All posts by FSU Special Collections

Rest in Peace Professor

Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of Paul Dirac’s death. As has become tradition, faculty and staff from the FSU Libraries, where we hold the physicist’s papers, and students from the Physics departments visit Dirac’s grave to clean it and plant flowers. Learn more about this in a post later this week but for now, we honor Professor Dirac.

Headstone of Paul and Margit Dirac in Roselawn Cemetery, Tallahassee.
Headstone of Paul and Margit Dirac in Roselawn Cemetery, Tallahassee.

A Storifyed #AskAnArchivist Round-Up

Special Collections & Archives had a great time taking over the FSU Libraries twitter feed for #AskAnArchivist day. We enjoyed getting to answer questions and also share information about our collections and our work in the various areas of the division. We had so much fun in fact that we decided to Storify the experience. Check out the link below for highlights from our conversations on #AskAnArchivist day and keep checking back here for more information as we celebrate American Archives Month!

FSU’s #AskAnArchivist Day Storifyed!

Heritage Protocol & University Archives 101

Heritage Protocol & University Archives (HPUA), housed in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University Libraries, maintains the official repository of university historical records. The archive holds publications, records, photographs, audio-visual, and other material in physical or digital form created by or about Florida State University. We also archive the student experience through the acquisition and preservation of materials created or acquired by alumni while they were students at the university.

Greetings from Florida State College for Women, see full description here.
Greetings from Florida State College for Women, see full description here.

Our staff consists of Heritage Protocol & University Archivist Sandra Varry and Archives Assistant Hannah Davis. We are also fortunate to have Graduate Assistant Britt Boler with us for the fall.

Our mission is to preserve and share the history of FSU with everyone – our FSU community and the public at large. We have a great time posting photos and interesting tidbits on our Facebook page and interacting with our fans as well as attending events on and off campus to promote HPUA. We provide images and information to news and media outlets as well as to researchers. On campus an important job we have is to provide not only historical records preservation for official records, but to provide that material to the university for everything from reports or events, or to help staff do research for projects. Factual data for administrative purposes is important, but we also get to do things like help celebrate the 100th birthday of an alumnus and participate in campus events.

1927 Faculty Baseball Team. See full description here.
1927 Faculty Baseball Team. See full description here.

We receive photographs, scrapbooks, and everything you can imagine from loyal fans, alumni, and their families from all over the world. The actual items come from all periods of time across our 164 year history. The combined knowledge base of student and university created records plus our professional archival staff makes us the place to come for Florida State History! All HPUA digital collections can be seen in the FSU Digital Library.

FSU Heritage Museum, Dodd Hall.
FSU Heritage Museum, Dodd Hall.

HPUA also oversees the Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall. The museum is open Monday – Thursday, 11AM – 4PM during the fall semester for both quiet study and museum visitors. Please visit our site for more information and to plan a visit.

Establishing the Emmett Till Research Archives

till17276966[1] copyThe Florida State University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives Division and Professor Davis W. Houck are delighted to announce the establishment of what will become the foremost research collection on the life and death of Emmett Till, an African-American teenager whose murder in Mississippi in 1955 sparked protest in the South.

Till’s death helped galvanize the civil rights movement in America, and Friday, August 28, 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of his murder. Till, 14, was kidnapped, beaten and shot after he allegedly flirted with a white woman.

We are truly humbled and honored to be working with scholars and researchers such as Davis Houck, Devery Anderson, and Keith Beauchamp are donating their research materials to FSU and are willing to share their important work with generations to come.

“We’re very excited for this project because there is just simply nothing like it,” said Houck, a faculty member in the College of Communication and Information who authored Emmett Till and the Mississippi Press. “We’ve spent 20 years accumulating this material, most of which involved travel to Mississippi and archives around the South. It’s long past due that we had a ‘one-stop-archive’ for all things Emmett Till, and with this collection, we’ll finally have that.”

The collection will feature newspaper coverage from the Till murder trial and court proceedings by domestic and international press, and materials from FBI investigations, court records and interview transcripts.

Author Devery Anderson will contribute a comprehensive collection of newspaper articles, genealogical work, interview transcriptions and obscure magazine articles used to write his recently released book, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement. Anderson’s research not only tells the story of the Till case as it unfolded in 1955, but follows the case to the present day, incorporating the FBI’s investigation and source materials, including a complete trial transcript.

Interviews and oral histories gathered by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp for his Emmy-nominated documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, will also comprise part of the archive. Beauchamp’s research was pivotal in convincing the FBI to re-open the case in 2004 — an investigation that resulted in more than 8,000 pages of important material.

These materials from some of the nation’s foremost Emmett Till researchers will be a great addition to our archives and an outstanding resource for students, researchers and civil rights historians worldwide.

Welcome to FSU!

Or welcome back as the case may be!

We here at Special Collections & Archives are wishing all new and returning students a safe and successful fall semester!

Glad registration is online now? Here's a look at registration for new classes in Fall 1958.
Glad registration is online now? Here’s a look at registration for new classes in Fall 1958. See original photograph here.

Our Research Center Reading Room and Norwood Reading Room have returned to their normal semester hours in Strozier Library. We’re open Monday-Thursday, 10AM to 6PM and on Fridays from 10AM to 5:30PM.

Wonder what Special Collections & Archives can do for you? Over the next two weeks, we’ll be highlighting our collections and services here on our blog to introduce you to what we do and have here in our division.

Happy Fall everyone!

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

ROTC members in the 1960s with the American flag.
ROTC members in the 1960s with the American flag. Original Object is in the FSUDL.

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!

A Birthday Letter to John MacKay Shaw: Poet, Book Collector, Scholar, and Lover of Children

Hi Pop! Happy Birthday!! You’ll never guess what I’ve been up to since your 100th birthday. Imitating you, that’s what, or at least trying to. But there’s no way I will ever have your gift of gab, your great love of children, or your extraordinary management skills. You described your books; I’m describing your papers. That much I can do. I made descriptive lists of all those articles, photographs, correspondence, autographed materials and other things you collected that complement the books — over 120 boxes of items. Our archivist Burt and his students, you knew him, I think, they developed a finding aid based on my lists. As FSU’s catalog leads the scholar to the books, the finding aid leads him to these complementary materials.

Your collection has grown from the original 5000+ books you gave to Florida State University when you and the books moved to Tallahassee in 1960.   You added many more while you were here, and the library has continued to add books ever since you left us in 1984. You produced eleven volumes of a bibliography of your collection and a keyword index to the poems. We now have an estimated 22,000 books.

Remember how it started. You wrote by hand inscriptions in two books you gave Mom and me on our first Christmas together: Poems for Peter by Lysbeth Boyd Borie and The Little Mother Goose, collected and illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith:

To Mother and Cathmar

 For Christmas nineteen twenty eight
Rhymes for my sweethearts, small and great
Some old, the others up-to-date.

 Pledge to learn well, and I for mine,
For Christmas nineteen twenty-nine,
Will pledge a present much more fine.


After Christmas 1928, my brother Bruce joined us. Every evening, even before you arrived home after work, he and I were clamoring for your attention.

"Snow!"  A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008. illustrating  your poem "Headlights Shine."
“Snow!” A fabric picture designed and appliqued by your granddaughter Meg Prange in 2008, illustrating your poem “Headlights Shine.”

You would pull us up onto your lap and our nightly poetry reading, reciting and singing, would begin. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses for a start, but those poems were about other children. We wanted poems about us. You promised to write them, but only if we told you what to write about. We could do that!

Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Samson Street in Philadelphia, 1933
Connie, me and Bruce at Gramma’s house on Sanson Street in Philadelphia, 1933.

You gave each of us, and our cousin Connie too, a black leather binder to hold the copies you typed of the poems you wrote for the three of us between 1930 and 1937. In 1933, you began gathering the poems of each year to be printed in booklets that you sent to your friends as Christmas greetings. I recall how surprised and pleased you were years later when one of the The Friends of Florida State University Libraries told you the poems should be published. When you said you didn’t want anything to do with that process, she took it upon herself to select some of your poems and saw to it that they were published in 1967 as The Things I Want: Poems for Two Children. It was so popular that it went into a second printing, and then Zumpin’ followed with more poems a few years later. We still fill requests for those books every now and then.

By 1938 Bruce and I had lost interest in poetry. How very disappointed you must have been, but you never let on, and we had become too busy with our friends to notice. I did notice though that you were spending lots of time sitting in our big wing chair in the evenings, reading small pamphlets. Little did I know then that they were book dealers’ catalogs, or that the pencil you always held loosely cross-wise between your lips was being used to make checkmarks on the pages. The number of books in our den began to increase, then the number of shelves increased. More books kept appearing to fill the bookcases in our living room. Then I went away to college.

John MacKay Shaw in his study.
John MacKay Shaw in his study.

Within the next ten years, you and Mom moved into New York City. Then retirement from AT&T loomed for you. You had been frustrated in your search of libraries and universities around the country where you and your books would be happy.   You and Mom were visiting us one summer when my friend Jackie stopped by — remember? She suggested her alma mater FSU might be a good repository for your books. Then she followed up that suggestion by writing a letter to the head of the library recommending you and your collection. That did it.

And here you are. And I am here too. Every winter I am having the best of times living with Jackie in our Florida home and working in your collection with the special people here who administer it.

That pledge you made in 1928? You kept it your whole life and FSU Libraries continues to fulfill it. Thank you, Pop, with love and best wishes on your 118th birthday, from Cathmar.

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years.

Florida High

Demonstration School
Demonstration School

We are happy to announce that a new exhibit is on display in the Norwood Reading Room on the history of the Florida State University Schools, also known as Florida High.

In 1851 the Florida Legislature voted to establish two institutes of higher learning: the East and West Florida Seminary. The Legislature required the cities which would receive state funding for these seminaries to provide the infrastructure and startup money. In order to compete for the West Florida Seminary, Tallahassee built a school. Finished in 1855 and located near the present day Westcott building, the school was commonly known as the Florida Institute.

HPUA Student Assistant, Colin Behrens, works on installing exhibit
HPUA Student Assistant, Colin Behrens, works on installing exhibit

The Florida Institute was the earliest incarnation of Florida High. The Florida Institute educated both college and high school aged students. Since the Florida Institute became the West Florida Seminary in 1857, Florida High has been an integral part to the history of FSU.

In 1954 the high school department got its own building on campus, designated as the Florida State University School (FSUS or Florida High). Despite the moniker “Florida High,” FSUS was created to be a school for grade levels K-12. FSCW and FSU students in the Education program interned at Florida High until Florida High left the campus in 2001.

In an effort to make learning fun, the teachers would often assign creative projects. The students created newsletters and journals for their various clubs and classes. Florida High also had its own yearbooks: The Flahisco, which was published in the 1940’s, and the Demon’s Flame, which was published in the 50’s and 60’s.

In 2001, Florida High left the main FSU campus and moved to its own campus. Despite its change of location, Florida High maintains its close connection with FSU. Research performed by FSU faculty and graduate students largely takes place at FSUS. Research is a constant presence at FSUS, and important findings have been found in the fields of Literacy Acquisition and Mathematical Pedagogy.

Florida High jacket and pennant
Florida High jacket and pennant

The Florida High Exhibit can be viewed Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm in the Norwood Reading Room, located on the second floor of Strozier Library.

Colin Behrens is a student assistant in the Heritage Protocol & University Archives. He is currently working on a BA in Classics.

The Travels of a Fox on His Way to the Grapes

The Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection has just received the gift of a crocheted representation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Grapes.”

A Seychelles Crochet, “The Fox and the Grapes,” ca. 18th C. Gift of Jacqueline Dupont, PhD 1962 FSU, to the Shaw Collection, March 2015.
A Seychelles Crochet, “The Fox and the Grapes,” ca. 18th century. Gift of Jacqueline Dupont, PhD 1962, to the Shaw Collection, March 2015.

Sometime many years ago, an industrious native of The Seychelles, a country of islands nearest to Africa in the Indian Ocean, used a crochet hook to knot this piece of fabric art. Early in the 20th century, Louise Dupont, another native of The Seychelles, immigrated to England and then to Florida. In 1938, on a return holiday to her birthplace, she obtained this piece of fabric and brought it back to the United States with her.

Detail of an illustration designed by Thomas Bewick in the 18th century, from the book Bewick’s select fables of Aesop and others . . .with wood engravings by Thomas Bewick; Longmans, Green 1878.
Detail of an illustration from the book Bewick’s select fables of Aesop and others by Thomas Bewick. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1878.

In the 1960s Louise was living in Plant City, Florida near her son’s family when her granddaughter, Jacqueline Dupont, came to Florida State University to study for her Doctorate. When she graduated, Jackie arranged for her family members to stay with local Tallahassee friends. She chose John and Lillian Shaw to host her Grandmere Louise. By this time, John Shaw had given his Childhood in Poetry books, including editions of Aesop’s Fables, to Florida State.

From Aesop's Fables, Coblentz and Syverson. Norwalk: C.R. Gibson Co. 1968.
From Aesop’s Fables, Coblentz and Syverson. Norwalk: C.R. Gibson Co. 1968.

Having worked closely together, Jackie and her major professor Harvye Lewis remained friends after she graduated and Harvye moved to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her Grandmere Louise presented this piece of Seychelles crochet to Harvye in 1974 in gratitude and respect for Harvye’s mentoring and friendship with her granddaughter. Harvye had it framed and wrote a note on the back of it indicating that it “should be given to Jacqueline L. Dupont.”

When Harvye died in 1998, Jackie, recognizing that “The Fox and the Grapes” would appear often in the Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, gave it to John Shaw’s daughter, Cathmar Prange, in whose Iowa home it hung ever since Harvye’s death.

After traveling halfway around the world and thousands more miles within the United States, this fox has been delivered to his final stop in Strozier Library’s Special Collections & Archives at Florida State. He is yet to get the grapes however.

Illustration from Aesop's Fables by Percy J. Billinghurst. Ware: Omega Books Ltd. 1984.
Illustration from Aesop’s Fables by Percy J. Billinghurst. Ware: Omega Books Ltd. 1984.

Cathmar Prange is a long time volunteer and donor to Special Collections & Archives and every winter, shares her time in helping to curate and grow her father’s, John Mackay Shaw, collection.

Following a Mystery with One of Our Volunteers

Cathmar Prange is the daughter of John MacKay Shaw, the donor and curator for the childhood in poetry collection that bears his name in Special Collections & Archives. Every winter, Cathmar volunteers to continue organizing and curating her father’s collection and has been doing so for 18 years. She is still discovering things to this day. Here is one of her recent mysteries:

First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
First Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

The John MacKay Shaw Collection at Florida State University has the manuscript for a book by Stephen Graham. It is two or three inches thick. Recently a colleague asked me the source of this manuscript, but we remain confused about its subject and whence it came. About the author, we knew little. Looking for something else a few days later, I opened the Third Supplement of Dr. Shaw’s bibliography Childhood in Poetry near the middle. Surprise! The page revealed the illustration of a letter penned by poet Vachel Lindsay to Mrs. Stephen Graham. The book that the illustration was copied from, Lindsay’s Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, is described on the facing page of the Shaw bibliography. FSU’s library catalog revealed its call number and Special Collections staff retrieved the book from the closed stacks. The letter begins on the flyleaf and continues onto the half title page of the book. It is dated February 13, 1920 and reflects Lindsay’s memories of tramping with Graham and sharing their search for the meaning of life beside their campfires. There is no mention of anything related to the manuscript.

Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Second Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

I was familiar with Graham’s name. In 1998, one of FSU’s English professors came into Special Collections and handed me some materials related to Stephen Graham. If the manuscript was part of this offering, it had been handed to somebody else and I never saw it until several years later. Most of these materials I received related to Graham’s leadership of a group who met in the out of doors and shared their poetry not only by reading it, but by performing it as well. These pages too shed no light on the mysterious manuscript.

Further searches of Stephen Graham in FSU’s catalog and in the John MacKay Shaw Collection Finding Aid yielded information but still did not answer my questions. I turned to the Internet. On Wikipedia, an article by Michael Hughes carries a lode of information; Graham’s whole life with titles of many books he had written about his travels all over the world. Hughes wrote this article for the love of it because he felt that Graham has not been given the attention he deserves. He mentions the long “tramps” that Graham and Lindsay shared and their mutual interest in the spiritual aspect of life. After ten years enjoying each other’s company, changes separated them, but they continued their friendship by mail until Lindsay’s death in 1930. Hughes says nothing on Wikipedia about Graham’s interest in poetry however.

Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.
Last Page from letter to Mrs. Stephen Graham from Vachel Lindsay.

Dr. Hughes remarks that late in his life Stephen Graham visited a friend in Tallahassee. Was this friend the professor who gave me the Graham materials?

Hughes has written a biography of Graham, Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham. I have scanned this book on line fairly thoroughly several times and have yet to find any mention of our manuscript or an expose of The Poetry Society. I remain in contact with Dr. Hughes in hopes of some avenue opening up to the manuscript.  The latest from Dr. Hughes is that the Harry Ransom Institute in Texas has a copy of it. Stay tuned!

Perhaps the manuscript was written too late in Graham’s life for him to pursue publication, so he had given it to our professor in hopes that he could arrange it. I have written to Dr. Hughes; perhaps between us we can solve the mystery of the Graham manuscript.

Sudden discovery occurs often in my work in Special Collections – far often enough to keep the interest level up and set me off on new adventures each year. The library life is an exciting one – new mystery leaping out while research lays another mystery back to rest.