Category Archives: Student Views

The Early Years of Paul Dirac

Formal portrait of Paul and Felix Dirac as children.

Paul (in child’s gown) and Felix Dirac. (FSU_MSS_1989009_S01_B09_F11_IF1A )

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born August 8, 1902, just a day before the crowning of King Edward the VII. Just as you’d expect, Dirac and his older brother Felix resembled each other greatly in their early years, both quiet and sporting thick black curls. Through letters from Florence Dirac, Paul’s mother, one would find that these two were exceptionally close and loved being with their father.

Graham Farmelo, writer of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac argues that Paul Dirac most probably didn’t appreciate being brought up in an environment of unusual circumstances where he and his brother were to receive private education from their school teacher father. In a 1980 conversation with Kurt Hofer, a then Florida State University biology professor, Dirac is quoted to have confided that in his early years, he never felt love or affection.

An formal portrait of the Dirac family with Florence on the left and Charles on the right. Infant Betty, Felix, and Paul are situated between them.
(From left to right) Florence, Betty, Felix, Paul, and Charles Dirac in a family portrait. (FSU_MSS_1989009_S01_B09_F11_IF1B)

Throughout his life, most of Dirac’s acquaintances had no idea what his childhood was like. At home, Dirac had no photographs of his father and he kept his father’s papers locked in his desk. In his early thirties, Dirac wrote to a close friend that to defend himself against the hostilities he perceived around him he retreated into his own imagination. Perhaps this is what aided in his superior understanding of scientific inquiry.

Formal portrait of Paul Dirac sitting outside.
Paul Dirac outdoor portrait. (original image)

Around the age of ten, Dirac picked up the hobby of astronomy. Science wasn’t a subject taught at Bishop Road Primary School, however, they did have courses on technical drawing which may have provided Dirac with a foundation in the unique way he interpreted how the universe worked. Years later, the geometrical approaches found in the technical drawing lessons Dirac took in his earliest years would transfer over into the mathematical theories he would pose in relation to theoretical physics and the 20th century understanding of the atom.

Sources:

Farmelo, Graham, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Faber and Faber 2009.

A Moment in Time: Nostalgia in the Shaw Manuscript Collection

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Celita Summa who was our Shaw expert this semester as she shifted through his personal papers to select for a digitization project. She’s going abroad in the spring and we’ll miss her. Bon Voyage Celita!

While sifting through the Shaw manuscript collection, I discovered that many of Shaw’s collecting practices were driven by nostalgia and the important human connections formed during childhood. Although his manuscript collection is vast, both in scope and length (it measures over 46 linear feet in length), Shaw was clearly incentivized to collect in order to preserve the things he held most dear- friends, family, and childhood memories.

One of the objects in the collection is a small pocket calendar used by the 14-year-old Shaw to record his immigration to America. In the margins, he indicated his family’s last day in Scotland, their voyage at sea, and their first day in America. He noted that his devoutly Presbyterian family did not fail to miss Sunday service their first weekend in America. The inclusion of this object represents Shaw’s own passage from his Scottish childhood to American manhood, as he would begin employment shortly after settling down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Pictured above is John Mackay Shaw’s week at sea.

 

Shaw indicates another motivator for the collection as he attempts to preserve memories that will forever remain in his childhood years. Throughout the collection, correspondence with some of his childhood best friends is featured heavily. There is a map of Shaw and Jimmy Macaulay’s childhood stomping grounds, mock newsletters the two drew up for each other, and even one of Macaulay’s commonplace books. I wondered what the reason for this might be, until I stumbled across wartime letters between the two long-time friends, along with a notice of Macaulay’s death.

 

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In his death notice, Macaulay was referred to as the “bravest and cheeriest of his platoon.” Here he is shortly before his death.

 

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This is a copy of the letter that informed Jimmy Macaulay’s family of his death.

Both men served in World War I, and Jimmy was not Shaw’s only loss due to the war. Another friend, Alfred Hendricks, was in frequent correspondence with Shaw. One day Shaw’s letter was returned unanswered, in an envelope marked “deceased.” Shaw’s inclusion of Macaulay and Hendricks in the collection depicts the unbreakable bond forged between childhood friends.

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Inside this envelope is contained the last letter John Mackay Shaw wrote to Alfred Hendricks. It is returned marked “deceased.”

Another aspect that drove Shaw’s manuscript collection was his own children. In fact, his kids were the very catalyst for the book collection and his own published works of poetry. In the manuscript collection, he includes his own children’s poems along with those he wrote specifically for them. By creating the “Childhood in Poetry” collection, Shaw preserved the themes he valued the most in his life, from friendship and fatherhood to memories of his childhood home and relatives.

 

Ghostly Tales and Spooky Poems

One fine morning last week Tallahassee finally experienced its first yearly sign of fall (a slightly chilled breeze). You know what that means – it’s time to start chugging pumpkin spice flavored everything and devouring gratuitous amounts of candy corn! Those jack o’lanterns aren’t going to carve themselves folks, and Halloween is just around the corner. Meanwhile, we at Special Collections & Archives would like to celebrate by highlighting some of our more spooky stories and poems.

  • Fall of the House of Usher – Based on the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, this beautiful graphic novel features the work of P. Craig Russell, an award-winning illustrator and the first openly gay, mainstream comic book artist. Comic-book fans should also check out our Will Eisner collection of comic books and graphic novels. Those who enjoy Poe (or music) may also be interested in the opera version of this story, available via Special Collections and in the Allen Music Library

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  • Witch Poems – No Halloween celebration would be complete without witches. This book highlights eighteen poems about witches, penned by various authors and accompanied by chillingly impressive illustrations from decorated artist Trina Hyman. Poetry lovers might also enjoy another book from our collection, featured as this article’s cover image, called Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. Speaking of witches, don’t forget to check out our works on Scottish History and Witchcraft.

If these ghostly tales and spooky poems don’t scare you enough, then come on down to the Special Collections for a tour and we’ll show you our creepy clown statues. Just a fair warning – they tend to move around when no one’s looking.

 

Artist Books Collection Continues to Grow

This post kicks off a month of posts celebrating American Archives Month. Yesterday, Special Collections & Archives did a Twitter Takeover of the @fsulibraries feed for #AskAnArchivist day so be sure to check out those conversations. 

This post is written by Melissa Quarles, Special Collections & Archives’ new graduate assistant. You’ll be hearing more from her over the next year but today she highlights our artists’ books.

For the past two years, Florida State University (FSU) has been steadily growing its collection of artists’ books, which are currently housed in Special Collections & Archives. These unique works blur the boundaries between art and literature, encouraging readers to question How Books Work and what they mean to each of us. Anne Evenhaugen, the head librarian at the Smithsonian’s American Art and Portrait Gallery Library, describes artists’ books as “a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of ‘book’ as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object.” The difference between a regular book and an artist’s book is determined primarily by the creator’s intentional treatment and presentation of the materials.

A few earlier posts highlighted new and interesting artists’ books in our collection. The books we house encompass a wide range of genres, forms, and topics. We have several books that feature poetry, such as Indra’s Net by Bea Nettles. This beautifully marbled paper scroll features a poem by Grace Nettles (the artist’s mother) printed over a spider web design. Attached to the inside of the lid, a small silver bell rings to evoke the memories described in the text. The original poem, from a book called Corners, can be found in our collection as well.

Artists’ books are often multi-sensory experiences. Music for Teacups, a joint venture by Melissa Haviland and David Colagiovanni, is part of a larger project “investigating the destructive moment of a breaking piece of family tableware to highlight family dynamics, upbringing, inheritance, etiquette, and issues of class. ‘Music for Teacups’… rhythmically dissects the poetic moment of a falling and breaking teacup as it sounds during its last second as a complete object.” (description from Haviland’s website). The work consists of an accordion fold booklet of cut-outs shaped like teacups, as well as a 45rpm record of the accompanying music. However, since we have no playback equipment, patrons who wish to listen to the piece are directed to this sample video (from Colagiovanni’s website).

Many of our artists’ books offer political and social commentary or center on issues such as human rights. One such work is Bitter Chocolate by Julie Chen. The book itself is shaped like a large bar of chocolate, which unfolds like a Jacob’s ladder. Each panel is connected by magnets, so that they can be unfolded to reveal four different sides. The unique tactile and structural aspects of the piece are a staple feature of Chen’s work, but the content is equally compelling. Two of the sides narrate a story about the mythical Mayan chocolate goddess, “Cacao Woman.” The goddess rejoices in the widespread love of chocolate among humans, but also laments the chocolate industry’s reliance on forced child labor, abuse, and trafficking. The other two sides feature the author’s personal memories and experiences with chocolate, as well as facts about its production worldwide.

FSU students, alumni, visitors, and the general public are invited to visit Special Collections & Archives and check out our rich collection of artist books. Patrons may also wish to explore how to make their own art books. Many of our works include explanations of the printing and construction processes, and we even have books designed to elicit inspiration for budding artists. FSU also has its own publisher, the Small Craft Advisory Press. Other resources, articles, books, and artist websites are listed below.

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Working amongst History

Today we have a guest post from Brianna McLean, a student employee for Special Collections & Archives over the past summer.

Like most undergraduate students at FSU, the FSU Libraries have always been a place to study, research, read, and hang out with friends.  When I first came to FSU, I did not know about the many career opportunities libraries could offer. After working two years at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience in the History Department, I had a wonderful opportunity to work in the Digital Library Center (DLC) in Special Collections this summer.  Not only did I gain valuable experience, I worked closely with some of the best library professionals learning metadata, digitization, and cataloging processes.

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West Florida Seminary Students Doing Fieldwork in Surveying and Engineering, 1900

As someone who recently graduated with a history degree, I have a lot of experience researching and working with primary sources. Working in the DLC and Special Collections, I was able to be part of the process of preparing primary sources for researchers. When you create metadata and inventory items, you have to think of the things a researcher might be looking for, enhancing your own research skills. Historical preservation and cataloging is the whole other side of research that is crucial to education and the availability of information. I would urge all students to become familiar with Special Collections (fsuarchon.fcla.edu/) on the first floor of Strozier and the digital library, Diginole (fsu.digital.flvc.org).

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Coeds With Raincoats on in the Sunshine, 1962

Working in Special Collections is not just exciting because of the research experience; it was incredible to be able to work with all the books, photographs, documents, and artifacts. FSU’s Special Collections has everything from cuneiform tablets to comic books. One of my favorite projects in the DLC was working with the FSU Historical Photograph Collection and the Tarpon Club Videos. FSU has such a rich history and Special Collections contains endless information from the beginning when FSU was the West Florida Seminary to the more recent history of our campus. I have included some of my favorite photographs with this blog post.

The first image is of West Florida Seminary students in 1900 surveying in front of the original administration building, which is now the Westcott Building. The second image is from 1962 when women were still prohibited to wear pants on campus, so they circumvented the rule by wearing open raincoats over their shorts. The final one is unfortunately undated, but it is of the Westcott Building before the iconic fountain was installed. These photos are perfect examples of why I love working in archives. Being a historian, I enjoy research and telling the stories of humanity. However, there is something incredibly special about being able to hold and see the items for yourself, as well as preserving them for many more people to have the same opportunity.

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Taken with my phone. This image is part of the FSU Historical Photographs Collection.

Brianna McLean recently graduated with her B.A. in History, minor in French from FSU. She is continuing her education this fall at FSU, beginning her M.A. in History, studying the French Revolution and Napoleonic France. Brianna is excited to continue working with FSU Libraries in the Heritage Museum this fall.

Playbills in the Spotlight

It’s time for a student spotlight to hear what some of our students are working on behind the scenes at Special Collections & Archives.

My name is Meg Barrett, and come Fall semester, I will be a senior (!), studying Art History. I’ve been working with Special Collections & Archives since the summer of 2016, and I’ve been able to work with some really interesting materials, such as photo records of the university’s College of Nursing to eighteenth-century French newspapers.

Most recently, however, I had the opportunity to create the container list for the School of Theatre’s playbill collection, located in the Degen Resource Room of the Fine Arts Building. This list was added to the collection’s finding aid which means you can now search the collection’s thousands of titles.

The collection has over 200 binders filled with thousands of playbills for plays and musicals, dating back to the 1870s. The collection consists of playbills of shows across the country, such as in New York or Chicago, and even university productions. As an avid theatre fan, who takes every opportunity to see a campus theatre production and enjoys a good musical theatre soundtrack, being able to work on this project was a great experience. The collection includes playbills from shows such as The Boy Friend from 1954, which was Julie Andrews’ Broadway debut, the 1996 production of This is Our Youth, starring Mark Ruffalo, or even the 2000 performance of The Crucible at the Florida State University Fallon Theatre. I am so grateful that I was given the chance to work on this project and look through all of these fascinating materials.

Editor’s Note: Meg has been a fantastic addition to Special Collections & Archives and we’re going to miss her this summer as she goes on a European adventure but will look forward to having her back in the fall!

Solidifying U.S.-Czech Relations

“Dobrý den!” Or, as we in the Czech Republic say, “hello!” Over the past few months, I have been working on creating a container list for the Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Collection. Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, a Tallahassee native, is a lawyer, professor, and former President of FSU. A former President of the American Bar Association, Sandy is well known throughout the legal world and has made important contributions in promoting equality and democracy. Special Collections & Archives received these materials recently, and it has been my job to help organize and categorize all of the materials in the collection. Despite the preponderance of legal files, case briefs, and writs of certiorari, there have been a few interesting finds in the collection.

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In particular, I am intrigued by Sandy’s connections with the American Friends of the Czech Republic, a group designed to increase relations between the United States and the Czech Republic. Sandy was a board member of the group and oversaw the erection of a statue of T.G. Masaryk, who was the first president of the now extant country of Czechoslovakia. Most of the materials pertaining to Sandy in this part of the collection are site proposal documents and information on the Resource Development Committee of the American Friends of the Czech Republic. I find this particular part of the collection interesting for two reasons: first, given that my family heritage stems from Slovakia in a tiny town near the Czech Republic, it is always wonderful to pour over and analyze information from my ancestral homeland; second, and more importantly, Sandy’s work with the American Friends of the Czech Republic reifies his overall drive to be amicable, and most of all, helpful. This notion is further peppered throughout the entirety of the collection, particularly in his extensive and lengthy list of Pro Bono hours and in his service in and on multiple commissions, organizations, and commissions designed to improve access to education and to basic, fundamental resources.

Further, I believe that this part of the collection comments on a common undercurrent of the D’Alemberte Collection, that is, that despite our differences, we, as a human race, are profoundly more similar than we might believe. Ultimately, I am quite honored to be working on this collection and to have come to know, vicariously, such a reputable member of the FSU community.

Post by David Advent. Advent,  a native of Western North Carolina, is a junior English Literature and International Affairs double major at FSU. He is currently conducting his Honors in the Major Thesis and holds numerous campus positions that promote the visibility of undergraduate research at FSU.

Reichelt Oral History Collection

Enjoy this guest post by Special Collections Oral History Graduate Assistant Adam Hunt:


Wallace Reichelt, circa 1940
Wallace Reichelt, circa 1940

The Reichelt Oral History Collection in FSU Special Collections and Archives is a rich and unique collection of over 2,100 oral history interviews and transcripts created throughout 1969-2014. The Reichelt Oral History Program was created under Dr. Edward F. Keuchel and University President D’Alamberte in 1969 with the help of a generous endowment by Wallace Ward Reichelt. In 1996, Dr. Robin J. Sellers undertook the directorship of the program. In 1998, the Program expanded to include oral histories of veterans in various military conflicts. These interviews offer rich historical insight into various subjects including but not limited to FSU/FSCW history, Tallahassee and Florida history, the Florida Highway Patrol, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. After the departure of Dr. Robin J. Sellers, the Director and Archivist of the Reichelt Oral History Program from FSU in 2014, FSU Libraries undertook the preservation of their oral history collection.
Continue reading Reichelt Oral History Collection

A New Digital Collection from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience

Special Collections & Archives is excited to be working with FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience on an extensive digitization project to bring a large set of letters into  DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. As we add new items to the digital library from this collection, the two students in charge of the project will share information about the work and collection on the blog so here is the first post about the new collection!

The Hasterlik-Hine collection housed at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University is a unique letter collection in terms of its depth and scope. Donated by Giulia Hine (maiden name: Hasterlik) in 2003, this collection has roughly 14,000 German and English letters spanning familiar generations from the 18th to the 21st century. In preparation for the Letters in Troubled Times: Evaluating Epistolary Sources conference set for February 16, 2018, in Tallahassee, Florida, the Institute processed a portion of the collection focusing on letters to and from Giulia in the years 1938 to 1943 and 1945 to 1948.

Page from a letter from Elizabeth ‘Lisl’ Urbantschitsch to Giulia Hasterlik, January 3, 1939.

Giulia Hine was born into a middle-upper class family in Vienna, Austria on September 30, 1925. Her father, Julius Kortischoner passed away in 1928. Before the outbreak of World War II, Mia Hasterlik-Kortischoner, Giulia’s mother, arranged for Giulia and her older half-sister, Suzanne “Susi” Wolff, to emigrate out of Vienna, Austria to escape persecution under the Nuremberg Laws which deemed the family Jewish. At 13 years old Giulia was safely housed in Switzerland where she lived with Frau Alice Sigerist and her daughter Gretli from the end of 1938 to 1946. Susi sailed to Kenya to meet and marry Robert Seemann in an arranged agreement to keep her safe. Mia stayed in Vienna, Austria for a time in order to take care of her elderly father, Paul, who decided he did not want to leave. Eventually, though, Mia left for England and then emigrated to the United States where her sister Auguste was living in New York, New York. As the family scattered all over the world they wrote hundreds of letters to and from her one another and countless friends back home.

Within the letters, one begins to see the intricacies of maintaining long-distance relationships during one of the most dangerous times in modern history. The use of self-censorship in order to avoid creating worry is apparent in letters written by all. For example, while in Switzerland Giulia contracted Poliomyelitis and yet she kept the entire ordeal from her mother until the end of the war. Susi, on a similar note, hid the details of the abuse she suffered while married to Robert. Despite the troubled times and personal struggles, the letters also reveal many small delights encountered by family members and friends such as anecdotes about pets and school trips. One gains an understanding and appreciations for the bonds of family while reading each letter, especially the heartfelt correspondence between Giulia and her grandfather, Paul. These letters serve as a testament to the strength and ingenuity of a family determined to survive and thrive.

The first set of five sets being digitized are now available in DigiNole: FSU’s digital repository. Translations of the letters are forthcoming for this first batch and will be included in each subsequent batch for the project. Stay tuned for new items in the collection over the next few months.

Deep-C Joins the Digital Library

One of our brilliant student workers just finished describing a born-digital collection for the University Archives. We’ll let her tell you more!

My name is Meg Barrett, and I’m a junior studying Art History and French. I started working as a Special Collections & Archives assistant last summer. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really interesting projects. Most recently, I finished creating the metadata for the Deep-C Consortium papers.

The Deep-C (Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico) Consortium was a four-year, interdisciplinary study of deep sea to coast connectivity in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. The study, which began in 2011, investigated the environmental consequences of petroleum hydrocarbon release in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health. Deep-C examined the geomorphologic, hydrologic, and biogeochemical settings that influence the distribution and fate of the oil and dispersants released during the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) accident, and used the resulting data for model studies that support improved responses to possible future incidents. You can still visit the study’s website for more information as well.

As somebody who enjoys studying arts and languages, the idea of going through the Deep-C files, which are focused on scientific research, felt very out of my comfort zone. However, as I began sorting through the posters, images, and graphs from the study, I found the information presented so interesting. I really enjoyed the project, and I’m happy to have had the chance to work on it!

 

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One of the posters in the Deep-C Consortium collection. See the original object here.