Category Archives: Updates

Poetic Activism and Ruby Dee

Glowchild, and other Poems, published in 1972, is an anthology of works by black poets on the subjects of “nature, passion, politics, hope, peace, freedom, and other topics, gathered primarily with the inner-city youth in mind” (Catalog Description). The included poems were selected by Ruby Dee, poet, playwright, actress, journalist, and lifelong activist.

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Glowchild, and other Poems

Nature and Poetry

To choose a poem to highlight in this collection is difficult, as they are all worth reading, but following this Year of Poetry month’s theme, Nature and Poetry, we’ll focus on two poems that consider an aspect of nature and use that image to reflect on some of the complexities of human experience. Both poets were high school students. 

I LOVE…

I love, the birds that sing to me in the 
Birth of morning. 
I love, the cold clear water on my skin to wake
My rested face.
I love, walking briskly through the clean 
Crisp noon air. 
I love, to see people being
People together. 
I love, to see love being loved
Don't you?
--- LaVerne Davis, New Rochelle H.S.

“ESCAPE”

Have you ever watched a fly trying to get out a window?
It yearns for the sunshine on its back, and lost freedom. 
It goes back and forth trying to get out. 
Maybe it's trying to tell US something. 
Should WE also try to get out, 
Get back to the outdoors, 
Escape from the prison called civilization?
To where a man is free and doesn't die from 9-5. 
Where he's not boxed in by responsibility. 
Yes, maybe WE also should be looking for the space in the window to Escape.
--- Robert Kaufmann, Albert Leonard Jr. H.S.

In Dee’s introduction to the collection, she stresses the importance of these poems:

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From Dee’s Introduction

American Negro Theater

The anthology is a poetic continuation of Dee’s activist work, and its target audience of “inner-city youth” is near and dear to Dee’s own experience growing up in Harlem in the 30s and 40s. She began her acting career with the American Negro Theater (ANT), a group founded in 1940 when Abram Hill and Frederick O’Neal approached librarians of the Harlem Branch of the New York Public Library system; the librarians offered the group the use of their basement stage and a game-changing theater troupe arose. Eventually, along with Ruby Dee, actors Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte came out of the American Negro Theater. ANT worked to write and produce theater that was thoughtful and radical.

The goals of the American Negro Theater were:

  1. To develop a permanent acting company trained in the arts and crafts of the theatre that also reflected the special gifts, talents, and attributes of African Americans.
  2. To produce plays that honestly and with integrity interpreted, illuminated, and criticized contemporary black life and the concerns of black people.
  3. To maintain an affiliation with, and provide leadership for, other black theatre groups throughout the nation.
  4. To utilize its resources to develop racial pride in the theatre, rather than racial apathy.

(from Wikipedia)

 

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1962 Photo of Dee by Carl Van Vechten, Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress

Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee is likely best known for her role in the stage and film productions of A Raisin in the Sun, which made its Broadway debut in 1959. Dee played Ruth Younger, the wife and mother of the impoverished Younger family. She became quite famous and popular, but never shied away from participation in political activism, leading her to be blacklisted and harshly criticized at several points in her career.

It is difficult to capture the breadth of Dee’s accomplishments in this space. To learn more about her amazing life and career, you can read a memorial piece, written just after her death, here.

Here is a video of Ruby Dee appearing on the Dick Cavett show in 1970, around the time that she began collecting poems for production in Glowchild, and other Poems.

 Glowchild, and other Poems is a beautiful anthology, filled with poems by young black people writing about their experiences with the harsh realities of life. It’s disappointing to discover that the book was banned in libraries across the states. Dee carefully curated the anthology to incorporate poems that would be useful to young people who identified with the experiences of the writers; to take away access to that experience — and most of these bans took place in public school libraries — is a crime.


Sources:

Rux, Carl Hancock. “Ruby Dee: 1922-2014.” American Theatre, no. 7, 2014, p. 20.

Smith, Jessie Carney and Lean’tin L. Bracks. Black Women of the Harlem Renaissance Era. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.

 

Artists’ Books: A Repeated Misunderstanding of Nature

Some of the most interesting materials in FSU’s Special Collections are Artists’ Books (also known as Book Arts). These are works in which the form of the work, the art and decoration on its surfaces, and the book’s moving parts are as important as the text of the work. Artists’ Books come in many shapes and sizes, from tiny to oversized. They often play with the format of the codex — pieces of substrate (writing surfaces) linked along one side to form what we refer to as a “book” — making meaning in often profound and exciting ways.

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The Artist’s Book we are highlighting today is A Repeated Misunderstanding of Nature, written and designed by Clifton Meador. Our copy is one of 25 that exist in the world. It comes in a “laser-cut birch plywood slipcase with dovetail joints,” and is broken into five volumes. Each volume has a different color schema that coordinates with the coloring of the seasonal forest scene depicted within. The volumes are accordion pleated and contain images and words only along one side; the back is blank.

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Accordion pleated works give the reader freedom in how they are read. An accordion-pleated text can be turned into a typical book-ready experience by keeping the pages folded up and going one at a time. Alternately, they can be unfurled entirely, revealing the length of the work in full. A Repeated Misunderstanding of Nature has an additional complexity to its consumption, in that the text and images are facing separate directions; each volume contains a forest scene printed horizontally along the accordion folds while the text runs vertically down the long side of the bottom of the image.

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The textual content is a supposed lecture by an imaginary professor, who discusses nature and our relationship to it at length. The text of the lecture is broken up into shorter phrases that sometimes jump away from the margin and “grow” into the forest scene.

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The phrases take on a poetic quality, which is why it felt like the perfect choice for highlighting in our Year of Poetry blog series. While we often see poetry and prose and distinct forms, prose — especially spoken performance prose, as we might expect from a lecture — can take on a poetic quality, especially as it incorporates repetition, rhythm, and alliteration.

“The border of each image includes a text from a long, imaginary lecture by a professor who — even though he sounds convinced — is actually confused about how to understand nature: he drifts between thinking of nature as something to read and nature as an anthropomorphic presence. This work was inspired by Chinese literati landscape painting, a mode of art that used images of nature as a vocabulary rather than as representation of specific landscapes. For these literati, landscape was a metaphor for personal experience: for the confused professor in A Repeated Misunderstanding of Nature, these pictures of the autumnal forests of Maine become a book that defeats reading.” — Vamp & Tramp Booksellers Website

 

This beautiful work is available for you to examine in Florida State University’s Special Collections, and we invite you come see it in person! It is much bigger than can be perceived in the images here.

Poetry and Nature: Robert Burns’ “Tim’rous Beastie”

In keeping with month’s theme, Poetry and Nature, I wanted to turn back to Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse,” a poem that delights and provokes upon each reread. In the poem we can see Burns’ tendency to find inspiration in the everyday; a brief encounter with nature gives him the opportunity to ruminate on the state of man and mouse alike. 

FSU’s Special Collections holds an incredible number of volumes of Robert Burns poetry, as well as ephemera connected to Burns fandom. A simple search for “Robert Burns” in the catalog of Special Collections items returns 149 items, including plays, music, biographies, and pamphlets, and most of these are either in the Shaw or Scottish collections.

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The Kilmarnock Burns, opened to “To a Mouse”

Likely our rarest item is our copy of the Kilmarnock Burns, the earliest printing of a collection of Burns’ works; 612 copies were printed in 1786 on a subscription basis, and was immediately successful, turning Robert Burns into a national celebrity. It is in this volume that “To a Mouse” was first printed for public consumption. Here’s a video of Dawn Steele performing the work:

We learn in the poem’s subtitle, and in the lore surrounding its inception, that the titular “Mouse” was glimpsed, “On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785.”

Burns laments this action, expressing dismay that he’s caused her tiny mouse-heart to race: “O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!” Upon the poem’s closing, however, Burns has considered the differences between himself and the “wee beastie”: while both mice and men experience the roughness and instability in life, the mouse has the advantage in not being able to either dwell on the past or anxiously anticipate the future. 

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You can visit the Kilmarnock Burns, along with other Burnsiana, in the Special Collections exhibit “‘In His Great Shadow’: Robert Burns’ Legacy.”

Spring is here, and FSU’s campus is covered in blossoming trees, lush green leaves, and curious critters. Take some time this week to consider your relationship to the natural world around you. Do you notice the little things on your walks through campus? Do you allow, as Burns did, these external stimuli to impact your thoughts and feelings about yourself, or even to provoke poetic expression?

Welcome to the Year of Poetry: T. S. Eliot and The Waste Land

Happy Poetry Month!

This month begins FSU Libraries’ Year of Poetry, April 2018 – April 2019, an entire year of celebration dedicated to poetry in all of its forms and facets. Look out for events on campus that invite you to participate in exploring poetry creation and poetry enjoyment!

National Poetry Month is always in April, a reference to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land*:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

Listen to The Waste Land at Librivox.com

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The beautiful book pictured is from Florida State’s Special Collections. It is Eliot’s Poems, 1909-1925, a first edition of the first collection of Eliot’s poetry to include The Waste Land, a disjointed and highly allusive work that is central to modernist poetry.

Eliot 2
The Waste Land
Eliot 3
Spine with Label

You can find information about National Poetry Month here, including suggestions for ways to participate. Sign up for Poem-a-Day and participate in National Poem in your Pocket Day (April 26th)! 

And come to Special Collections in Strozier Library to experience some historic poetry materials in person, like Eliot’s The Waste Land!

Florida State Books GIF-downsized_large

 

 


*Thank you, Jeff Hipsher, Service Desk Supervisor in the Scholars Commons, for this info.

In memory of Dr. Nancy H. Marcus

2001_333_020We are saddened to hear of Dr. Nancy Marcus’ passing this last Monday.

Dr. Marcus served at FSU in several roles for 30 years. During her tenure, she served as the director of the Marine Laboratory, chair of the Department of Oceanography, and as Dean of the Graduate School from 2005 until her retirement in 2017. Dr. Marcus was named a Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in 2001, the highest honor that FSU faculty can award one of their own. Dr. Marcus noted that this award was important to her because it not only recognized her contributions in research and teaching, but also her service to the university.

A pioneer in the field of Oceanography when there were few women in the field, Dr. Marcus worked her entire career to promote diversity in FSU and especially the STEM fields so that others would be allowed the same opportunities to have a rewarding career. She served as the director for FSU women in Math, Science and Engineering to promote women in STEM fields and took every opportunity to advance the cause of women in these disciplines. She even gave up a chance to pursue her own research on copepods (a type of crustacean) to focus in on the advancement of women.

While Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Marcus set up the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards, which provides support to some of FSU’s most bright students. Its main purpose has been to connect students with funding opportunities to pursue an advanced degree. You can read more about her career here from her “Profiles in Leadership” interview last year. http://news.fsu.edu/news/2017/04/25/profiles-leadership-marcus-reflects-30-years-research-students-service/

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Heritage & University Archives recently acquired a collection of materials from Dr. Marcus regarding the Task Force on Women’s Faculty Salaries, a task force that she participated in. Those interested in learning more about Dr. Marcus and the collection should contact Heritage & University Archives by emailing Sandra Varry at svarry@fsu.edu.

A Special Collections Travel Diary

In January, Associate Dean Katie McCormick and I kicked off the new semester by traveling to Berkeley Springs, WV, to acquire a new collection of books related to the French Revolution and Empire. Nestled in the panhandle of West Virginia, Berkeley Springs is within shouting distance of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. It’s also known as America’s first spa town, with its warm and clear mineral waters attracting tourists for centuries, including George Washington! For us, though, it was where we’d meet Michael LaVean, FSU alumni and French history enthusiast. Over the years, Mr. LaVean has collected books related to Napoleon and the French Revolution and Empire, taking extra care to acquire material that highlights the roles women played during the time period.

The collection is massive. At the end of packing it, we had about 3000 books to bring back to Florida. So, how the heck did we do it?

Boxes – lots and lots of boxes

When we left for West Virginia, we drove a small sedan that was packed full of boxes. We fit about 100 boxes in the back of the car but still had to buy more when we got to West Virginia. When packing special collections materials, we take extra care not to pack them too tightly, and some books need to be delicately wrapped in tissue paper. By the end of packing, there were 188 boxes to be transported back to Florida.

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A 15-foot box truck

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of the journey was learning how to drive a 15-foot truck. Neither of us had any prior experience driving anything that big, and you never quite realize how precious visibility is until you don’t have it anymore. 15 foot trucks are also extremely heavy, so braking takes a lot longer than you realize.

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Delicious baked goods from Maryland

Because we were in apple country, I developed an insatiable craving for apple pie. After we finished packing, Mr. LaVean took us to a bakery in Maryland where we got – truly – the best apple pie I’ve ever had. We also stocked up on all kinds of goodies, like gingerbread men, wasabi peas, and spicy beef jerky.

 

26239398_10159890567335451_1070987110204665709_nA Bluetooth speaker, pain relief patches, and energy drinks

Moving trucks don’t have auxiliary plugs, which we only figured out after picking it up. The drive from West Virginia to Tallahassee is already long when you can drive at the speed limit, but in the truck, it took about 20 hours and would have felt like forever if we couldn’t listen to music and podcasts. We were also sore and tired from packing all day, so at one point, somewhere outside of Richmond, VA, we stopped at a Walmart to buy the essentials: a Bluetooth speaker, pain relief patches, and energy drinks. It was (mostly) smooth sailing after that.

A good attitude about bad weather

As we were leaving West Virginia, we drove through an intense storm front for several hours. There was zero visibility, semi-trucks were flying, and we were driving at a crawl. We kept our spirits up with fun music, lots of jokes, and the promise of apple pie for dinner. Our next day of driving was delayed by ice, but when we finally got on the road, the weather was beautiful. Look at this view!

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When we got back to town, we immediately started unpacking the collection into our stacks. Here are before and after pictures of the collection in Michael LaVean’s home and in our closed stacks.

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To view more material related to Napoleon and the French Revolution, as well as other collections, visit the FSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center in Strozier Library on Mondays-Fridays 10am-6pm.

Happy Birthday, FSU!

This blog post is an updated version of a previous post by Hannah Wiatt Davis which can be found here.

West Seminary
The building shown above was built as an enticement to have the West Florida Seminary established in Tallahassee (Florida Archives).

Happy 167th Birthday, Florida State University! In 1851, the first steps were taken by the Florida Legislature (then the General Assembly of the State of Florida) to create the institution we now know as Florida State University. However, it wasn’t until recently that 1851 was accepted as the founding date. Previously, FSU had used 1857, when the State Seminary West of the Suwannee River, the predecessor institution of FSU, first opened its doors. However, the 1857 date isn’t entirely accurate. The process of starting the school began long before students were allowed to study here.

On January 24, 1851, the General Assembly of the State of Florida passed an act establishing two seminaries of learning, one to the east and one to the west of the Suwannee River. It wasn’t until 1854 when the Tallahassee City Council offered to pay $10,000 to finance a new school building on land owned by the city in an attempt to “bid on” being the location of the seminary west of the Suwannee, which the legislature had yet to decide. The $10,000 consisted of the value of the property, the yet-to-be-constructed building, and the remaining balance in cash. Approximately $6,000 was originally committed, with the Council promising to give the city the remaining balance if Tallahassee was determined as the final location. Later in 1854, construction on a school building began and Tallahassee’s city superintendent approached the state legislature to present the case for the seminary to be in Tallahassee. However, state officials failed to make a decision regarding the location of the seminary before the end of the legislative session.

By 1855, the newly constructed building, which was often described as “the handsomest edifice” in Tallahassee, was ready for students. Because of the state legislature’s lack of a decision on whether it would be one of the legislature-designated seminaries, it was not given an official name. Instead, it was alternately called “The City Seminary” and “Tallahassee Male Seminary.”

In 1856, the ball got rolling as the City Council of Tallahassee (hereafter referred to as the Board of Trustees of the Florida Institute) met and designated “The City Seminary” as the “Florida Institute.” It also indicated that “government of the institution or seminary shall be under the direction of a president” and decided that “a preparatory school will be established in connection with the academic or collegiate department of the institute.” It was established that one of the president’s duties would be to publish a “Catalogue Course of Studies” for the institution. Later in 1856, William (W.Y.) Peyton, previously principal of The City Seminary, was unanimously elected by the Board of Trustees of the Florida Institute as the first president of the Institute.

By late 1856, the General Assembly passed legislation declaring that “the Seminary to be located West of the Suwannee River be, and the same is hereby located at the City of Tallahassee in the County of Leon.” There were several conditions that needed to be granted for this to occur – “the proper and authorized conveyance of said Lot and College edifice thereon be made to the City of Tallahassee to the Board of Education,” that Tallahassee “guarantee to said Board of Education the payment of the sum of two thousand dollars per annum forever, to be expended in the education of the youth of said City, in such manner and on such terms as shall be agreed between the corporate authorities of said City and the Board of Education,” and that Tallahassee “shall pay to the Board of Education as much money in cash as shall be found necessary after a valuation of the Lot and College edifice aforesaid, to complete the sum of ten thousand dollars.”

With all of the requirements fulfilled, the State Seminary West of the Suwannee River was allowed to open its doors and so began FSU’s long history.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Digital Collections or like the Heritage Facebook page.

Hours Change for Special Collections Spaces

Due to an event to be held in some of our spaces the Special Collections Research Center will be closing at 3:30pm on Thursday, January 25, 2018. If you need to make arrangements to use our collections between 4-6pm that day, please make an appointment by emailing lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu.

The Special Collections Exhibit Room, due to the same event, will be closing at 12:00pm on Thursday.

All our other areas will keep their normally scheduled hours.

We will resume normal operating hours for the Research Center and Exhibit Room on Friday, January 26, 2018.

Happy Holidays from FSU Special Collections

All of us here in Special Collections & Archives wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season!

The cover from Dear Santa Claus: charming holiday stories for boys and girls, 1901 (original item).

We have a series of children’s books in the Shaw collection that was published especially for children at the holidays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This cover comes from one of our favorites which includes one of the most famous Christmas poems, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Our hours are a bit different over the next few weeks so here are our altered hours through January 8, 2018:

  • We’ll be open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, December 18 and 19, 2017.
  • We’ll be available by appointment on Wednesday and Thursday, December 20 and 21, 2017. To schedule an appointment, email lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu or call (850) 644-3271.
  • We’ll be closed starting Friday, December 22, 2017 until Tuesday, January 2, 2018
  • We’ll be open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. starting Tuesday, January 2, 2018 through Friday, January 5, 2018.
  • we’ll resume our normal operating hours on Monday, January 8, 2018

Dealing with Daily Life during World War II

This post is by Emily Woessner, one of two students leading the project digitizing selections from the Hasterlik-Hine Collection at the Institute of World War II and the Human Experience. More materials have been added to the digital collection and may be viewed here. The first post about this project is here.

Giulia Hasterlik was only 13 years old when her mother arranged for her to leave Vienna, Austria and travel to Switzerland to live safely without fear of Nazi persecution. Giulia was taken in by a minister’s wife named Alice Sigerist who already had a daughter of her own, Gretli Sigerist, close to Giulia’s age. Giulia lived in the small town of Schaffhausen, Switzerland for 7 years (1938 to 1946). While living in Schaffhausen, she attended an all-girls Catholic school and had many friends. However, she kept in contact with a number of her schoolmates back in Vienna. Letters from Evi Leib and Elizabeth “Lisl” Urbantischitsch, in particular, detail the lives of young girls who are dealing with such situations as crushes, boredom, school work, and prospects of the future. The girls draw pictures in their letters and used secret languages— they worry, joke, and dream just like young girls of today. Their letters to and from one another allowed them to maintain their friendships and a sense of normalcy during the war years.

Giulia was not the best student, a bit mischievous at times, but generally, she enjoyed her life in the small town of Schaffhausen. Although she noted that it was quite different from her middle-class upbringing in Vienna. Unfortunately, in August 1941 at 16 years old Giulia contracted poliomyelitis and was taken to Kanton Hospital in the center of Schaffhausen. She had to pause her studies at school. During this time the letters to and from her classmates served as a window to the outside world where she could escape the boredom of the hospital and maintain her friendships. At times the letters to Giulia simply wished her well and asked how she was progressing with her treatment. Other times her classmates detailed holiday trips, plans for future jobs and schooling, or fun puzzles and poems for Giulia to enjoy. These letters provided relief and laughter for Giulia during her most intense treatment.

Get Well Card sent to Giulia while she was receiving treatment for polio (original object)

It was not only school friends who wrote to Giulia at this time, though. Alice Sigerist had informed both Paul Hasterlik, Giulia’s grandfather, and Auguste Hasterlik, Giulia’s aunt, about the polio diagnosis. Paul and Auguste wrote heartfelt and uplifting letters to Giulia, but they also warned her against saying anything to her mother, Mia Hasterlik, about her condition. They feared the news would be far too upsetting for Mia and worry her unnecessarily because she was already living in New York City and would be helpless to take care of Giulia. For her part, Alice worked diligently to ensure Giulia was properly cared for and enlisted the help of her in-laws and countless doctors. In December 1941 Giulia was transferred to Insel Hospital in Bern, Switzerland where she underwent many months of treatment while continuing to receive letters from her friends and family.

When studying World War II one often forgets that people still had to contend with daily life and its unexpected occurrences. When Giulia Hasterlik fell ill with polio the war was in full swing, her family was strewn across the globe, and she was doing her best to live a normal life in Switzerland. Oftentimes all she had to keep in touch with her friends and family were these letters. They kept her relations, faith, and sanity strong despite all the hardship and uncertainty she endured as a young woman.

A discussion of these letters and letters like them from other tumultuous times in history will be presented at the Letters in Troubled Times: Study of Epistolary Sources conference happening Friday, February 16, 2018, in Tallahassee, Florida. Please contact Dr. Suzanne Sinke for questions regarding the conference.