It was with great delight that Heritage Protocol & University Archives welcomed Robert Griffin and his family for a two day visit at FSU. Bob Griffin attended FSU from 1948-52, and left a lasting impression as a student journalist. While he was involved with many campus groups and activities, including The Collegians (men’s glee club), Omicron Delta Kappa, and Gold Key, nothing captivated his attention quite like working for the Florida Flambeau.
Special Collections librarians are constantly learning–both from the collections we curate and from each other. We share our research, knowledge, and best practices through journals and the meetings of professional societies.
In late June, I traveled to Oakland and Berkeley, California to attend the conference of one such professional society, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, better known as RBMS. The topic of the RBMS 2015 Conference was “Preserve the Humanities! Special Collections as Liberal Arts Laboratory.” Session topics ranged from incorporating digital humanities, engaged collection development, community archives, and, of course, instruction with Special Collections materials. You can find a full schedule of the RBMS 2015 Conference program here.
For myself, RBMS 2015 was inspirational. Ethics, the politics of collection development, innovative practices, instruction, and outreach were all up for discussion during the conference.
Having spent the spring semester immersed in rare book instruction, most (though not all) of the sessions I chose to attend at RBMS 2015 related to instruction and public services. I took over eighteen pages of notes over the course of 10 sessions (including three plenaries). My favorite sessions focused on breaking down the barriers that keep students and researchers from visiting Special Collections, and raised the question of how to best provide access to Special Collections materials. With this in mind, three especially notable sessions were:
Seminar H: Meeting Researchers Where They Are: A User-Driven Manifesto
The presenters of this seminar wrote a “manifesto,” advocating that user needs should drive all aspects of a Special Collections library–from technical services to public services, and then presented on their efforts to do so at their institutions.
Seminar K: Mess is Lore: Navigating the Unwieldy World of Social Media
Panel presenters centered their discussion around the idea of social media as a conversation with users. Special Collections libraries can use social media to highlight their holdings, but at its best, social media is a conversation.
Papers Panel 10: Special Collections and Credit Courses: Opportunities and Challenges
In designing a for credit class on the history of the book, presenter Anne Bahde approached her class visits to Special Collections as a science teacher would approach a “lab session”–an opportunity for hands on learning. Scheduling four Special Collections for her semester long class, she further broke down each visit thematically, allowing the students’ knowledge to build with each visit.
This is just a brief sample of some points that stuck with me, a week after I’ve returned to Florida.
For those interested in attending a future RBMS conference: RBMS 2016 is in Coral Gables, Florida.
I look forward to attending again next year!
Discussing “hidden” collections is a popular pastime in archival circles. We all suffer from collections that have simply never been processed or made discoverable enough for our patrons to find them. It becomes even more difficult when archives staff doesn’t even know when collections exist and there is no discovery tool either for them to easily find them.
This is what we found a few months ago when our graduate assistants, when searching for a newspaper issue we supposedly had, found 4 boxes of newspapers no one knew we had down in our sub-basement shelving unit. There were no finding aids or catalog records; just inventories inside the boxes themselves which, as you can imagine, were not all that helpful unless you knew to go looking for the very helpfully named “map case oversize box 1.”
When this unknown cache of newspapers was found, along with a list of newspaper sources dug up from our associate dean’s desk cupboard, we decided digitizing the newspapers as well as creating finding aids and catalog records was a good idea. Not only were these newspaper collections interesting and hitherto unknown to us and our patrons, they fit some digitization goals we had for the summer; mainly, using and training more with our large format overhead camera.
This newly minted collection in the FSU Digital Library actually holds materials of nine different collections, some entirely composed of newspapers and some the newspapers are only a piece to the overall manuscript collection. The newspapers range in dates from the mid-1600s to the early 1920s. Geographically, they span from the British Isles to the east coast of the United States. The collection is particularly strong in antebellum and Civil War era newspapers published in the American south. Enjoy exploring the new digital collection of these previously “hidden” materials!
The Special Collections & Archives Division is excited to welcome Rory Grennan, our new Manuscript & Instruction Archivist. Rory will manage the manuscript collections and faculty paper holdings of the FSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center and provide archival instruction to University students, scholars, and the general public. He comes to FSU from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where his duties at the University Archives included reference, instruction, appraisal, arrangement, description, digitization, and donor relations. Rory earned an MLIS from San Jose State University in 2013, and certification from the Academy of Certified Archivists in 2014. He is active professionally and has presented at meetings of the Society of American Archivists, Midwest Archives Conference, and American Library Association. In his spare time, Rory enjoys playing bass guitar, performing and listening to a wide variety of music, and managing large personal collections of sound recordings and graphic novels. Please drop by the Special Collections Research Center and say hello!
Last week, on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebrated its 51st anniversary. Originally pioneered by President John F. Kennedy and called for just a year earlier on June 11, 1963 in his Civil Rights Address, delivered from the oval office. In the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in late November of 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson put his full support behind the passing of the act as not only the needed legislation that it was but also as a eulogy to President Kennedy. President Johnson was aware that the Civil Rights Bill would face resistance in the solidly Democratic South, however, there was one Democrat in the State of Florida with a long history of supporting progressive legislation; Claude Pepper.
Early in his career while a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1929, Pepper alone, voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first black congressman since Reconstruction. 35 years later, Claude would again take a stand that many in his state deemed unpopular, and given that his constituency was well aware of his record, the old statesman was inundated with mail correspondence urging him both toward and away from a vote for the Civil Rights Bill.
These letter excerpts, both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are great examples of the political currents that flowed through the country during the 1960’s as the initial large scale push for Civil Rights in the United States was reaching its height. The correspondence below is dated mostly from February of 1964, when the voting for the act took place.
A firm believer in voting with one’s conscience, Pepper knew that the choice was clear. When the final votes were tallied, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from those states on the periphery. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Claude Pepper. The following year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ‘yes’ votes from six of Pepper’s colleagues who had voted ‘no’ the previous year. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For researchers interested in taking a closer look at Claude Pepper and his record on Civil Rights in the United States, please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum, Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM.
Special Collections & Archives will be closed today, July 3rd in observance of Independence Day. We will resume normal operating hours on Monday, July 6th.
All of us here wish you a safe and happy holiday!
67 years ago today, Senator Claude Pepper and many of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate along with members of the press and other dignitaries, made their way to Warm Springs, Georgia for the dedication of the Little White House on June 25, 1947.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while still serving as governor of New York, prior to being inaugurated as president in 1933. As a young man, FDR first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (later known as polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters did not bring him the miracle cure he sought, but it did bring improvement. During FDR’s presidency and the Great Depression, he developed many New Deal Programs based upon his experiences in this small town. A steadfast proponent of the New Deal and other FDR policies such as the Wage and Hour Bill, Social Security and Lend Lease, Claude was devoted to his commander in chief. When the opportunity to attend the dedication of the now historic site in Warm Springs presented itself, Pepper did not miss the chance. The trip allowed for the attendees to experience a part of the Presidents life that was not widely known to the American public. In an excerpt from a letter to his family written on June 26th 1947, the Senator from Florida wrote of the impactful experience:
“This was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever made. I have never been, you know, to Warm Springs before. About 160 or 170 people went down on a special train. Upon arrival at Warm Springs we were driven to the Warm Springs Foundation area and shown through the Little White House, where the President died, and about the grounds.
Several of us made a trip through many of the wards seeing the patients, talking to the doctors and nurses and seeing the braces which they manufacture for the use of the patients. We also saw the new pool now in the medical area and a few of us went down to see the original pool where the President first began to bathe and where he himself continued to swim until the end.
I wish every citizen could go through this Foundation, not only for the inspiration they would derive from the presence of President Roosevelt that is still felt there but to see the most cheerful, bravest group of people they can see anywhere.”
To learn more about Senator Pepper’s time in office or about our related political collections, please visit the Claude Pepper Library website at: https://www.lib.fsu.edu/pepper-library or come in and visit us from Monday through Friday 9am-5pm!
Today in Special Collections, we are exploring a new addition to the Napoleon Collection which led catalogers on an interesting research journey. Recently, a book titled The Historical and Unrevealed Memoirs of the Political and Private Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, printed in 1821, found its way into Special Collections’ Napoleon Collection. While the text itself contained riddles about the author’s identity and the source’s authenticity, it also contained a letter addressed to the book’s previous owner, Proctor P. Jones, who donated the book to FSU. The text and letter led Cataloger Elizabeth Richey to consider the possibility of fabricated memoirs and how to catalog such things.
At a quick look, The Historical and Unrevealed Memoirs of the Political and Private Life of Napoleon Buonaparte looks like a normal memoir. However, a closer look at the memoir from a cataloger’s perspective raises questions about its accuracy, which leads to the question of how do we catalog a possibly fabricated book?
Elizabeth recognized some possible hints that made her question the memoir’s authority and accuracy. For example, the book’s publisher is listed as “Is only to be had of the author, No. 27, Cirencester Place, Portland, Place, April 1821″, while further research shows that the book was printed by Fargues of Berwick Street, Soho.
Even more interesting is the attributed author of the text: Mademoiselle R. d’Ancemont. After much research and exploration, Elizabeth and other catalogers could not locate any information about this mysterious author; instead, she found evidence that this author may have used a pseudonym. This was supported by a letter found in the book. The writer of the letter argues that due to two references within the text, the memoir was written by “Dangeais”, not R. d’Ancemont. He continues to argue that this name may also have been a pseudonym, and that we may never know who the true author is. Without the author’s real name and background, we are left to wonder if the author is a reliable writer.
As a result of questionable information in the book as well as doubts about the author and publisher, the writer of the letter believes the entire book may be “a fake.” In the letter, the writer states that he thinks the memoir is “completely fabricated”, as was the case for many memoirs written during this period. He and other researchers go as far as to believe that the entire text is not only a fake, but also a fake originally created in English, not a French to English translation as the title page suggests. Other catalogers and researchers seem to share this opinion about this mysterious text. Whether or not the book is a “fake”, it still belongs in Special Collections since it provides insight to this historic era and is a perfect example of a potentially fake memoir.
This interesting find illustrates the amount of time and research a cataloger must devote to cataloging all resources. Without proper information and detailed records, it is difficult for library users to locate sources. Sometimes, the item itself does not present enough information for a proper record. In some cases, particularly with older and donated books, catalogers are lucky enough to find outside sources of information within a book, such as the letter found within this book. In either case, Special Collections catalogers strive to make accurate records so that the collections rare and interesting items can be found and explored by FSU students and faculty.
We are excited to announce that a set of Florida State College for Women (FSCW) Student Government Bulletins are now available in the Digital Library! Bulletins were distributed yearly to each student and outlined the rules and regulations of campus, and now provide a glimpse into the life of FSCW students throughout the early 20th century. Prior to becoming Florida State University (FSU) in 1947, the Florida State College for Women was a bastion for educating women and encouraging them to live well-rounded lives, embodying the concept of femina perfecta (the perfect woman).
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Bilbo tells his nephew Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The same might be said for visiting the subbasement of Strozier Library; it’s a dangerous thing, because you never know what new projects you might stumble upon. In this case, it was six boxes of uncatalogued dime novels stuffed unceremoniously into Hollinger boxes. Where did they come from? How long had they been here? Although we seemed to have more questions than answers, we knew we wanted to get these items stored properly and cataloged so that they would be available to researchers. And so, I was given the opportunity to rehouse and process my very first archival collection. Now, I would like to (re)introduce the Dime Novels Collection!
“Dime novels” is the term given to mass-market fiction publications from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, which really ranged in price from five to twenty cents. They are essentially the American equivalent of Great Britain’s “penny dreadfuls.” Dime novels revolved around themes of action, adventure, and crime, sometimes drawing on contemporary and historical events like the American Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War. Some come in a magazine-sized format, others as thicker, twenty cent pocket-sized editions. While they were never prized for their literary excellence, dime novels were a widely popular form of entertainment and continued to remain popular among collectors, inspiring periodicals like Dime Novel Roundup, a collector’s guide.
Although dime novels can be cataloged as books and given individual call numbers, the FSU Dime Novels Collection has been kept together as a collection. While a single dime novel might be an object of interest to a researchers studying depictions of Native Americans in popular literature or turn-of-the-century graphic design, the collection is also valuable as a whole. Along with the dime novels, I found handwritten note cards with titles and check-marked lists of issues owned, which bear testament to an unnamed collector. These sorts of notes give us a sense of how the dime novels were used and what importance they held. The value of the collection as a whole, as it was developed by its collector, would be lost if the dime novels were separated and cataloged individually.
Because they were designed to be cheap, mass-produced, and temporary, dime novels have often not survived over time or survived in poor condition. The FSU Dime Novels Collection has some serious condition issues. The acidity of the paper has made the novels extremely brittle, and this was exasperated by less-than-ideal storage conditions. Now, each dime novel has been placed in an archival-quality plastic sleeve, grouped according to titles, and stored in acid-free boxes. The smaller, pocket-sized dime novels were stored upright in individual folders separated by dividers in a Hollinger box. Pocket-sized novels with loose or detached covers were given additional protection from a card stock enclosure.
To find out more about this collection, view the Dime Novels Collection finding aid, which includes an additional description of the collection and list of titles included.