Celebrating Diversity at the National Archives

The National Archives is committed to maintaining an “open, inclusive work environment that is built on respect, communication, integrity, and collaborative teamwork.”  Together, we are strengthened by diversity and advanced by inclusion. As part of NARA’s ongoing focus on the subject of civil rights and diversity, both in the historical record and as an organization, I am pleased to announce several exciting initiatives at the National Archives that both celebrate our diversity and provide a forum for education and communication.

Promoting diversity among our staff is an integral part of NARA’s diversity and inclusion strategy. One way we promote such diversity is through Employee Affinity Groups: voluntary, employee-driven groups based around shared interests or life experiences. The groups facilitate professional development, cultural connections, diversity, and communication throughout our workforce.  When the groups started in 2014, we had just two: Stonewall@NARA, a group for LGBTQ employees and allies, and IKE, our veterans group. In the last two years we have added four more to include: HALO (Hispanics and Latinos); disABILITY (Individuals with Disabilities); Say it Loud! (African-Americans); and WAG (Women’s). Among other activities, these groups have been working to develop web resources, identify relevant records, digitize documents, and add them to our Catalog.

Recently, the Stonewall@NARA group launched Discovering LGBTQ History on Tumblr to feature documents reflecting the history of American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women from 1778 to the present.

Harvey Milk Letter 152903

San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s letter President Carter, June 28, 1978. Milk hoped that the President would “take a leadership role in defending the rights of gay people.” National Archives Identifier 152903. Read the full story on Discovering LGBTQ history.

2016 marks the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, one of our nation’s early attempts to form “a more perfect union.” We are celebrating this milestone with our Amending America initiative, which includes exhibits, National Conversation events, and online activities exploring the rights we have as a diverse society and examining the 11,000 attempts to amend our constitution. As part of this thematic focus, NARA will host a Wikipedia editathon in our Innovation Hub related to LGBTQ rights and the records we hold in the National Archives. This event will take place on Thursday, June 16 and is free and open to the public.

Continuing our tradition of supporting the Wikipedia community, the National Archives is excited to host the Wikimedia Diversity Conference on June 17-18. We are co-organizing the event with Wikimedia D.C., which reflects our shared commitment to embracing diversity. The Wikimedia Diversity Conference aims to address issues of diversity within the editing community of Wikipedia and related projects, including the highly publicized gender gap among Wikipedia editors. This event is an outgrowth of last year’s WikiConference USA at the National Archives, during which the topic of diversity became a major theme. The conference is open to the public, whether you are already a Wikipedia editor or not, especially anyone interested in the subjects of Wikipedia or diversity. The Wikimedia Diversity Conference will include workshops, panels, and presentations that highlight practices, tactics, or ideas addressing diversity in the Wikimedia movement, and related issues such as systemic bias and online harassment.

Wikipedia represents an important venue for NARA to “make access happen,” sharing our records with a wide audience in a way that is relevant to them. Hosting the Wikimedia Diversity Conference reaffirms the National Archives’ commitment to providing access to all government records for everyone. Our work with Wikipedia, and on the theme of diversity specifically, is another example of NARA innovating to achieve our vision of bringing greater meaning to the American experience through government records. You can read more about our Wikipedia strategy in NARA’s most recent Open Government Plan.

I expect NARA’s staff in attendance to offer valuable insight for the conference, as well as to learn and grow from the discussions that take place. We are proud be a part of this project which will encourage diversity in both the Wikipedia and the National Archives communities.

Magician of the Week #42: Viggo Jahn

It’s been far too long since we’ve featured a magician from  our Percival Collection! This week’s magician, Viggo Jahn, was originally a window decorator hailing from Copenhagen.


Here’s Viggo Jahn doing something totally inscrutable. Are those thimbles?

According to the November 1953 issue of M-U-M: Magic, Unity, Might, Jahn took up stage magic during the occupation of Denmark in WWII; the “entertainment-starved Danes” were eager for new performers, and a theatrical agent recognized Jahn as “very good looking, intelligent and young, and engaged in a business that required a touch of showmanship”.

After preparing for just three months, Jahn began presenting his manipulations in public, and he quickly improved “by leaps and bounds”. After the occupation was lifted, he began performing in Sweden, then across Europe, and later all over the world. “Wherever the wealthy and the celebrated dined in lovely surroundings, there was Viggo,” says M-U-M. 

The article also notes that “he was still a darned good window trimmer”.

Repurposing the lantern slide way

One of our volunteers spotted this in one of the Institute’s lantern slide boxes and called it to our attention:


What was it that attracted his interest? Was it the little round label ‘6054’ which indicated that the slide had originally been one of Sir John Myres’ slides? Was it the beautiful map with incredible detail of ‘Latium and Campania’?


Here’s Vesuvius and the bay of Naples from the bottom of the map:


Or was it this?:


Our volunteer, Robert Petts, is a philatelist and he really knows his stamps. He tells us that this little strip of paper is a re-used edging of a sheet of 1 penny red stamps of Edward VII, printed in 1905. The ‘E’ tells you the part of the year – this sheet of stamps was printed in the first half. The ‘5’ gives you the year. So there you go – it’s amazing what you can learn in the archive when you have great volunteers.

The WNYC American Music Festival

The WNYC American Music Festival played a significant role in promoting American music of every genre and provided a forum for new American composers to get their works heard. Conceived in 1939, the festival began in 1940 and continued for nearly 50 years ending up as a day-long series of concerts called WNYC’s Americathon. Although it was no longer as many as 150 special broadcasts[1] during an eleven day period in February, the station continued to broadcast music by American composers and performers from Lincoln’s to Washington’s Birthday.

This celebration of American music and composers came about at a time of uncertainty at home when much of Europe had succumbed to the brutality of Nazi Germany. As a product of the then city-owned radio station, the American Music Festival was considered one of New York’s responses to “Hitlerian destructiveness and fanaticism.” It was meant to be seen “as an expression of a democracy in terms of human fellowship and [the] cultivation of beauty which constitute the final answer to the tyrannies and stupidity of fascism.”[2] The festival was also a response to an overwhelming cultural presence of European classical music on the airwaves at the time whenever classical music was broadcast. On the eve of the first series of forty concerts Station Director Morris Novik said, “American broadcasters have done a splendid job in developing an appreciation of classical music. Radio must do still another important job by focusing attention on American music, and by demonstrating that Americans have written good –even great—music.”[3]

It was an auspicious beginning for the music festival that set the tone and style for many years to come. This first concert series in 1940 heard from the works of Deems Taylor, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Oscar Levant, Morton Gould and Henry Brant. It included some broadcast premieres such as Brant’s Great American Goof suite and Robert Elmore’s tone poem, Valley Forge, 1777 as well as new compositions by Dante Fiorello, Randall Thompson, Wallingford Riegger and other composers. The audio at the head of this article is the only surviving recording from that first festival in February 1940. It features composer and comedian Oscar Levant at the concluding concert program. In a brief interview beforehand, he comments on the festival and WNYC.

This past week…thanks to the virtually humanitarian auspices of station WNYC, has been dedicated to the performances of contemporary American composers. Performances of modern American composers are about as frequent as social communion with a leper colony. These sparse performances are often accompanied by the same dread of contamination.  So, beware!

There are often problems with any endeavor the first time around, and there no doubt was some need to ‘work out a few bugs’ before embarking on the next series of concerts.

The Lester Young Band at performing at Manhattan Center for the WNYC American Music Festival, February 15, 1941.
(Photo by Harry Rubinstein and courtesy of La Guardia-Wagner Archives CCNY)

Indeed, the WNYC producers returned in 1941 with a substantially larger schedule of concerts and, with added broadcast publicity as well as word of mouth, were instrumental in mobilizing some 5,000 people seeking tickets to the opening concert at Hunter College. Some 2,000 were reportedly turned away that Lincoln’s birthday because there was no room for them.[4] That first concert included Deems Taylor’s, The Highwayman in which Richard Hale sang the baritone role and the Manhattan Chorus, the choral part. Also performing folk songs were Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes and Andrew Rowen Summers, as well as jazz from the Benny Goodman Sextet and The Lester Young Band. At the intermission of the final concert for that second festival year composer Aaron Copland was quite pleased with the outcome.

…As a composer, I feel that the more American music is played, the sooner we will create an important music of our own in this country. This festival, it seems to me, demonstrates, at least two things. One- it shows our composers are writing more music than ever before; that they are more active, creatively, than ever before. And secondly, I think it shows that they are not being performed to the extent that they should be performed…Because the radio public, not having to pay anything for admission to a hall, being able to turn off the radio whenever whatever they hear doesn’t please them, that radio public holds for us, I think, our future American audiences. In closing all I can say is, I hope for bigger and better WNYC festivals in the future…

Third annual WNYC American Music Festival ticket from 1942.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

By February 1942, the United States was still reeling from the shock of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor two months earlier, so it is no surprise that evidence of the festival lacks for that year. Based on the paucity of available information one can only guess that WNYC management and staff were under a lot of pressure at that moment to deal with immediate issues concerning the war and to cut back on some of their festival plans despite its patriotic nature.[5] The following year, however, 97 live festival broadcasts were made.[6]

In reviewing the first five years of the festival in 1944, The New York Times reported that WNYC had accomplished one of its main goals with the festival since it was now “an established institution in the city’s musical life.”[7] ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers got involved, and the festival program read like a Who’s Who of American symphony, opera, jazz and folk music. Included were Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles, Aaron Copland, Sidney Foster, Robert McBride, Paul Nordoff, Vera Brodsky, Virgil Thomson, Henry Cowell, Josh White, Leadbelly and Alan Lomax, Tony Kraber, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Burl Ives and “other exponents of folk and hill music.”[8] 1944 also brought an engineering advance for the festival since it was the first year the music was heard over the “noise-free” frequency modulation (FM) station W39NY. With the end of the war in Europe approaching, the 1945 festival featured a swing-classical combo with Tommy Dorsey teaming up with Maestro Leopold Stokowski making the jitterbugs go wild.

American Music Festival WNYC logo 1940s and 50s.
(WNYC Archives)

After World War II there was a change in management at WNYC as Director Morris Novik went out with Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia and Seymour N. Siegel came in with Mayor William O’Dwyer. Siegel had long been with the station, and no doubt wanted to continue with something that brought nothing but praise to the broadcaster. Indeed, the festival continued to give a hearing to new and old works by American composers of every genre including songs from Tin Pan Alley and balladeer Woody Guthrie. In 1947 the 8th festival concluded with jam session including Tony Parenti on clarinet, Clarence Williams on piano, Pops Foster on bass and Baby Dodds on drums. The following year saw the Thelonious Monk Quartet make an appearance. Now, a decade in there was a healthy dose of the blues with one of Leadbelly’s final performances followed by Ruby Smith ‘channeling’ Bessie Smith, and the versatile Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry.  By 1950 Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Morton Gould, Paul Creston and Deems Taylor all had first radio performances of their work aired on the American Music Festival. There was a significant jazz presence too highlighted with performances by Miles Davis performed and Stan Getz and an interview with Teddy Wilson.

In 1951 plans for the upcoming 12th WNYC American Music Festival had to be altered for Cold War concerns. The series was to have featured avant-garde composer Edgar Varese’s, “Ionization.” The work called for the use of a siren “as a singing voice among some forty percussion instruments.” But WNYC had to rule it out with regrets since the New York City Civil Defense Office banned all sirens except those used for air-raid warnings.

In 1952 the widow of conductor and composer Serge Koussevitzky awarded WNYC the Koussevitzky Music Foundation’s first award for public service because the festival had, “encouraged creative talent, sent joy and beauty in the form of fresh musical ideas into the homes of its citizens and brought honor to its name.”[9] 1952 also saw the first appearance of the composer John Cage at the American Music Festival. Cage was described as a “younger upstart” whose experiments in rhythm produce “a strange phantasmagoria characteristic of the nation whose music can no more be classified than its society.”[10] In 1953, Leopold Stokowski conducted the festival’s final concert at the Museum of Modern Art. The bill included Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, and Letter from Morocco by Peggy Glanville-Hicks.[11] It was performed on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1960 at Town Hall in New York by the National Association of American Composers and Conductors Festival Orchestra under the direction of Alfredo Antonini.

It’s worth noting that in 1967 the folksinger Oscar Brand, a long-time station producer, arranged an American Music Festival folk concert at Carnegie Hall with Arlo Guthrie, John Hammond, Tom Paxton, Jean Richie and Len Chandler. Guthrie performed Alice’s Restaurant, described by The New York Times as “an amusing but pointed spoken monolog on the vagaries of law enforcement, the selective service draft and their relation to the war in Vietnam.”[12]

By its 30th year, in 1969, the number of live festival concerts had dropped off from a peak at the beginning of the decade. As the 1970s came in, so too did the city’s burgeoning fiscal problems that were well reflected in the declining American Music Festival programs.

The festival as a vibrant venue for a series of live concerts was revived for a while in the 1980s and with it came not so much a festival but what was called an “Americathon” a daylong live performance that spanned the whole range of American music, from Pulitzer Prize winning composers like Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and David Del Tredici to folk musicians like John McCutcheon and alternative pop singers like the The Roaches to improvising musicians like Muhal Richard Abrams. The programs also included harder to classify ensembles like Butch Morris’ “Conditions” who conducted improvisations by with large-scale ensemble and Music For Homemade Instruments whose load-in of auto brake drums, refrigerator racks and similar “gear” made the backstage area look more like a landfill. These were performed before a live audience in places like the New School, the Juilliard School, and Symphony Space, and broadcast live throughout the day and the evening. Since then, however, the “festival” as such has been largely a designated time for playing pre-recorded American music with occasional live studio and/or concert performances.  

The WNYC American Music Festival was extremely successful in achieving its goals for more than four decades. It was a pioneering effort that became a major New York cultural institution. It promoted the work of American composers, musicians, and conductors. It gave them a fair hearing. In the classical realm, it gave the WNYC listening audience a chance to reflect on American music long overshadowed by the European masters. Overall, it helped to move folk and traditional American music into the mainstream by giving equal weight to all genres of performance.

Finally, seldom mentioned but always present in its heyday and beyond for more than 40 years of festivals was WNYC’s Music Director, Dr. Herman Neuman. As a conductor and composer, he was also on the bill leading festival orchestras over the years. In 1966, some 50 works were performed for the first time at the festival. Perhaps he summed it up best saying, “Some of the music was good, some indifferent, some lousy, but now at least the composers have heard how their works sound in performance.”[13]

By the late 1980s, WNYC’s American Music Festival had run its course. The last few festivals were a shadow of their former glory as eleven days of live concerts were compacted into a day-long “Americathon”. This single day of performances was sandwiched between scheduled broadcasts of American music drawn largely from commercial recordings.

Click here to listen to archive copies of American Music Festival programs on the web.

Village Voice Ad for WNYC’s Americathon ’84.
(WNYC Archive Collections)



[1] Lohman, Sidney, “One Thing And Another WNYC Opens Annual Festival on Tuesday,” The New York Times, February 10, 1946, p.51.

[2] Downs, Olin, “Results of Five Radio Festivals,” The New York Times, February 20, 1944, p. x5.

[3] “40 WNYC Concerts to Give U.S. Music,” The New York Times, February 3, 1940, p.9.

[4] “U.S. Music Draws Audience of 3,000,” The New York Times, February 13, 1941. p.24.

[5] Sources indicate that the American Music Festival in 1942 did continue although its clear some momentum was lost. Another reason for the paucity of festival recordings during WWII is due to a change in media from aluminum to glass-based lacquer transcription discs.

[6] “100 Composers Set For WNYC Festival,” The New York Times,  August 6, 1943. p.9

[7] Kennedy, T.R., “WNYC And A Musical Tradition,” The New York Times, February 13, 1944, p. x9.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “WNYC is Honored For Work in Music,” The New York Times, February 13, 1952, p. 35

[10] Downs, Olin, “Foster To Cage: WNYC American Music Festival Presents Native Music of All Characteristics,” The New York Times, February 17, 1952, p. 95

[11] Downs, Olin, “Stokowski Conducts Final Concert of WNYC’s Annual Music Festival,” The New York Times, February 23, 1953, p. 20.

[12]WNYC Folk Concert Sung in 6 Segments,” The New York Times, February 19, 1967, p.71.

[13] “Army Band Concert Closes WNYC’s Fete,” The New York Times, February 23, 1966, p. 45.

Tate Street: 1971 and 2016

A week or two back, we posted some “then and now” comparisons of photos taken on the west side of the UNCG campus around 1991. Today, we move to the other side of campus (and two decades back in time) to compare some views of Tate Steet that were originally shot around 1971.

In 1970 or 1971, the store block on the east side of Tate Street, which dates from the 1920s, added a new facade to unify and modernize the appearance of the stores. At the same time, a two-story building had opened across the street to house Franklin Drugs, which had previously been across the street in the older store block. Franklin’s was replaced by a men’s clothing store called The Hill, which was only open for about a year, and that’s how we dated the photos.

Armed with the trusty iPhone in “panorama” mode, David Gwynn and Kathy Howard from the digital projects team recreated these images for your amusement.

Tate Street, north from Walker Avenue (1971):

Tate Street, north from Walker Avenue (2016):

Walker Avenue, west from Tate Street (1971):

Walker Avenue, west from Tate Street (2016):

Tate Street, southeast from Walker Avenue (1971):

Tate Street, southeast from Walker Avenue (2016):

Tate Street, northeast from Walker Avenue (1971):

Tate Street, northeast from Walker Avenue (2016):

Leonard Bernstein in 1948 on Gershwin and the Israel Philharmonic

In a typical breathless whistle-stop visit, Leonard Bernstein drops by the studios of New York classical music station WQXR to promote his 1948 recording of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, celebrating that quintessentially American composer on the 50th anniversary of his birth and discussing his own future plans. The interviewer, taking the subject of Gershwin’s piece literally, asks Bernstein if the last time he was in Paris he found the same things Gershwin did. Bernstein deftly turns the subject to music rather than autobiography, suggesting An American in Paris has to do “not with the city of Paris so much as the decade of the Twenties.” The interviewer stubbornly persists, pointing out the orchestral imitations of French taxi horns, etc. Bernstein allows that there is a “champagne bubble atmosphere” to the music.

The conversation then turns to Bernstein’s imminent departure for Israel, where he is to take up his position of Musical Director of the Israel Philharmonic and lead the orchestra for two months. Mention is made of “the Troubles” taking place at that time in Palestine. Bernstein concludes by giving a picture of his typically frenetic schedule. Immediately following his stint in Israel he has a concert in Paris on the 5th of December and one in Boston on the 9th. We are left with a fleeting glimpse of the then thirty-year-old musical phenom just as his career was reaching the stratospheric heights it would maintain for the next five decades.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) occupies a solitary and commanding perch not only in American music but American culture. Rarely have the elements of myth and legitimate, recognized accomplishment been so inextricably combined. Alex Ross, writing in The New Yorker, points out how:

…The story of Bernstein plays like a modern American fable. A prodigious boy from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Ukrainian shtetl immigrants, one day sits down at his aunt’s upright and begins plinking out notes. Within months, he is outplaying his first piano teacher; within a couple of years, he has mastered “Rhapsody in Blue.” While enrolled at Harvard, he impresses the conductors Dimitri Mitropoulos and Serge Koussevitzky, wins a lifelong friend in Aaron Copland, and, on the side, writes a senior thesis on African-American themes in classical music which is still worth reading. He moves to New York…and in a little more than two years pulls off an extraordinary triple feat: he wins national notice as a conductor when he substitutes for Bruno Walter at the New York Philharmonic; he establishes himself as a concert-hall composer with the rock-solid, formidably eloquent First Symphony, “Jeremiah”; and, with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, he knocks out a hit musical, “On the Town.”

Bernstein’s talents as composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, and increasingly as a cultural icon, made him one of the most sought after performers of his era. The New York Times, in its obituary, recounts how:

…it sometimes seemed that Mr. Bernstein could not possibly squeeze in one more engagement, one more social appearance. During one particularly busy stretch, he conducted 25 concerts in 28 days. His conducting style accurately reflected his breathless race through life.

The adventure Bernstein is about to embark on following this interview proved to be one of the most dramatic and personally memorable of his entire career. The website leonardbernstein.com relates how:

Bernstein, as “musical adviser” of what had been the Palestine Symphony Orchestra when he conducted it the year before, had been touring the war-ravaged country with the ensemble for two months, performing for long-time citizens, new settlers and soldiers alike, a grueling schedule of forty concerts in sixty days. It was not unusual to experience nearby artillery fire mid-concert, and at one performance at Rehovoth, he was called offstage mid-Beethoven piano concerto and told of a possible air raid. According to the Palestine Post, “he returned to the piano as if nothing had happened.” The outwardly unflappable Bernstein said: “I never played such an Adagio. I thought it was my swan song.”

In a time when “classical” music seems far removed from the chaos and violence of the world; when conductors are, to the uninitiated, as indistinguishable from one another as the absurdly antiquated attire they sport, Bernstein’s life and art serve as an illustration that neither of these conditions is a given, should the right man once again appear. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150202
Municipal archives id: LT5551

Alimentary Adornment, Dietary Decorations: Call for Proposals for Food-Themed Wallpaper!

Are you a Rhode Island artist? Do you make cool stuff, some of which is flat? Do you like to think about food and dining? Do you think the world needs coffee milk-themed wallpaper, and you’re the one who can make it happen?

In 2017, the Providence Public Library will present a food-themed, library-wide exhibition and program series. Alongside the usual exhibit cases, films, workshops, lectures, panels, and other events, we’ll be creating a food-themed installation inside the library. One element of the installation will be a series of large panels featuring food-themed wallpaper* created by a local artist** and inspired by items in our Special Collections.
*Interpreted loosely.
**Could this be you?

We’re currently accepting proposals from Rhode Island artists who are interested in this opportunity to receive funding through our Creative Fellowship program to research and create food-themed wallpaper in 2017! Don’t dilly-dally, because proposals are due by June 30th!

Read the full call for proposals and project timeline here.

The Cruel Gift of Love – Stirling District Asylum

Layla Essat is a Masters student in Gender Studies at the University of Stirling.  This is the first of a series of articles on her project placement investigating the Stirling District Asylum archive held by the University of Stirling.

Stirling District Lunatic Asylum first opened its doors in 1869. Located in Larbert, many of its patients had been transferred from the large Royal and Private Asylums in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Like many institutions of the time, the asylum kept extensive handwritten records, logging and chronicling all under their care. These records for a long time remained stored away and inaccessible but have now found a new home in our very own University archive.

Beginning investigation into the records, I was fairly uncertain of what I was going to find. Undertaking this project in relation to my current Gender Studies Masters at Stirling, my only initial guiding focus was to explore the collection with the aim of discovering the situation of women. With the collection as a whole spanning over a hundred years, it was immediately apparent that a large task lay ahead. In response, I refined my focus to the years 1900 – 1910.

Diagnosis of GPI in admission register.

Diagnosis of GPI in admission register.

Ploughing my way through hundreds of pages of admissions registers, a familiar phrase kept popping up as “supposed cause of insanity.” What was this G.P of the Insane and why was it wholly prevalent in married women and men? Immediately fascinated and I was intent on learning more about the female patients this affected. With a quick input into google, I soon found the gendered relationship of this illness opening up.

General Paresis otherwise known as General Paralysis of the insane was first coined in the 1830s. As the name suggests, records state that patients at the asylum suffered from broad and vague symptoms, including fatigue, headaches and insomnia. Similarly, family members reported changes in personality, concentration and memory was severely impaired. They all suffered from slurred speech and facial and bodily tremors. Most notably, and highly typical of this disease, was the presence of delusions. This disease was syphilis.

Photograph of female patient taken on admission to Stirling District Asylum.

Photograph of female patient taken on admission to Stirling District Asylum.

The most socially revealing symptom could be seen in the patient’s eyes and was termed Argyll Robertson pupils. Often termed “prostitute’s pupils”, they were large and unreceptive to changes in light. This discovery proved key. From this I speculated a connection between the use of prostitutes by men and the then inevitable transmission of this illness to their wives. The picture suddenly became much bigger and from here, I begin to question who the real victims in this situation were. In an age where a woman’s marital duty was to provide sex, it would prove highly difficult for these women to protect themselves from the inadvertent dangers of commercial sex. Given that symptoms could take up to 20 years to manifest, innocent wives were likely to pay the price of their husband’s pre-marital sexual encounters as well as any current ones. However, my research revealed that perhaps women caught it first- hand. The women in this asylum all came from some of the poorest sections of society. Marriage was often undertaken out of need to ensure financial security and very less often for love. “Casual Prostitutes” were women who engaged in prostitution as a side line to supplement household income, and often pushed to do so by their husbands.

This condition was otherwise termed The Great Imitator for its habit to share its symptoms with many other illnesses. I believe that this issue was far more widespread than it would first appear and suspect that many others with G.P of the Insane simply went misdiagnosed. Given the sheer number of male sufferers observed in the admissions register, I highly doubt that diagnosis of female patients with this condition to be accurate. I encountered several instances where diagnosis was changed upon death. The majority of women I encountered died in the asylum, and of the very few allowed home, prognosis would dictate that they would have died bedbound soon after.

Female case book containing detailed notes on patients admitted to the asylum.

Female case book containing detailed notes on patients admitted to the asylum.

We will perhaps never know the full plight of these women. However, the bottom lines remains; as long as society maintained the notion of a male right and need for satisfaction of sexual energies, the transmission of venereal diseases amongst prostitutes, innocent wives and their philandering husbands would continue. Bluntly, male demand directly facilitated female harm.

Layla Essat, May 2016

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Lilian Supove Blake

In the mid-1940s, a woman leading the news and special events department of a broadcaster in the nation’s biggest radio market was pretty unusual.  But that’s exactly the position held by Lily Supove Blake at WNYC in the post-war period, when hopes for the United Nations ran high, new technology became available and taking some chances with innovative programming was in the offing.

Lilian Thelma Supove was born on March 9, 1910 to Ida Blumer and Jacob Supove. Lily, as she liked to be called, would later put to good use some of the journalistic genes inherited from her father Jake, a newspaper journalist in Europe known for some strong opinions. She graduated cum laude from Smith College in 1929 and was the youngest person in her class. After Smith, she had been a New York City Welfare Department caseworker among other jobs prior to landing at WNYC in 1941.

What she worked on in those early years is not entirely clear, but by 1944 she was writing scripts and producing material for the station’s 20th anniversary programming. Later that year she was the producer for People’s Music, East and West, a concert series from Town Hall presenting seldom heard folk music in collaboration with the East and West Association.[1] The summer of 1945 she was producing a Saturday evening program called Global Neighbors which, according to Variety, got some script assistance from a seventeen-year-old Edward F. Albee.[2] By late 1945 Lily was WNYC’s News and Special Events Director. She coordinated WNYC’s 7th annual American Music Festival of 181 programs, including 137 live broadcasts over the eleven days between Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays in February 1946.[3]

Lily was also hosting and producing the World of Women, and was the host of the weekly interview program Weekend in New York. Among her interviewees were theater director Robert Lewis, actress Anne Jackson, sports writer Everett B. Morris and guitarist Vincente Gomez

By late 1946 she had taken three Antioch College interns under her wing to help with the writing, production and launching of a Department of Correction series Toward  a Return to Society. The young Kit Davidson, John Michael Kittross and Rod Serling [4] worked closely with Lily on the shows that were aime

“to acquaint New Yorkers with the work of the Classification Board of the Department of Correction. The series will present radio sessions of the board’s meetings, during which actual cases will be discussed…Dramatic portions of the script are written by Lilian Supove.”[5]

Standing just barely over five feet tall, Lily also took on special assignments from station director Sy Siegel, such as the National Aircraft Show in Cleveland, Ohio in November of that year. There she used a Brush Soundmirror, the first commercially available tape deck in America, (and quite cumbersome), to record WNYC’s first taped programs.[6]

Another trip found her at La Guardia Field on August 29, 1947 for a flight to London on the clipper Constellation to record interviews and finalize arrangements for WNYC’s airing of BBC World Theatre productions.[7] During the flight she interviewed a woman from Manila, who described how she, her husband and children were held in internment camps for three years.

Along with BBC officials her contacts that week in London included no less than George Bernard Shaw. She had written the great playwright with the hope that he would be willing to record a special introduction to The Man of Destiny, one of the BBC produced dramas WNYC planned to air. To her disappointment, she received the following reply:

Quite out of the question. I am too old; and The Man of Destiny needs no introduction. The announcer can read the printed directions with which the play begins in the book if he likes; but this is the utmost that I will sanction.[8]

Lily did, however, have some success scoring an interview with Harold Hobson, drama critic for London’s Sunday Times and early champion of playwrights Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter.  They discussed the experimental World Theatre radio series coming to WNYC.

What kind of person was Lily Supove? One rare public reflection on her character and no-nonsense point of view can be found in a September 1947 edition of Film Daily. There, she was one of 372 critics queried on whether American films had improved, failed to improve or regressed in the previous year. She replied:

Film Daily, September 1947
(Library of Congress)

 July 1948 ushered in WNYC’s 25th year on the air, and Lily took the lead on silver anniversary programming. The New York World Telegram wrote with the photo below,  “Across the years–while Mrs. Lilian Blake has been director of special events and news…the station has led the airwaves in culture and also in information about health. This year it claims the record for broadcasting more United Nations news than any other station in the world.”

Preparing for WNYC’s 25th anniversary are (l to r) standing: Miriam Cutler, Dulcie Rogers, Marilyn Tack, Patti Bolton, Lynn Thiras and seated: Anita Paige, Lilian Blake & Rita Ostrow.
(World Telegram photo by F. Palumbo/Library of Congress)

Liiy was active on Election Day 1949 doing, among other things, a ‘beeper phone’ interview with Sid Berry, Special Events Coordinator for the State Department, regarding the Voice of America’s election coverage. Here is the interview, introduced by WNYC Director Sy Siegel.

News and Special Events Director Lilian Supove’s 1947 U.N. ID.
(Courtesy of Edwin Blake/WNYC Archive Collections)

In 1951, Lily and her husband left New York for Tacoma, Washington, where they raised their son Edwin. In the 1970s Lily returned to New York for a few years, working at a number of jobs including copy-editing at the Village Voice (1977-1978). According to her son, she also ran a Vista neighborhood house in Harlem from February 1978 to 1979. There she enjoyed introducing kids to the world outside Harlem, showing them how to use the subway system and taking them on field trips to free concerts and various art museums. And, she made it a point to take them to the New York Public Library to get their library cards. Lily Blake died on May 11, 1991.

Lily Supove Blake’s WNYC calling card.
(Courtesy of Edwin Blake/WNYC Archive Collections)


[1] Lohman, Sidney, “Gossip of Radio Row,” The New York Times, pg. X11. Note: The East and West Association was formed during World War II with the goal of aiding the Allied war effort in Asia by helping Americans understand the culture and concerns of the people of China and India.

[2] Variety, August 8, 1945, pg. 32

[3] “Musical Mastodon” PM, February 22, 1946, pg. 16.

[4] According to author Gordon F. Sander, Serling’s pay at WNYC didn’t quite cover all of his expenses and so the former Pacific theater paratrooper took to moonlighting as a parachute tester. “Lilian Blake, his supervisor at WNYC, found out about her subaltern’s somewhat bizarre part-time job when he staggered into the newsroom one winter’s day with a major gash across his cheek. Serling sheepishly explained that the parachute he was testing proved impossible to control, and the wind had blown him into a barbed wire fence. ‘You wouldn’t know it to look at him though,’ said Blake. ‘He was very modestly behaved, not at all the swashbuckling type.’ ” Source: Sander, Gordon F., Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television’s Last Angry Man, Plume, 1994, pg. 57-58.

[5] Lohman, Sidney, “Concerning Radio Row,” The New York Times, November 10, 1946, pg. X9.

[6] “WNYC Airs Magnetic Paper Tape Broadcast,” Billboard, November 30, 1946, pg. 5.

[7] “From the Production Centers,” Variety, September 3, 1947, pg. 36.

[8] Gould, Jack, “The News of Radio,” The New York Times, September 8, 1947, pg. 42.

[9] “WNYC to Hold Own Jubilee,” The New York World Telegram, June 9, 1948, pg. 3.

From Cuba to Amherst

Recently cataloged:
cover of Mapa de la Isla de Cuba y Plano de la Habana
Mapa de la Isla de Cuba y plano de la Habana published in 1853 by B. May y Ca.
The original brown cloth binding holds two maps, one of the entire island and one of the city of Havana. The maps themselves are quite brittle, with tears along the folds, so I used extra care when cataloging them. While this is a published item, and therefore not unique¹, the library’s fabulous Digital Programs department agreed that, for preservation purposes, this would be a good candidate for digitization. You can now explore all the details of the maps here on ACDC with no fear of causing further harm to the original.

The provenance of the maps is from the Hills-Skillings Family Papers, a collection which is still being processed, but which is related to the Hills Family Papers. I was curious how and why a mid-nineteenth century map of Cuba had arrived in Amherst, and a little investigating taught me something I hadn’t known about the history of the town. Did you know that Amherst was once the home of the largest straw hat manufacturing company in the United States?
I’ve always associated the Industrial Revolution in Massachusetts to “mill cities” like Lowell or Chicopee, but here’s a mid-nineteenth century view (towards the northeast, I believe) from the Amherst College campus:
Leonard Mariner Hills (1803-1872) started the L.M. Hills Company in Amherst in 1829, and by 1869 it was the largest hat making company in the U.S., making about 100,000 dozen hats per year. (Hats were apparently sold in dozens) So, where is the Cuba connection? Straw hats weren’t actually made from straw, but from palm-leaf…
…At that time Massachusetts was the only state in the Union were palm-leaf was manufactured into hats. The only factories for carrying on this work were located at Amherst, Barre, Palmer and Fitchburg. Of these, the factories at Amherst were the most important as regarded the size of buildings, the amount of business and the completeness of the work done. L.M. Hills & Sons were the largest operators in the business in America. All the leaf used in the work came from Cuba.²
Next puzzle to figure out: what’s that building (with four turrets) off in the distance behind the factory?
¹A google image search for “mapa isla cuba 1853” finds several instances of the maps.
²Carpenter, Edward Wilton, 1856-. and Charles Morehouse, The History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Amherst, Mass.: Press of Carpenter, 1896, page 292.

Green & Huckvale Advertising Ltd. fonds

Ever wonder about Vancouver’s advertising past? One piece of the city’s advertising history is the Green & Huckvale Advertising Ltd. fonds. At its height, Green & Huckvale Advertising Ltd. was a Vancouver advertising and public relations agency that handled a mix of corporate, service, retail, government, and manufacturing clients. It was formed in 1975 as Sprackman, Green & Huckvale Advertising, with Joan Green as President and Creative Director Mel Sprackman as Director of Client Services (in charge of accounts and business development), and Marnie Huckvale as Public Relations Director.

Green & Huckvale graphic design for Calona “Tiffany” wine. Reference code: AM1453-S3--Calona Tiffany, Box 972-E-4 folder 1

Design for Calona “Tiffany” wine. From file AM1453-S4–Calona Tiffany

The fonds consists of textual records, photographs, audio tapes of radio advertisements, and graphic design materials relating to the agency’s early advertising and public relations projects for various local clients.

The core of the Green & Huckvale fonds is its client case files. Each case file contains very detailed records on how an advertising idea was developed and documents every stage of how Green & Huckvale helped its clients establish their public image. This documentation includes research material, ideas formulation, communications with clients, storyboard presentations, radio and TV advertising scripts, graphic designs and advertising campaign strategies.

Green & Huckvale Expo 86 poster design. Reference Code AM1453-S3, Box 972-F-2 folder 4

Expo Centre ad. From series AM1453-S3

Other interesting and informative records are found in the creative design development files (1978-1982), and the Expo 86 project records. They contain very stylish and eye-catching graphic design materials which display the design trends of the 1980s.

Green & Huckvale Expo 86 poster design. Reference Code AM1453-S3, Box 972-F-2 folder 4

Expo 86 poster. From series: AM1453-S3

Green & Huckvale Expo 86 poster design. Reference code: AM1453-S3, Box 972-F-2 folder 4

Expo 86 poster. From series AM1453-S3

Being a successful advertising agency, Green & Huckvale served a wide variety of clients in the private sector, including the BC Automobile Association, Granville Island Public Market, Harrison Hotel, London Drugs, Mohawk Oil, NEC, and Purdy’s Chocolates. The company was also a pioneer in providing public relations services to various levels of government, helping them to promote their services and plans, and to establish a good public image. Its public sector clients included the BC Ministry of Health, BC Ministry of Lands, BC Parks and Recreation, BC Housing, and the City of Vancouver.

Western Elevator presentation. Reference code: AM1453-S4–Western elevator, Box 972-F-3 folder 5

Western Elevator presentation. From file AM1453-S4–Western elevator

Sprackman left the company in late 1979. Initially, the agency provided creative services only, but quickly grew into a full-service agency, with clients whose market areas covered all of Canada and the Pacific Northwest. In 1986, the company became dormant and remained so for three years. It was reactivated in 1989, again as a full-service agency, but with staff hired on a project basis only. Green & Huckvale continued to provide print and broadcast advertising in all media, eventually including website design.

Early company logo. Reference code: AM1453-S3-Western Optical Co. Ltd. – research, Box 973-E-7 folder 3

Early company logo. From file AM1453-S3-Western Optical Co. Ltd. – research, box 973-E-7 folder 3

The Green & Huckvale Advertising Ltd. fonds documents over two decades of local creative ideas and values. The records also reflect a period of time in which manufacturers and even government sectors were realizing that promotion of their products and services was vital if they wanted to survive or to be more responsive to customers.

[Editor’s note: A earlier version of this post appeared in Archives Newsletter Volume 4, Number 1: Spring 2008]

SAVE THE DATE: PIDB Public Meeting on June 23, 2016

Join us and REGISTER for the next public meeting of the PIDB!

When: Thursday, June 23, 2016 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Doors Open: 9:15 a.m.

Where: The Archivist’s Reception Room, Room 105, National Archives and Records Administration

Address: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC (Enter through the Pennsylvania Ave. Lobby)

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) will hold a public meeting to report on its work in developing recommendations to modernize the classification and declassification system.  Members will report on their ongoing investigation into how the use of technological applications will modernize declassification, making it more efficient and effective in the digital age.  Additionally, the PIDB has invited a representative from the White House to discuss the Administration’s policies and initiatives to increase government transparency.  At the PIDB’s last public meeting, Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Alex MacGillivray, spoke of the need for Government to adopt the use of technologies in its work processes to improve access and use of Government information.

We will allot time for questions and comments from the public.

This meeting is open to the public. However, due to space limitations and access procedures, we require individuals planning to attend the meeting to register on Eventbrite.

Attendees must enter through the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. Please note we require one form of Government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license) to gain admittance. For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations, please contact the PIDB staff at 202-357-5342 or pidb@nara.gov. Two weeks advance notice will allow us to provide access.

Press may contact NARA’s Public Affairs Office at 202-357-5300.

Be sure to stay connected to the Board’s activities and look for more information about the Board on its website and its blog, Transforming Classification.  

Have questions about Public Meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board? Contact the Public Interest Declassification Board.

Cold War First Lady Nina Khrushcheva Sends a Message for World Peace

In this 1962 “address to the women of America,” Nina Petrovna Khrushcheva, the wife of Premier Nikita Khrushchev, urges the United States to end the cold war by full disarmament and to dump all weapons into the ocean.

Though it is unclear if this recording aired on WNYC, the broadcast was transmitted to American audiences via shortwave radio. A February 19th article in the New York Times describes her “accented but flowing” message:

The Premier’s wife expressed gratification over the ‘peace movement’ of American women. Her formula for world peace was this: ‘Let us sink atom bombs along with the other weapons in the deepest part of the ocean and live without weapons as good neighbors.’

Invoking a national memory of fifty years of war she asserts that her country does not want to fight with the United States:

Our people are engaged in the greatest and noblest undertaking that has ever fallen to man. During the time in twenty years we want, in the main, to build a communist society in our country, a society of plenty, full equality and happiness for all.

Nina was the first wife of a Russian political leader to assume a typical First Lady role, which was projected towards an attentive global audience. This era in Soviet politics, known as the Khrushchev Thaw, emphasized the unraveling of Stalinism and peaceful coexistence with other nations. Nina was the smiling face of the Khrushchev Thaw.

She traveled at Nikita’s side on diplomatic trips to foreign countries, communicated in several languages and had a career as a teacher and communist party leader. When reached for comment, her granddaughter and namesake Nina Khrushcheva said:

…she was rather well educated, certainly better than Nikita Khrushchev, and was once his teacher in political economy…She worked as a propagandist (and apparently a very good one) during the Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War, and was very upset when she had to give up her job in the 1930s because Stalin’s mandate was to return women back to the family and end the suffrage movement. She told me once that ‘during World War II she could have been very helpful to the soldiers.’

…she was very proper and professional, her job was to be at the side of the leader and to represent the country on foreign trips so she did what was expected of her to the best of her ability, essentially perceiving those trips as her communist party duty…As a side note, she was also a wonderful grandmother, firm yet forgiving.

 In 1959, the family embarked on a cross country tour of the United States. With fascination, the press described her adventures dining in Hollywood with Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, dodging questions on foreign policy from the press, sneaking away in San Francisco to do a little shopping and showing off pictures of her grandchildren.

An Associated Press article from September 28th, 1959 recounts how reporters anticipated this visit with catty remarks about her appearance, “some sophisticated reporters commented caustically upon Mme. Khrushchev[a]’s poorly corseted figure, undistinguished wardrobe, placid peasant face and incredible long page-boy-in-snood hair-do.” However, her charm eventually won over the public. The reporter, who was perhaps ignorant of Khrushchev’s de-stalinization policies, further suggested that “There was the feeling that anyone who had the good sense to marry her, stay married to her, and bring her over here couldn’t be all villain, no matter what he was doing during Stalin’s regime.”As Albin Krebs notes in Nina’s 1984 New York Times obituary “she turned out to be her husband’s greatest public relations asset, as Americans took to her cheerful personality and motherly manner.”

After Nikita was ousted in 1964, the couple retired in quiet obscurity to a dacha near Moscow. The Times obituary criticized the Russian government for letting Nina’s death go unnoted by reporters in Moscow for 10 days:

The only public mention of [her death], a brief notice in the Moscow newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva on Aug. 11, referred to her by her maiden name of Kukharchuk and described her as a ‘personal pensioner.’ Her husband’s death notice [in 1971] described him similarly, neglecting to mention that he had once been First Secretary of the Communist Party and Prime Minister.

Nina served a diplomatic spousal role to foreign countries but rarely made public appearances in the Soviet Union. As the couple were never officially married, it is not surprising that the Soviet press would use her legal last name, nor make mention of Nikita’s death at a time when the Soviet Union was reverting back to Stalinist policies. According to her granddaughter:

Since the First Lady position didn’t exist, Nina’s death in 1984 mattered more to the Westerners than to the Soviets. For the West she was one of the political symbols of Khrushchev’s Thaw, of his communism with the human face, but to the Soviets she was just a former leader’s wife. Moreover a leader who targeted Stalinism, something that even today Russia is still conflicted about. Over 50 percent of people consider Stalin’s role in Soviet affairs positive.


My utmost thanks to Nina Khrushcheva for providing her commentary. Khrushcheva is a Professor at The New School and a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute. Learn more about the Khrushchev family in her latest book, The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150300
Municipal archives id: T4070

Walker Deck and Kaplan Commons: 1991 and 2016

Several years back, we digitized some “panoramic” photos (created by gluing together still prints) taken about 1991 in the area of UNCG’s Walker Avenue parking deck, which was completed in 1994, and the Elliott University Center expansion and Kaplan Commons, which were completed in 2006. Digital imaging technician Robert Bixby, who passed away in 2013, scanned and color-corrected the images.
This area of campus has changed drastically in the past twenty-five years; numerous houses and apartment buildings were torn down for the construction projects, and entire blocks of Theta and Forest Streets ceased to exist.
Armed with an iPhone set on “panorama” mode, David Gwynn and Erica Rau from the digital projects team recently shot some contemporary images from the same vantage points as the 1991 photos, and we present the here for your enjoyment.
East on Stirling Street between Theta and Walker (1991):

Same view (2016):

North on Theta Street between Stirling and Forest (1991):

Same view (2016):

Southeast at Walker Avenue and Forest Street (1991):

Same view (2016):

South on Stirling Street from Walker Avenue (1991):

Same view (2016):

West on Stirling Street between Theta and Walker (1991):

Same view (2016):

East on Kenilworth Street between Theta and Walker (1991):

Same view (2016):

South on Kenilworth Street from Walker Avenue (1991):

Same view (2016):

What is the most viewed object in the Digital Library?

We get asked this question a lot from people. Most are simply curious. However, to the staff of the FSU Digital Library (FSUDL), this is actually an important question. Understanding what our most viewed objects are can help us decide what materials to digitize and make public next for our users as well as understand where current research interests lie within the FSU community.

However, it’s not quite as simple as looking at Google analytics or the basic collection usages statistics that our digital library platform gives us. We’ve only had some of our statistic reporting tools in place for a short amount of time so what Google says is our most viewed collection doesn’t necessarily match what the Digital Library itself tells us. For example, Google says that our Yearbook collection is the most viewed collection in the Digital Library; our Digital Library tells us it’s the Heritage Protocol & University Archives collection, the Yearbook’s parent collection, that is most viewed. This shows the different granularity upon which the two systems collect information; one is looking at the entirety of the Digital Library; the other is looking only at a certain level at any given time. That difference is why we need both systems tracking together to get us the information we need to make decisions about projects moving forward in the FSUDL. It’s also helping us to continue to refine how we collect usage information from the FSUDL.

Page from the 1952 Tally Ho
Page from the 1952 Tally Ho

While the Digital Library platform might not be the best fit for tracking what collection is most viewed, it is the platform which can tell me the answer to the question that prompted this blog post: what is the most viewed object in the Digital Library? Right now, this still is not an easy question to answer (takes a bit of work to get it out of the DL system) but I can say that the Tally-Ho of 1952 (the FSU student yearbook) has been viewed 990 times since we started tracking at object level at the beginning of this year.

In second place is Paul Dirac’s dissertation with 755 views and rounding out the top 3 is a Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey clown college (because who doesn’t love clowns?) In fact, this item is also in our top ten of exit pages meaning this object is often what people are looking for so they leave the FSUDL after finding it.

We’ll continually be working on tracking usage in the Digital Library to make sure the materials we share in the digital environment are the most useful and interesting to all our users. What do you think we should digitize next?

Portals Story Event 6/6/16: A History of Future Bummers

2016 Portals Creative Fellow Walker Mettling put together an amazing, Special Collections-themed comics compilation and story night– and you’re invited!

Library Story Night

The event, coming up on Monday, June 6th, will feature stories written and read by local artists Veronica Santos, Caitlin CaliDailen Williams, Jim Frain, Keegan Bonds-Harmon, Jeremy Ferris & Julia Gualtieri. Library friend and neighbor Joe DeGeorge will provide musical interludes. This event will also feature the release of a brand new, Special Collections-themed issue of the Providence Sunday Wipeout, a large-format comics newspaper. Wow!

This not-entirely-literary evening will be hosted by Walker Mettling. See you on June 6th at 6:30 p.m. in the PPL Auditorium!

Declassification Technology Update from the Center for Content Understanding (CCU)

Yesterday, PIDB member Sanford Ungar attended a briefing by Dr. Cheryl Martin entitled, Decision Support Technology for Records Declassification Review and Release. Dr. Martin’s briefing was jointly sponsored by the ODNI and CIA as part of the research supporting the Congressionally-Directed Action tasked by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to the Director of National Intelligence in Section 321 of the IAA for FY2015: Report on Declassification Process.

Dr. Martin’s briefing expanded on the findings she presented at the PIDB’s June 25, 2015 public meeting concerning declassification technology pilot projects conducted at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin. As part of the President’s Second Open Government National Action Plan, the CIA and NARA teamed with Dr. Martin and the CCU to develop a Sensitive Content Identification and Marking (SCIM) tool to assist the declassification review of over 87,000 emails from the Reagan Administration.

After successfully demonstrating the capabilities of the SCIM tool, the CCU continues supporting the CIA in its efforts to develop and apply the technology to its declassification review processes. Dr. Martin’s briefing brought agency officials together to hear an in-depth description of the piloting efforts and to discuss as a community the potential next steps for developing the SCIM tool and expanding its application at agencies.

The PIDB has a history of making recommendations for improving technological capabilities in support of declassification. The work of the CCU will have significant implications on how agencies grapple with the challenges of performing declassification in an increasingly digital world. The new challenges brought on by the exponential growth of digital information require new solutions routed in technology and automation. Not only will technology support declassification decision making in the future, it likely will replace some components of the declassification process in its entirety. Developing these technologies requires new policies that favor an increase in automation and improved risk management across government. As importantly, agencies requires resources (i.e. funding) devoted to declassification modernization to ensuring the public has access to government information now and in the future.

The PIDB thanks Dr. Martin and the CCU, as well as the ODNI, CIA, NARA, and all the agencies who attended the briefing. The participation of agencies at this briefing and at the meetings of the PIDB’s Declassification Technology Working Group demonstrate the commitment the government shares to improve public access to its information in support of transparency and openness.

Letters to the President

One of the most rewarding parts of my work is sharing the treasures of the National Archives with kids and their families.

Through the support of the National Archives Foundation, we continue to host sleepovers in the Rotunda of the National Archives. These events give kids the chance to spend the night next to America’s most precious treasures: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, while engaging them in activities that help them learn about our nation’s history, and explain the important role of the National Archives.

One of the activities during our sleepovers provides an opportunity for kids to write letters, as I did, to the President of the United States, which are then delivered to the White House.


Kids at the National Archives sleepover write letters to the President of the United States. February 6, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey Reed.

Our latest delivery received a response directly from the President!

President Obama Letter page 1

President Obama Letter page 2
































It is a privilege to continue to host these events for kids and their families, and encourage them to become more involved in their government. For more information, please visit archivesfoundation.org/sleepover.

1962 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

“Race Relations in America,” is the self-proclaimed theme of the 1962 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners. The prize, whose mission is to recognize works of social justice, goes to three books, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, The Forbidden Man, by Gina Allen, and Anti-Slavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America by Dwight Lowell Dumond.

As the books represent three different genres (memoir, novel, and work of history) the host has a difficult time getting the conversation going. Gina Allen speaks of her novel being about how “barriers lead to a lack of understanding, and in the lack of understanding you have the germs of hate.” Dumond, a professor of history, starts out with a rather dry exposition of the anti-slavery movement, before characterizing the institution itself as “a form of social insanity.” Griffin, the most well-known of the three, whose “stunt” of having a dermatologist to darken his skin so he could travel throughout the South as a black man, is a more passionate, voluble witness.

Griffin describes the hardship of simply having nowhere to eat, to get a glass of water, or answer any other bodily needs, of the dread he felt leaving his room, of having to think very carefully before taking any action, with the threat of violent consequences lurking behind the most innocent impulse. Of blacks and whites in America he proclaims, “We know nothing whatsoever about each other!” Allen refers to an apparently common phrase of the time, the “hate stare” blacks encounter from racist whites. She also points out how racism destroys white families and as well as black. Dumond speaks of the brain drain the South has suffered for many years as any white with the conscience or intelligence to question the system of apartheid is forced to leave.

There is still, in 1962, a widely-held belief that the Negro is genetically inferior. Much time is devoted to debunking these and other myths. Griffin speaks of how, when hitch-hiking, he was invariably asked about the black man’s enormous sexual appetite. The conversation, with its conspicuous lack of black representation (this in a year that saw the publication of James Baldwin’s Another Country) is a well-intentioned but disturbing snapshot of the white literary community trying to formulate a response without engaging the very people whose predicament is being discussed.

Gina Allen (b. 1918) was the author of many books and articles. The Forbidden Man was her first novel. Kirkus Review called it:

An earnest, angry and often moving novel about integration in the Spanish-White-Negro-town in the southwest…There is a touch too much melodrama and too many side plots in this story, but the author has right, knowledge and indignation on her side, and the central scenes, of a Negro teacher at bay among the disturbed from an even more disjointed background, are frequently stirring.

Dwight Lowell Dumond (1895-1976) taught for many years at the University of Michigan. Anti-Slavery was his magnum opus. As the university’s memorial tribute notes:

Dumond’s antislavery publications were cited in oral argument by counsel for the plaintiffs in the school segregation cases to supplement their written briefs.

John Howard Griffin (1920-1980) was a novelist, journalist, and social activist. It is hard to overstate the impact Black Like Me had in a time when the inequities of the South were not widely reported and, even when done so, not widely believed. Something about the bizarreness of Griffin’s self-willed transformation, perhaps the very urgency such a drastic act implied, made his revelations more than mere muckraking. Jonathan Yardley, book critic for the Washington Post, recalled its effect when revisiting the book fifty years later.

I was 21 years old, newly graduated from Chapel Hill. I had written sympathetically about the emerging black protests for the student newspaper, but I was deeply ignorant about the truths of black life in America. That it took a white man to begin my awakening is, in hindsight, distressing, but Griffin’s story managed to put me in a black man’s shoes as nothing else had. …”Black Like Me” had a transforming effect on me, as apparently it did on innumerable others. That it has remained in print for more than four decades is testimony to its continuing influence, in great measure because it is taught in high schools and colleges.

Fittingly, the last word is given to Griffin, who states, “We don’t have a race problem in the United States, we’ve got a problem of racism.”

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150268
Municipal archives id: LT9452

Dora the Explorer

“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Letter of Dec 3, 1915)

“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Dora Mattoon, letter of Dec 3, 1915)

What inspires a woman to throw over her life from one day to the next, to go from apparent comfort and a great job in a big city to a remote post in a country she’s never been to, where they speak a language she hasn’t studied at all?  And what would possess her to leave the first country after five years of hard work for an entirely different one, retraining herself all over again?  How does she go from here:

to here:


–and from being this person (I love the body language here):

Ward_Dora-1906-body_languageto becoming this person:

Ward_Dora-with-Earl-Ward-ca1913What percent of her decision springs from a spirit of adventure, and what percent from “missionary zeal”?

In the case of Dora Mattoon, it was 110% of each.  She couldn’t be contained.

Broadway Tabernacle, ca. 1905

Broadway Tabernacle, ca. 1905

On March 2, 1911, the 27-year-old Dora read an obituary in the New York Times for missionary Maria B. Poole.  Maria, who had earlier attended Dora’s church, the Broadway Tabernacle, had died at the mission station in Harpoot, Turkey, of a heart attack after complications from pneumonia.  According to Dora’s diary, the story of Maria’s life and work inspired Dora to take her place, almost from one day to the next.  She thought quietly over the idea for a few months before announcing her decision in early May.  Dr. Charles Jefferson, her pastor at the Broadway Tabernacle, wrote to console her worried parents:

“Your daughter seems to have worked this problem out all by herself.  I never once spoke to her on the subject of missions, and was quite surprised when a short time ago she came to me, and told me she was going to apply for the position left vacant by our missionary, Miss Poole.  I do not believe that anybody talked to her, or coaxed her into it, or even persuaded her, but that she worked it all out alone in her own heart.  And she seems to be quite firm in her decision, feeling convinced in her own mind that she is doing what is right and best.  She does not like to go so far from you and her mother, but she feels that you have four other girls… Under the circumstances, then, I do not see what is to be done but to let her carry out her plan.  She is a mature woman, in good health, old enough to know her own mind, and to measure her own powers, and however hard it may be for you to have her go so far from you, I believe that in time you will become adjusted to it… She can write to you often, and every seven years she can come home… Having been in Turkey once myself, I do not think of it as far away.”  (Letter of May 2, 1911 from Charles Jefferson to Alfred Mattoon.)

By October, Dora was on a ship heading for Turkey to take Maria Poole’s place in Harpoot.


Harpoot missionary station, ca. 1910.

Harpoot mission station, ca. 1910.

Dora thrived in Turkey. She loved the people – the natives and her colleagues – and she loved the work. Her particular job was to be a touring missionary, to visit small villages in the region and to meet with the “Bible women” there. The Bible women were native Armenians who taught Bible lessons to their fellow citizens for a small salary, and it was Dora’s job to be sure they had what they needed, spiritually and materially. At first she used an interpreter, but over time she learned Armenian and Turkish and was able to conduct meetings herself.

Armenian family in Turkey.

Armenian family in Turkey.

Dora’s work required that she travel from Harpoot across land that was often dangerous from snowstorms, rainstorms, flash floods, and dense fog, not to mention Kurdish tribesmen, who in Dora’s letters seem to alternate between rescues and robbery. Dora traveled by horseback, often for days at a time between one village and the next, and for months at a time over the course of an entire tour. Finding shelter usually meant a stay in a native khan (an extremely rustic inn) where she would share a blanket with fleas on the floor in a smoky, windowless room, separated from other occupants by a blanket curtain. She almost always had a male escort, usually the long-time missionary Henry Riggs, but occasionally she went alone on shorter trips or was accompanied by Mariam Varzoohi, a native teacher in the girls’ college. Dora traveled across hills, jumped off falling horses, waded up to her thighs in snow, got soaked to her skin, and seems to have relished all of it. Whether she’d been a mountaineer before she came to Turkey or whether she realized her love for it in Harpoot, it became a lifelong attachment.


“The northern way is pleasanter than the southern in that one passes over mountains most of the way, and the khans are better on the whole…I was absent from Harpoot almost five weeks, and two days was the longest time I spent in any one place, so you may know life in one way did not become monotonous. Our principal topic of conversation between here and Sivas was our rascally arabdaji [guides]. This was my first experience of travelling in Turkey without a man, and I find a woman has to do a deal of fighting to get along alone.”

“The northern way is pleasanter than the southern in that one passes over mountains most of the way, and the khans are better on the whole…I was absent from Harpoot almost five weeks, and two days was the longest time I spent in any one place, so you may know life in one way did not become monotonous. Our principal topic of conversation between here and Sivas was our rascally arabdaji [guides]. This was my first experience of traveling in Turkey without a man, and I find a woman has to do a deal of fighting to get along alone.” (Letter of Nov 13, 1913.)

The work of a traveling missionary was Dora’s favorite work, “the cream of missionary work,” but with the departure of several colleagues from the station she had to give it up in order to teach at the girls’ school in Harpoot. She loved this work too, but she never ceased to miss touring, which seems to have been the highlight of her career. Nevertheless, she threw herself into teaching with enthusiasm, embracing her “eagerness to tread in unknown paths.”

“You ask about my orphanage correspondence. Our orphans are each supported by people in America, and so every once in a while I have to get the children to write letters to their caretakers, have the letters translated, and send them off with a personal word of my own.” (Letter of Aug 14, 1913)

“You ask about my orphanage correspondence. Our orphans are each supported by people in America, and so every once in a while I have to get the children to write letters to their caretakers, have the letters translated, and send them off with a personal word of my own.” (Letter of Aug 14, 1913.)

Recess at Girls School in Harpoot.

Recess at Girls School in Harpoot.

Harpoot’s attractions included Earl Ward, who had been in Turkey since 1909. Dora had met Earl’s twin Mark (both Amherst Class of 1906) before she left for Turkey, so finding Earl at Harpoot would’ve been no surprise. Falling in love with him might’ve been a surprise, though:

“You remember, mother, I used to say men were a nuisance – though I did find them ever so good chums as you know…” (Letter of Oct 17, 1912.)

“Mark [Ward] talked to me more than once about Earl and how much he needed me, though I wouldn’t have it that way at all and came out here with my mind fully made up that whatever happened I simply wouldn’t marry Earl Ward.” (Letter of Oct 17, 1912.)

“…his faults loomed clearer than his virtues for some time!” (Letter of Aug 14, 1913.)

Good chums Dora and Earl worked and played together for the few years they overlapped in Harpoot.

“ I hope none of you in this enlightened age and generation picture a missionary as a man who wears a frock coat and a long face and goes around preaching of fire and brimstone. The missionaries I have known are the finest, most earnest, whole-souled, jolly people I’ve met in many a long day.” (From left, Dora, Mary Riggs, Earl. Letter of Mar 1, 1913.)

“I hope none of you in this enlightened age and generation picture a missionary as a man who wears a frock coat and a long face and goes around preaching of fire and brimstone. The missionaries I have known are the finest, most earnest, whole-souled, jolly people I’ve met in many a long day.” (From left, Dora, Mary Riggs, Earl. Letter of Mar 1, 1913.)

Dora and Earl near a well (?) on the plain outside Harpoot.

Dora and Earl near a well (?) on the plain outside Harpoot.

Earl’s tour in Harpoot ended in July of 1913, when he returned to the U.S. and began to work for the YMCA.  When he left, Earl and Dora were already engaged and planned to marry when Dora’s tour was up a long two years later.

Dora left Turkey in the spring of 1915, by which time the war had reached Harpoot. That winter, from her home in Massachusetts, she wrote to her sisters, reflecting on what had happened in the brief time since she’d left:

“I wonder where all those dear [Harpoot] friends are now? Many if not most of them killed, I suppose. How dear they all were, and how I loved and admired them! When I came away three of our professors and one of our teachers were in prison, along with eight or ten others of the prominent Armenians, and torture and massacre and deportation had not yet then begun. They came with full force later!” (Letter of Dec 3, 1915.)

In March of 1916, after a brief furlough in the United States, the newlyweds headed for Calcutta, India, on YMCA business. It’s difficult to be certain from only her letters home, but at first Dora seems to have struggled to find her place in India. The climate was hard on her, but in addition she seems to have become an adjunct to Earl’s work in Calcutta rather than having her work equal to his as it had been in Turkey. Her letters suggest that her role was to be primarily a helpmeet to Earl, especially as hostess to people associated with his work, and to do this work so regularly that it was exhausting. Dora needed to be busy, to do her own work, and to feel useful, and while she loved Earl and supported his work, her frustration is apparent in her letters to family.

After a few years and another brief furlough, the Wards were sent to Bombay, and here Dora seems to have gotten back into a role she loved. While Earl devised programs for men and boys, Dora did the same for women and girls.  Their duties introduced them to the “chawls” in neighborhoods where their work would take place:

“The chawls are great blocks or tenements of concrete, four storeys high, with twenty rooms on a floor and about five persons to a room probably!  We figure there are about 8,000 people in the 22 chawls in that particular area.”

Earl in front of chawls.

Earl in front of chawls.

The Wards also traveled around India to inspect other social work sites:

“We had three weeks in Nagpur and spent practically all the time studying the welfare work.  I visited the day nursery, or creche, which is being done at the mill, and I also spent some time at an infant welfare center which is being run by the municipality.  Then I went to the villages with Irene’s trained nurse and some of her teachers, and Earl spent a lot of evenings, and I some too, visiting the night schools, which is the big approach to people.  The welfare work is financed by Empress Mills, who employ 25,000 workers.  They live in villages, or bustees, and the welfare work is being done in the bustees.  I also looked into the Project Method of teaching…”

Dora was back in business. Click on an image below for gallery.

The Naigaum Social Service Centre where Dora worked.
The Naigaum Social Service Centre.
Inside the Naigaum Social Service Centre.
Eventually the Wards bought a car in order to travel among their work sites.
Earl Ward's work in Bombay and Calcutta is well recorded in both documents and photographs.
Boxing in Calcutta, 1930-32

During vacations the Wards traveled in India as they had in Turkey. Over time Dora became “an old India hand,” familiar with the ways of India – its history, religions, customs, foods, and how to get around. Click for gallery:

A trip to Kashmir, 1927.
Dora and porters.
Rest stop.
The "Narcissus," another houseboat the Wards saw and perhaps used during their travels.
Car trouble.
"I continue to receive very frisky letters from Earl...He says I am such a teasable person and rise so nicely to the bait that he doesn't see how he is going to live without teasing me a lot." (Dora, away at a conference, to her family in the U.S., Aug 25, 1919.)
An old India hand.

After another tour of duty in Calcutta from 1930-32, the world economy forced the YMCA to downsize and the Wards were called home. They were never again posted abroad but remained very active in the U.S. with social work similar to what they had done in Turkey and India.

The Dora Judd Mattoon Ward Papers contain diaries, correspondence, photographs, a nearly full set of the “Harpoot Newsletter” by Ernest Riggs, and other materials about the lives of Dora and Earl Ward. One of its chief strengths is in showing how the lives of missionaries evolved in response to circumstances and changing needs. Dora and Earl started out as “missionaries” in Turkey, but in India they referred to themselves as “social workers” or “welfare workers,” and their work seems distinctly less religious and more specifically related to health, education, and welfare. Where Dora’s work as a touring missionary in Turkey involved a lot of religious teaching, her work in India was more about setting up programs for women and children, and Earl’s was the same for men.

The papers are also important as a record of events in Turkey and India in the first third of the twentieth century. Although the couple seems not to have been especially “political,” their letters contain many comments about the state of affairs first in Turkey during World War I, and later in India during the declining years of the British Raj.

We welcome researchers seeking to use the many Ward collections at Amherst College — those of Edwin St. John Ward (AC 1900), Earl Ward (AC 1906), Mark Hopkins Ward (AC 1906, his papers to be processed soon), and Dora J.M. Ward — or one of the many other missionary collections in our holdings.



Most of the photographs in this post are by Earl Ward, a few probably by Dora Ward or Fay Emmett Livengood, a fellow missionary in Turkey.  Many of Earl’s photographs, including several used in this post, were digitized by his nephew Richard Ward, Class of 1942.

 All of the letters in the Dora Judd Mattoon Ward Papers were transcribed by Dora’s faithful niece and our donor, Nancy Kline.

Now Available: Charlotte Edwards Maguire Collection, 1930-2014

Dr. Charlotte Edwards Maguire in her Orlando office, ca. 1963. Charlotte Edwards Maguire Collection, 1930-2014 (HPUA 2015-011).

We are excited to announce that the Charlotte Edwards Maguire Collection is now available in the FSU Special Collections & Archives!  This collection documents the involvement of Charlotte Edwards Maguire (1918-2014) in the development of the Florida State University College of Medicine through meeting minutes, correspondence, program pamphlets and flyers, photographs and reports. The collection also includes documents from her non-FSU professional endeavors, as well as personal photographs, correspondence, drawings, and more.

Dr. Charlotte Edwards Maguire, ca. 2010. Charlotte Edwards Maguire Collection, 1930-2014 (HPUA 2015-011).

Born in 1918, Charlotte Edwards Maguire was a distinguished pediatrician and early supporter of the FSU College of Medicine. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Memphis Teachers College in 1940 and her medical degree from The University of Arkansas in 1944, she opened her first pediatrics practice in Orlando, FL. She served as the director of the Orlando Child Health Clinic, chief of staff for the Central Florida Division of Children’s Home Society Florida, and was the first woman president of the Florida Pediatric Society in 1952. Dr. Maguire was a pioneer for women in the medical industry, but was almost prevented from pursuing the field due to prejudice from the faculty at the University of Akansas. Often singled out for being the only woman in her field (and regularly referred to as “Girl Doctor” in newspapers), Dr. Maguire carved out a niche for herself and began to influence the medical industry in Florida.

In 1999, Dr. Maguire donated $1 million to create the Charlotte Edwards Maguire Endowed Scholarship Fund. Maguire’s dedication to the FSU College of Medicine earned her the nickname “Mother of the FSU Medical School.” Dr. Maguire was also heavily involved in the development of the College of Medicine, advocating for the institution and mentoring students in the program. In 2002, Dr. Maguire was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by President Sandy D’Alemberte, “making [her] Dr. Dr. Maguire,” and had the distinct honor of having the FSU Medical Library named after in 2005.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

John Vincent Lawless Hogan In His Own Words

The following testimony is excerpted from the U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce hearing on S. 814 to amend the Communications Act of 1934, December 8, 1943.*

My name is John V. L. Hogan. I am by training and occupation a consulting engineer. I have been interested in radio, first as an amateur, as far back as 1902. My first professional connection was with Dr. de Forest. That was when I was still in school. I was his laboratory assistant.

I left Yale to join the National Electric Signaling Company as a telegraph engineer, and then I worked through the position of chief research engineer and finally manager, and then, in 1921, just before broadcasting became a beginning industry in the United States, I established my own practice as an independent consulting engineer with a laboratory and office in New York, which I still maintain.

I happen to be the controlling stockholder of Station WQXR in New York, which was an outgrowth of laboratory work in television, strangely enough. We had an experimental sound channel as a part of our television work and it was found that radio listeners who had no television receivers could hear the sound portion of our program, even though they could not see the pictures, and they liked the kind of music that we put on the air and they asked for more of it. So I came down and had talks with Lieutenant Jett and Commander Craven about the possibilities of a broadcasting station which would put emphasis on better engineering, I think I might say, than had been common in the broadcasting art up to that time and which would therefore reproduce not only music but speech more clearly, more realistically, more naturally than was common in broadcasting.

I pointed out that the phonograph was improving, that the talking pictures were improving with respect to the realism of their sound, but that radio did not seem to be doing all it could. So with the blessing of the Commission, we tried to do that very thing, and since about eight years ago the station has grown from a very modest beginning to a cleared-channel independent 10,000-watt station in New York with a very large audience, and for the past two years or more it has been not merely successful from the audience point of view, but it has also been earning its salt.


*Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce hearing on S. 814 to amend the Communications Act of 1934,U. S. Government Printing Office, 1944, pg. 810.

See also: A Report to Listeners by John V. L. Hogan.


The Miscellanies of Mr. John Shaw

Happy 119th birthday to John MacKay Shaw, founder of our Childhood in Poetry book collection and bibliophile extraordinaire.  To celebrate Mr. Shaw, and in our ongoing commemoration of 400 Years of Shakespeare, we present a Scope and Content Note for John Shaw’s papers in the style of title pages from the early hand-press era.  Mr. Shaw would surely appreciate our gesture, as the Shaw rare book collection feature works by Shakespeare along with many, many other authors.

shaw scope note

Further Reading on Mr. Shaw and his collection:

New York Public Radio’s Peabody Award Winners

The George Foster Peabody Awards are among the most prestigious awards in broadcasting. The awards “recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by radio and television stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals.  They perpetuate the memory of the banker-philanthropist whose name they bear. The awards program is administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Georgia, as it has been since the award’s inception in 1939. Selections are made by the Peabody Awards Board a committee of experts in media, culture, journalism, and the arts following review by special screening committees of the faculty, staff and students.”

WNYC has a proud tradition of Peabody-award winning programs dating back to 1944. WQXR’s recognition goes back to the first year the awards were given in 1940 with an Honorable Mention. Below, read the Peabody Committee’s award citations and listen to the original audio submitted for consideration. (Special thanks to Archives Director Ruta Abolins and Archivists Mary Miller and Margie Compton at the J. Walter Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia for their assistance with this page which was produced by the New York Public Radio Archives).

2015: WQXR Radio/Q2 Music

Meet the Composer

Meet the Composer is the Q2 Music podcast that takes listeners into the minds and creative processes of the composers making some of the most innovative, compelling and breathtakingly beautiful music today. The Peabody Awards committee called the series, “Fascinating, intelligent, enlightening podcasts devoted to the work of current classical composers. The show integrates music with thoughtful conversation about it without distracting from either.”

Launched in 2014, the show is hosted by critically acclaimed violist Nadia Sirota, and has delved into the minds of composers such as John Luther Adams, Caroline Shaw, Meredith Monk and Nico Muhly. Both seasons were funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaigns. Part of WQXR, Q2 Music is a New York-based online station devoted to the music of living composers. 

The Meet The Composer team: Hannis Brown, Curtis MacDonald, Alex Ambrose, Alex Overington, Carol Ann Cheung and Nadia Sirota. This is WQXR’s first Peabody Award since 1962.

Meet The Composer staff: Hannis Brown, Curtis MacDonald, Alex Ambrose, Alex Overington, Carol Ann Cheung, Nadia Sirota and Graham Parker
(WQXR Selfie Collection)

2014: WNYC Radio


RADIOLAB’S “60 WORDS” has garnered a second Peabody Award for Radiolab, WNYC’s popular podcast and radio program — created and produced by Jad Abumrad, co-hosted by Robert Krulwich — which first won in 2011. Produced by Radiolab’s Kelsey Padgett and Matt Kielty and reported by BuzzFeed’s Gregory Johnson, this episode pulls apart a single sentence that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. These 60 words of legal language, drafted in the hours following the September 11 attacks, continue to blur the line between war and peace. Said the Peabody Awards judges: A “Radiolab” collaboration with Buzzfeed reporter Gregory Johnsen, it takes a hard, disturbing look at the broad, malleable wording of the Authorization of Use of Military Force Act, approved by near-unanimous Congressional vote shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and how its interpretation has expanded military power and secrecy.

Radiolab’s Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett pose with award during The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015 in New York City.
(Jemal Countess/Getty Images)



“CHRIS CHRISTIE, WHITE HOUSE AMBITIONS AND THE ABUSE OF POWER” has also earned WNYC a Peabody Award, its first specifically for news coverage since 1944, when WNYC won for Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s weekly addresses to the City. This series of reports, which examines the exercise of power by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration, was the work of a team of WNYC and New Jersey Public Radio reporters, producers and engineers, including Andrea Bernstein and Matt Katz. The effort was led by Nancy Solomon, managing editor of New Jersey Public Radio, and overseen by Jim Schachter, WNYC’s Vice President for News. WNYC’s sustained investigation helped establish the narrative for the local and national media’s reporting on the Christie administration’s politicization of traffic control at the busiest bridge in the world, of operations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and of federal Sandy aid in Hoboken. These reports prompted state and federal investigations and spurred legislative reform efforts.

Said the Peabody Awards judges: “In a series of pithy news reports about the “Bridgegate” scandal, WNYC helped to link a disruptive bridge closure to a broader pattern of questionable political operations by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office. Its coverage sparked national news coverage, high-profile resignations in the Christie administration, and criminal investigations into the Port Authority.”

NJPR Reporter Scott Gurian, NJPR Managing Editor Nancy Solomon, NJPR Reporter Matt Katz, WNYC News Senior Editor for Politics and Policy Andrea Bernstein and NYPR Data News Producer Jenny Ye
( Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)


2012: WNYC Radio

The Leonard Lopate Show

“For more than two decades, Leonard Lopate has quizzed and bantered live on the radio with architects and assemblymen, chefs and climatologists. With his guests he has knowledgeably and enthusiastically monitored the vital signs of New York City’s cultural and civic life. But the thing that truly sets his daily shows apart is Lopate and his producers’ knack for recognizing and explicating issues and activities that are being neglected by other media outlets despite their potential impact on the residents’ lives. In 2012, he engaged in spirited conversations about what a proposed multi-million dollar renovation and reorganization at the main branch of the New York Public Library would truly mean to its users. He analyzed the potential impact on Greenwich Village of New York University’s plans for a two-and-a-half million square foot expansion. And no one, before or after Hurricane Sandy swamped the city, did a more thorough, creative job of brainstorming how to waterproof Gotham. For considering all things New York in lively broadcasts that, like the host, value light more than heat, The Leonard Lopate Show receives a Peabody Award.”

Controversy at the New York Public Library

NYPL President Anthony Marx

Debate Over New York University’s Expansion

The Future of New York’s Waterfront

Lopate show staff l to r: Executive Producer, Melissa Eagan; Associate Producer, L. Blakeney Schick; Assistant Producer, Steven Valentino; Assistant Producer, Julia Corcoran; and Host, Leonard Lopate at the Podium. (Photo by and courtesy of Daniel Eagan)


2012: WNYC Radio, Public Radio International

Studio 360 – Inside the National Recording Registry

“Each year, the Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings to be preserved as part of its National Recording Registry, ranging from obscure cult albums (Love’s psychedelic pop opus Forever Changes) to inescapable musical gems (Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas) to seminal historical artifacts (Eduoard Léon-Scott’s phonautograms from the 1850s). Aired nationally on Studio 360, Inside the National Recording Registry is a series of short documentaries that celebrates these historically significant works through interviews with creators, scholars, and notable fans. Hearing songwriter Giorgio Moroder break down the electronic musical roots of Donna Summer’s” 1 Feel Love” or actor Hugh Laurie rhapsodize about the mysterious lyrics of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina” gives the listener a sense both of what inspired these recordings and what it’s like to be inspired by them. Producer Ben Manilla and his crew create an engaging listening experience that, in each installment, makes a strong case for the importance of the record in question, whether it’s freak folk, college rock, or cowboy music. Inside the National Recording Registry earns a Peabody Award for its commitment to the preservation of American audio culture”

The Winners: Studio 360 Senior Editor, David Krasnow; Studio 360 Host, Kurt Andersen; Producers Ben Manilla, Erik Beith and Devon Strolovitch. (Photo: Studio 360)


2010: WNYC Radio


“As that rare program that probes the nature of human experience, WNYC’s Radiolab would function well enough. But it’s the marriage of topic (each more thought-provoking than the last) and design (amazingly robust soundscapes and perfect pacing) that makes Radiolab a true work of art. Hosts Jad Abrumad and Robert Krulwich address scientific questions in almost impossibly abstract terms, letting guests and their stories fill in the blanks. Through an exploration of a chimpanzee raised in a human household in “Lucy,” Krulwich and Abrumad seek out the essential qualities that separate animal and human (with surprising results), while “Words” questions the function of language in human development, turning its gaze to such wide-ranging sources as Shakespeare and a Nicaraguan school for the deaf. The beauty is all in the telling. True to its name, Radiolab functions experimentally, constantly testing out new ways to unveil its stories through seamlessly edited interviews, classic “theater of the mind” sound effects, and the well-timed banter of its hosts. Each episode is by turns witty and poignant, and, always, completely engrossing. For providing weekly updates on the human condition with an unending yen for philosophical exploration, Radiolab receives a Peabody Award.”


<h4>Radiolab’s “Lucy,” from February 20, 2010</h4>


<h4>Radiolab’s “Words,” from August 9, 2010</h4>


Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich express their disbelief at winning a Peabody Award…at the Peabody Awards.


2007: WNYC Radio

The Brian Lehrer Show

“Talk radio these days is so overwhelmingly polarized — or polarizing — that ‘The Brian Lehrer Show‘ can seem more like an artifact than an anomaly. But it’s very much in the present, reuniting the estranged terms ‘civil’ and ‘discourse’ five mornings a week like no other show on the air. Lehrer makes the most of New York’s enormous, sometimes fractious diversity. He takes on the most nettlesome issues of the day, from immigration to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to cops-and-minorities, and deftly keeps his studio guests and his call-in contributors both on point and respectful. On his show, New Yorkers of vastly different backgrounds and circumstances get to know each other. In 2007, Lehrer and his production team experimented with new features such as ‘Follow-Up Friday,’ in which an issue from earlier in the week was reconsidered, and ‘Democracy’s Living Room,’ a two-day event during which listeners of all political stripes took turns explaining their stances. Another feature, dubbed ‘Crowdsourcing,’ included such practical applications as using listeners’ reports to expose wild disparities in the price of milk, lettuce and beer from neighborhood to neighborhood. For facilitating reasoned conversation about critical issues and opening it up to everyone within earshot, a Peabody Award goes to ‘The Brian Lehrer Show’.”


<h4>”Gentrification and the Black middle class,” April 25, 2007</h4>


<h4>”Baghdad: View from the ground,” May 24, 2007</h4>


<h4>”Democracy’s living room,” July 5, 2007</h4>


<h4>”From Baghdad to New York,” July 6, 2007</h4>


<h4>”Follow-up Friday,” September 7, 2007</h4>


<h4>”Are you being gouged? The results,” October 11, 2007</h4>


<h4>”The middle ground on the Middle East,” November 28, 2007</h4>


<h4>”Out of Africa,” December 12, 2007</h4>


Executive producers: Brian Lehrer (Host), Nuala McGovern, Chris Bannon (Program Director). Producers: Jim Colgan, Lisa Allison, Priya George, Kate Hinds. Web designer: Amy Pearl.

Left to right: Lisa Allison, Ilya Maritz, Jim Colgan and Kate Hinds, Brian Lehrer, Debbie Fountain, Amy Pearl, Priya George, Chris Bannon, Nuala McGovern and Jody Avrigan.


2005: WNYC Radio

Radio Rookies

Radio Rookies is ingenious. In the short term, the six-year-old WNYC project generates illuminating feature article/essays by, for, and about teenagers, a radio audience rarely catered to by anyone but music programmers and advertisers. Long term, it may produce a multicultural new generation of audio journalists. New York City teens trained in WNYC workshops take home tape recorders and microphones with which to record interviews with family and friends, ambient sound, and their own ideas and thoughts. With guidance from executive producer Czerina Patel, associate producer Miguel Macias, consultant editor Karen Michel, and mix engineer Wayne Shulmister, they assemble highly personal, 12-15 minute reports characterized by startling candor. The 2005 broadcasts included 16-year-old Catalina Puente’s tale of her obsession with a female classmate she nicknamed “K-licious.” Her account includes her coming out as bisexual to her parents, whose reactions she records as well. Sierra Leone-born Veralyn Williams, 19, reports on her illegal-immigrant status and frustrating quest for a green card, which initially angers her nervous, secretive parents but ultimately prompts them to take action themselves. Derrick Hewitt, 14, captures an instance of his own bad temper on tape and ends up reporting about his feelings of alienation and anger and how he deals with them. For teaching teens the fundamentals of radio reporting and giving listeners unvarnished insights into worlds ignored and disregarded, Radio Rookies is awarded a Peabody.”

<h4>Radio Rookies’ “Moshulu series” from 2005</h4>

Rookies Carlos “Chico” Gonzalez,  Veralyn Williams,  Derrick “Honeybun” Hewitt and Catalina “Cat” Puente  


2004: WNYC Radio, National Public Radio

On The Media

“For one hour each Saturday, On the Media hosts Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone take listeners of 185 National Public Radio stations on an insightful journey into the inner workings and outer effects of the media. In a world where a handful of corporations own all of the major media outlets and the need for media literacy is ever increasing, this show provides candid and straightforward examinations of those whose job is to provide the facts of the day. On the Media deconstructs the often black and white presentation of “the way things are,” holding standard media practices up to penetrating critique. On the Media examines these presentations outside their self-generated boxes. Significantly, On the Media also takes on the challenge of addressing international media coverage, offering new perspectives on various topics. The show is comprised of interviews, reported pieces, commentary, and occasionally satire, all marked by vivid language and sound. Gladstone and Garfield rely on the assistance of executive producer Dean Cappello, producers Tony Field, Janeen Price, Arun Rath, Katya Rogers, and Megan Ryan, and web designer Amy Pearl. For filling an important and much neglected need in broadcasting, On the Media receives a Peabody Award.”


<h4>OTM’s <i>The Good Soldier</i>, May 21, 2004</h4>


<h4>OTM’s November 19, 2004 broadcast</h4>

OTM’s Megan Ryan, Dylan Keefe, Katya Rogers, Arun Rath, Bob Garfield, Dean Cappello and Brooke Gladstone.


2004: WNYC Radio, Public Radio International

Studio 360 – American Icons – Moby Dick

“In an effort to reexamine what it means to be American, Studio 360 launched a constructive series aimed at understanding American cultural benchmarks, American Icons. This debut installment guides us through Herman Melville’s classic tale of compulsion, rage, and rapture, Moby-Dick. Host Kurt Andersen employs Studio 360’s distinctive format to contextualize the work through modern artists including performance artist Laurie Anderson; playwright Tony Kushner; sculptor and painter Frank Stella; jazz scholar Stanley Crouch; science fiction writer Ray Bradbury; and playwright David Ives, who summarized the mammoth novel in the two-minute world premiere radio play, Moby Dude. Listeners are further brought into the account by actor Edward Herrmann, who gives a visceral performance as the voice of Ishmael. Scholars Samuel Otter and Andrew Delbanco reflect on how the image of Ahab’s maddened pursuit of the whale was widely mentioned in the press after September 11th – as a metaphor for both the attack and retaliation. [The show was] produced by WNYC radio for Public Radio International with executive producer/writer Julie Burstein; director Kerri Hillman; writer Peter Clowney; consulting producer Mary Beth Kirchner; technical director Leital Molad; and writer Edward Lifson. For illuminating and revitalizing a masterpiece with energy, humor, imagination, and verve, and for making “great radio,” the Peabody Board honors Studio 360 American Icons: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.”


<h4><i>Studio 360’s</i> Moby Dick from November 5, 2005</h4>

Studio 360’s David Krasnow, Michele Siegel, Kerrie Hillman, Arun Rath (OTM), Ave Carrillo, Leital Molad, Julie Burstein, Dean Cappello, and PRI’s Melinda Ward.

Studio 360 Host Kurt Andersen and Executive Producer Julie Burstein


1984: WNYC Radio

Small Things Considered

“In recent years radio programmers have tended to overlook a very important part of the listening audience: children. WNYC Radio is a notable exception. “Small Things Considered” is a live three-hour daily radio program designed especially for children ages 6 to 12. The program successfully combines contemporary, classical and children`s music with bright, informative and creative educational segments. There is also telephone dialogue between the hosts, Kathy O`Connell and Larry J. Orfaly, and children who live in the station`s listening area. For catering to an oft forgotten audience with a program that is both entertaining and educational and for regarding children as an important and worthy audience for radio, a Peabody Award to WNYC Radio for ‘Small Things Considered.'”

<h4>A 1984 broadcast of Small Things Considered</h4>


<h4>A 1984 broadcast of Small Things Considered</h4>


<h4>A 1984 broadcast of Small Things Considered</h4>


<h4>A 1984 broadcast of Small Things Considered</h4>


<h4>1984 selections from Small Things Considered</h4>

Dean J. Thomas Russell and President Fred C. Davison of The University of Georgia present the Peabody Award to WNYC Director Mary Perot Nichols. (Photo: Linda Naklicki, WNYC Archive Collections)

Children’s programming has been a regular aspect of WNYC’s programming for decades. In the station’s Peabody application Program Director Larry Orfaly and Producer Keith Talbot wrote that Small Things Considered “has created a new ‘prime-time’ for children with its carefully balanced product of ambitious adult planning and spontaneous contributions from children. The live production and program’s daily presence; the appealing music; the innovative educational features; and the caring, likable, dedicated hosts have resulted in overwhelming responses.”

WNYC Program Guide, June, 1985

1962: WQXR Radio

“Consistently excellent in its news coverage at all times, WQXR, New York City, merits special praise for lighting a candle in the darkness every night during the New York newspaper strike with its concise, authoritative digest of the day’s news. And in recognition, a Peabody Award for radio news.”

1961: WNYC Radio and The New York Public Library

 Teenage Book Talk and The Reader’s Almanac

“It is the considered opinion of the Peabody Awards Board that television and radio, far from being the ogres book publishers once labeled them, are actually a stimulant to the cause of good book reading in America. Proof of the pudding is the resounding success scored by two radio programs devoted entirely to books by station WNYC, New York’s fine municipal broadcasting system. One of the programs is “The Reader’s Almanac,” conducted since 1938 by Professor Warren Bower of the New York University Writing Center [and later by Walter James Miller]. The other is “Teenage Book Talk,” presented, unrehearsed, every Saturday morning by New York Public Library and produced by Lillian Okun. To station WNYC and these two programs goes a richly deserved Peabody Award, with a special vote of appreciation from the Chairman of the Peabody Board.”

<h4>A Teenage Book Talk broadcast from 1961</h4>


<h4>Interview with Marianne Moore, Reader’s Almanac, December 14, 1961</h4>


WNYC’s Director Seymour N. Siegel accepting the awards at the Peabody ceremony on April 10, 1962.

1960: WQXR Radio

“During 1960, the line, ‘For 25 Years, America’s Number One Good Music Station,’ was more than a slogan for WQXR. Its Musical Spectaculars and its total programming of music were indeed of a high order. In recognition, this station has again been chosen for a Peabody Award for radio entertainment.”

1960: WNYC Radio

Personal Award for Children`s Programs

“Ireene Wicker brings to her weekly program, “The Singing Lady,” literate taste, tender understanding, wit, gaiety, and style. A benign sorceress as well as an artist of consummate skill, Miss Wicker has been a steadfast foe of violence and brutality and a true friend to children everywhere. In recognition, [she receives] the Peabody Award for radio children’s programs.”

<h4>A Singing Lady broadcast from 1960</h4>

Ireene Wicker accepts the Peabody Award on May 25, 1961 with WNYC Director Seymour N. Siegel at far left. (WNYC Archive Collections)

(Audio of acceptance below courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection)

<h4>Ireene Wicker accepts the 1961 Peabody Award</h4>



1956: WNYC Radio

Books in Profile

“In “Books In Profile,” which is broadcast by WNYC, New York City, Miss Virgilia Peterson, the well-known critic, author, and lecturer, provides a stimulating insight into the world of books and the persons who write them. This she does with book reviews, interviews with prominent literary personalities, and news items from publishing circles. Her program has charm, perspicacity, authority, and listener interest. In recognition of this important contribution to one of the oldest and most important of the media of communications, books, by one of the newest, radio, the George Foster Peabody Radio Award for education for 1956 goes to “Books In Profile,” WNYC, and Miss Virgilia Peterson.”

<h4>Books in Profile, December 27, 1956</h4>


1956 WNYC Radio

Little Orchestra Society Concerts

“With all the horrible noises, erroneously labeled music, that pollute the airwaves these days, it is a particular pleasure to salute an organization like The Little Orchestra, and its distinguished young conductor, Thomas Scherman. They are providing really beautiful music for a new generation that needs it desperately. For seven years, The Little Orchestra has broadcast six children’s concerts a season over WNYC. The same programs are now picked up by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, and used with gratifying results by over 100 non-commercial college radio stations all over the country. Long may Mr. Scherman’s baton wave! And here is the George Foster Peabody Radio Award for the outstanding youth and children’s program for 1956.”

<h4>Little Orchestra Society Concert, December 22, 1956</h4>

1951: WQXR Radio

“The New York Times Youth Forum has featured unrehearsed discussion by students selected from private, public and parochial schools, on topics ranging from the political, educational and scientific to the international and the United Nations. These have been broadcast not only locally, but before distinguished audiences in major American cities, coast to coast and over trans-Atlantic facilities. In recognition of the quality and importance of this series, the George Foster Peabody Award for radio youth programs is hereby awarded to WQXR of The New York Times with a special word of recognition to Dorothy Gordon, Moderator, and Mrs. Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, Director of Special Activities for the Times.”

1950: WNYC Radio

Institutional Award for Contribution to International Understanding for United Nations Coverage

Honorable Mention

“A citation for the promotion of international understanding to station WNYC of the City of New York, for its public service in bringing the official daily proceedings of the United Nations to those in the metropolitan area, and for its consistent UN news coverage and frequent presentation of feature material about the United Nations, in their struggle to bring about lasting peace.”

<h4>A 1950 UN broadcast</h4>


“WNYC’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the United Nations was more extensive than any other station in the United States at the time. In WNYC’s original application to the Peabody Committee, Program Director Bernard Buck wrote that the station had devoted “an imposing portion of its broadcast time to the United Nations….OVER 1500 HOURS in the past year,” adding that these broadcasts “gave us exclusive coverage of the historic ‘Korean Sunday’ meeting called…just as the news of the invasion reached Secretariat headquarters to meet the exigencies of the South Korean invasion.”

1949: WQXR Radio

“Radio generally has done much to increase and uplift musical appreciation in this country. But no station anywhere has devoted more time or more intelligent presentation to good music than has WQXR. All types of the best in music—instrumental, chamber, solo, opera, and symphonic—have been brought to half a million families in New York alone, plus homes in 14 other states and Canada. And the performing artists have been a veritable Who’s Who in world music. Prominent in 1949 offerings was the Our Musical Heritage Series. In recognition not merely of this and other programs, but primarily to single out and honor the station for its over-all contribution to musical appreciation and good music, the George Foster Peabody Radio Award for outstanding entertainment in music goes to WQXR of New York.”

1944: WNYC Radio and Mayor La Guardia

Institutional Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Local Station

“The Award for the outstanding public service for a local station is to be a double award. The first goes to Station WNYC for having caught the attention and the conscience of our greatest community, and to Mayor La Guardia for his courage and common sense in telling us what is wrong.”

<h4>Mayor La Guardia on November 26, 1944</h4>

WNYC’s first Peabody Award. (Photo courtesy of the La Guardia Photo Collection, La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College, CUNY )

This was WNYC’s first Peabody Award. In WNYC’s original application, Station Director Morris S. Novik wrote that the Mayor’s WNYC broadcast covered “a multitude of problems and exigencies that arise in a tremendous city like New York. He is constantly seeking to improve the welfare of the community and feels that the most direct contact with the people he serves is through the medium of radio.”  Novik added that the broadcast reached “an audience unequaled by any other program on the air at that hour,” noting that the Pulse of New York survey gave his broadcast a rating more than three times that of its closest competitor. (Pulse was a source for measuring local radio audiences at the time)

At the award ceremony in the Commodore Hotel, City Council Newbold Morris gave a stirring tribute to the station. Morris Novik also spoke:

Newbold Morris and Morris Novik speak at the 1945 Peabody Awards Ceremony

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC’s first Peabody Award shared with Mayor F.H. La Guardia.

(La Guardia Artifact Collection, La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College, CUNY)

Peabody award given to Mayor La guardia and WNYC Director Morris S. Novik by John E. Dewey, April 5, 1945.
(The La Guardia & Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College/The City University of New York)

1940: WQXR Radio

Honorable Mention

Institutional Award: WQXR Radio for High Standards of Musical Progress

(no citations written for 1940)

‘Way Over in Beulah Land’ and All Over the Airwaves

The financial crash of 1929 had many unintended consequences, perhaps none more so than the subsequent efflorescence of the arts under the auspices of various Works Project Administration programs. In these recordings from 1937 and 1939, the Juanita Hall Choir and Negro Melody Singers, unemployed people on the “relief rolls,” present rousing programs of spirituals under the direction of soon to be famous singer and actress Juanita Hall. Neither Hall nor the choir members ever speak. In these recordings, the announcer gingerly mediates the ground between the presumably white listeners and this drastically “other” music. Introducing “Free At Last” in this recording of the Juanita Hall Choir, he explains that the lyric is not just about slavery, that it has “a two-fold meaning, as it also refers to the emancipation of our souls from sin.” The arrangements (by Hall) are complex and the performances gleamingly polished. This is not the almost anthropological type of on-site recording that would become popular in the following decades, but an attempt to “mainstream” a vibrant but still ghettoized art form.

In the middle of each program is a plug for the WPA, the announcer reminding the audience that people on relief “want permanent jobs just as sincerely as the man or woman who has one.” What strikes the listener now simply as extremely moving and technically accomplished music seems to have had a far more charged import at the time. Presenting black spirituals on the radio, subsidized by the government, as wholesome fare for the community at large was itself a political act. Indeed in his book about the history of the Federal Music Project All of this Music Belongs to the Nation, Kenneth J. Bindas notes:

In NYC the audition board took great pains to point out that it had lowered the audition standards to allow the Juanita Hall Melody Singers to perform.

Yet Hall and her singers performed regularly on WNYC. Thus, even such a tragic event as the Depression did allow new voices to be heard…and new emotions to be experienced by those willing to listen.

Juanita Hall (1901-1968) was an extraordinarily talented woman at a time when opportunities for black performers were limited. Encyclopedia.com relates how:

At age 14 Hall began teaching singing at Lincoln House in East Orange, New Jersey. … She moved to New York City and studied orchestration, harmony, theory, and voice at the Juilliard School of Music. She also took private lessons in voice and acting. Hall did choral work and spent many years appearing in minor stage roles before achieving stardom.

That stardom came with her being cast as Bloody Mary in the musical South Pacific. Masterworksbroadway.com recalls how:

“Come away, come away,” Bloody Mary sings in one of the most mysterious, exotic, and seductive songs in musical theater – “Bali Ha’i,” from South Pacific. The part of Bloody Mary will forever be linked with Juanita Hall, who created the role on stage in 1949. The show won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as Tony Awards in numerous categories, including those for Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Libretto. The leads, Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin, both won Tonys – as did Hall, for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.”

Hall went on to perform in several other Broadway plays including Flower Drum Song and House of Flowers, as well as appearing on film, in nightclubs, and making records. In her entry in the reference work Notable Black Women, the composer Richard Rodgers wrote, “I think everyone who had anything to do with her loved her. As an actress, she was…a joy to work with.”

Hear more WPA recordings directed by Juanita Hall:

Negro Melody Singers, Program No. 13

Negro Melody Singers, Program No. 4

Negro Melody Singers, Program No. 17

Negro Melody Singers, Program No. 16


The groups directed by Juanita Hall were not the only African American singers commissioned by the WPA.

Listen to a Federal Music Project Mixtape: Black Voices on the Air.

More digitized maps are available in TIF format

This post is of special interest to the mapping community and may be too technical for some researchers.

This is an update to our previous post on the availability of digitized maps as TIF files. More than 2100 of the maps that we digitized in 2015 have also been made available as TIF.

Researchers can access a JPG copy by clicking on the image of the map in the database.

Researchers can access a JPG copy by clicking on the image of the map in the database.

Scrolling down to the Notes area of a map description, the link will automatically start an ftp download. So that you can verify that the file downloaded correctly and completely, we’ve included the full file size and the MD5 checksum.

Scroll down the description to find the link to the TIFF on the City’s FTP site.

Scroll down the description to find the link to the TIFF on the City’s FTP site.

We’d love to hear what you discover or create with these maps!

Celebrating Service to the Public

Yesterday, at our annual Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony, we celebrated Public Service Recognition Week by recognizing staff across the country for their exceptional contributions to the mission of the agency.

2016 Archivist's Award Ceremony program cover

In my remarks, I said:

As you have heard me say before:  for me every week of the year is Public Service Recognition Week because I am so proud of the work that you all do across our agency in service to the American people.  Whether you are redacting pages from a service record in St. Louis, or refiling an IRS return in Lenexa, or helping someone navigate the FOIA process, or connecting someone with their family history, or ensuring that our staff and users are safe, or restoring a deteriorating film, or ensuring the a First Lady’s correspondence is accounted for, or educating a school group about how our government works, or safeguarding NARA holding from leaks, condensation, and frost problems, or doing any one of the hundreds of tasks the comprise the work of the National Archives—thank you for your passion and commitment to our mission.

Since 1985, the first week of May has been set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation as Federal, state, county, and local government employees.  In this year’s proclamation, President Obama writes:

“Our Nation’s progress has long been fueled by the efforts of selfless citizens who come together in the service of their fellow Americans to change our country for the better.  At the birth of our Nation, our Founders fought to secure a democracy that represents the people, and the civil servants who pour everything they have into making a difference are the individuals who keep that democracy running smoothly and effectively.  During Public Service Recognition Week, we honor those who dedicate themselves to ensuring America’s promise rings true in every corner of our country, and we recommit to upholding the values they fight for every day.”

“Throughout this week, we recognize the tireless efforts of the women and men who strive to make ours a government that stays true to its founding ideals.  With 85 percent of the Federal Government jobs located outside the Washington, DC area, our Federal workers…play key roles in ensuring the voices of the American people are heard.  And even in the toughest of circumstances, including a politics that does not always fully recognize the value of their work, our public servants—often at great personal sacrifice—continue striving to build a better country and to bring lasting change to the lives of ordinary people across America.”

“Serving the public is not just a paycheck—it’s contributing to the steady effort to perfect our Union over time so our democracy works for everyone.  This week, let us embrace the hopeful spirit that embodies the extraordinary work of our civil servants.  It is the same spirit that built America, and because of the hard work of compassionate and determine public servants, it will continue to build us up for generations to come.”

More than 50 nominations were submitted for this year’s awards.  144 NARA staff were recognized for their individual or group accomplishments ranging from improving employee engagement to volunteer service to citizen archivist to information technology quality assurance to reduction of declassification backlogs to customer service to a Presidential Library digital pilot project to helping a record number of researchers to safeguarding records at risk to creating a training program for archives technicians eligible for promotion, for example.  The ceremony was broadcast to our sites across the country and staff enthusiastically celebrated the accomplishments of their colleagues—a true One NARA event! I am so proud of this staff.

Much Adieu About Something: Reflections of Our Undergraduate Assistants (Part 2)

In our final farewell post to our graduating student assistants, view the previous post by Mary Kate here, Blaise Denton and Shelby Yant reflect on their experience in Special Collections. Both work exclusively in Special Collections with our rare books, manuscripts, historical artifacts, Napoleon, Shaw and various other collections. I should also add that both have found time, between graduate school, to stay with us for part of the summer. And we are happy to have them for a bit longer.

Shelby, Blaise and Mary Kate in the Special Collections Research Center


Paradise lost
One of a variety of Artists’ Books found in Special Collections: Paradise Lost: an allegory. This book has a case and is accordion shaped. (N7433.4 Z56 P37 2013)

“My name is Blaise Denton and I have been working here for a little under two years. I had walked into Special Collections before, but been scared off by an unfriendly and perhaps confused receptionist. When I came back for my interview, Lisa Girard was so friendly and painted such a glowing picture of Special Collections, I was excited to work here. My first week I went through the Special Collections Vault, pulling out and examining the rarest and most valuable books in the collection. It was incredible. There were ancient pirate biographies, 4,500 year old stone sale receipts and [Salvador] Dali paintings. It was like being in a museum, except you can touch the art and you’re getting paid. The artists’ books are definitely my favorite collections. All the books that fit under N7433 are designed less to be read but more as pieces of art. They’re beautifully made and bizarrely interesting.
After graduation I am hoping to go to graduate school here at FSU, for Urban Planning and Public Administration. I am going to be very sad to leave Special Collections. This is by far the best job I’ve ever had. If there were one thing I wish more people knew about Special Collections it would be that we want you to come in and we are happy when you get to look at something unique.”



“Prior to working at FSU’s Archives and Special Collections, I was a little apprehensive about applying for the job. While I loved all literature, I knew very little about what occurred “behind the scenes” of a library and did not feel completely qualified to fill the position. As I began my work, throughout the following months, I immediately felt at ease. Although I did not know the ins and outs of Library Science my supervisor Lisa Girard, as well as other staff, showed me all that I needed to know. I felt welcomed, supported and appreciated and to this day I feel that is what facilitated my growth of knowledge and passion in this field.

History of Pirates
A General History of the Pyrates is one of our rare books housed in an area called the vault, which means it requires extra care, and is always available to all visitors (F2161 D4 1724)

I generally love the items that are located in the vault. My favorite book however is volume one of A General History of the Pyrates from 1724. On my mother’s side of the family, one of our ancestors is Bartholomew Roberts- a notorious pirate. It was incredible getting to read all of the family stories about him in this book! I would say that my favorite project is any sort of reshelving or pulling a work for a patron. It is like a scavenger hunt replacing an item or looking for the call number! I tend to make a game out of anything.

Working in Special Collections helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for the text I read as an English Literature major. The ability to know firsthand about how books were created during the Renaissance, for example, is simply priceless. After graduation, I plan on staying in Tallahassee and continuing to work in Special Collections until the end of July. Then, I intend on moving to Jacksonville to attend the University of North Florida for my MA in English. Eventually I hope to teach high school English, Theatre, and German.

I think that the most important thing that I would want people unfamiliar with Archives and Special Collections to know is simply all that we have to offer and how easily accessible everything is. I tell people all the time about the amazing glimpses into history that I get to hold (with utmost caution, of course!) in my hands, and that the same materials are available to them as well! People think that we only have very old and specific books, but our variety spans centuries and it is always growing!”


Robert Frost is honored at a 1958 Poetry Society Dinner

“Does wisdom matter?” Robert Frost asks. The answer is a resounding, No!  America’s most famous poet, being honored at this 1958 Poetry Society dinner, forcefully tries to disassociate himself from the public’s image of him as a bardic sage. “I can’t describe myself as I’ve heard myself described,” he says, referring to the preceding testimonials (which are not included in this record of the event.)  He then somewhat contradicts himself by addressing what he considers the essential problem of mankind: the anxiety we feel “lest the spirit should be lost in the material.” We all experience this anxiety of being too material. Just look at the scales people now have in bathrooms! But we cannot shy from the material, either. “God, at the risk of spirit, descended into flesh.”

Turning to poetry, he twits his colleague John Crowe Ransom who complained that Frost always “writes on subject.” “Yes,” Frost retorts, “and you write on bric-a-brac.” He defends the use of rhyme and meter (Howl had just been published two years ago) and then reverts to his own fears that the material will “clog” his spirit. He speaks of the late psychiatrist and poet Merrill Moore who, when Frost would complain of this or any problem, would counsel, “You must do the best you can.”  

Frost looks back over his career, saying “I had so much luck,” and then turns to what is clearly the main event of the evening, a reading of his poems. But he does not “read” or “recite.” As always, with Frost, he makes a point of announcing that he will “say” a few poems, neatly emphasizing how much the quiet, spoken voice permeates his poetry. It is the music of a man “saying,” not singing or declaiming. Working from memory, he stumbles a few times (Frost was eighty-four) but still leaves a valuable record of the way he intended his poems to sound. He makes some interesting asides, particularly about Mending Wall. When taxed by an English novelist about the line “Good fences make good neighbors,” he defended himself by saying, “I was only quoting!”  And when he gets to the lines:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down. I could say “Elves” to him,

…he says, in an aside, “…as Yeats would.” 

There is then a break in the recording. Two poets are summoned up to the dais. It is not clear if their tributes took place before or after Frost’s reading. John Ciardi reads “A Sonnet for Robert Frost” and Donald Hall reads his sonnet, “T. R.” The recording then breaks off abruptly.

Robert Frost was born in 1874. His career was slow in taking off—he worked as both a school teacher and a farmer—but when it did, first in England, then in the United States, he quickly rose to become not only the nation’s preeminent poet but its most popular as well. The reasons for this are easy to see. He achieved the almost impossible-sounding feat of fusing the simple, homespun voice of a skeptical, modern, unpretentious man with the commonly accepted devices traditional poetry. The website poets.org describes this seeming contradiction: 

Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England—and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time—Frost is anything but merely a regional poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony.

In his performance at this dinner, as he did in countless appearances throughout the country, Frost reinvents the notion of the public poet not by stressing a social or political agenda but by offering his poetry as a spoken remedy, as embodying possible clues to curing whatever ails the listening audience. The website of the Poetry Foundation lauds how:

He wanted to restore to literature the “sentence sounds that underlie the words,” the “vocal gesture” that enhances meaning. That is, he felt the poet’s ear must be sensitive to the voice in order to capture with the written word the significance of sound in the spoken word.

By the time of this dinner, Frost had attained an iconic status unheard of for 20th century poets. What differentiates him from subsequent “media creations” of our time is perhaps the degree to which his reputation was based solely on his books and readings. He did not endorse toothpaste, appear in films, or host a radio show. As The Paris Review noted a few years later, when choosing him as one of its first poets to interview:

The impression of massiveness, far exceeding his physical size, isn’t separable from the public image he creates and preserves. That this image is invariably associated with popular conceptions of New England is no simple matter of his own geographical preferences. … His special resemblance to New England is that he, like it, has managed to impose upon the world a wholly self-created image. It is not the critics who have defined him, it is Frost himself.

Robert Frost died in 1963. 

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 8733
Municipal archives id: LT7888

Bad Children(‘s Books) of History #25: Folly of the Beasts of the Earth

Special Collections has recently acquired an eye-popping addition to our Whaling Collection: Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere, a 19th century German children’s  book about hunting animals. (The title translates as “The Hunting, Catching, Taming and Dressing of Animals”.)


The book’s frontispiece shows a spectacular, full-color whale-hunting scene, complete with befuddled walrus, spectator seagulls, and a very morose whale with a baleen mustache.



(Let’s pretend those dual arches are an exaggerated version of the southern right whale’s “characteristic double spout“, and/or that the sad whale is blocking our view of a smaller, simultaneously-spouting cetacean.)

This generally text-heavy book contains five plates, each of which bears nine tiny engravings. (I don’t recommend scrolling through the following section of engravings if you are 1) a small child, despite the fact that this is a children’s book, or 2) of a delicate constitution.)


The engravings, as you’ve likely gathered from the above, exhibit all manner of grisly ways in which humans kill other animals (some of which I consider anthropologically suspect, but I’m not a hunting expert).

For instance, there’s the old “bear impaled on a spiky board” trick:


There’s also the “scaring seals with weird faces over a grassy cliff onto curved spikes”  approach:


And, lest we forget, the “whipping birds while mounted upon a galloping horse” technique:


The digitized book can be viewed in its entirety online, either here or here. If you do look over the digital version (or come to Special Collections to view our copy in person), I challenge you to find the engraving of the sneaky person hunting reindeer while dressed in a reindeer suit. Really.