New Archival Storage Space for Congressional Records at GPO

In February 2020, NARA took occupancy of new archival storage space for congressional records on the third floor of the Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) Building A, located on North Capitol Street in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives, the custodial unit responsible for the permanent, official records of the U.S. House of Representative, U.S. Senate, and legislative branch commissions, then began the move of records stored in temporary storage spaces at the Washington National Records Center (WNRC) into the new GPO spaces. These accomplishments marked the culmination of a multi-year effort by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to create additional storage space for the records of Congress.

Photograph of the GPO Building on North Capitol Street, courtesy of the U.S. Government Publishing office

The Center’s total volume of textual holdings is currently over 183,000 cubic feet, and in 2014 its available storage space in Archives I was essentially full. WNRC offered temporary storage space to allow the Center to continue to accession new House and Senate records, and the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate, the official record keepers for the House and Senate respectively, encouraged NARA to locate additional records storage space in Washington, DC for House and Senate records. NARA identified suitable space in the GPO Building, where the Office of the Federal Register and the Office of Government Information, had relocated its offices.

In 2015, NARA’s Office of Business Support worked with a contract architectural and design firm to provide drawings and cost estimates to convert the GPO space into archival storage space. Congress appropriated funds for the project in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act, and GPO awarded a construction contract for the project in late 2017. In December 2019, construction was completed and environment testing of the spaces was conducted to demonstrate that the temperature and relative humidity readings met NARA standards for archival storage spaces. 

In progress construction in GPO building. Photograph by the National Archives

February 2020 marked the beginning of the move of the records in temporary storage into the GPO spaces and the direct transfer of new accessions of records from the House and Senate into the new spaces. With 50,000 cubic feet of unclassified records storage space now available, NARA has provided ample space for the anticipated growth of House and Senate records and preserved these valuable records for future use by the broad array of researchers who use congressional records, including cultural and political historians, political scientists, genealogists, legal and constitutional scholars, journalists, and documentary filmmakers.

New Exhibit Coming Soon!

March 13, 2020 will be the last day to view the current exhibit in the Special Collections & Archives Exhibit room,  “A Century of Mystery and Intrigue”.

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Our new exhibit, “Earth Day 50”, will be opening in April to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day: April 22, 1970. “Earth Day 50” is a collaborative effort between FSU Sustainable Campus and Special Collections & Archives. The goal of the exhibit is to illustrate the role that prominent figures in FSU and Florida history have played in the environmental movement and highlight environmental activism here at Florida State University in the past 50 years.

Earth Day Activities
Schedule of Events at Florida State University for the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Florida Flambeau, April 22, 1970

Keep an eye out for more information about the opening of the new exhibit, as well as events and activities in celebration of Earth Day on campus.

“It Gutted Me Like a Fish”

In 1998, reporter Charles Bowden sounded like a world weary Raymond Chandler character destined to be played in film by Humphrey Bogart. But the crimes he covered happened a half century later and were, unfortunately, all too real. He believed they were too real and too grisly for his newspaper’s readers to deal with. He made it his job to show those Americans the desperate underbelly of their country they willfully ignored.

 

Bowden considered himself a reporter; he hated the term journalist.1 And he never intended to be a crime reporter —he expected to write fluffy features for the Tucson Citizen just long enough to earn the money to buy a new racing bike. Then came the day when everyone else in the newsroom was out on assignment and it fell to him to cover the murder of a child. As he told Ryan Kohls in 2012,  “I wasn’t there very long until I had to go write about child murders, and it changed me. I didn’t leave. I spent three years there because I was learning so much.”2

 

He learned so well that in 1984 he found himself a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.3 But as unexpectedly as his crime reporting career began, it ended of his own volition –as he explained in  “Torch Song: At the peripheries of violence and desire”, a 1998 essay in Harper’s Magazine.4 

 

It was that essay that led to a 1998 segment of On the Media where Bowden had a StoryCorps-style conversation with Jack Dew, then a journalist new to the crime beat for the New Britain Herald. There they discussed the emotional toll of the job. Bowden told Dew that once he started reporting on crime in Tucson he “went nuts…It became my life.” He found the only way to do the job correctly is, “…to be the cop and the robber, the killer and the victim. It guts you and there is no way to protect yourself. It’s a toxin.”

 

Bowden became a bit of a typewriter vigilante, hoping to, as he told Dew and OTM listeners, “give the victims their day in the court of public opinion.” But in trying to use the newspaper as a mirror to show the Citizen’s readers a reflection of their society he found himself becoming a bit of a crime “gourmet” or “antique collector,” scouring crime logs at police stations looking for the perfect victim he could sell in a 20,000-word feature without anyone saying the person in any way deserved the gruesome crime committed against them.

 

As he later told Kohls, “I got trapped in it because most people won’t cover sex crimes, most people can’t get people to talk. I was hired to be a fluff writer and I discovered that almost anyone would tell me anything.”5

 

Bowden’s work not only earned him his Pulitzer Prize nomination, but his many later books documenting life on both sides of the Mexico-United States border earned him a Lannan Literary Award for Non Fiction.6 He and his vivid suffer-no-fools style can also be heard in this 2010 segment of The Takeaway talking about murders of journalists in Mexico and the policies he believed led to the lawlessness in the border city of Juarez. 

 

In a 2010 interview he described his style of reporting on border issues to Meredith Blake of The New Yorker: “The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty. As it happens, I am a coward and would rather write about a bird or a tree. But, I don’t know how to be aware of such a slaughter and not report it.”7

 

Bowden died in 2014.8 After working for several New England newspapers, Jack Dew went to law school and now practices law.9

1 Lengel, Kerry. “Tucson aruthor Charles Bowden on ‘Murder City’”, The Arizona Republic, 2010, April 9. Accessed December 19, 2019.

 

2Kohls, Ryan. “Charles Bowden.” Whatiwannaknow.com, 7 December 2012. Accessed December 19, 2019. 

 

3The Pulitzer Prizes. “Finalist: Charles Bowden of Tucson (AZ) Citizen”, pulitzer.org. Accessed December 19, 2019. 

 

4Bowden, Charles. “Torch Song: At the peripheries of violence and desire”, Harpers, 1998, August, 43-54.

 

5 Kohls, op. cit.

 

6Lannan.Foundation. “Charles Bowden: 1996 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction”, lannan.org. Accessed December 19, 2019.

 

7Blake, Meredith. “The Exchange: Charles Bowden on Juarez, ‘Murder City’”, newyorker.com, 2010, May 18. Accessed December 19, 2019.

 

8Yardley, William. “Charles Bowden, Author With Unblinking Eye on Southwest, Dies at 69”, The New York Times, 2014, September 4, B18. 

 

9Boies Schiller Flexner LLP. “Jack Dew”, bsfllp.com. Accessed December 19, 2019.  

Katyn Massacre Records Show Need to Prioritize Disclosure of Historical Information with Significant Public Interest

On February 25, 2020, the Wilson Center commemorated the 80th anniversary of the executions by Soviet intelligence forces of over 22,000 Polish prisoners in the Russian provinces of Smolensk, Kalinin, and Kharkiv in Ukraine. The prisoners represented a majority of Poland’s governing elite—military, police, and civil society leaders captured in 1939, when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany invaded and divided Poland by secret diplomatic agreement. A long history of deception and denial about who killed the Polish patriots began in the spring of 1943, when Nazi troops—then invading Russia—discovered and verified the Soviet atrocity at mass graves in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk.

At the Wilson Center commemoration, the Polish History Professor Andrzej Nowak recounted how the Soviet Union falsified investigations to blame Nazi Germany for the Katyn Massacre—and that following the western alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis, such distinguished leaders as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declined to acknowledge Soviet responsibility. In 1943, Prime Minister Churchill explained to a Polish diplomat that although it was obvious, the Allies would never admit Soviet responsibility, because that would compromise their cooperation in the war against the Nazis.

In 1951, as Cold War tensions increased between the United States and the Soviet Union, the U.S. House of Representatives established a Select Committee to investigate which nation perpetrated the Katyn massacre, and whether any American officials had covered up the relevant facts. Chaired by Rep. Ray J. Madden (IN), the Congressional investigation found the Soviet Union entirely responsible for the executions. The Madden Committee also concluded that if American officials had not deliberately prevented public disclosure of evidence regarding Soviet responsibility since 1942, contemporary U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union might have been different.

Ironically, hopes for an improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) resulted in a return to the same official neglect of the Katyn records by U.S. officials that had prevailed during the alliance of the Second World War.  It was not until 2011 that Congressional Representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH) and Daniel Lipinski (IL) requested President Barack Obama to release all pertinent U.S. Government records, and the National Declassification Center (NDC) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) led a multiagency project to identify and review records documenting the Katyn Forest Massacre.

Coordinated by the NDC, the Government-wide search included photographs and film, as well as the line-by-line review of documents, from the records of the Department of State, the War Department, the United States Army, the Office of Strategic Services, Congress, and the prosecution of war crimes committed in the Second World War. In September 2012, the NDC declassified and released over 1,000 new pages of previously unavailable materials for public access. NARA also provides online access to a selection of 100 scanned Records Relating to the Katyn Forest Massacre, and an online finding aid to a selection of the records.

As well as commemorating the sacrifice of Polish patriots, echoes from the Katyn Forest underscore the need to prioritize the review of historical records for timely public release, consistent with the mandate of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) since its establishment by Congress in 2000.  Subsequent PIDB recommendations have urged Federal agencies to prioritize historical records for public access and consideration by policymakers, see: Transforming the Security Classification System (2012); Transforming Classification Policy Forum (2009); and Improving Declassification (2007).

In Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification (2014), the Board recommended the implementation of a centralized approach to the declassification of historically significant records based on topics of the greatest public interest.  It would be useful now to evaluate the progress made on the declassification of Federal records relating to the specific topics recommended for review in that report.

By completing the special project to disclose the Katyn Forest records, the NDC demonstrated its ability to coordinate the identification and declassification of records across the Federal Government. Prioritizing historical records for declassification and improving these efforts remains crucial to overcoming the bad consequences of Government secrecy, which Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the sponsor of PIDB’s founding statute, argued can impede American democracy by “making it much harder to resolve key questions about our past and to chart our future actions.”

Black History Month: Notable University History Collections

February is Black History month and for those interested in studying Black History at Florida State University, we thought we would highlight a few of our collection in Heritage & University Archives.

0214201047
BSU Scrapbook, 1990-2008.

Perhaps the most obvious place to look, and one of our more informative collections on the topic, is our Black Student Union collection. This collection contains items from previous organizational campaigns, financial information, and a very large scrapbook. This collection has received several additions in the past couple of years, adding to this information, and will continue to grow.

16903407_1518813731491975_4610254939419379120_o
FSU Black Guild Players in a promotional photo for the production of “The Colored Museum,” 1989.

The Florida State University Historic Photograph Collection and the Florida Flambeau/FSView Photograph Collections are some of Heritage & University Archive’s best resources for a visual history of the university. Among the photographs are images of Maxwell Courtney, FSU’s first African American graduate, and the Black Players Guild.

Boardman Letter
Letter to John Boardman from Doak Campbell, 1957.

Lastly, an important group of records for any research on campus history, are the Presidential Files. This is several different collections covering several of FSU’s Presidents and include topics related to almost every aspect of the university. An extremely important file on John Boardman is present in the Doak Campbell Administration Files detailing events surrounding Boardman’s expulsion from FSU after inviting three African American students to a Christmas Party on campus. The entire file has been digitized and is available on Diginole.

For any questions or reference help regarding these collections, you can email the Heritage & University Archivist, Sandra Varry at svarry@fsu.edu.

Sunshine State Digital Network New Local Site

The Sunshine State Digital Network has a new local site. This page aims to highlight the “rich history and culture” of Florida through user-friendly search technology and pre-made collections. SSDN.DP.LA, the new local site, has many filters that make searching and sifting through content an easy and enjoyable experience. Some of these filters include contributing institution, date range, type of content, language, or more. Users can uncover content ranging from text, images, videos, audio clips, books, or more.

The new local site has 4 highlighted, curated searches for users to browse. Users can look through search results focused on the Caribbean, Civil and Human Rights, maps of the state of Florida and its local communities, and Florida’s environment. Users can access these pre-made searches straight from the homepage of the new local site.


This is the Browse by Partner page of the new SSDN.DP.LA site.

Another unique feature to the new local SSDN site is the browse by partner tab. In the upper left hand corner of the SSDN.DP.LA page is an option to browse the content via the contributing institution. All 21 contributors are available to browse through. This browsing option makes it easy to access a specific contributor’s content or discover a new contributor whose content you have never accessed before.

“They all will follow…I’m Moses”

Provocative since his group’s 1987 debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Public Enemy front man Chuck D. was always ready to push the envelope —from his controversial socially conscious lyrics to his willingness to challenge the music industry and his hip hop contemporaries.1 

 

In the Spring of 1999 Public Enemy was ready to shake up the music industry again by being the first major recording act to release an album for download over the Internet before it hit brick-and-mortar stores. At odds with its long time label Def Jam Records over releasing some new songs on the Internet without the label’s permission, Public Enemy teamed with Internet label Atomic Pop to release There’s a Poison Goin’ On… via download at least a month before it became available in stores.2 

 

On the Media guest host Rick Davis talked to Chuck D. in May 1999 about Public Enemy’s headfirst leap into the digital age. As always, Chuck D. delivered an interview full of insight into the music industry and bravado about “the biggest envelope I’ve pushed,” for what he termed “…the most important move for music [since] Dylan went electric in ‘65.”

 

Chuck D. told Davis that fans would be able to choose different prices for the album, starting at five dollars for the basic album, depending on what extras they wanted included with it. Noting the exorbitant expense of selling a profitable album by traditional means, he said, “If the highway is full you’ve got to take the side road to go where you’ve got to go, and this is what the Internet is. It’s the side road.”

 

Davis asked about other rap artists of the time like Sean “Puffy” Combs and Dr. Dre, who had supplanted Public Enemy as industry powers and best selling major label hip hop acts. Chuck D. provided a withering response about power: “I have all the power in the world. I’m a free man. It’s like I’m a black man in 1866. Whether you live in the house with the master and eat the best food you still can be a slave. I’m not a slave. More power means what? Who grants them more power or who takes the power. I’m the person who takes the power by fighting the power.”

 

He added, “I’m the leader in this format, so they all will follow. I’m Moses…They’re probably going to follow the road that I’ve set for them. Their future will probably prosper from the road I helped build. Just as they’ve prospered off the road I built before.”

 

It was four years before Apple introduced its iTunes Music Store, the first successful music download service that didn’t rely on pirated content3, but there was Public Enemy in 1999, pushing an entire industry into its future.  

 

1 Strauss Neil.  “Rap Revolutionaries Plan an Internet Release”, The New York Times, 1999, April 16, E5.

 

2 Erlewine, Stephen Thomas “Public Enemy: Biography & History”, allmusic.com. Accessed February 9, 2020.   

 

3 Pogue, David. “State of the Art; Online Piper, Payable By the Tune”, The New York Times, 2003, May 1, G1.

Digital Transformation: Exploring AI

Have you seen the administration’s 2020 Federal Data Strategy? It emphasizes the need for federal agencies to leverage our data as strategic assets. Action 8 of the plan specifically speaks to improving data in order to support artificial intelligence (AI) research in federal agencies. Good data is a critical building block for AI. As you would expect from the National Archives and Records Administration, we have focused on standards from the beginning of our existence.

Daytona Beach branch of the Volusia county vocational school.”, 4/1942. National Archives Identifier 535579

For the last two decades, we have been transforming our accumulated knowledge for the best use in the digital era. Recently, we hired our first Chief Data Officer, who will participate in the federal CDO working group, bringing ideas back from other agencies to NARA for consideration, and who will help us prioritize data projects that will support our AI research. 

Staff from across NARA are collaborating and learning together about the potential for AI to support the Agency’s mission. Members of NARA’s AI exploration team include archivists, project managers, IT specialists, outreach liaisons, records managers, and digitization specialists. This diverse body will bring a critical variety of viewpoints that we must consider as we investigate how we should harness the power of emerging technologies such as AI. 

Press and spectators gathering after United Nations Charter is signed, 6/26/1945. National Archives Identifier 100310939

To ensure a basic level of understanding across our diverse team, NARA is holding an “AI for Business” meeting, where our IT staff will provide presentations and demos that help to define and differentiate terms like artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and neural networks for those without an IT background. 

Interior of the 3M Co. (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) Plant Showing an Employee Working on one of the Products. National Archives Identifier 558372

Some of the questions we will ask as we continue to explore potential uses of AI, include: 

How can we use AI to better meet our customers’ needs?
What are our peer institutions doing with AI? 
What are the ethical implications that we need to consider? 
What additional training will staff need to prepare for using AI?  
Can AI enhance our crowdsourcing efforts?  And more…

Interior of the 3M Co. (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) Plant Showing an Employee Working with one of the Machines. National Archives Identifier 558375

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence hold extraordinary promise for improving our digital future. As we work to explore the possibilities of applied AI to support NARA’s mission, I will continue to post our progress. In the meantime, what are you doing with AI? 

PIDB Reauthorized by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 retroactively reauthorizes the Board from December 30, 2018.  As a result, Board members whose terms were set to end between January 1, 2019 and December 30, 2019, are extended for another year. The current authorizing legislation extends the terms of James E. Baker and Trevor W. Morrison to June 9, 2020; John F. Tierney to June 28, 2021; Kenneth L. Wainstein to September 7, 2020; and Alissa M. Starzak to February 14, 2022.  There are currently three Presidential appointment vacancies and one Congressional appointment vacancy.

In addition to extending the terms of current members, the NDAA removes the sunset provision from the previous authorization, and requires the Board to hold four in-person meetings each year.  The Board’s previous authorizing legislation expired on December 31, 2018 and the Board ceased operations.

The Information Security Oversight Office still provides all logistical and program support.  The Board members and ISOO are preparing for an initial teleconference to discuss the legislation, plans for an initial meeting, and options for an agenda.

“The Radio Equivalent of Muhammad Ali”

When New York radio legend Frankie Crocker died of pancreatic cancer in Miami on October 21, 2000¹, his was just the latest death of an influential African American disk jockey that year, including Martha Jean Steinberg, Rosko, Jocko Henderson, and Jack “The Rapper” Gibson.

On November 10, 2000, On the Media contributor Rex Doane memorialized Crocker and gave a brief history of the influence of African American disk jockeys.

Crocker arrived in New York in the late sixties and worked at rhythm and blues powerhouse WWRL and at WMCA during that station’s waning days as a Top Forty leader. In 1971, as FM was beginning to overtake AM for music programming, he moved to WLIB-FM to serve as both program director and the afternoon drive time host. Soon WLIB-FM changed its call letters to WBLS and Crocker was developing a smoother, more sophisticated format than the machine gun pace of AM pop music radio. Crocker recruited and groomed radio newcomers Vy Higginson (the first female pop music disk jockey in New York), Fred “Bugsy” Buggs, and Ken “Spider” Webb to host what the station called “the total Black experience in sound.”² It was a format eclectic enough to mix Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Johnny Mathis, and Kool and the Gang. As BLS knocked perennial number one WABC from its ratings perch and the station’s audience grew more diverse, he introduced non-black acts like New York New Wave darlings Blondie and British punk rockers The Clash to his listeners. It was the beginning of the format that became known as Urban Contemporary.³

On the air Crocker was, as New York Daily News writer David Hinckley explained to Doane, “the radio equivalent to Muhammad Ali.” He called himself “The Chief Rocker,” “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” and “Hollywood,” and told his listeners, “If Frankie Crocker isn’t on your radio, your radio isn’t on.” As with Ali, it was up to his competitors to prove it wasn’t so. 

Doane’s remembrance also discussed the importance of Crocker and other African American disk jockeys played in their communities. Howard University professor William Barlow told Doane, “The DJs were a significant player in the black community. . . A [DJ was a] civic leader. . .a mobilizer. . .a relayer of information pertaining to the community. . . black radio DJs filled a huge vacuum in terms of providing civic leadership and morale.” New York hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy has talked about Crocker’s influence on his Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, where during the summer with the windows open you could walk down the street and hear Crocker’s show uninterrupted for blocks. 

Doane’s retrospective has many airchecks of Crocker, and Crocker can be heard in a long form interview with WNYC’s program director Richard Pyatt in the WNYC archive during this late 1973 episode of Visitors From the Other Side. 

 

1 Williams, Monte. “Frankie Crocker, a Champion of Black-Format Radio, Dies” The New York Times, 2000, October 24, C23.  2 Barlow, William. Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999, 233-235.  3 WBLS. “WBLS –  ‘In A Class By Itself’ – The 1970’s, Frankie Crocker, Building a Station”. youtube.com, 2019, June 11. Accessed February 14, 2020.

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Related links from the New York Public Radio Archive:

On the Media, 1993-2000

Visitors From the Other Side

Love Your Pet Day – Means Family Home Movies

Today on National Love Your Pet Day, Special Collections & Archives celebrates not only our own pets, but those of our collection creators as well!

Dog and people at beach, 1954
Means Family and dog at beach, 1954. From MSS 2018-004, Box 9, Reel 6.

MSS 2018-004 includes home movies from the family of Dr. Bruce Means, many of them featuring summer road trips throughout the United States. The 1954 film shown above starts off with footage of the family dog at the beach (presumably Florida) and, at around the 9 minute 15 second mark, shows the same dog again, playing in the snow (possibly in Alaska).

Home movies are a growing part of our personal papers collections. To ensure access to commercially obsolete media, FSU Libraries partners with expert film preservation firms to produce high-quality digital versions for use in our Digital Library and by users like you.

This particular movie is from a set of films donated by Dr. Bruce Means of the FSU Department of Biological Science in 2019. The Means family films can show us not only a mid-20th century family at play, but also serve as documentation of many US locations that have changed considerably since. This kind of “accidental” secondary value is a significant part of why archivists choose to collect and preserve archives in the first place!

To learn more about Dr. Bruce Means, his family, and his work, visit the finding aid for his collection.

Vintage Valentines in the Archives

Valentine’s Day gained popularity in the United States with the introduction of mass-produced Valentines cards around the middle of the 19th century. Most of these early cards have long since disappeared, but we are fortunate to have many examples of early 20th century valentines here in Special Collections & Archives.

Aside from being a repository for manuscripts and rare books, Special Collections & Archives is also the home of the Heritage & University Archives for Florida State University and its predecessor, the Florida State College for Women (FSCW). A popular pastime for the students of FSCW was to construct scrapbooks full of precious items from their everyday lives. These scrapbooks are full of photos, articles, notes, and other ephemera that provide a snapshot into what life what like at that time. Some even contain valentine cards from the time period. 

Valentine
From the Florence Gregory Walker Collection

This valentine is found in the scrapbook of  Florida State College for Women student Florence Gregory (B.A. Sociology, 1940) and dates to circa 1931-1937.

Antique Valentine
From the Florida State University Melvene Draheim Hardee Center for Women in Higher Education Collection

This valentine is found in the personal files of Dr. Melvene Draheim Hardee. The card is from Dr. Draheim Hardee’s childhood and dates to approximately 1920.

Heart-shaped Valentine
From the Marion L. Stine Collection

This valentine is found in the scrapbook of  Florida State College for Women student Marion Laura Stine and dates to circa 1917-1921.

To My Valentine
From the Annie Gertrude Gilliam Scrapbook

This valentine is found in the scrapbook of  Florida State College for Women student  Annie Gertrude Gilliam and dates to circa 1925-1931.

My Valentine
From the Janet MacGowan West Collection

This valentine is found in the scrapbook of  Florida State College for Women student Janet MacGowan West (BS 1922) and dates to circa 1917-1954.

Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day from Special Collections & Archives!

Special Collections Spring Intern

My name is Darby Freeman. I am a senior at UNCW studying English Literature and Philosophy. I have worked at the Randall Library circulation desk for just over two years and began an internship in the Special Collections department at the beginning of this semester.

I was first introduced to Special Collections by a professor who took our class to the department after assigning a lengthy research paper. We did an activity that involved stringing together events to form a cohesive narrative. I thought it was cool to watch a story reveal itself as we went through all of these different types of literature, written by unaffiliated groups, that came from a variety of locations.

I have always enjoyed my job at the circulation desk because I love being around books and literature. I handle books daily, whether I’m checking them in or out, collecting them for patron holds, or reshelving them. This has led me to discover many fascinating books that I otherwise would’ve never encountered, be it fictional, historical, or theoretical. When I first heard about the internship in Special Collections, it felt perfect for me. It’s like taking the job I already knew I loved and making it more interesting and in-depth. Since beginning work at the library, I’ve been curious about a career as a librarian or archivist, and by working in Special Collections I have an opportunity to try out archival work and see if I enjoy it (spoiler alert: I do).

My job as an intern in Special Collections is to document, process, and arrange collections either purchased by or donated to the department. Processing involves documenting and researching the topics and historical context of the collection. After the initial documentation and research, I arrange the collection, which entails organizing the materials in a way that promotes understanding and accessibility. The arrangement is vitally important to the integrity of the collection; if related materials are separated from each other, it is harder to understand the context of the collection as a whole. Archivists are basically the gatekeepers of history, so it is imperative that they accurately represent the contents of a collection and provide any necessary context to encourage more thorough understanding.

So far, I have worked on The Camera Shop Records, Virginia Harriss Holland World War II Memorabilia, and H.J. Southwell Murder Correspondence. It’s been interesting reading about history that happened only a couple of blocks from where I currently live. Some were easy to research, like the H.J. Southwell Murder Correspondence, which had significant news coverage that spanned nationwide. The Camera Shop Records, however, was more difficult because most of the information about the owner could only be found in his obituary. I enjoyed both collections.

This work requires that the processer be detail-oriented and exercise critical thinking skills in their assessment of the collection. I had some exposure to these skills prior to beginning the internship, but I’ve never had an environment quite like this to test them. Since starting the internship, I have gained a better understanding of what it means to be detail-oriented towards something completely unfamiliar to you. Additionally, my analytical and critical thinking abilities have been tested in ways they previously never were. Normally, I analyze a text, and use critical thinking skills to extract meaning, and then scan for details to support my thoughts. Special Collections processing feels like the reverse. I have to pay attention to every detail so that when I’m thinking critically and analytically, I am able to piece together the fragments of history present in a collection.

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Join us on a Presidential Libraries Road Trip!

In celebration of Presidents Day, we are featuring a series of Citizen Archivist tagging and transcription missions using Catalog records from each Presidential Library: a Presidential Libraries Road Trip! Join us online as we virtually travel the country throughout February, bringing you records from the Presidential Libraries across the National Archives. 

Through this project, we are sharing more of the incredible resources held at each Presidential Library, highlighting records available in the Catalog, and encouraging citizen archivists to tag and transcribe these items to make them more accessible and findable online. Learn more on the Citizen Archivist dashboard

We first announced this project through our National Archives Catalog newsletter. Each issue of our email newsletter highlights the descriptions and digitized records available for online access, as well as tips on the Catalog’s features and functionality. The newsletter also provides updates on our crowdsourcing and citizen archivist programs, and shares stories of how online access shapes efforts in research and education.  

Previous editions of our newsletter have also featured:

Connecting with Customers is an important strategic goal for the National Archives. Our newsletter helps us engage with our audiences to share more about the records available at the National Archives, while encouraging citizen archivists to make these records more accessible by adding metadata through tagging, transcription, and comments. 

Every two weeks, we reach more than 160,000 registered users, researchers, and citizen archivists through our newsletter. Join us and subscribe now!

The Peak of Enchantment!: Grouse Mountain Highway and Scenic Resort

“Don’t fail to visit Grouse Mountain. Its wonders are proclaimed by the thousands who have been there. It gives you a thrill such as you have never known before and as you will never know again unless you return – which you probably will.” Such is a sample of the marketing campaigns aimed at visitors and residents of the Vancouver area in the late 1920s and early 1930s by the Grouse Mountain Highway and Scenic Resort Ltd., the records of which can be found here at the Archives.

Crown, Dam, Grouse, and Dome Mountains, with the Grouse Mountain Highway and Scenic Resort Ltd.’s road drawn onto it, ~1925. Reference code: AM76-F02-: CVA 257-1

The company, which was incorporated on November 27, 1924, sketched out an ambitious plan in its prospectus which was published about a year later in 1925. Its aim was to build and operate “a first-class hotel and encampment” on the plateau near the summit of Grouse Mountain, “with tourist camp facilities for summer and winter amusements and sports.” The chalet itself was billed as “modern in every respect, with plumbing, heating, electric lighting and water supply, telegraph and telephone service.” Indeed, the fruition of the chalet and facilities did come to pass, with the resort opening on October 23, 1926. The company’s prospect to bring investors a good return on investment did seem promising given the stunning setting of the resort combined with the exponential increase of motor tourists, particularly American tourists, visiting the Vancouver area in the 1920s, and the easy access to the North Shore with the then newly completed Second Narrows Bridge in 1925. (Previous to the completion of this bridge, the only way to connect to the North Shore from Vancouver was to take a boat.)

Page from the Chalet guest register. For the Resort’s first year anniversary, they held a special gathering which included celebrating Charles “Dad” Quick’s 107th birthday. Photo: Bronwyn Smyth. Reference code: AM76-F18

It was clear, however, as early as 1928 that the company’s fortunes were not amassing nearly as quickly as anticipated. In November of that year, a committee of Vancouver businessmen was formed to create a plan to save the company from bankruptcy. An interim receiver was appointed, and the company continued on.

In September 1930, the barge Pacific Gatherer hit the Second Narrows Bridge, causing major damage, resulting in the closure of the bridge. The combination of this closure and the beginning of the Depression placed further pressure on the company’s finances.

Skiers heading into the Chalet, ~1928. Reference code: AM1376-: CVA 167-2

The company underwent a reorganization of its operations in June 1933 in a final attempt to save it. The reorganization and more stringent management seemed to help, as a memo written near the end of August 1933 by Leo Shelly the new manager indicated that he was optimistic about the future of the resort with several factors contributing to a better financial state, but warned that prudence was still needed. Within a few weeks, however, on September 8, 1933, the property was put up for tax sale. This gave the company a two year period in which it was required to pay its tax debt to the District of North Vancouver.

Interior of the Chalet, ~1926. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Out P230

In June 1934, the Second Narrows Bridge reopened. The number of visitors to the resort increased substantially, helping its desperate financial state. However, despite the upswing in business, there wasn’t enough time for the company to offset the losses suffered to the company’s finances during the bridge closure years before the two-year debt repayment deadline rolled around, and on September 8, 1935, Commissioner JM Fisher ordered the road to the resort closed.

Some of the company’s printed promotional material. Photo: Bronwyn Smyth. Reference code: AM76-F27

Although from a financial perspective, the company was not successful, guests of the resort found it a delightful place to visit. During the years that the resort operated, there were many activities in which to partake. In winter, on offer was skiing, skating, tobogganing, bob-sledding, curling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing, and in summer, hiking and horseback riding were on the menu. Dances were also held frequently throughout the year. The chalet itself welcomed visitors, whether day-trippers or overnight guests, in its restaurant. The resort played host to special gatherings, ski competitions, and the occasional celebrity, including a day-trip from Winston Churchill in 1929.

The Archives acquired the Grouse Mountain Highway and Scenic Resort fonds in 1972. The fonds contains material from 1924-1935, including survey notebooks, certificates of shares, company correspondence, ledgers, publicity material, the company prospectus, and photographs, all of which can be viewed in the Archives Reading Room.

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from an article written by Chak Yung that originally appeared in Archives Newsletter Volume 5, Number 2: Fall 2009

Black History Month: Celebrating Black Authors

Black History Month is upon us and it is time to reflect, recognize, and revere the numerous contributions that black authors have made to our society. Therefore, it is our pleasure to highlight some influential black authors (whose works we have in the stacks at Florida State University Special Collections and Archives).

Maya Angelou

  • Occupation: poet, singer, activist
  • Born: April 4, 1928
  • Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Quote: “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
  • Famous Works: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969), “And Still I Rise” (1978), “Phenomenal Women: Four Poems Celebrating Women” (1995)
  • In Special Collections: “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” (1993) (Gontarski- PS3551.N464 L54 1993)

Source: Jack Delano

Langston Hughes

  • Occupation: poet, novelist, playwright, activist
  • Born: February 1, 1902
  • Hometown: Joplin, Missouri
  • Quote: “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.” 
  • Famous Works: “I, Too” (1926), “Montage of a Dream Deferred” (1951), “The Weary Blues”(1926), “Let America be America Again” (1936)
  • In Special Collections: “Shakespeare in Harlem” (1942) (Vault- PS3515.U274 S5), “Black Misery” (1969) (Gontarski- PS3515.U274 B5 1969), “The Dream Keeper and Other Poems” (1994) (Shaw- PS3515.U274 D74 1994), “One-Way Ticket” (1948) (Rare – PS3515.U274 O5), and more.

Source: Tullio Saba on Flickr

James Baldwin

  • Occupation: novelist, playwright, poet, activist
  • Born: August 2, 1924
  • Hometown: Harlem, New York, New York
  • Quote: “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
  • Famous Works: “The Fire Next Time” (1962), “If Beale Street Could Talk” (1974), “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953), “Notes of a Native Son” (1955)
  • In Special Collections: “Letter from a Region in my Mind” (1962) (Rare- E185.61.B196), “School Readings by Grades” (1897) (Shaw – PE1117 .B281-B286 1897)

Source: U.S. Coast Guard

Alex Haley

  • Occupation: writer
  • Born: August 11, 1921
  • Hometown: Ithaca, New York
  • Quote: “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
  • Famous Works: “Queen: The Story of an American Family” (1993), “Mama Flora’s Family” (1997)
  • In Special Collections: “Roots” (1976) (Rare- E185.97.H24 A33), “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965) (Grove- E185.97.L5 A3 1966b)

Source: United States Library of Congress

Zora Neale Hurston

  • Occupation: author, anthropologist, filmmaker
  • Born: January 7, 1891
  • Hometown: Notasulga, Alabama
  • Quote: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
  • Famous Works: “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” (1928), “Sweat” (1926), “Mules and Men” (1935)
  • In Special Collections: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937) (Florida- PS3515. U789 T5 1969), “Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography” (1942) (Florida- PS3515.U789 Z5 1971), “Tell My Horse”(1938) (Florida- F1886 .H87 1938), and more.

Source: Christopher Drexel on Flickr

Toni Morrison

  • Occupation: novelist, essayist, book editor, professor
  • Born: February 18, 1931
  • Hometown: Lorain, Ohio
  • Quote: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
  • Famous Works: “Beloved” (1987), “Song of Solomon”(1977), “Sula” (1973)
  • In Special Collections: “Five Poems” (2002) (Rare- oversize PS3563.O8749 A6 2002), “The Big Box” (1999) (Gontarski- PZ8.3.M836 Bi 1999), and more.

Pictured above are just a few of the pieces we have in Special Collections by these authors. (Slide 1: “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou, Slide 2-3: “Shakespeare in Harlem” by Langston Hughes and signed, Slide 4-6: “Letter from a Region in my Mind” by James Baldwin, Slides 7-9: “Five Poems” by Toni Morrison)

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the amazing black authors whose works we hold on our shelves. Here at SCA, we have a plethora of black literature including novels, poems, children’s books, and historical materials. Black History Month is the perfect time to delve into these works, so head to Special Collections in Strozier and let us know what you want to read. We look forward to seeing you here!

Beauing Around

Our Creative Fellow has been doing a deep research dive into a book that we all love: the Linguistic Atlas of New England, a multi-volume title documenting regional accents and dialects in New England circa 1931-1933. Researchers visited 213 communities and asked 416 people what words they used to describe common situations (for instance, “lightly raining”) and also how they pronounced common phrases. Pronunciation was documented via a modified version of IPA transcription and printed directly onto maps, with a sidebar listing respondents’ words and phrases.

In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, we thought we’d highlight some of the pages in the Linguistic Atlas documenting interpersonal relationships.

First, here is the record of how respondents asked, “May I escort you home?”

May I Escort You Home

Don’t miss the very sweet response next to 29: “That’s what you say if you want to shine up to a girl after [prayer meeting].”

Presumably after having a nice time escorting someone home, a couple may end up “courting” or “sparking.” (You can see the “delightful” Rhode Island accent in the IPA transcription of “sparking” below.)


I’m not sure how I feel about referring to a marriageable young woman as “good sparking wood,” but I guess no one asked my opinion.

There’s also the (possibly more serious?) “Keeping Company,” including the memorable “beauing her around.”

Keeping Company

If you’ve been keeping company with someone nice, you may find that you become quite fond of her.

Fond of her

Maybe you even want to make things official?!




Of course, SHE may not want to make things official. She might even… GIVE HIM THE MITTEN!

Gave Him the Mitten

 

 

 

 

Black Men of Amherst, 1877-1883

In the first edition of Black Men of Amherst, Harold Wade says this about the list of black graduates in Appendix I:

The list below is of those students attending Amherst who were clearly identifiable (from either yearbook photos or written references) as black Americans. The list is of course incomplete. Whenever in doubt, the author has chosen to eliminate names; those blacks, known in the black community as blacks but passing for white, have not been included. Students in the 19th century are identified from written reference only. Thus, only blacks of some accomplishment would be known. For example, there were blacks at Amherst in the 1870s, but their names are now unknown. Their existence, though, is certain.

As we prepare for the Amherst College Bicentennial celebrations in 2020-2021, the Archives is working closely with Digital Programs to make more college history material available online than ever before. You can read about the various projects under way on their blog: https://digitalcollections.wordpress.amherst.edu/ 

The Amherst College Class Album Collection is a previously untapped resource that is part of our digitization program for the Bicentennial. You can read more about class albums here, but the short version is that they were a way for classes to collect and share photographs of their professors and classmates before the age of modern yearbooks. Our goal is to digitize one album for each class year between 1853 and the end of the collection in 1909.

One result of working with the Class Albums is turning up evidence of those black men of Amherst that Wade knew existed. While the class albums are not yet available in Amherst College Digital Collections, here we offer a preview: five black men of Amherst whose names were not included in Harold Wade, Jr.’s book.

Class of 1877

Madison Smith x1877

Proceeding chronologically, the first black student of the 1870s appears to be Madison Smith, about whom we know very little. According to our alumni records, Smith was born in Scotland Neck, North Carolina on December 8, 1850. He prepped for Amherst at Phillips Academy Andover and attended Amherst College from 1873 until 1875. Our records indicate that he died on August 15, 1875; fortunately, The Amherst Student published a memorial to Smith in the October 9, 1875 issue:

Madison Smith in Amherst Student 1875

Less is known of his classmate, Charles Sumner Wilson:

Charles Sumner Wilson x1877

Wilson was born in Salem, Massachusetts on November 17, 1853; he prepped at Salem High School then attended Amherst College from 1873 until 1875. Our records say he then attended Tufts in Boston from 1876-1877. Apart from a note in the alumni directory that says “In law office, Salem 1877-(?). d. Danvers Jan 17 1904.” we know nothing of Wilson’s life after Amherst.

Class of 1878

The life of Charles Henry Moore is more thoroughly documented; he was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on June 6, 1855. He prepped at the Preparatory Department of Howard University and spent some time at Smith Academy in Hatfield, Massachusetts before spending four years at Amherst.

Charles Henry Moore 1878

Moore returned to the south after graduation and was instrumental in advancing the cause of black education in the region. This earlier blog post gives a much fuller description of his life and accomplishments.

Class of 1879

Similar to Moore, Wiley Lane also pursued a career in education after graduation from Amherst College in 1879.

Wiley Lane 1879

Lane was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in 1852 and, like Moore, prepped for Amherst at the Howard University Preparatory Department. He spent 1873-1877 at Howard and 1877-79 at Amherst where he became a scholar of classical literature and culture. Immediately after graduation he returned to Howard University where he served first as Assistant Principal, then Principal of the Normal Department (1880-1883) then Professor of Greek from 1883-1885. Lane’s death from pneumonia in February 1885 is reported in The Amherst Student for February 28, 1885:

Wiley Lane in Amherst Student 1885

Class of 1883

Wilbert Lew was born in Gardner, Massachusetts on May 6, 1881; he attended Gardner High School before coming to Amherst. He graduated with the class of 1883 and studied veterinary medicine at Battle Creek, Michigan. After a brief time with the J. N. Leonard silk factory in Florence, Massachusetts (1888-89), he established himself as a veterinary surgeon there from 1889. He died in Amherst in September 1923.

Wilbert Lew 1883

Lew provided a biographical sketch and an up-to-date portrait for the class of 1883’s 25th Reunion book:

Wilbert Lew 25th Reunion

There may be other nineteenth-century black students that we have yet to identify, but we are pleased to update Wade’s assertion: there definitely were black students at Amherst in the 1870s and (some of) their names are now known.

State of the Digital Library

In 2019, we added 11 new collections to the digital library. We also added 1,414 new books (over 71,000 pages). 6,759 images, 1,028 newspaper issues and 3,707 PDF files. All added up with all the other types of files we loaded, we added 13,760 new items in the digital library in 2019! Now, the more interesting question, what are people looking at in the digital library?

We can’t break these numbers down by year easily unfortunately so these are the top viewed items in the Digital Library as of early February 2020:

Dissertation of Paul A. M. Dirac for Ph.D. degree, Paul A.M. Dirac Collection: 20,517
Golden bells, or, Hymns for our children, multiple collections: 7,113
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey clown college, Harrison Sayre Collection Posters: 6,463
Child’s ABC of the war, multiple collections: 4,982
Il Secolo (Milan, Italy) (newspaper object only): 3,602
Stephen Graham’s notes from travels in the Jim Crow-era South, Stephen Graham Papers: 1,875
Joyfull newes out of the new found world, Cookbooks and Herbals: 1,738
Le Moniteur universel (newspaper object only): 1,654
All about cookery, Cookbooks and Herbals: 1,371
Tallahatchie Civil Rights Driving Tour, Davis Houck Papers: 1,331


Title page from Mrs. Beeton’s All About Cookery, 1890

I separated out the most views in the Heritage & University Archives (HUA) items as those are a different set of materials with a different audience than the rest of our digital collections. In news that will surprise few, FSU football items dominate the top viewed materials with the university archives. The top viewed items in the HUA collections as of early February 2020:

Florida Flambeau (newspaper object only): 5,616
2015-16 Florida State University Fact Book: 3,606
Tally-Ho 1952, FSU Yearbook: 1,306
Dorothy Price at FSCW, Florida State College for Women Photographs: 1,289
1980-81 Florida State University Bulletin General Information: 1,072
1993 Florida State Seminoles Football Media Guide: 1,000
Vernon Fox, Criminology, FSU Historic Photographs: 956
President Campbell with Werner Baum: 895
Florida State Football Team, 1962: 845
“A Cannibal Wife” in the Zo-Imba Production, Pat Arrants Collection 1955-1958: 835


“A Cannibal Wife” in the Zo-Imba Production (don’t you wonder what is happening here?!)

Explore all the items in the FSU digital library and see what you can find!

A New Path for Exploration: Record Group Explorer

NARA staff have been developing a new digital tool that you can use to explore our records. The tool draws from over 100 million digital copies in our Catalog. And we are adding more digital copies every day. This can be overwhelming, especially to new users of the Catalog. 

So we have been working to develop an interface for you to understand the scale (enormous) and organization of our holdings and to explore what we have available online (also huge, but relatively small in comparison to the total). Note that this is still under development, but we would like you to take a look at our Record Group Explorer. 

The home page is a visualization of our holdings organized by the traditional archival record group, which is a grouping of records from a major government agency, usually a bureau or independent agency.  

You can click on any of the blue boxes, and when you do, you are provided with an overview of the scans available online within that Record Group and links that encourage further discovery.  The smaller dark blue squares indicate how much of that record group has been digitized and is available online. The goal is to help you see at a glance that even though we have so many digital copies available online, they are just the beginning point for exploration of our records. 

To provide more specific information about textual records within a Record Group that have been scanned and are available online, each Record Group page includes a progress bar.  

We also provide paths into each Record Group by the general types of records that are available online. Each Record Group is unique, but most of them have textual records, maps and charts, photographs, others have electronic records, audio and video records.

We made sure to let you know that we have much more work to do to make all of our records available online.  And we offer a way for you to work with us to improve the findability of our records.

The Record Group Explorer continues to be a work in progress. Currently the tool is slow in bringing back records from the Catalog and we are working to improve performance. As we continue to collaborate, innovate and learn, your patience will be rewarded with the treasures of the National Archives.  So try it out and tell me, what do you think?

On the American Public’s Favorite Symphonies

From the October 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Henry W. Simon is the music critic of the newspaper PM. He is also a member of the faculty of Columbia University, a writer, and an authority.

I have a friend, an ex-music critic and symphony orchestra player. Businessmen who met him thought he was so bright and knew public tastes so well that they hired him away from music, and now he earns three times as much as any orchestral player or music critic. All he has to do is tell his bosses what the public really likes.

So when WQXR asked me to write a little piece on what the public really likes in symphonies, I could think of no single person better equipped to give me the answers.

“Easy,” he said. “They like best of all the Tchaikowsky Pathetique, then the Cesar Franck, and then the Schubert Unfinished.

And he didn’t charge me a nickel.

Only, he was wrong. He was wrong in everything excepting his order, as I found out when the next mail placed on my desk a survey conducted last winter by WQXR. His first choice rated fifth, his second sixth, and his third thirteenth.

So spectacular a failure from so knowledgeable a chap was worth discussing. So we discussed it and decided that there were two reasons.

The first was that my friend had had his musical ex­periences in a middle-western city. New York hears several times as much symphonic music in its concert halls as any other American city; and regular WQXR listeners, among whom the poll was taken, probably hear several times as much symphonic music as other New Yorkers (excepting, of course, professional reviewers). It is reasonable to suppose that those who are frequently exposed to the too-limited standard repertoire will have different tastes from those who hear symphonic music comparatively seldom.

A more significant reason for my friend’s failure lay, I think, in the fact that he left music almost five years ago. Since then music tastes have changed. Through the radio and the phonograph, our national taste has become more matured, more experienced. Of the three sym­phonies chosen by my friend, the Pathetique has earned a reputation (false, I think) of being too-too sentimental; and the Cesar Franck, itself rather too repetitious, stands up least well of all great symphonies under frequent repetition. I cannot satisfactorily explain the lowly thir­teenth place that the Unfinished holds in the WQXR list unless it gets there from the sick-making words song­writers fastened on to the exquisitely beautiful second theme of the first movement.

Readers of this essay will probably recall that the WQXR list was headed by the Beethoven Fifth. There’s an indestructible symphony. I heard it first twenty-nine years ago when my mother took me to watch Isadora Duncan dance to (or should I say “against”?) it. I have heard it several times a year ever since, and during one three-week period last winter, I heard it no fewer than fourteen times. I have heard it played in four-hand piano arrangements and by a brass band in Rome. I have com­mitted it myself in an arrangement for violin and piano. It’s a little late in the day to be writing encomiums on the indestructibility of the Fifth, but I look forward to the next fifty repetitions.

Not that indestructibility alone makes a “favorite.” Sometimes I think that one’s favorite symphony must be the last one heard in a first-rate performance. If that is so, it is surprising that the WQXR list is so limited chronologically. The first eighteenth-century work is the Mozart G minor way down on the list at number 17. There isn’t any Haydn at all. As for twentieth-century symphonies, there is only one, the Sibelius Second, and that is less modern harmonically and in spirit than a good deal of nineteenth-century music. In fact, it squeezes into the current century only on a technicality, having been composed in 1901.

I wish we’d get over the idea that symphonies written for fewer than sixty players aren’t so good as the ones written for more. I wish we’d learn to like music that isn’t in a completely familiar idiom. I wish our tastes were more catholic. Then there would be even more fun with the radio and phonograph, and our conductors, too, might become more venturesome.

As for my public-relations-counselor friend, he’d be more happily wrong than ever.

 

Accepting Responsibility, Working to Rebuild Your Trust

On Saturday, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issued a public apology for having displayed an altered photograph at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. The public apology reads in full:

We made a mistake. 

As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration.    

In an elevator lobby promotional display for our current exhibit on the 19th Amendment, we obscured some words on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women’s March. This photo is not an archival record held by the National Archives, but one we licensed to use as a promotional graphic. Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.

We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.

We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.

Yesterday, I sent an apology to NARA staff members as well. Their commitment to integrity, transparency, our mission, and the public good is well established. I am very sorry that these attributes have been called into question in any way. 

To be clear, this decision was made without any external direction whatsoever.  

In the elevator lobby outside our Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote exhibit, we had mounted a lenticular display using an archival photograph of the 1913 suffrage march on Washington with a commercially-licensed photograph of the 2017 Women’s March. Both photographs had been taken from the same location and angle, so as the viewer moved from one position to another the images blended and changed. NARA had blurred words in four of the protest signs in the 2017 march photograph, including President Trump’s name and female anatomical references. 

We wanted to use the 2017 Women’s March image to connect the suffrage exhibit with relevant issues today. We also wanted to avoid accusations of partisanship or complaints that we displayed inappropriate language in a family-friendly Federal museum. 

With those concerns in mind, and because the image was not our archival record, but was commercially-licensed and used as a graphic component outside of the gallery space, we felt this was an acceptable and prudent choice.

However, we wrongly missed the overall implications of the alteration. Our action made it appear as if we did not understand the importance of our unique charge: as an archives, we must present materials – whether they are ours or not – without alteration; as a museum proudly celebrating the accomplishments of women, we should accurately present not silence the voices of women; and as a Federal agency serving the American public, we must incorporate non-partisanship into everything we do. 

We are now working to correct our actions as quickly and visibly as possible. 

On Saturday afternoon, we removed the lenticular display and replaced it with our apology letter. On Sunday, we placed a photograph of the 1913 rally where the lenticular display had hung and placed the apology letter prominently next to the photo. Today we added the unaltered image of the 2017 march, placing it side-by-side with one from the 1913 rally. We are having the original lenticular display re-fabricated without the alterations, and we will install it in its original location as soon as it is available. I remain proud of the Rightfully Hers exhibit and the work of the National Archives staff to address issues related to the ongoing struggles of women’s rights in this centennial year of the 19th Amendment. 

Photograph installation in the elevator lobby outside the Rightfully Hers exhibit in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery. Photo by Susana Raab, January 22, 2020.

Our credibility, so important to our mission, understandably has been questioned. We have begun to examine internal exhibit policies and processes and we will incorporate external best practices to ensure something like this never happens again. In addition to our public apology and my letter to staff yesterday, we will be apologizing to our colleagues in the archives, museum, library, education, and other fields, as well. 

As the National Archives and Records Administration, we are first and foremost a government archives. Our mission is to preserve and provide public access to Federal Government records in our custody and control. Our records allow Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, to hold their government accountable, and to understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government. We serve millions of researchers a year at public research rooms located across the country, online, and in response to written correspondence, email, and telephone requests. Access to these records – and faith in the institution that provides them – is essential to our American democracy.  

I take full responsibility for this decision and the broader concerns it has raised. Together with NARA’s employees, I am committed to working to rebuild your trust in the National Archives and Records Administration. By continuing to serve our mission and customers with pride, integrity, and a commitment to impartiality, I pledge to restore public confidence in this great institution.

New in the public domain 2020

On January 1st, the copyright expired for
some of our holdings: they are now in the public domain in Canada. These materials
may now be legally reproduced and used for any purpose. Here’s a quick look at
some of the images, maps, and documentary art that have become easier to
re-use.

Mary Lewina Henley was born in 1901 and lived at 1933 Robson St., near Stanley Park, until 1926. A label on the back of the frame of this painting reads “Caretaker’s cottage, that used to be about where Lord Stanley’s monument is now, and was at the top of the hill after coming over to old Stanley Park causeway – in the foreground where large trees – painted by me in 1914 – usually a peacock sunned on the little lawn.”


Caretaker’s cottage, by Mary L. Henley. 1914. Reference code AM1562-: 74-453

This is a detail from one section of a 4-sheet sectional plan that shows areas that are prone to flooding. Elevation contours are included, as well as the street grid and other features.


Reference schedule AA – Floodplan map. Probably created between 1952 and 1969. Reference code AM1594-: MAP 720a

Here’s a postcard of the Princess of Vancouver diesel ship, part of the Canadian Pacific Railway coastal fleet.


Postcard image of Princess of Vancouver, about 1969. Reference code AM1052-: 2012-023.3

This image from the Pacific National Exhibition fonds effectively shows the force felt by riders of The Whip.


Girls on “The Whip” amusement ride in P.N.E. Gayway. Photographer: Ken Orr. Date: 1960s. Reference code AM281-S8-: CVA 180-3891

This is just a small selection of the items which have recently come into the public domain. Please note that some of these digitized images will only be available online  after our system upgrade in a few weeks.

Adventures in Listening

From the November 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Max Lincoln Schuster, of Simon & Schuster, would have been a musi­cian if the attractions of printer’s ink had not won out. As a result, music is one of his deep interests and in this article he writes about what music means to him. Also, Mr. Schuster has just given expression to, another oi his activities by compiling and editing “A Treasury of The World’s Great Letters”, now a huge best-seller.

This is my first chance to set down in print, some of the experiences and appreciations of a typical and un­ashamed amateur who was thrilled several years ago to be an early discoverer of WQXR and is now proud to be a high-fidelity crusader for that station.

I am not only a non-professional in the field of music; I play not, neither do I sing. I thirst not for a sponsor, nor do I yearn for an audition.

Ever since I put away my youthful violin almost thirty years ago — I started from scratch at the age of seven — I have rigorously confined my musical activities to the art of listening. For three decades I have devoted myself to that art with an overmastering persistence; I practice it passionately, and still feel that I am just beginning to learn.

I served my apprenticeship in a music-loving home as a child: I took my preparatory courses in listening at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Aeolian Hall, and some of the most famous auditoriums in America and Europe; I took, postgraduate work in London and the old Vienna, did record-breaking research with the Victor Talking Machine Company and the Columbia gramophone. Just now my true Alma Mater, my favorite conservatory best-loved academy, is Station WQXR.

I belong, then, to a goodly fellowship — the invisible legion of listeners to whom this station is more than a broadcasting company, more than, a miraculous never-ending source of the ‘world’s best music,’ but ah: literally a habit, a sanctuary, and a way of life. For I invariably plan precious symphonic hours and programs of Kleine Nachtmusik around certain high, anticipations that tune in on my innermost wavelength when I check them off at the first of each month on the new program bulletin of the station. It is the most exciting mail that I receive twelve times a year — that little schedule of symphonies and concerts still to be heard.

There must be countless thousands who feel the same way. Many of them are my friends. It seems that warmest and wisest friends I have — whether the: amateurs, professionals, neophytes, virtuosi, engineers,  or patrons in the world of music, or just miscellaneous men and women of goodwill — are almost without exception devoted and intensely loyal friends of WQXR

Each of them regards the station as a private and precious discovery of My own — a uniquely intimate attachment. It is a touchstone, a standard, a shared consecration.

One of the great teachers and true humanists of our time, Professor Irwin Edman, told me several years ago that WQXR was his secret vice. Now it is no longer a secret, for he has proclaimed it and apostrophized it elo­quently in Philosopher’s Holiday.

My heart leaps up when I behold on the WQXR pro­gram bulletin the announcement of the Seventh Sym­phony of Schubert, or his great quintet with the second ‘cello, or the Forellen, or the Death and the Maiden Quartet—and I check off another inviolable hour with WQXR.

When I see the Schubert Trio in B-flat major scheduled, I make a double star on the calendar for that day. When I find, any of the nine Beethoven symphonies on the list, or any of his great piano concertos — especially the Emperor or the Fourth — I know another uninterruptible and glori­ous WQXR evening is in store for me.

Almost anything by Bach, almost anything by Mozart, fills me with a princely expectation. Then I have certain special, deeply-cherished favorites which the station pours out for my enjoyment with recurrent profusion — the Italian Symphony of Mendelssohn, the Rachmaninoff –Plano Concerto No. 2, the Grieg Sonata for Piano and Violin, the Sibelius Second Symphony, the Paganini Violin Concerto, the Slavonic Dances and the Third Symphony of Brahms, to mention, just an infinitesimal but representative few.

I was initiated to the world of music in my childhood by four geniuses — John Philip Sousa, Johann Strauss, Irving Berlin, and Ludwig van Beethoven — each a supreme master in his own field. I was a slave of the mighty Fifth Symphony — the indestructible Fifth, as Henry Simon calls it — at the age of sixteen. But, with all my concert-going, with all my phonograph records, with all my musical friends, with a musical adulthood of deep intensity, I never heard the Seventh Symphony of Schubert — the heaven-shattering C major — until I was thirty-five years old: I never heard the Second Symphony of Beethoven — now one of my ever-haunting favorites — until I was twenty-eight; the Fourth, of Beethoven, the Second of Beethoven, and countless works of Bach and Handel and Purcell and Vivaldi — now part of my most sacred musical treasures — came even later; many of them I heard first over WQXR, and all of them I hear over and over again through, that station. I missed those glorious experiences through the years of my youth and early manhood, because WQXR was not then in existence. Fifty years is little room to hear the Seventh, of Beethoven or the Seventh, of Schubert; thanks to WQXR, I can now make up for lost time at a geometric rate. For me the Gates of Paradise are wired for sound — and attuned to 1550 kilocycles.

 

New (Old) Tattoo Books

We’ve recently acquired a couple of fantastic books featuring photographs of early 20th century tattoos–one French, and one German.

The first book is a 1934 volume of Dr. J. Lacassagne’s Albums du Crocodile, improbably written for an audience of medical school alumni from the Hospices Civils de Lyon and focusing on tattoos in the French criminal underworld.

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Title page of “Albums du Crocodile” showcasing a delightfully gothic French prisoner’s tattoo

Author Jean Lacassagne was the head of the prison medical service at Lyon, son of the founder of the Lyonnais School of Criminology.

The book’s photographs* feature mostly-anonymous, heavily-tattooed prisoners, both male and female, in various states of undress (and many completely nude). (*We want to acknowledge that it’s not clear whether the subjects of these photographs consented to the photography or whether they, more likely, were compelled to display their bodies and tattoos for the doctor’s camera.)

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A jaunty French sailor in, ahem, scant clothing, with copious chest and arm tattoos.

Female prisoners are present only in a section about prostitutes, and the author considers their “low-quality” tattoos an early sign of impending ruin.

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An example of a “vaccin d’amour” tattoo.

The only prisoner who is identified by name in this volume is Louis-Marius Rambert, referred to as “L’assassin d’Ecully.” (He and an accomplice murdered two people with a hammer, a crime for which he was sentenced to death.)

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Rambert’s chest stars a “magnifique tatouage polychrome,” a pink, green, and blue image of an eagle fighting a dragon from a Shanghai tattoo artist.

As described in the caption above, Rambert willed his skin to author Lacassagne before his death by tuberculosis in 1934, as a sign of gratitude for the doctor’s services. Lacassagne carefully preserved the prisoner’s skin, and this colorful tattoo was later used in the binding of Rambert’s own manuscript memoirs. (!!!!!!) (We’d like to thank bookseller Brian Cassidy for drawing our attention to this gruesome story.)

The second book from this fascinating acquisition is the 1926 Bildnerei der Gefangenen, a book of prisoners’ art.

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Title page of Bildnerei der Gefangenen, with a stunning reproduction of a watercolor.

Author Hans Prinzhorn was a psychiatrist who documented outsider art from mentally ill and incarcerated artists. This book includes sections on illustrations, clay sculptures, and playing cards, as well as thieves’ symbols and prisoners’ carvings.


A section at the end of the book features photos from the Hamburg police department of heavily tattooed men and women who were taken into police custody.


We noticed, upon close examination, that two of the men in the photos (below) have very similar tattoos, one reading “Only For Lady” and one reading “Nur für Damen”– we can only assume that these are instances of artistically inked homophobia, but are sincerely curious if any of our readers are tattoo anthropologists and can tell us more about these. Was this a widespread practice in the 1920s?


If you’re interested in viewing these books, or any other materials related to the history of tattoos, get in touch to make a research appointment!

Music Speaks for Itself

From the December 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Mr. Sanger is Executive Vice-President ol WQXR. This article is condensed from a talk he gave recently over New York’s muni­cipal station, WNYC.

We at WQXR make no systematic effort to educate our listeners to love good music. If we have succeeded in making people like it and want more of if, it is because we have not made them conscious of the fact that listen­ing to good music is necessarily educational.

Our policy at WQXR has been to avoid what has often been a stigma on radio programs: the “educational” label. We have found that, just as “good wine needs no bush,” so good music needs no label. The plan of WQXR has been to broadcast all kinds of good music…reproduced as faithfully as modern radio science makes possible, and without too much comment.

Our experience has been that, if you expose people to good music, they either like it or they don’t. Telling them it is wonderful music and is good for them is of little value in creating real music lovers. Beethoven speaks for himself in his music far better and with far more appeal than anything which might be said about him.

Children, young people, and adults who have had no previous musical experience go through an evolutionary development in their musical appreciation. In the realm of classical music they begin first to appreciate Tchaikow­sky and from there they roam quite naturally into the earlier symphonies of Beethoven, which in turn seem to condition them for Brahms and Bach.

Music is the easiest and most effective thing to present educationally on the air. And if our experience at WQXR means anything, it points to the fact that good music does an educational job in itself. Everybody cannot be made to enjoy and appreciate good music, but there is a very large part of the radio audience which can. The best way to educate those people musically is to let them listen to music. They will enjoy it and be mentally stim­ulated by it. As for the others, there is very little one can do, because they will not like music just because they are told it is good for them.

On November 1st WQXR put on the air its new 5,000-watt transmitter, which increases its power five-fold and practically doubles the area which it serves. We shall soon know whether our programs have as much appeal in more sparsely settled territory as they have in the metropolitan area. As we reach out into less cosmopolitan districts, we shall find out whether that ground is as fertile for the growth of a love of music as is New York.

It has been said that the American public is not so receptive to classical music as the European public. I doubt it. I believe the good taste of the American public is very much underestimated. The broadcasting of such fine musical programs as the opera, the Philharmonic, and the Toscanini concerts have done much to increase love of great music throughout the country. People who used to shudder at the very thought of listening to a Brahms symphony know now that Toscanini, in his great concerts, gives them something which they cannot get from the usual run of radio programs. That does not apply to all people. But I believe that a surprisingly large part of the American public, because it has been increasingly exposed to good music, is becoming more appreciative of the masters.

Great music differs from inferior music in that it wears well. Once you like it, you cannot listen to it too often. I don’t believe anyone ever complained about hearing the Beethoven Eroica Symphony too many times. The great educational value in broadcasting the best in music is that each time a person hears a composition he gets a different impression from it, hears new things in it, and goes through a spontaneous musical education. If listening to great music impels him to look into the stories behind the music and the composers, so much the better. Some people will react in that way; others will be content with the music alone.

In other words, music is, in itself, the end to be achieved. I believe that one cannot place too much emphasis upon the importance of music in our lives. The works of the masters can well become an increas­ingly strong bond among all the elements in American life. Good music is so universal in its appeal that a love for it binds together many divergent elements in our population. If there is anything in our culture which is international, and which can break down nationalistic barriers, it is surely great music. When people listen to a masterpiece, they do not consider whether the composer is English, French, German, Russian or Scandinavian.

There is no question that radio has done much to pro­mote American culture and to emphasize the American way of life. Particularly in the realm of music, the radio has performed and will continue to perform increasingly greater service in emphasizing the best in our cultural heritage.

The Vitality of Great Music

From the August 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Wallace Brockway and Herbert Weinstock are the authors of the best-selling book of critical biographies, “Men of Music”. They are at work on a history of the opera, to be published in 1941.

The music of lesser composers is starred with happy inspirations. Grieg and MacDowell, for instance, are sometimes so fertile in those points of departure which seem made to order for starting a masterpiece on its way, getting it over a difficult moment, or bringing it happily home, that we are momentarily seduced into believing that what we are hearing is a masterpiece. Young listen­ers of whatever age hear only these strokes of genius, and forget, or are deaf to, the acres of marking time between. An astute music merchant like Saint-Saens bunches his effects because he has to, and because he knows his own poverty. They are very impressive effects — while they last. Paging through the yellowing scores of George Philipp Telemann, Weber, Meyerbeer, and H. T. Parker — a hundred other names would serve as well — we come across a lush melody, a haunting har­monic progression, a canny rhythmic effect. Our first impulse is to disinter these giants and animate their life­less limbs — an expensive job, whether at the Philhar­monic or the Met. And we have our little triumphs: there are our effects, sure enough, but buried, sometimes lost, in a skeleton that will not take on flesh. Or, if it does for a time seem to live, it is only to collapse, fearfully and without warning, like Poe’s M. Vladimir. Not even the interpretive skill of a Toscanini or a Gieseking can avert this nauseous catastrophe and give to the disinterred second-rate the vitality of great music. Romantics would have us believe that this vitality is merely the translation into musical sounds of noble thoughts and powerful emo­tions.

This would be an eloquent argument if it could be shown that the great masters had a corner on the noble thoughts and powerful emotions of their times. Actually, some extraordinarily feeble talents wallowed in the most virtuous thinking and indulged emotions that bordered on hysteria. Contrarily, a veritable first-rank genius like Handel seems to have had no personal emotion other than generous anger, while Chopin suffered from a posi­tive dearth of noble thoughts. There really is not, and never was, a rule about such matters as these. And, in­deed, if music were a faithful translation of a composer’s personality, emotionally and mentally, listening to Haydn would be very dull and listening to Wagner an unendur­able torture. Fortunately, the small portion of the per­sonality that manages to pass through the filter of the creative imagination acts as nothing more than a coloring matter on the final product.

No. It is no less true of music than of any other art that what gives vitality is the artist’s ability to think in terms of his art and his compulsion to work unceasingly, earnestly, with the tools of his craft. He must understand the larger architecture of his forms (whether as restricted as a Schubert song or as expanded as a Beethoven sym­phony), and he must understand not only the multifarious grammar of detail, but also the function of detail in cre­ating pattern. That certain spiritual qualities Eire called into service by these processes, it would be idle to deny. But let us not try to make rules about them any more than about the ratio of noble thoughts and powerful emotions to musical vitality: they vary from composer to com­poser. Granted the original “inspiration” (which a Grieg or a Massenet, or a Moszkowski is as likely to get as a Beethoven), vitality then depends on what is done with it. Its exact character and potentialities must be understood above all, at this point, its innate vitality must not be overestimated.

It must be used in the right milieu, given to the right instruments, placed in the right keys, varied or mated with its legitimate complements. In his judicious handling of these various elements of musical creation, Beethoven is the mighty exemplar that leaps at once to mind. To follow one of those frequently rather common­place germs of musical thought from its birthplace in his notebooks to its final series of grand progressions in a symphony, concerto, quartet, or sonata, is to spy upon the central secret of artistic creation itself, and to under­stand, in a measure, why some music is vital and other music is not.

The Companionship of Music

From the July 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Dr. Irwin Edman is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia Uni­versity and is known throughout the country as the author of many important books, the most recent being “Philosopher’s Holiday” and “Candie in the Dark”.

There is an unformed and invisible society that would, if it were organized, consist of the Friends of WQXR. They do not all know each other, but they have a com­mon passion, music. They respect WQXR because it has nourished their understanding of that art through making possible their daily experience of it. In those ages where the arts have flourished, they have been part of the actual lives of men and women, not the playthings of dilettantes or snobs. A Greek vase we now look at in a museum was once used by living people in their daily pleasures and their daily tasks. Men built cathedrals to pray in, painted pictures to decorate and ennoble the houses in which men and women lived. In simple societies people cele­brated their feelings toward life and toward each other in poetry and told each other stories, or made and lis­tened to songs.

The great virtue of a radio station like WQXR — and there are very few stations like it — is that once more it has brought music into the daily lives of its listeners, of men and women who are not professional musicians.

It is something, it is a very great deal, to be able to tune in at breakfast time to Mozart, to listen to Beethoven after dinner, to retrace the movements of a beloved con­certo before bedtime, to familiarize one’s self with mod­em music on a Sunday evening, or with an opera rarely heard, on Sunday afternoon. It is a great deal to know that unfailingly, when the mood calls or the leisure per­mits, music is there to be listened to. But why is it that music does so much and something so distinctive for the layman?

One of the boons that music provides to the listener is a negative one. It is an escape from words. We use and hear so many words that say so little, and often with our very best efforts to speak precisely and contagiously, what we succeed in saying is only vague and dead. We turn from the contemporary horror and brutality and chaos of the world, about which men have said every­thing (and have said, really, nothing) to that fusion of overheard vitality and order which is music.

But music is more than an escape from words and from life. It is an escape into life, into the life of music. People who are just beginning to listen to music often think of it as a kind of soothing vagueness, “just music.” As one learns to listen, it comes to sound more precise and more intense than anything words can say, more ordered than anything we meet in the disorders of the present time, or of any time. In a world where everything seems to come out desperately wrong, good music comes out exquisitely right. It is the logic of sound. But the logic is not that of a textbook or an argument. It is an order of vitality, a rich dream of sound become organized and crystallized.

In listening to music, for the time of the listening, our own life becomes identified with the flowing life of the composition itself. We seem not only to be listening, but, with the tenderness of strings or the decisiveness of brass, ourselves to be speaking. It is as if space and things had become momentarily abolished, and the world had become a living meditation in pure tone, and the meditation our own. We hear thought in sound, where the only conflicts are those posed and revolved by the composer, through whose genius we ourselves seem to be at peace. Music thereby provides us an escape from the worrisome, the trivial, the brutal, and the urgent.

But it is also an education in an order, pure and clear, which comes to be a standard of what life itself might be. But music is not a soliloquy. It is an intense and uni­versal experience, and one deeply shared. One feels, even listening alone, that one is sharing depths of feel­ing and insight with all those others who are listening too. The Friends of WQXR are part of a great society, for they are sharing, unknown to each other, the com­panionship of the heroic poets of sound. We turn a dial to participate in the same divinities.

Confessions

From the September 1940 WQXR Program Guide:

Dr. Durant, known to all as the author of “The Story of Phi­losophy,” and the recent best-seller, “The Life of Greece,” gives his reactions to music in the following brief “confessions.”

I am grateful to WQXR because it enables me to enjoy my reactionary taste in music. Occasionally it turns on, out of courtesy to my children, some modernistic explosion, but then I pay no attention to it. It is like a magnificent concert from which one may escape, and to which one may return, as the program proceeds, without occasioning any social disturbance, or betraying one’s age.

I feel my age more in music than in anything else except my joints. I have long since ceased to tune in on any station but WQXR, for even the Philharmonic broadcasts may go modern on me at any moment.

My children assure me that this allergy to con­temporary compositions has characterized old fogies in every generation; and I know just enough history to acknowledge that they are right. Bach was in disfavor for the unheard-of complexity of his masses and chorales; Beethoven was de­nounced as a revolutionist in music; only a deaf man, some critics felt, could tolerate the Ninth Symphony, or the later quartets. To make matters worse, I agree with those critics; even in 1820 I would have been behind the times. Worst of all, I like some of Stokowski’s orchestrations of Bach more than I like the original compositions. I am the last man in America who should be asked to write anything about music.

In my calmer moments I realize that any living art must make experiments. It cannot forever be putting new wine into old bottles, new themes into old sonata forms; painters can’t go on endlessly painting like Raphael, or even like Cezanne, and composers must get beyond B in their doxology. So I like the work of Vaughan Williams, and some­thing of Stravinsky and Shostakovich. But I check off for especial attention, on my WQXR programs, every bit of Handel, Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart that I can find. I know that their music will be healthy, that it won’t disturb my scholastic peace with revolutionary etudes, that it will be pure music, not sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, but happy in the joy of flowing, leaping, sound. I should have been buried long ago.

So I honor WQXR. It does not give in to my prejudices, but it provides me with such a feast of the music I like that I have always asked myself, How can I express my appreciation? It is incred­ible that by the turn of my finger I can draw out of the wall, through this station’s benevolence, such music as makes me wonder how Pythagoras could have been guilty of so inverted a statement as that “Philosophy is the highest music.” Where philoso­phy and poetry end, music begins.

If He Walked Into My Life

The number of tributes to Jerry Herman, who died last week at the age of 88, is already sizable and continues to grow. And understandably so: the late composer-lyricist created more than a dozen memorable Broadway and film scores, including the enduring favorites Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles. Herman had also been the recipient of some of the performing arts world’s most sought-after prizes, including multiple Tony Awards, Grammy Awards and, in 2010, a Kennedy Center Honor.

While the homages to Herman’s life and artistic contributions are certainly in order, none are a substitute for the kind of appreciation which one derives from experiencing his work directly. With that in mind, the New York Public Radio Archive has the privilege of providing an opportunity for just such an experience with a recording from its collection.

On October 12, 1989, Jerry Herman was a guest on WQXR’s The Listening Room with Robert Sherman.  Broadcast live before a studio audience, host Robert Sherman welcomed Mr. Herman, along with the singers Lee Roy Reams and Florence Lacey, for an hour of performances, interviews, and reminiscences of his career.  

One of the highlights of this archival recording is Lacey’s affecting rendition of If He Walked Into My Life, accompanied by Herman himself at the piano; that performance is available in the media player at the top of this pageTaken from Act II of Herman’s hit score Mame, the song is a portrait of the play’s protagonist, caught in the grip of profound doubt and the haunting realization that she has failed as the guardian of her deceased brother’s son. 

Did he need a stronger hand? Did he need a lighter touch? Was I soft or was I tough? Did I give enough? Did I give too much? At the moment that he needed me, did I ever turn away? Would I be there when he called, if he walked into my life today?

The complete October 12, 1989 episode of The Listening Room with Robert Sherman, which is part of the permanent collection of the New York Public Radio Archive, is available here.  Jerry Herman appears in the second half of the program, at approximately 56:00.