Cataloging Special Collections is like digging through a box of Cracker Jacks. You purchase a snack hoping that an additional prize is contained inside. After picking through your edible treat, you fingers grasp a hidden prize- maybe a decoding ring, a sticker, or some other trinket. Sometimes that prize has value, other times it is simply fun to find the prize, even if it has no value; and then there are times when the Cracker Jack assembly line forgot to put a prize in your box. A similar thing happens in cataloging. The university purchases old items and special collections, and many times, there are unexpected objects to be found in the collections. Sometimes, you find an academic’s notes, an old photograph used as a bookmark, or some newspaper clippings. Other times, you find less rewarding prizes, like spiders, dust, cobwebs, and more spiders.
Recently, through the cataloging of the Asian Religions Collection (ARC), catalogers stumbled upon some of fun finds. While the Asian Religions Collection was purchased by FSU, it previously had many homes. One of these earlier owners was Galen Eugene Sargent. As a professor of philosophy and comparative literature at Indiana University, Sargent kept multiple notes and bookmarks in his ARC books. Many of these items managed to remain inside the books throughout the years. Cataloger Elizabeth Richey was lucky enough the stumble upon many of these hidden treasures.
The most commonly found items within these books were annotations and handwritten notes. In fact, we found enough notes to fill a small box. These notes appear to be written by Sargent, and they provide us with a glimpse into his work and research interests. There was also a small collection of bookmarks. Actual bookmarks from the Indiana University bookstore and Lagniappe Book Shop in New Orleans were found, while other items used as bookmarks were found. A few favorite bookmark finds include cigarette cards, bookstore receipts, a sleeve of Rokusei Ryokan tissues, and a photograph of actress Marianne Hold.
While these found items within the collection were used for more academic purposes, like annotating and marking passages of note, other finds were more aesthetically pleasing. Hidden in the pages of some books were pressed flowers. Others included pressed butterflies. While we cannot pin an exact date to these pressed pieces of nature, we can guess that some date back to the 1960s.
When cataloging older, previously owned materials, you never know what you will find. You’re sure to come across a lot of dust and spiders, but that just makes finding notes and photographs all the more rewarding.