RBSC welcomes all back to campus for Fall ’20! As we welcome students, faculty and staff back from the strangest summer break yet, we want to let you know about a few things to watch for with regards to currently modified library spaces and in-person services.
Hesburgh Libraries’ health and safety protocols include limiting our building population. The Hesburgh Library remains open to current students, faculty and staff of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross College.
Our curators love to introduce classes to the collections. As class visits are not possible this semester, we are devising alternative ways to teach and to allow students to explore the books, pamphlets, manuscripts and posters that help them to contextualize their studies.
For instructors who wish to take their classes for a Rare Books and Special Collections session, we would be delighted to explore alternative possibilities. Please email RBSC, contact Aedín Clements, or contact the curator with whom you normally work to discuss your classes’ needs.
Fall 2020 Exhibits
Because the department is currently available by appointment only due to restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus closed to walk-in traffic, we have temporarily suspended our physical exhibits program.
The planned fall exhibit celebrating the Centenary of the 19th Amendment and exploring the Women’s Suffrage movement is being organized digitally rather than physically. Watch this space for an announcement when the digital exhibit is published.
Events in Special Collections
RBSC is not hosting lectures, receptions, or other events this fall. Some events usually hosted in RBSC, such as the Italian Research series of lectures, are going online — when we are aware of such plans, we’ll continue to share the information here. However, given the fluidity of plans in the current environment, it is best to watch the organizing program and department websites for the most accurate information.
We look forward to resuming lectures and events when it is safe to do so.
Special Collections Online Resources
From digital exhibits to online finding aids, there are various ways to discover digitized portions of our collections. Our website’s page on Digital Projects provides a directory of these resources.
The Irish Broadside Ballads are a treasure trove of nineteenth century social media, including commentary on economic affairs, accounts of crimes and tragedies, and political news and opinions.
We thought our readers might enjoy seeing a sample from our collection. The collection may be viewed online.
While the authors of many ballads remain unknown, some ballads may be traced to their author. This ballad, ‘A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey‘, is described in an engaging article by Robert Gahan, ‘Some Old Street Characters of Dublin’, in the Dublin Historical Record of December 1939.
Gahan describes a trio of street musicians known as Hamlet, Dunbar and Uncle, who performed together on Dublin’s streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the 1870s. He goes on to tell us the circumstances that led to this ballad:
In 1874 the eminent Evangelists, Moody and Sankey, came to Dublin ; walls and hoardings were covered with posters announcing their meetings, and Dublin was, as a prominent newspaper said, “greatly stirred.” “Hamlet” was stirred too, but it was to compose in “appreciation” of the evangelists. The song the trio let loose upon Dublin… is “A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey.”
In this digital exhibit, the curators, Erika and Julie, recreate the physical exhibit, including the unaltered text from the information cards as well as the accompanying rhino cards geared towards kids. They also offer a candid statement about their intent for the exhibit and how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted it. Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital documents this project in its entirety, from conception through planning, installation, and outreach.
Erika and Julie welcome questions about their original intentions and about how they made adjustments in light of the restrictions created by the COVID-19 outbreak. They would also like to hear from others who have undergone similar experiences or who are interested in doing something similar.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day—April 22, 2020—Rare Books and Special Collections offers an online exhibition, Describing, Conserving, and Celebrating the Earth: Primary Sources from Hesburgh Libraries. It displays sources about the earth in science, culture, public policy, and politics, from the 1750s to 2004. In keeping with the American origins of Earth Day in 1970 and the EPA, these sources are primarily from an American context.
Each section holds a primary source or group of sources that reflect different periods, kinds of materials (books, illustrations, posters, reports, etc.), and approaches to studying, appreciating, and preserving the earth. The library’s Rare Books and Special Collections resources are where some of these items come from; others are government documents that are available in the open stacks of Hesburgh Library (when the library’s print collection reopens).
A mid-eighteenth-century British naturalist’s illustrated description of wildlife and plant life in the American colonies.
The first issue of the Sierra Club Bulletin, a nature enthusiast’s magazine focused on the western United States.
A late nineteenth-century botanist’s findings, published in an early scientific journal.
A World War II poster by the United States Forest Service, urging people to preserve forests.
A mid-century warning about human damage to wildlife in the United States.
Examples of federal conservation before the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): a conference report on pollution in the Lake Michigan watershed, and an international commission’s findings about pollution levels in boundary waters between Canada and the US.
A compilation of environment-inspired poems, published a few years after the first Earth Day.
An Earth Day-inspired speech by actor and environmentalist Eddie Albert.
Two EPA publications: an early catalog of agency-sponsored training programs for professionals responsible for pollution control, and a 2004 brochure about the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay.
While the Irish Studies collection in the Hesburgh Libraries has grown considerably in recent decades, one of the enduring treasures, and the collection most often inquired about, is the O’Neill Collection. This is the personal library of Francis O’Neill, the famous collector of Irish music who was once Chicago’s Chief of Police.
Francis O’Neill (1848-1936) left Ireland in his teens, travelled the world as a sailor, settled in America and after first qualifying as a teacher in Missouri, moved to Chicago where he joined the police force in 1873. By all accounts a larger-than-life figure, he was well-known both as a police officer and as one of the major experts on Irish traditional music.
Sometime in the later 1880s… Francis O’Neill began to realize that there was yet much Irish traditional music to be collected and preserved that had escaped earlier collectors. He recruited James O’Neill to the project of collection and started to visit him regularly … so that the tunes remembered from Francis’ childhood in Cork could be noted down from his dictation in a private manuscript collection… [i]
As months and years passed and word of their enterprise spread others contributed tunes to the collection and James O’Neill began visiting musicians in their homes to note their music.
Nicholas Carolan goes on to describe how O’Neill’s project developed, his publication of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) and his other books, and of the enduring legacy of these books.
For generations of musicians who play Irish traditional music, O’Neill’s books are perceived as essential. Carolan aptly named his book ‘A Harvest Saved’ as O’Neill collected at a time and place where people had left the communities in which the music had thrived. The 75,000 Irish immigrants in Chicago carried with them the music of many parts of Ireland, and O’Neill was able to tap into the rich repository of their tunes and record them for posterity.
O’Neill was following in the footsteps of important collectors such as Edward Bunting and George Petrie, many of whose books are in O’Neill’s collection and bear pencilled annotations indicating his careful study of the contents.
This book is one of the most important works in the history of Irish music collecting. Edward Bunting began his life-long interest in the collection of Irish harp-music in 1792. He notated the music of performers at the Belfast Harp Festival that year, and this inspired him to continue for many years in his collection and study of Irish harp music.
The O’Neill Collection includes also Bunting’s two later collections, published in 1809 and 1840. O’Neill’s pencilled notes can be seen in the margins of these books.
The O’Neill Collection includes important works from Scotland including Orpheus Caledonius by William Thompson, one of the earliest published collections of Scottish songs. First published in two volumes in 1725, our O’Neill copy is volume I only of the 1733 edition. This copy has pencil annotations either by O’Neill or by an earlier reader. It also includes a subscribers list, which is not included in the facsimile edition published in 1962.
When Chief O’Neill offered his library to the University in 1931, he described it as having a ‘Hiberniana’ collection and a music collection. In each case, his library was exceptional. Our O’Neill Collection includes a valuable selection of books on Irish history and antiquities, and in the music section, a collection of many well-known collections of Irish music, along with lesser-known books of dance music, and books on the music and instruments of Ireland, England and Scotland in particular.
Hoping to bring the O’Neill Collection to enthusiasts who cannot visit the Hesburgh, we selected thirty of the rarest books from the collection for digitization. We plan to share these digital collections in a number of ways — the Internet Archive being one — making it possible to study the books anywhere in the world.
The lion above is featured in the second edition of Michael Bernhard Valentini’s Amphitheatrum zootomicum (1742), currently on display in the Spring ’20 exhibit.
A few thoughts from Julie, one of the curators stuck at home.
For our diehard fans who anxiously await 9:00am (EDT) to see what fascinating piece we’ve put up, I have some sad news. We’re a bit late today.
Being removed from our collections and separated into our remote offices—and for me, staring out the window at a gloomy gray sky—are posing some challenges such as keeping track of what day of the week it is.
I know all us at RBSC would prefer being back in the office, but for now we’re dong our best. Look for news in the not too distant future about a digital version of the exhibit Erika and I curated, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. It’s underway. Here’s what I’m working from:
You’ll notice the image quality is not up to our normal standards.
Fortunately, I have a Word doc with the text for the exhibit labels and Sara’s been dealing with the joys (that is, the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s) of accessing our archival images on the server.
So, please, I hope you find a bit of amusement in my morning musing as I drain another cup of coffee and deal with my cat being annoyed because I’m home when I’m normally not.
Keep in mind, we’re still functioning as a remote department, so if you have questions, feel free to drop any of the curators an email or one to our awesome front line staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digitizing our books is one way to share our collections with a wider readership. An area where we have begun this digitization is our early print collection in Irish studies. The collection includes books on Ireland and Irish affairs, often from an English perspective, and also books by Irish authors on science, theology and other subjects. The core of the collection was acquired in 2007, and as many of the books are rare and particularly difficult to find in America, we are enthusiastic about sharing the digital images.
In addition to having copies stored in our own CurateND, the digital collection is made available on the Internet Archive and we have plans to share also on Hathi Trust. While Hathi Trust is limited to member libraries, the Internet Archive is freely available to all, and allows readers a number of ways to view the books, including ‘turning pages’ by clicking on a page.
This book is an example of the kind of primary document that makes a great impression on a student who can visit and see the physical book — printed shortly after the trial and execution, the book provides a tangible link to the events of the time.
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.
Among the harbingers of spring here in RBSC is the introduction of a newly completed digital exhibit of early baseball publications and manuscripts drawn from the holdings of the Joyce Sports Collection. “Words on Play: Baseball Literature before 1900” brings together recreational manuals, guidebooks, histories, biographies, fiction and other forms, including many of the subject area’s great rarities. The exhibit was created by RBSC’s Americana curator, George Rugg.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, American baseball evolved from a localized folk game of English origin to a codified sport of broad popular appeal, commonly cited as the “National Pastime.” Clubs of young men dedicated to playing the game began to appear in earnest in the New York City area in the second quarter of the century; the rules they established became the basis for the sport as we know it today. In the post-Civil War years baseball became thoroughly commodified: crowds of paying spectators gathered in enclosed “parks” to watch celebrated professionals compete at an elite level. By 1900 baseball had entered the mainstream of American popular culture, and had been imbued with many of the mythologies that would persist in the minds of its celebrants well into the twentieth century: baseball as pastoral ideal, baseball as an exercise in democracy, baseball as secular religion. As a recreational form, then, baseball originated in England, but as a form of sport it is American, for it was in America that the game became standardized, organized and popular—and, one might add, the subject of a literature.
The printed word both recorded baseball’s growth and stimulated it. In the first few decades of the nineteenth century the game is mentioned mainly in children’s recreational manuals. Baseball’s rapid rise after mid-century was accompanied by a growing commentary, mainly in sporting newspapers and paper-bound annual guides, describing, discussing, and otherwise publicizing the game. By the 1880s and 90s coverage of professional baseball in urban daily newspapers had became routine, and many of the familiar genres of baseball book had made their appearance. Baseball journalists—who authored many of the books in this exhibit—never tired of emphasizing their contribution to the game’s success, and that contribution was no doubt great. Still, the number of baseball monographs published in the nineteenth century was not large; “Words on Play” brings together copies of most of the key publications of baseball’s early history.