- For International Archives Day, archivists worldwide ask Google for a Doodle
- Jefferson Davis’ library and museum is open, while ArchiveGrid shows where his papers are
- Updates and recent developments on ArchiveGrid webinar lineup
- National parks libraries hold rich potential for ArchiveGrid
- Index update comes with new features, contributors, and webinar plans
Category Archives: Collection Close-ups
An op-ed piece from the Sunday Los Angeles Times about Monday’s official opening of the new Jefferson Davis Presidential Museum and Library at the Beauvoir mansion in Biloxi, Miss., stated that Davis’ personal papers do not actually reside there: “Instead, they’re scattered across several universities and, in a particularly painful twist for Southerners, the New York Public Library.”
An ArchiveGrid search for Jefferson Davis, done out of curiosity about the whereabouts of his papers and related materials, revealed places in both northern and southern states holding resources about the Confederate leader. What Davis would have to say about this will probably never be known, but for the sake of speculation, he may have called for the library which bears his name to acquire some of his most pertinent collections, or improve access to them, so Beauvoir can establish itself as a destination for archival researchers.
Always endearing about figures like Jefferson Davis are their humbling moments, one being when they walk their daughters as brides down the aisle. Davis’ daughter Margaret Howell married Joel Addison Hayes, Jr. at St. Lazarus Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tenn., on New Year’s Day of 1876. One of their wedding invitations is held at Kentucky Historical Society and perhaps it looks elegant, as southern weddings are often known for being.
If things happen in three’s, three events within five days recently which had a global impact are no coincidence. On Monday, April 22, the world celebrated Earth Day. On Friday, April 26, John James Audubon was born 228 years ago in Haiti and his work continues to inspire bird conservation. In 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident happened when the plant at Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine, exploded.
With themes of Earth Day, nature conservation, and environmental destruction threaded throughout one week, what’s an ordinary person concerned about such matters to do?
According to the Louis Friedman papers in Swarthmore College’s Peace Collection, a citizen can do a lot. The finding aid for his papers from 1973 to 2003 which were gifted to the college is the only record retrieved in ArchiveGrid for a keyword search using: earth day audubon chernobyl. In the 35 linear feet of papers related to the work of Louis Friedman and his wife Judi, there are National Audubon Society publications, items from Earth Day 2000 in Beijing, and materials related to Chernobyl.
Beyond what the keyword search matched, however, is a finding aid describing a trove of testimony in line with the spirit of Earth Day: the power individuals have to facilitate, or participate in, meetings where productive relationships which can advance progress start.
Friedman and his wife traveled extensively together as citizen diplomats, peacemakers, and activists, and gained recognition for their work in each of those roles. They used an effective combination of passion, diplomacy, and media knowledge to build relationships, organize events, and educate the public for the better of environmental, social, and political causes. In the finding aid’s historical background, “While in a country, I would meet with officials employing my skills of patience and open-mindedness, conciliation, mediation, reconciliation, conflict resolution, peace-making; and my knowledge of the media.”
So although Earth Day week is ending, a practical take on the spirit of positive global change can be this: Take one passion, and double it – or triple it, quadruple it, whatever…and work endlessly until there is progress.
Today is 3/14 – national Pi day because the month and day match 3.14 – the first three numbers of π.
For kicks, I searched for the symbol π in ArchiveGrid because the term pi as a keyword retrieved a list of unrelated results that seemed as endless as the number itself. But π retrieved a more rational set: eight matches with direct links to online finding aids.
One finding aid at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at University of Texas caught my eye because a piece of the display text read “Notes on transcendence of π,” which sounded profound. Mathematically, pi is a prominent example of a transcendental number, and I hoped to find a more philosophically transcendent connection between pi and something, or someone, in ArchiveGrid.
And I did. Read on:
The finding aid is for a collection of papers William T. Reid accrued between 1925, when he was an undergraduate student in Texas, and 1977, when he died in Texas after a lifelong career in mathematics.
Reid was a mathematics professor at University of Chicago from 1931 to 1944 and at Northwestern University from 1944 to 1959. During those years in the Chicago area, Reid would have known a fellow mathematician, Ernst Hellinger. We know this because in Reid’s collection are materials related to Hellinger, a German mathematician whose career for 29 years as a university professor in Germany ended when the Nazi regime removed him and other Jewish mathematicians and scientists from German universities. Later Hellinger was arrested and spent six weeks in the Dachau concentration camp until a job which friends arranged for him at Northwestern allowed him to emigrate. He joined the faculty in 1939 and died in 1950.
By the time Hellinger was safe from the effects of World War II, Reid’s involvement for the United States in the war had started. According to the finding aid’s biographical note, “During World War II he served as consultant in mathematics to the Army Air Corps and served in the Pre-Meteorology program. He was chairman of the subcommittee on examinations of the War Policy Committee of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.”
In Reid’s papers are correspondence about Hellinger’s death and biographical and memorial items, a photograph of Hellinger, manuscripts, notes, seminars, letters, reprints, and a few other remnants of his career.
One remnant is Hellinger’s “Notes on transcendence of π; Bericht über die Entwicklung seit 1933 und über den gegenwärtigen Stand des Mathematischen Seminars der Universität Frankfurt, 1949.” (Via Google Translate: “Report on developments since 1933 and on the current state of the Mathematics Department of the University Frankfurt, 1949.”)
Such findings leave more questions that access to these primary sources could answer. What was the friendship between Reid and Hellinger like? Did Hellinger ever return to Germany following World War II? Both pi and war can be described as irrational – what did Hellinger think?
As our intern Marc Bron leads team ArchiveGrid in analyzing EAD tags in archival collection descriptions, we get to learn what EAD brings – and doesn’t bring – to a finding aid, and ultimately, to researchers who encounter it. One observation Bruce Washburn mentioned after sifting through EAD and all its lines, fields, tags, and text, is how scrapbooks are accounted for in many finding aids. A New York Times blog article about scrapbooking gives context to what was a widely-practiced habit and art of clipping collation in the 19th century and parallels scrapbooking with 21st century information management. While the archival industry is still establishing how to best preserve artifacts of scrapbooking today – digital “clippings” a person pulls from various sources and compiles into one realm, such as a Facebook, for example – there is no shortage of finding aids pointing researchers to 19th and 20th century scrapbooks in a collection. Should a researcher ever find themselves searching in ArchiveGrid for scrapbooks, or discovering that a scrapbook in a collection may lead to something, they won’t be disappointed.
Scrapbooks in collections come in more than one distinction. Bruce found in ArchiveGrid’s search results one collection, “Scrapbook.,” at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, has materials about the International Earth Ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl in August, 1950. In formats one might typically find in a scrapbook: newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs. What we know from the finding aid is who gifted the scrapbook to the museum. What we don’t know is who the scrapbook is by. Maybe no one knows, maybe the donor made it, or maybe that information is accessible somewhere else. Or maybe that information would be more relevant in connection with a personal scrapbook rather than one that functioned for a group. Either way, (in my opinion I think) a name or biographical information – or preferably both – indicating the creative force behind the making of a scrapbook would be useful because it would give the researcher context.
So I searched ArchiveGrid for a finding aid which would give me exactly that: A name and biographical information about who a scrapbook is by. Since I saw the movie Lincoln not too long ago and enjoyed it, I narrowed my search to scrapbooks about Abraham Lincoln. Three scrapbooks in a collection at University of California Santa Barbara pertain to the centennial celebration in 1909 of his birth. “The scrapbooks were compiled by Benjamin DeForest Curtiss,” states the finding aid, and “The collection contains…mainly newspaper and magazine clippings, with portraits and accounts of the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, including tributes paid him on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1809.” Since we have studied the use of names and locations in our EAD tag analysis, this record contains a hefty amount: “Newspapers represented include the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Globe and Commercial Advertiser (New York), New York Daily Tribune, New York Evening Post, and New York Times.”
What else will we see in our EAD? Stay tuned.
Today, January 24th, is an important day in American history. On this day in 1848, a nugget of gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The promise of gold that could be found on the ground or plucked out of a river drew tens of thousands of fortune seekers. The Gold Rush left an enduring mark on our state — our state motto is “Eureka!” (“I have found it!”); the nickname for California is the “Golden State;” and our state seal includes a tiny gold digger (along with a grizzly bear, wine grapes, and Minerva).
On the world stage, January 24th is a notable day because it marks the first time beer was available in cans. This led to significant disruption in the marketplace, as national beer producers and distributors were able to gain advantage over local distributors. Of course, you might argue that the tables have been turned, with tastes turning to craft beer (on tap, please!) in recent years. But whether you are interested in doing research on precious minerals or changes in food production, ArchiveGrid has the answers.
If you are interesting the evolution of food packaging and containers, look no further than the Continental Group Oral History Project from the Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University. Covering the time period from 1904-1974, this series of interviews with 226 subjects — everyone from executives in the corner office to workers on the factory floor — covers packaging (“metal cans, crowns and closures, glass and plastic containers, folding and corrugated cartons, fiber drums, grocery and multi-wall bags, paper cups and tubs, and flexible packaging”) alongside labor relations, manufacturing, and mergers / acquisitions, and advertising. And yes, there is discussion of the difference between beer cans and food cans.
There are numerous collections and items relating to the California Gold Rush, but to my mind none more tantalizing than the correspondence from those toiling in the gold fields to those back home, such as those in the Bancroft Library‘s California Gold Rush Letters collection. You can also find documentation regarding the remarkable growth of shipping at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park — in those days before the railroads, many people and most goods came via sea. This documentation includes, for example, crew lists from ships that sailed in and out of San Francisco during these years; this includes lists of those who worked on the ship, but also contains inventories of unclaimed merchandise carried by the vessels (and how much they sold for), giving a glimpse into boomtown economics. Also, in the personal narrative category, a sea journal kept on board the Croton, detailing the 195 day journey between New York and San Francisco.
ArchiveGrid — we know you will prosper from the wealth of archival description, and that you will slake your thirst for primary sources!
An average of about one email a day comes to us from ArchiveGrid users asking us for access to items in a collection they learned about while using our database, or for help finding materials. Each request offers a chance to explain what ArchiveGrid is (not a library or archive, but a database of archival collection descriptions) and who we are (not librarians or archivists, but employees of a research department that helps librarians and archivists do their work). Sometimes our users explain their research in detail to us, and a message I received Thursday particularly piqued my interest. An attorney constructing a memorial about Judge Learned Hand seeks something unique beyond photographs and other historical bits to anchor the project. I searched “learned hand” in ArchiveGrid to find out what materials pertaining to him exist, while at the same time hoping our system would have truly unique leads to offer.
A papers collection at Haverford College that the college received as a gift includes an autograph collection, “including letters of Henry Clay, Calvin Coolidge, Judge Learned Hand, Warren Harding, Theodore Roosevelt, John Greenleaf Whittier, Woodrow Wilson and others.” If Hand’s signature is available among these materials and it can be digitized, this might be a powerful element for a memorial.
Billings Learned Hand (note the link to Hand’s Wikipedia page: Because it’s biographical, it links to OCLC, VIAF, and Library of Congress data about him) lived from 1872-1961 and graduated from Harvard Law School. In his career, Hand was appointed by Presidents Coolidge and Taft during their administrations to serve as a federal judge. Narrowing a search to Harvard’s law school archives reveals reminiscences called “My year with Judge Learned Hand” by one of Hand’s law clerks. This primary source would paint the most intimate picture of the judicial role model Hand was and that our researcher admires. Tapping it may reveal new knowledge, and that needed focal point for a Hand memorial. Other papers of Hand are at the Library of Congress, which would detail more about his career.
Archivists and librarians spend much of their time sorting the names of people, groups and places. Authority control systems are an integral part of processing archival materials and manuscripts, and an important area of innovation, as we’re seeing with work around the EAC-CPF.
Hurricane names represent an interesting alternate approach. As described on the National Weather Service website, there was once a practice of naming tropical storms and hurricanes in the West Indies after a particular saint’s feast day. Given that hurricane season in the North Atlantic (generally from June through November) would encompass the same limited set of saint’s days, the same name could be attributed to more than one storm system.
The first hurricane named this way was Hurricane of San Bartolme in 1568, and earlier storms were named years later by historians. Two major hurricanes named after San Felipe occurred on exactly the same day, but 52 years apart, in 1876 and 1928.
As Wayne Neely writes in The Great Hurricane of 1780, “This system for naming them was haphazard and not really a system at all.”
The Great Hurricane of 1780 is also known as Hurricane San Calixto II. It’s thought to be the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, responsible for, among other things, the sinking of 40 French ships involved in the American Revolutionary War, with 4,000 souls lost. You may then be left wondering whether it’s named after Pope Callisto II, or if it’s the second hurricane named after the Feast of Pope Saint Callisto I. We’re not sure.
The practice of naming hurricanes after women began in 1953 in the United States, and in 1978-1979, male names were added to the storm lists. These six-year storm name lists for Atlantic hurricanes are developed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and each year’s list includes 21 names. If a given year has more than 21 named storms, the Greek alphabet is used. Then each list repeats every seventh year. So, these names can recur, perhaps with some of the same ambiguity as Hurricane San Felipe. Remember Tropical Storm Alberto from May, notable as the earliest-forming tropical storm in the Atlantic in nearly 10 years? It was also the name of a tropical storm that caused considerable damage in Florida and Georgia in 1994.
For certain calamitous storms, the name is retired. There are currently 76 names on the “retired” list, including the notorious Andrew, Donna, and Katrina. The list of names is controlled by the WMO, and given recent events, we suspect they will retire Sandy too at their next annual meeting.
For an inside view of what’s involved in search and rescue operations following a major hurricane, take a look at this transcript of a 2005 interview after Hurricane Katrina with Commander Meredith Austin, provided through ArchiveGrid by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office.
“You know in an average hurricane we’ll fly out to the impacted area and get RV’s if we have to because it’s not that you want to be pampered or anything but when it’s really hot and it’s really humid and you want people to work in really harsh conditions for 12 to 14 or 18 hours a day, you’ve got to have a place for them to recover or they’re going to be no good to you the next day. So to have them sleeping out in tents we have to worry about fire ants and your stuff getting wet. You can do that for a couple of days, anyone can, but we’re here for the long term. There are going to be Strike Team folks down in these areas for probably a year.”
Giants and Tigers clash of 2012 is over, but San Francisco and Detroit sports history is just getting started
Although the Giants just won their second World Series for San Francisco by beating the Detroit Tigers from what would have been their fifth World Series win, there is still plenty of San Francisco and Detroit sports history to be made for what seems like two significant reasons:
1. The Detroit Lions haven’t gone to, let alone won, a Super Bowl.
2. The year 2014 will mark 10, 20, and 30-year anniversaries of Detroit and San Francisco sports: The Detroit Pistons won their last NBA championship in 2004, the San Francisco 49-ers won their last Super Bowl in 1994, and the Detroit Tigers won their last World Series in 1984.
It goes without mentioning that there is plenty of sports history to be found in ArchiveGrid, but the amount of it depends on the sport. Hundreds of search results show up for searches related to the Tigers and Giants teams, while football teams are much easier subjects to research because they retrieve fewer matches. A search in ArchiveGrid for the San Francisco 49ers yields 46 results, while a search for the Detroit Lions, in quotes, gets 22 results.
Three results show up each for the Detroit Pistons and the Golden State Warriors, the closest NBA team to San Francisco (in Oakland), which hasn’t won a championship since 1975. Perhaps an interesting research lead is the Will Herzfeld Papers, 1967-1990, held at the New York Public Library. The search result display indicates he was the chaplain for the Warriors. What would it be like to provide spiritual needs to a team struggling to win a championship? Unfortunately, further research will have to wait, since access to the library’s finding aid was shut down due to potential damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Farther down the San Francisco Bay in hockey, the San Jose Sharks haven’t won an NHL title, and a search for them in ArchiveGrid reveals only two results.
University of Iowa is using Pinterest to exhibit digitized archival and special collections materials that recall the mid-20th century advertising scene, and to connect them to the cable television show Mad Men. Characters and content in the show that take after actual people and happenings in the 1950s and 1960s are referenced in a small paragraph accompanying each of the 27 “pins,” and linked to where at UI they are housed and how they can be accessed.
For example, there are digitized costume and set design sketches in collection of papers for David Swift, who directed the musical film “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Set in 1967, the same year as the current season of Man Men, the movie starred Robert Morse, who now plays a lead character as a veteran advertising firm partner in Man Men. Although the sketches are only one part of the whole David Swift Papers collection, the images recall a time that Man Men has now depicted for almost five complete seasons.
At the heart of Mad Men and the 1950s and 1960s Madison Avenue advertising industry in New York City are, of course, the ads. Pins displaying those nostalgic advertisements that ran in The Daily Iowan link to the newspaper’s digital archive at UI.
Occasions in pop culture like Man Men are perfect occasions for archives and special collections to pull out relevant artifacts and to teach people about primary source materials. Pinterest, in all its addicting splendor, is too a perfect occasion to solicit some new archival user groups, or at least fans of archival exhibits like UI’s.
The powerful value of a four-leaf letter that Malcolm X wrote to Alex Haley in 1964 from a Saudi Arabia hotel room has been making headlines. Written 10 months before his assassination, the letter documents Malcolm X’s conversion that fueled, in Haley’s iconic The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one of the most profound climaxes in literary history, when Malcolm X urged the Nation of Islam to abandon its hatred toward whites. Syracuse has had the letter for more than four decades, during which scholars have been lured by its historical significance. Now Haley’s son wants it, and it’s uncertain how that tussle will be resolved.
In the meantime, an exact search for Alex Haley in ArchiveGrid turned up 88 hits for other collections around the country containing various amounts of Alex Haley material just as worthwhile for different researchers.
Here are five:
1. Most well-known among Alex Haley scholars would be the Alex Haley Papers in the special collections department at University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which is about 360 miles from Henning, Tenn., where Haley lived as a child. He donated his collection in 1991 and the university bought more materials the next year when his estate was auctioned. Now the collection about his literary life and career fills 80 boxes. In the article mentioned above, Haley explained why the university got his papers: “Now they’re not just my private works and recollections, but a part of the fabric of our state to eventually be shared with other researchers, writers, explorers and dreamers.”
2. In New York City, which is about 223 miles from Ithaca, where Haley was born, the New York Public Library has a special collection of 15 boxes of materials about the activities Haley was involved in between 1969 and 1990. According to the finding aid, the collection has files related to Malcolm X with letters he wrote to Haley. One file also contains copies of letters Malcolm X wrote from Cairo and Mecca in 1964 to M.S. Handler, a reporter who wrote the introduction to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Photographs and audio recordings are also part of the collection but they are in the library’s photographs and prints division and the moving image and recorded sound division.
3. A recording of Alex Haley in the Stanford Program for Recordings in Sound collection at Stanford University captured his voice around the time when he was probably working on Roots: The Saga of an American Family. A graduate English student started the project in 1972 to professionally record poets and novelists reading their work, so other English literature scholars may enjoy these recordings. This collection is mostly on open reel tapes of different sizes and there are 14 boxes of them in the Archive of Recorded Sound. The recordings were also produced on six vinyl LP’s and the archive has those available for listening. There are detailed notes about the recordings in an annotated discography, but many of the master reels remain unnumbered.
4. Thoroughbred horse racing fans will enjoy a special collection at University of Virginia with annotated manuscripts and research notes by Alex Haley when he wrote “Dark Secret’s Last Race: A Drama In Real Life” in the early 1960s. During the time when Haley was working on Malcolm X, he had profiled champion thoroughbred racehorse Dark Secret and his final race at the 1934 Jockey Club Gold Cup, which he won despite broken leg. Purchased in 1995 from a Los Angeles book shop, this 19-item collection also has materials about Dark Secret’s trainer, James Edward Fitzsimmons.
5. Anyone looking to compile an Alex Haley biography need look no further than the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina. An unpublished biography of him sits among the 4,500 items in the Anne Romain papers collection about the Civil Rights activist, musician, historian, and writer who helped create the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project. Her collection includes the Haley biography she wrote yet never published, materials from her research about his life and career, and posters, photographs, and slides of him that she collected. Romain also curated the Alex Haley House in Henning, Tenn., a role she was obviously well-suited for because of her passion for and roles in bringing about social change, especially in the south. A look at this collection will reveal knowledge about the person Haley inspired.