Happy Holidays

The Archives will be closed from noon December 22 to 9am Wednesday, January 2, 2018.

Front of card

This greeting card “wishing health, joy and wealth be unto you” is from the Lorne Brown fonds. Just who the “broadcaster” was is uncertain, but the delightful colours and message ring true this time of year.

Card envelope

The matching textured envelope with block printing inside the flap is a wonderful added touch to this charming circa 1930 card.

With contributions by Bronwyn Smyth.

Reichelt Oral History Collection

Enjoy this guest post by Special Collections Oral History Graduate Assistant Adam Hunt:

Wallace Reichelt, circa 1940
Wallace Reichelt, circa 1940

The Reichelt Oral History Collection in FSU Special Collections and Archives is a rich and unique collection of over 2,100 oral history interviews and transcripts created throughout 1969-2014. The Reichelt Oral History Program was created under Dr. Edward F. Keuchel and University President D’Alamberte in 1969 with the help of a generous endowment by Wallace Ward Reichelt. In 1996, Dr. Robin J. Sellers undertook the directorship of the program. In 1998, the Program expanded to include oral histories of veterans in various military conflicts. These interviews offer rich historical insight into various subjects including but not limited to FSU/FSCW history, Tallahassee and Florida history, the Florida Highway Patrol, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. After the departure of Dr. Robin J. Sellers, the Director and Archivist of the Reichelt Oral History Program from FSU in 2014, FSU Libraries undertook the preservation of their oral history collection.

One exciting project involving the Reichelt Collection at Special Collections and Archives aims to facilitate the use of these oral histories. During the Fall semester of 2017, the collection has been inventoried for restrictions and access information. With this information, portions of the collection have entered the process of electronic distribution and digitization for research purposes including the creation of administrative metadata for 450 interview transcripts, around 21% of the collection, and the identification of existing digitized material related to these 450 interviews.

Other projects involving the Reichelt Collection this semester oversaw the identification of several new interviews to be added into the collection. Additionally, physical objects relating to interviewees have been identified and incorporated into the collection’s physical administrative files, which are available to be requested in the Special Collections reading room. Finally, several interviews lacking corresponding transcripts have entered the transcription process, of which several have already been completed. Special Collections and Archives is excited to share this news and the Reichelt Oral History Collection with you.

Further Reading:

Reichelt Oral History Collection, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.fcla.edu/fsu/HPUA-2015-00R

WNYC at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair

Mayor La Guardia buys the first ticket to the World’s Fair from fair chief Grover A. Whalen on February 28, 1939.
(Worldwide Photos/WNYC Archive Collections)

“The Voice of the Fair” —that’s what Station Director Morris Novik called WNYC at the outset of the exposition’s second season in 1940. By that time, the station had already broadcast more than 800 programs from various spots throughout the Fair’s Flushing Meadows/Corona Park grounds —especially from its studios in the City of New York Building.[1]

Overseen by WNYC’s Chief Engineer, Isaac Brimberg, the ‘ultra-modern’ studios had little competition: although WLW Cincinatti’s had a studio in the Crosley Corporation Building (feeding the Mutual Broadcasting Company), CBS and NBC had no facilities at the Fair, using only remote lines for their coverage. WNYC, however, was in the heart of the action. Its studios were on the balcony of the City of New York Building, just across the way from the Trylon and Perisphere, and included the building’s auditorium, seating 285, along with two 18′ x 25′ studios for interviews and small gatherings and one smaller studio for the announcing and recording of programs.[2] The announcer’s booth was specifically designed to provide a bird’s-eye view of the New York City building’s large auditorium, where exhibits were always on display.

Leo Garel’s 1939 drawing of a WNYC reporter and all the direct lines used to cover events at the World’s Fair wrapped around the Trylon and Perisphere.
(WNYC Masterwork Bulletin)

A large Master Control room, using RCA consoles and other equipment, functioned as the broadcast operations nerve center. It allowed for as many as three separate programs to be sent simultaneously, and it provided connections to the in-house studios and thirteen remote locations. These included WNYC’s main Municipal Building operations, The Court of Peace, The Temple of Religion, the WPA music bandshell and other venues. The WNYC Masterwork Bulletin characterized it this way: “The only pictorial statistics we could think of was that if all the phone wires used in our World of Tomorrow broadcasts were wound around the Perisphere, they would cover that familiar trademark.”[3]

A WNYC remote reporter for World’s Fair with battery-powered backpack transmitter, circa 1939
(New York City Municipal Archives)

Additionally, a portable sound truck made it possible to record special effects and programs throughout the site as well as relaying reports from staffers equipped with battery-powered backpack shortwave transmitters at event locations without direct lines. These units broadcast at 2058 kc and 2190 kc to receivers in Master Control.[4] A 50-watt relay broadcast transmitter operating at 1622 kc could also be found in the facility.

WNYC engineer Henry Wei’s New York World’s Fair badge from 1939/(WNYC Archive Collections)

Along with live and recorded coverage of events, WNYC also featured music and wrap-ups for the daily World’s Fair Reporter hosted by announcer Russ Johns (heard above). Homesick out-of-towners visiting the fair could listen-in to Today’s Home Town News, broadcasts presenting the latest bulletins from twenty major cities around the country. In addition, WNYC aired an interview series, Pleased to Meet You, and weekly concerts on Songs of the 7,000,000. These shows were supplemented with dramatizations of city history on In Old New York, and daily highlights of events and inexpensive sight-seeing activities on Father Knickerbocker Suggests. The Masterwork Bulletin summed-up our coverage this way:

Through the medium of radio we, and you, met Presidents, senators and kings —and the plain people from forty-eight states, from the farms and cities that make American democracy more than just a phrase. There were broadcasts rich in fun, rich in human touch. Others, as those from the great foreign pavilions brought home with great striking clarity the tremendous upheaval taking place overseas.[5]

And then, there was Cornelius.

WNYC Masterwork Bulletin, May 1940.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

          Listen to the surviving 1939-1940 WNYC World’s Fair broadcasts at:  WORLD’S FAIR.


[1] Novik, Morris S., “Voice of the Fair,” Masterwork Bulletin, May-June 1940, pg. 1.

[2] Sperling, J. G., “Radio at the Fair,” Communications, May 1939 pg. 10.

[3] “Statistical Stuff,” Masterwork Bulletin, September-October 1939, pg.26

[4] “Equipment,” Broadcasting, May 1, 1939, pg. 58. These units were designed by WNYC Engineer James Berry under the direction of Chief Engineer Isaac Brimberg and were made by Link Radio Laboratories.

[5] “Fair Farewell,” Masterwork Bulletin, November-December 1941, pg. 21.



Pursuing Civic Literacy

As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives is responsible for making the records of the U.S. Government available to the public. These records—some famous but others quite ordinary—tell the nation’s story, document the actions of government officials over the years, and confirm the rights guaranteed to individuals. They are records that deserve preservation not simply for reference purposes but for use by all interested Americans to participate in the civic process. In short, they form a vital documentary bedrock of our democracy.

National Youth Administration (NYA) Photographs. National Archives Identifier 7350937

An informed citizenry is at the heart of what we do—rooted in the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that ensure their rights, hold their government accountable, and tell the story of the nation. However, without a fundamental level of civic literacy, the records that we preserve and make accessible will not be understood or used effectively by the citizens we serve.

I recently read some disheartening statistics about the state of civic literacy in the United States, strengthening my resolve to improve understanding of how the government works and citizen responsibility. According to the data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and Pew Research Center:

  • Nearly 2/3 of Americans cannot name all three branches of government. (Yet three in four people can name all Three Stooges.)
  • Only 29% of eligible Americans participated in the 2016 primary elections.
  • Less than half of the public can name a single Supreme Court Justice. And only 15% can correctly name John Roberts as Chief Justice. (Yet 2/3 of Americans know at least one of the American Idol judges.)
  • Nearly a quarter of young Americans think that a democratic form of government is very bad
  • Intentionally fabricated news stories involving the 2016 presidential candidates were shared 38 million times on social media.
  • Americans distrust the government at record levels and they also distrust their fellow citizens to participate in governance.
  • College bound young people (about half the youth population) are much more civically involved than their non-college bound peers. Rates of voting and volunteering are at least twice as high for those who attend college.
  • Students who are white get more high quality civic-learning opportunities
  • Nationwide, more than 1/3 of today’s high school seniors lack even basic civics knowledge and skills.
  • More than 1/4 of Americans do not know who America fought in the Revolutionary War
  • 39% incorrectly stated that the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war.

Civics education is an important element of the work we do each day at the National Archives. In our efforts to increase levels of civic literacy, the National Archives continues to expand our education, communications, and public programs. Here are just a few examples of the work we are doing across the country:

Public Programming
The National Archives host the Nation’s most prominent speakers, scholars, educators, government officials, members and former members of Congress, Presidents, First Ladies, and Supreme Court Justices for informative and educational events and programs at locations across the country.

Professional Development for Educators
Educators can participate in both on-site and online based activities; from two-week long summer institutes to all-day workshops on using primary sources in the classroom. Our Primarily Teaching Summer Institute introduces educators to researching and using historical documents in the classroom. DocsTeach is the online tool for teaching with documents, featuring almost 10,000 facsimiles of primary sources and nearly 700 lesson plans and activities for use in classrooms.

Student and Family Programs
Events across the country include: Family festivals on Presidents Day; Teen Thursdays in New York in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education; Mighty Writers: Early Civil War Rights literacy teen summer program in Philadelphia; Sleepover activities twice a year at the National Archives building in Washington, DC; local and regional National History Day competitions; extensive partnerships with local scouting organizations, especially in the heartland of Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas; partnerships with community centers supporting underserved populations in Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles—all participate in civic initiatives like the National Student Mock Election, nation-wide essay contests on topics of political courage, integrity, and presidential leadership.

Center for Legislative Archives
The Center for Legislative Archives preserves and makes available to researchers the historical records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Through its public outreach programs, the Center uses these historical records to promote a better understanding of Congress and the history of American representative government. The Center hosts professional development workshops for K-12 civics and history educators on how to make the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the legislative process, and topics in Congressional history accessible to students. Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook, mobile app, and online resources tells the remarkable story of the relationship between the Bill of Rights and the Constitution

Presidential Libraries

  • George H.W. Bush Library: Award winning distance learning programs, many of which have featured First Lady Barbara Bush and her efforts to promote literacy. Initially broadcast throughout the state of Texas, it is now national and international in scope.
  • Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum: Boy Scouts of America partnership program include the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge and the Eisenhower Leadership Patch. Additional programs include Story Time for Pre-Schoolers and their accompanying adults; Constitution-In-Action Learning Lab, a two-hour simulation of the role of researchers and archivists.
  • John F. Kennedy Library: The Kennedy Library serves as the state coordinator for the National Student/Parent Mock Election for Massachusetts
  • White House Decision Centers. Students spend days preparing for and participating in a dramatic role playing exercise related to real historical events using facsimiles of the records used by the original decision makers. The Harry S. Truman Library includes decision making about ending the war against Japan, desegregating the Armed Forces, or the decision to defend South Korea. Every Presidential Library now has a similar opportunity specific to that presidency which demonstrates how decisions are made using real life example and real life documentation. The Reagan Library’s Situation Room Experience is the newest and most elaborate to date focused on the assassination attempt on the President in a situation room reassembled from the Bush 43 White House.

We will continue to expand and support civic literacy by engaging in national conversations, and pursuing collaborative opportunities with civics education projects and institutions such as iCivics, America Achieves, American Enterprise Institute, Carnegie Corporation, and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. By increasing understanding of how government works and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen, we can ensure the continued and increased relevance of truly democratic access to our holdings.

New Artists’ Books

Today I am highlighting some of our newest artists’ book additions to our collection.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

First up, we have two new acquisitions from book artist Ginger R. Burrell.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell in handmade box

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

Earth Clock, Burrell’s limited edition 2017 creation, is an investigation into the history of climate change.  “Earth Clock is meant as both an educational tool and a call to action. To create both a sense of urgency and the beginning of understanding. To present both facts and a sense of the long history of our avoidance and denial.” (Lux Mentis Booksellers catalog)

Nineteen magnetized flaps corresponding to years from 1800 to 2015 lift to display facts about national and international events relating to climate and the environment, such as the first Earth Day in 1970 and the creation of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or 1995 when the Antarctic ice shelves begin to break apart.

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell display

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell display

Earth Clock by Ginger R. Burrell








“Earth Clock features custom electronics designed to create a visceral response and to compel the viewer to act. LEDs animate based on what happened each year in Climate Change history. The number display registers the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in a given year.” (Lux Mentis Booksellers catalog)

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Also from Ginger Burrell, Giftschrank is another 2017 piece created in a limited edition of 12, housed in an original wooden box and bound in a molded cover of razor blades suspended in thick enamel.

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell box

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

The title page defines Giftschrank:

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell

Giftschrank by Ginger R. Burrell




Gift (Poison) + Shrank (Cabinet)

  1. Spaces reserved for undesirable, uncomfortable or forbidden objects, ideas or subjects.
  2. Something society avoids at all costs.





The colophon cites the inspiration for this work as the podcast 99% Invisible, episode 203 ”The Giftschrank”.

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The prospectus for artist Maureen Cummins’s new 2017 work The/rapist describes the historic and political inspiration for this work:

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins in box

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“The/rapist is an investigation into the gendered history of psychosurgery, as illustrated by the career of Doctor Walter Freeman (1895-1972). A Professor of Neurology with no formal training in either surgery or psychology, Freeman popularized the pre-frontal lobotomy, an operation in which nerve connections to and from the frontal lobes—the seat of human emotion, creativity, willpower, and imagination—are severed.”

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“It is a history that raises numerous and disturbing questions about patients’ rights, the abuse of institutional power, and the disproportionate targeting of women.”

The physical object of this work reflects the inspiration:

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

The/rapist by Maureen Cummins

“Constructed entirely out of aluminum, The/rapist is inspired by the cold, hard surfaces of medical clipboards and equipment, as well as by Freeman’s actual tools, viewed by the artist in the Freeman/Watts collection at GWU, where she conducted her initial research. Pages of the book are laser-cut, burnished on one side, printed with multiple layers of text and imagery, “dimpled” to prevent scratching and wear, then mounted within rings to a sturdy baseboard. The text is printed in Frutiger, a classic mid-century sans-serif typeface. Images reproduced in the book are 19th century engravings, handwritten notes and text, as well as graphs and headshots from Freeman’s 1950 textbook Psychosurgery: In the Treatment of Mental Disorders and Intractable Pain. The book is housed in a burnished aluminum box with a screwed-down aluminum title plate.” (Aside of Books, retrieved 12/8/17)

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

We have also acquired a 2016 work by book artist Gabrielle Cooksey: The Book of Penumbra: Deadly Myths Retold – A book of small stories of death gods from around the world.  This piece is hand bound in an accordion case binding and a hinged painted black box with gold foil tooling.

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

Cooksey describes this work: “Death has always fascinated me because it happens to all of us yet no one talks about it. I wanted to see what other cultures personified death as through myths and legends. The gods in this book are very hushed and for some, even if you speak the name, you’ll be cursed. I wanted this book to be shadows, to be played in the light. I chose a delicate paper so one could see through to the page behind it. The text is in all sorts of shapes because I wanted each story to represent the god being told about. For instance, Sedna is in the shape of drowning, Anubis is his eye, Mac is a pit with someone at the bottom. The borders are all plants, roots, and things found on the earth. Some represent death like the poppy, and the yew tree.” (Author’s website, retrieved 12/8/17)

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

The Book of Penumbra by Gabrielle Cooksey

“I design books in a peculiar and unexpected way that makes it enticing to hold/open. I think of my books as art that you can use.” –Gabrielle Cooksey (Author’s website, retrieved 12/8/17)
Thanks to Rebecca, our cataloging librarian, these books have all been cataloged and are available to researchers in our Reading Room.

“Remembering Vietnam” Exhibit Entered into Congressional Record

As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I was determined to mark the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War with an exhibit here at the National Archives. Our records, some recently declassified, continue to yield discoveries and provide insight and evidence for people seeking to understand the war.

Remembering Vietnam exhibit. Photo by National Archives photographer, Jeff Reed.

In Remembering Vietnam, we are sharing the memories of veterans, as well as others involved in or affected by the war. The exhibit examines the human consequences of war, and provides a variety of lenses through which to view history. It attempts to answer questions that have remained unanswered for five decades.

Remembering Vietnam exhibit. Photo by National Archives photographer, Jeff Reed.

For me, the Vietnam War was an important period of my life that contributes to who I am today, and I am pleased to see our exhibit receiving recognition and acclaim from veterans, museum visitors, as well as the media. Washington Post writer Michael E. Ruane covered the exhibit and interviewed me in the article titled “A Veteran’s View of Vietnam.”

I am especially honored to know that this story of the Vietnam War will now live in the Congressional Record. On November 15, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) recognized this important exhibit on the Senate floor and asked Congress’s consent to print Ruane’s article in the Record.

In his statement, Mr. Leahy said:

 Mr. President, long before his confirmation as the 10th
Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero proudly served our
Nation in a different capacity, as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam. Today,
with the help of Mr. Ferriero’s unique personal perspective and
professionally informed guidance, the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at
the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is currently exhibiting
a new collection of remarkable documents that illustrate some of the
Vietnam war’s biggest controversies.

 Mr. Ferriero and his team are to be thanked for painstakingly
determining which of the countless relevant texts housed in the
National Archives best told this often misunderstood story. We can be
sure, however, that few if any archivists are better suited with
experience and vision for this task than Mr. Ferriero.

 With this exhibit, Mr. Ferriero and his team honor the memory of
those who served in Vietnam, while also fulfilling a sacred obligation
to accurately preserve even our most contentious history so that we may
strive to avoid repeating past mistakes. Today I would like to pay
tribute to the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, and his
team and ask unanimous consent that a Washington Post article titled,
“A Veteran’s View of Vietnam,” be printed in the Record.

 There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
From the Washington Post, Nov. 8, 2017: A Veteran’s View of Vietnam

Read Senator Leahy’s statement in full here.

The National Archives is grateful to the government leaders, distinguished military and Vietnam veterans, and renowned historians who have endorsed our efforts through the Remembering Vietnam Honorary committee. Learn more about this defining era in American history when you visit our latest exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam.”

Dealing with Daily Life during World War II

This post is by Emily Woessner, one of two students leading the project digitizing selections from the Hasterlik-Hine Collection at the Institute of World War II and the Human Experience. More materials have been added to the digital collection and may be viewed here. The first post about this project is here.

Giulia Hasterlik was only 13 years old when her mother arranged for her to leave Vienna, Austria and travel to Switzerland to live safely without fear of Nazi persecution. Giulia was taken in by a minister’s wife named Alice Sigerist who already had a daughter of her own, Gretli Sigerist, close to Giulia’s age. Giulia lived in the small town of Schaffhausen, Switzerland for 7 years (1938 to 1946). While living in Schaffhausen, she attended an all-girls Catholic school and had many friends. However, she kept in contact with a number of her schoolmates back in Vienna. Letters from Evi Leib and Elizabeth “Lisl” Urbantischitsch, in particular, detail the lives of young girls who are dealing with such situations as crushes, boredom, school work, and prospects of the future. The girls draw pictures in their letters and used secret languages— they worry, joke, and dream just like young girls of today. Their letters to and from one another allowed them to maintain their friendships and a sense of normalcy during the war years.

Giulia was not the best student, a bit mischievous at times, but generally, she enjoyed her life in the small town of Schaffhausen. Although she noted that it was quite different from her middle-class upbringing in Vienna. Unfortunately, in August 1941 at 16 years old Giulia contracted poliomyelitis and was taken to Kanton Hospital in the center of Schaffhausen. She had to pause her studies at school. During this time the letters to and from her classmates served as a window to the outside world where she could escape the boredom of the hospital and maintain her friendships. At times the letters to Giulia simply wished her well and asked how she was progressing with her treatment. Other times her classmates detailed holiday trips, plans for future jobs and schooling, or fun puzzles and poems for Giulia to enjoy. These letters provided relief and laughter for Giulia during her most intense treatment.

Get Well Card sent to Giulia while she was receiving treatment for polio (original object)

It was not only school friends who wrote to Giulia at this time, though. Alice Sigerist had informed both Paul Hasterlik, Giulia’s grandfather, and Auguste Hasterlik, Giulia’s aunt, about the polio diagnosis. Paul and Auguste wrote heartfelt and uplifting letters to Giulia, but they also warned her against saying anything to her mother, Mia Hasterlik, about her condition. They feared the news would be far too upsetting for Mia and worry her unnecessarily because she was already living in New York City and would be helpless to take care of Giulia. For her part, Alice worked diligently to ensure Giulia was properly cared for and enlisted the help of her in-laws and countless doctors. In December 1941 Giulia was transferred to Insel Hospital in Bern, Switzerland where she underwent many months of treatment while continuing to receive letters from her friends and family.

When studying World War II one often forgets that people still had to contend with daily life and its unexpected occurrences. When Giulia Hasterlik fell ill with polio the war was in full swing, her family was strewn across the globe, and she was doing her best to live a normal life in Switzerland. Oftentimes all she had to keep in touch with her friends and family were these letters. They kept her relations, faith, and sanity strong despite all the hardship and uncertainty she endured as a young woman.

A discussion of these letters and letters like them from other tumultuous times in history will be presented at the Letters in Troubled Times: Study of Epistolary Sources conference happening Friday, February 16, 2018, in Tallahassee, Florida. Please contact Dr. Suzanne Sinke for questions regarding the conference.

WNYC’s Vintage Microphones

“This microphone is not an ordinary instrument,For it looks out on vistas wide indeed:My voice commingles now with northern lights and   asteroids and Alexander’s skeleton,With dead volcanoes and with donkey’s earsIt swims with minnows and it’s in the Sphinx’s jaw.It drifts among whatever spirits pass across the night.Here is a thought to fasten to your throat:Who knows who may be listening? And where?”

                                                                   Norman Corwin

                    The conclusion to Seems Radio Is Here to Stay

Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC), Phase II (November 2017-October 2019)

The University of Virginia Library is pleased to announce Phase II of the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Cooperative program. The University of Virginia Library is collaborating with the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, and 27 other Cooperative members. This second and final phase of establishing the Cooperative (2017-2019) is generously funded by a $750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Virginia.

Phase II expands the number of cooperative partners from 17 to 29 members, and now includes two international archives, a U.S. state archive, two documentary editing projects, an individual scholar, and several new academic research libraries. During this new phase, SNAC will welcome additional members as the cooperative builds the capacity to ingest new sets of data and train editors.

Phase II has both social and technological objectives. The social objectives include developing a business model that will ensure long term sustainability, further developing editorial policies and standards, and being able to offer three forms of training for editors: on-site and remote as well as online self-guided. There will be many technological objectives, but chief among them will be the following: developing cooperative ingest tools that will enable data contributing institution to collaborate in refining and ingesting data into SNAC, and in return to receive persistent identifiers to enhance their descriptive data; refining and enhancing the History Research Tool for researchers; completing development of the key components of the technical infrastructure; and performing computational refinement and enrichment of existing SNAC data. A major focus will be on expanding capacity in training editors and ingesting new batches of data. Progress in these two areas will enable the Cooperative to vastly expand membership and the global social-document network represented in SNAC.

The SNAC Cooperative aspires to improve the economy and quality of archival processing and description, and at the same time, to address the longstanding research challenge of discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records. SNAC began as a research and development project in 2010 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project demonstrated the feasibility of separating the description of persons, families, and organizations – including their socio-historical contexts – from the description of the historical resources that are the primary evidence of their lives and work. SNAC also demonstrated that the biographical-historical data extracted and assembled can be used to provide researchers with convenient, integrated access to historical collections held by archives and libraries, large and small, around the world.

Initial work made it clear that the potential power of the assembled data to transform research and improve the economy and effectiveness of archival descriptive practices required more than digital tools.

SNAC governance and administration is now moving to the University of Virginia Library, which will provide it a long-term organizational home that ensures close collaborations and partnerships within the cultural heritage and research communities.

As its primary cooperative role, NARA has taken the lead in development and execution of SNAC’s formal training program called SNACSchool. NARA’s SNAC Liaisons are active members of the SNACSchool Working Group along with SNAC partners from other SNAC partner institutions including Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art; George Washington University Library; New York Public Library; and University of Miami Library. The working group formed in late 2016 with the primary mission of developing a formal training program for SNAC. The current curriculum includes modules for basic archival name authority control, searching the SNAC database, and creating and editing data in SNAC. SNACSchool is also designed to take place anywhere and anytime: most sessions are conducted remotely. And in Phase II, the working group is aiming for online tutorials for Cooperative members.

Jerry Simmons, National Archives Liaison to SNAC, welcomes attendees at the SNAC Partners Meeting in the Innovation Hub in Washington, DC

NARA staff is also responsible for SNAC’s social media presence. Currently found on twitter be sure to follow @SNACcooperative for all the latest information about SNAC and to learn helpful tips on using it.

More information is available at Snaccooperative.org

The Emmett Till Archives expands online

Page from the Joseph Tobias Papers; regarding an unauthorized film about Emmett Till, 1960.

Recently, we’ve added a new collection to the Emmett Till Archives in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. The Joseph Tobias Papers consist of the professional papers, case files, and collected publications of Tobias, an attorney based in Chicago, Illinois. The collection is regarding his representation of Mamie Till-Mobley from 1955 to 1960. Documents include case files for Mamie Bradley v. Cowles Magazines, Inc., Vernon C. Meyers, Gardner Cowles, and William Bradford Huie; correspondence on Till-Mobley’s behalf with the NAACP and motion picture studios; and subject files kept by Tobias on Till-Mobley during and after his employment by her. These primary source materials provide a compelling view into the life of Mamie Till-Mobley shortly after the murder of her son Emmett Till. For more information, see the collection’s finding aid.

The Emmett Till Archives consists of primary and secondary source material related to the life, murder, and memory of Emmett Louis Till.  Florida State University Libraries partners with the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Emmett Till Memory Project, and other institutions and private donors to collect, preserve, and provide access to the ongoing story of Emmett Till.  The Till Archives includes newspapers, magazines, oral histories, photographs, government records, scholarly literature, creative works, and other materials documenting the Till case and its commemoration, memorialization, and discussion in scholarship and popular culture.

If you know of materials that might be appropriate for donation to the Emmett Till Archives, please contact Associate Dean Katie McCormick at kmccormick@fsu.edu or (850) 644-6167.

Joining the Digital Public Library of America

We here at FSU are happy to have been part of the team to make the launch of the Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) possible. The SSDN will coordinate the work of harvesting Florida digital collections into the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The first harvest of materials from Florida State University, Florida International University and the University of Miami is now available at dp.la.

The following is from the original press release by FSU Libraries:

Florida State University Libraries and their partners are pleased to announce the launch of the Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN). The SSDN is part of the Digital Public Library of America and FSU is proud to be the service hub for the state of Florida. The service hub represents a community of institutions in the state which will provide their partner institutions aggregated metadata for the DPLA and offer tiered services to connect institutions of all sizes to DPLA.

The DPLA is an ever-growing national network of libraries, archives, museums, cultural heritage institutions, and volunteers that set out to provide a local impact in its communities, strengthened by a global reach. It is a free service, offering access to over 17 million items from around the globe. DPLA Network Manager Kelcy Shepherd says, “We’re so excited to welcome Sunshine State Digital Network to DPLA and to share Florida’s rich digital content alongside content of our other Hubs. We appreciate SSDN’s commitment to broadly sharing cultural heritage content with the public and to participating in the DPLA network.”

The SSDN operates on a multi-tiered hub system consisting of the main hub and regional sub-hubs. The main service hub is located at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. The sub-hub is located in Miami, FL with responsibilities shared among the University of Miami (UM) and Florida International University (FIU).

While partnering with UM and FIU, the network will provide digital access to over 72,000 cultural heritage materials from across the state of Florida. FSU will manage all administrative aspects of the network, serve as the financial center, and submit the state’s aggregated metadata to DPLA. By submitting metadata to DPLA, it will increase the discoverability and use of our culturally rich and diverse digital collections while allowing individuals to use materials creatively, enhance their research and learning, develop new resources for teaching and discovery, and foster interdisciplinary inquiry.

You can also read the press release from DPLA here.

Legacy Open Data Sets Now Available

We’re very pleased to announce that legacy versions of the City’s open data sets are now available through our online database.

The City of Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue has its roots in the “Open3” motion (Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source) passed by Vancouver City Council in 2009, which declared the City’s endorsement of the principles of open and accessible data, including the free sharing of data with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions without compromising privacy and security. Part of the City’s response to the motion was the launch of the Open Data website in September 2009. In 2011, the City of Vancouver was recognized by BC Business as the Most Innovative Organization in BC for the open data initiative.

The City’s Open Data Catalogue at vancouver.ca/opendata, accessed 2017-11-24

British Columbia’s strong and growing open data community uses raw City data, alone or in combination with data from other sources, to identify, analyze, and present solutions to challenges facing citizens of Vancouver and BC. The data sets on the Open Data Catalogue are updated on an ongoing basis (the refresh rate varies across sets). Recognizing that retaining historical data would enable the community to identify trends and changes across time, resulting in richer analysis of civic issues, the Archives began to grab snapshots of the datasets – first semiannually, then quarterly – in order to preserve the overwritten data sets and make them available to the public.

How to access legacy data sets

Data sets are organized by subject, and each file title also contains the date the data sets were grabbed. You can find the file descriptions by searching “open data catalogue” (in quotation marks) in our online database’s main search bar.

Results of searching for “open data catalogue”

Click on an individual result to go to the full file description for the data set of your choice. As an example, here is the description for the electric vehicle charging stations data as at April 2016.

Description of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations data package grabbed in April 2016

City open data comes in a variety of formats, including csv (tabular data in plain text) and xls (Microsoft Excel spreadsheet), and geospatial formats like kml and Shapefiles. We have zipped all available formats for a given subject and presented them as a single downloadable package.

The formats available for a given subject on a given date appear in the Physical description field.

The Physical description field shows how many files and formats are in the downloadable .zip, and the unzipped size of the data package.

To download the data package, click on the document icon at the top of the description.

Click the document to download the data.

Currently, data sets grabbed between October 2014 and April 2016 are available, and there are more to come. We would love to see what the community produces with the data, so don’t hesitate to share your projects with us. Happy data wrangling!

The Age of Experience: We Tell Better Stories

Work from the new exhibition

An exhibition of new work by Amy Fleming, The Age of Experience: We Tell Better Stories, is coming to the Claude Pepper Museum at the Claude Pepper Center, 636 West Call Street, Tallahassee, on the campus of Florida State University. The exhibition runs from December 1, 2017, to January 19, 2018, with an opening reception December 1, 6 – 9 p.m.

The exhibition is funded by a grant from Puffin Foundation Ltd. The Puffin Foundation provides grants to artists whose work addresses social issues, or who may be excluded from mainstream opportunities due to race, gender, or social philosophy.

This exhibition works to change the narrative around the way we discuss aging by focusing attention on the many vibrant members of our elder community. Ageism is a byproduct of a hyperconsumerist mindset: the disposability of mass-produced goods, the replacement of “old” with “new” without regard to quality or continued usefulness feeds into this attitude. In The Age of Experience: We Tell Better Stories, images of mass-produced discards find new life as impossible robes and royal collars made from pump valves and vacuum tubes, pull tab rings reappear as chain mail, soda bottles form crowns and halos.

Amy has been working with members of the City of Tallahassee Senior Center to create a series of screen and relief printed portraits. Participants in the project range in age from 60 to their mid 90’s. She became interested in problems facing older adults when two family members were dismissed from their jobs when they entered their 60’s despite having excellent work records. One is still having difficulty finding full-time employment.

Amy Fleming is an Adjunct Professor of Printmaking and Print Lab Manager at Florida State University. She is the recipient of a grant from Puffin Foundation Ltd., a Robert Rauschenberg/Barrier Island Group for the Arts award, has been an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts artists residency, Artist in Residence at 621 Gallery and a Summer River Fellows Program resident artist at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Her work is included in public and private collections including the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University, and the Southern Graphics Council International permanent collection at Kennesaw State University.

Senator Claude Pepper, D-FL, served as chair of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Aging from 1977 through 1983. Pepper led the fight against elder abuse, established legislation to fund Alzheimer’s research and care centers, and pushed energetically against age stereotyping. One of his famous quotes is “Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism.”

For more information on the exhibition, please contact Amy Fleming at ajfleming@fsu.edu and visit her website at www.amyflemingstudio.com.

The Claude Pepper Center Museum is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. To 5 p.m.
For holiday closing information, please check http://claudepeppercenter.fsu.edu/contact/.

Rebecca B. Rankin: Early Advocate for Public Access to Government Information

Rebecca B. Rankin was the Director of the Municipal Reference Library for the City of New York. Her work included the promotion of resources and services of the library to its clients. When budget cuts forced her to curtail the traditional publications used for publicity and outreach, Rankin took the pioneering step of employing radio to communicate with prospective customers in the local government and their constituents. Rankin and her staff prepared and presented over three hundred radio talks between 1928 and 1938. The success of this publicity strategy was demonstrated by an increase in patrons and requests. The weekly broadcasts over WNYC also succeeded as an outreach service by communicating vital civic information.

Librarian Barry W. Seaver is the author of A True Politician: Rebecca Browning Rankin, Municipal Reference Library of the City of New York, 1920-1952, published in 2003. He wrote about Rankin’s use of radio in this book and in an earlier article for the journal Libraries and Culture in 2001. In the article, Seaver describes Rankin’s first broadcast on March 7, 1928, which marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Municipal Reference Library:

Rankin stood stiffly before the WNYC microphone and spoke to the people of New York about their government and the library. Her slightly high-pitched but clear, strong voice encouraged them to visit the municipal building, where the MRL [Municipal Reference Library] and most of the administrative departments were located. Rankin told them that after a visit ‘you will have an increased feeling of pride in your City…[because] the running of your City is a huge undertaking, admirably done. You can afford to give the government machinery more attention and study.’ [1]

According to Seaver, this broadcast generated enough interest on the part of Rankin’s superiors that they asked her to produce a regular program emphasizing the resources of the library. Rankin was assisted by her small staff —particularly Margaret Kehl, who described the programs as ‘popular chats’ designed to encourage people to visit the library. Judging from listener letters, Kehl’s May 1929 broadcast “Where New Yorkers Eat, which traced the invention of chop suey to the Waldorf Hotel in 1896, was a favorite with the public. [2]

Rebecca Rankin from an undated photograph, probably late 1930s.
(Photo courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives)

Rankin’s explanation of proportional representation, broadcast on December 1936, also generated interest: it was recorded (listen above) and repeated more than once in early 1937. The recording was also loaned out to groups seeking to educate their members about the new method of voting.[3]

Nowadays it may be hard to imagine a pre-internet world where information wasn’t sloshing about like some overloaded sauce pan. And while it is true that there were more local newspapers at the time, WNYC afforded Rankin and her staff the ability to go directly to the public with the civic information they believed it needed in order to make informed decisions at the voting booth.

In 1950, Rankin was interviewed on the WNYC program For the Ladies.

City Librarian Rebecca Rankin examines a newspaper with a Latin American Scholarship student in the Municipal Reference Library, New York City, 1942.
(New York State Archives)

[1] Seaver. Barry W., “Rebecca Browning Rankin Uses Radio to Promote the Municipal Reference Library of the City of New York and the Civic Education of Its Citizens,” Libraries and Culture, Vol. 36, No.2, Spring 2001, pg. 294.

[2] Ibid., pg. 295.

[3] Ibid., pg. 311.

WNYC broadcast audio courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives.

Follow our Creative Fellow’s Research!

PPL’s 2018 Creative Fellow, artist Becky Davis, has been poring over books, pamphlets, letters, and ephemera from our Fiske-Harris Civil War Collection, and looking through historic magazines and newspapers.


If you’re interested in seeing some highlights from Becky’s research and learning more about her process, you can read her blog! She also started an Instagram account featuring photographs of materials she finds here at the library, alongside related materials from other repositories.

Leon High School Yearbooks

Yearbooks are a venerable tradition in high school. They collect and hold memories of a formative time in our lives. Yearbooks also serve as resources for research. They document trends in education, sociology, and demographics. The Digital Library Center recently partnered with Leon High School–the state’s oldest public school–to digitize and make accessible their yearbooks from 1926 to 2013.

One event you can witness through these pages is the integration of public high schools. Leon High School was integrated for the 1963-64 school year. The Leon High School Student Government Association produced this video documenting this change:

You can investigate the results yourself in the 1964 edition of The Lion’s Tale.

Leon High School has also been the home of many notable alumni. In addition to her many academic awards, actress Faye Dunaway was given the superlative “Best Personality” by her class in 1958. Many future politicians, professional athletes, and an X-Games gold medalist have spent time in the classrooms of Leon High School.

Explore these yearbooks and more at DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository.

Schliemann’s ‘Troja’: from Ohio to Oxford

Books are a vehicle for transmitting information through the written word, but they are also objects, things, material culture. Like other objects, they are created, have ‘lives’, and will, eventually, ‘die’. They can be bought and sold, possessed, hidden, cached, discarded, exchanged and displayed. Books, like other products of human activity, have meaning in addition to their function as texts.

With this archaeological approach to books in mind, we have been reviewing some of the books hoarded on the shelves of the Institute of Archaeology and reconstructing their life stories: the biographies of the object. The first book we picked for review was this:

Gold lettering on the spine

It’s an American edition of Heinrich (here Anglicised to ‘Henry’) Schliemann’s excavations at Troy, published in English in 1884 by Harper and Brothers.

The title page

It’s a lovely thing, with its dark blue covers, breathless account of the excavations, and beautiful maps and pull-out plans of the site:

It’s an absorbing account of the famous nineteenth-century investigation of the site, fascinating for its insights into Schliemann’s thought-processes and expectations. Convinced that he had found the Troy of the Illiad, the book is a confident interpretation of the archaeology to conform to this belief that he was describing ‘The Homeric Troy and…the later Illium’ . Schliemann’s dating of the site proved to be wildly inaccurate, and his methods of excavation were heavily criticised.


Troy, Tower VIb, from Dorpfeld, W. ‘Troja and Ilion’ 1902 figure 15

Schliemann was not the only 19th century excavator of Troy: the great German archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld excavated there in 1893 and 1894, and further excavations took place in the next century under the direction of Carl Blegen, from 1932-1938. We can be confident that Blegen was familiar with Schliemann’s earlier work, at least in the form of his 1884 English language publication, because we have the evidence of his name in his own handwriting, on the inside leaf of the book at the Institute of Archaeology:


It’s Blegen’s book! But who owned it before Blegen, and how did it come to Oxford?Blegen’s is not the only inscription in this volume – it has been in the possession of at least three people before being donated to the Institute:

The first named owner was Thomas Harvey (b. 1821). At the time he acquired this book, he was living in Painsville, Ohio, where he was superintendent of the area’s schools. He died in 1892.

Carl Blegen was born in Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1887, he joined the University of Cincinnati in 1927 and began working on the mound of Hisarlik, Troy in 1932. Between leaving Harvey’s library and arriving in Blegen’s hands, the book must have had passed through one or more booksellers and private libraries, but archaeologist Blegen was the only one to want to mark his name in the volume.

After a distinguished career excavating in Turkey and Greece, Blegen retired in 1957. He received an honorary D. Litt from the University of Oxford in the same year. Although it is tempting to see this as a potential route which led the book to its current home in Oxford, in fact it took at least one more owner before the book crossed the Atlantic, almost certainly in the luggage of British archaeologist Mervyn Popham (1927-2000).

Although Popham had been interested in archaeology from his childhood, working on epigraphy and joining excavations, it was not until the early 1960s that archaeology became his career. Known in particular for his important work at Lefkandi and Knossos in Crete, Popham was predominantly based at the British School of Athens (he was its Assistant Director from 1963-70) with a brief interlude as associate professor of classics at – the University of Cincinnati! He was in Cincinnati from 1970-1972, which overlaps with the death of Carl Blegen, aged 84. We have to suppose that it was at this time the book came into Popham’s hands, either directly from Blegen, as a gift, or acquired when Blegen’s library was broken up after his death.

In 1972, Popham returned to England to take up a post as the lecturer in Aegean archaeology at Oxford. The Institute of Archaeology, where he had an office, became his working home for many years, and generations of students have benefited from the books donated from Popham’s private library to the Institute’s Reading Room.

The Mervyn Popham Donations Bookplate

Joseph Wood Krutch Goes Green…in 1952!

Joseph Wood Krutch (November 25, 1893 – May 22, 1970), American writer, critic, and naturalist
(Unknown/Wikipedia Commons)

“What is a nature writer?” Joseph Wood Krutch asks the audience at this 1952 Book and Authors Luncheon. He realizes the term is vaguely derogatory or dismissive, most people’s attitude being that writing about nature “is not doing anyone harm, is it?” He is not, he assures the Manhattanite crowd, advocating we all go live at Walden Pond, nor is he some strapping outdoorsman or romantic sentimentalist. In fact, he is a well-regarded cultural critic, literary biographer, and Columbia professor! So why, when it came time to take his sabbatical, did he opt to spend fifteen months in Arizona, the result being his current memoir The Desert Year?

“I was searching for some philosophical or spiritual connection,” he explains. He then proceeds to expound a world-view in which the universe is divided into that which is alive and that which is dead. He laments that more and more we are surrounded by “the dead” in the form of cities and machines. This assault on materialism is vaguely political, as he mocks the current tendency to measure progress in terms of creature comforts or economic productivity. By understanding our fellow animals we get a better sense of what it truly means to be alive, and by being alone with ourselves, we arrive at a better understanding of our place in nature. These may sound like watered-down truisms today but one can tell by the intense, almost preacherly tone how fresh and possibly subversive this must have sounded in consumerist, Cold War-haunted America.

Joseph Wood Krutch (rhymes with “hooch”) (1893-1970) had already by this point gone through several phases as a writer and thinker. He first gained notice in the 1920’s with his much-discussed book The Modern Temper, which captured the public’s imagination by its bleak picture of the cultural scene. As John Margolis, writing in The Columbia Magazine, summarizes:

Humanism…was inevitably and unalterably opposed to the natural impulses, as revealed by science, which have made the human animal possible. If humanism had been rendered impotent by science, science itself offered no solace to the human spirit: “The most important part of our lives—our sensations, emotions, desires, and aspirations— takes place in a universe of illusions which science can attenuate or destroy, but which it is powerless to enrich.” Love in this modern era, “has been deprived of its value.” The power of tragedy too was diminished. “The death of tragedy,” he wrote, “is, like the death of love, one of those emotional fatalities as the result of which the human as distinguished from the natural world grows more and more a desert.” 

Krutch was an influential theater critic and social commentator throughout the decade. In the Thirties, though, he could not join many of colleagues when the intelligentsia swerved to the left. He taught at Columbia and wrote two highly regarded biographies, of Samuel Johnson and Henry David Thoreau. The interest in Thoreau presaged his growing interest in nature writing, which provided a surprising “third act” to his literary career. From the Fifties on, he produced a series of books and articles about what we would now call the environment, at a time when such a subject was virtually unknown. These works were not, as he cautions in this talk, mere gushing about walks in the woods, but a call to fundamentally alter our relationship with the universe and our living brethren. As the Humane Society website reports:

In his 1954 essay, “Conservation is Not Enough,” …Krutch offered a memorable statement of his basic philosophy. “What is commonly called ‘conservation’ will not work in the long run,” he wrote, “because it is not really conservation at all but rather, disguised by its elaborate scheming, only a more knowledgeable variation on the old idea of a world for man’s use only.” Anthropocentric and utilitarian resource management were not going to save nature or humankind, he argued; we also needed “love, some feeling for, as well as understanding of, the inclusive community of rocks and souls, plants and animals, of which we are a part.”

The irony here is that Krutch was initially seen as a reactionary, his extolling of Nature offered as a counterblast to Communism’s emphasis on materialism. Yet the path he started down would lead, in turn, to a second wave of leftist thought that would find its ultimate expression in the concept of ecology in the Seventies and the Green movement today. Thus, by a roundabout route, he seems to have arrived once again, albeit posthumously, at his initial position as cultural critic, presciently encapsulating the public’s rather despairing view of its own predicament. As the New York Times notes:

Mr. Krutch’s writings foreshadowed much of the new interest in ecology. He warned about the dangers of the population explosion, and criticized the unchecked growth of the suburbs, which he called “affluent slums.”

Krutch spent the last years of his life living in Arizona, writing about nature, and even hosting a television program extolling the beauties of the Sonoran desert.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150529Municipal archives id: LT2317

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving in the Suwannee Room
Thanksgiving in the Suwannee Room, 1941

From all of us here at FSU Special Collection & Archives, we wish you and your family a safe and lovely Thanksgiving holiday.

Special Collections & Archives will close at 11:30am on Wednesday, November 22 and remain closed Thursday and Friday, November 23 and 24. We will return to our normal operating hours on Monday, November 27. For up to date information about the Libraries’ hours, visit the Hours page on the website.

Giving Thanks

As Thanksgiving approaches, we have much to be thankful for here at the National Archives. We are grateful for the records we hold in trust, and for a mission that lets us serve the democracy and the people of this Nation.

I also give thanks this year for the industrious staff at the National Archives, especially those whose hard work and dedication has led to the opening of our newest exhibition, Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War. As a Vietnam veteran, telling the story of the Vietnam War and giving a voice to both sides is especially important to me.

The exhibit examines 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War to provide a framework for understanding the decisions that led to war, events and consequences of the war, and its legacy. This 3,000-square-foot exhibit uses more than 80 original records from the National Archives – including newly declassified documents – to critically reexamine major events and turning points in the war. The exhibit is open now through January 6, 2019.

SP/4 Terry Wedmore (B Co., 2nd Bn., 8th Cav, 1st Air Cav. Div.) takes his first bite of turkey drumstick while having Thanksgiving dinner in the field, November 10, 1967
Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives and Records Administration

From all of us at the National Archives, we wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving.

153 Years of Thanks

First, a quick note: tomorrow (November 22nd), the library is closing early, so our Special Collections open hours will be abbreviated, running from 3:00-5:00 (instead of the usual Wednesday hours of 3:00-7:00).

Second: Have you been sitting at your computer thinking, “gosh, I wonder what people in Sheffield, Mass. were doing 153 years ago on Thanksgiving?” Well, are YOU ever in luck! Today we’re featuring a pamphlet with a discourse delivered in Sheffield on Thanksgiving Day during the American Civil War. (It’s not very exciting-looking, admittedly.)


As you likely already know, Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States as a harvest celebration since a presidential proclamation in 1789, and became a federal holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln called for a nationwide day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (In the interest of historical accuracy regarding early Thanksgiving celebrations, we’d like to recommend the article from today’s New York Times entitled “Most Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving is Wrong.”)

The discourse in the pamphlet above was delivered one year after Lincoln’s proclamation by D. Dubois Sahler, the pastor of Sheffield’s Congregational Church. (It’s unclear whether it was delivered in the Congregational Church, but that seems likely. Sheffield’s Congregational Church building was erected in 1760 and still stands–check out their website, or look at this not-very-beautiful street view of the beautiful church from Google maps):


Sahler’s discourse is like a hit parade of popular 19th century Christian topics. He praises the United States for its beauty and its fertile land, gifts from God to remind us of His Heavenly intent and to keep us secure from famine:


In the North lies a chain of lakes or inland seas. They claim, after their kind, preeminence in beauty and extent. Our coasts present inviting harbors to the mariner. The Hudson, with an easy grace, carries away the crown for attractiveness from other rivers… In the center and heart of our country are found the almost unlimited prairies. We see them in the flowery bloom of spring, and in the green and gold of their summer attire. Once beheld, they can never be forgotten… From east to west, ten thousand valleys, springs, and rivulets reflect the smiles of Heaven. Mountain chains traverse the country and vary the landscape…

The hit parade continues with a good dose of xenophobia, as Sahler praises the Pacific Ocean for keeping the United States at a great distance from Asia and its purported atheists:


Upon our Western borders… the Pacific rolls for ten thousand miles its silver tides. Beyond, lie those mysteries of human existence, the nations of Asia. It is well that their crowded and suffocating millions are not at our doors. The characteristics of these nations are insatiable avarice and ututterable atheism. Their proximity would be the omen of a moral and physical struggle of portentous magnitude and duration. Our virtue and our patriotism might not save us from terrible disaster or destruction. The widest expanse of water on the earth is made to separate between us and them.

Phew. He then discusses slavery as a familiar yet immoral institution, and describes the Civil War as a moment for “a nation’s ruin or regeneration.” Sahler’s language here is especially interesting in light of current media focus on political polarization in America:


We are here reminded we can not be mere spectators of this national drama. We are actors in these scenes. There are things for us to determine and to do. Present duty demands our attention. Let us attempt to follow its direction.

As a nation, we are evidently entering upon a new era. The time has, therefore, come when those who have been opposites as to governmental policy should be reconciled, and mutually forgive. Let, therefore, the past be past. Let the bitterness, the partisanship, and the sectional feeling which have arisen sink forever in the depth of generous forgetfulness.

Unfortunately, the tensions from the Civil War have not exactly sunk “forever in the depth of generous forgetfulness,” even 153 years after Saleh delivered his discourse. I’m also fairly confident that many of us will be discussing these same issues at our Thanksgiving tables later this week.

If you’d like to read more of this pamphlet, or any of our many other pro- and anti-slavery Civil War pamphlets, please visit during our open hours or make an appointment!


A Boy’s Song

Is this, is this your joy,
O bird, then I, though a boy,
for a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!*

Arthur Yates Statham, around 1910.

We all know how the years go — how they glide by, gathering speed in autumn such that the end of December arrives and the year is gone, and more youth too. Before 2017 departs entirely, there’s a centenary to note: the loss in World War I of a British soldier, Arthur Yates Statham, who died in France during the Arras offensive  in May, 1917.

But stop there. –Is it better to remember how he lived or how he died? His death in battle could reasonably overwhelm the rest of his story, but if we could ask Arthur, how would he want to be remembered? Would he want to be defined by the circumstances of his death or by his life?

In this post, we consider his life, brief though it was, and remember him through a two-part diary from 1913.

The diary forms a small section of the Dicken-Statham Family Papers at Amherst College. This collection – a handful of boxes –surveys the lives of several generations in a British family that lived and worked and fought wars in India, England, France, and Iraq over the course of about 150 years. Arthur’s years were in the middle: he was born at the end of the 19th century but didn’t survive into the 20th as long as he had a reason to expect he might.

The Stathams: left to right standing, Arthur, Noel (who died in WWI three months to the day before Arthur), Heathcote, and Maud. Left to right seated, Gilbert, Florence, Irene, and Heathcote. About 1910.

Arthur Yates Statham was the son of Heathcote and Florence Statham. He was the youngest of six children – he had three brothers and two sisters. The family lived in and around London while his father was writer and the editor (for 20 years) at “The Builder” magazine.

In April, 1913, Arthur’s mother packed him up for a vacation in Hastings & St. Leonards, where he stayed with “Miss O.” – Miss Ogle – who was probably a relative on his mother’s side.  The diary from this vacation shows us something of Arthur, aged about 15.  Here is the boy, with all his vitality and humor, to suggest the man who might’ve been. In some ways he’s Everyboy, in other ways he’s just Arthur. It’s not that there’s “important content” in his diary, unless you consider a soul on the page as a thing to reckon with.

Here are a few excerpts about the things Arthur did on vacation. He loved cycling perhaps most of all, but he also loved games, visiting people and places, movies, and Sherlock Holmes.  He does everything with joy — every experience is not just new, it’s NEW!!!


Arthur frequently begins an entry with an excerpt from a poem or popular song:
“8th Tuesday

‘There is no place like home yet I’m

afraid to home in the dark

‘That is why I did not go overnight.  A slow cab, a fast train, a nice guard, a good dinner, a middling magazine (no names mentioned) made up together with a ticket my journey to Kings Cross.  Such trifles as myself and my luggage went also…  At Kings Cross my mother (all names, as I have already remarked, are to be suppressed unless I forget this rule), intent on losing baggage (I speak of the author of this libelous rag) came 69.357 seconds late!  (for any mistakes in figures please apply [to] the mathematician, who, for obvious reasons, is anonymous.)”

Warrior Square, St. Leonards

“This train, a half-animated serpent of metal crawled to St. Leonards Warrior Square Station. (Loud cheers)…  A cab, that, much to my astonishment, once managed to break into an ambling trot, took me to the house of a Miss O., who lives at 9 St. P. Road in St. Leonards.”  Image courtesy the East Sussex Libraries; see their Flickr page for an abundance of images of Hastings-St. Leonards.

Arthur brought his bicycle (perhaps one like this) to St. Leonards in parts and reassembled it at Miss O’s: “9th Wednesday. It never rains but it pours. St. Leonards is not hilly it is mountainous. After breaking my fast I went upstairs and for nearly one hour (how time flies) I tended my cycle, an extraordinary creature it is too! I bought oil and oiled it and parafined [sic] it and rubbed it and scrubbed it and corked it and polished it and screwed it and many other such things.”

It would be instructive (and no doubt impressive) to add up Arthur’s many miles on his bike — he almost always notes where he went and how many miles he covered. He includes an excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching’s poem “Going Downhill on a Bicycle/A Boy’s Song” and adds his own enthusiastic opinion on the sport: “This is true, there is nought like this. Going downhill on a cycle is glorious.”

However, he hit a patch of rainy days –day after day of it:
“10th Thursday. ‘Rain, Rain, go to Spain, go and don’t come back again.’ This is my song, my remark, my saddened cry, my pitiful song, my wail. Yesterday, it rained, a thing not unprecedented, you will be surprised to hear. The morning was passed in mourning (this is an accidental pun). With great energy I got out my cycle, turned round four times in the middle of the road and then started off[.]  7.145921 minutes later I returned. It was RAINING!!!!! Cousin G. told me I did a wise thing in returning, of course I like being complimented (especially as all compliments to me are well-deserved)…”

Arthur visited friends of the family a lot (probably following his mother’s instructions) and in general was very good-humored about engagements with the grownups in a situation where some of us would’ve felt really growly about all that visiting.

A cranking old invalid

“In the afternoon I went and saw a lady Mrs. Sayer Milward. Her husband is ill. I cycled to see her. The ride was 10 miles there and back… A Mrs. Grant was there. She asked me to come over to a cottage she had hired and spend an afternoon there. I mentally arranged that Friday afternoon was suitable. I returned home”;  “11th Friday. ‘The more, the merrier.’ So it is here. The more friends the merrier. 9 ladies are unhappy because they have made my acquaintance…”; “After tea I paid two calls, one to Mrs. [Samson?] who is very old, to use her own words, “A cranking old invalid.” [Excerpts from multiple entries.]

Like any good tourist, he visits all the local sights: “We strode off and climbed to Lovers Seat. There are sign-posts pointing to Lovers Seat everywhere, and I am perfectly sure that the poor lovers can get no peace, so I suppose they find some other haunt. We eat sugar candy there, a prosaic thing to do in so touching a spot.”

Image courtesy Pett Level Archive.

“17th Thursday.  ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’  That is why I and the Grants became friendly when going for a walk.  Immediately after breakfast I cycled with all speed to the Grants, where I arrived at 9:55 and found them preparing to go to Pett Level, a very good beach about 5 miles away. We started off but soon it started to rain. So we hied ourselves to the coastguard station where we could hide ourselves from the elements of nature. We looked at the lamps at the fog-horn or siren, and I interested myself about the acetylene gaslamp and the signaling code, which I know, for, when all is said and done, I know a lot!”

Glass slide of the Albert Memorial in the center of Hastings. Gift of “moonspender” on ebay.

Once or twice, we see shades of his father, editor and writer for “The Builder” magazine and, to judge from the archival record, a stickler for details and accuracy:

“…we caught a tram…and we were soon falling down the tremendous hill that leads from Bohemia to the memorial. I pause to remark that Miss O. was ignorant of what the memorial was about.  I had to find, stranger though I am, and tell her that it is an Albert Memorial.”

Image courtesy of St. Matthew’s Church.

His religious instruction was not neglected during this vacation:

20th Sunday: [An] exciting day for a Sunday. Miss O. and I went [to] church at St. Matthews where Mr. Askwith, the Vicar, preached. This sermon was about socialism and he pointed out what it really was. He said that he could and would tell us roughly what the chief points of Socialism are:

1. There is to be no King.
2. There is [not to be] Patriotism (if we are invaded, we are not to fight)
3. All property will belong to the state.
4. No one will do any work, you will be fed and clothed by the State.
5. The “shirkers,” as they call all who do not do manual labour, will be abolished, all will be equal.
6. There will be no religion of any sort, all churches will be pulled down and taken, as all other property will be, by the state.”

Image courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Games constituted the entertainment for most evenings: “We had supper and then Miss O. and I settled down to drafts.   In all we played five games and Miss O. nearly got a fit of joy because she won the first; then I leap almost out of my chair and said “Vengance!! Vengance” [sic] and ended the next game by my having 7 kings Miss O. 1!!!  The third game was mine, I always have 2 out of three games, you see I give Miss O one to make her happy.  In the last two games she won the first and I said “Vengeance” and had 6 kings to her 1.  So if I had said “Vengance! Vengance!” twice I would have had 7.  However I am best out of five and three.   The weather was fine and very hot.”

“In the evening I played four games of drafts with Miss O.  I act all the while, for I look at the clock and then Miss O. looks at the clock and then forgets her piece is in danger and I take it.  Also when she does a move good for me I make a noise of sorrow and terror, and she thinks she has “done” me and really she has done me a good turn.”

Image courtesy the Victory and Albert Museum.

“I played two games of Spilikins [with Miss Ogle] and beat her (of course)!!!!!!!

“…I beat Miss O. in six games of drafts running.  She thinks ozone has made my brain as sharp as my nose!!!! (Which is a great deal)–“


“After supper we played drafts, where in 3 games, I won two, Miss Ogle one.  In Spilikins my steady hand nearly lost but just won. The games were closely contested.  There is not much more to say.  I had a bath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Finally, there is Sherlock Holmes.  Arthur mentions him many times, including this section in which he gloats at his superior reasoning over that of Miss Ogle.  The section begins with an excerpt from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

“13th Sunday.

‘Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.’

Gray’s Elegy

“Only too true, I might have been a Sherlock Holmes, I might have been a Dr. Statham.  My genius in detection has been wasted on the desert air.  On coming down [for] breakfast on the Sunday morning aforesaid, Miss O. remarked to me that a plan was in her head.  I remarked that I would try and guess it.  My first guess was right in every detail.  She suggested that we should go to Fairlight.  The reasoning was as follows: Miss O. had thought of something which we could both do.  Therefore cycling was not in it.  The plan was either a walk or a tram ride.  Had it been a walk surely Miss O. would not have been so excited.  Therefore it was a tram ride.  But where to?  Sunday is a day for paying calls. On whom then should we, taking a tram, call.  The Sayer Milwards at Fairlight!  The reasoning is elementary, superficial.”  Later: “I read some Sherlock Holmes to Miss O.  The reasoning did not seem as clear to her as to me.”

Arthur’s diary closes with these lines: “So our happy walk ended.  I recited poetry to Miss O. and then I read the Strand Magazine while Miss O. indulged in the newspaper.  So the evening ended.” 

Two years later he was at war.  It feels like a triumph to point out that the boy who knew all about the signalling code in the coastguard station became the “Signalling Lieutenant” in his battalion.

Arthur at 18.

The Dicken-Statham Papers also contain many of Arthur’s wartime letters to his sister Irene.  Like perhaps the majority of such letters, they contain descriptions of pastimes, duties, and boredom followed closely by battle.  One often senses the need to read between the lines to guess at what he must’ve felt behind the comforting words written to family members.

A colleague and I remarked on what may be an “archival thing” (although probably only because of the likelihood of the experience in an archives): the way you look for textual evidence of the death you know will come but the writer doesn’t.  You look for foreshadowing, and it haunts the experience of reading because you expect to see a sign around the corner of every sentence.

On this blank page that isn’t blank at all I felt Arthur’s living shadow in the impression of his pencil from the previous page.  It contrasted with the boldness of his youthful diary, as though here his life ebbed through the paper, a sign that it would soon be gone.

 Arthur was last seen during the Third Battle of the Scarpe, on May 3, 1917.  He is said to have been killed by a sniper as he turned to address his men.  The Germans took the area in which Statham died, so his body was never recovered.  His name is included at the Arras Memorial.

Arthur’s fellow soldiers remembered him in ways that echo the boy of the diary.  A superior officer said, “He was signalling officer of the battalion, work in which he showed the utmost keenness.  He was given a special job to do in the operations on the 9th April, and I found him at the objective one and a half hours after our attack, coolly working away…” and his Captain said, “We all regret his loss to us, as he was a tremendously cheery companion and a brave officer.”

–O bird, see; see, bird, he flies.


*Excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching, “Going Down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song”

There is much more to discover in Arthur’s diary.  Complete PDFs of the manuscripts are available at no cost from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

A New Digital Collection from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience

Special Collections & Archives is excited to be working with FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience on an extensive digitization project to bring a large set of letters into  DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. As we add new items to the digital library from this collection, the two students in charge of the project will share information about the work and collection on the blog so here is the first post about the new collection!

The Hasterlik-Hine collection housed at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University is a unique letter collection in terms of its depth and scope. Donated by Giulia Hine (maiden name: Hasterlik) in 2003, this collection has roughly 14,000 German and English letters spanning familiar generations from the 18th to the 21st century. In preparation for the Letters in Troubled Times: Evaluating Epistolary Sources conference set for February 16, 2018, in Tallahassee, Florida, the Institute processed a portion of the collection focusing on letters to and from Giulia in the years 1938 to 1943 and 1945 to 1948.

Page from a letter from Elizabeth ‘Lisl’ Urbantschitsch to Giulia Hasterlik, January 3, 1939.

Giulia Hine was born into a middle-upper class family in Vienna, Austria on September 30, 1925. Her father, Julius Kortischoner passed away in 1928. Before the outbreak of World War II, Mia Hasterlik-Kortischoner, Giulia’s mother, arranged for Giulia and her older half-sister, Suzanne “Susi” Wolff, to emigrate out of Vienna, Austria to escape persecution under the Nuremberg Laws which deemed the family Jewish. At 13 years old Giulia was safely housed in Switzerland where she lived with Frau Alice Sigerist and her daughter Gretli from the end of 1938 to 1946. Susi sailed to Kenya to meet and marry Robert Seemann in an arranged agreement to keep her safe. Mia stayed in Vienna, Austria for a time in order to take care of her elderly father, Paul, who decided he did not want to leave. Eventually, though, Mia left for England and then emigrated to the United States where her sister Auguste was living in New York, New York. As the family scattered all over the world they wrote hundreds of letters to and from her one another and countless friends back home.

Within the letters, one begins to see the intricacies of maintaining long-distance relationships during one of the most dangerous times in modern history. The use of self-censorship in order to avoid creating worry is apparent in letters written by all. For example, while in Switzerland Giulia contracted Poliomyelitis and yet she kept the entire ordeal from her mother until the end of the war. Susi, on a similar note, hid the details of the abuse she suffered while married to Robert. Despite the troubled times and personal struggles, the letters also reveal many small delights encountered by family members and friends such as anecdotes about pets and school trips. One gains an understanding and appreciations for the bonds of family while reading each letter, especially the heartfelt correspondence between Giulia and her grandfather, Paul. These letters serve as a testament to the strength and ingenuity of a family determined to survive and thrive.

The first set of five sets being digitized are now available in DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository. Translations of the letters are forthcoming for this first batch and will be included in each subsequent batch for the project. Stay tuned for new items in the collection over the next few months.

On the house history hunt for 2116 Maple Street – Part 1: Fire Insurance Maps, Water Service Records and Building Permit Registers

House history research is one of the most common reasons people find their way to the Archives. As such, we thought it would be helpful to write a series of blog posts on the type of resources we have to help in the quest. To illustrate the process, I have chosen a house located at 2116 Maple Street to research. This post will introduce the fire insurance maps, water service records, and building permit registers in the Archives’ holdings.

I begin my search by starting with the fire insurance maps.

Bound volume of Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Atlas

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps or atlases were created as a way to quickly appraise the risk and distribution that architectural and environmental factors posed should a fire break out. The first Vancouver fire insurance atlas was produced by the Charles E. Goad Company in 1912. Charles Goad also created the system of partial revisions, allowing for multiple corrections slips to be printed on one page, cut out, sent out to the underwriters, and finally pasted over the area of the map requiring updating. This decreased the need for printing completely new editions each year, thus making updating the maps economical. Consequently, the later fire insurance atlases (Map 599 and Map 610) include a date range, rather than one specific year. By 1975, due to company amalgamations and the changing needs of the insurance industry, fire insurance maps ceased to be produced.[1]

For my house of choice, 2116 Maple Street, I begin with the 1912 fire insurance atlas (Map 342), and will subsequently work my way through Map 599, and Map 610.

Map 342

To access the Goad’s 1912 atlas, I like to go to VanMap, the City’s GIS system, since the atlas was released as a layer option in 2015. Click the “Start VanMap” button and, once in VanMap, I insert the address and click “Go”. Using the tool bar on the left side of the screen, I make sure “1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map” is checked. This is found under the option of “Aerial Imagery.”

VanMap. Make sure the 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map is selected located under “Aerial Imagery.”

An advantage of viewing the 1912 fire insurance map through VanMap, rather than the microfiche in our Reading Room, is that it is in colour. The colour of the buildings indicates which type of material a building was constructed: yellow indicating wood, and pink indicating other building materials, such as brick or stone.

The address I am searching will appear in a highlighted green rectangle.

A neighbourhood view of 2116 Maple Street on VanMap

To zoom in on the property, keep clicking on map, near the property to centre it on your screen.

A closer look at 2116 Maple Street from Map 342 on VanMap

Even though the house I am researching was not present on the 1912 map (likely because it had not yet been constructed when that portion of the map was surveyed), the map still provides some interesting clues. First, it appears that the original lot division of the block was different than it is currently, with two larger lots (outlined in black) facing West 5th Avenue, rather than the four smaller lots facing Maple Street (the modern-day VanMap property lines in orange). Second, the map indicates that there were quite a few houses and other buildings, as well as rail tracks, in existence in the neighbourhood by 1912.

The block view 2116 Maple Street.

Also, by double clicking (if using Google Chrome, or Ctrl + clicking if in Firefox) on the highlighted green square (i.e. the property which you are researching), a report for the property will open, including the legal description. The legal description consists of a District Lot number, Primary Lot, and Block numbers. Unlike civic addresses which may be change over time, the legal description remains constant and thus extremely useful for property history.

For the house in question, the legal description is Lot D, Block 266, Plan 4249, District lot 526 NWD of lots 1&2.

Property report from VanMap where the legal description can be found.

From Map 342, I now move onto Map 599, created between 1925-1950, and Map 610, created between 1954-1966. These maps are found on microfiche in our Reading Room.

Map 599

From Map 599, a number of things can be gleaned about the house and the property by using the Key of Signs (i.e. the map’s legend). First, which comes as no surprise, is that this building is a dwelling, as indicated by the “D”. It had a car park building (labelled “Auto”). The 1 ½ notation indicates that it is a one-and-a-half storey house. The “X” indicates wood shingles or boards were used on the roof.

A broader view of 2116 Maple Street from Map 599, sheet 229

A zoomed-in view of Map 599, sheet 229 showing 2116 Maple Street

Map 610

By comparing Map 342, Map 599 and Map 610, a bit of how the house and the neighbourhood changed can be surmised. For instance, the house as of Map 610 no longer had wooden shingles, but “patent, or tar & gravel” roofing. The garage also seems to have been removed. A building has appeared to the south of the house, and is contains a company related to insulating materials (this I cross-referenced with the city directories, which listed it as the Home Insulation Company). On a larger scale, some of the buildings in the neighbourhood have disappeared, while others have been built.

A broader view from Map 610, sheet 229 of 2116 Maple Street

A zoomed-in view from Map 610, sheet 229 of 2116 Maple Street

The next resource to consult after the fire insurance maps is the Water Service Records.

Water Service Applications

Water service applications are used to find the approximate year the house was completed, the name of the owner, the value of the water project, the legal description, and sometimes they give a hint as to the building’s use. Water service was usually the last utility to be installed, and hence why the date of the building can be taken from these records. The exception to this rule is researching buildings located in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood. Since this was C.P.R. land until the mid-1940’s, all water service records from that area are dated as 1945, or 1949, when they were connected into the City’s water lines, rather than the date a building was completed.

In the case of 2116 Maple Street, the house was built in 1912. The reason it did not show up on the 1912 fire insurance map was probably because it was under construction, or perhaps construction had not yet begun when that area was surveyed. From the original water service paperwork, I can see that the Vernon Brothers were the owners.

Water service record from 1912

A later water service record, found under the same application number, dated 1946, shows a meter was installed

After the water service records, it is time to look at the building permit registers.

Building Permit Registers

Searching the building permit registers is rather straight forward if the building is pre-1929, thanks to the Heritage Vancouver Society’s building permit database, where the original handwritten records held at the Archives have been transcribed. Knowing the legal description makes the search very easy. For buildings post 1929, more time and patience are required, as research involves reviewing the physical building permit registry books that are arranged by date, rather than by address or owner.

Knowing that 2116 Maple Street was built in 1912, I can easily find the permit data by entering the legal description into Heritage Vancouver Society’s database.

Search screen and result set from HVS building permit database

The building permit register data tells me that the house was built along with the three other neighbouring ones by the Vernon Bros., Ltd. Subsequently, the way in which the two lots were divided into four smaller ones makes more sense, given that the Vernon Brothers developed them all.

Looking for the records of a house built after 1929 involves looking through the pages of the building permit registers in the Archives’ Reading Room. Here is a sample page.

Sample page from building permit register, March 1932. Photo by Bronwyn Smyth

Now that I have gathered information from the fire insurance maps, water service records, and building permit registers, I am ready to do some hunting for photographs relating to the house and its neighbourhood of Kitsilano. Join me next time.

[1] Rainville, Alain. (1996), “Fire insurance plans in Canada,” The Archivist, No. III, p 25-38.

1953 American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters Awards Ceremony

A snapshot of the American cultural establishment is provided by this recording of the 1953 American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters Awards Ceremony.  Archibald MacLeish starts the festivities with some brief observations on the relationship between artists and the state. Pointing out that “artists are the most fanatical individualists on earth…they have to be,” he seems to be acknowledging the tightrope all the participants are walking by taking part in this government-sponsored event. (It’s important to remember that 1953 was the height of the McCarthy Era.) Louis Kronenberger introduces the new members, reading citations about their work. The most notable are Rachel Carson and Reinhold Niebuhr. Marc Connelly then bestows grants of $1,000 each on a variety of artists, again lauding their accomplishments. The recipients include Jacob Lawrence, Paul Goodman, and Delmore Schwartz. The Rome Prize, given by the American Academy in Rome, goes to the novelist Sigrid de Lima.

The Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Poetry is presented to Marianne Moore. The presenter, Glenway Wescott, tells of his copying out her poems from magazines as a young man. He describes meeting her for the first time, and of her trying to describe a particular bird. She finally took down a shoebox of feathers and, in the act of rummaging through it, “talked plumage,” going on about bird-life until she “transposed their music into words.” Wescott extends this metaphor to encompass Moore’s hard-won aesthetic, concluding with: “suddenly the feather sings; it is a poem.”  It’s a very moving, highly stylized encomium. Moore, not to be outdone, starts off her response with a phrase which sounds exactly like one of her lines: “Magnanimity is a magnificent anomaly.” Fans of her poetry will be interested in hearing her flat, midwestern accent as well as the recognizably eccentric rhythm of her speech.

The Gold Medal for Architecture is presented to Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright, who was in his nineties at the time, sits patiently through an introduction comparing him to Prometheus, Moses, and Walt Whitman. Accepting the award, he remarks wryly on the “outrageously inadequate” description and worries that the slew of awards he has been receiving will bring on the “disease of humility.” He then launches into a bare-fisted assault on “Greek abstraction,” arguing for “an architecture of our own,” dreaming of an American culture, the absence of which is “disgraceful.” “To say that you’re a poet is to confess a certain measure of weakness, isn’t it?…It puts you in the back yard and rather out of things.” Yet the artist must be a poet “or he is nothing.” Wright remains, in this speech, an uncompromising visionary. His message sounds as urgent today as it must have over a half-century ago.

The Award of Merit Medal for Sculpture is presented to Ivan Meštrović. Meštrović, who has chosen not to attend, in a written acceptance speaks of art’s “apostolic mission which is akin to religion.”

The concluding event of the evening is the Blashfield Address, delivered by the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen. Her talk, entitled “Subject and the Time,” asks “How do we judge contemporary art?” We certainly can’t judge by a set standard for “today is fluid.” Failure to see that is to “mistake the very nature of the contemporary.” Bowen contends that the art of the past, merely in the act of surviving into the present, has seen its “original harshness” evaporate. It is this quality contemporary art must be prized for. Today’s art must “put us through the ordeal of pure beholding,” and so is allowed to break the rules of the past. Speaking specifically about her own genre, Bowen says that the novel “stands at the edge of art.” Because it can’t afford to be wholly abstract as, say, music or painting can, the subjects of novels inevitably repeat and reappear. But it is in the choice of portrayal, how a subject is treated, that the writer’s sense of his or her time is revealed. “We need not seek far for subject. Subject is found by Time.”

MacLeish then gives very specific instructions on how various sections of the auditorium can reach the reception area. Organ music accompanies the conclusion of the ceremony, reinforcing the sense that we have indeed been listening in on a quasi-religious gathering.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150189Municipal archives id: LT3423

Remembering Vietnam

The National Archives opened our newest exhibition, Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War on November 10, 2017. The exhibit examines 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War to provide a framework for understanding the decisions that led to war, events and consequences of the war, and its legacy. This 3,000-square-foot exhibit uses more than 80 original records from the National Archives – including newly declassified documents – to critically reexamine major events and turning points in the war and address three critical questions about the Vietnam War: Why did the United States get involved? Why did the war last so long? Why was it so controversial?

More than 50 years after the United States committed combat troops to the war in Vietnam, and more than 40 years since the war ended, the complexity of the conflict is still being unraveled. Historians continue to make discoveries in National Archives’ records that provide insight into this critical period.

Remembering Vietnam Exhibit. National Archives photo by Jeff Reed

Remembering Vietnam follows the trajectory of American involvement in Vietnam through six Presidential administrations, and from its World War II origins to the fall of Saigon in 1975. This groundbreaking exhibit uses original National Archives documents, artifacts, and film footage to explore the policies and decisions that initiated and then escalated American economic and military aid to South Vietnam. Interviews with veterans, journalists, members of the peace movement, Vietnamese civilians, and leading Vietnam War historians provide first-person testimony and analysis of the events. These interviews and historic film footage will be screened in three mini-theaters within the exhibition.

In honor of this exhibit opening, Vietnam-era helicopters arrived and were installed on the grounds of the National Archives in Washington, DC in time for Friday’s opening of the new exhibit.

Helicopters are moved off of transport trucks onto the lawn of the National Archives in preparation for the opening weekend of the new exhibit Remembering Vietnam. National Archives photo By Jeff Reed

The helicopters, provided by the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, arrived after dark November 6, and were offloaded with cranes and moved onto the lawn, where they remained throughout the opening weekend. The public was invited to tour the aircraft and speak to members of the association who were all pilots of these types of aircraft during the war. In addition to the helicopter display, the National Archives will host many special programs this fall to mark its first-ever Vietnam War exhibit.

To learn more about the Vietnam War and see the resources available at the National Archives, we’ve also developed a Vietnam War research portal. The National Archives has a wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in the Vietnam conflict, including photographs, textual and electronic records, audiovisual recordings, exhibits, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events. This portal creates a central space for all National Archives resources and content related to the Vietnam War for use by researchers, students and educators, museum goers, veterans, and those curious about the conflict.

Remembering Vietnam is free and open to the public, and will be on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, through January 6, 2019. It is presented in part by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, AARP, FedEx Corporation, and the National Archives Foundation. Additional support provided by the Maris S. Cuneo Foundation, The Eliasberg Family Foundation, Inc., and HISTORYⓇ.

Hitting the Court

1986-87 Florida State University Lady Seminole Basketball Media Guide
Page from the 1986-87 Florida State University Lady Seminole Basketball Media Guide

It’s basketball season time again in college sports. The men’s Florida State University team takes to the court in their first non-exhibition game of the season this evening against the George Washington Colonials. The Lady Noles already have two wins on the books for this season!

Over the summer, we digitized and made available in the FSU Digital Library, media guides and almanacs highlighting past teams. From the first handbook in our collection featuring the 1966 men’s squad to the almanac celebrating our men’s 2012-13 ACC Championship win to the first women’s team media guide we have in our collections from the mid-1980s, these materials provide a fun and detailed look into past basketball teams here at FSU. Looking forward to watching both teams this year live up to their predecessors! To browse all the Sports Media Guides, visit the FSU Digital Library. You can limit your search to a specific sport using the terms listed under Topical Subject along the lefthand side of the screen.

2012-13 Almanac Men's FSU Basketball
Cover from the FSU Men’s Basketball 2012-13 Almanac

1966 National Book Awards: Janet Flanner, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., James Dickey and Katherine Anne Porter

“Welcome to Fun City!” Mayor Lindsay jokes, kicking off the 1966 National Book Awards. The crowd laughs knowingly, perhaps in reference to the “killer smog” that had recently descended on Manhattan, or one of the many other trials New York was undergoing at the time.

The award for Arts and Letters is presented to Janet Flanner for her Paris Journal, 1944-65. Flanner, The New Yorker’s European correspondent, gives an eloquent evocation of that city’s recent history. While the Twenties and Thirties were “innocent and mostly intellectual,” the present Paris, since Liberation, “is of greater interest…more serious.” She travels back and forth in time, referencing Victor Hugo, Goethe, a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp… The speech is reminiscent of her prose, hammered and supple, suggesting great attention and formidable intellect.

A different note is struck by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who receives the History award for A Thousand Days, his insider’s account of the Kennedy administration. Kennedy’s death is still fresh in the nation’s psyche. Indeed it has been, he points out, only another “thousand days” since the president’s assassination. Schlesinger’s speech is one of frank hagiography, making lofty claims for Kennedy, such as, “His own acuity of vision for a moment bathed the world itself in a fresh new light.” He praises JFK for rescuing a country “mired in a morass of dogmas,” and asks, was he “…an accident? An aberration?” or, more hopefully, did he express “…the depth and best impulses of American life?”

There is no award this year in the field of Science, Philosophy, and Religion. The judges were unable to reach a decision.

The award for Poetry goes to James Dickey for his collection Buckdancer’s Choice. Dickey, thirty-three at the time, displays none of the bombast or alcohol-fueled folksiness he became notorious for later in his career. “Most of you have never seen me before and very likely you will never see me again,” he begins his acceptance speech. Clearly nervous, he thanks his wife “the greatest wife a poet ever had,” before turning to a written text and delivering a meaty, compressed attempt to answer the impossible question, What is poetry? He connects it with memory, which he praises for its “implicit meaning.” The poet, he proposes, “writes poetry  because he wants to know something, that is…come to know it,” his hope, quixotic as it may oftentimes seem, being that “what meaning is, can sometimes be said.”

Before awarding the medal for Fiction to Katherine Anne Porter for her Collected Stories, the master of ceremonies reads a special tribute from the judges lamenting the recent death of Flannery O’Connor. Porter protests a magazine calling her “the gloomiest misanthrope in American literature,” arguing that she is really a “disappointed idealist.” Writing, she feels, though not religion, “springs from the same source.” She then launches into her own quite funny reminiscence of O’Connor, telling a story about O’Connor’s forced breeding of two different types of chicken, an anecdote which sounds amusingly out of place in this New York City ballroom.

Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was known to readers of The New Yorker magazine as “Genêt,” the author of fortnightly reports from Paris for over five decades. A mysterious figure in American letters, partly because though omnipresent in print she was so rarely apparent in person, she seems to have embodied some of the same trans-Atlantic qualities as Henry James, not quite an expatriate but not a conventional citizen, either. The novelist Geoffrey Wolff, writing in the New York Times, recalls the impression she made during one of her infrequent returns to the United States:

…managing to seem at once majestic and resolutely minor (in her own estimation), an actor in the best sense, playing a dignified and honorable version of Civilized Woman, stern and persuasive, a scold to such mischiefs as Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, not without humor or proportion, and, incidentally, dressed and coiffed to kill.

Arthur M. Schlesinger (1917-2007) was one of the most prominent historians of his generation. In addition to the National Book Award he is awarded this evening, he won two Pulitzers, another National Book Award, and the prestigious Bancroft Prize. As his acceptance speech indicates, his book on Kennedy was perhaps less an objective effort than those he wrote on Jacksonian democracy or Roosevelt’s New Deal. Schlesinger was a speechwriter for Kennedy and then served as the President’s special assistant. It was from this privileged perch in “Camelot” that his later public persona emerged. An obituary describes how he:

…wore a trademark dotted bowtie, showed an acid wit and had a magnificent bounce to his step. Between marathons of writing as much as 5,000 words a day, he was a fixture at Georgetown salons when Washington was clubbier and more elitist, a lifelong aficionado of perfectly-blended martinis and a man about New York, whether at Truman Capote’s famous parties or escorting Jacqueline Kennedy to the movies.

James Dickey (1923-1997) rose from receiving the small degree of hard-earned recognition in early middle-age that he speaks of during this speech to, for a poet, astounding fame and visibility following the publication of his novel Deliverance in 1970 and its subsequent 1972 film adaptation (in which he had a small part.)  He served as Poet Laureate, read a poem at the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, and was commissioned by Life Magazine to celebrate in verse the launch of Apollo 7. This overexposure led to the inevitable pitfalls of repetition and self-parody. But at his best Dickey was a  true innovator. The website of the Poetry Foundation notes:

His expansionist aesthetic is evident in his work’s range and variety of voices, which loom large enough to address or represent facets of the American experience, as well as in his often violent imagery and frequent stylistic experiments.   … One of Dickey’s principal themes…was the need to intensify life by maintaining contact with the primitive impulses, sensations, and ways of seeing suppressed by modern society.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) was born in Texas but managed to transcend the label of “Southern writer.” She is best remembered for her short stories, though her late novel, Ship of Fools (1962) was a financial if not critical success. Her subjects were unusual for their time, particularly for a female writer, as was her point of view which, as she alludes to in this speech, was perceived as relentlessly pessimistic. But the high polish of her prose, contrasting with a willingness to engage with “unladylike” material, gives her work a unique tone. Hilton Als, writing on the New Yorker, points out:

Porter was the first modern white woman writer to turn Southern racism and machismo and their ramifications into art. … She was at her most assured when she was writing about the poverty and the dust, the casual racism and the surreal violence of her native state.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150024Municipal archives id: T1895-T1896

A Brief History of FSU’s International Programs

Florida State University’s international programs celebrate 60+ years of connecting students interested in new cultural experiences and a brand new learning environment. Within the program today, students can choose from more than 20 locations, ranging from Panama to China and everywhere in between. Those who are interested in studying abroad, are offered a flexible schedule, allowing them to choose any semester that best suits them so they do not have miss out on the opportunity due to timing. Within Heritage & University Archives, we house the original documents creating the organization, includes the creation and original operation of the international programs.

italy florence brochure
Florence brochure, 1966

On August 1, 1966, a group of 120 students from Florida State University traveled to Florence to embark on their cultural adventure for a total of eight months. On November 4, 1966, the Arno River, located in Florence, reached a frightening elevation and eventually surpassed the embankment. This flooded the city, causing damages and causalities and causing the journey for the Florida State students to take a turn for the worst. Florence was covered in mud. Relief efforts by volunteers, known as “mud angels,” were underway to help the residents of Florence. Among these mud angels were the Florida State students, helping preserve invaluable artifacts and manuscripts. Despite relief efforts, Florida State students and faculty were eventually relocated to Rome for the health risks became overwhelming.

car destroyed florence
Car destroyed by Arno River Flood, Florence 1966

Their efforts to aid the city of Florence were recognized by both the cities of Rome and Florence and were even thanked by Pope Paul VI. Currently, Heritage & University Archives is hosting an exhibit about the students who went to Florence in 1966 and became part of the relief effort. The exhibit is located in the Mary Lou Norwood Reading Room, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m and available to the general public.

For more information on the Arno River Flood of 1966 and the students who participated in the relief efforts of Florence, please click here.

SAA 2017 Annual Meeting – Alike/Different

Last July, I was among the many archivists who, seduced by legends of the land of milk and honey food trucks and microbreweries, braved the Oregon Trail to attend the 2017 Society of American Archivists conference in Portland OR.

The Oregon Trail – video game version

The first half of the week was taken up by a two day workshop on arrangement and description of digital archives, led by Carol Kussman (University of Minnesota Libraries) and Chris Prom (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). This was an excellent opportunity to assess our current practices at the Archives, to measure the maturity of our own digital preservation program against other institutions of different scales and to get an idea of how we rate relative to other programs. The workshop was very popular – SAA ultimately expanded the number of seats available due to the demand.

Oregon Convention Center conference hall

The remainder of the week was occupied by conference sessions. Some of the highlights from the many sessions I attended included:

The Future of Appraisal and Processing of Digital Materials: Software, Strategies, and Scalability. Because of the intangible nature of digital records, it can be difficult to develop a holistic feel for the nature and character of a fonds that only exists on a hard drive. The presentations examined different visualization tools, such as tree viewers that can be used to get a better understanding of the number, size, and distribution of various file types present on a physical medium, and techniques like perceptual hashing that can identify files that have similar content. These can help provide the big picture view of the content and structure of a digital accession.

Two visualization tools: QDirStat on the left and duc on the right.

Navigating the Digital Maze of Visual Material Description and Access. An underlying theme of this session was that traditional approaches to making visual records accessible are being called into question due to their ever-increasing numbers and their integration into all kinds of records. The presenters were consistent in discussing the need for accurate and appropriate metadata. The utility of traditional arrangement was also called into question, with several presenters suggesting that links between descriptions need to be considered in terms of loops or interconnected nodes, rather than branching hierarchies that terminate in dead ends.

Systems Integration and the Archival Enterprise. This session discussed the pros and cons of extending the capabilities of existing archival processing, management and access systems vs. integrating with other systems. A valuable takeaway was the concept of establishing a “System of Record” when it is necessary to have multiple metadata systems.

Building Better Bridges: Strategies and Best Practices for Engaging Archival Communities. This session was a series of lightning talks that discussed institutions’ efforts at community outreach. My favorite idea was The Archives Bazaar – an event wherein multiple archives from across a region get together at a single location to exhibit select parts of their collections and talk with each other and with the community about what each institution has and how they relate to each other.

Playing the Oregon Trail at Ground Kontrol – as iconic government records archivist T.R. Schellenberg

Portland is a great city, and there was no lack of things to do and see in the off-time. I even got to get experience a different kind of digital preservation when I visited Ground Kontrol – a video arcade filled with classic arcade machines from 80s and 90s. Congratulations to the presenters and organizers of SAA 2017 for putting on a great conference.