“Decoration Day,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was published posthumously—first in June 1882 in The Atlantic and later that same year in In the Harbor, a book containing previously unpublished poems. The poem “pays tribute to what was then a new form of civic observance: a day set aside to commemorate those who had perished in the Civil War by placing flags and flowers on soldiers’ graves, a custom that gradually gave rise to our modern Memorial Day honoring all who give their lives in military service.” (David Barber, The Atlantic, May 30, 2011)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) was but five years old when he witnessed the War of 1812 devastate his hometown. This event had a long-lasting impact on him.
Wordsworth would go on to Bowdoin College, graduating along with Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1825 before traveling through Europe, where he gained mastery over seven languages. On his return to the US, he taught languages first at Bowdoin and later at Harvard, and also spent much time writing textbooks and essays on languages, particularly French, Italian, and Spanish. While at Harvard, Longfellow’s literary career took off. He travelled to Europe twice more before resigning from Harvard in 1854 to devote his full attention to writing.
Less than a decade later—in 1861—not only did his beloved wife, Fanny, die but the Civil War broke out and his son, fighting for the Union, was wounded. The invalid had to be escorted home by his father and brother. To cope with these tragedies, Longfellow immersed himself in his literary endeavors including a full translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy (completed in 1864). Against memories of the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the traumatic loss of a wife and the injury of a son, Longfellow continued to write. In some of his last pieces, including “Decoration Day,” one cannot help but notice Longfellow’s solemnity and poignancy.
All of us in Rare Books and Special Collections send our best wishes to all the 2018 graduates of the University of Notre Dame.
We would also like to congratulate:
Laura Neis (ND ’18), who received an honorable mention in the Senior and Honors Thesis category of the Undergraduate Library Research Awards (ULRA) for her senior thesis, “Rare Women and True Martyrs: Female Martyrdom under Queen Elizabeth I.” Laura conducted background research for her thesis using resources from the Rare Books collection.
Mia Alyse Mologousis (ND ’18), who won the Joseph Italo Bosco Award for Excellence in Italian Studies. Mia’s research materials included the La Difesa Della Razza periodical in Special Collections Italian literature holdings.
April arrived with budding young minds from Notre Dame’s ECDC and from Chicago’s Pritzker College Prep, eager to examine objects from our holdings.
At the beginning of the month, a group of about twenty-five kindergarteners, parent chaperones, and teachers from the Early Childhood Development Center—more commonly known on campus simply as ECDC—brought lots of smiles and excitement to the department on an otherwise cold, dreary April day. This marked ECDC’s nineteenth annual visit to Hesburgh Libraries. Their first stop was Rare Books and Special Collections where they got to learn about a range of materials. The star of the show was the department’s infamous bling book. This 17th- or 18th-century gradual is almost as big as the kids themselves, and the brightly colored, shiny stones decorating the cover were a big hit. The kids learned about how early books were put together. They felt the thick wooden boards and remnants of the leather covering.
A potential environmentalist, examining Garbage by the Canadian book artist Lise Melhorn-Boe explained that garbage goes to landfills and that when they fill up, we won’t have anywhere to put our garbage. This kindergartener’s comment was right on target. Melhorn-Boe’s book—a mini garbage can housing mesh bags filled with a week’s worth of garbage—does make you stop and think about the amount of trash each of us produces.
After their stop here, the ECDC children headed to the Center for Digital Scholarship, Circulation, and the great view of the greater Michiana area from the fourteenth floor (though the cloud cover acted like a veil on this particular day). Rumor has it that after spending a day in the library, the children created a library in the dramatic play area at ECDC and have been making pop up books and tiny books in their classroom!
Less than a week later, a group of forty freshmen and sophomores visited. They were from Chicago’sPritzker College Prep, a public charter high school in the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Accompanied by three of their teachers, the group learned about books, manuscripts, and prints that spanned from the fifteenth century to present, covered Europe and the Americas, and included history, science, culture, art, and more.
The first item the students examined was one of the most important pieces in the history of western printing, Hartmann Schedel’s Liber cronicarum, more commonly known in English as the Nuremberg Chronicle. Students had the chance not only to learn why this book was so important and why we call it the Nuremberg Chronicle but also to experience history. Some of them felt the vellum cover and the handmade paper from 1493. When asked if they had ever seen or touched a book from the fifteenth century, they looked down and shook their heads no. The excitement and curiosity on many of their faces after literally touching history, hopefully, will be something that will continue to inspire them as they continue their studies.
Following this, they turned to the first edition of the text that transformed astronomy, Copernicus’ De revolutionibus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), printed in 1543. Then they examined a facsimile of the Códice Florentino (Florentine Codex). They were particularly excited to see the facsimile of the 16th-century Mesoamerican manuscript (which currently is held by the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy). Before their visit, the students had studied a section of this ethnographic piece by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún.
Among some of the other materials that the Pritzker students learned about were a manuscript of trial proceedings from the Spanish Inquisition, the first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (currently celebrating its bicentennial), and a Bible illustrated by the Spanish surrealist artist, Salvador Dalì. Two students were particularly intrigued by a portfolio of linocut prints by the Mexican artist Sergio Sánchez Santamaría. They remarked that the images were extremely pretty and were also intrigued when they saw the original linocut used to produce the print sitting next to the print.
Whether just starting school or already in the midst, students can discover a rich and exciting world of materials that too often are not part of their general studies. The texts and images provide valuable content, but being able to engage with the physical objects offers an experience like no other. Being able to feel how well made paper was in the fifteenth century or coming into physical contact with a book that has survived over five hundred years and that has a distinguished lineage or seeing the very piece of linoleum that had been carved to make the finished print excites the mind as the facial expressions and questions and comments of all of these students demonstrated.
ECDC and Pritzker are a couple of examples of groups beyond Notre Dame’s undergraduate and graduate classes that have visited Rare Books and Special Collections. We appreciate instructors taking time to bring their classes and enjoy working with all of these students and instructors. We encourage others groups, whether Pre-K, elementary, middle, or high school and even groups from other organizations to visit Rare Books and Special Collections. If you are interested in visiting, please contact us. We are happy to talk about what your students are studying and what their interests are to identify materials from our collections that would be the most relevant to enhance their learning and stimulate their imaginations.
Rare Books and Special Collections would like to extend its appreciation to all of the people involved in making the visits of ECDC and Pritzker College Prep happen. To the teachers and teacher aides, to the administrators, the parents, and, most importantly, to the students themselves—excited and curious about the old and new, the traditional looking and not so traditional looking, the familiar and the foreign—THANK YOU.
The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, has been extended into January. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.
The monthly spotlight exhibit for November and December, Building A Colonial Mexican Tavern: Archive of the Pulquería El Tepozán, has also been extended through mid-January. Watch for a new exhibit to be installed later in January and continue through February.
The winter spotlight exhibit is Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg. This exhibit features highlights from the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.
Friday, September 15 at 4:00pm | Dedication program for Emily Young’s sculpture Lethos, to be followed by a reception in the Carey Courtyard View Area (Second Floor – Hesburgh Library). Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Alumni Committee for Poetry and Sculpture.
The monthly spotlight exhibit for September is The Art of Botanical Illustration: Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary.
The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.
Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21. (This event was originally scheduled for August 31.)
The monthly spotlight exhibit, War as Child’s Play: German Children’s Literature from the World Wars, continues through August. The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.
Please note that Special Collections will be closed to the public the week of August 7-11 due to facilities maintenance.
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.”
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:
stakes: what the conditions were to make it matter;
change: transition from one world to another;
theme: tell a story and let the audience gather the theme;
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.
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.
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.”
With these words, John Carroll, head of the fledgling Catholic Church in the United States and future bishop, encouraged his fellow Catholics in 1784. Catholics held a precarious position in the Early Republic despite having gained more freedom to practice their religion after the Revolution. By the 1840s, in the face of increasing sectarian-driven violence, Catholicism had taken firm institutional root.
This exhibition 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.
This exhibition is curated by Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus and is open to the public through August 11, 2017.
A new exhibit opens January 16: “Preserving the Steadfastness of your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic. This exhibition 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. The exhibition is curated by Rachel Bohlmann and Jean McManus.
Continuing on display during the month are the two spotlight exhibits: Birds! Winged Wonders in Naturalists’ Eyes and The Nathaniel Rogers Sermon Notebook, ca. 1634-1645