All posts by Rory Grennan

About Rory Grennan

Rory Grennan is Manuscript and Instruction Archivist at Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.

“With Compliments To Our Customers’ Children”


The Louise Richardson Night Before Christmas Collection includes many instances of Clement C. Moore’s famous Christmas poem.  Today’s post highlights a publication that might easily be overlooked by Noelophiles:  a 1910 advertisement for J. Rieger & Company, the self-described “largest Mail Order Whiskey House in America.”

Continue reading “With Compliments To Our Customers’ Children”

The Miscellanies of Mr. John Shaw

Happy 119th birthday to John MacKay Shaw, founder of our Childhood in Poetry book collection and bibliophile extraordinaire.  To celebrate Mr. Shaw, and in our ongoing commemoration of 400 Years of Shakespeare, we present a Scope and Content Note for John Shaw’s papers in the style of title pages from the early hand-press era.  Mr. Shaw would surely appreciate our gesture, as the Shaw rare book collection feature works by Shakespeare along with many, many other authors.

shaw scope note

Further Reading on Mr. Shaw and his collection:

Will Eisner Week 2016

Illustration by Will Eisner. From the School Library Journal, Volume 21, Issue 2.

March 6, 2016 would have been the 99th birthday of cartoonist and writer Will Eisner (1917-2005), and once again the week surrounding it has been declared Will Eisner Week by the Eisner Family Foundation.  Will Eisner Week is an annual celebration promoting graphic novels, literacy, free speech awareness, and the legacy of Eisner. Continue reading Will Eisner Week 2016

Charles Kenzie Steele and the Tallahassee Bus Boycott

Virgil Hawkins, J. Raymond Henderson, and C.K. Steele, circa 1955. From 00/MSS 2006-013.Virgil Hawkins, J. Raymond Henderson, and C.K. Steele, circa 1955. From 00/MSS 2006-013.

Reverend Charles Kenzie (C.K.) Steele Sr. arrived in Tallahassee during a significant time in its history.  After graduating from the School of Religion at Morehouse College in 1938, and serving congregations in Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, Steele came to Tallahassee in 1952 as the newly-appointed pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.  Reverend Steele later rose to local and national prominence as a civil rights activist during the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956. Continue reading Charles Kenzie Steele and the Tallahassee Bus Boycott

Operation Deep Freeze and the Hancock Antarctic Collection

In 1952, the International Council of Scientific Unions proposed an International Geophysical Year (IGY) (which was actually the 18 months from July 1957-December 1958).  Members of the global scientific community would coordinate their efforts in order to enhance human understanding of the Earth.  Special attention was to be given to the Antarctic continent, for which comprehensive data did not exist.  To this end, twelve nations established 36 scientific stations on the Antarctic Ice Shelf in the years leading up to the IGY.  Little America V was one of six bases established by the United States during this time.  (Four previous bases named Little America had existed in other locations on the continent, but had been discontinued.)  Logistical support for the base was delegated to the US Navy by the US Department of Defense, as Navy seaplanes had already been operating on the Antarctic continent for decades; Navy forces under Admiral Richard E. Byrd had been essential to the establishment of previous US research facilities there.

Detail of a 1955 US Navy map of Antarctica, showing the Ross Ice Shelf and the base at Little America. At the far right, lines of longitude converge at the South Pole. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.

The resulting Navy mission, Operation Deep Freeze, was planned in two phases, to avoid flying during the punishing Antarctic winter.  Deep Freeze I ran during the 1955-1956 austral summer, delivering equipment necessary to outfit the six research bases.  Lieutenant Commander Robert E. Hancock Jr. was a supply officer with the US Navy, and spent much of 1957 on the Ross Ice Shelf as a result of Deep Freeze II, which ran further supplies to Little America V and other bases from October 1956 to February 1957.  Hancock brought many souvenirs back from Antarctica, including photographs, Navy-issue maps and survival guides, schematics of Little America V, and coal from the volcano at Mt. Erebus.

Samples of coal collected near Mt. Erebus, Antarctica. From the Robert E. Hancock Collection.
Samples of coal collected near Mt. Erebus, Antarctica. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.

Later in life, Hancock collected other artifacts related to Antarctic exploration, including model ships and aircraft, an empty can of cocoa from one of Captain Robert Scott’s expeditions, even ceramic and glass penguins.  All of these items and more now reside in FSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives as the Robert E. Hancock Jr. Antarctic Collection, and are open to all researchers from the FSU community and general public.

Model ship customized to resemble the USS Atka, which served in Antarctica during the IGY. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.
Model ship customized to resemble the USS Atka, which served in Antarctica during the IGY. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.

Operation Deep Freeze and the International Geophysical Year each had lasting impact on the global community.  Cooperation among international scientists in Antarctica laid the foundation for the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which still guarantees that no single country will claim territorial sovereignty over the Antarctic continent.  The IGY saw the first scientific satellite launches by the United States and Soviet Union, and thus the birth of the “space race” that led to the creation of NASA and the multiple agencies of the Soviet space program.  Deep Freeze has continued far beyond its initial two phases in 1955 and 1956, and today,  under the command of the US Air Force, still services military and civilian bases across Antarctica.

Architectural plot of Little America V. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.
Architectural plot of Little America V. From the Robert E. Hancock Antarctic Collection.

Further Reading:

Robert E. Hancock, Jr. Antarctic Collection, Special Collections, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “The International Geophysical Year.” Accessed December 3, 2015.

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. “IGY History:  International Geophysical Year.” Accessed December 3, 2015.

Ellery D. Wallwork & Kathryn A. Wilcoxson.  Operation Deep Freeze: 50 Years of US Air Force Airlift in Antarctica, 1956-2006.  Scott Air Force Base, Illinois: Office of History, Air Mobility Command, 2006.

New Exhibit: War Stories

The political causes and effects of war are well-documented by scholars and politicians, but the details of life during wartime are the provenance of the fighters on the ground, in the air, and at sea. Throughout recorded time, soldiers have shared their stories, told with humor, pathos, hope, and pride. In honor of Veterans Day, library staff have assembled a new exhibit, “War Stories,” featuring veterans’ experiences in their own words from across 2,000 years of human history.

Continue reading New Exhibit: War Stories

The Days of Our Lives: FSU Archives Edition

What do archivists do all day, anyway?  Look at old photos?  Dust yearbooks? Take papers from one file folder and put them in another?

Those are all true to some extent, but university archivists play more roles in their community than one might think.  Take a look at some of the extraordinary events during an average week in FSU Special Collections and Archives:

Thursday, October 15:

Students from the ART5928 workshop “Creating Experiences” visit the Claude Pepper Museum.  Their project this semester involves creating a public event that could be held in in a museum space.  The students have designed a Claude Pepper Pajama Party event and social media campaign, and today they’re walking through their ideas with Pepper Library Manager Rob Rubero.

Rob Rubero with ART5928 Students. (c) Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.
Rob Rubero with ART5928 students in the Claude Pepper Museum. (c) 2015 Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.

FSU Special Collections has always considered local history one of its collecting strengths. In an effort to deepen community connections and learn more about the Tallahassee music industry, Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick attend a public appearance by influential songwriter and producer George Clinton.  Aside from smiles and photo opportunities, our archivists enjoy many conversations with Clinton’s family and associates about his work and his legacy.

Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.
Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.

Friday, October 16:

Today, the Special Collections Research Center reading room has the privilege of hosting the members of the Florida State University History Club.  A dozen history undergraduates attend an informational presentation by Manuscript Archivist Rory Grennan and Rare Books Librarian Kat Hoarn.  Presentations and instructional sessions for students, faculty, and the public are a core part of the Special Collections mission, and occur frequently at the beginning of the school year.  History Club members are excited to see 4000 years of human history laid out in documents from our collections including cuneiform tablets, a page from a Bible printed by Gutenberg, and artist books from the 21st century.

Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines a rare book with the FSU History Club.
Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines an illustration by Theodore de Bry with members of the FSU History Club.

Monday, October 19:

Monday morning, archivists Sandra Varry and Krystal Thomas visit the University Registrar’s office to consult on the preservation of student transcripts on microfilm.  The filmed student records see heavy use, and unfortunately enough of the film has been worn down that some records are losing information.  The group discusses modern strategies such as digitization to preserve these essential historical records that document a century of higher education.

Later, Sandra Varry and division staff prepare for a new exhibit opening today in the Special Collections Exhibit Room on the first floor of Strozier Library.  “Mittan: A Retrospective” celebrates the work of photographer Barry Mittan, and documents student life at FSU in the 1960s and 1970s.  The exhibit was curated by graduate assistant Britt Boler and runs through January 2016.

Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.
Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.

In the afternoon, Krystal Thomas carefully reviews and uploads recently-digitized cookbooks and herbals to the FSU Digital Library.  The Digital Library features digitized versions of the highlights of our collections, as chosen by Special Collections staff and our users, and new content is added regularly by archives staff.

Tuesday, October 20:

Things They Don’t Teach You In Grad School #47:  Water and vinegar makes an effective, non-abrasive cleaner for a headstone.

Former FSU faculty member Paul Dirac was a giant in the fields of mathematics and quantum mechanics, and his papers are a frequently-consulted resource by researchers at FSU Libraries.  Since no members of the Dirac family remain in Tallahassee, it has become the unofficial duty of our library and archives staff to visit Dirac’s grave once a year and see that it is kept clean.  October 20th is the anniversary of Dirac’s death, and seems an appropriate time to visit the site.  Archivists Katie McCormick, Rory Grennan, and Krystal Thomas, accompanied by library Director of Development Susan Contente and a handful of Physics Department students, scrub the headstone and plant fresh flowers this afternoon.

Top: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the Dirac headstone. Below: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.
Before: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the headstone of Paul and Margit Dirac.
After: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.

Wednesday, October 21:

Early this morning, archives staff notice an uncharacteristic rise in temperature in the stacks.  After confirming initial impressions with a few temperature readings, contact is quickly made with library facilities staff to take steps to correct an issue with the building’s HVAC systems.  Constant environmental monitoring is an important part of preserving our collections, as paper, film, and other substrates are vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  There’s no point to collecting items that can’t be made to last!  You never know what someone might need next week…

#AskAnArchivist Day


What is it?

October 1, 2015 is #AskAnArchivist Day!  Archivists around the country, including those in FSU Libraries Special Collections, will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archival. The day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists at FSU—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.

What questions can be asked?

Archivists participating in #AskAnArchivist Day are eager to respond to any and all questions you have about archives and archival work.

No question is too casual . . .

  • What’s your favorite thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?

. . . or too practical!

  • What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?
  • How do you decide which donated items to keep?
  • How can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?

How does it work?

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists around the country who are standing by to respond directly to you.  Have a question specifically for FSU Special Collections ?Include @FSULibrary with your question.  We will be answering questions live on Twitter from 10 am to 2 pm on October 1st; questions we don’t get to will be saved and answered on this blog next week.

Don’t have a question? Use the #AskAnArchivist hashtag to follow the action!  Search Twitter for #AskAnArchivist and follow along as questions and answers are shared.

Get those questions ready, and we’ll see you on Twitter!

Conferences: the original social media. From the FSU Digital Library
Conferences: the original social media.
From the FSU Digital Library

Murder in the Keys: Crime and Punishment in Special Collections

Hackley describes a dinner on November 30, 1830, that evolves into a wine-fueled song-and-story time. Goulding Family Collection, 01/MSS 0-128, Box 171C

FSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives has many resources devoted to Florida history. The Goulding Family Collection (01/MSS 0-128) was donated by Professor Robert L. Goulding following his retirement from FSU in 1960. The collection includes several remarkable documents from Goulding’s ancestors, including primary sources chronicling military and civilian life during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II.

However, the most detailed historical testimony can be found in the diaries of Goulding’s maternal grandfather William R. Hackley. Hackley, a Virginia native and alumnus of William and Mary, moved to Tallahassee in 1826 at the age of twenty. The aspiring lawyer soon passed the Florida State Bar Association examination and settled in Key West in 1828, where he established a law practice and eventually became district attorney for the southern district of Florida from April 1849 to May 1857.

Hackley’s diaries detail his life in Key West from 1830 to 1857, giving first-hand accounts of daily life in the recently-established American settlement. Many of the entries are concerned with predictable facets of island life – changes in the weather, and ships sailing in and out of port. However, as a lawyer and man of privilege, Hackley had access to information and events that the average Key West resident would not.

Hackley provides eyewitness details of many court cases, including a first-hand look at an historical event in American Key West – the first known trial for murder. Continue reading Murder in the Keys: Crime and Punishment in Special Collections

Manuscript Collections 101

Manuscript Diary of William R. Hackley, 1830 Found in 01/MSS 0-128
Manuscript Diary of William R. Hackley, 1830
Found in 01/MSS 0-128

FSU Special Collections & Archives collects historical materials in support of all of the University’s academic programs and for the benefit of local, national, and international scholars. The collections include handwritten documents, published and unpublished textual works, printed posters and flyers, sound recordings, motion pictures, and more, covering a wide range of content including Florida history, the American Civil War, the American civil rights movement, University faculty papers, French history, and literary manuscripts.

Confederate five-dollar note
Five dollar bank note, Confederate States of America, 1861
Found in 01/MSS 1965-072

For more details on our extensive archival holdings, consult the online Archon database or contact Special Collections staff.  Highlights of the manuscript collections include:

  • Paul A.M. Dirac Papers (01/MSS 1989-009)
    Personal papers, photographs, manuscripts, galley proofs, and published papers, lecture notes, and office records of Dr. Paul A. M. Dirac, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University (1932-1969), and Professor of Physics at Florida State University from 1972 until his death in 1984.
  • Donald D. Horward Papers (01/MSS 2011-0415)
    Operational and financial records of the FSU Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution, as well as the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, each founded by Horward.  Includes addresses, awards, correspondence, research materials, speeches, writings, and publications related to Dr. Horward’s scholarship on the Napoleonic Era.
  • Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History Collection (01/MSS 1990-001)
    Sound recordings and and transcripts of nineteen oral history interviews  related to the civil rights movement in Tallahassee during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Topics include the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956, lunch counter sit-ins, theatre demonstrations, school desegregation, voter registration, and race relations.
  • Robert M. Ervin, Jr. Collection (01/MSS 1980-09)
    Publications by and about Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comix publishers, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, and Big Little Books. Over 1200 serial titles are represented, predominantly from the 1950s through the 1970s.
  • Cinema Corporation of America Collection (01/MSS 2004-008)
    Production materials for “The King of Kings” and other motion pictures; correspondence, business records, legal materials; educational filmstrips; religious film catalogs, and the “Cap Stubbs and Tippie” newspaper cartoon strips created and drawn by Edwina Dumm, which first appeared in 1918.

All of the manuscript collections are available for use in the Special Collections Research Center, 110 Strozier Library, during normal operating hours.  Visit us today!