Helen MacInnes

 “An adult Ian Fleming,” is how Helen MacInnes, acclaimed author of international spy thrillers, is introduced to the audience at this 1964 Book and Author Luncheon. She is here to promote her recently published novel The Venetian Affair, but first considers the objection that she has not, in fact, been a Resistance fighter during World War II or engaged in counter-espionage against the Soviet Union, both subjects she has treated in her fiction. “Does a novelist have to commit a murder before he can portray a murderer?” she asks. She relies on instinct, “fully alive and responsive,” and creative imagination to supply what experience cannot. This she combines, however, with rigorous research. “There is no room for imagination in composing a factual background.” She then plunges into the real-life inspiration for The Venetian Affair, detailing Soviet and East German agents’ methodical forgeries of supposed US State Department documents as part of a master plan to discredit our reputation abroad. The talk quickly becomes a dire warning about the evils of communism, which MacInnes equates with the rise of Nazism, a phenomenon she witnessed first-hand with her husband, classics scholar and MI6 spy Gilbert Highet, in pre-War Europe. By the end of the talk the book is forgotten as she counsels against any form of humanitarian aid to the USSR which must first wake from the delusions of its “political religion.”  

Helen MacInnes (1907-1985) turned out bestselling novels of international intrigue with an almost clockwork regularity (one every two years) many of which were then made into movies. Her early work dealt with the fight against Fascism. As the New York Times reported in its obituary: 

On their honeymoon in Bavaria, the Highets were disturbed by the activities of the Nazis, and Miss MacInnes kept a diary filled with examples of Nazi violence and the Hitler menace. A few years later she fashioned her notes into the novel ”Above Suspicion,” the story of a young British couple who sought a British anti-Nazi agent in Germany in the summer of 1939 while seemingly on a vacation. An immediate best seller, the book was made into a 1943 motion picture starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray. 

Another novel in the same vein, Assignment Brittany (1942), was reported to be required reading for agents being sent into France to work with French Resistance fighters.  

After World War II, MacInnes (who along with her husband had moved to the United States) turned her attention to the Cold War. As can be heard in this presentation, these are hardly escapist works, rather a blatantly political call to arms very much capturing the spirit of the times. Looking over MacInnes’ career, crime and espionage writer Ken Salikoff, writing for the website Jungle Red Writers, judges: 

The sweet spot for Helen MacInnes’ writing career was the 1960s — the height of the Cold War —during which she produced what is arguably her best work.  The Venetian Affair (1963), The Double Image (1966) and The Salzburg Connection (1968) are all about the legacy of World War II and the lingering fallout from the Nazis’ failed attempt to conquer the world.  In these novels, World War II still casts a giant noirish shadow over the decades following the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945.  The first two novels take place in sunny locations—Venice, Paris and Mykonos—but there is a pervasive chill that blows through these stories, like the one that runs through the obviously more coldly climacteric Alpine setting of the third novel. 

As noted in the introduction, MacInnes is more in the black-and-white tradition of Ian Fleming rather than the later more ambiguous and nuanced world-view of John Le Carré. This increasingly “retro” stance gained her both admirers and detractors. As a 1974 profile in People Magazine noted: 

…she hotly defends her political moralizing: “With Snare [of the Hunter] some critics said, ‘There goes old Helen MacInnes, beating the same dead horse again.’ But I hear a great silence from those same people when poor Willy Brandt has to resign because a supposedly bona fide East German refugee turns out to be a spy. …” While her good-versus-evil themes have put off some critics, they have also won MacInnes her share of professional admirers. Says one former counterintelligence officer, “She’s very perceptive about us types. She has a gift for understanding that we’re not just machines. Prick us and we bleed like hell.” 

With this formula, MacInnes retained her audience to the very end. The week she died, her most recent novel, Ride a Pale Horse, made its first appearance on the New York Times Bestseller List.

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150523Municipal archives id: RT159

Hugh Pickett Gala

The Friends of the Vancouver City Archives with the support of Famous Artists, is hosting the Hugh Pickett Gala, Monday, October 16, 2017, at the Sylvia Hotel. It will be an evening filled with live music, bubbly and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and illustrated presentations. Funds raised at this event will go towards the processing and digitization of  long-time Vancouver impresario Hugh Pickett’s records. The records were recently donated to the City of Vancouver Archives by Gordon Boyd, Hugh’s life partner.

Hugh Pickett at home. Reference code pending

The Hugh Pickett fonds is vast and colourful, filled with theatre programmes, scrapbooks, event files and photographs emanating from Hugh’s long and rich career in the entertainment industry. The event files include documentation from an array of touring artists and entertainers ranging from pop singers to comedians, circuses to dance companies, classical and opera performers to country artists. Many of the photographs are of early Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) productions, as Hugh was one of the creators of TUTS. Although not directly related to Hugh’s career, there are rare Spitfire Fund scrapbooks included in the fonds from when his mother was involved with the fund in Vancouver.

Some of the Theatre Under the Stars programs. Photo by Heather Gordon

With a successful fundraising effort, we anticipate being able to make the records available to the public in mid to late 2018 and to have a portion of the photographic materials digitized and available online (as rights permit).

A small portion of the 1000+ photos in the fonds. Photo by Heather Gordon

Tickets are $50 per person, purchased via Eventbrite. The gala runs from 7:00 – 9:00 PM, on Monday, October 16 at the Sylvia Hotel (1154 Gilford Street).

Dress code – dress cool, for as Hugh would say, “Tuxedos are for waiters.”

Hugh with material promoting some of his shows. Reference code pending

Time for #AskAnArchivist Day!


Image credit: NARA Annotations blog

FSU Special Collections & Archives will be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day again this year! We’ll be taking over the FSU Libraries Twitter account (@FSULibrary) from 10am to 2pm on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, to answer all your questions about our materials, what we do and why we do it.

Not sure what #AskAnArchivist day is? —On October 4, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to
connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity. You can take a look at how FSU participated for last year’s event on Storify.

So, if you have a question for us, tweet at the @FSULIbrary handle and make sure to use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist with your question. Or, if you have more general questions about archives around the country, ask your question with that hashtag and you’ll get answers from lots of archives and museums that will be participating around the country.

We look forward to hearing your questions!

1990s Throwback

This week we’re taking a quick visual trip back to Amherst in the 1990s:

Click to view slideshow.

In our ongoing work to preserve the photographic materials in our collection, we’re preparing many of our slide collections for frozen storage. Freezing color slides both slows the fading of the dyes and stabilizes the underlying acetate film. The original slides will still be accessible to researchers with a few days of advanced notice, but we’re making basic scans of all of the sheets of slides to make it easier for researchers to find images without needing to remove any materials from the freezer. All of the images above come from slides of campus scenes taken by Amherst’s Office of Public Affairs in the 1990s.

Enjoy this little trip back in time and rest assured that these images will last long into the future!

Nikita Khrushchev Bids New York Farewell

Nikita Khrushchev bids New York farewell. In this 1959 recording of a brief airport ceremony, the Soviet Premier is addressed by Mayor Wagner’s representative, Russell W. Patterson, who gives him a book about the city to peruse while he flies to the West Coast, as well as flowers for Mrs. Khrushchev. Khrushchev, in his remarks, is polite but noticeably more blunt, pronouncing that “The conviction we found was the leaders of this city and especially its people do not want war.” He regrets he was not permitted to meet ordinary citizens. Being an old miner, he finds it “pleasing to be surrounded by working men.” But he was told that such a meeting could be used for “provocation.” He points out that working people provide “the core of the city, creating its wealth.” He justifies his meeting with business leaders by pointing out that in a socialist state the Premier represents the “business world” of his country. Robert W. Dowling then thanks Khrushchev for permitting the many recent cultural exchanges including a visit by the Bolshoi Ballet. Khrushchev ignores him, returning to the subject of world tension, insisting that his proposals made to the UN General Assembly mark a real effort on the part of the Soviet Union towards “disarmament and peace.” Finally, Henry Cabot Lodge, who will accompany Khrushchev on his trip, thanks the police for their efforts to maintain security.

Khrushchev’s visit to the United States was not seen as a success for either side. Each party regarded the other with suspicion. No major initiatives resulted from his two days of talks with Eisenhower. His visit to New York was rushed, its major event being the address to the General Assembly, of which PBS.org reports:

…He ends his speech with a plea for universal disarmament: “Let us compete in who builds more homes, schools and hospitals for the people; produces more grain, milk, meat, clothing and other consumer goods; and not in who has more hydrogen bombs and rockets. This will be welcomed by all the peoples of the world.” After Khrushchev’s UN speech, Governor Nelson Rockefeller visits the Soviet premier at the Waldorf-Astoria to welcome him to New York. [In] early evening Khrushchev tours Manhattan with Lodge by car. He would later reflect on his unenthusiastic impressions of the Empire State Building: “If you’ve seen one skyscraper, you’ve seen them all.”

The trip is probably most remembered for the unlikely diplomatic incident over a proposed visit to Disneyland. It was argued that securing the site in advance would be too difficult. The Soviets were aware of this but, as Foreign Service officer Richard Townsend Davies remembers on The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training website:

…Khrushchev made great publicity about this, and he was attempting, in what I regard as typical Soviet fashion, to put the Americans on the defensive, and Henry Cabot Lodge – whom I had met and gotten to know a little bit during the few days when he visited Afghanistan and was a very nice man — in this kind of head-to-head confrontation with this very shrewd peasant, this very rough infighter, it took [Lodge] a while to figure out that he was being attacked, but he was, you know. Initially, he thought, well, he really wants to go to Disneyland. And maybe for all I know he did. However, my perception of it was that this had been worked out rather carefully, and it was a ploy. “Let’s say that you want to go to Disneyland. They of course will say, “No, it’s impossible,” and then you have already established your position as a demandeur, whose reasonable request, so far as the American people — the American people will say, why sure, of course, everybody wants to go to Disneyland…It’s a free country.”

However, his much-publicized travels to some extent demystified the Soviet Union’s leader who, in contrast to the more sinister Stalin, appeared accessible and down-to-earth. He ate a hot dog, met movie stars, and stayed with an Iowa farmer. Unfortunately, this thaw in the Cold War proved to be temporary. As politico.com recalls:

On returning to Moscow, Khrushchev insisted to his skeptical colleagues in the Politburo that Eisenhower was a reasonable man and that he could continue to deal with him through personal diplomacy. Another summit was set for the near future. Eisenhower also announced he would visit the Soviet Union in 1960. But it was not to be. On May 1, 1960, a Soviet surface-to-air missile shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Sverdlovsk, deep in Soviet territory, and the Soviets captured the pilot, Gary Powers.

Eisenhower initially denied knowledge of espionage flight, thus compounding the problem. The scheduled summit meeting in Paris was scrapped, as was Eisenhower’s planned visit to Moscow.

The following year saw Khrushchev’s famous shoe-banging performance at the United Nations, which for most Americans supplanted the more positive images of this visit. 

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150249Municipal archives id: LT8643

Help Advance Open Government

The purpose of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan is to advance transparency, accountability, citizen participation, and technological innovation across government. Now, thanks to an effort supported by the General Services Administration, you have until October 2, 2017 – just a few more days – to share your ideas to advance open government and provide feedback on others’ suggestions using GitHub.

Github is a social coding platform that the federal government has adopted to gather public feedback on policies like the federal source code policy. The National Archives is using the site to allow the public to contribute to our current Agency Open Government Plan, and to foster discussion about our new Strategic Plan.

As the Archivist of the United States, one of my priorities has been to show how a small agency like the National Archives can not only contribute, but lead in fulfilling the vision of open government’s three principles: transparency, participation, and collaboration. Since 2010, the National Archives has made and delivered on close to two hundred specific commitments in our agency open government plans, and the National Archives has had responsibility for critical components of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plans, including leading work to modernize recordkeeping across the federal government and help agencies transition to a modern, electronic world.

There is always more to do, though. One of the commitments proposed by the National Archives for the Fourth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan is tightly aligned with the vision laid out in our new Strategic Plan to streamline digital access to our nation’s records and accelerate the adoption of electronic record-keeping practices by federal agencies. This proposed commitment requires NARA to no longer accept transfers of records to the National Archives in a non-digital format after December 31, 2022. In response to feedback the National Archives received on our Strategic Plan from staff and external commenters, we have updated the Plan to modified the language of this objective to recognize that NARA may need to accept a limited number of analog records after the deadline.

We are eager to hear from you! I hope you will take the opportunity to browse the ideas that have already been submitted and share your reactions. In addition to the commitment to streamline access to digital records, the National Archives has submitted several potential commitments involving the work of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Ombudsman housed within the National Archives, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS); these commitments include efforts to improve the efficiency of the FOIA process through the use of advisory opinions and to increase coordination between agency records management and FOIA offices.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and feedback, and to working with you to continue to drive forward open government.

Habitat Forum photographs now online

Thanks to funding from the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives and the generous support of a private donor we are pleased to announce that over 6,800 photographs showing the 1976 Habitat Forum are now available online.

Habitat Forum compass rose painted on the Jericho Wharf by Lenore Barron and Frank York. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-05267

Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th to June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition that happened in conjunction with the “official” U.N. Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the Archives’ United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds, “Habitat  Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.” Entry to the “official” UN Habitat conference was limited to government delegates, selected NGO officials and press. The Habitat Forum provided a space for members of the public to engage with the conference and monitor the U.N. sessions via closed circuit television remotely from the Forum site.

Habitat forum crowds in front of Hangar 3 with Bill Reid mural. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0208

The Habitat Forum program lists four main objectives for the conference:

  • To increase public awareness around problems related to human settlements and the solutions required
  • To build support and understanding around decisions and actions needed to manage these problems
  • To co-ordinate the stance of NGO’s and public for presentation to official U.N. Habitat conference
  • To encourage the U.N. to look to NGO’s and other organizations for expertise and input

In order to address these objectives, the staff and volunteers at Habitat Forum invited speakers, panelists, dance groups, performers and workshop leaders including: Mother Theresa, Buckminster Fuller, Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau.

Lead organizer Al Clapp with Margaret Trudeau at the Habitat Forum site. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0351

To better support the activities, participation and spirit of Habitat Forum the staff and volunteers, led by Al Clapp (pictured above), renovated and built an impressive site. A majority of the photographs show the construction, innovation, people and materials involved in this process. Most of the photographs were taken by Erol H. Baykal, crew member and Habitat Forum site photographer.

Habitat ID photo for Erol Baykal. Crew member ID photos were very useful for identifying individuals in the Habitat Forum photographs. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-01087

Hangars and Habitat Forum site before construction. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0454

Habitat Forum general site plan. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-05970

Habitat Forum staff and volunteers converted the five airplane hangars at Jericho Beach Park (former air force base) to an exhibition site for the Habitat Forum. They worked at the site from October 1975 until May of 1976 to prepare. Features of the purpose built site included: meeting rooms, theatres with custom bench seating, a stable, outdoor exhibitions, areas for food vendors including restaurants and snack bars, indoor exhibitions spaces, a bar, lounges, workshop space, wharf, stage and performance area, and more.

Here is a selection of photographs highlighting some of these features:

Custom built seating inside Hangar 5, the Plenary Hall. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0520

Blue dome, Habitat Forum outdoor exhibition. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-07009

Maiden Japan, Japanese Food vendor. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.1092

Habitat Forum bar in Hangar 7. Reference code: AM1671-: 2011-130.0656

Habitat Forum display about radioactivity, with human hair. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-08351

Hannelore Evans, Habitat Forum banner designer and batik artist, in the banner studio with textiles. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-06657

Habitat Forum drew big international crowds and was a chance to highlight the political and activist landscape of Vancouver and British Columbia. Various exhibitors, including vendors and local, national, and international organizations set up tables and engaged with visitors.

National Association of Friendship Centres and Indian Friendship Centre Association of B.C. table inside one of the Hangars at Habitat Forum. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-07991

The Habitat Forum photographs are not only a rich resource for learning about the Habitat Forum, but they provide insight into the culture, style and political landscape of the 1970s. They also highlight local, national, and international personalities and depict unique views of Vancouver’s cityscape and Jericho Beach that have vastly changed since 1976. We hope you will enjoy looking through the images online. If you are interested to know more about the Habitat Forum and enjoyed these images, look for some of them to appear in Lindsay Brown’s new book Habitat ’76.

Bold Updates to Our Strategic Plan

The new administration has required agencies to create strategic plans covering 2018-2022. Our updated Strategic Plan was circulated for public comment over the past couple of months. We asked for input and you gave it.  You can see the history of comments on our GitHub page.  With updates informed by those comments, we provided OMB our new Strategic Plan on September 11.

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building

Photograph of Female Statue, The Future, Located near the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance to the National Archives Building. “What is Past is Prologue” is written on the base of “Future.” National Archives Identifier 7657960

Some of the goals in the new plan include:

  • By FY 2020, NARA will have policies and processes in place to support Federal agencies’ transition to fully electronic recordkeeping. We added this new objective under our Strategic Goal Connect with Customers based on comments from our customer Federal agencies who asked us to make a commitment to assist them in transitioning to a fully electronic environment.
  • By December 31, 2022, NARA will, to the fullest extent possible, no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata. We added the phrase “to the fullest extent possible” based on extensive feedback from both staff and external commenters. We modified the language of this objective to recognize that NARA may need to accept a limited number of analog records after the December 31, 2022 deadline.
  • By FY 2020, NARA will have a career development program in place to support NARA’s transition to electronic records. We added this new objective under our Strategic Goal Build our Future through our People to make an express commitment to our staff that we will provide training and opportunities focused on electronic records and online access.

Your comments and suggestions have made our Strategic Plan a stronger document that describes a clearer vision for the future.  Check out the full plan at: https://usnationalarchives.github.io/strategic-plan/

 

An Unexplained Death and an Unacceptable System

“Power to the People!” Young Lords Puerto Rican activist Julio Roldan chanted from his holding cell in Manhattan’s infamous “Tombs” prison in 1970. A few hours later he was found dead, having hanged himself according to an official investigation, murdered by guards according to his supporters. In this press conference, civil rights attorney William vanden Heuvel answers questions and summarizes the findings of a committee appointed by Mayor Lindsay in the aftermath of Roldan’s death and the subsequent riot that eventually resulted in the closing of the facility. Calling the events “sad and tragic,” vanden Heuvel nevertheless maintains that evidence indicated Roldan did, in fact, commit suicide. He saves his wrath for the criminal justice system itself, which suffers from overcrowding and under-funding. The Manhattan House of Detention, as it is officially called, is operating at 151% capacity. Prisoners are doubled and tripled up. At Roldan’s arraignment, during which he yelled, “This is not justice! I have not seen my lawyer! You are doing this to me because I am a Puerto Rican!”, the judge, working straight through the day with no break, had less than two minutes to hear each case. The courtroom itself resembled “a crowded subway.”

Vanden Heuvel’s chief recommendation is the construction of a minimum security prison in Manhattan to both alleviate overcrowding and provide medical and psychiatric services for inmates who are either drug addicts or mentally ill. Indicating that the language of the report has been watered down, he urges that members of the City Planning Commission visit the Tombs or, if he had his way, be locked in a cell for a day. As an immediate fix, he presses for teams of lawyers and social workers to go from floor to floor in the jail, speaking directly to the prisoners, listening to their grievances, trying to give legal or humanitarian aid whenever possible. More Spanish-speaking personnel are also needed, considering the large Puerto Rican jail population. In addition, the prison guards are over-worked. Unless these conditions are addressed, he calls another riot “inevitable.”

Vanden Heuvel’s dire warnings proved all too true, though not perhaps in a way he could have foreseen. Mayor Lindsay had promised not to punish the leaders of the riot (they were holding five prison guards hostage) but after regaining control he had all the identified “troublemakers” shipped upstate…to the Attica Correctional Facility.

Julio Roldan’s case is still a matter of controversy. After a second examination of the body, the pathologist called in by Roldan’s family, Dr. David Spain, reversed his initial finding (reported in this press conference) of suicide, citing possible evidence of a beating. A grand jury empaneled to investigate charges of brutality against several guards after four other prisoners died in similar circumstances did not return an indictment. But, as the New York Times reported:

Mr. Vanden Heuvel…said the report of the grand jury was “neither complete nor useful in a public understanding of what happened” in the death of Mr. Moore. He said testimony presented to the jury was in conflict on several major points: on whether there had been “false official reports” and “the use of excessive force, including black jacks on prisoners.”

Roldan is still regarded as a martyr by the Puerto Rican nationalist movement. In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now! Juan Gonzalez, at one time the Young Lords Minister of Education, recalls the group taking over the First Spanish Methodist Church:

…when one of our members who had been arrested on a minor charge, Julio Roldan, was found hanged in his cell in the Tombs, and mysteriously hanged, because supposedly he should have had his belt removed before he was put into this particular wing. And this had been after a period when about, I think it was fifteen or sixteen blacks and Latinos had been found hanged in their cells in a variety of jails in New York City. It was a rash that many suspected were actually guards actually hanging black and Latino inmates. So we then did a second takeover or occupation of the People’s Church. This time it was an armed takeover of the church, and it lasted for several days, and demanding justice in the case of Julio Roldan. 

The fate of The Tombs itself was sealed by the negative publicity that came out after the riots. The New York City Legal Aid Society filed a suit on behalf of detained inmates. The trial revealed conditions which the judge found to be unconstitutional. The city closed the facility, although it is still argued if the treatment of inmates at their new address, Rikers Island, was any better.

This at times chaotic and refreshingly unscripted press conference, with Vanden Heuvel passionately calling for prison reform, complete with wailing police sirens in the background, provides a fascinating, if melancholy, portrait of New York City during one its most difficult times.

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151473Municipal archives id: T7687

Scottish History and Witchcraft: The Dr. George Fraser Black Collection

Dr. George Fraser Black, a librarian for the New York Public Library and later the Associate Director of the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, was a distinguished researcher who was active in the late 1800s until his retirement in 1931. During this time, he researched and published on several topics, most notably Scottish history. His works include a history of Scottish Clans, several bibliographies on Scottish history, and an examination of the Romani language.

Dr. Black
Dr. George Fraser Black

Much of Dr. Black’s research is devoted to looking at how modern Scotland formed and the influence of the Scottish people. A huge topic of interest within the realm of Scottish history was the poet Robert Burns. Among the materials are copies of Burns’s work, photo references, and images inspired by Burns’s poems.

Burns Images
Images inspired by Robert Burns’s works.

Dr. Black compiled most of his research in a series of scrapbooks that included newspaper articles, photocopied book excerpts, and handwritten notes that he found relevant. The collection contains over 30 of these scrapbooks on a variety of topics from folklore to the history of Scottish Clans arranged alphabetically. Perhaps his most intriguing research involved witchcraft. Seven of the scrapbooks in the collection contains detailed information on trials, rumors, and myths surrounding witches and mythical creatures. These scrapbooks hold newspaper articles detailing witchcraft trials as late as the 1920s in the United States while also covering famous accounts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The Witches
Image found in the Witchcraft Scrapbooks of the George Black Collection

This collection is currently still being processed by the Special Collections & Archives team, but it will be available for the public to view soon.

The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness

The National Declassification Center’s newest special project release concerns U.S. and Panamanian foreign relations: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness, 1959 – 1973.

NDC Panama Canal Records Release Poster

2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the official celebration of the completed construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. Although the Canal was officially opened to shipping on August 15, 1914, few realize that the official celebration had to be postponed due to the start of World War I a few weeks later. The official recognition of its completed construction was not celebrated until March 1915 at the San Francisco Exposition.

To celebrate this official recognition, the National Declassification Center (NDC) focused on recently declassified records in our custody that celebrate what the American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Seventh Civil Engineering Wonder of the World, the Panama Canal. The majority of Americans may have heard of the Panama Canal but few may know the United States’ role in its construction and maintenance, let alone the part that it played in our foreign relations with Panama. Debate continues to swirl around issues of why the U.S. turned the Canal over to Panama, Panamanian distrust of the U.S. Government in general, and the imperialistic image associated with U.S. employees that administered and lived in the Canal Zone.

Many historians have examined our early pre and post construction relations with Panama but not many have examined the period just prior to the Canal turnover. The records that have been recently declassified focus on that pre turnover era and may assist U.S. citizens as well as scholars in understanding the story that led to one of the biggest changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Canal was built.

Learn more and view images from this project on our website: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a little Military Madness, 1959­-1973

The images selected and scanned for this release are a sampling of the records, 255 pages from a total of 229,160 pages. The records give insight and perspective into treaty negotiations, interactions between the American Embassy and U.S. government agencies on the Canal, the impact of Panamanian politics and elections on treaty negotiations, and the general unrest caused by the U.S. presence on the Canal Zone. The newly released records are from the Department of State.

I am very proud of this work done by our National Declassification Center, as well as the assistance from our office of Research Services and the Office of Innovation to make the release of these important records happen.

Naturalization Ceremony

As part of the celebrations for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, 30 new citizens from 22 nations were sworn in last week as new U.S. citizens in front of the Constitution in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

The new citizens are from Benin, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, India, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Togo, and Vietnam.

Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives.

As Archivist of the United States, I was honored to welcome these new citizens to the National Archives and hear remarks from Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, presided as the petitioners took the oath of citizenship.

On this same day, several National Archives locations around the country also hosted naturalization ceremonies to coincide with Constitution Day, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

It is a privilege to host this ceremony and witness these new citizens pledge an oath of allegiance to the United States and to honor the Constitution in front of this country’s founding documents.

Congratulations to our new citizens!

Discovering the Path: The National Institutes of Health in the Claude Pepper Papers

U.S. Senator and House of Representative Claude Pepper was an exemplary public servant who was solely committed to unifying healthcare opportunities for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Throughout his career, he became a fierce advocator of health care reform in strengthening social security funding and Medicare/Medicaid benefits. Thus, creating provisions for at risk populations to receive equal medical coverage.

Claude Pepper maintained a rare awareness of the hardship that many Americans faced in obtaining efficient healthcare. Pepper used his voice to spark change in the U.S. healthcare system to dispense sufficient resources that would generate affordable care and enhance medical treatment. For years, Pepper worked tirelessly to lobby legislators to develop strategies that would allocate funding to provide public health services that would improve health outcomes. Because of his concern for medical care, Pepper established thirteen National Institutes of Health to support innovative endeavors in treating or curing chronic diseases through research. In 1937, during his term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute to support cancer research. Subsequently, he helped to establish ten research centers for the cure and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Later in the 1940s, he sponsored legislation to create a national health insurance program to enforce equal healthcare opportunities. Pepper’s legislative efforts have served as a compass for many who are interested in improving health care policies and those who seek to learn the process of how legislators present bills to be passed into law to improve our society.

S30A01711

The Claude Pepper Library & Museum offers insight into the establishment of the National Institutes of Health on behalf of Senator Pepper’s instrumental legislative work on varied Health Institutes. These materials are available for researchers and can be discovered online through the collection’s finding aid.

Bess Myerson Starts Her Career in Government

“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement.

 

“This is the greatest city in the United States,” Bess Myerson Grant (as she is then called) declares at her swearing-in as New York’s first Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, “but it can also be the most difficult. Right, Mr. Lindsay?” …a sentiment to which Mayor John Lindsay can be heard echoing an emphatic agreement. 

 

This 1969 press conference captures the city government at its most condescendingly genteel, with Lindsay praising her “eleemosynary” work while at the same time paying tribute to her “beauty” and “winning smile.” Myerson, in contrast, sounds determined to lay her glamorous past to rest, reading a prepared statement promising to “exorcize from this city the persistent cancer created by greed and advantage-seeking…” She points out that consumer fraud has a particularly devastating effect on the poor who are often the victims of illegal installment contracts, are unable or unwilling to take law-breaking merchants to court, and have no lobbying power. On the other hand, she seems aware that the Consumer Affairs Department must compensate for its relatively weak enforcement tools by functioning forcefully in the area public relations, by pointing out unscrupulous business practices and shaming those who rely on such deception. The office’s aim, she concludes, will be warning consumers “not so much what to look for as what to look out for.”

Bess Myerson in 1957.
(Unknown photographer/Wikimedia Commons)

In 1945, at the age of 21, Bess Myerson (1924-2015) became the first Jew to be crowned Miss America. For the next forty years she was rarely out of the public spotlight. As a beauty queen, television personality, fund-raiser for various charities, public servant, politician, and finally the focus of a bizarre scandal, Myerson had an extraordinarily eventful ride on the roller-coaster of American celebrity.

Although it might seem a minor milestone now, Myerson’s being crowned Miss America was a major news story, and not all of it positive. As Susan Dworkin, who wrote about the event and its aftermath, reminisced:

…when Bess won, she went on this tour and expected to be loved and applauded. Instead, everywhere she went, she was met with terrible bigotry. People didn’t want her at their country clubs. People didn’t want her at their hotels. There was a horrible incident with the parent of a World War II veteran at a hospital who screamed at Bess that it was because of the Jews that her son was dead. After a couple of months, she had to go home. She had nothing left to do.”

Myerson was more than a pretty face. Driven, articulate, musically talented, and ambitious, she was faced with the dilemma of how to parlay her dubious fame into something more significant and long-lasting. Television provided an initial career. She was a longtime panelist on I’ve Got a Secret and regularly substituted on The Today Show. Her 1969 appointment to the Department of Consumer Affairs was a surprise. But it turned out that an agency whose clout depended a great deal on publicity was a good fit for Myerson, who had developed a professional’s command of the media. Though derided within the Lindsay administration as something of a loose cannon, she was one its most recognizable and, as the financial crisis tainted almost every other branch of government, most beloved representatives. The New York Times, in its obituary, noted how:

Some Lindsay critics initially called her appointment “window dressing.” But she became highly visible in the job, issuing the first city regulation in the nation requiring retailers to post unit prices on a wide variety of products to make comparison shopping easier. She pushed through consumer-protection laws against deceptive trade practices, chastised restaurants selling hamburgers that were less than 100 percent beef — she called them “shamburgers”— and criticized manufacturers for putting too many peanuts in jars labeled “mixed nuts.”

Myerson’s political journey then took a wildly unpredictable turn when she was enlisted by Ed Koch’s mayoral campaign to appear with him as a kind of surrogate wife to counteract rumors of his homosexuality. This led to her own unsuccessful campaign for Senate in 1980 and to her appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1983. However, her involvement with Carl Capasso, a sewer contractor involved in a contentious divorce proceeding being overseen by a judge whose troubled daughter Myerson appeared to have hired with an eye towards influencing the judge’s rulings, led to widespread unflattering news coverage and a corruption inquiry. Myerson’s imperious behavior was gleefully reported and shortly before she was to stand trial she was convicted of shoplifting. Although she was eventually acquitted of bribery, the “Bess Mess,” as it was known, effectively ended her public career. She was forced to resign her position and went from being one of the city’s most prominent figures to near-invisibility, the self-imposed obscurity providing a strange coda to such a public life.

This press conference captures Myerson at what must have seemed like the beginning of yet another triumphal chapter: the poor girl growing up in the Sholem Aleichem Houses in the South Bronx rising to a high-profile job in city government. A few years later, New York Magazine captured her at her zenith, the way she would probably most likely want to be remembered:

A tall, elegant brunet steps out of the car. She’s attired in a classic Jerry Silverman blazer, skirt, and turtleneck sweater, low-heeled black boots, and green sunglasses. She is nearly six feet tall; she looks men in the eye and towers above women. The congressman puts his arm around her so that it appears that he is guiding her, but it is the other way around. 

Over seventy years later, Myerson remains the only Jewish woman ever to be crowned Miss America.

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151726Municipal archives id: T4118-T4119

The Evolution of the Florida State Administration Building

Florida State administration building has changed often since the founding of the University in 1851. Originally, the administration building was known as “College Hall” and was built in the same spot where the current administration building is today.

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College Hall at Florida State College – Tallahassee, Florida. 1901. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

However, in 1910, because “College hall” was deemed structurally unsafe, it was knocked down and rebuilt into the administration building we know today and named “Florida State College’s Administration building” until 1936, where it was named after James D. Westcott, Jr. Westcott was a former student and Florida Supreme Court justice who left a large sum of his estate to the university and declared that the profits only be used towards teacher’s salaries.

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Harper, Alvan S., 1847-1911. Portrait of Supreme Court Justice James D. Westcott, III – Tallahassee, Florida. Between 1868 and 1885. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

In 1969, the Westcott administration building suffered severe interior damage, due to a fire. Although much of the interior was destroyed, the university was able to preserve the original collegiate gothic exterior that we know today. Renovations on the building were not completed until 1973 and Westcott is now deemed as an exemplary element of the university.

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View showing TFD personnel fighting fire at the Westcott Building from an aerial ladder – Tallahassee, Florida. 1969. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

Animals in the Archives

How about some cute animals to kick off the start of the school year? We in the Archives noticed the National Archives’ new social media campaign – the Archives Hashtag Party! Each month follows a differently themed hashtag (you can follow @USNatArchives to see the themes). Last month was #ArchivesSquadGoals. This month’s theme is #ArchivesCute, and in the Amherst College Archives we’ve decided to join the party.

We’ve found animals in a variety of different archival collections, from our rare books stacks to the College Archives to the manuscript collections. Hopefully these examples will give you a sense for the breadth of the Archives’ holdings. Let’s get started!

In our rare book stacks, we have a lovely 1883 folio edition of Monograph of the Felidae or Family of the Cats, by Daniel Giraud Elliot.

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Elliot, a zoologist, was a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He produced a number of this type of work, commissioning artists to produce plates to accompany his text. Other works in this same vein include Monograph of the Paradisae and Review of the Primates. These large volumes were made possible by subscription; future owners would pledge money for the production of the book and in the end receive a copy. The artist for Monograph of the Felidae was Joseph Wolf, a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. This plate depicts the Snow Leopard, native to the mountains of Central and South Asia.

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For something completely different, we turn to the College Photographer’s Records, part of Amherst College’s institutional archives. Since the 1960s the College has employed an official photographer to record important events and daily life on campus. On at least two occasions in the 1990s, the photographer captured a series of faculty dogs on campus. Here’s one example:

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Look at that old-school desktop technology in the background!

The College’s Scrapbook Collection also offers a variety of cute animals. These examples come from the scrapbook of Edson Alexander McRae, a graduate of the class of 1906. His scrapbook shows that he was a member of the baseball team – and includes many photographs of this fine pup:

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Apologies for the poor image quality! But you can see in the background the Amherst Town Hall.

Also a sketch of cats on a calling card:

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Calling cards, a precursor to the business card, were left when visiting a home while the residents were absent.

The Lincoln Barnes Negatives Collection also yielded cuteness. Lincoln Wade Barnes was a photographer in the town of Amherst for many years during the first half of the twentieth century; he was also photographer to the College for some of that time. A collection of Barnes photography is also available at the Jones Library.

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We truly hit the jackpot in Lucius Manly Boltwood’s photograph albums. These albums were compiled in the late 19th and/or early 20th century and include images of friends, family, pets, and views of Amherst. Boltwood was very involved in the College and local communities. A graduate of the class of 1843, Boltwood went on to become the librarian at Amherst College and the town’s postmaster.

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And last but not least, look who we found hanging out in the Archives’ Objects Collection:

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Musical roots: creating a guide to family history resources in the Musicians’ Union Archive

During the summer of 2017 Henry Carden, a postgraduate Communications, Media & Culture student, carried out a research placement in the University Archives funded by the Musicians’ Union. Here he writes about his work opening up the family history resources contained within the Musicians’ Union Archive.

Marbled edges of MU membership registers (Musicians’ Union Archive)

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been hiding away in the Musicians’ Union archives putting together a guide to family history resources as part of a graduate trainee programme entitled ‘Musical Roots’. The guide aims to provide an overview of the resources available within the Musicians’ Union archive which may be of interest to people researching their musical ancestors.

As a young-at-heart mature student, I certainly had mixed emotions at discovering that I myself have been archived:

In spite of my ‘illustrious’ musical career, my details in an old branch membership guide were the only mention. So, if my great, great, great grandson is reading this, unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere to locate information about my short-lived mid-2000s indie-rock career

As part of the Musical Roots project, I created a database of over 500 obituaries spanning over a hundred years, from the early days of the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union right up to the relatively recent past. It’s worth noting that quite often, tributes and reports weren’t actually described as obituaries, but they featured the kind of information which you would expect to find in an obituary. It’s also worth mentioning that the inclusion of updates about members (both in life and death) was at the beck and call of Branch Secretaries as this article from The Musicians’ Journal demonstrates:

Furthermore, I also included some retirement tributes in the database as they presented a lot of similar information to obituaries. Unfortunately, not all deceased members of the Union received obituaries (understandable given the sheer volume of members) and more often than not, obituaries were reserved for “good union men” who had played active roles in the organisation – and also for more famous members such as John Lennon.

 In addition to the obituaries document, I also created databases of photographs and membership cards which are available to consult in the University Archives. The membership cards database doesn’t include the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches as they were too numerous to document, although highlights there included a few familiar names such as Shirley Manson, Gerry Rafferty and Edwyn Collins.

Glasgow Branch membership cards (Musicians’ Union Archive)

The Musicians’ Union Archive contains a huge amount of historical information on its members and this material is of great interest to people researching their family history.

Whilst some people might have a romantic notion of discovering personal information about one of their musical ancestors, it should be noted that a lot of the resources contained are predominantly administrative. That said, if your relative was an active member of the Union or held an official role, such as Branch Secretary or member of the Executive Committee, for example, then that increases the likelihood of finding more personal information.

Unfortunately, for most members, the only things you’re likely to discover are membership numbers, addresses, the instrument they played and in some cases, their reason for leaving the Union – most likely for falling into arrears with their subscriptions. But don’t let that put you off! You never know what you might discover.

A detailed guide to the family history resources contained in the Musicians’ Union Archive is available here.

 

Roethke and Bellow Headline 1965 National Book Awards

Roethke and Bellow headline 1965 National Book Awards…even though one of them is dead. Ted Roethke’s widow accepts the award for her late husband’s collection The Far Field, and his friend, fellow poet Stanley Kunitz, converts the usual speech of thanks into a eulogy. Noting that Roethke was so talented “he could afford to praise,” Kunitz reveals that among his papers were “twelve hundred poems by other poets written out in his hand. He said he didn’t know what was in a poem until he had transcribed it.” He goes on to describe the various sections of The Far Field, reciting some passages, including one that eerily presages the poet’s death. (Roethke suffered a heart attack while swimming.) He ends by using Roethke’s own description of their craft, praising him “in this matter of making noise that rhymes.”

In the field of History and Biography, the winner is The Life of Lenin by Henry Fischer. Fischer laments how Lenin has become a “mummified idol” of the Revolution and tells how he tried to humanize the man. At the end of his speech, he contrasts Lenin with Gandhi (another biographical subject) and then veers into current events by calling Martin Luther King “the Gandhi of America.”

The winner for Science, Philosophy, and Religion is Norbert Weiner for God & Golem, Inc. He too, sadly, has died and so is eulogized by Dr. Jerome Wiesner (a future president of MIT), who struggles to summarize his colleague’s argument. A founder, indeed coiner of the term, cybernetics (the scientific study of how people, animals, and machines control and communicate information), towards the end of his life Weiner was increasingly concerned about the relationship between Man and machines. His final, perhaps wanly optimistic conclusion, as expressed here, is, “since God cannot be threatened by his creation (Man), Man cannot be threatened by the machine.”

The award for Arts and Letters goes to Eleanor Clark for her book The Oysters of Locmariaquer, part memoir, part investigation of the oystering industry in France’s Brittany region. Clark adds an appreciated note of levity to the proceedings, reading from a “review” of the book written by her ten-year-old daughter. When she does get around to addressing this ostensibly more prestigious honor she hopes it “may help get this book of mine off the Food and Cooking shelves.” She then makes a plea for a new area of bookstores, the Scavengers Shelf, for books of personal inquiry such and hers and, if one gazes into the future, John McPhee, in relation to whom she now appears a natural precursor.

The award for Fiction goes to Saul Bellow for Herzog. Tellingly, Bellow promises that as “the clean-up man” he won’t take up much of their time. (In fact he is the fifth, not the fourth speaker, but clearly, sees himself as the prized slugger of this literary team.) He then launches into a coruscating attack on today’s “rebellious writers,” noting that “polymorphous sexuality and vehement declarations of alienation are not going to produce great works of art.” Isolating one’s self from Society so as to keep one’s hands clean leaves Literature “enfeebled.” In the end, “there is nothing left for us novelists to do but think.” He urges writers to engage with the political, social, and business world. If today’s artist regards his fashionable alienation is significant, “…he is wrong. It is 90 percent cant.”

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963) was perhaps the most extreme of the poets who broke out of the Eliot-Auden mode to create a uniquely American poetry harkening back to Whitman. The Poetry Foundation website recounts his unusual upbringing, which provided much material for his poems:

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, his father was a German immigrant who owned and ran a 25-acre greenhouse. He attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he adopted a tough, bear-like image (weighing over 225 pounds) and even developed a fascination with gangsters. His difficult childhood, his bouts with manic depression, and his ceaseless search for truth through his poetry writing led to a difficult life, but also helped to produce a remarkable body of work that would influence future generations of American poets to pursue the mysteries of one’s inner self.

After a long apprenticeship, Roethke finally achieved recognition with his “greenhouse poems” which struck an ominous, ecstatic, deeply mystical note. Adam Kirsch, writing in the New Yorker, claims:

Nearly a century and a half after Wordsworth, Roethke manages to invent an entirely new kind of nature poetry, in which the earth is not reassuringly earthy but teeming and alien. At times, Roethke’s greenhouse even becomes surreally menacing: “So many devouring infants! / Soft luminescent fingers, / Lips neither dead nor alive, / Loose ghostly mouths / Breathing.”

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was the preeminent American novelist of his day. In addition to three National Book Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976. Bellow’s dismissal of “alienation” and “polymorphous sexuality” are part of the gruff yet academically informed heartland sensibility he liked to cultivate. The New York Times, in its obituary, points out that:

The center of his fictional universe was Chicago, where he grew up and spent most of his life, and which he made into the first city of American letters. Many of his works are set there, and almost all of them have a Midwestern earthiness and brashness. Like their creator, Mr. Bellow’s heroes were all head and all body both. They tended to be dreamers, questers or bookish intellectuals, but they lived in a lovingly depicted world of cranks, con men, fast-talking salesmen and wheeler-dealers.

Bellow’s battle against the what he saw as the snide East Coast intelligentsia on one side and the morally incoherent anti-intellectualism of “rebellious” writers on the other,  clearly struck a chord with the reading public. He is that rare combination: a serious literary artist who also garnered serious sales. About this, as about so much else, he was unapologetic. Questioned by the Paris Review, he stated:

I don’t like to agree with the going view that if you write a bestseller it’s because you betrayed an important principle or sold your soul. I know that sophisticated opinion believes this. And although I don’t take much stock in sophisticated opinion, I have examined my conscience. I’ve tried to find out whether I had unwittingly done wrong. But I haven’t yet discovered the sin.

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150023Municipal archives id: T1081-T1082

A Brief History of Athletics at Florida State University

For most individuals, when they think of Florida State University, they think of Florida State Football. Although football is a paramount addition to Florida State University, it used to be just a minor team at Florida State, with only fourteen official members on the football team in 1903

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Football captains from Florida State University and Stetson University meet on the football field – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

For the seasons of 1902, 1903, and 1904, the Florida State football team sported the colors of a yellow-gold and purple and in 1904, the Florida State football team claimed championships against Stetson University and the University of Florida. In 1905, Florida College (now Florida State) was named Florida State College for Women, the student body selected crimson as the University’s official colors. The Administration then combined the color of crimson with purple and achieved the garnet color that Florida State is officially known for and when football was re-established with the co-ed university that is now FSU in 1947, they sported the garnet and gold colors that we still use today.

During the years of the Florida State College for Women (FSCW), football was unfortunately disregarded and substituted with other tradition and intramural teams. A physical education program was developed and supervised by Katherine Montgomery, a former FSCW student graduating in 1918, returned to start her campaign for a physical education program at FSCW. This program included volleyball, gymnastics, and various other athletic clubs that pushed the boundaries for women in sports in an age where it was widely deemed unlikely.

FSU Football 1947

F.S.U. football squad – Tallahassee, Florida. 1947. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 9 Aug. 2017.

Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, or the unofficial end of summer in the US. Here in the South, students have been back to school since mid-August in some cases but we have had a few pleasant mornings so maybe a north Florida fall is coming earlier than usual? We can only hope!

In celebration of Labor Day, Special Collections & Archives is closed Monday, September 4th. We will resume our normal operating hours on Tuesday, September 5th. We wish everyone a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

In looking for an appropriate image to accompany this post, we found the below image. It made us wonder, is there a union for circus workers? While we couldn’t find a dedicated one, the American Guild of Variety Artists does include circus performers as part of their family. You learn something new every day! No word on whether those poor souls unloading a lion are covered though.

Workers unloading a lion
Photograph of circus workers unloading a lion in its cage from the back of a truck at the Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus. Bystanders watch close by as the lion is unloaded, 1988. [Original Image here]

Skin Vision in the Soviet Union

How would you describe the physical feeling of a color? Warm? Cold? Slippery? Coarse? Sticky? Would you be able to distinguish between colored objects without looking at them? This 1960s episode of Science and Engineering reported that several young women in the Soviet Union were able to correctly identify colors based on touch alone, a phenomenon called “dermo-optical perception.”

Science and Engineering was a production of Radio Moscow’s English language news service and the program with perhaps the best theme music. Typical of Cold War era nationalist grandstanding, the 10-minute news feature boasted Soviet advancements in the Space Race, medical treatments, and infrastructure projects. This episode treats reports of dermo-optical perception as breaking news, acknowledging the skeptics, but countering with a multitude of research studies which posit that the subjects couldn’t possibly have cheated and that the phenomenon is “an established fact.”

Rosa Kuleshova in a July 1963 issue of Fate Magazine (page 26).
(Fate Magazine)

A particular test subject, 22-year-old Rosa Kuleshova, allegedly exhibited this ability while blindfolded, with a finger placed over the eyepiece of an anomaloscope, a device used to verify color blindness. The narrator (most likely Joe Adamov) announces triumphantly, “[Kuleshova] was able to determine the colors as precisely as the average person does with his eyes; the fingers of her right hand gave the correct answers in all six tests.”  News of Kuleshova’s ability reached American press and even earned her a 1964 profile in Life Magazine.1

The author Albert Rosenfeld and Life Magazine Correspondent Bob Brigham also seemed convinced of Kuleshova’s ability and described similar research conducted by American psychologists. Dr. Richard P. Youtz, a professor of psychology at Barnard College, claimed that he identified a 42-year-old housewife in Flint Michigan who possessed the ability. Rosenfeld reported that “She [Patricia Stanley] had been tested for some 60 hours and Dr. Youtz was quite certain that his test conditions were rigorous enough to rule out any possibility of a hoax.” Dr. Gregory Razran, a psychologist at Queens College participated in experiments in the Soviet Union and became an enthusiastic believer in this supposed scientific breakthrough. He claims that he observed a Russian scientist who could teach the ability to one student for every six that tried. Rosenfeld writes,

Yellow, they said, felt slippery, soft and lightweight. Blue, while not so slippery as yellow, was smoother and the hand could move more freely over it. Red was sticky and clinging. Green was stickier than red but not so course. Indigo was very sticky but harder than red and green. Orange was hard and rough, and inhibited movement. Violet was even rougher and more inhibiting than orange. Black was very inhibiting and clinging, almost gluey, while white was quite smooth, though coarser than Yellow.

A 1966 article by Martin Gardner in Science, explains this supposed ability is a simple magic trick that trained mentalists have been performing for decades: a peek down the nose.2 According to Gardner, there is no way to fully block a person’s sight with a blindfold. There will always be a small gap to peek through, especially if the person lifts their head in a “sniff posture.” Without divulging all the secrets of the performance, Gardner says that,

Practiced performers avoid the sniff posture by tilting the head slightly under cover of some gesture, such as nodding in reply to a question, scratching the neck, and other common gestures. One of the great secrets of successful blindfold work is to obtain a peek in advance, covered by a gesture, quickly memorize whatever information is in view, then later-perhaps many minutes later-to exploit this information under the pretense that it is just then being obtained. Who could expect observers to remember exactly what happened 5 minutes earlier? Indeed, only a trained mentalist, serving as an observer, would know exactly what to look for.

He describes the initial tests conducted by Dr. Youtz with Patricia Stanley as “so poorly designed to eliminate visual clues that they cannot be taken seriously.” According to a New York Times reporter who witnessed the tests, Mrs. Stanley needed several minutes to provide an answer and kept “a steady flow of conversation” with Youtz, asking for hints on her performance.3,4 After Youtz consulted with Gardner for a second, more rigorous round of tests, her odds of correctly identifying colors and patterns on cards was just above that of chance.5 According to Gardner, Soviet Scientists experienced the same drop in results with Rosa, and her equally hyped contemporary Nina Kulagina, when more precautions were taken to account for mentalist tricks. Scientific inquiry into the alleged phenomenon waned after the 1960s.

In 2007 Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell wrote, “To date, no one has demonstrated convincingly, under suitably controlled conditions, the existence of X-ray sight or any other form of clairvoyance or ESP.”6 However, if you suspect you may possess the ability, Rosa Kuleshova insisted in her Life Magazine article, “Anyone who really tries can do it.”

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150287Municipal archives id: T4057

[1] Rosenfeld, Albert. Seeing Color with the Fingers. Life Magazine. Vol. 56 No. 24. 12 June 1964, pp. 102-113.

[2] Gardner, Martin. Dermo-optical Perception: A Peek Down the Nose. Science. 11 February 1966: Vol. 151, Issue 3711, pp. 654-657.

[3] Plumb, Robert K. “Woman Who Tells Colors by Touch Mystifies Psychologist.” New York Times, 8 January 1964.

[4] Plumb, Robert K. “6th Sense Is Hinted in Ability to ‘See’ With Fingers.” New York Times, 26 January 1964.

[5] “Housewife Is Unable to Repeat Color ‘Readings’ With Fingers.” New York Times, 2 February 1964.

[6] Nickell, Joe. “Second Sight: The Phenomenon of Eyeless Vision.” Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. 2007. University Press of Kentucky, pp. 211-218.

 

Bad Children of History #33: Struwwelpeter in Russia

Today we were deep in a pile of uncataloged Russian children’s books and found… another version of Struwwelpeter, published in Moscow and illustrated by Boris Zvorykin!

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So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!

Here’s Struwwelpeter refusing to let his grandmother sponge off his shirt cuffs…

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…leading him to weep silently alongside some semi-domesticated boars.

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This book doesn’t contain all of the stories from the original, although it does have a few select favorites, including the sad story of the thumb-sucker accompanied by a thumb-removal illustration so ghastly that we will not include it here.

Instead, look at these sweet before-and-after vignettes from The Dreadful Story of the Matches:



A Web Facelift

Special Collections & Archives has needed a web facelift for several years now, however, we were waiting on the overall Libraries’ web redesign project to be completed. Since that project completed with its new look, Special Collections & Archives staff started a complete reimagining and rewrite of all our information on the web. The result was a new set of web pages which launched just in time for the start of fall semester.

SCA Landing Page
Our new landing page at https://www.lib.fsu.edu/specialcollections/index.html

The new landing page uses an image navigation menu that draws the interest of a user and hopefully makes it clear where they can navigate to find out information about our collections, how to do research, visiting information and other areas of our division such as Heritage & University Archives and the Claude Pepper Library. It also allows for the blog to be highlighted with a running feed and puts our hours, often crucial information for our users, front and center.

Collection Highlights
Collections Highlights page

All the content on our pages has been rewritten to make it clearer, more useful and less overwhelming for users. For example, we added a page to highlight our major collections from Manuscripts, Rare Books, Political Collections and Heritage & University Archives. We do this in sections now rather than using one long page of text. This page will update often allowing our area curators to highlight new and exciting collections as they become available.

Other new pages include icon navigation pages for Research and Collections, a revamped Catalogs & Databases page, a better-organized Visit page that gets our users answers quickly for common visiting questions.  The Exhibits & Events page now links to the FSU Calendar so it’s always up to date with current exhibits and upcoming events in our spaces.

SCA Reproduction Form
A form for requesting copies of materials in Special Collections & Archives

Perhaps most exciting to our staff are three new forms to help us better get the information we need to help our patrons. The new Class Visits and Research Consultations forms will help better organize instruction sessions and research appointments in Special Collections & Archives. The Reproduction Request Form puts online a form we’ve used on paper for years. This form especially is often needed by patrons unable to visit our Reading Room so putting it online will help not only staff but our long distance patrons who use it the most.

This is our “phase 1” finish line. We will work in the future to update and enhance the pages for the Heritage & University Archives and the Claude Pepper Library. We’d also like to update the Catalogs & Databases page more; allowing a user to search our materials directly from that page. Most web pages are always works-in-progress but we’re happy to share our latest edition of Special Collections & Archives online.

 

Draft National Archives Strategic Plan

The National Archives, like all other Federal agencies, is required to produce a new Strategic Plan every four years. Our Strategic Plan establishes our Mission, Strategic Goals, and Objectives, and describes how NARA will meet our ambitious vision. We have posted a new, draft Strategic Plan and invite feedback from public and government customers, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities.

This draft Plan was first shared with National Archives employees on August 17. We have a tradition of engaging staff in the development of our Strategic Plan and feel strongly that every voice should have the opportunity to be heard and be involved in the process. After a week of employee feedback the National Archives is now sharing the plan with stakeholders and the public for comment.

Options for viewing the draft Plan and submitting feedback include:

The draft plan reaffirms the current Mission, Vision, Values, Transformational Outcomes and Strategic Goals (see Strategic Plan (FY 2014-FY 2018). The plan updates the agency’s Strategic Objectives to reflect its ongoing commitment to digitization and increased access, setting specific target dates for completion of initiatives. Notably the plan provides federal agencies, already moving toward digital records storage and transfer, with a deadline for submitting analog records: “By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata.”

Please submit your comments by September 1, 2017. Feedback will be collected and considered, and the draft Plan will be revised, and then shared with the Office of Management and Budget by September 11, 2017. The final Strategic Plan will be published in February 2018, and will become the agency’s official plan for Fiscal Years 2018 through 2022.

We look forward to your feedback throughout this development process.

Solar eclipse chasers: Prof. David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd

I hope everyone had a chance to glimpse the partial – or total – solar eclipse on Monday.  All this talk of our recent “Great American” eclipse got me thinking about previous eclipses and two early eclipse chasers in Amherst history: David Peck Todd (AC 1875) and Mabel Loomis Todd.  David Peck Todd, graduate of Amherst class of 1875, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Observatory, made his first solar eclipse expedition with the U.S. Navy to view the eclipse of 1878 in Texas.  This was just the first of many expeditions to view and study solar eclipses.  After their marriage in 1879, Mabel Loomis Todd (most famous for editing Emily Dickinson’s poetry) accompanied David Todd on many of his expeditions, including to Japan, Tripoli, and Russia.

Recent articles have been published about the Todds and their astronomical expeditions, including The Star-Crossed Astronomer by Julie Dobrow and Mabel Loomis Todd’s Poetic 19th-Century Guide to Totality by Maria Popova.  These articles document the Todds’ international travels in pursuit of the study of solar eclipses and other astronomical occurrences.

Mabel Loomis Todd later gave speeches about her experiences on these international expeditions and published several books and articles, including Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894), Corona and Coronet (1898), and A Cycle of Sunsets (1910).



While the papers of David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd are held at Yale, we do have many publications of the Todds’ astronomical research, professional papers, newsclippings, and speech announcements in their respective biographical files.And do keep these “Directions for Observing the Total Solar Eclipse” handy for the next solar eclipse coming our way in 2024.

NARA’s 2018-2022 Draft Strategic Plan

All Federal agencies are required to produce a strategic document every four years. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) invites public and government partners, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities to submit comments on NARA’s draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) encourages its stakeholders to submit comments on NARA’s strategic plan by the September 1, 2017 deadline.

Instructions to provide feedback are available online or by email to strategy@nara.gov.  If you have any questions about the draft plan or the review process, please email strategy@nara.gov or the PIDB’s email pidb@nara.gov.

Highlights from NARA’s Draft Strategic Plan:

The draft strategic plan establishes NARA’s mission, strategic goals, and objectives.  The plan describes how NARA will meet a vision of the agency’s future where it will be known for “cutting-edge access to extraordinary volumes of government information and unprecedented engagement to bring greater meaning to the American experience.”  Notably, the plan provides Federal agencies, already implementing electronic records management, with a deadline for the next step in the transition to fully-electronic recordkeeping:  By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata

Other select goals and objectives include:

  • By FY 2019: NARA will conduct inspections of records management practices at 10% of Federal agencies, to ensure that Federal email and other permanent electronic records are being managed in an electronic format.
  • By FY 2020: Digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2021: 82% of NARA holdings will be processed to enable discovery by the public
  • By FY 2025: Provide finding aids to 95 percent of the holdings described in the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2025: NARA’s data will be used as a primary data source by at least 15 external sources
  • By FY 2025: Will have 1 million records enhanced by citizen contributions to the National Archives Catalog

The PIDB will post its comments on NARA’s draft strategic plan in the coming weeks.

Join us for an Archives Hashtag Party!

Last month we kicked off a new social media campaign. The Archives Hashtag Party is a way for our colleagues in the archives community to highlight the diversity of their holdings around a fun topic. We invite you to bring your own collections and join in!

The new surprise theme in our Archives Hashtag Party will be announced the first Friday of each month through 2017. Visit our website or follow @USNatArchives to find each month’s new theme.

Share documents, photographs, and artifacts from your collections on Twitter or Instagram and use the designated hashtag. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, (GLAMs) and more are welcome–archives exist in every type of organization.

Archives Hashtag PartyWomen Making Bohemian Lace, July 1974. View in National Archives Catalog

We hosted the first “party” on August 4, with a theme that celebrated friendship, style, and history: #ArchivesSquadGoals. We received an amazing response from archives across the country, both large and small! The hashtag also caught on with new audiences and climbed onto the U.S. Twitter trends board.

On the day of the event, #ArchivesSquadGoals was used over 12,700 times on Twitter with over 11,000 contributors tweeting the hashtag. Over 200 peer organizations answered the call to action and shared items from their own holdings!

See these amazing contributions in our Storify stories on Twitter and Instagram.

One of our primary goals for this campaign is to boost the visibility of archives across the country. Our audience told us that they loved the spotlight on archives:

#ArchivesSquadGoals was undoubtedly entertaining, but it also showed the relevance of archives. The event turned the guiding principles of the National Archives Social Media Strategy into a dynamic event that delighted audiences, put a surprising twist on current trends, and boosted growth and community collaboration.

Social media collaborations such as these further NARA’s mission by creating a meaningful space to implement our Strategic Plan to make access happen, connect with customers, maximize NARA’s value to the nation, and build our future through our people by collaborating in an open, inclusive environment. They boost public awareness of cultural organizations, spark audience engagement and growth, and best of all, audiences love them.

We hope to see you at the next Archives Hashtag Party on Friday, September 1!

Drama Off Broadway

Is Aesthetic Realism “a Village cult” or a powerful force bringing new dramatic interpretations to the stage? That is the question addressed in this 1970 edition of Seminars in Theater. Host Richard Pyatt speaks with actor Ted Van Griethuysen, who is performing in the Opposite Company’s production of Hedda Gabler. A radical reinterpretation of the Ibsen classic, this version of the play is grounded in the principles of Aesthetic Realism, a world-view propounded by poet and philosopher Eli Siegel. This proselytizing note being sounded not only in the production but apparently in the accompanying press material may have led the conventional critics, led by the New York Times, to pan the show (though not the actors.) Clive Barnes offered a particularly scathing appraisal. Members of the Aesthetic Realism community responded with a letter-writing campaign. When these letters were not printed, they picketed the Times’ offices in protest. Eventually, some letters were printed, and Eli Siegel himself was invited to publish a response. Van Griethuysen, both an actor and a practitioner of Aesthetic Realism, contends that the critics’ hostility was due to their feeling “threatened because they found they could learn something.” The main bone of contention seems to be portraying the play’s heroine in a positive light, claiming that she is an “essentially good person.” Van Griethuysen connects this to Aesthetic Realism’s emphasis on self-improvement, uniting opposites to form a harmonious whole. Although there seems to have been a fair amount of acrimony, he is more interested in educating than scoring points. And selling tickets, of course. The controversy had extended the play’s run.

Eli Siegel (1902-1970) is not heard in this broadcast but provides the background against which it takes place. Originally a poet and book critic, he soon found his true calling as the proponent of a self-styled philosophical system which he expounded in thousands of lectures given at his Jane Street apartment. According to the Aesthetic Realism website, these principles can be summarized as: 

    The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
    The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it…. Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
    All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

Unlike most cults (which Aesthetic Realism rejects being called, though it would seem to fit many of the criteria) Siegel’s followers did not press for rapid expansion. As the Hedda Gabler controversy illustrates, this may have had to do with an innate distrust of the media. A shroud of mystery surrounded the group and its founder, which extended even to his death. In its obituary, The New York Times reported:

Almost from the beginning of Aesthetic Realism in 1941, Mr. Siegel and his followers who prefer to be called students insisted that the philosophy was being boycotted by the press and that it was thus impossible for them to propagate their views and gain a wide following. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation, which teaches Mr. Siegel’s beliefs, refused yesterday to give the clinical cause of his death. But it said in a news release that he had “died of a broken heart, having suffered for over 50 years from injustices of the press and literary world.”

In more recent times, Aesthetic Realism has gained perhaps unwanted attention for its claims of being able to reprogram homosexuals so that they will be attracted to the opposite sex.

When one goes back to the negative review that set off this brouhaha, it seems pretty mild. Barnes notes:

“Hedda Gabler” is a difficult play to give well—indeed, in fairness, it is probably a difficult play even to give badly. At first I thought all the actors, with the ice cold and blazing exception of Rebecca Thompson as Hedda, were atrocious. But as time ticked on (the evening is in fact only three‐and‐a‐half hour long, but it contrives to seem much longer) it occurred to me that this was possibly not involuntary bad acting but the conscious imposition of a bad style. It struck me that the misguided intention was to put the histrionic spotlight on one character — here, of course, Hedda—and to permit everyone else to drag and mutter out his lines like in articulate kids testifying before a public opinion poll. Certainly Miss Thompson gets half of a chance. No one else gets a quarter as much.

One senses that, however genuine the outrage generated by this and other reviews, the resulting publicity was being turned to good advantage. More generally, the interview provides an interesting picture of the theater-world in 1970, with its apocalyptic sense of values being threatened—or threatened with improvement!—on all sides. As Pyatt rather surprisingly remarks:  “I think it is one of the most wonderful things of the 20th century that the Opposites Company can generate that much activity and interest in a cultural event when the world is falling apart.”

 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 151298Municipal archives id: T7418