Category Archives: Collections

Castro Archaeological Site Collection

The Digital Library Center (DLC) recently uploaded a new set of material to the Castro Archaeological Site Collection in DigiNole! The most recent additions to this collection contain comprehensive notes, drawings, and analysis of the Castro archeological site in Leon County. More information on this collaboration between the DLC and FSU’s Department of Anthropology can be found on our previous post from August 2018.

Feature Inventory Form - Castro Site
Feature Inventory Form – Castro Site [original object]
In addition to preserving important details about the excavation of the Castro site, digitizing and uploading this collection to DigiNole gives visitors a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of both professional and student archeologists.

Though this marks the end of digitization of the Castro material, our collaborative efforts with the Department of Anthropology will continue. Keep an eye out for more updates as we continue to add more archaeological content to DigiNole!

New records from St. John’s in DigiNole

We are pleased to announce that additional records of the St. John’s Episcopal Church are now available online through DigiNole: FSU’d Digital Repository. These include records of baptisms, marriages, and burials at St. John’s throughout the 20th century, as well as early vestry minutes, detailing early church events such as establishing the site of the building and cemetery, selecting rectors, and historical practices such as renting seats in the pews. These supplement previously digitized records of church rites and the journals of Reverend W.H. Carter. Genealogists, St. John’s parishioners, and researchers of Tallahassee history will all find value in greater access to these materials.

A page from the St. John's Vestry Records, 1836-1873, discussing pew rates
A page from the St. John’s Vestry Records, 1836-1873, discussing pew rates [original object]


St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church’s first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John’s in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John’s in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish’s principal place of worship.


The physical collection includes administrative records; member registries; meeting minutes of the Vestry and church circles; Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, hymnals, and other liturgical works; documentation of the history of St. John’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; service bulletins and other periodicals; sermon transcripts; photographs; and motion pictures.

For more information about the collection, visit its finding aid. You can also explore the digitized materials from St. John’s in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository.

Summer Quiet

Summer is indeed a quieter time on campus. Today starts the summer term here at FSU and we wish all students the best of luck in their summer classes.

Title page from the Summer Holiday issue of The Girl’s Own Paper (1883). See the entire issue here.

We recently posted in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository more volumes of The Girl’s Own Paper, or The Girl’s Own Annual as it was eventually titled. You can browse issues from this publication geared at young British girls and teenagers from the years 1880-1893 in DigiNole. This is an ongoing digitization project so be sure to look out for “new” issues in the future. This publication is a part of the larger John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. Titles from that collection which have been digitized may be browsed and searched in DigiNole as well.

Happy Summer!

The Lord Mayor’s Show

In loading some new titles to the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, I noticed an event popping up in several of the texts. The Lord Mayor’s Show, an event still held today, was a popular topic in British children’s books in the 1800s.

Pages from Lord Mayor’s Show, or, The 9th of November (1810) [see original item here]

Children’s books in this era were often used to educate and explain people, place, nature and events to children. As the first example, Lord Mayor’s show, or, The 9th of November (1810) shows. This hand-colored picture book explains all the pageantry surrounding the event as well as takes the reader through each individual event that makes up the Show.

First page of the poem, “Lord Mayor’s Show” [See original item here]

Another example shows how prominent events in children’s lives could always be used to teach a lesson. In The rose-bud: a flower in the juvenile garland, a poem entitled “Lord Mayor’s Show” shows a young boy exclaiming over all the pomp and circumstance around the traditional parade at the Lord Mayor’s Show. His parents are quick to point out it is the hard work the Lord Mayor puts in that is valued and not the gold of his carriage.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the longest running events of its kind, dating back to the 16th century and still celebrated today on the same date as the young children in the 1800s would have celebrated it. Both of these examples show how children’s literature can give us a glimpse into how events have changed, or remained the same.

You can explore more books and poetry of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection through DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. We’re adding new titles to the collection often so be sure to check back!

Intersession Intermission

As FSU heads towards the summer class semesters, generally a much quieter time on campus, Special Collections & Archives will be available by appointment only during the intersession week, May 6-10, 2019. Appointments are available between 10am to 12pm and 1pm and 4pm during this week.

The Special Collections Research Center in Strozier Library, the Pepper Library Reading Room, and the Heritage Museum will all be closed during that week. SCA has started to use this time to complete projects and prepare new projects for the summer as well as clean up and re-shelve our stacks after the busy semester.

Librarian with Book Carts, ca. 1940s
Librarian with Book Carts, ca. 1940s [original image]

If you need to make an appointment for any of those spaces during the intersession week, please contact Special Collections at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu or call us at (850) 644-3271. We will resume our normal operating hours on Monday, May 13, 2019.

Herbaria side by side

Herbaria are collections of different plant specimens which have been dried and preserved. They can be used for many different reasons including personal collecting and as data necessary for scientific studies. FSU even has a museum-quality collection of plants and micro-algae specimens held at the Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium.

Special Collections also has a good sized collections of herbals, including a 1791 portable herbarium of plants in the vicinity of Liege. This item is without a cover and has varying degrees of water and age damage throughout the pages. The specimens which were originally in the item were removed in order to better preserve the book, however the impressions and stains they left on the pages are still easily visible. The original specimens from this item can be viewed from a CD which is included with the book within Special Collection.

Residual evidence of the Polypodium Vulgare that was once held on this page.

I particularly like how indents and water marks from leaves can be seen within the gutter of some of the pages. It gives the item character, and speaks of an unnamed person who sometimes may have slipped leaves in the pages of the book for safe keeping or as bookmarks. This book is designed to have been bought with the text only, and each page which would hold a plant would be inserted as that herb was found. It’s a design not often seen in books but nifty for the use of this particular book.

Cover of the Ruby Diamond herbaria.

In comparison, Ruby Diamond’s collection of pressed flowers from her trip to Jerusalem is in phenomenal condition. This particular item should sit on the table as seen in the image (left) with the spine facing to the right as is customary when reading Hebrew text. This particular herbaria has a cover made of wood from Jerusalem and is something Diamond probably bought while in Israel to fill with the plants. This method of collection, buying a pre-made book and filling it with one’s own items, is a common theme when it comes to herbaria. When opened, the beautifully arranged herbs show the care that was put into this travel sized item.

Each page of herbs is covered with a thin absorbent paper that will keep the pages, for the most part, from suffering water and mold damage. It shows to be very effective when compared to the 1791 portable herbaria. The spine of this item is very stiff and it should not be opened all the way as one would assume. Instead, it is best to open an item like this only slightly to avoid any long term damage. Likewise, the specimens on the pages of this herbaria should only be exposed for a short amount of time to protect them from chemicals or pollutants that may damage them if exposed for too long.

The 1791 portable herbarium of plants in the vicinity of Liege and Ruby Diamond’s own collection of pressed flowers from the Holy Land can can be viewed in Special Collections at Strozier Library.

A personal favorite, flowers and herbs collected from the tomb of the biblical Rachel, wife of Jacob. Care has been put in to organically recreate an image of the tomb.

All photo credits go toward the author.

The Gertrude Margaritte Ivory Bertram Collection

The Gertrude Margaritte Ivory Bertram Collection covers the service of one African American nurse in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Portrait of Lieutenant Gertrude M. Ivory [see original image]

Bertram was born in Clarksville, Georgia on February 17, 1916. She attended nursing school at the Brewster Hospital and School of Nurse Training in Jacksonville, Florida, which was the first African American hospital in the United States. She then enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 1, 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While in the Army, Bertram served as a ward nurse in Fort Bragg and later in the West African theater.

Her collection includes numerous photographs depicting herself and her fellow nurses in uniform, as well as African American G.I.s, and a few photographs from her time in West Africa. Her collection also includes an oral history transcript, personal items, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. This collection is important, as it covers the unique experiences of women and African Americans during World War II, and offers insight that differs from the majority white male G.I. perspective. It depicts African American nurses in both a professional setting, and a casual setting as Bertram enjoyed downtime with her friends.

This collection is one of many at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience that offers perspective on Army nurses and African Americans during the war. Portions of the Bertram Collection are now available online through DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository and you can see more information about the collection in its finding aid.

Post was written by two guest authors:

Lee Morrison has been involved with the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience since Summer 2018. After graduation, he will pursue a Master’s Degree in Medieval History at Florida State University.

Gillian Morton has been involved with the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience since Spring 2016. After graduation, she will pursue a Master’s Degree in Information Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Principles of Astronomy as detailed in an atlas by James Ferguson

Ferguson’s planetary phases diagram.

While combing through the vast amount of science related items we hold in Special Collections & Archives, I came across quite the peculiar book. I decided to scour the stacks for it as astronomy has always interested me and I was hoping for some interesting images. I knew from my initial search in the catalog that this item held images; a total of 25 plates, in fact, however what exactly those were was a mystery.

James Ferguson’s
Atlas of plates illustrative of Ferguson’s principles of astronomy is a book that holds multiple illustrations of astronomy related technology from the 1800’s. Ferguson was a Scottish astronomer best
known as the individual who improved and invented many astronomical and other scientific instruments, many of which can be found imaged in this atlas. Surprisingly, the totality of Ferguson’s formal education was met at a single grammar school at Keith in his younger years. His works within the field of astronomy and other sciences can thus only be attributed to his own self discipline, and an ambition to study the sciences.


Remaining cover of the atlas.

The cover of the atlas was made of a cloth fabric that was designed to look like leather, a cheaper alternative for the time, and only has a few pieces left attached to the bare surface show in the image to the left. It is a delicate artifact that needs support when opened however the pages themselves are mostly intact.

I couldn’t help think the images I found in this atlas were the epitome of aesthetic pleasantries. The amount of suns with faces was something I enjoyed most along with the inclusion of zodiac related constellations. Although this is a nice book to look at, there aren’t very many descriptions to go along with them, save for those found on the Orrery illustration on the first page and that found on the map of the world found in the very back of the atlas (see slideshow below for map). As someone who isn’t versed in this subject, I found it difficult to understand not only what these devices were but what they were used for. Despite this, the appreciation for the work itself is still present as it is clearly a magnificent collection of one man’s journey of discovery and invention.

Although his inventions are used for scientific inquiry, they were an item that caught the eye of a totally different set of individuals. I find it funny when researching Ferguson that many of his creations lean more toward the genre of clock-making than scientific discovery, despite the fact that they go hand-in-hand in this particular case. Many of his books detail designs for astronomical clocks that give time of day as well as day of the month, phases of the moon, and the position of the stars. Sometimes, his clocks would even include the state of the tide. If I had a clock like that, I’d want to show it to everyone and, clearly, this sentiment was not lost on clock-makers as they used his designs to build some of the greatest functioning timepieces of the time.

Fascinatingly enough, I’d never heard of James Ferguson until now. When most people think of the sciences, astronomy in particular, names like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, or Johannes Kepler come to mind and rightly so. These scientists created many works and made many discoveries that have led up to where we are today. Ferguson is not lacking in these works either. He produced a number of books during his life, including The use of a new orrery… (1746), Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s principles… (1756), The young gentleman and lady’s astronomy (1768), and The art of drawing in perspective… (1775). 

Regardless of how well-known Ferguson is today, he was widely influential in his own time and has been mentioned by personalities such as Founding Father Thomas Paine and German experimental physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is most known for his discovery and study of the Lichtenberg figure which is named after him. Ferguson died in London on November 17, 1776, leaving works like this extraordinarily illustrated atlas as a legacy.


You can explore this item further at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library.

  • Plate 11 of the 17 still present in the atlas.

Sources:

https://blogs.adelaide.edu.au/special-collections/2016/11/28/astronomy-explained-upon-sir-isaac-newtons-principles-james-ferguson-1757/

All image are taken by and credited to the author of the blog.

Wildflowers of North America


Mary Vaux Walcott sitting on some rocks facing the camera with waterfalls behind her. (original image)

Special Collections here at FSU holds a large collection of books on botany and herbal medicine that go as far back as the 16th century. As much as I would love to scour through the many many herbal encyclopedia we hold, I found myself more interested in the different types of flowers and plants collected and depicted through either art or scientific study that can be found in the archives.

The full collection as it sits in the archives.

Here is Special Collections, we have the five volumes of a collection that holds some of the most beautiful prints of flowers created in the early 1900s. This collection, titled North American Wild Flowers, includes some 400 plates illustrated by American artist and naturalist Mary Vaux Walcott and was first published in 1925 by the Smithsonian Institute.

What’s most interesting about this collection is not the images themselves, but the sweet story of how they came to be. Walcott first took interest in watercolor painting after graduating from Friends Select School, a Quaker college preparatory school. She painted wildflowers she came upon during family trips with her brother who would study and record glacier flow in drawings and photographs as part of his mineralogical studies.

This was only the start for Mary Walcott. She would go on to marry Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Charles Doolittle Walcott at the age of 54. As she traveled with her husband for his paleontology research in the Rockies and throughout Canada, Mary made watercolor illustrations of wildflowers which can now be seen in the five-volume collection held in Special Collections & Archives.

During a 10 year period, Mary would spend somewhere between three and four months in the Canadian Rockies, finding and studying the finest specimens. More often then not, these illustrations were created under “trying conditions” such as on a mountain side of high pass, and at times when a fire was necessary to warm her numb fingers and body. Despite these conditions and others, such as diffused lighting and subjects which had a lifespan seemingly too short for creating art from them, the fruits of Walcott’s labor can be seen in these immortalized specimens.

Each box volume in this collection consists of a slipcase which holds a book listing each flower, describing them in detail, and a plate of each flower beautifully detailed by Walcott’s hand.

The North American Wild Flowers Collection, can be referenced here in the library catalog. For more information please call or visit Special Collections & Archives.

All photo credits go to the author.

Updating the P.A.M Dirac Collection

At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, I began working with the Paul A. M. Dirac Collection found in the Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. I didn’t really know what I would come across when I got started, but the photographs in this collection would end up being the very beginning of my utter fascination for the theoretical physicist.

I enjoy going to museums and reading books over studying science and math and day of the week. Maybe that’s why when I started this journey through the life of Paul Dirac I was both curious and uncertain. On an average day, I would take one box out of the stacks and start on the latest file of images. A single box could have anywhere from six to forty folders and could contain over 100 photographs. As cheesy as it sounds, each photo really does tell a story. I worked with images from the early 1900s which depicted Dirac and his family in period-appropriate dress. I saw images taken in Russia and Israel and Japan. Truly, despite the man being known for his contributions to theoretical physics, I was coming to know him for much more than that. Dirac wasn’t just a phenomenal scientist–he was a fascinating character all in his own category who traveled the world in the name of scientific discovery.


The first color images I stumbled upon in the collection. (see carnations and group photo)

The majority of the work was done through a spreadsheet where I compiled metadata for each image. Doing this not only updates the information by double checking that dates and events are accurate with a fresh pair of eyes, but it also allows for proper digitization. Organizing hundreds of photos, dealing with copyright, and learning the language of metadata has helped me in understanding how vital this work is. Although looking at these pictures and reflecting on the history behind them was one of my favorite parts of this project, understanding the importance of background work was the true takeaway. I had never truly appreciated the time and effort many individuals put in to make something on the web easily accessible for others and being able to reap the rewards of such work has helped me to understand the many layers it takes to make such content.

Snapshot image of the metadata used to digitize the collections.

After finishing my work on the Dirac Collection photographs, I moved on to his manuscripts and notes. I am still going through this work as it’s a hefty bit of information which I alone cannot decipher. Another team member is working on translating the mathematical notes which I will then compile into another document which will allow the information to be neatly transferred online for the public to view.

Before starting this project, I expected to be apathetic toward the process of having to look up and research people, places, and events in order to most accurately describe an image or document. Instead, I found that, despite what many times looked to be dull and uninspiring images, each photo had a story of its own which bled into the next and created a snapshot collection of the story of one man’s life.

Dirac’s papers now reside in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. You may see a complete finding aid of the collection here.

All photo credits goes to the author.