Launch and Learn: Our New History Hub Pilot Project

I am pleased to announce a new pilot project from the Office of Innovation at the National Archives called the “History Hub.” This new platform may be thought of as an external collaboration network, a place where subject matter experts from the National Archives can engage with researchers and the public, to share information, work more easily together, and find people based on their experience and interests. The platform offers discussion boards, blogs, profiles, and other interactive tools for communication and collaboration.

History Hub screenshot

We aim to use the History Hub to explore new ways of connecting with and serving customers interested in historical topics relating to our holdings. This project helps us to achieve NARA’s strategic goal to Connect with Customers, in particular, to expand public participation and our use of crowdsourcing tools. The project is also part of NARA’s Open Government Plan and supports the aim of achieving government transparency, as well as citizen participation and collaboration with the federal government. The History Hub provides us a platform for eventually working with other cultural organizations—such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress—to offer the public a one-stop shop for crowdsourcing information.

The History Hub is a limited six-month pilot project so that we can test the platform for its use and usefulness as a crowdsourcing platform. We will use the pilot period to benchmark level of effort on the part of NARA staff and to better understand public engagement metrics. We are developing a robust set of evaluation criteria to evaluate the pilot and ensure good use of NARA’s resources.

The History Hub project will include participation from staff subject matter experts who have both an interest and expertise in these topics. For the pilot, we are working on a narrow set of topics that have been identified as good test cases for this platform. For example, we know that the popularity and complexity of Native American research makes it a good candidate for discussion on this platform and NARA has an opportunity to collaborate with other federal resources, such as the Smithsonian, to better serve researchers.

History Hub screenshot

The idea for this project has been under discussion for several years, and I am excited about the potential for this pilot project, as it is a great opportunity to engage National Archives staff experts, the public, as well as colleagues at other institutions to further NARA’s mission and strategic goals.

But we really don’t know how the History Hub will actually be used.  We just know that all of our great plans for it will surely miss some of the new ways people will use the tool. That’s the nature of innovative projects, we need to launch and then learn from them.

Do you have research questions you’ve always wanted answered? Do you want advice on how to get started with genealogical research? Give it a try and ask a question at

Critics, Authors, and Trivial Pursuits – a 1953 WNYC Book Fest Quiz

*Update – we’ve taken portions of the original quiz and made a version of our own! You can access it here, or take it below. We’re taking it a little easier on you by giving you answers to choose from, rather than forcing you to guess blindly as our critics and authors did. We’ve also shortened it and rooted out the works and questions that have been rendered obscure by time.

Good Luck!*


Last year, my wife Julie and I suffered through what has to be one of the worst Trivial Pursuit beat-downs in the game’s history. Our opponents, her parents Lester and Debra Maness, were gracious in their victory, but I think we both felt a very real frustration at our rather pitiful performance. Julie and I are decently cultured, even knowledgeable in spots, and while weren’t certain we would win going in, we did not at all expect the drubbing we received. It left us reeling, struggling for answers in more ways than one: Had our wits been dulled by the ubiquity of Google? Did we underestimate the wealth of knowledge stored in our elders? Is a narwhal a whale? Methinks it is a whale… (That’s yes to all three, by the way.)

But maybe there was another reason why a victory was not to be. Other evidence had in fact piled up: the board was a little too worn, the questions oddly dated. As it turns, the version of Trivial Pursuit that had been punishing us for hours had been released in 1983. Time had marched on to a stretch of over thirty years. The game stood stubbornly in its trenches. It almost felt like we’d dug out a time capsule, but one left to taunt us, scolding our embarrassing ignorance of the state-of-the-world in 1983.

Great literature, the topic of this quiz, is thankfully timeless.

This 1953 recording from the inaugural WNYC Book Festival pits ”the Critics” – Charles Poore of The New York Times Book Review alongside Columbia University Professor of Philosophy Irwin Edman –  against “the Authors” – Alfred Kazin of The New Yorker, paired with Jan Struther, the creator of “Mrs. Miniver” – in a challenge of their knowledge of literary pursuits.

Questions provide a tour of the five boroughs traversed via book title, a round of literary “potent potables” and Yummy Books, and notable first and last lines of English literature – fans of schadenfreude will be pleased to note that these literary lights miss entirely the opening line of one of the best known and most acclaimed writings in the history of the English language – “Who’s there?”

Perhaps one day Julie and I will revenge our foul and most unnatural loss, until then it’s nice to know we can hone our trivia skills on the job.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150182
Municipal archives id: LT2776

Your Portals Syllabus

We’re hard at work on our spring exhibition and event series, “Portals: The History of the Future,” and in the process we’ve been coming across books, movies, and other stuff that gets us in the Portals spirit. So we decided to share some suggested reading (and listening, and watching…) here. We’re also going to post this (and update it) on the Portals website, which should be live soon.

Portals: Recommended Reading (And Watching, and Listening)

Short Reads

  • William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum” (1981). Available in the collection Burning Chrome. Ocean State Libraries (Text can also be found online.)
  • Wikipedia entry for Charles Piazzi Smyth, particularly the “Pyramidological researches” section. For a sense of the range of schemes proposed during the debate over unified time.
  • Edmund Arthur Engler, “Time-Keeping in Paris,” Popular Science Monthly, vol. 20 (1882). Online

Long Reads

  • Paul J. Nahin, Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1999). For the nitty-gritty details of how to keep your time machine in working order. WorldCat
  • I.F. Clarke, The Pattern of Expectation, 1644-2001 (New York: Basic Books, 1979). WorldCat
  • Joseph J. Corn & Brian Horrigan, Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). Ocean State Libraries
  • Peter Galison, Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time (New York: W.W. Norton: 2003). PPL
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014). PPL



  • Sun Ra Arkestra – The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra
  • Joseph Haydn – Il Mondo della Luna
  • Joe Meek – I Hear a New World
  • Bjork – Biophilia

Film & Television

Florida County and City Histories Collection Online

FSU_MSS9224_B589_F10_001 web
Jefferson County Florida or the Monticello Section written by Ida Meriweather.

The Florida County and City Histories Collection comprises two boxes of essays written by students at the Florida State College for Women in 1922 and 1923. These essays consist of research into the history and culture of certain cities and counties across the state of Florida from Dade County, to Jacksonville, to Pensacola. The essays provide an interesting glimpse into the methods of 1920s academic writing, whereby papers were researched without the convenience of the Internet and were written by hand, absent of formatting, style guides, and citations. This collection is now digitized and available through the FSU Digital Library.

In order to digitally scan the Florida County and City Histories Collection the ties and brads that bound the essays together had to carefully and meticulously be removed so as not to damage the nearly century-old documents. This practice, the delicate removal of hardware and binding materials, is part of a process aptly called processing, in which the archivist takes steps to ensure the preservation of the archival documents.

FSU_MSS9224_B589_F10_002 web
Page from Jefferson County or the Monticello Section written by Ida Meriweather.

Once the ties and hardware were removed from the essays the individual pages were ready to be digitized. In the cultural heritage field, we use a fancy word called digitization to refer to the digital photographing or scanning and online presentation of physical materials. In this case, the records were scanned on a  state-of-the-art flatbed scanner (which is worth more than my car) in order to capture high quality images in a short amount of time.

In order to provide access to the images of the essays online, one of the most important steps of digitization is collecting and organizing the metadata. Metadata, in my opinion, is a scary word that refers to the abstract concept of information about information. In all reality, metadata is the set of data that describes a piece of information. In this case the piece of information is the essay and the data describing it includes details such as the language it was written in and size of the paper. After organizing the metadata into a spreadsheet it is then converted into a code, presumably by means of magic or sorcery, by the Metadata Librarian.

FSU_MSS9224_B589_F10_003 web
Page from Jefferson County or the Monticello Section written by Ida Meriweather.

The last step of digitization is to gather up all the metadata code and the digital images into a queue that is uploaded onto the Digital Library’s server and arranged according to the instructions in the code. Because the magical code tells all the little bits of information how to look and how to behave, the text and images appear in a way that is ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.

And that’s the behind the scenes of the digitization process. Check out the Florida County and City Histories to evaluate for yourselves!

Britt Boler is currently the graduate assistant for FSU’s Special Collections & Archives division.

Bad Children of History #21: Squirrely Charlie

Today’s Bad Child of History comes from Maria H. Bulfinch’s 1867 volume Frank Stirling’s Choice. His name is Charlie, and while it’s not 100% clear what he’s doing in this illustration, it obviously isn’t something a responsible adult would condone.


Is Charlie climbing the furniture while wielding a Vienna sausage on a chopstick? Is his upright posture defying the laws of physics? Why is he gesturing at that rustic, twiggy cross? What does Frank think of this whole endeavor?

Frank Stirling’s Choice also contains one of the best footnotes I’ve seen in 2016:


Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, folks.

2016: coming soon…

After a brief pause for breath over the xmas holidays we’re looking forward to kicking off the new year in style with a number of exciting events to report.


Exhibit image crop 01

Our Hosts & Champions exhibition continues its tour around Scotland opening this month in Stranraer Museum and moving on to the Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch in March. We’re also in discussion with a number of other venues around the country and hope to extend our tour into the summer months. We’ll also be speaking about the Hosts & Champions project and the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive at the Sport in Museums Network Conference in Nottingham on 11th February.


KML Blue001

Our colleagues at The Musicians’ Union: A Social History project at the University of Glasgow are holding a major conference at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, on 14th and 15th January. The project has made great use of the Musicians’ Union Archive during their research and has put together an exhibition on the history of the union which will be on display at the Mitchell Library from the 11th – 31st January. Players Work Time, a social history of the Musicians’ Union will be published in Spring 2016.


SDA project 009

‘Staring at the Ceiling, Looking at the Stars’ is an exhibition of new artwork co-created by patients at Bellsdyke Hospital and the artist Sharon Quigley inspired by the stories of patients in the Stirling District Asylum. It opens in the university’s Pathfoot Building on Saturday 23rd January. To coincide with this exhibition a public talk on nineteenth century asylums, with particular reference to Stirling District Asylum, will be given by Dr Ian Hutchison on Thursday 11th February. The Stirling District Asylum Archive has now been cataloged and is available for use by researchers. Full details can be found here.


We’ll continue to provide updates of further projects and events throughout the year, including a trip to Paris in April for one of our ‘Treasures’…

Releasing All We Can, Protecting What We Must

The Presidential Rank Award Program was created to recognize “sustained extraordinary accomplishment” by career senior executives in the Federal Government.  In a highly competitive process, executives nominated by their agency heads are evaluated by citizen panels and designated by the President of the United States.  Recipients are deemed to be strong leaders, professionals, or scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.

I am so pleased, proud, and honored that Sheryl J. Shenberger, Director of our National Declassification Center has been named a Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award recipient—the first National Archives and Records Administration executive to be so recognized.

Sheryl Shenberger, Director of the National Declassification Center. Photo courtesy of the Gulf Times

Sheryl Shenberger, Director of the National Declassification Center. Photo courtesy of the Gulf Times

As the inaugural Director of the National Declassification Center, Sheryl is recognized as the Federal Government expert for executing the review, declassification, and release of permanent government records.  Her accomplishments are an example of our commitment to the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.  Her sustained leadership in coordination of the adjudication of multi-equity referrals as well as balancing transparency and openness with the protection of still-sensitive information is extremely important work.

Learn more about the National Declassification Center’s work at

Your Future in an Automated Society

Technology, information, and education; what the future looked like…in 1966. In this edition of Main Currents, host Lee Graham conducts a roundtable discussion with five representatives of the information technology field. They are Charles DeCarlo, IBM’s Director of Automation Research, John Tebbel, a professor of journalism at NYU, Raymond Hagel, an education publisher at Crowell-Collier, Marlon McLaughlin representing the United States Commission of Education, and Quentin Carroll from the Public Relations Society of America.

The question that seems to be on everyone’s mind when it comes to automation is, Which jobs will it replace? Professor Tebbel, asked about newspapers, assures listeners that, “Machines do not threaten the editorial side of newspapers. No machine can replace a reporter.” IBM’s DeCarlo broadens this to a more general statement that fear concerning the loss of jobs, “is very much overrated.” Most of the replacement will take place in the field of “hand-eye motions.” It’s telling that all the references here are to “machines,” not computers. As for education, a particular concern of the panel, they unanimously reject the idea that technology will replace the teacher. Hagel, the educational publisher, envisions a classroom where the teacher will have more, not less, one-on-one contact with her students, as machines will “free her time from relatively rote functions.” DeCarlo makes a plea, eerily and depressingly relevant fifty years later, for increasing the number of teachers and reducing class sizes.

Once they have dismissed the notion that technology itself could have any deleterious effects, the panelists do go on to (accurately) foresee some of the ethical questions increased communication will pose. What were formerly questions only of interest to specialists will now be of interest to “the common man,” as well. Some mostly good-natured twitting is directed at Carroll, the public relations representative (who, it is implied, has been imposed on the show by its sponsor) about press releases and other forms of “canned” news. Much is made of a perceived shift toward science and technology in the light of the Soviet launch of Sputnik and the ensuing Space Race. McLaughlin, the government education representative, assures the others that colleges have recognized this growing gap and are “making a real effort to combine science and the humanities.” DeCarlo sees technology, with its sudden advances, as creating a need for increased adult education, as people retrain for new jobs. He also points out how deprived segments of society could benefit from technology, concluding that ultimately what we need “is more human contact, not more machines.” Nowhere in this discussion does it occur to anyone that the sheer monetary savings offered by technology could have adverse and, in some cases, catastrophic impact on labor relations, the status of teachers, or on the social fabric in general.

Of more concern is the dawn of what we now call globalization. Graham refers to the recently launched Early Bird Satellite which, if it were joined by two more, could provide instant person-to-person contact. She mentions an outlandish prediction by Arthur C. Clarke that in the future people will all have mobile phones and be available at any time, a prospect she  finds “dreadful.” One of the panelists warns that while we are “a center of rationalized culture,” enhanced communication with the “Oriental spiritual or mystical world” could prove unsettling for both sides. In general, though, optimism reigns. There has always been suspicion of new technology, it is pointed out. The feelings of the group are summed up by one member who proclaims, “I can’t remember an age when the options are better.”

Of the panelists, DeCarlo and Tebbel do most of the talking. Charles DeCarlo (1921-2004) later served as president of Sarah Lawrence College. He also wrote books on education and social change. John Tebell (1912-2004) worked in a variety of fields relating to journalism and publishing. In addition to a long career as a teacher, he wrote many books, the best-known being the four volume A History of Book Publishing in the United States.

The conversation itself, meandering and, at times, muddled though it may sound now, with its pauses, its considered asides, its deference to opposing points of view and actual acknowledgement of what the other person is saying, could, one might argue, serve as an example of the very qualities that have been lost or certainly shunted aside as technology, in media as everywhere else, has imposed its own brand of “efficiency” and consequent glibness on social discourse. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection


WNYC archives id: 150017
Municipal archives id: T1827-1828

Accessioning a Rare Book Collection : Part II

A copy of “It’s So Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House” signed by illustrator James Marshall.

After the successful transport and unloading of the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, I began the process of creating an inventory of all the books in the collection — an excel spreadsheet that is currently at 300 entries and steadily growing. This spreadsheet will serve not only as a record of all the books received in the donation but also as a place to keep track of all the categorizations, ephemera, and notes that came with the collection.

For each book, I am recording the title, author, illustrator, publisher, date of publication, and category/subject, as well as any notes about articles, book reviews, and author/illustrator signatures included in the books. Newspaper clippings and publisher’s press releases laid in need to be removed in order to prevent acidic inks and papers from causing damage to the books, but making notes of where everything came from on the spreadsheet will allow us to go back and link books and archival materials where they are relevant to understanding the collection.

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Three versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

The real, searchable, catalog entries for each book will be created by our Cataloging and Description Department in the next stage of the accessioning journey. The inventory spreadsheet is informal in that it does not use any of the standard languages that our catalogers use to improve information accessibility, but it will be important to us in understanding and thus promoting the collection to potential researchers.

A highly symbolic telling of “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” illustrated by Warja Lavater (Adrien Maeght Editeur, 1965).

While spreadsheet creation and data entry may not seem like the most thrilling line of work, going through this collection book by book has been a lot of fun. The real challenge is not stopping to read each book along the way. Some of the highlights I have come across so far include works by well-known illustrators like Patricia Polacco, Victoria Chess, Molly Bang, Trina Schart Hyman, and James Marshall. Many of these works are signed, often with delightful little drawings, like the one by James Marshall pictured above. There are also many different versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” in the collection – classic versions, modern retellings, foreign language editions, and even highly abstract interpretations like the French edition (shown above left) illustrated by Warja Lavater. The same story is told each time – but the way the stories are written, illustrated, and published offer telling clues about the cultures and times in which they were produced.

Salty Words from Mike Quill on the 1966 Transit Strike

On January 1st, 1966 at 8:02 am the last trains rolled out to New Yorkers. Over the next twelve days all subway and bus service was brought to a standstill while Mayor John Lindsay battled with Mike Quill, President of the Transit Workers Union.

The longest service strike in New York history culminated with the arrest of nine TWU committee members, including Quill, on the grounds that the strike violated an injunction filed under the 1947 Condon-Wadlin Act. The strike began on Mayor Lindsay’s first day in office and was the first of several municipal employee strikes that dogged his tenure.

Fifty years ago today Mike Quill gave a press conference to reinforce the unyielding stance of the transit workers, “We will not settle for one penny less!” He assured the reporters that negotiations will continue with other representatives in the union in his absence and responded slyly to questions from the huddle of reporters. 

Quill was notorious for his quick wit and salty language. When asked how many times he has been in jail he replied, “All my family were a group of jailbirds…it was was years, I cannot count them all. I lost their long and bloody score.” When one reporter asks who he holds responsible for the arrest Quill fires back, “The editorial writers for the New York Times!”

Later, a reporter described the scene as the men were arrested, “The pandemonium broke loose, the reporters, photographers, everybody just crowded in… into a tremendous knot around Mr. Quill.”

Though you couldn’t tell from his vigor in this recording, Quill was suffering from heart problems and released to a hospital shortly after being arrested. Though his health seemed to improve, on January 28th he suffered a fatal heart attack, three days after the strike was fully settled. The negotiations resulted in a package worth over $60 million in wage increases and benefits. 

Originally from a small village in Ireland, Quill participated in the Irish Civil War as a dispatch rider for the IRA. He moved to the United States when he was 21 and began working with his uncle at the privately owned IRT, the original New York subway line, a system which corresponds to the modern day numbered transit lines. 

Recordings of Mayor Lindsay on the 1966 Transit Strike:

January 2nd, 1966 – Press Conference

January 3rd, 1966 – Press Conference

January 3rd, 1966 – Press Conference


The Douglas P. Cooper Distinguished Contemporaries Interviews (1967-1974)


A Childhood Spent Preparing

I think it was actually a confluence of four factors that led me, enabled me, to conduct The Distinguished Contemporaries Collection of Interviews.

First, I am a lifetime insomniac. Beginning at age six, I never missed Barry Gray, “The Father of Talk Radio” from 11PM—1AM on WMCA, New York, and the over-nighters like Long John Nebel and Barry Farber. They kept me company. I could see them, the guests, and their studios in my mind’s eye.

Second, my environment as a kid was not typical. I can’t ever remember playing ball. But I’m full of memories of acting as DJ with my neighbor Mike Hayes as engineer in our basement studio, where we had a low-power, FCC-approved, neighborhood radio station. Just down the hall, Mike’s parents, Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, earlier of theater, film, Vegas, and television notoriety, played hosts to well-known guests on WOR radio every morning. At times they would call on me to report the weather (my other avocation). Sometimes I’d chat with a guest like Pat Boone or watch Peter upstairs in the “Red Room” recording telephone interviews with Richard Nixon or Bob Hope. I later used this forum when a distant guest had minimal availability, recording telephone conversations with Arthur Hailey, Milton Friedman, Wernher Von Braun, Ann Landers and others.

Access to the airwaves and to celebrities came early for me. I clearly remember when Walter Cronkite guested on the Hayes’ program; he popped his head into our studio, sat down and took questions “on air,” though we didn’t have the good sense to record it as teenagers.

While at The Lawrenceville School, in New Jersey, I got my on-air fixes only on holidays (though I hid a radio inside my pillow to take in WOR’s Jean Shepherd at night). As a senior, I was in the Radio Club, and we started an FM station run from my dorm room. Soon after, the school designated the rather ancient Bath House as our new headquarters for WLSR. As a news fanatic, my journalistic coup was to scoop the weekly student paper by interviewing the head master or coaches before their stories appeared in print.

In late December 1967, my best friend, Sherwin Harris, and I were home from our respective schools. My parents held a small, black-tie party for their anniversary. It was just after Christmas, and the gift given me that holiday was the latest in home entertainment, a black-and-white, reel-to-reel video recorder. When I learned that Walter Cronkite would be a guest at the party, Sherwin and I yanked out the Who’s Who in America and made notes on his biggest stories and also the issues of that day, such as Vietnam. At 11 PM, toward the end of the party, Cronkite sat down and gave us a twenty minutes that you’d never hear on TV. And, although that early video tape didn’t survive, still thanks to my dear friend’s foresight, a photo and the audio recording remain for you to see and hear.

The Cadence of a Weekly Program

In the fall of 1968, I entered Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and quickly located the basement offices and studios of WRTC, an FM station with a broadcast radius of about thirty miles. The campus was as consumed with the issues of the day—war, race, feminism—as with coursework.  In light of the school’s heavily male vs. female ratio, a lot of guys were focused on weekend road trips to the closest all-night party. For me, however, the lure was going to New York or to the celebrity homes where I’d made interview appointments with the likes of Salvador Dalí at the St. Regis Hotel in the City, where he wintered, or with Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

I encountered excellent cooperation from the campus weekly, The Trinity Tripod. The editor gave me good space, and often a photo for the program, which they dubbed, “Cooper’s Show.” The paper did not see us as a competitor, but as a collaborator in education and public service. This homage to “the public good” a few years later became crucial in my successes lining up a syndicate of commercial radio stations.

At my graduation in 1972, I received a B.A. in English, with Spanish as a minor, de rigueur in the era of the “well-rounded” liberal arts major. I was flanked by two honorary degree recipients at polar extremes of the arts vs. sciences: Edward Albee, who’d been dismissed years earlier from Lawrenceville AND Trinity for failure to attend classes, and my Dad, Dr. Irving S. Cooper, for his pioneering discoveries as a neurosurgeon (although he was a liberal arts man too, writing an M.S. thesis, Medical Aspects of the Death of Desdemona).

Having honed my research and articulation skills, the former deep in the remote shelves of the Watkinson Library, the latter conducting and editing my weekly show and reading news copy live on the air, I shortly landed a weekly slot on a powerful FM station, WKSS, serving Hartford, New Britain, and Middletown, Connecticut, with a broadcast radius of 75 miles.

I fell back on a few reliable guests and then switched to local elites. I taped a broadcast with Dick Newfield, President of Hartman Tobacco. Who knew Connecticut grew superlative cigar tobacco leaf? My interview with outspoken Hartford Mayor George Athanson, though, ended my run at the station. The mayor was witty and charming but also expressed arch liberal views on getting out of Vietnam. The station manager refused to air the program in its regularly scheduled Sunday half hour. I said nothing, walked down the spiral stairway and out WKSS’ glass doors for the last time.

Public Interest vs Commerce in 1970s Broadcasting

Thomas Wolfe wrote that, “You can’t go home again,” but I must’ve missed that class: I drove straight home to Pelham in the Westchester County suburbs of New York City, and signed up for graduate business courses that fall at Iona College, a commuter school about seven miles away in New Rochelle. There I found that George O’Brien, in retirement from WQXR, had carved out an arm of the School’s development office, and called it “Radio Activities.” In his office and studio in an upstairs corner of the Ryan Library, he created interviews to run as “soft marketing” for Iona on an undefined schedule at a hundred stations across the country.

His shows, hosting faculty members and occasional outside guests, were in the mold of the FCC’s public service and education model: it was cost efficient for the stations, met the regulations on delivering public affairs to their audiences, and could be isolated outside valuable commercial prime time.

But George was not averse to my vision for “Radio,” as we shorthanded it. Why not assemble a collection of Metropolitan-area stations and feature eminent guests, to conjoin the name Iona College with respected thinkers across all the humanities, and presented exclusively in the region from which the student body was drawn?

This brings me to the vital third and fourth ingredients in my interview show’s genesis. The late 1960s and early 1970s were the last days of public service radio on commercial outlets before de-regulation began apace. It was an open door for my style of program to fill that need.

The fourth important feature of what I’ll call the opportunity terrain, was access to prominent guests. By that I mean, locate/contact/convince each prospect, a triad which, I contend, was more easily accomplished then than it would be today.

Having been salaried as assistant director with a budget, a staff of three, and the ability to dictate letters or play tapes for transcription by a large secretarial pool, I initiated the process of meeting with station managers, editing my existing tape collection to begin regular broadcasts, and arranging with the local newspaper to run transcripts, with a photo, as a weekly feature.

A syndicate of 30 stations, including the non-commercial WNYC, came together quickly. The quid pro quo was simple: give me a fixed broadcast time which I could promote, and I’d provide impressive content, reliably, and at no cost. They “bought in.”

As for on-going access to top-notch guests, presented exclusively, I had three things going for me: I could write or call targeted personalities with a good story as to who’d been recent guests, and offer a mass audience. I knew how to research out the man or woman’s street address to write to them. I could also ask the operator to connect me with  “information” for their particular town (celebrities were shielded, hidden, back then, from today’s nation-wide 411 and the web, which has pushed them to be unlisted and “underground”). I could make it nearly impossible for my prospective celebrity guests to say “no,” by requesting, “You name the time, and you name the place.”

Only three people turned me down between 1967 and 1974: Nobel Prize-winning writer Pearl Buck (The Good Earth). Her personal assistant asked for a fee. Author John Updike, wrote that he’d done enough interviews for a lifetime. And science fiction great Isaac Asimov called me on the telephone and said, “But I just did an interview for TV, and they paid me $500.”

I had another asset when I arrived for the interviews. I was in my early twenties at the time. My guests were mostly at the end of their careers and I was “a kid.” The artist Thomas Hart Benton, comparing me to himself, called me a “baby.” James Michener asked why I hadn’t stayed at his house instead of a motel, then took me to town for lunch as did former Kansas Governor Alf Landon. No matter how foolish my questions, each guest responded as though I’d had an insightful epiphany that demanded an unabridged and serious response.

George O’Brien ultimately stood down, making me Iona’s Director of Radio. But I kept him engaged as he was still commuting from New Jersey three days a week. One day we invited Charlie O’Donnell, Dean of the Business School, to take the Eastern Shuttle to Boston, for a morning session with psychologist B. F. Skinner, at his Cambridge home, and an afternoon meeting in O’Donnell’s “bailiwick”: the office of Nobel economist Paul Samuelson at M.I.T.

About that time, I got a call from the President of Educational Dimensions in Connecticut. They were selling cassette tapes with slides to schools around the country. In the 1970s, before the internet became commonplace, this was a very popular format. I did a set of career interviews for them: beauty operator, plumber, etc. But more importantly, it triggered the idea of founding my own company, Sound Perspectives. My girlfriend’s art-director father put together a great mailing piece on my theme: In-depth Interviews with people who don’t give interviews. It included a flexible plastic record, our announcer identifying the purposes of the recordings, interspersed with clips from W. H. Auden in his dank St. Marks apartment, Walter Cronkite at CBS, James (Michener at his Pennsylvania home, Norman Rockwell at his Stockbridge, Massachusetts, studio, and B.F. Skinner in his basement office near Harvard.

(insert Sound perspectives sampler here)

Iona College drafted a document by which I was salaried and given a budget to produce the interviews as radio PR for them. But I would remain the permanent owner. This gave me the opportunity to make of the collection an irrevocable gift to the Public Radio archives of WNYC and WQXR, a representative composite of which we invite you to hear:

James A. Michener, Author
Charles M. Schulz, Cartoonist “Peanuts” (by telephone)
Sammy Cahn, Songwriter (1913-1993)
Roy Wilkins, Executive Director, NAACP
John Chancellor, Broadcast Journalist
Andy Warhol, Artist
Harry Reasoner, Broadcast Journalist
Salvador Dalí, Surrealist Artist
Richard Rodgers, Composer
Norman Rockwell, Artist
Ann Landers, Advice Columnist (by telephone)
Mickey Rooney, Actor


Art//Archives Sneak Peek: As Days Go By

We’ve recently pulled a selection of calendars and almanacs as source material for a top-secret* creative collaboration.

*It’s not actually that secret, but “as-yet unpublicized” doesn’t sound quite as thrilling.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) from 10-1, during our weekly Art//Archives visual research open hours, we’ll have these books on display for your reference and enjoyment.

The most visually stimulating of the bunch is undoubtedly the 1866 The Life of Man, Symbolised by the Months of the Year in a Series of Illustrations by John Leighton, F.S.A. and Pourtrayed in Their Seasons and Phases, with Passages Selected from Ancient and Modern Authors by Richard Pigot.

The oversized book has an illustration for each month of the year:


I’m a real sucker for the wings of time-themed frame. Also, look at that emaciated wolf-like animal and the “tender offspring” who is completely lacking seasonally-appropriate attire, presumably as he was just “rescued from the snow”.

Each month’s facing page shows the corresponding age of man:


These are followed by a selection of seasonally-appropriate quotes and poems set in a variety of type faces:


Here’s a particularly good wintry poem:


The January chapter ends with this impressive seasonal crest of sorts:


Stop by tomorrow if you’d like to see what typographic and artistic delights the other 11 months hold!

Very Merry

The winter solstice has passed, Christmas is nearly upon us, and we’ve been enjoying some of the seasonal cultural artifacts found here in Special Collections. Read on for an assortment of favorites:


The illustration above, from Roger Duvoisin’s 1945 The Christmas Whale, shows a crowd of seals, polar bears, birds, and a lone human waving goodbye to Santa’s cetacean gift-delivery service. Look at those polar bears’ little tails!

For those of you more interested in, say, spending the winter months skiing while wearing a silky turban, we offer you this cover from a December 1939 issue of Vogue:


Our Updike History of Print collection contains an interesting 1951 reprint of Nicholas Breton’s The Twelve Moneths and Christmas Day, set in Riverside Caslon and illustrated with pseudo-Greek decorations.


(Nothing says Christmas like a flute, identical twin ducks, a turkey on a leash, figgy pudding in a fire pit, and an extremely small yet muscular man striding confidently through the scene.)

For those of you who can’t get enough historical Christmas images, I highly recommend checking out the American Antiquarian Society’s digital exhibit on chromolithographer Louis Prang, known as “the father of the Christmas card”. They have some beautiful Christmas- and winter-themed images featured on their Instagram, as well.


Sheryl Shenberger, Director of the NDC, Named Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award Recipient

The PIDB congratulates Ms. Sheryl Shenberger on being selected as a FY 2015 Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award recipient.

We understand the Presidential Rank Award Program honors high-performing career senior executives for “sustained extraordinary accomplishment.” The news of Ms. Shenberger being selected for the award was unsurprising to us. We have seen firsthand her dedication and hard work during her tenure as the Director of the National Declassification Center (NDC), establishing and expanding its capabilities since her appointment in 2010. In particular, we applaud her diligence in building relationships between the NDC, Executive Branch agencies and the public. Ms. Shenberger’s determination ultimately led to the retirement of the 361 million page backlog of records at the National Archives, an incredible task that she and her colleagues accomplished by the deadline imposed by the President. Bravo!

Ms. Shenberger’s dedication to the national security mission has led to a more open and transparent government, helping to change the classification culture in the Executive Branch for the betterment of our citizens. On behalf of the Board and its emeritus members, we congratulate Ms. Shenberger for this richly deserved recognition.


A Reminder to Keep the Holiday Spirit All Year Round

Imagine yourself on Christmas Day, 1946, in a snow covered New York City. You and your loved ones are gathered around the radio, to tune into WNYC of course. 

With the bruises of World War II still fresh, many veterans were returning home to celebrate the holidays with their families for the first time in several years. Rationing in the United States ended in 1946 and this would be the first year after the war that families could spend freely.

Americans were moving away from the isolationism that marked the first half of the century. On this yuletide edition of Around New York, Noel Worrell implores listeners to not only show kindness to weary veterans but also to:

the hundreds of thousands in other countries to whom this Christmas can have no meaning, no hope, no comfort. We can make this the best Christmas only by doing everything in our power for those who might, but for the accident of nationality, be warm, comfortable, well fed, and gay like us here in our own country this Christmas.

In light of all this abundance, Worrell reminds us listeners to cherish the gifts that money cannot buy and to keep the kind spirit of the season in our hearts all year round. 

Are we sharing our Christmas, here at home, in the most generous way possible? Are we remembering, with more than just a passing gesture of pity, the disabled veterans in our hospitals? The children needing foster homes? The many times and places where we, who are so lucky, can be so helpful?

Around New York was a variety show that featured local events, news and commentary about arts and culture in New York City. To hear more recordings from this series:


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 69532Municipal archives id: LT757


Happy Holidays from AOTUS!

BWT HST receipt for fruitcake

Receipt for fruit cake, March 1918.
National Archives Identifier: 6233802 / Local Identifier: HST-BWT_5_3_03_01

This is a receipt for a fruit cake purchased by Bess Wallace at the Jones Store, a Kansas City, Missouri Department store, to send to her fiancé, Harry S. Truman, who was stationed in France with the United States Army 129th Field Artillery.


Aunt Sammy Radio Recipe

Fruit Cake recipe from Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes, Developed by The Bureau of Home Economics, 1927.  From the Records of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New Exhibition: Paintings by Scott Kelley

PPL is thrilled to present a series of gorgeous nautical paintings by Maine artist Scott Kelley, inspired by Kelley’s research in our extensive collection of whaling logbooks.

Kelley_Book of Whales_large jpg with color bar

Scott Kelley is an artist who lives on Peaks Island, Maine with his wife Gail, son Abbott, dog Francis, and an imaginary pig named Lunchbox. He received a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1986 and has studied at The Slade School of Art, London and The Glassel School of Art, Houston. He is represented by Dowling Walsh Gallery, Rockland, ME and W.M. Brady & Co, NY.


The paintings will be on display on the 3rd floor of the library from December 21, 2015 until February 12, 2016. The exhibit can be viewed during the library’s regular open hours.


Howard B. Hamilton: “Dr. Noh”

[Note: since this will be my last post on The Consecrated Eminence, I feel no need to apologize for opening with such a horrible pun.]

The Howard B. Hamilton Japanese Theater Papers will be an extraordinary resource for the study of both Japanese culture and theater performance. It documents the frankly amazing avocational activity of an American medical researcher in post-World War II Japan who, over the course of 30 years, went on to become one of the leading performers on the noh stage – quite unusual for any non-Japanese.


Howard B. Hamilton, MD (1918-2007)

Hamilton’s papers, consisting chiefly of photographic images, programs, albums, film, video, and printed matter, were acquired as a gift five years ago and are now being arranged, described and prepared for research use. Work on the collection has been challenging and time-consuming, since none of us here professes any expert knowledge in Japanese noh theater. (Archival processing always has an educational element.)

How Hamilton, an American-born, Yale-trained physician and medical researcher, found his artistic calling in the esoteric realm of Japanese noh theater is hard to fathom, but one is inclined to behold his work as a genuine example of cosmically cross-cultural aesthetic affinity. Aside from some basic facts, we know little about Dr. Hamilton: undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester, Yale Medical School, wartime service in the U.S. Navy, biochemistry research after the war at Mass General and Harvard; then, in 1956, a move to Hiroshima, Japan, to research the effects of radiation on atomic bomb survivors as Chief of Clinical Laboratories for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (1956-1975) and later the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (1975-1984). Though his medical research was important (well documented in his medical papers at the Houston Academy of Medicine), it was in Japan that Dr. Hamilton discovered his passion, Japanese theater, and noh in particular.


The noh stage at the Itsukushima shrine, built on the beach of Miyajima Island and often surrounded by shallow water. Hamilton performed here annually for many years.

The oldest extant theater tradition in the world, noh is a highly symbolic, aesthetic, non-realistic, poetic monodrama with origins in dance and religious ceremony in Japan and China. It was perfected to its present form in the 14th century. Noh’s three elements are song, dance and drama. It is performed by elegantly costumed and often masked actor-dancers on an uncluttered stage devoid of realistic scenery or props. The highlight of noh drama is the dance section, consisting of abstract movement and gesture in a symbolic pantomime of verses chanted by a chorus. Noh is a “monodrama” in the sense that it is completely dominated by the leading role: as Paul Claudel has observed, “In western drama, something happens; in noh, someone appears.” Song is always present; dance and drama only sometimes. Its effect is sculptural (a square stage viewed from the front and sides) rather than pictorial, as in traditional western theater.

Shortly after his arrival in Hiroshima, Hamilton met IZUMO Tsunekazu, a professional actor in the Kita Noh school. He began taking weekly lessons in September 1956. He soon performed various shimai in Hiroshima. (A shimai is a simplified version of noh performed by the shite, or lead role, wearing a crest-adorned kimono and Japanese-style trousers; it generally involves no masks, costumes or props, with the exception of a long sword or cane.)


Hamilton being dressed for a performance of Kurozuka at the Miyajima noh stage, 1965.


Kurozuka, 1965

In 1959 Dr. Hamilton was involved in his first public noh performance as the shite in Chikubushima. His first performance on a true noh stage was in Miyajima, the ancient stage at Itsukushima Shrine, as part of its annual Tokasai Festival. He generally performed twice a year: once on temporary stages in Hiroshima, and again at Miyajima. Eventually he also performed at the Kita Noh stage in Tokyo and elsewhere. For the benefit of English-speaking attendees at Miyajima, Dr. Hamilton prepared summaries of the plays in English, and translations of the play in which he performed.


Hamilton’s English translation of Yorimasa, ca. 1980), mounted in a beautiful album with photographs, as he did for all the noh plays in which he acted. 


Kurozuka, 1965

In processing the Hamilton Papers, I have discovered how impossible it is to appreciate noh except by experiencing it in performance. (There are many videos on YouTube that impart a sense of it, but even these I have found wanting.)

Describing the “action” of a noh performance is a rather superficial exercise. For example, a synopsis of Kazuraki goes something like this: “Three priests who have journeyed to Mt. Kazuraki are given shelter from the snow by a woman. Later, she asks them to pray for her to relieve her suffering. When questioned, she reveals that she is the goddess of the mountain and is being punished for having failed in her duty once in the past. Later, she reappears in her true form and, having been saved from further punishment by the prayers of the priests, performs a dance for them in gratitude.”


Hamilton portraying the old woman in Kazuraki, 1969. Laying down a sprig of leaves before the priests as she prepares a fire for them, the chorus intones words that speak of the evanescence of life – like lightning, morning dew, or the sparks that issue from her flint as she lights the fire.


Hamilton’s English summary from the Kazuraki album.

The Howard B. Hamilton Japanese Theater Papers include much information about noh based on the extensive research he did for his slide lecture-demonstrations, which he gave many times a year in Japan and the U.S. – even at medical conferences. He became a collector of costumes, masks and props, some of which are held at Amherst’s Mead Art Museum.


Contact sheet of Dr.  Hamilton’s extensive collection of slides depicting noh masks.


Noh mask called “Manbi.”

Aside from Hamilton’s subject files, the albums, containing English summaries and images from noh performances, make up the most useful part of the collection for researchers who are new to this ancient theatrical art form. In addition, thousands of color slides, photographic prints and and film and video footage will make this a very rich resource.


A Visit from the “‘Twas the Night” Collection

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through our section
We were ready to work on a festive collection.
Many boxes of books (and this part makes it fun),
Each with the same poem. You all know which one.

Editions of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" from 1890 to 1900

The boxes were nestled all snug in their cart,
Holding old books and rare books and books filled with art,
Toy books with sleigh bells that jingled a tune,
Plus archival items, including a spoon.

"Night Before Christmas" spoonAudio recordings and a book with jingle bells

And we catalogers, as a matter of course,
Had settled our brains to describe each resource.
Each one was related, but each was unique,
And our records must help people find what they seek.
But no cataloger would let that disturb her,
Remembering concepts that she learned from FRBR.
When faced with this “Night Before Christmas” incursion,
We would deal with each item, no matter which version.

Pop-up image of SantaPop-up image of house

Now, pop-ups! now, postcards! now, stamps for the mail!
On, parody versions! on, versions in Braille!
Whether titles be missing or typeface be small,
Now catalog! catalog! catalog all!

The Braille edition of "'Twas the Night" includes a figurine of a deer instead of an illustration.Parody versions include a feminist and a fitness-themed version, as well as a Cajun and a Texan "Night Before Christmas"

And, as our work on these books we’re completing,
We send you our very best seasonal greeting
For a year of discoveries wherever you look:
Happy holidays, all, and to all a good book.

Visit of St. Nicholas, illustrated by Thos. Nast

2015: End-of-year review

As 2015 draws to a close its time to review another busy year for the University Archives and look at how our collections were used by researchers. As in previous years we’ve put together an end-of-year chart of our most popular collections by combining the information recorded in our enquiries database with the records of material consulted by visitors to our archives reading room.

The collection which topped this year’s chart has been incredibly popular since its transfer to the University Archives in 2012. No. 1 in 2013 and no. 2 in 2014 the NHS Forth Valley Archive has retaken the top spot in 2015. The bulk of the collection relates to two local hospitals, the Stirling District Asylum (Bellsdyke Hospital) and the Royal Scottish National Hospital, Larbert. There continues to be huge genealogical interest in the information contained in the records of the hospitals, alongside increasing academic interest in the research value of the material.

Stirling District Asylum Case Books

Stirling District Asylum Case Books

This summer the completion of the Wellcome Trust funded Continuity of Care project improved access to the collection through a programme of conservation and cataloguing of the Royal Scottish National Hospital Archive, with full details of the collection now available on our online archive catalogue.

Our No. 2 is a former chart topper (in 2012) its place in this year’s list showing the growing research interest in the collection. The Musicians’ Union Archive provides a comprehensive record of the organisation’s activity since it was founded as the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union in Manchester in 1893. Recent enquiries related to the collection have included topics as varied as female musicians in London during World War One, the working practices of cinema musicians in the silent era, international union relations, The Beatles, the impact of the synthesizer and miming on Top of the Pops. The collection also provides a rich resource for family historians researching their musical ancestors.

Cover of issue 22 of The Musician, December 1957

Cover of issue 22 of The Musician, December 1957

The Musicians’ Union Archive is also a key resource for two major AHRC funded projects, British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound (De Montfort University / University of Stirling) and The Musicians’ Union: A Social History (University of Glasgow). Some of the research carried out by these projects will be presented at the conference ‘Working in Music: The Musicians’ Union, musical labour and employment’, which will be held in Glasgow in January 2016.

As the University of Stirling heads toward its 50th anniversary in 2017 we find our own institutional archives at No. 3 in this year’s list. 2015 saw an increased interest in our own archival resources both within the university and from external researchers. The University Archive holds the official history of the institution in its minute books, reports and publications. It also preserves the unofficial story of life on campus through student newspapers, memorabilia and oral history interviews with retired staff and alumni.

Our film collections continue to be popular with researchers.

Our film collections continue to be popular with researchers.

Before we end our review of 2015 an honourable mention should go to our film-related collections. The personal and working papers of three Scottish filmmakers took fourth, fifth and sixth places on our chart (Lindsay Anderson, John Grierson and Norman McLaren). If combined these film archives would have topped the list, their continued popularity showing the wealth of material relating to the history of cinema held in our collections.

Outside the archives reading room our most seen collection was undoubtedly our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive. Our touring Hosts & Champions exhibition, which celebrates over 80 years of Scottish participation and achievement in the Commonwealth Games, has visited a variety of venues across Scotland this year, starting its tour in Irvine in March and ending the year at Dumfries Museum. The exhibition will continue its tour in the new year visiting Stranraer in January and Kirkintilloch in March. We’ll provide further information about the Hosts & Champions touring programme and other exciting projects and events taking place in 2016 in the new year.

Those results in full:


1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. University of Stirling


1. Norman McLaren

2. NHS Forth Valley

3. Commonwealth Games Scotland


1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. Norman McLaren

Further details of previous end of year reviews can be found here.

Abridged open hours

Our Wednesday afternoon open hours today will end earlier than usual: we’ll be open from 3:00 – 4:15. We return to normal open hours next week.

If you have last-minute, end-of-2015 research, please stop by this afternoon, or visit us in following weeks on Tuesdays between 10:00 – 1:00 or Wednesdays between 3:00 – 7:00. Of course, you can always make an appointment by emailing us at

(For the academics among you: did your semester just wrap up? Now’s the perfect time to pursue your personal, esoteric passions! We have tiny books on the rules of whist, folios of traditional Persian architecture, and historic sample books from local textile mills. We’d love to rustle up some esoterica for you.)

Sows, onions, and mumping

The winter holidays are often a busy time. Perhaps you’ve been hunting around for the perfect Yule log or mail-ordering flannel pajamas. Perhaps you’ve been collecting sticks for a solstice bonfire or turning your kitchen into a seasonal cookie factory.

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed that you don’t have time to research traditional holiday customs of Great Britain. Luckily, we’ve done that work for you, scouring T. F. Thiselton’s British Popular Customs, Present and Past; Illustrating the Social and Domestic Manners of the People (London, 1876) for the best British customs and rituals for the upcoming days.

For the procrastinators among you: now (right now) is the time to start preparing for Sow Day, which is celebrated on December 17th.

At Sandwick, in the Orkneys [of Scotland], it is usual for every family to kill a sow, whence this day is called Sow Day. This custom probably has some reference to the heathen worship of the sun, to which, among the northern nations, the male of this animal was sacred.

If you’re planning a little further ahead, you have ample time to prepare for St. Thomas’ Day on December 21st by readying your rope of onions.

Girls… used to have a method of divination with a “St. Thomas’s Onion,” for the purpose of ascertaining their future partners. They peeled the onion, wrapped it up in a clean handkerchief, and then, placing it under their heads, said the following lines:

“Good St. Thomas, do me right / And see my true love come to-night, / That I may see him in the face, / And him in my kind arms embrace.”

(Remember to use a clean handkerchief. Apparently it doesn’t work with a dirty one.)

St. Thomas’ Day, being a few days before Christmas, is also a traditional time for all manner of actual and ritualistic alms-collecting, ranging from begging for corn with a bag to singing for neighbors in return for hot drinks. The custom of going from house to house has different names in different parts of Great Britain; Thiselton reports that in Herefordshire, the day is called “Mumping Day”, and the process of going door-to-door asking for contributions is termed “going a-mumping.”

We in Special Collections hope that you find the best Yule log, make the most delicious cookies, find your true love via onion, and verily enjoy going a-mumping.


Merging Time: A Modern Perspective

The popular photography exhibit, Merging Time, is now showing at the City of Vancouver Archives gallery. This year’s collection features 13 new “now-and-then” interpretations of images from the Archives holdings.

A member of the public views the Merging Time: A Modern Perspective photography exhibit. Photo credit: Christine Hagemoen.

A member of the public views the Merging Time: A Modern Perspective photography exhibit. Photo credit: Christine Hagemoen.

Every fall, the Archives features new works created by students in Langara College’s Photo-Imaging Program. Students are assigned to visit the Archives to find photographs with unique elements defining the past, such as fashion, transportation, advertising, and storefront signage. Then, with a DSLR camera, they return to the original location of the archival photograph to shoot a modern-day version. The students merge a digital version of the archival photograph with the modern-day replication to produce a composite of the past and present. This year’s selections date from the 1900s to the 1950s, and feature the West End, Gastown, Chinatown, downtown Vancouver, UBC and Mount Pleasant.

Archival photograph selected by Courtney Naesgaard for the Merging Time exhibit. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, 1946. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Archival photograph selected by Courtney Naesgaard for the Merging Time exhibit. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, 1946. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

The main challenge the students face is figuring out where and how each photograph was taken. Sometimes the original photograph may have been taken with the camera in the middle of the road or where a new building now stands. Determining the focal length and angle of the shot further complicates the process of matching the current-day image with the original perspective. This is where the techniques taught in the course come into play. Using Photoshop, the students adjust the perspective of their modern-day image to match the framing and composition of the original archival photograph.

Digital composite by Courtney Naesgaard, 1946/2015. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, incorporating Archives image AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Digital composite by Courtney Naesgaard, 1946/2015. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, incorporating Archives image AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Once the perspective is matched, students block, mask, blend and merge the past and present elements into a single photograph. The result is a seamless digital composite where the two eras converge and are presented simultaneously.

Archival photograph selected by Amberlee Pang for the Merging Time exhibit. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, c. 1926. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Archival photograph selected by Amberlee Pang for the Merging Time exhibit. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, c. 1926. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

This returning photography show is the Archives’ most popular exhibit, and we are always thrilled to see how artists apply their creative skills to the digitized material in our holdings.

Digital composite by Amberlee Pang, c.1926/2015. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, incorporating Archives image AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Digital composite by Amberlee Pang, c.1926/2015. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, incorporating Archives image AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Merging Time: A Modern Perspective will be on display at the Archives until the end of January, 2016. Please visit during our regular hours: Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

For those who are unable to attend the gallery in person, you can view the Merging Time exhibit in this Langara College flickr album.

Gifts for Librarians and Archivists – 2015 edition

For the last few years, we’ve featured a list of fun gifts for librarians and archivists. In the past, we have crowd sourced the list but this year we decided to do something a little different and invite some people to submit their gift ideas. So, if you are looking for a gift for the information professional in your life (for the holidays, or anytime, really) here are some ideas to get you started. Please add your own favorites in the comments!

Trevor Dawes, Associate University Librarian, Washington University in St. Louis

messenger bag“What librarian wouldn’t love a new bag?  Sure we collect bags at conferences, but when you want that more professional look, there’s the Visconti Foster. Drop your laptop in and you’re ready for your next meeting whether it’s down the hall or across town.”

Barbara J Ford, Mortenson distinguished professor emerita, University of Illinois

Barbara is all business and suggests the “opportunity to attend IFLA in Columbus, Ohio in August 2016 & to visit the ‘mothership’ to learn more about OCLC.” Thanks, Barbara! IFLA features not only opportunities to visit the OCLC campus, but also The Ohio State University Libraries, Columbus Metropolitan Library, and more. We’ll definitely see you in Ohio in August!

Julie Elmore, Director, Oakland City-Columbia Twp. Public Library, Oakland City, IN

tile“For those of us less organized librarians, I present the Tile App. I am forever leaving my keys (and other things) in an office somewhere and I love my Tile!  Now when it’s time to go home, but my car keys were left in genealogy when I first came in the door, I press a button on my phone and they ring until I find them.

“Last year my husband made me a themed basket of hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works. What made it great was he selected only scents that were vacation related (e.g. Caribbean Escape, Honolulu Sun, and various island drinks).  Knowing that we come in contact with lots of, well, potentially germy items, and knowing that all library people deserve an island vacation, he felt it was a perfect merger!

“Over the top gift…. I love my Varidesk. It allows me the freedom to stand or sit at my workspace and requires very little effort in the way to switch it back and forth.  A simple squeeze on the levers and it quickly goes from standing to sitting mode.  Combined with a free app you can download onto your desktop, you can rotate the frequency of your positioning.” [Editorial note — I have a Varidesk and I love it!]

Mike Furlough, Executive Director of HathiTrust

Mike suggests and has the iPhone app (the website says that the Android app is coming as well). “You can pay once and get access to all of the sound generators.  If nothing else, it’s a fun way to kill some time while on a plane.  No one has yet created a generator for a library reading room.  But I find the airport background noise oddly comforting.”

Joe Janes, Associate Professor, University of Washington Information School

desk set“What could be better than the only romantic comedy ever made about library automation?  That can mean nothing other than Desk Set, from 1957, available on DVD and Blu-RayA minor Hepburn & Tracy film, to be sure, but who can resist Kate’s enthusiasm, professionalism, feminism, and silver lame party dress?  The movie that made a lot of us want to be librarians.”


Ann Thornton, University Librarian and Vice Provost, Columbia University

Ann has a lovely practice of giving “honor gifts” to members of her management team. “They are so dedicated, and it is nice to honor them with a gift that further supports their work.” Ann explains that “the staff member receives a brief written acknowledgement that a donation was made in his/her honor along with a message that is both a thank you for hard work and an expression of best wishes in the coming year…. Most universities have easy ways to donate online — some even save your credit card information. And those gifts can be easily directed to the libraries or even specific library divisions or programs.”

Scott Walter, University Librarian, DePaul University

Scott suggests the The Querkywriter blutooth keyboard“It’s been 25 years since I actually wrote on a typewriter, but they still figure in my household decorating scheme. Like my Book Book, which always draws attention in a library crowd, I’m hoping to bring past and present together with this new wireless keyboard. Maybe even edge a bit toward steampunk…”

David Wright, Reader Services Division, The Seattle Public Library

due date“Librarians and library lovers seeking a subtle way to signal their love of books in those rare moments when not reading one will draw plenty of envious comments for this Library Card Smartphone Cover – it’s a great conversation starter.

“Between Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps (which contains that gorgeously detailed Map of Literature that went viral this year), and Andrew DeGraff’s brilliant, thoughtful Plotted: A Literary Atlas​, it has been a wonderful season for literary infographics – great books to pass around the holiday gathering to delight readers and non-readers alike.”

Many thanks to colleagues Jim Michalko, Jennifer Peterson and Roy Tennant who made the necessary contacts to help with this post!


Remembering John Trudell

AlcatrazisnotanIsland picture

Native American poet, activist, and performer John Trudell died earlier this week. Obituaries and tributes can be found online in publications ranging from Indian Country Today to the New York Times. We have several works in the Archives & Special Collections by and about this remarkable man.

The image above is taken from the book Alcatraz Is Not an Island, a collection of poems, artwork, and assorted documents about the takeover and occupation of Alcatraz by Native activists from November 1969 through June 1971. Trudell became one of the primary spokesmen for the occupation and is sometimes called “the voice of Alcatraz.”


The Alcatraz takeover was just one of many political actions by the American Indian Movement and its allies during the turbulent period of the 1960s and 1970s. More information about this event and Trudell’s role in it can be found throughout the collection, in books like Alcatraz! Alcatraz! published 20 years after the event:

AlcatrazAlcatraz pictures

John Trudell was active in the American Indian Movement throughout the 1970s, and made frequent appearances in the underground press of the time. The Marshall Bloom Alternative Press Collection includes a substantial run of Akwesasne Notes, a major source of information about Indigenous activism:

Akwesasne Notes_7_5
Akwesasne Notes_7_5_JT Interview
Akwesasne Notes_7_4_1975
Akwesasne Notes_7_4_JT Statement

The Archives holds a copy of Living in Reality: A Story of Struggle (1982), which collects writings by Trudell and others, along with transcripts from the trials of several activists.

Society of the People

The phrase “Living in Reality” also appears on the cover of Trudell’s book Songs Called Poems, published in the same year.

Living In Reality

Trudell never stopped speaking out in defense of Indigenous rights, the health of the planet, and the rights of all people to live healthy and meaningful lives. Hundreds of videos of Trudell speaking and performing his poetry can be found on Youtube and elsewhere. In addition to his writing and activism, he also acted in several feature films, including Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals.


Anyone interested in the life and words of John Trudell is invited to use the resources available in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

Behind the scenes: Preserving Scrapbooks in Heritage Protocol & University Archives

While many of us no longer create traditional scrapbooks and rely on digital solutions in the form of Pinterest, Facebook, and Flickr, there are still many examples from the long history of scrapbooking that need special care. At Heritage Protocol & University Archives, we use a variety of methods to preserve our large collection. We choose the best way to preserve while trying to maintain the original look and feel for the viewer.




Some scrapbooks have a multitude of types of materials that need extra consideration. In the over 100 scrapbooks created by the Florida State College for Women and  FSU alumni, we have found things such as bones, hair, fabric, dolls, jewelry, flowers and other plants, along with paper based memorabilia. This scrapbook has varnished wood covers that require special handling and usually a sturdy box. 



If the scrapbook is in relatively good condition (clean of obvious dirt and debris, dry, no mold, or obvious insect activity) wrapping gently, and/or boxing and storing in a cool dry place is a simple way to preserve.When tying with linen tape, we are careful not to tie so tightly that the covers or pages are damaged at the edges.


IIMG_2873nterleaving pages containing photographs and other items with buffered or at least acid free paper can also provide  stabilization. Cutting the sheet to fir the page and gently tucking it in works well.




With photographs,  a properly cut piece of buffered or acid free paper can be slid under it to create a barrier between it and the paper it rests on. There is still the matter of the photo corners, but some separation is better than none.

If many additional sheets are needed, the spine of the scrapbook may not accommodate the extra pages. Scrapbooks that are too large, over-stuffed with objects (anything that exceeds the capacity of the binding) may need to be separated into parts, and either wrapped or boxed in sections to keep fragile items and brittle paper from falling apart.

Photo: Ohio History Connection

For albums with pages that are falling apart or otherwise in bad condition (bugs, mold, etc.) it may be wise to document the pages through scanning, photocopying, or photographing, and then remove as many items as possible and preserve them individually. Documenting the original order and other details of the pages preserves the context of items and the overall creation of the scrapbook, especially if there are notations or other items to preserve that cannot be removed easily. One method for removing old photos from paper and magnetic pages (sticky, striped backing), very gently saw back and forth with fine, waxed dental floss. 


These procedure are great tips for preserving your own scrapbooks, however removing items involves tools, patience, and a steady hand. The first rule of thumb with archival materials is to “do no harm.” If you aren’t sure what to do or aren’t comfortable with some of the more aggressive techniques, simply stabilizing your scrapbook is best (see interleaving and wrapping). If you are more daring, practice on something you aren’t attached to first.

Cataloging Historic Student Work

As FSU students were finishing up their final papers for the semester, at Complex Cataloging we were working on a group of theses and dissertations written by FSU students long ago. Our project involved almost 600 digitized works from graduate and undergraduate students, most of them written between 1920 and 1979. Electronic theses and dissertations are popular items for researchers: as of December 10, 2015, 1,974,053 titles in this category have been downloaded from the institutional repository. We wanted to create records that would make our digitized theses and dissertations available to anyone who needed them.

From An Analysis of Typewriting Errors Made by Students in a Second-Year Typewriting Class at Leon High School, Tallahassee, Florida, Patricia M. Barrineau, 1954.
From An Analysis of Typewriting Errors Made by Students in a Second-Year Typewriting Class at Leon High School, Tallahassee, Florida, Patricia M. Barrineau, 1954.

These student works are windows into the past, giving us a look at a world that no longer exists – a world where the cutting edge of school technology involved typewriting classes and film reels, where many teachers were not allowed to attend the theater, play cards, or dance.

This study from 1951 found that one of the main reasons students didn't want to become teachers was "cramped style." (A Study of Professional Hazards Faced by Teachers New to the School Communities in Which They Are to Teach with Suggestions for Meeting Such Hazards, Mary Cleveland Hubbard)
This study from 1951 found that one of the main reasons students didn’t want to become teachers was “cramped style.” (A Study of Professional Hazards Faced by Teachers New to the School Communities in Which They Are to Teach with Suggestions for Meeting Such Hazards, Mary Cleveland Hubbard)


Some of the works that we cataloged were written by teachers and librarians who were already working in the field while finishing their degrees. They wrote about the tensions and problems they had seen in their own schools and communities.

This author was the principal of a school in a small town that objected to "girls' wearing shorts in physical education classes." (A Guide to a Program to Improve School-Community Relations for the Bethlehem School, Philip D. McKinnon, 1952)
This author was the principal of a school in a small town that objected to “girls’ wearing shorts in physical education classes.” (A Guide to a Program to Improve School-Community Relations for the Bethlehem School, Philip D. McKinnon, 1952)

Other works included personal details from contemporary authors that are available nowhere else.

This student got a letter from Dr. Seuss! (Theodor Seuss Geisel: A Bio-Bibliography, Verna Summer Kohn, 1956)
This student got a letter from Dr. Seuss! (Theodor Seuss Geisel: A Bio-Bibliography, Verna Summer Kohn, 1956)

To help make these theses and dissertations part of the Digital Library, we had to come up with a way of creating records for the electronic works based on their print versions. First, an automated process was used to gather the catalog records as a batch.  Then, the Complex Cataloging team, along with Amy Weiss, Head of Cataloging and Description, updated and enhanced the catalog records in WorldCat and FSU’s catalog. The records now contain information that will allow researchers to find them in a number of ways, and to know from reading each record whether that work is the one they want. Next, Annie Glerum, Head of Complex Cataloging, developed an XSLT program that was custom tailored for this project, using more updated XPath functions than other similar programs, to transform them into the format used by the Digital Library. Once these records are added to the Digital Library, researchers will have access to these fascinating student works that not only tell us about our history, but also make a contribution to scholarship in many fields.


Cone Health collection to be digitized

Judge Alfred M. Lindau and Bernard Cone at the cornerstone ceremony for Cone Hospital in 1951.

The University Libraries have entered into a partnership with the Cone Health Medical Library to digitize a large and important collection of archival materials documenting the history of Greensboro’s Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital.

Aerial view of Cone Hospital, circa 1953.

The hospital, which opened in February, 1953, was originally funded through a trust established by Bertha Cone in honor of her husband, Moses H. Cone, who was one of the founders of Cone Mills in Greensboro. The Greensboro Daily News reported that Mrs. Cone had “proposed to build the most modern hospital in the South.” It is now the flagship institution of the Cone Health network, one of the largest healthcare providers in the Southeast.

Moses H. Cone.

The Cone Hospital collection contains historical information about the Cone family, who were instrumental in the development of Greensboro into the city that it is today, and a wealth of material on the background, construction, and ongoing operations and growth of Cone Hospital. Included are historical records, construction photographs, newsletters, rate books, and procedure manuals.

Of particular interest is material related to the 1963 Simkins v. Cone case which resulted in a ruling by the United States Supreme Court ending segregation in publicly-funded hospitals. Cone Health Medical Library Director Edward Donnald described the collection as “a significant historical resource with local, regional, and even national interest.”

The project will digitize more than 16,000 items from the collection during 2016, and all material will be made publicly available as part of the local history portal of UNCG Digital Collections.

The partners are currently working on a grant proposal to digitize additional medical history collections held by Cone Health, the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives at UNCG, and the Greensboro Historical Museum.

(Note: Some of the quotes in this post were taken from the October, 2015, issue of Code U, the Cone Health newsletter.)

Magician of the Week #40: June McComb

We selected this week’s magician, June McComb, on the basis of her bibliophilic prop, which appears to be an enormous book on a TV tray table and/or an extra-tall luggage rack.


June, in her sharp yet seasonally-confusing outfit of fur cape and silky leotard, was, according to a writer from The Ireland Magic Co., “probably the prettiest girl in magic in the whole world.” (Let’s envision, just for a moment, a world where male magicians of the 1950’s were praised for being “perhaps the handsomest man in magic in the whole world,” and/or where they performed in heavily accessorized satin bathing suits.)

The photo above comes from Ireland’s 1955 Year Book, published in Chicago by The Ireland Magic Company. The internet has several videos of June McComb in action, for those who would like to see more of this “glamorous girl magician”.

P.S. Her shoes!