of the addition of “a short Account of the Life of said Moses Paul.” The source of this biographical sketch is a broadside that was published in New Haven on the day of Moses Paul’s execution — a common tradition in England, but less common in the colonies. That broadside is a subject for another day, but it is noteworthy that the text of that broadside is included in almost every edition of the sermon that follows the first New London edition.

The other critical detail in this advertisement is the distribution information — the short list of names following “A few of the above Sermons may be had of…” Anyone familiar with Samson Occom’s life will recognize the name of the Rev. Samuel Buell of East Hampton, Long Island.

Samuel Buell. The excellence and importance of the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel-preacher. (1761)

Samuel Buell. The Excellence and Importance of the Saving Knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel-Preacher… (1761)

Samuel Buell preached the sermon at Occom’s ordination at East Hampton, NY on August 29, 1759 and was an important figure in Occom’s Christian evangelical network. Occom’s connections to the Native communities of eastern Long Island are also deep – he established a school at Montauk in November 1749 and married a Montaukett woman, Mary Fowler, in 1751. Occom and his family lived at Montauk until 1764 when they moved back to Mohegan. One can imagine the Native public of Montauk eager to read this sermon, especially considering that many of them may have learned to read English from Occom himself.

This item is just one small example of the ways that close attention to the details of printing and publishing history can expose important network connections. This single advertisement provides evidence that Occom’s sermon reached a specific Native Public within weeks of its first publication. What would it have meant to this audience to see Occom’s name on the title page of his own book? How might copies of the sermon circulated among the Indigenous communities of Long Island? How many times was this text read out loud to those who could not read it for themselves or could not afford to purchase a copy of their own?

I found nearly 100 newspaper items related to either Moses Paul’s crime and execution as well as Samson Occom and his sermon. It will take me a while to digest all of it. Stay tuned…

Guiding Lights in New York Harbor

The recorded history of foggy weather in New York City goes back to the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Brooklyn when a fortuitous fog shrouded General George Washington’s retreat to the shore of Manhattan from the Red Coats approaching Brooklyn Heights. In that August of 1776, the fog was an ally, but to seamen navigating New York Harbor in bad weather, hoping to avoid its shoals and reefs, fog can prove treacherous. 

In this episode of New York: A Portrait in Sound, you will hear the voices of lieutenants and engineers employed by the Coast Guard to safeguard New York Harbor, which could mean sleepless nights for them as they guided ships to safety. The episode names some of the lightships and lighthouses then in service when the episode was recorded in 1962, including the Ambrose Lightship, Scotland Lightship, Romer Shoals Lighthouse, West Bank Lighthouse, and Coney Island Lighthouse.
The ownership of lighthouses in America has passed hands a number of times in the nearly 300 year history of beacons on US shores. The first lighthouse in the US was built in 1716 in Boston Harbor. In those days, each colonial government determined the need for any lighthouses in their colony. After George Washington’s fortuitous and foggy retreat, he was elected to be the first president of the U.S. in 1789, and that year Congress convened the Lighthouse Establishment, placing all pre-existing and future lighthouses under the control of the central government. 
As this episode of Planet Money discusses, lighthouses are a public good. They are a safety measure all sailors need, but that the free market has no impetus to provide because there is no way to make a profit from them. Placing lighthouses in the control of the central government ensured lighthouses would continue to be built and maintained, a costly and difficult job when many beacons are in remote locations and require structural maintenance as well as personnel to light the lamp. 

In fact, much of the shifting history of lighthouses, and lightships, seems rooted in cost. Lightships were used where construction of a lighthouse was not possible. The Lightship Ambrose, mentioned in this episode, graced New York Harbor’s Ambrose Channel in 1823, and several ships served this post under the same name through the late 1960s. By then, control of all lighthouses and lightships had been absorbed by the US Coast Guard, and in 1967 the Lightship Ambrose was replaced with a more cost-effective texas tower. By 1985, the US Coast Guard had decommissioned the last lightship, and even the Ambrose Tower was replaced in the 2000s with a lighted buoy.

Buoys don’t require personnel to operate, and eventually light towers and lighthouses didn’t either, with the advent of electricity and, later, automation. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was used as the first test of an electricity-powered beacon in the US. Even so, a keeper was still needed until automation came a century later. In 1890, the Coney Island Lighthouse, featured in this episode, was built. You can hear the voices of the Schubert family describing their duties. Frank Schubert was a civilian employee of the Coast Guard and took up his post at Coney Island in 1960, remaining there until his death, even after the light was automated in 1989. 
Schubert became something of a New York City local legend, as the last civilian lighthouse keeper in the US, at a time when many lighthouses were being deemed “in excess” by the Coast Guard. Advances in navigation technology made many beacons superfluous and the cost of maintaining the structure itself was high, especially as the buildings aged. So the Coast Guard began to auction them off, preferably to a non-profit organization that would maintain the structure and its history. When no non-profit stepped up, a private auction would find a buyer. 
The age of beacons is coming to a close, and lighthouses and lightships are becoming the stuff of museums. You can find one Lightship Ambrose at the South Street Seaport Museum. But whether an auctioned lighthouse becomes a museum, a bed and breakfast, or a private summer home, the Coast Guard still checks up on the light every now and then. 

What’s in Your Attic?

Recently I came across a story about an archives in a box of Corn Flakes. A woman in Tennessee had stored some 400 letters written by former German prisoners-of-war who had lived in camp near the state’s southern border. After the war was over, many of the POWs wrote to the people in the community, often addressing the Americans as family, such as “aunt” or “uncle,” asking for help, and sharing the stories of their lives.

The family donated the letters to Lipscomb University in Nashville, and through a small re-grant from the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board made possible through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), they are being transcribed, translated, and made available in digital form online. See the ABC News story here.

Photo courtesy of Kristi Jones/Lipscomb University and ABC news

Photo courtesy of Kristi Jones/Lipscomb University and ABC news

I am constantly surprised at what turns up from work supported by the National Archives through the NHPRC. Not just the small gems that turn up through the state boards, but large-scale projects as well—from the creation of municipal archives in cities like Boston, Seattle, and San Antonio to the publication of the papers of 16 U.S. Presidents on microfilm, print, and online editions. And it has enabled the National Archives to fund professional development for archives and historical editors and in research and development in electronic records management, Encoded Archival Description, and much more.

In turn, this investment helps historians write new histories—including several Pulitzer Prize books; teachers introduce primary source materials in the classroom; and family historians and local historical societies discover lost treasures.

As Chair of the Commission, I get to see first-hand how this work complements the mission of the National Archives. Through a small, but catalytic, grants program we make access happen and help tell the American story in so many different ways.

Over the past year, we have been engaged in a Strategic Planning process and have developed a preliminary framework of goals for the future. I invite you to take a look at a short presentation on NARA’s YouTube channel. And to read the preliminary framework at our Annotation blog.

Briefly put, the framework looks for the Commission to make access happen; to encourage people to become Citizen Archivists and engage directly in archives; and to enable the National Archives to provide leadership opportunities.

The Plan is open for discussion. We have scheduled webinars, are holding sessions at national conferences, and welcome your input. We’re listening. We want your ideas.

Bad Children of History #12: Lessons (Rapidly) Learned

We’ve seen some bad children of history learn lessons through brute force (lighting on fire, sustaining injury from a porcupine, being tossed into a tree by a drunken bull), but today we’re going to see a bad child learning proper behavior in a gentler way– through The Force of Example.


Here’s the (anti-?)hero of today’s tale, a schoolboy named Charles.


The telling illustration above really lays the groundwork: we can see that Charles has a loving mother who wears a ruffly bonnet and guides him toward school with a firm yet gentle hand. We can see the rough floorboards and simple door indicating that these aren’t fancy folks, but they’re not so down and out that Charles would go to school in anything but clean trousers and a wee top hat with a floppy brim. We can see Charles uncertainly pointing at the open door, showing that he’s not entirely thrilled at the prospect of another day of lessons.

Charles begins the trek to school, but as he passes into the woods, he realizes that it’s nice outside– far nicer than it would be inside his classroom. (I realize this same thing whenever I have to spend another perfectly good beach day inside the library.)

Wait a minute! Charles can just stay in the woods, and not go to school at all!


Slumped forlornly on a stump, his sweet realization is suddenly overshadowed by the reality that playing outside by one’s self is kind of boring.

Other, less-bad children are on the way to school, so Charles needs to expand his search for a playmate. He approaches various creatures, including a bee (desperate much?), a dog that looks like a bear, a goldfinch, and a free-ranging horse. Here’s a sloppy montage of those interactions:

animal_montageMind you, and I know this is hard to believe– no one wants to play. The bee can’t remain idle because she has to pursue some honey, the dog can’t remain idle because he has to herd some sheep, the bird can’t remain idle because she has to build a soft nest, and the horse can’t remain idle because she has to plough a field (I know we’ve all heard that one before).

Poor Charles is despondent.



Here’s where Charles admirably guides himself to the correct, moral decision, after observing the gainfully-employed examples of various fauna. He wipes away a tear and proclaims, to no one in particular,

Why how foolish it is,
To sit here and cry!
I will hasten to school,
And my tears I will dry;
When I’m there, I’ll be steady,
And try to excel;
For if I take pains,
I may learn to read well;
Then I’ll be attentive,
My book I will mind;
For he who is busy
Is happy, I find.

Hey, thanks, busy animals! Now maybe you can give me a pep talk as I head into my office on this beautiful day.

New Faces: Rory Grennan

Rory Grennan at C2E2
Rory Grennan speaks during an American Library Association panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, April 24, 2015.

The Special Collections & Archives Division is excited to welcome Rory Grennan, our new Manuscript & Instruction Archivist.  Rory will manage the manuscript collections and faculty paper holdings of the FSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center and provide archival instruction to University students, scholars, and the general public.  He comes to FSU from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where his duties at the University Archives included reference, instruction, appraisal, arrangement, description, digitization, and donor relations.  Rory earned an MLIS from San Jose State University in 2013, and certification from the Academy of Certified Archivists in 2014.  He is active professionally and has presented at meetings of the Society of American Archivists, Midwest Archives Conference, and American Library Association.  In his spare time, Rory enjoys playing bass guitar, performing and listening to a wide variety of music, and managing large personal collections of sound recordings and graphic novels.  Please drop by the Special Collections Research Center and say hello!

Magician of the Week #37: Mysterious Dunninger

If you’re perchance flipping through issues of The Sphinx (the “Official Organ of the Society of American Magicians”) from 1911 and 1912, you may notice the excellent advertisement pages in the back.



This particular page of advertisements shows magicians’ personal advertisements, of sorts, featuring Dana Walden and Company, G. Wilhelm, “The Man of Mystery, Magic and Illusion”, and Mysterious Dunninger, “The Illusionist with the Somewhat Different Act”.

Here’s a slightly grainy close-up of G. Wilhelm and his ancillary tiny demons:



If you’re like me, you’re wondering what qualifies Mysterious Dunninger’s act as “somewhat different”. I can’t exactly answer that question, but I can tell you that Mysterious Dunninger was the early stage name of one of America’s greatest mentalists, Joseph Dunninger.

Fun facts about Joseph Dunninger:

-as a child, he met Buffalo Bill Cody
-beginning in 1913, he performed regularly at Manhattan’s Eden Musee wax museum
-he collected books, and supposedly had over 30,000 volumes
-he was friends with Houdini, and together they worked to debunk fake spiritual mediums
-he was the first person to offer live mind reading on the radio

Wikipedia has a list of books and articles penned by this famous mentalist, and his daughter wrote a biography called “Daddy Was a Mind Reader“.

The Paul Baker Experience: Crossing the Finish Line

“The time has come” the walrus said “to wrap this thing up; you’re not even a student anymore.” Well…it was something like that. I wasn’t really listening.

The completion of the Great Process Paul’s Papers Projecthas mirrored my exit from Trinity. Each time I say goodbye, it turns out there’s an opportunity or responsibility that keeps me on campus a little bit longer, and it’s been that way with Professor Baker. Trying to make the collection as sensible, orderly, and lasting as possible has meant going back and making little changes, not quite letting go. But now our days are numbered. I project that Paul’s papers will be processed post haste just as my time at Trinity (and in Texas) trickles from tide to tiny tributary before it terminates. I’m going to miss it of course. All of it. Working in the archives for four years has given me a special insight into the history of our institution. I consider all of the personalities preserved here my intellectual ancestors, and I have fit myself and everyone I’ve ever met at Trinity into the fabric of our collective story. 
Hanging out with Paul Baker has only reinforced this feeling. The plans, notes, and photographs of the first Ruth Taylor Theatre, the barely recognizable old Attic theatre space, the dressing rooms with their familiar concrete walls and forever-worn out lighted mirrors—these look like home to me. Even in the records from Baylor and the Dallas Theater Center, it’s easy to trace the Baker influence as it made its way toward Trinity. As usual, I find the collection’s photographs most compelling and exciting. Those pictures of Professor Baker and Charles Laughton that thrilled my little heart at the beginning of the project are still there of course, along with an unidentified photograph that I am determined is of Katharine Hepburn. My favorites, however, are pictures of a 1946 production of The Skin of Our Teeth, the first play directed by Professor Baker after his return from serving in WWII. They are beautiful and reminded me of what a wonderful time I had in Trinity’s 2014 production of the same play. It’s important to me that they be preserved and seen. 
Then there’s one more reason I’m so fortunate to be closing my time here with Paul Baker. In the first week of August when I start my internship for the Actors Theatre of Louisville, I’m going to be officially really and truly untethered from Trinity, from my cherished faculty, the theatre department, and the archives. I’m hopeful that my studies of our theatrical and educational past will arm me for my future, that I will be able to embody the tirelessness, passion, and stubbornness so clearly visible in the remnants of Paul Baker—my intellectual ancestor. 
There’s not much time left here for me, Trin-Trin, but Professor Baker will be here and available to you for years and years to come. I recommend you get lost down in the archives once or twice before the time comes for you to untether.
Don’t let these humble boxes fool you. #yesfilter
1960s photograph of actresses in the stage right dressing room of Trinity University’s Theatre One

–Kate Cuellar, Class of 2015

New Exhibit! Iterations: from Paris to Providence

Special Collections’ new summer exhibit, Iterations, features pochoir-printed plates from our extensive art and architecture collection. Pochoir is a many-layered stenciling process that produces extremely vivid and dimensional prints; it was particularly popular in late 19th and early 20th century Paris, and was used for fashion plates, interior design illustrations, architectural prints, and pattern and motif books like the ones featured in our exhibition.


Pattern books were intended for use by artists and designers as inspiration for wallpaper, textiles, and other decor. In that spirit, we invited local artists to view the pattern books and to use them as inspiration for a new piece created just for this exhibit. Participating artists include Chelsea Gunn, Taylor Polites, Caitlin Cali, Rebecca Volynsky, Lois Harada, Hope Anderson, Beth Brandon, Xander Marro, and Elizabeth Novak.


The exhibit is currently on view in the cases in the Rhode Island Room (on the first floor of the library). In August, the exhibit will expand to include two additional cases on the library’s third floor.


Stop by to check it out any time during the library’s open hours, and/or come to the Meet the Artists reception on July 15th, where you can talk to our creative collaborators, eat some snacks, and get a guided tour of the exhibit.

Claude Pepper and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Last week, on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebrated its 51st anniversary. Originally pioneered by President John F. Kennedy and called for just a year earlier on June 111963 in his Civil Rights Address, delivered from the oval office. In the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in late November of 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson put his full support behind the passing of the act as not only the needed legislation that it was but also as a eulogy to President Kennedy. President Johnson was aware that the Civil Rights Bill would face resistance in the solidly Democratic South, however, there was one Democrat in the State of Florida with a long history of supporting progressive legislation; Claude Pepper.

Early in his career while a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1929, Pepper alone, voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first black congressman since Reconstruction. 35 years later, Claude would again take a stand that many in his state deemed unpopular, and given that his constituency was well aware of his record, the old statesman was inundated with mail correspondence urging him both toward and away from a vote for the Civil Rights Bill.

These letter excerpts, both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are great examples of the political currents that flowed through the country during the 1960’s as the initial large scale push for Civil Rights in the United States was reaching its height. The correspondence below is dated mostly from February of 1964, when the voting for the act took place.

Series 309B Box 29 Folder 4
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 4
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 2
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 2
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9

A firm believer in voting with one’s conscience, Pepper knew that the choice was clear. When the final votes were tallied, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from those states on the periphery. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Claude Pepper. The following year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ‘yes’ votes from six of Pepper’s colleagues who had voted ‘no’ the previous year. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9

For researchers interested in taking a closer look at Claude Pepper and his record on Civil Rights in the United States, please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum, Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM.

Bad Children of History #11: The Era B.A.S. (Before Alka-Seltzer)

Look, I found the least-subtly-titled children’s book of all time:


It’s Little Nancy, or, the Punishment of Greediness: A Moral Tale. It was published around 1810 by Morgan & Yeager, the fine Philadelphians who also brought you Little Sophy, or, the Punishment of Idleness and Disobedience (not joking).

When we first meet little Nancy, she’s at home, and she’s just received a delightful invitation.


Little Nancy one day
Was invited to play,
And with her young friends to make merry;
In a garden so fine,
Where fruit, cakes, and sweet wine,
Were provided to make them all cheery.

When the letter was brought
She was pleased at the thought,
And a dozen times over ’twas read;
On each word did she dwell,
Till by heart she could tell
The whole letter, ‘ere she went to bed.

Extreme slant rhyme of “merry” and “cheery” aside, I’d say this sounds like a typical little girl who is very, very excited to go to a party with her friends.

The next morning, before little Nancy leaves for the party, her mother reminds her not to eat greedily, “as she much wish’d to break her of this”. Nancy tries to bear this advice in mind, but then she gets to the party, where she runs around with her friends and proceeds to see this:


What warm-blooded human could possibly resist that basket of fruit, those extremely tiny plates, that enticing egg cup, or that round thing on the end that might be a pie?

Not Nancy, unfortunately. She eats as much as she can. In fact, she keeps eating until her friends drag her away, whereupon she slumps in a glade, overcome by her spate of gluttony.


Gosh. Now that’s a little girl overcome by “the pain that intemperance brings”, if ever I’ve seen one.

Nancy’s not fit to play tag in the forest any more, so she’s taken home and put to bed.


Now being unable
To return to the table,
Yet anxiously wishing to stay;
She was sent home to bed
Crying out, (though half dead)
“I will never again disobey!”

We’re not really told how little Nancy makes the transition from “stomach ache” to “half dead”, so we’ll have to take Morgan and Yeager’s word for it. Luckily, she seems to have a good adult by her side, ready to help her don her bonnet and remove her long socks, especially as she seems to have learned her lesson entirely through a single treatment of aversive therapy. And you, young readers– you don’t even have to eat a whole bunch of pie off of extremely tiny plates to learn this lesson! You can just read Nancy’s tale and take heed.

Continuity of Care Project Draws to an End

11 months, 3400 items, 7 blogs and 27 tweets later the Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital comes to an end next week.

The collection provides a comprehensive record of the management and operation of the hospital from 1862 to its closure in 2002. But perhaps the most significant part of the collection is the admission applications.

The first application, 1865

The first application, 1865

Over 3,000 in total, these contain detailed information about the child’s condition, and are often accompanied by family correspondence, an assessment of the child’s abilities, and medical evaluations.

The applications create a research resource for a number of purposes: details of father’s occupation and income for the social historian; information on disability and the causes of death for the medical historian; and the opportunity to cross refer to other sources of data such as census records.

A lot of the applications include detailed case studies with temperature charts, records of physical and mental health and diagrams of the severity and frequency of seizures. Taken in conjunction with other parts of the collection, such as the administration and correspondence files, they present a comprehensive picture of treatment, research and social attitudes. Only used in depth by one academic researcher so far, they are a resource waiting to be exploited.

No final blog is complete without the obligatory before and after photographs of just what a difference funding like that provided by the Wellcome Trust can do.

The collection arrived in these boxes in 2012

The collection arrived in these boxes in 2012

The catalogued collection in the Archives Store

The catalogued collection in the Archives Store 2015










And as for my favourite items…I do like the drawings of santa that the children were asked to do as part of their assessment. Below is my favourite one from 1929.

Santa as drawn by 6 year old Albert in 1930

Santa as drawn by 6 year old Albert in 1930

This will be the last blog by the Project Archivist but by no means the last on the collection. Also, not only will there be an article on the hospital in the August edition of History Scotland but an exhibition in the display wall at Archives and Special Collections, University of Stirling Library from 6th August for two months.

Alison Scott, Project Archivist

Art//Archives, and a Human Combustion Addendum

First: today (right now!), from 10:30 – 1:00, we’re having our regular open hours in Special Collections. This week we’re featuring books on the topic of fruit, in honor of the raspberries and mulberries that are currently attracting huge numbers of birds to my backyard, much to the detriment of the car parked in the driveway.


Above left are some plums from George Brookshaw’s 1817 Groups of Fruit, Accurately Drawn and Coloured After Nature, with Full Directions for the Young Artist: Designed as a Companion to the Treatises on Flowers and Birds. Above right you can see a frankly terrifying “Banana Trumpeter” from the 1935 children’s book Tommy Apple and His Adventures in Banana-Land.

Second: as a follow-up to our post a couple of weeks ago on the flames of intemperance, I received an email from someone who may or may not have been my mother with a link to this excellent article on the spontaneous human combustion scene in Dickens’s Bleak House, as well as the corresponding 19th century furor over the fact that Dickens was purportedly fueling “a world of spontaneous combustion truthers”.

Here’s Bleak House illustrator Hablot Knight Browne’s rendering of the gruesome scene:


What We Heard and Learned at our June 25th Public Meeting

The June 25th meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board was an opportunity for the PIDB members to meet with stakeholders who share a commitment to bringing about transformation to the security classification system. In particular, this meeting was an opportunity for the PIDB to continue advocating for the increased use of new and existing technologies to improve declassification.

The PIDB members recommended in our 2012 Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System improving technology investments overall and piloting the use of technological solutions to advance automation and advanced analytics to assist declassifiers in making review decisions. Following the inclusion of these recommendations in the President’s Second Open Government Action Plan (NAP), the PIDB is now focusing its work on studying the current state of technological investments in declassification across government.

In this effort, the PIDB announced at the public meeting the creation of its Declassification Technology Working Group. Chaired by former PIDB member Admiral William Studeman (ret.), this newly established working group consists of agency technologists who will work together for the first time to identify areas of concern and find and advance solutions to the challenges specifically facing declassification.

The public meeting was also an opportunity to showcase many of the achievements and plans underway concerning technology commitments found in the NAP. We were fortunate to have Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Alexander Macgillivray, give remarks about the President’s desire for more technology and expertise in government as a vehicle for the Administration’s commitment to open government. Using the launch of healthcare.gov as an example, he stressed the need for information technology expertise in implementing policy. He outlined three areas of focus for the Administration: improving policy implementation, bringing more technology understanding into government and using technology to change the engagement between citizens and the government. His remarks also included examples of specific initiatives being driven at the White House to advance these areas: engaging agency Chief Information Officers through the Office of the CIO of the United States to solve cross-government technology challenges, raising the standard of technology products and services within government through the work of the U.S. Digital Service and improving government processes by reaching out to citizens in industry, academia and the nonprofit section through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. We wish, once again, to thank him for joining us and participating in our discussion.

We also wish to thank Dr. Cheryl Martin for presenting the results of the pilot projects conducted at the Center for Content Understanding at the Applied Research Laboratories that examined the ability to achieve machine-assisted sensitive content identification in classified records. Dr. Martin and her team of scientists and engineers conducted these pilots on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Archives. Notably, the pilot achieved dramatically accurate identification of classified information in email records created during the Reagan Administration, which has significant promise of being able to assist equity identification of content containing agency-owned classified information. The PIDB has been a proponent of the CCU’s work in this area for some time. It continues to believe these pilot projects need to advance and expand into new areas of research and that positive outcomes derived from these pilots need to be implemented into current practices at agencies once proven. Dr. Martin’s slide presentation is available for viewing here.

We wish to thank the Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, and his staff for hosting the meeting at the National Archives and Records Administration. We also thank the Archivist for discussing in his remarks the many ways he is committed to leading the National Archives in terms of technology. His desire to improve access to government information and his support of our efforts to encourage the government in this area are critical to the long-term preservation of our nation’s records.

Moreover, this meeting was an opportunity to recognize the changing membership of the PIDB and to welcome publicly the two newest members of the PIDB, Laura DeBonis and Solomon Watson. Each gave introductory remarks and each received a signed commission certificate from the President in honor of their respective appointments.

Since the last public meeting, three PIDB members concluded their third and final terms as members: Martin Faga, David Skaggs and Adm. William Studeman (ret.). With the assistance of the Archivist, the PIDB members presented Mr. Faga, Mr. Skaggs and Adm. Studeman each with a reproduction of the “Seven Samples of Secret Ink” report. The report is dated October 30, 1917 and it was classified “Confidential” for many years. It details descriptions of various “secret writing” techniques. In April 19, 2011, the CIA declassified this information and made it public. This report was thought to be the oldest classified record held by the government as it was created in 1917. The members hoped these reproductions would serve as reminders of their time as members of the PIDB and that they would convey thanks and appreciation for their dedicated service.

Finally, we would like to thank you, the public, for attending this meeting and for remaining engaged on this very important topic. The members of the PIDB take our responsibility of representing the public very seriously as we complete their work and respond to the requests made by the President. We understand we would be unable to effect meaningful change without public participation and a willing spirit from the agencies to work collaboratively for the greater good of the people. We look forward to continuing the conversation on all issues concerning the transformation of the security classification system, including advancing technological solutions in support of declassification, and assisting the President in meeting his Open Government commitments.

A recording of the public meeting will be available online once a transcription of the program is completed.

Orra White Hitchcock

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

This summer in the Library, we have four excellent Digital Humanities interns conducting research in the Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection.  Working with these interns has been a great excuse for me to delve a bit more into this collection and fall in love with the artwork of Orra White Hitchcock, perhaps the Pioneer Valley’s earliest female botanical and scientific illustrator.

Orra White Hitchcock drawing of cedar sprig

Orra White Hitchcock drawing of cedar sprig

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College



Orra White, born March 8, 1796 in South Amherst, began teaching mathematics, astronomy, botany, and the decorative arts to young girls at the Deerfield Academy when she was only 17 years old.

While teaching at Deerfield Academy Orra met Edward Hitchcock, a local naturalist, and with Orra lending her hand to watercolor illustrations for an herbarium, the two began what would become a lifetime collaboration of joining science and art.




In 1821, Orra White married Edward Hitchcock who would become the third President of Amherst College and appointed state geologist of Massachusetts.  Orra lent her skill in scientific drawing to the publications of Edward’s geological findings, with many of her illustrations appearing in Hitchcock’s 1833 Report on the Geology of Massachusetts and the 1841 Final Report.

Orra White Hitchcock print of rocking stone, Fall River

Orra White Hitchcock print of rocking stone, Fall River

Edward Hitchcock held the position of professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Amherst College from 1825-1845.  During this time, Orra painted over 60 large format charts on linen depicting geological formations and prehistoric skeletons for Hitchcock’s classroom lectures.  These charts allow us a look at of how science was taught at Amherst in the mid 19th Century, as well as a glimpse of the geological landscape of the Pioneer Valley during her time as an artist.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

These charts are held in the Archives, where we hold the largest collection of Orra White Hitchcock’s artwork.  Orra’s classroom charts have been digitized and made freely accessible through the Amherst College Digital Collections.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.

Classroom chart on linen drawn by Orra White Hitchcock, Amherst College.