Through the Students’ Eyes – Working in Special Collections

by Shannon Gaylord, RBSC Student Employee

When people enter the Hesburgh Library, they may walk right by the Rare Books and Special Collections department without glancing inside. They may have never heard of this department or do not know what is inside. This department is what I tell people is the “hidden gem” of the library. The people who do walk through the large doors enter what I think is one of the most beautiful rooms on campus. They stand in a room of large wooden shelves and glass cases that are full of histories and stories. The weathered books along the wall invite visitors to think about time. People who find their way to Rare Books will be amazed at the extensive collections as well as the knowledge and dedication of the excellent staff. There are several students who work in this department during the summer as well as the school year. They have unique backgrounds, jobs, and perspectives about this lovely department.

My name is Shannon Gaylord and I have been working at Rare Books and Special Collections for the last four years. I just recently graduated from Notre Dame where I majored in Psychology and minored in Education, Schooling, and Society. I am a student worker in the department, but I like to call myself the “Executive Book Manager” because it is a fun title and I primarily work directly with the books in the various collections. I have done a large variety of tasks during my time here such as assisting with stacks management which includes reshelving books, pulling materials, and shifting collections. I enjoy getting the chance to come in contact with so many ancient texts in all of the work that I do. I have worked with many of the department’s materials such as the American Colonial Currency collection and the Lohmann collection. I have assisted with the preparations for many of the classes and lectures that occur in the department. I also work at the department’s front desk where I assist patrons with materials and book scans as well as monitor those who are using the reading room.

While the collections at Rare Books are wonderful, my favorite part about working here is the group of people that make up this department. These people work together to create an incredibly welcoming environment that promotes curiosity and learning. They have so much knowledge that they willingly share with patrons and students. I am very thankful to have had a chance to work alongside and learn from each of these staff members over the last couple of years. I find it hard to believe that I had never heard about Rare Books until I walked into the department for a job interview during my freshmen year. Now when I walk into the department, I feel at home because of the people here who welcomed me into the Rare Books family. I am so happy that I could continue working at Rare Books this summer and look forward to using the skills and knowledge from this job in the future. This fall, I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my Masters in Social Work.

This summer, I’ve also had the pleasure to work with RBSC’s crew of summer student employees. Most of them are either undergraduate or graduate students at Notre Dame, but there are a few visitors. I’ve talked to them about what the work they are doing in RBSC. Here’s a look at all the things happening this summer.

Laura Weis is a PhD Candidate in History and Peace Studies Peace Studies at Notre Dame. Laura says that “working in Special Collections has provided a unique opportunity to sharpen my skill set as an aspiring historian, as well as a chance to explore topics and time periods outside of my usual area of research.” Laura has been working on several collections this summer, including the Bellamy-Smart family papers and the Price family papers. She says that the Bellamy-Smart family papers offer a glimpse into early 19th century courtship rituals and plantation life and the Price family papers “opened my eyes to the northern anti-abolitionist and ‘Copperhead’ political sentiments that threatened, for a time, to derail the Union war effort, in general, and emancipation, in particular.” Laura is currently working on the Mary Taussig Hall papers/Taussig family papers which are a large collection of personal and professional correspondence among the Taussig family members. She says that “the collection includes exchanges with Jane Addams, as well as additional materials concerning 20th century peace and justice advocacy.” Laura says, “Going forward, I know I will point to my experience working in Special Collections this summer as one that has been both personally and professionally fulfilling.”

Hannah Benchik is a rising sophomore at Saint Mary’s College where she is studying Business with a minor in German. This summer, Hannah has been working at the front desk of the department. She explains that her job is much more complex than merely sitting at the front desk. Hannah says, “While the specific work that I do daily depends on the department’s specific needs for that day, my tasks can range from stamping books, answering phone calls, and assisting patrons in the reading room. I also monitor the reading room to make sure that the rare materials are handled correctly, shift books in the basement, and scan documents for ILL requests or for specific patrons.” Hannah enjoys the organizational aspect of this job, which is crucial for her work. Her favorite part of the job has been having the opportunities to examine priceless and rare books such as Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Bible and Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremburg Chronicle. Hannah says that “it has been so amazing to see important and famous works of literature that most students my age have not been exposed to before.”

Samantha Awad is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she graduated in English with Distinction. During her time there, she worked at the Rare Book and Manuscripts Library. This fall, she will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she will study Library Science and Public Administration. This summer, she is responsible for photographing rare books and manuscripts as well as digitizing her work. Amanda says that she has “worked with German children’s literature from the world wars that is being exhibited at the library, books in the Petrarch collection, and a medieval manuscript that contained sheet music for a class this fall.”

Augusto Rocha Ramirez is a PhD candidate in History. He is currently working at Rare Books under the supervision of Erika Hosselkus, Curator of Latin American collections. He is arranging materials into series and ensuring that they are filed properly for future retrieval. These materials include Uruguayan political ephemera from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Liam Maher is working with Aedín Clements, the Irish Studies Librarian. He has assisted with archiving several special collections within the Irish Studies Collection. The first was a small collection of papers, letters, and books on peacemaking & reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland between the Presbyterian and Catholic Churches. The materials date from the mid 1970s through the early 2000s. The majority of his work, however, has been focused on another collection. Arlen House, an historic feminist publishing house in Ireland, recently sent their documents to Hesburgh Library. He has been leafing through boxes of their papers and sorting them into archival categories: manuscripts, proofs, correspondence, brochures, photographs, business documents, etc. In Liam’s own words, “It is fun to piece together the story of Arlen House as I work through all of their materials!”

Sara Quashnie graduated from Notre Dame in 2015 with a BA in History. She is back this summer completing a practicum for her Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Though she is not officially on RBSC’s payroll, she is doing some work in the department. She co-curated a spotlight exhibit, “War as Child’s Play: German Children’s Literature from the World Wars,” is describing a collection of original drawings tipped into an album created by British civilians held prisoner in a German internment camp during the First World War and creating a finding aid for it, and will be authoring a blog post about that collection.

Sae Rome Choi, a junior Chemical Engineering major, has worked for the department for three years. She assists one of our rare book catalogers, Bo Karol, processing rare and medium rare books. Sae Rome adds copy specific notes to the bibliographic records and also prints the flags for the books so that they can be shelved in their proper locations.

Thank you for taking a look at the Rare Books and Special Collections department through the eyes of its student workers. If you have not visited this department yet, we encourage you to stop by! This “hidden gem” is waiting just behind the doors.

July-August Spotlight Exhibit and a Color Our Collection page

War as Child’s Play: German Children’s
Literature from the World Wars

Patriotism and militaristic pride abound in colorful picture books from the World Wars. Good German boys aid troops and boy-soldiers defeat the enemy in the name of their Fatherland.

July’s Spotlight exhibit features Hurra! Ein Kriegs-Bilderbuch by Herbert Rikli and Manövertag: Ein Soldatenbilderbuch by Erich Rohden and illustrated by Fritz Koch-Gotha.

This exhibit is co-curated by Sara Quashnie, a MLIS Candidate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Julie Tanaka, Curator of Rare Books.

Today’s coloring sheet comes from the July Spotlight exhibit.

Recent Acquisition: American Foreign Aid during the Great Famine in Ireland

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

… on Sunday, the 29th March, at 8½ A.M., we cast off from the Yard, with a fine breeze at the N. W., and clear cold weather, the steam Tug, “R. B. Forbes,” in company, with some of the members of the Committee, on board. In about one hour we parted from them, with hearty cheers, and made sail on our course.

A remarkable voyage to bring relief to the Irish in the Great Famine is the subject of Captain R. B. Forbes’ report, The Voyage of the Jamestown on Her Errand of Mercy, published in Boston in 1847. His report for the “Committee of Distribution” combines his account with a substantial appendix of correspondence and other documentation.

A lithograph by Massachusetts artist Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) depicting the USS Jamestown leaving Boston Harbor. The lithograph is listed in the catalog of Lane’s works.

After the Irish potato crop failed due to blight in 1845 and again in 1846, knowing that the potato provided most of the subsistence for a large part of the Irish population, concern for this famine grew throughout the world, but especially in places such as Boston where there was a considerable population of Irish birth or descent. Those who provided assistance in early 1847 expected that the harvest later that year would bring an end to famine, but in fact the blight persisted and the Great Irish Famine lasted until 1852. [i]

Continue reading Recent Acquisition: American Foreign Aid during the Great Famine in Ireland

A Ga-lorious 4th of July

by Sara Quashnie, M.L.I.S. Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

In this print, “Ye two Ga-lorious 4ths,” a Civil War soldier playfully and ironically compared Independence Day observations in 1861 and 1862. Drawing upon his own military experience, the artist compared the way he (and perhaps how he believed his family and friends) idealized military service with the grim realities of army life.

Henry Bacon, the young soldier who created the sketches in this lithograph, enlisted in the 13th Massachusetts Regiment of the United States Army a few weeks after July 4, 1861. Severely wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, he was discharged on December 19, 1862.

While in the army Bacon sold drawings to Frank Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper, a popular publication in the North that fed the public’s voracious appetite for war news including, for the first time, images.

In seven paired images, Bacon mocked his own (and others’) illusions about wartime military service and perhaps also the experience of peacetime service. In “Ye Escort” and “Ye Patriot,” Bacon poked gentle fun at the toy-soldier appearance of a peacetime soldier on escort duty in contrast to the practical, informal, and even patchwork attire of an active soldier “Patriot.”

In a pairing that evoked Independence Day by mentioning “Fire Works,” Bacon contrasted the lofty ideals of “Liberty and Union” (references to ending slavery and secession) with a prosaic military camp fire. He also included an ironic note comparing viewing fireworks with the experience of facing artillery fire.  Another pairing, between “Ye Bewildering Vision” and “Ye ‘Rational’ Reality,” compared a copy of the Declaration of Independence placed upon a richly laden table, with torn and battered “Marching Orders” on the ground beside spartan military rations of “hard bread,” and a canteen of water. Noble rhetoric about saving the Union complemented Independence Day celebrations, but it contrasted starkly with the hardships of military life.

After his discharge Bacon moved to France to study painting and remained in Europe for the rest of his life.


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From the Profession: Rare Books and Manuscript Conference 2017

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Rare Books

Old Capitol, University of Iowa

Iowa City, the only UNESCO City of Literature in North America, hosted the 58th annual Rare Books and Manuscript Section (RBMS) Conference June  20-23, 2017. This city’s vibrant literary and book arts community provided an ideal setting for the venue, “The Stories We Tell.”

The Englert Theatre

RBMS’s 2017 conference focused on the role of storytelling in the mission and daily work of special collections. Over four days of papers, seminars, participatory sessions, and workshops, attendees discussed how telling a compelling narrative forms the heart of cultural heritage work. Narratives are the foundations for writing traditional scholarly monographs, but they also inform the encoding of digital humanities landscapes, building collections, designing courses and exhibitions, and many other endeavors special collections specialists undertake.

Plenary speaker, Micaela Biel (professional storyteller and Ph.D. candidate in Educational Theater at New York University) launched into a gripping story—too long to recount here—that engrained in the audience’s minds the four absolute musts of a compelling story:

  1. stakes: what the conditions were to make it matter;
  2. change: transition from one world to another;
  3. theme: tell a story and let the audience gather the theme;
  4. show, don’t tell.

In a nutshell, “Stories are finding the thread of meaning through a collection of memories.” For special collections professionals, Biel stresses the importance not to tell people what collections mean but to let the collections tell a story. We should open a space for people themselves to make meaning of the collections.


Commitment to Diversity
“. . . we are gathered on the land of the indigenous people of Iowa City,” reverberated through Englert Theatre as Petrina Jackson (Head of Special Collections and Archives, Iowa State University) welcomed attendees at the first plenary session, opening the first full day of “Stories We Tell.” Jackson’s recognition of an often overlooked people foreshadowed one of the major themes that emerged during the remaining sessions, RBMS’s commitment to diversity.

A key component of its vision and mission is RBMS’s commitment to a diverse profession and to collections representing all voices. RBMS recognizes that it needs to bring greater diversity to its membership and has made a concerted effort to attract, mentor, and support “people of any race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability” as stated in RBMS’s Statement on Diversity. The effect of RBMS’s on-going efforts were demonstrated in the remarks by speakers of the various sessions, by the conference attendees themselves, over 300 scholarships awarded for first-time attendees, pairing new members with more experienced RBMS members to acquaint them with the conference and other members, and programming addressing diversity both directly and indirectly.

“Crown Jewel?”
A call for change—Panel speakers from George Washington University, the University of California, Riverside, and Columbia University challenged the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) statement in 2009 that special collections “define the uniqueness and character of individual research libraries.” They argued that this perspective separates special collections from the rest of the library and that this causes others in the library to view special collections, in fact, as “separate or ‘other’ to the larger library system.” This idea that special collections is a library’s “crown jewel” and that its “unique treasures” are what will distinguish the library from other libraries is misguided.

It is of fundamental importance as libraries face budget cuts, shortage of staff, and increasing needs and demands of users that special collections establish itself within the library as part of the whole and work together with all library faculty, staff, and administrators. Our message to our users and to our colleagues at our own institutions should be that we are part of the library and not the privileged gatekeepers of the library’s crown jewels.

The Lighter Side

Detail from image in Iowa State Gazeteer (1865)

Acknowledging the book arts community in Iowa City, home of the Center for the Book, attendees had the chance to print their own souvenir copy of the conference’s mascot, Prodigious (click to watch the press in action), and to take copious notes in the commemorative notebook printed by Tru Art Color Graphics, a family-run printer in Iowa City since 1896.

About RBMS

Rare Books and Manuscript Section, more commonly referred to by its acronym, RBMS, is a section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Tracing its roots to 1948 and a mission to increase understanding about the value of rare books in scholarly research and improving the care, use, and recognition of rare books in libraries, RBMS has expanded its scope to include the broad range of special collections from rare printed books to manuscripts, archives, ephemera, graphics, and music. RBMS has assumed a leading role in the local, national, and international communities to represent and promote the interests of librarians, curators, and other specialists who concern themselves with the use, preservation, security, and administration of special collections.

RBMS is currently comprised of over 1750 members who represent librarians, curators, students, rare book sellers, conservators, and others interested in special collections. Members share the values of the library profession and are committed to the principles of fairness, freedom, professional excellence, and respect for individual rights. Because of the additional responsibilities special collections librarians have that arise from being entrusted with caring for cultural property, preserving original artifacts, and supporting scholarship based on primary research materials, special collections professionals adhere to the Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians and are expected to demonstrate “the highest standard of behavior . . . [because] propriety is essential to the maintenance of public trust in the institution and in its staff.”


Summer 2017 Exhibits

Detail of the Great Lakes region of the map on display (MAN 1719-01-F3).

The June spotlight exhibit, on display through the end of the month, is J. P. Homann’s “Buffalo Map,” ca. 1720.

On display is a map of North America by the important German cartographer J. P. Homann, emphasizing French claims in the Mississippi River Valley in the early eighteenth century. The map is one of several hundred items making up the Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region, donated by the Scanlans to the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003-04. The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).

The July spotlight exhibit will feature German children’s literature from the two World Wars, and will be co-curated by Sara Quashnie (MLIS Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, ND ’15) and Julie Tanaka (Curator, Special Collections).

The Summer spotlight exhibit, on display now through September, is “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America. On display are seven manuscripts from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Among the characteristic manuscript forms of antebellum America are albums filled with poetry, prose, drawings, and other content created for the book’s owner by family and acquaintances. Such friendship albums, as they are called, have a long history, but they were especially prevalent in the Romantic era, with its new ideology of sentimental friendship. In the United States friendship albums begin to appear in number in the 1820s, and while contributors were often male, the albums themselves were usually maintained by young women.

The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).

The current main exhibit, “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic, continues through the summer and will close August 11, 2017.

Constable MS 4: a leaf from the so-called “Wilton Processional”

by David T. Gura, Curator, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts

In August 2015, Giles Constable donated a small collection of fragments and charters in memory of his daughter, Olivia Remie Constable (1960-2014), who had been the Robert M. Conway Director of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. The gift included a thirteenth-century leaf from a processional, later shown to be at Wilton Abbey, a women’s Benedictine house, until 1860. The parent manuscript was broken by Cleveland biblioclast, Otto F. Ege (1888-1951), who included leaves from it in his portfolio, Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscript. It was Leaf no. 8. Leaves from the processional were disseminated widely through Ege’s portfolios as well as from later dealers, and now are part of many American and Canadian collections. Processionals contain the antiphons and rubrics pertaining to the processions themselves. For example, Palm Sunday and the Visitatio sepulchri are included.

Constable MS 4 contains part of the procession for Palm Sunday. Of great interest, and rarity, is the use of feminine forms in the rubrics (e.g., ‘cantrix’). This shows intentional customization for a female religious community, whereas many other manuscripts often transmit the masculine forms even though they were used by women.



Alison Altstatt, “Re-membering the Wilton Processional,” Notes 72 (2016): 690-732.

David T. Gura, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016), pp. 480-482.

Scott Gwara, Otto Ege’s Manuscripts (Cayce, SC: De Brailes, 2013).


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“‘Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith’: Catholics in the Early American Republic” digital exhibit

This digital exhibit expands on the current exhibit on display in Special Collections. It displays examples of American Catholicism expressed through (mostly) printed texts from 1783 through the early 1840s. They include the earliest Catholic bibles published by Mathew Carey, and editions of Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ used and produced in the United States; polemical pamphlets with sexual and political subtexts that flew back and forth across the Atlantic; no-holds-barred dueling sectarian newspapers; books and pamphlets created in reaction to mob violence against the Ursuline convent school near Boston; and official reports that mapped the Church’s growth and growing pains.

Questions and comments may be directed to Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus. The physical exhibition continues to be open to the public through August 11, 2017.

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Memorial Day

To honor all who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Memorial Day, originally celebrated as Decoration Day, began after the Civil War. John A. Logan, a general in the Union Army and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans, issued General Orders No. 11. Logan designated that the graves of those who died fighting to defend their country be decorated on May 30, 1868. Almost 100 years to the day later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law, Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Holiday Bill, establishing the official observance of Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.

Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), an American journalist and poet from New Brunswick, New Jersey, served in the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard during the First World War. He fell victim to a sniper’s bullet during the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. His poem, “Memorial Day,” appeared in his second volume of poetry, Trees and Other Poems, published in 1914 by George H. Doran and Company.

Color Our Collections: Baseball digital exhibit

Today’s coloring sheet comes from our most recent digital exhibit, “Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900 from the Joyce Sports Collection”. This online exhibition displays early printed and manuscript matter on baseball held in Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame, and is curated by George Rugg.