Last week, a group of librarians participated in a large history class on Global Catholicism taught by Professor John McGreevy. Ideally, the fifty-five students would have visited the Special Collections and seen artifacts relating to different aspects of Catholic history throughout the world.
This year, students assembled on Zoom, and our preparation for the class included making digital images or identifying online digital surrogates. We also organized our selection of artifacts in an online library guide so that students could explore at their own pace. Each student is expected to write about one of these items.
Some items in our selection were already available digitally in different platforms.
In some cases, we identified another copy on a platform such as Hathi Trust or the Internet Archive.
In presenting to the class, we assembled on zoom and each shared a screen and introduced our selections to an attentive class. While students missed the opportunity to see the physical items, as compensation, all fifty-five students could simultaneously view each item without peering over one another’s shoulders.
In other adventures in the online world, Rachel Bohlmann and Erika Hosselkus offered a workshop for students working on primary source-based projects through the Nanovic Institute. Five of the six people who registered were graduate students. This is one indication of an increased interest among our young scholars in finding primary sources online.
Besides our adventures in screen-sharing, Monica Moore bravely taught an online class where she staged a selection of rare French books in our seminar room, speaking, showing books and turning pages beneath an overhead camera, all on Zoom — a kind of double-level filmed class. This was the closest simulation we have tried so far of a physical class in which students and librarian interact with the materials.
From our experiences, we have learned that once we understand what a professor hopes to gain by introducing students to our special collections, we can work together to develop a successful, and dare we say stimulating, class.
August 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In honor of the centenary, Rare Books and Special Collections has created an online exhibition of materials from both special and general library collections. The quotation in the title comes from a speech by Mary Duffy, a working class woman from New York who addressed the state’s legislature in 1907. She argued that of course women needed the ballot for political reasons—so that they were represented in government. But, she maintained, women needed it even more urgently so that the men around them—from bosses to fellow trade unionists to family members—would take women seriously as people, as equals.
This exhibition tells a full (though not complete) story of the long fight for suffrage. It begins well before the Civil War and extends through the mid-1920s, after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It focuses on the laborious processes of building a movement, of forging alliances, of creating a culture of reform that was broader than voting rights but that, in the end, became defined by that singular goal. It shows how women, white and black, elite and working class, native born and immigrant, moved themselves from outside of political power to inside; from second-class citizens with a limited public voice and no direct representation, to citizens with some of the tools of democracy at their disposal.
The Nineteenth Amendment was a stupendous political achievement. As political outsiders, women persuaded enough men within the political system voluntarily to give women political power. It doubled the American electorate, making its passage the most powerful democracy-building piece of legislation in US history.
Still, the victory was incomplete, or at least, a work in progress. As New York suffragist Crystal Eastman put it in 1920, “men are saying thank goodness that everlasting women’s fight is over!” but women are saying “now at last we can begin.” Eastman’s observation makes an important point about the complexity of marking this centenary solely as a victory. Suffrage for women was not turned on like a tap in 1920, nor did it flow for every woman after the Nineteenth Amendment. Many women voted before the amendment, and many women did not cast ballots after it. The reasons for these differences have much to do with racism and white supremacy, as well as religious and class prejudices, within and outside the movement.
This exhibition includes books, pamphlets, magazines, and posters—materials designed to appeal to broad, popular audiences. Scattered through these once popular books and magazines we can gain an angle of view on what many, if not a majority of, Americans thought about women’s work, their place in the family, and their civic responsibilities. At the same time, this exhibition represents the breadth of the women’s movement and how it propelled the fight for suffrage despite resilient opposition.
 Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), 5.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic limits our ability to handle physical collections, Rare Books and Special Collections strives to provide patrons with the next best thing — access to digital surrogates. Last week, we responded to a request for a high quality image of an Inquisition censorship edict, from Mexico, dating to 1809.
This item is part of our Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, which contains manuals, edicts, trials, certificates, accounts of autos de fe, and other materials produced by and about the Inquisition in Spain and the Americas. Revisiting this document at the request of a patron provides an opportunity this week to highlight Inquisition edicts, a major component of our Inquisition manuscript holdings.
This edict is a large format document that would have been posted on a wall or door for public consumption. Edicts such as this one supplemented and updated the more voluminous indices of banned books published and maintained by the Inquisition beginning in 1551. This particular example is quite lengthy and also attests to the Inquisition’s perseverance into the nineteenth century and to its presence in Spain’s American colonies. It bans some 55 works and is signed at the bottom by Inquisition officials.
Titles banned include, of course, works pertaining to Lutheranism. Also on the list are historical works, especially those that are anti-monarchical such as Histoire des révolutions de France, by an anonymous author, and Recherches politiques sur l’état ancien, et moderne de la Pologne. Each of these titles treats the French Revolution. Inquisitorial concern over them speaks to the political situation in Spain, where Napoleon Bonaparte had recently placed his brother on the throne. Mere months after the issuance of this 1809 edict, armed uprisings in support of independence from Spain would begin in Mexico.
The edict also prohibits theatrical plays deemed to include seditious content, due in part to the fears regarding rebellion against Spain in the American colonies. This last category includes a piece entitled, “El Negro, y la Blanca,” (“The Black Man and the White Woman”) by playwright Vicente Rodriguez de Arellano, said to be revolutionary in spirit, with ability to engender civil, political, and moral ruin. It also includes “El Negro Sensible” (“The Sensible Black Man”), a manuscript play said to encourage enslaved people to rebel against their owners. This play, by Spaniard Luciano Francisco Comella, indeed highlights the evils of slavery. The main character, an enslaved man named Catúl, asserts his humanity and tells his owner that the souls of black men and white men are the same. This work was the inspiration for the later and eponymous play by one of Mexico’s best known authors, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.
The Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection has both a finding aid and a dedicated website which includes thematic essays that explore the different types of documents generated by the Inquisition, with references given for further reading. The collection contains over 150 edicts dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here are two additional examples of censorship edicts:
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.