A guest post by Brianna McLean, who currently works in Special Collections and the Heritage Museum. She is a history graduate student working on her M.A. in Early Modern European History.
This semester, I have been working with our Rare Books Librarian, Rachel Duke, and learning about the Napoleon Collection here in Special Collections. As a history graduate student studying Early Modern France, this collection has been extra rewarding to examine. There are so many exciting pieces, such as Napoleon’s death mask, Eighteenth-century manuscripts, documents about France’s colonies and women during the time, newspapers, pamphlets, secondary scholarship on France, and more. The best part is that all of these items are just waiting inside Strozier Library to be examined and studied.
The Napoleon Collection is particularly strong when it comes to Napoleon’s military campaigns and works by and about prominent French Revolutionary and military figures. The collection includes works by Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Marat, and more. For me, the best part of this collection are the memoirs. Memoirs are one of my favorite parts of history because you can learn so much about a person by what they wanted to portray to the public about themselves. Some of the memoirs are even digitized in E-book form, available on databases like Hathi Trust if researchers want online access as well. But FSU has our own digital repository, Diginole, and some Napoleonic manuscripts are accessible there, such as this 1772 regiment list of revenues and expenses.
In 2018, Special Collections received an incredible donation to the Napoleon Collection: the Michael La Vean Collection. This over-4000-book collection is the perfect addition to the Napoleon Collection because it adds new dimensions, such as an increase in women’s narratives. Researchers may be interested in this collection because of its emphasis on gender studies, history of sex, European naval history, military uniforms, and the history of European royalty. Currently, Special Collections is preparing to catalog the La Vean Collection to make it accessible to researchers.
When collections are donated, they are usually kept in the same order as the donor, or creator, gave them, until they can be ordered by call number. As a library and museum assistant, I feel fortunate to be able to view the collection in its original order. La Vean organized his collection topically into different subjects such as “Medieval,” “Vendee & French Civil War,” “Women General,” “Napoleon Family,” and “Naval,” among others. This semester, I am learning about this collection and figuring out the most important items and what should be cataloged first. Researchers are encouraged to visit Special Collections with any inquiries about the collection while it is being processed.
This is just a small glimpse into our French Revolution Collections. If you are interested in seeing what the Napoleon Collection has to offer, please stop by Special Collections and visit the library catalog, setting “Strozier, Napoleon Collection” as your location.