Confirmation Testimony of New U.S. Space Force Commander Reiterates Concerns about Over-classification in Space, Calls for Review

On his way to becoming the new Commander of the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), Lt. Gen. James Dickinson discussed the problem of over-classification in space operations at his confirmation hearing on July 28, 2020, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his testimony, Lt. Gen. Dickinson called for “a review of classification for collection data to ensure widest dissemination possible to the war fighter in a timely fashion.”

Dickinson explained that the over-classification of space information leads to the duplication of space systems, the lack of integration of space capabilities and training, and a critical lack of knowledge about specific space threats across U.S. operational forces. Similar concerns about over-classification in space have been raised since December 2019 by current and former Department of Defense (DOD) officials, including Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Barbara Barrett, and former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work.

USSPACECOM relies heavily on information collected and prepared by both the Intelligence Community (IC) and the combatant commands to support the mission of protecting and defending national security in space. Effective space defense relies on the collection, processing, and sharing of highly classified information that includes valuable sensor data, satellite communications, and navigation signals for a diverse set of end users. Over-classification of this information, which is strictly regulated by security controls, stymies the performance of Government engineers and contractors developing new technologies on a broad range of projects, and endangers warfighters.

Leaders across the DOD and the IC struggle with the existing classification system that protects, but also inhibits the proper sharing of sensitive information. Many from within the Government now call for a comprehensive review of the classification system to improve the timely dissemination for the operational support of warfighters. These demands echo recommendations the Public Interest Declassification Board has long advocated for the modernization of classification and declassification as a means of cutting costs, aligning the digital business practices of Federal agencies, and combatting over-classification to ensure a credible system for protecting national security information.

Outdated and excessively costly, the current method for classifying and declassifying national security information remains unsustainable in the digital information age. As all media become fully digital, analog technology and paper records become practically inaccessible and dysfunctional. The costs of the security classification system are staggering (reported to be an estimated $18.39 billion in FY 2017), yet resources for declassification remain woefully underfunded, while over-classification and the declassification backlog give rise to leaks and inadvertent disclosures that damage national security imperatives.

By continuing to unnecessarily classify information without timely declassification and a strategic transformation of the Government information system, the volume and diversity of records inaccessible to policymakers and the public will only continue to increase. Current practices diminish public confidence in the security classification system, impede appropriate information-sharing within the Government, and diminish the open discussion of our national history that is so fundamental to the democratic process. Yet, the Government still struggles to increase transparency and to demystify its classified activities.

In January this year, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten called for cleaning up the Pentagon’s classification process, noting that “we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.” Crucial reforms to the system will need to include a tightening of definitions and greater specificity for categories requiring protection in the first place. Some measure of constraint on the system will be necessary to combat over-classification, a topic which requires broader study and more clearly defined outcomes to reverse the trend of excessive secrecy. Over-classification manifested in excessive secrecy remains and will likely continue to pose a serious challenge to appropriate information sharing and control. The benefits of sharing classified information with properly cleared users outweighs the perceived detriments of inappropriate distribution. Classification need no longer be the default selection to ensure national security interests are adequately protected.

1938 WNYC Clock Radio Alarm

Jack Bruce Mercer’s clock radio alarm as drawn by Leo Garel for the WNYC Masterwork Bulletin.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

Letter to WNYC director Morris S. Novik

Mill Lane

Bronx, N.Y.C. 

October 27, 1938 


The radio, as far as I am concerned, is WNYC. 

I work on the night shift, 4-12, in an ice plant.

At seven in the morning my alarm clock is rigged so that instead of a horrible ringing, the Sunrise Symphony switches on. (Want the patent fellow music lovers?)

So there I lie in bed, a working man enjoying a millionaire’s comfort. By eight I’m ready for breakfast and the morning paper. At nine, another hour of good music. And so I am well fortified for a new day!


Jack Bruce Mercer

P.S. Please send me the Masterwork Booklet.  

According to a news release issued a week-a-half later by the office of Mayor La Guardia, ​Morris Novik passed Mercer’s diagram (pictured above) on to ​WNYC’s Chief Engineer Isaac Brimberg who put the Rube Goldberg-like design to the test. It worked!

Sunrise Symphony was the station’s daily morning program of recorded classical music. The Masterwork Booklet, ​which Mercer requests in the postscript of his letter, was actually The Masterwork Bulletin, WNYC’s program guide.

Special thanks to the New York City Municipal Archives and to the La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College/The City University of New York.





ODNI, NGA Officials Tout Modernization During the Current Pandemic

At an industry-sponsored webinar on Wednesday, August 12, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Geospatial Agency (NGA) discussed how during the current COVID-19 pandemic their agencies: “innovate and deploy new technologies and methodologies to drive digital transformation for efficiency and cost savings.

La’Naia Jones, acting Chief Information Officer for the Intelligence Community (ICCIO) in the ODNI, emphasized that the application of ODNI’s 2019 Cyber Implementation Plan, and lessons learned over seven years since the ODNI decided to invest in Cloud technologies, have reduced costs through the integration of IT services and process automation across the IC to “do more with less.” She acknowledged that manual processes put a drag on workflows, noting that this became especially obvious as the IC transitioned to performing as much telework as possible under the pandemic lockdown. Jones explained that the ODNI is uniquely positioned to leverage modernization through a common infrastructure and federated approach across the 17 IC agencies.  This allows for flexibility in adapting specific technologies to the needs of each IC agency for automation and processing unstructured data.

NGA’s Associate CIO Mark Chatelain explained that flexibility in implementing technological solutions for specific tasks have allowed the NGA to go from having only a few employees working remotely before March 15, to now having almost its entire workforce work remotely.  Less than 10 percent of NGA employees work on site. He emphasized the role of NGA’s agile business processes in rapidly adapting to support the NGA in deploying a remote topographic platform at the unclassified level within the first week of the pandemic lockdown.

As highlighted in these presentations, the IC’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic was aided by their modernization plans.  They deployed advanced technologies for remote access and collaboration, shifting away from manual processes that were either inefficient or impossible to perform remotely.  IC adoption of automation, and the ability to efficiently and effectively process unstructured data, illustrate how the IC is cutting costs through digital transformation— a strategy that the Public Interest Declassification Board has long recommended for improving classification and declassification across the Federal Government. Modernization during the current pandemic further amplifies why the ODNI is uniquely positioned to serve as the Executive Agent for designing and implementing a transformed security classification system that leverages ODNI success in leading implementation of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise.

The response to COVID-19 provides an opportunity to accelerate the specific adaptation of new technologies for the digital transformation of classification and declassification. In the public interest, the Board will continue to study the implications of best practices and innovations in the IC driven by the ongoing public health emergency.


the friday art blog:The Mackenzie sisters

After the Pathfoot Building was shut in late March, the Art Collection began to produce several blog posts every week, which aimed at providing a broader and deeper insight into our collections, and into the history of the University. Now that lockdown is starting to ease, we will be turning this into one regular weekly blog slot – the new ‘Friday Art Blog’ – and we look forward to your continued company over the next weeks and months. Remember that you can now search our entire collection here.

Vase with poppies by Winifred McKenzie
(Oil on canvas, 1984)

This week we are looking at the paintings of the McKenzie sisters in the Collection.

In 2015, the Art Collection received an unexpected letter from a solicitor in St Andrew’s stating that the late Sydney Aylwin Clark had bequeathed five pictures to the Collection. As it turned out, these paintings were by two sisters called McKenzie – Winifred (1905-2001) and Alison (1907-1982) – and Aylwin Clark (as she was known) had been their friend and biographer.
No explanation was given as to why these works were to come to Stirling, but apparently Ms Clark had decided that the Art Collection would be a worthy recipient.

Carnbee Church by Alison McKenzie
(Watercolour on paper, 1953)

In 1990 Sydney Aylwin Clark had written a biography about her friends entitled ‘The McKenzie Sisters: The Lives and Art of Winifred and Alison McKenzie’ with a foreword by David McClure, and this provides a fascinating account of their joint lives.

Winifred and Alison McKenzie were born in the first decade of the 20th Century in Bombay, where their father worked in the family sawmill business (though he had originally trained as an architect at Glasgow School of Art in the 1880s, where he was a contemporary and friend of Charles Rennie Mackintosh). The family moved back to Scotland when the girls were still young and in 1923 Winifred enrolled in Drawing & Painting classes at Glasgow School of Art, where the lecturer Chica MacNab introduced her to the art of woodcuts. Alison followed shortly after and became one of the leading students in Design & Textiles. They completed their art training together at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London. While living in the capital in the 1930s, Winifred was elected a member of the National Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers, and she was also a member of the Society of Wood Engravers.

Corfu Cliffs by Alison McKenzie
(Acrylic on board, 1976)

In 1940 the family moved back to Scotland, to live in St Andrews, where they joined the artist Annabel Kidston in running a series of art classes for the allied forces stationed in the town during the war. Run under the auspices of the Committee for Education for the Forces, the classes proved extremely popular, particularly with the Polish soldiers, whose work was exhibited in 1944 at the National Gallery in Edinburgh
Winifred joined the staff of Dundee College of Art in 1944, to teach wood engraving and composition. Alison joined her two years later on a job-share basis when their mother fell ill. They were popular and successful teachers, but their mother’s declining health forced them to resign from the College in 1957, to care for her full-time. The wood engraving course was taken over by Jozef Sekalski, another Polish artist who twice escaped from Nazi imprisonment during his attempts to reach Britain. 

“The two McKenzie sisters have lived close together throughout their lives, and as engravers each has a remarkable quality though in matters of individuality they are surprisingly different. The handling of light in Winifred’s engraving is the flood source, breaking through the arboreal colander. Her engraving technique is that of the painter. Alison’s handling of light is the beam source, illuminating a world of solids, a sculptural concept expressing solidity, security and order. Her engraving is remarkable for its economy and precision.”

– A History of British Wood Engraving by Albert Garrett 1978

Untitled and undated painting by Winifred McKenzie
(Oil on canvas)

The above painting is probably this one, referred to in Aylwin Clark’s biography:

‘From Ovronnaz [Rhone Valley, Switzerland] they walked up the valley as the sun came out, which provided Winifred with a dramatic image, made up of retreating storm clouds, grey glacier, varied light on the different planes of the mountain sides and in the foreground, green fields and a clump of trees, brilliantly illuminated. She worked it up later in their St Andrews studio – a perfect example of ’emotion recollected in tranquility’”

‘The McKenzie Sisters’ by Sydney Aylwin Clark, page 108

Chateauneuf-du-Pape by Winifred McKenzie
(Oil on canvas, 1992)

Aylwin Clark in her book describes how Winifred, in old age, enjoyed trips abroad, discovering France with the Friends of the RSA: ‘Looking from her cabin, she was thrilled with the light on Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with the brilliant blue of the bow wave in the foreground’.

The front cover of the biography, with a woodcut by Winifred McKenzie

Catastrophic Health Care: A Goal Not Met

In the Summer of 1987, Representative Claude Pepper introduced House Resolution 2654. In it a request was made to establish a 12-member committee charged with providing recommendations to Congress for a comprehensive health care program for all Americans. In October of 1988, Pepper was appointed as the chairperson of the United States Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care. The committee’s findings indicated that the majority of Americans were prohibited at some level from obtaining adequate health care due to the high costs associated with medical treatment, particularly for long-term and catastrophic illness.  

Throughout his career, Pepper was uniquely devoted to the idea of comprehensive health care coverage. In 1937, during his first term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute. Throughout the remainder of his career, he was instrumental in establishing an additional thirteen National Institutes of Health. Beginning in 1946, Pepper began efforts to muster support for the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill. A proposal to institute a national health care and hospital system intended to ease the hardship that America’s health care system imposed on those least able to afford it, the bill failed to gain traction or support.

For the next thirty years, the possibility of a National Health Care system continued to remain on the forefront of Pepper’s agenda. His last legislative efforts began in 1987. After the Bipartisan Commission, Pepper and his colleagues in the House began to craft what would become the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. The bill was designed to improve acute care benefits for the elderly and disabled, which was to be phased in from 1989 to 1993.The act was meant to expand Medicare benefits to include outpatient drugs and set a cap on out of pocket medical costs. It was the first bill to significantly expand Medicare benefits since the program’s inception. Although the bill passed easily with initial support, the House and Senate repealed it a year later in response to widespread criticism over projected government costs.

Senator Pepper died in May of 1989, not seeing his goal of a national health care system achieved. Today the work toward that goal continues, and if you are interested to learn more about the history and evolution of the path toward affordable and equitable health care coverage for all Americans, the Pepper Papers, and all of our political collections, are searchable online.

Claude Pepper speaking at the Aging Subcommittee on Health Maintenance and Long Term Care hearing. Claude Pepper Papers Photo B(1397)-01.

Updated SCA Page in Florida History Research Guide

This post was co-authored by Jennifer Fain.

Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce our new and improved page on the Florida History research guide. One of our major projects this summer in light of Covid-19 and the need for expanded online services has been to update our presence on FSU Library research guides to better connect patrons with our materials remotely.

The Florida History guide is overseen by Humanities librarian, Adam Beauchamp, who will be working on updating the rest of it in the future. Research guides can be accessed through the tile, “Research Guides,” on the library’s main page. To navigate to our updated page on the Florida History guide (pictured below), select the “Florida History in the FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives” tab via the left-hand navigation bar in the research guide.

Our new page on the Florida History research guide!
Our new page on the Florida History research guide!

What were the improvements we have made to the page? We updated an introduction to Special Collections & Archives’ holdings and spaces, as well as information on our databases and how to search them. The main addition to this page is a break-down of our resources by topical subject areas within Florida History. The first section gives introductory information on how to use the resources listed as well as other places on the page to learn more about our searchable databases. Scroll down the page to explore different subjects represented in our collections. Alternatively, there are links that directly jump to each subject. The topics we have highlighted are Early Florida, Florida Industry & Agriculture, Tallahassee History, The Civil War in Florida, and Florida Politics. 

Photograph of Saturn V Moon Rocket.
Photograph of the Saturn V Moon Rocket from the Claude Pepper Papers.

The sections explain how and where to find materials like the above photograph of the Saturn V Moon Rocket across different searchable databases like ArchivesSpace, the Library Catalog, and the Digital Library. We included links and examples of digital collections, finding aids, and Library of Congress Subject Headings as starting points for research. There are also suggestions for how to develop keyword searches at the bottom of the page. 

Be on the lookout for more blog posts as we continue to unveil updated pages and guides for the Fall semester. And, of course, make sure to check out our new page on the Florida History guide! While direct access to physical collections is unavailable at this time due to Covid-19, we hope to resume in-person research when it is safe to do so, and Special Collections & Archives is still available to assist you remotely with research and instruction. Please get in touch with us via email at: For a full list of our remote services, please visit our services page.

The J D Fergusson memorial collection at Stirling

This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus looks at the collection of paintings of Scottish colourist J D Fergusson (1874-1961) in the Art Collection.

Self Portrait
(OIl on board, 1907)

In 1968 the brand new University of Stirling was fortunate to be presented with a collection of 14 paintings by the eminent Scottish painter John Duncan Fergusson. The ‘J D Fergusson Memorial Collection’ was gifted by the artist’s widow Margaret Morris, as a mark of her friendship with Tom Cottrell, the University’s first Principal, and her excitement at the inauguration of a great new adventure in Scottish education.

J D Fergusson was a principal artist in the group now known as the Scottish Colourists, which combined French Impressionist techniques with Scottish themes to produce outstanding works in the early 20th Century. The collection of fourteen of Fergusson’s paintings at Stirling was chosen to represent all periods of his life from his very early Bazaar in Tangiers (c. 1897) to A Bridge on the Kelvin (1942). It contains some of his finest work and includes the seminal painting Rhythm (1911). This blog post focusses on just some of these works. They can be viewed in full here.

Bazaar in Tangiers
(Oil on canvas, 1897)

The first of four children, J D Fergusson was born in Leith in 1874. After the Royal High School, the idea of being a naval surgeon appealed briefly, but Fergusson soon realised that his vocation was to paint. Art studies in Edinburgh became too rigid for him however and, resolving to teach himself, he started to travel. Around 1897 he went to Southern Spain and Morocco. In his works of this time he acknowledged the influence of Arthur Melville who had made similar painting excursions ten years earlier. As can be seen above in ‘Bazaar in Tangiers’, his oil paintings of this time are loosely worked, with a restrained palette.

He started to spend time in France, meeting fellow artists and studying at the Louvre, deeply impressed by the Impressionist paintings in the Salle Caillebotte. During these years the strongest influence on Fergusson was his friend S J Peploe whom he had met in the late 1890s.

(Oil on canvas, 1910)

In 1907 Fergusson moved to Paris and began to fully embrace the new era. During the first years of the new century, the city was a ferment of ideas in art, literature, philosophy, music and dance. Here, he was a contemporary of Picasso and was influenced by such artists as Cezanne, Monet and Matisse and the intense colour of the Fauvists such as Derain. This painting deploys fauvist use of colour to delineate form, and gains energy from the unpainted areas of canvas and the set of the shoulder axis.

Red Shawl
(Oil on canvas, 1908)

He also painted the many friends he made during this time. In this portrait of the American writer and critic Elizabeth Dryden, colour is used descriptively on form, whilst the background is a decorative surface of diminuished perspectival depth. This painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon d’Automne in 1909.

(Oil on canvas, 1911)

‘Rhythm’ was a key modernist concept, based on the philosophy of Henri Bergson, and this painting is perhaps Fergusson’s first modernist masterpiece. The young John Middleton Murry met Fergusson in 1910 and remembered ‘one word in all our strange discussions – the word ‘rhythm’. We never made any attempt to define it….for F. it was the essential quality in a painting or a sculpture; and since it was at that moment that the Russian Ballet first came to Western Europe….dancing was obviously linked, by rhythm, with the plastic arts’. Middleton Murry subsequently founded a literary magazine with Rhythm as the title, and Fergusson became art editor – a design based on this painting was used as the cover design. The painting itself shows a proud healthy Eve-like woman, complete with apple, though she seems more self-assertive than alluring or guilty. The figure is static but dynamic, poised to leap. Tension is introduced by the juxtaposition of verticals with more fluid lines, and movement through the shape and colour of her body and of the tree and drapes which surround her. Rhythm was first exhibited in Paris, at the Salon d’Automne, in 1911.

Portsmouth Docks
(Oil on canvas, 1918)

In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, Fergusson returned to live in London. This is one of a series of paintings which portray life in the naval dockyard at Portsmouth. The painting shows a dramatic viewpoint with strong verticals and a large destroyer’s bow. Energy not war creates the focal point. It was clearly influenced by the Vorticist movement. It has been claimed in the past that Fergusson was an official war artist, but apparently this was not the case. He was merely given permission by the Admiralty to visit the docks ‘to gather impressions for painting a picture’.

In Glen Isla
(Oil on canvas, 1923)

Painted after a tour of the Scottish Highlands in 1922, this picture illustrates a debt to Paul Cezanne and in its architectural approach to landscape heralds a new maturity in Fergusson’s art. It is a good example of a dialogue between colours and planes, created at a time when the artist was concerned with the problems of development of a shape within the many shapes of a composition. Many of the paintings from this trip were shown at his first major Scottish Exhibitions at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh and at Alexander Reid’s Gallery in Glasgow.

Bathers, Noon
(Oil on canvas, 1937)

After the war ended, Fergusson began to visit France regularly again, settling with Margaret Morris in the south in the late Twenties. The colour and subject matter that he found there informed his painting and sculpture for the rest of his career.

A Bridge on the Kelvin
(Oil on canvas, 1942)

In 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War the couple returned to Britain, setting up home in Glasgow, and Fergusson became actively involved with the New Scottish Art Group. This picture was painted near their flat on Clouston Street. The refracted light and rich, sonorous colour is similar to a late Monet with a softer touch.

J D Fergusson is regarded as the most versatile and experimental of the quartet of
Scottish painters known as the Colourists (along with Samuel Peploe, Francis Cadell
and Leslie Hunter). The work of the group remains highly influential to this day.

‘Everyone in Scotland should refuse to have anything to do with black or dirty and dingy colours, and insist on clean colours in everything. I remember when I was young any colour was considered a sign of vulgarity. Greys and blacks were the only colours for people of taste and refinement. Good pictures had to be black, grey, brown or drab. Well! let’s forget it, and insist on things in Scotland being of colour that makes for and associates itself with light, hopefulness, health and happiness.’

J.D.Fergusson in Modern Scottish Painting (pub. William MacLellan, Glasgow 1943)

This is a short film about J D Fergusson which was made to coincide with a major Scottish Colourist exhibition in Edinburgh 2013/14.

The University Art Collection has recently re-published a catalogue of these works with added accompanying essays. ‘Colour, Light, Freedom: Fergusson at Stirling’ can be purchased in the Pathfoot Building Crush Hall for £5, or ordered online here.

All images copyright The Fergusson Gallery, Perth

object of the week

While the Pathfoot Building is closed, the Art Collection will each week focus on an object of interest. You can also search our entire collection online here.

Michael Tyzack (1933-2007)
(Emulsion on board, 1962)

Born in Sheffield, Michael Tyzack studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In 1956 he won a French Government Scholarship that allowed him to travel to Paris and Menton, where his work began to show a tendency towards abstraction and the influence of Cezanne. In 1965 he won first prize in the prestigious John Moores’ Liverpool Exhibition and continued to exhibit at prominent galleries and museums in the UK and America during the 1960s and 1970s, while also working as a professional jazz trumpeter.

Two works by this artist were purchased for the brand new University Art Collection in 1967 from the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. The works collected in that period for the new University were by contemporary artists, in keeping with its modernist architecture. They were displayed around the Pathfoot Building, making art and culture part of the everyday experience at the University.

Albinoni’s Screen
(Acrylic on cotton, 1964)

In 1971 Tyzack took up a short teaching post in Iowa – originally planning to stay only one year. However, he and his family decided to remain in America after he was offered the post of Professor of Fine Arts at the College of Charleston, where he lived until his death in 2007.
He was one of the most distinguished British abstract painters to have settled in the United States in the last half-century. As a teacher he became a revered mentor for many young artists.

The DLC in the times of COVID

A long time ago, in March 2020, when we all had such hopes that closing the library was a temporary measure, the Digital Library Center (DLC) started to think about how it could support remote research and instruction during the rest of the spring semester. Fast forward to August 2020, and the DLC is now firmly engaged in on-demand digitization for patrons as well as a fully developed instructional support digitization work stream that is digitizing and fast tracking description to get materials into the digital library for fall classes. We’ve faced a lot of challenges during the last few months, the least of which at times has been a pandemic, but I think the DLC is headed in new and exciting directions.

Illuminated manuscript Leaf from a Book of Hours
Leaf from a Book of Hours, 1465, see original object

First of all, the challenges. One, a global pandemic but this one the DLC has navigated (cross all the fingers) really well so far. The DLC was closed from mid-March through early May. We returned to work on a rotation schedule which is working well. Another challenge was the retirement of a long time employee (we miss you Giesele!) which means the DLC is down a staff member. We’re also not actually *in* the DLC right now. Due to construction on the 2nd floor of Strozier Library, we’re in temporary digs until mid-September. This limits what equipment we have to do digitization right now. Bonus square on 2020 bingo? We’re also prepping for a platform migration for our digital library because why do one thing at a time when you can do ALL the things at the same time!

So, what are we doing to meet these challenges? The open position in the DLC is being reviewed currently and hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward with it before the end of the year. While we are limited in terms of our temporary space, we’re making it work and creating a “wait list” for projects to do once we’re back in the DLC. We’re proactively communicating with those on the wait list and so far, everyone is working with us on delayed delivery dates. We’re also working with our Special Collections & Archives Instruction Group on digitization needs and created guidelines to help instruction liaisons understand when the DLC might not be needed to meet their needs. We’re also planning and prepping for our upcoming migration and getting ourselves ready for if the digital library might need to be offline for a time during our move into the new and improved platform.

Even through all that, we’ve managed to get a lot of new materials up in the digital library since May. Some of this material was already digitized prior to our shutdown in March but was waiting on description for loading into the digital library. Thanks to the need for remote work, and the increased number of staff looking for it, we got a lot of waiting materials off the list and into the digital library. We’ve continued to add new materials online as we’ve digitized on campus and worked on description and loading remotely.

The cover of The Black Voice: June 1977. Volume I. Number II.

We added several university publications this spring and summer. Smoke Signals and Talaria (highlighted in a blog post earlier this year), Athanor, Black Insight, Black Voice (see the full issue highlighted at the side here), and Affirmative Action Quarterly were all added to the University Publications digital collection. We completed loading several more years’ worth of issues to the ongoing project to make the full run of Il Secolo available online. Continuing our partnership with community organizations, we also added new materials to both the Leon High School and First Baptist Church of Tallahassee collections.

Just this past month, we also added new video footage from an interview with Wright Family members to the Emmett Till Archives, shared our first submissions to the FSU COVID-19 Community Experience Project and loaded our first big batch of Instructional Support materials. The instructional materials are scattered through several collections in the digital library but include some of SCA’s “greatest hits” such as our chained book and our signed first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as well as many of our Book of Hours leaves.

As we head into the Fall, the DLC is trying to be prepared for whatever 2020 might throw our way next but we feel confident we’re moving in the right direction and continuing to support our faculty, staff and students!

Light. A. Fire.

For this blog post, I am choosing to write this from a more candid place, in hopes that people understand why change in library description is necessary. My last post talked about How to Transition on 63 Cents a Day, showing how there are outdated terms referencing Lee Krist’s identity in the catalog record. Those terms are still in the catalog record. My first post discussed how there are 0 results when you search “LGBT.” There are still zero results in Special Collections and Archives for that search. I started these posts as a way to facilitate the conversation about white supremacy in library settings, and to create some tangible ways to start addressing them. 

I was initially hired by Special Collections to update the artists’ book inventory, focusing on the labeling of printmaking techniques, themes, and identities to make them more accessible. One of the first books I ever worked on was How to Transition on 63 cents a Day. I remember updating the SCA spreadsheet of search terms with every term I could think of, the first one of them was LGBT. These terms have yet to make it into the catalog record. It feels frustrating to me because I have been doing this kind of work since my first day in Special Collections, but it seems progress moves at a glacier’s pace.

Tackling systemic issues within universities and other similar institutions sometimes feels impossible. Contacting the right people, organizing multiple meetings to discuss an action plan, finding the resources to do so, etc. etc. etc. and all while following “proper protocol.” Following bureaucratic etiquette, more times than not, perpetuates a mess of red tape that always ensnares progress for marginalized communities.

Meetings are important. I understand that! I just want tangible progress, and the ability to keep track of what’s been done in this effort. In a predominately white cisgender heterosexual career and institution, meetings can often feel performative rather than action-based. So much has been written about performative allyship in the workplace when it comes to racism, feminism, and anti-queer sentiment.  A recent Fortune article discusses performative allyship in workspaces, where organizations are “condemning racism through broad gestures but enabling its effects.” 

We all acknowledge that prejudice is bad. We all acknowledge that we want to “get better.” But you don’t “get better,” you DO BETTER. We haven’t uplifted the community that these problems have affected, so how can we say that we’re addressing them? One of the most important parts of creating change is recognizing that no person or institution is perfect. True allyship doesn’t lie in perfection (OR POLITENESS); it lies in the ability to accept critique and take accountability, which is what I hope we can do as a division and as a library. Next week is our first meeting about this initiative, and I want to make this about ACTION, to “light a proverbial fire.” 

I’m asking my division colleagues to do this “Privilege Check Game” prior to the meeting. We’d love for you to play along, and to think of one way that you can make your work more inclusive. This can be as big or as small as you want. 

Privilege Check Game: Start with 10 fingers!

Put down a finger if…

…you’ve ever been called a slur?

…you’ve ever had to see the same slur you were called in a catalog record?

…you’ve searched your identity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and no results came up?

…you’ve ever had someone (actively) not address you by your name or pronouns at work?

…you’ve ever had your identity “explained” to you by someone not of that identity? 

…you’ve ever had your identity affect how people behaved around/treated you?

…you’ve ever been anxious about your job status due to federal/state law?

…you’ve ever not spoken out in a situation for fear that you might get in trouble/people will think you’re overreacting?

…you’ve ever gotten frustrated when people use gendered language (guys, dude, sir/ma’am)?

…you’ve ever felt unwelcome in professional/academic spaces?

… you’ve ever had to switch the way you present yourself in different settings (appearance, clothes/style, language/speech, name/pronouns, etc.)

Inspiration for game:

art at the university: the early days

This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus looks at the first years of art at the University of Stirling.

An exhibition of Francis Davison’s collages in the MacRobert Gallery in 1971

The tradition of collecting art at the University of Stirling goes back to its founding in 1967. It was decided from the start that one per cent of the capital cost of new buildings should be made available for works of art, to improve the internal and external environment.

An Art Committee was formed and this made decisions about these early purchases, taking advice from art experts in Scotland at the time. Douglas Hall, first Keeper of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, was invited to join this committee and he encouraged the University to develop an art policy and to purchase and exhibit notable works. This was felt to be especially important as no other such major art collection existed locally. Click here to see a short film about the beginnings of the collection.

In these early days, site-specific works were commissioned and an excellent example of this is the wall-mounted steel sculptural panel by Mary Martin which was originally designed for the Pathfoot Dining Room, where it can be seen above during the 1971 graduation ceremony. It now hangs in the Crush Hall – you can read more about the piece here.‌

Major works were also borrowed, such as Barbara Hepworth‘s iconic sculpture ‘Figure (Archaean)’ (shown above) which came on permanent loan from the Scottish Arts Council, was subsequently gifted, and has remained in the same Pathfoot courtyard ever since.

‘Cadmium and Light Red’ by Patrick Heron
(Oil on canvas, 1967)
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries, London, for the new Art Collection in 1967

Works were acquired chiefly from galleries such as the Waddington in London, the Compass Gallery in Glasgow and the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. The fine works collected in that period were by contemporary artists, in keeping with the modernist architecture of the Pathfoot Building.  They included paintings by Patrick Heron, Sir Robin Philipson, Michael Tyzack and Jon Schueler and sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi and Justin Knowles. Along with the major gift of 14 paintings by eminent Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson, these were displayed around the Pathfoot Building, making art and culture part of the everyday experience at the University. This was the stated aim of the first Prinicipal Tom Cottrell, who, although a scientist, was also a knowledgeable art connoisseur who believed that artworks should be accessible to all. These early acquisitions perfectly expressed the spirit of the age and Tom Cottrell’s confident hopes for the new University. As Douglas Hall recalled in 2011 ‘ Abstract art held the field. All right, the art we bought in those few years could shock.  But it was a visual shock, not a moral one.  People missed the old themes, and were dazzled by the bright colours and vivid shapes.  These were just what Principal Cottrell wanted.’

‘Albinoni’s Screen’ by Michael Tyzack
(Acrylic on cotton, 1964)
Purchased from the Richard Demarco Gallery for the new Art Collection in 1967

The commissioning and purchasing of artworks however was only part of the art story at Stirling. Students and staff in the late 1960s and early 1970s also had the opportunity to listen to an annual art lecture given by an expert art critic and accompanied by a major exhibition, and there was a constantly changing, rich and varied programme of temporary exhibitions, which were organised by Matilda Mitchell, the first art curator.

At first pictures were hung in Pathfoot around the spacious main concourse and A corridor, with the long-since disappeared ‘J Lounge’ upstairs being used for smaller exhibitions of local artists. Sometimes the works were for sale (the Collection also acquired works in this way), and there were also touring exhibitions from the Scottish Arts Council eg drawings by Albrecht Durer, and paintings by Joan Eardley. Exhibitions organised by Stirling also sometimes subsequently went on tour to other locations in the UK.

From 1971 onwards, there was a specially allocated gallery space (see photo above) in the newly built MacRobert Centre, and as Matilda Mitchell recalls, the many exhibitions were not restricted to that space but also ‘crept into the foyer, indeed into the small foyer on the way in to the little theatre, along the walls to the café and eventually outside into the grounds’. 

Several catalogues and price lists have survived from these early days. The Art Collection purchased the work below – ‘Plum Tree I’ – from this Duncan Shanks exhibition at the MacRobert Gallery in 1973.

‘Plum Tree I’ by Duncan Shanks
(Watercolour and chalk)

Temporary exhibitions did not always consist of pictures. Matilda Mitchell recalls one more unusual show:

For some six months, large boxes of about 4ft x 3ft, filled with local earth, occupied two or three of the car parking spaces outside Garden Cottage.  This became one of the centre points of the Mark Boyle show. He always worked with his wife Joan Hills as collaborator but when his two children grew up they all worked together and the exhibitions became the Boyle Family exhibitions.  What grew in these boxes was just what was already in the soil and what the wind brought.  Wild flowers flourished and when we brought the boxes into the Gallery, they flourished better still and the spiders were able greatly to increase their webs.  As you would expect, going into an art gallery, we put in our ‘art viewing’ lenses and suddenly nature’s casual offerings became objects of great natural beauty and fascination.
They also replicated several large sections of London pavements in resin, complete with slabs, kerbs, gutters, cigarette butts, in one a discarded trainer, and assorted pleasing rubbish. With art gallery lenses firmly in place, these too became images of compelling interest.  But could we see clearly enough to purchase?  I am afraid not. They were expensive.  It was a wonderful show.

Matilda Mitchell speaking at The Principal’s Art Lecture in 2007

 As well as these temporary exhibitions, staff and students were also given the opportunity to purchase good quality fine art prints when London Graphic Arts set up shop in the J lounge. For two years running (1968 and 69), over £1000 worth of pictures were sold in three days. The Art Collection enjoyed a 10% commission on sales, which also helped to fill the walls of the staff offices and lectures rooms. The Victor Vasarely print below was purchased for the Collection at the first of these sales.

‘Composition’ by Victor Vasarely
(Screenprint, 94/175, 1968)

As the permanent collection grew, works were displayed in the new University buildings as they were completed. Below, a work entitled ‘Frosted Window’ by Barbara Balmer (purchased in 1973) is seen hanging in the staff room, in Cottrell.

Not all art initiatives were successful however. A scheme to offer framed prints on loan to students for their rooms was abandoned due to lack of interest.

This student seems to have preferred Led Zeppelin.
Art Curator Jane Cameron discusses the history and architecture of the macrobert Arts Centre on campus.

“WNYC Mobilizes For Harlem Emergency”

On the evening of August 1, 1943, a riot in Harlem reportedly began after a white policeman shot and wounded an African-American soldier who had been charged by the officer with interfering in the arrest of a black woman in the lobby of a hotel on West 126th Street. (The audio above dates from August 1). City officials and Harlem civic leaders used WNYC to help quell the violence that followed.   

Bystanders gather to look over a pile of merchandise scattered over the sidewalk in front of a pawnshop at 145th Street and Eighth Avenue, August 2, 1943, an aftermath of Harlem disorders.
(AP Photo)

False rumors that the soldier was killed by the officer spread rapidly and provoked an outburst of window smashing, fires, overturning of cars, and attacks on police. Property damage was estimated at as much as $5 million (1943 dollars). Five hundred people were arrested for rioting, looting, and assault. Five people were killed, and 400 were wounded. The rioting was noted, at the time, as the most violent disturbance in Harlem’s history. 

Mayor La Guardia with educator Dr. Max Yergan and union leader Ferdinand Smith near the scene of disorder, August 2, 1943.
(International News Photo/WNYC Archive Collections)

Mayor La Guardia imposed a curfew, and 8,000 National Guardsmen were ordered on standby. Leaders of the NAACP, National Urban League, and Councilman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., praised the police response and said the disturbance was not a race riot but the result of “criminal hoodlum elements.” Powell, who would become the neighborhood’s  Congressman from 1945-1967, blamed the riot on poor economic conditions and “a blind smoldering and unorganized resentment against Jim Crow treatment of Negro men in the armed forces and the unusual high rents and cost of living forced upon the Negroes of Harlem.”[1] 

WNYC, the lead station of the city-owned Municipal Broadcasting System, an agency reporting directly to the Mayor, was enlisted in the effort to bring peace to Harlem. A leading goal was to make sure everyone knew the soldier was alive. They also sought to make the Mayor’s message, and that of community leaders urging residents to return to the safety of their homes, available to other stations and throughout the streets of Harlem. This was station director Morris Novik‘s official account.



WNYC News Release on Harlem emergency, page 4, August, 1943.
(Vertical files/NYC Municipal Archives)

Mayor F. H. La Guardia’s August 2, 1943 broadcast over WNYC.

The progressive and ad-free tabloid PM ran the following piece on August 3, 1943 on the incident that ignited the violence.

From the tabloid PM’s August 3, 1943 coverage of the disturbances in Harlem.
(WNYC Archive Collections)

While the newspaper highlighted Mayor La Guardia’s emphasis that the disturbance was not a “race riot,” in the sense of blacks fighting whites, “the incidence and underlying causes of the outbreak, however, were racial.” Indeed, white-owned businesses (particularly pawnshops and groceries) were targeted in the uprising as the residents of Harlem were all too aware of the contrast between the touted ideals of America and the reality of their daily lives. Their often dire social and economic conditions, especially the job and housing discrimination, revealed the nation’s thin veneer of ‘freedom and democracy.’ The author Ralph Ellison covered the riot for the New York Post[2] and described the rioting largely as revenge. 


In the distance there suddenly came the sound of a voice speaking over a loud speaker. Soon we saw a WNYC truck approaching. The speaker, speaking in the name of the Negro Neighborhood Victory Committee, asked the people to return to their homes. He assured them that the soldier had not been killed, and that Mayor La Guardia had promised that fair judgement would be done. The crowd applauded and cheered, then returned to its looting activities…In talking with the people along the sidewalks, I get the impression that they were giving way to resentment over the price of food and other necessities, police brutality, and the general indignities borne by Negro soldiers.[3]


Ellison would revisit the riot as fiction in the final chapter of his 1952 novel, Invisible Man.


‘I tell you they mad over what happen to that young fellow, what’s his name…’

We were passing a building now and I heard a voice calling frantically, ‘Colored store! Colored store!’ ‘Then put up a sign, motherfouler,’ a voice said. ‘You probably as rotten as the others.’ ‘Listen at the bastard. For one time in his life he’s glad to be colored,’ Scofield said. ‘Colored store,’ the voice went on automatically.[4]


The prejudice suffered by African-Americans at the hands of a nearly all-white police force made the struggle against systemic bigotry worse. And the imposed sacrifices of domestic wartime rationing to support America’s military –a military intent on keeping in step with Jim Crow segregation, was more salt in the wound. PM quoted NAACP executive secretary Walter White as saying, “The mistreatment of Negro soldiers is a terribly sore point with Negroes. This is the beginning of the trouble. Had it been a Negro civilian, however prominent, who was shot, there would have been no riot.”[5]


In 1943 Yale sociologist Harold Orlansky concluded the riot was protest against the property and authority used to oppress the people of Harlem.[6]
(WNYC Archive Collections)

The Harlem riot came at a vulnerable time, the mid-point of the United States’ involvement in World War II. The event in New York was also not an isolated incident but followed in the wake of the Los Angeles ‘Zoot Suit Riots’ and race-related disturbances in other American cities that summer. The upheavals threatened morale and cohesiveness on the home front when the country was bogged down in two different theaters of war. Mayor La Guardia and other leaders were keen to do whatever was necessary to ‘keep a lid’ on African-American dissatisfaction and complaints, in light of the critical role played by minority units in supporting white combat troops on the front lines of a strictly segregated military. 


Only a few months earlier, WNYC and other New York stations aired the series, Unity at Home, Victory Abroad, a program urging city residents to take tolerance and unity to heart because prejudice undermines America’s efforts to win the war. At the time, many African-Americans saw this cooperation with the war effort, both on the home front and in the military, as a proving ground for which their loyalty and willingness to carry on would bring rewards in the post-war period with greater freedoms and less discrimination. The war ended in victory for America and its allied forces in 1945 but, as history has shown, victory’s promised rewards for African-Americans were few. And seventy-five years after America helped vanquish injustice in Europe and Japan, its fight at home for civil, social, and economic rights rages on. 


[1] “Delany and Powell Find High Prices Incite Negroes,” The New York Sun, August 2, 1943, pg. 1. 

[2] During World War II the New York Post was a liberal newspaper owned by Dorothy Schiff. 

[3] Ellison, Ralph, “All of Harlem Was Awake,” New York Post, August 2, 1943, reprinted in Reporting Civil Rights, Part One: American Journalism 1941-1963, The Library of America, 2003, pgs. 50-51. 

[4] Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man, Vintage Books edition 1972, pg. 529.

[5] Stewart, Kenneth, “Dewey Orders State Guard to Stand By; Riots Leave Harlem Stores in Shambles,” PM, August 3, 1943, pg. 3.

[6] Harold Orlansky’s 29-page 1943 study was published in New York by Social Analysis, “a group which seeks to apply the techniques of social anthropology to studies of the contemporary American scene.” It is an important piece of work that approaches the event from a holistic perspective. Among the aspects worth noting is his description of the national and local African-American press as “agreeing almost unanimously with the white press’s analysis” of the disturbance. Only the Amsterdam News and the People’s Voice, wrote Orlansky, “made an attempt to point out underlying causes.” (Page 4 of the study).

Special thanks to NYPR’s Senior Archivist Daniel Sbardella and to the New York City Municipal Archives vertical files for the WNYC News Release and audio. 

Excerpt from “Behind the Mike,” September/October 1943, WNYC Masterwork Bulletin,
(WNYC Archive Collections)









What We Heard at the Virtual Public Meeting

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) held its first virtual meeting last month. The members used this occasion to publicly release their 2020 Report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System. They invited comments and discussion of their recommendations. During the meeting Steven Aftergood, of the “Secrecy News” blog sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists, served as commentator and provided his views on the recommendations, including the recommendation for the President to appoint a Cabinet head as the Executive Agent responsible for coordinating new policies and applying technologies to improve performance goals in classification and declassification across the Executive branch.

In addition to addressing the need to coordinate policies and the application of technology in managing the explosive volume of classified digital data, participants in the virtual public meeting discussed:

  • designating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as the Executive Agent to coordinate the modernization of classification and declassification across the Federal Government;
  • developing new metrics and measures for understanding how the government creates, uses, stores and works with all information in the digital space, including the actual line item costs of classification and declassification across agencies;
  • applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies already in use at agencies in mission-focused areas to support specific performance goals in classification and declassification;
  • simplifying classification into a two-tiered system;
  • prioritizing topics of public interest for potential declassification; and
  • expanding the focus on individual instances to develop a broader consensus on questions of overclassification;

The PIDB looks forward to continuing discussions with the public and with stakeholders inside and outside of government. There is consensus that the current system is failing. The recommendations in this report aim to help Government modernize the classification and declassification system.


Object of the week

While the Pathfoot Building is closed, the Art Collection will each week focus on an object of interest. You can also search our entire collection online here.

2 Stainless Steel Forms with White
Justin Knowles
(Steel, 1969)

The art object from the permanent collection that we are focusing on this week is this striking sculpture by Justin Knowles. Situated on the side of the small loch by the MacRobert Centre, on one side steel and the other painted white, it was commissioned for this location by the University Art Collection in 1970, enabled by the donation of £500 from the British Steel Corporation.

A University press release of the time states that ‘the sculpture was created utilising a technique normally applied to aircraft manufacture instead of welding: the stainless steel was resin-bonded to an alloy honeycomb frame. This method reduces the weight of the structure and eliminates the danger of surface distortion whilst ensuring that it can sustain structural stresses. Although resin-bonding has been extensively used in the aircraft industry, it is the first time that the technique has been adopted for sculpture.’

Born in Exeter, Justin Knowles was encouraged to take up art by school teachers but discouraged by his father. He tried a number of other careers before visiting New York in 1965 and deciding to take up art properly at the age of 30. Though he lacked formal training he enjoyed success immediately, and quickly established an impressive reputation as a boldly inventive painter. Using a limited range of acrylic colours straight from the pot, he produced shaped canvases and free-standing shapes.

‘These were not painted sculptures; they remained paintings, the paint working across the physical form rather than following it’.

Obituary, David Buckman, April 2004 The Independent

This sculpture was commissioned for the brand new University campus during that period. W J Strachan (1984) explained that white was added ‘to help the eye to separate the rising columns of his sculpture ‘Steel Forms’ at the University of Southampton, whereas here, it is added to harmonise with the white building and make an agreeable contrast with the green lawn.’
At the press conference held to mark the handing over of the sculpture, Dr Tom Cottrell, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “We feel we have a duty to staff and students to provide an environment in which the arts play a full part….we feel that it is important in our comparatively rural setting that we should provide some of the things which students take for granted in say Glasgow or London. And the artist said: “Stirling University is exceptional in its ready appreciation of the functions of arts as part of the environment.”

Tragically, a studio fire in 1973 destroyed most of Justin Knowles’ work, and he would not exhibit again until the 1990s. His final years were successful again, and Winchester and Exeter cathedrals commissioned sculptures.

‘D. Yellow’ by Justin Knowles
(Screenprint, A/P, 1971)

A special series of four prints (originally published by the artist in 1968) was made by Justin Knowles in 1971, to commemorate the installation of his sculpture on campus. These were presented to four key persons involved in the beginnings of the new University which had been founded in 1967.

A. Black, C. Red and D. Yellow were given respectively to Douglas Hall, (first Keeper of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and member of the University art committee), Tom Cottrell (first Principal of the University), and John Richards (Architect of the Pathfoot Building). These three have subsequently been gifted to the Art Collection. The whereabouts of the fourth print (B. Black) is unknown.

Commemorating the 19th Amendment Centennial

Today’s post comes from Debra Steidel Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States and Commissioner on the Congressional Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.

As the home of the 19th Amendment, the National Archives invites you to join our virtual commemoration of the centennial of the Constitutional amendment that guaranteed that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

House Joint Resolution 1 proposing the 19th amendment to the states. National Archives Identifier 596314

This August, we will explore the complex story of the struggle for women’s suffrage, leading up to and beyond the certification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. The campaign for women’s suffrage was long, difficult, and often dramatic. The National Archives holds the records that help tell this story, including petitions, legislation, court cases, and more. 

Join us online as we highlight records from our holdings and examine the fight for women’s voting rights through virtual public programs for all ages.

Visit our 19th Amendment Centennial Events page to view and sign up for a full schedule of events, programs and activities. We will be adding more events and providing links as they become available.

Photograph of a Suffrage Parade in New York City. National Archives Identifier 593556

You can also visit the Women’s Rights page for a wide variety of women’s rights topics, stories from our exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, and a chance to participate in tagging and transcription missions on records related to women’s rights

Finally, from August 18 to 26, the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and many Presidential Libraries across the country will light up in purple and gold, the colors of the suffrage movement, from sunset to dawn. This lighting is part of the nationwide Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) Forward Into Light Campaign, named in honor of the historic suffrage slogan, “Forward through the Darkness, Into the Light.” I am proud to represent the National Archives on this Commission, which also offers a full month of commemorative activities. 

Employees across the National Archives have been planning this commemoration for more than a year. I’m thankful for their hard work and for their resourcefulness and creativity in developing an exciting observance of this landmark event as our own current public health events changed around us. 

We are honored to be the home of the 19th Amendment and to commemorate its 100th anniversary with the American people.

Michael McClure: In Memoriam

A black and white photograph of four men against the backdrop of a wall and a door. The photo style is relaxed and candid.
Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg in the alley behind City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1965.

On May 4th of this year, one of the great geniuses of poetry and the arts passed away, and we wanted to take a moment here to commemorate his passing. Michael McClure helped launch the counterculture Beat generation alongside Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Philip Whalen, and Diane Di Prima, and is also associated with The San Francisco Renaissance school of poetry along with Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, and Robert Duncan, his mentor at San Francisco State. 

A tan book cover with a black spine, with alternating color text on the cover: Touching the Edge (burgundy, very large), Michael McClure (Black, Very large), Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha (Burgundy, smaller). Text is under an image that appears to be a hand arising out of some kind of script or inky shape.
Cover for Touching the Edge by Michael McClure

McClure’s groundbreaking work transformed our understanding of the relationship of the poet/artist to nature. He helped pioneer our thinking on ecology and illuminated the connection between human expression and the expression of all living things. While often remembered for his poetry, McClure was also a playwright, essayist, and his performance collaborations defined a new way of bringing the audience to poetry. McClure’s Meat Science Essays was a clarion call to liberation. His play, The Beard, rocked the comfortable sensibilities of the theater-going public, leading to censorship battles and boarded-up theaters. That play would go on to win an Obie for “Best Play” and “Best Director.” His performances with musicians Ray Manzarek from The Doors and the minimalist composer Terry Riley explored the bardic tradition and brought poetry to pop culture with relentless mastery. 

FSU Special Collections and Archives is fortunate to hold materials, both in our rare books and manuscript collections, that chronicle the life of Michael McClure through his close relationship with Michael Rothenberg, FSU Libraries Poet-in-Residence.

Two men seated in a bookstore. One, Michael Rothenberg, has his arm around the other, Michael McClure. Rothenberg looks directly at the camera while McClure is examining a book in his lap.
Michael R. and Michael M. in recent years.

Rothenberg’s personal papers and book collection document the network of artists and thinkers that comprised the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance movements. We are fortunate to have McClure’s official publications in our book collections, but also personal items from McClure from Rothenberg’s association with him through the years.


michael bromeliad
A Bromeliad named after Rothenberg from his time working at the nursery in Pacifica.

Michael Rothenberg first encountered a copy of McClure’s Meat Science Essays when he was seventeen in Miami Beach. He recalls, “McClure’s work was a gateway to a greater understanding of the poet in the natural world. He gave me permission to express myself in a language that was indigenous to me. He offered a kind of thinking and concern that became my path. He blew my mind.” Then, something like ten years later, Rothenberg was 

Cover of The Mammals by McClure

introduced to McClure at Rothenberg’s orchid and bromeliad nursery in Pacifica, CaliforniaThey went hiking together, shared many lunches, and almost instantly became very close friends. “I felt that we were kindred spirits,” Rothenberg remembers, “Everything that McClure had set out in his work was what I was looking for as a poet and as a mammal.”





Click to view slideshow.

Meat Science Essays Inscription

Eventually, Rothenberg and McClure would travel to Florida together to read at the Miami Book Fair. During that trip, Rothenberg took McClure out on a tour of the Everglades, “to show him the nature that I grew up with,” Rothenberg says. It was there that McClure signed the old, tattered copy of Meat Science Essays that Rothenberg read when he was seventeen, the book that opened Rothenberg’s eyes to ecology-based writing. 




Click to view slideshow.

McClure had a distinct writing style, and Rothenberg describes it like this: “McClure’s writing is cosmic. Open, romantic, haiku-ish, abstract, specific, concrete, and light-filled. You can hear the roar of lions, and the throbbing of a living cell in each word and breath he speaks.” 

“I will miss him dearly,” Rothenberg said, “but I know that his work will inform and enlighten generations to come.”



More reading on Michael McClure’s legacy: 

McClure Bibliography:

“The Flame Is Ours”, Michael McClure correspondence with Stan Brakhage ,edited by Christopher Luna…/Luna_McClu…/THE_FLAME_IS_OURS.pdf ,

“Engraving of Snakes”, a chapbook by Michael McClure with illustrations by Nancy Victoria Davis,


A special thank you to Michael Rothenberg for participating in writing this blog post, and for sharing his personal memories of Michael McClure. 

Garden Cottage

This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus looks at a little known part of the campus which played a very important role in the University’s history, Garden Cottage. Garden Cottage is located near Airthrey Castle beside Gardens and Grounds at the University.

Prior to the University being established in 1967 the Airthey Estate where the University stands had been in various hands. The owner who had the single greatest impact on the present landscape was Robert Haldane, who between 1787 and 1798 created the loch, employed Thomas White (Senior) to assist with the designed landscape, and built Airthrey Castle.

During this time most of the estate were laid out as parkland, but to the north of the Castle there was a more intimate area, containing the practical supporting buildings upon which the smooth running of the household depended. These included an icehouse, stables and offices, Ivy cottage and Garden Cottage.

Garden Cottage was contained within a walled garden and would have been appreciated from the Estate East Drive. The character of the bricks in the surviving walls of the walled garden suggest a late 18th or early 19th century date. Originally it would have been fitted with glasshouses along the north wall.

Gardeners Magazine described the garden in 1842 as “perfect as regards culture and neatness and the abundance and fine quality of fruit”. The position of this cottage within the walled garden was carefully chosen, and its front elevation included an elegant porch. The building still contains some 18th century joinery and fireplaces

In 1965 when the new University was established Garden Cottage took on new importance and became the epicentre of the new University as home of the first University offices. Its use was short lived as by 1966 there were 27 members of staff which proved to be too much for it and adjacent Ivy Cottage.

However, during this brief period of use those who came to the University remember visiting these offices. The first Curator of the Art Collection Matilda Mitchell recalls that the original idea for an Art Collection began in Garden Cottage with a conversation with Principal Tom Cottrell.

When we first moved into Garden Cottage, my boss and hero said “Matilda, better fill up the place with pictures: try the Scottish Arts Council”.  After a very civilised lunch in Edinburgh with the director, I brought back paintings and prints (artists’ prints) for our walls. 

Public Lecture, Matilda Mitchell, 2007

The memories of those who worked in the University have been captured by the Stirling University Retired Staff Association and you can listen to former staff including Curator Matilda Mitchell recalling their experiences of life at the new University.

Garden Cottage is no longer in use. However, the Art Collection aspires to gain funding to restore the building to its former glory to be used as an artist and writers retreat.

Curator Jane Cameron discusses the history of Garden Cottage

Birthday Wishes For Emmett Till

Saturday will mark what would have been Emmett Till’s 79th birthday. Conversation and scholarship around Emmett Till and his place in the mid-century American Civil Right Movement usually focuses on his 1955 kidnapping, murder, and the ensuing trial, and rightfully so. But today, to commemorate the anniversary of his birth, FSU Special Collections & Archives shares here some primary sources documenting his abbreviated life.

Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941, at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, to Mamie Till. He was named for his father Louis and his mother’s uncle, Emmett Carthan. Till was rarely called “Emmett” by family; he was frequently nicknamed “Bobo” or “Bo”. In 2018, Mamie’s cousin Thelma Wright Edwards reminisced with filmmaker Keith Beauchamp about Till’s birth, his nickname, and helping take care of young Emmett:

“Mamie had a little boy…”, from the Wright Family Interview, Beauchamp Recordings,
FSU Special Collections & Archives.

In 1947, relatives moved from Money, Mississippi to live next-door to Till and his mother in Argo, Illinois. Till’s second cousin Wheeler Parker Jr. was of a similar age and they became good friends. Parker and other family members