Librarians at the American Conference for Irish Studies

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

This year’s American Conference for Irish Studies, or ACIS 2018, was held in the beautiful campus of University College Cork (UCC), in the south of Ireland. The biggest annual conference on Irish studies, it includes many disciplines, and over one hundred panels were convened during the five days in addition to plenary lectures, book launches and, importantly, regular breaks where colleagues could meet and discuss common interests.

An ‘ad hoc group’ of librarians and archivists has been active in ACIS for some years now, carving out a niche within the conference to come together and learn from one another. Presentations at the five library and archives events were stimulating, informative and well attended, and participants have returned to their libraries inspired and invigorated.

We learned about specific collections and books, and about exciting and innovative projects. We share a mission to collect and preserve our collections, and we also strive to make our collections visible and accessible. In fact, the Hesburgh Libraries’ mission, to connect people to knowledge across time and space, implies the collection and preservation of that knowledge and emphasizes the connecting element, which was a recurrent theme in this conference.

As the conference was in Ireland, American librarians and scholars had an opportunity to learn about exciting projects at the National Library of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast, Dúchas and the National Folklore Collection, and the Irish Traditional Music Archive. We also learned from one another of interesting collections, both historic and newly-developed, and of interesting ways to make specific collections available digitally. An unexpected pleasure was a special visit offered by the Boole Library at UCC.

Some of the highlights are mentioned here, with links for further exploration.

Sharing and Making Collections and Data Accessible

RASCAL is a database of descriptions of collections relevant for the study of Ireland, held at libraries, archives and museums. Louisa Costello of Queens University Belfast described this project and the latest developments which include both a new-look website and an improved data entry form that will make it easier for librarians to submit information on collections. Currently, only one of Notre Dame’s Irish collections, the O’Neill Collection, has been entered in the RASCAL database, and so news of the new data submission form was very encouraging, and we expect that the database will be much improved in coming months by data entered by librarians at U.S. institutions.

Immediate examples of RASCAL’s utility could be seen throughout the conference. Ciara Ryan, pursuing her Ph.D. at UCC, has been working with a fascinating manuscript collection of an Irish-speaker and storyteller who worked as a miner in Montana. She demonstrated some of this collection  from the Butte-Silver Bow Archives at the Digital Projects Showcase. The RASCAL database could provide a way for researchers to learn of this unexpected collection in a Montana archives.

Other collections were described during the conference and as RASCAL was explained, we were all considering how these could be included in the RASCAL database for increased visibility. These include the various collections at the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee, the collections at ITMA, the Dion Boucicault Collection which is being digitized at the University of South Florida and the P. S. O’Hegarty Collection at the University of Kansas. Researchers might consider searching the Irish Traditional Music Archive to find sources on Irish music and related culture, but it is unlikely that a scholar would stumble on the rich collection of P.S. O’Hegarty in Kansas without some guidance.

Discussion of Collections

The conference provided a forum for many descriptions of collections and even of single items. These were attended both by librarians, who are generally interested in all collections, and by scholars who wished to learn more about specific collections. Presentations on collections discussed issues of organization and digitization in ways that made the discussion accessible and relevant to scholars, librarians and archivists alike.

In all, three speakers addressed the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, and Fiontar, the digital humanities and Irish language group at Dublin City University that has developed websites on placenames, terminology and biography, and also the digitized folklore collection, Dúchas, or duchas.ie.

The National Folklore Collection, is recognized by UNESCO for its “outstanding universal value to culture”. Fiontar initially digitized the Schools Folklore Collection, and more recently the Photographic Collection has been added.

The Schools Folklore Collection was carried out in 1937-39 by the Irish Folklore Commission, the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organization.  Children in primary schools all over the 26 counties of the Irish Free State were asked to collect folklore, often interviewing their parents, grandparents or neighbors.

A remarkable collection was amassed in this way, hundreds of thousands of pages, from more than fifty thousand school pupils. This has now been digitized on Duchas.ie, and the riches of the collection are already apparent. The collection can now be searched by place, name and topic, and the revision of the classification system to enable better searching in the digital collection made for a fascinating talk by Jonny Dillon.

To enable full-text searching,  for which the handwritten pages need to be transcribed, Dúchas.ie initiated a Meitheal, the Irish equivalent of the American barn raising or gathering of neighbors to share in the work. Volunteers of the Meitheal have transcribed many of the pages, and at this point, 24% of the 95,511 Irish language pages are transcribed, and 31% of the 348,812 English language pages are completed.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0806, Page 72. Image and data © National Folklore Collection, UCD.

The page shown here is exemplary of one of the very understandable demands made of this collection: “Can I see the pages contributed by my family members?” This page on folk cures, including the use of fried frogs for toothache, is by Richard Forrestal of Convent View, Tullamore. Richard, my father’s cousin, is now in his nineties and living in Long Island, New York. Thanks to the initial data entry of names, places and titles, such pages can easily be found in the database. And some of this data entry was carried out by student interns from Notre Dame.

In contrast to the large collections of the National Folklore Collection, an engaging presentation by Crónán Ó Doibhlin of UCC’s Boole Library described one book, Leabhar Mór na hÉireann, The Great Book of Ireland, a spectacular artistic creation composed of art and manuscript poems and music by Ireland’s leading artists, poets and composers. Another single-book discussion was the round table discussion devoted to the production of The Atlas of the Irish Revolution, in which the tools of digital humanities were used to great effect.

In addition to traditional panel presentations, this conference offered a Digital Projects Showcase in which presenters demonstrated their projects as attendees moved around the showcase area.  This new “showcase” format, organized by Kathleen Williams of Boston College, worked very well and we hope to replicate and develop it at future conferences. It allowed those interested mainly in music, for example, to stop at the tables of Beth Sweeney who demonstrated Boston College’s digitized collection of musician Séamus Connolly, and Jeff Ksiazek, archivist at the Ward Irish Music Archives.

The Boston Pilot has been used by Boston College to extract data from many of its advertisements asking for information on Irish immigrants.  These advertisements, common in the nineteenth century, frequently provided information on the sought-for person’s native county and the date and place of their arrival in America. Kathleen Williams of Boston College discussed the migration of the data from the original newspaper ads to eight printed volumes (Ruth-Ann Mellish Harris and Donald M. Jacobs, The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in the Boston Pilot. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989), to an online database, and finally, to a dataset in Dataverse. Segments of the Pilot and Boston Pilot have been digitized by Boston College. An article titled “The Boston Pilot in the 1840’s” is available online from Boston College Libraries.

Using digital technology to improve access to documents that are already available online, ‘born digital’ was described by Emilie Pine in an account of a database created to make a lengthy and dense report accessible and meaningful for readers and researchers. Industrial Memories offers a way to search and analyze the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009), known as the Ryan Report. The Ryan Report  is a hefty five-volume document detailing the investigation into abuse of children in institutions in the Irish Republic from 1936 on. The Industrial Memories Project makes it possible to search the report and the project has also used digital tools to interrogate the report to find hidden patterns in the text. These are demonstrated on the Industrial Memories website.

A digitization project that is in process, described to us by Deirdre Wildy of Queens University Belfast, is the important Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. This is exciting news for all in Irish studies, and it appears that the “women’s anthology”, or volumes 4 and 5 will be available from JSTOR before too long.

New Formats – New Collections

Joanna Finegan described the National Library of Ireland’s selective web archiving, and her data on the speed at which political web content disappears following an election made people sit up and realize the importance of the NLI’s project. Our collections here at Notre Dame include many political pamphlets printed around the time of the 1798 Rising; we have a good collection of Northern Ireland pamphlets and ephemera that helps students understand the political messages and propaganda of the time. But for recent referenda and elections, archived web pages will be invaluable for future historians.

From the National Library also, Elizabeth Kirwan described the development of the Irish Queer Archive, the most comprehensive collection of material in Ireland relating to homosexuality, LGBT literature and general Queer studies.

The presentation of Grace Toland, Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, also addressed the original formats of materials, and ways to both preserve and make accessible, recorded music performances. ITMA is exemplary of the new model of archive where sharing the archival resources is a major priority, and ITMA is also working to develop new and better ways to use digital methods to represent its collection.

The ACIS Conference

There was much information gathered at the conference that we would love to share more broadly. For anyone interested in learning more, a list of the libraries and archives panels mentioned above is appended below, followed by a list of links to the various collections and projects mentioned.

Libraries, Archives and Digital Projects at ACIS 2018

The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies 1: Issues in DigitiSation

Monday 18 June, 4 p.m.
Chair: Aedín Clements

Joanna Finnegan, The National Library of Ireland’s Web Archive: Resources for the Study of Ireland Online
Anna Bale and Conchúr Mag Eacháin, The Dúchas Project and the Digitization of the National Folklore Collection
Grace Toland, The Irish Traditional Music Archive
Matthew Knight and Elizabeth Ricketts, Shifting Environments in the Archives: Creating an Online Dion Boucicault Collection at the University of South Florida

Libraries and Archives

Tuesday 19 June, 2 p.m.
Chair: Christian Dupont

Conor Carville, Poetry, Crisis and the Arts Institution in Northern Ireland 1971-1972
Emilie Pine, Swipe Right: Gender, Commemoration, the Decade of Centenaries, and the Politics of Digital Spaces
Elspeth Healey, Collecting Ireland: Politics, Literature, and Bibliography in the Library of P. S. O’Hegarty

The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies 2: Special Collections and Archives in the New Environment

Tuesday 19 June, 4 p.m.
Chair: Aedín Clements

Crónán Ó Doibhlin, The Great Book of Ireland – Leabhar Mór na hÉireann
Christian Dupont, The Environments of Libraries and Archives in Irish Studies
Deirdre Wildy and Louisa Costello, Special Collections at Queens University Belfast
Jonny Dillon, Preserving Tradition into the Future: The National Folklore Collection in a Transitional Phase

Twentieth-Century Irish Literary Archives

Wednesday 20 June, 9 a.m.
Chair: Paige Reynolds

Round Table participants: Ken Bergin, Elizabeth Kirwan, Aedín Clements, Adam Hanna, Florence Impens, and Ruud van den Beuken

Digital Projects Showcase

Wednesday 20 June, 2 p.m.
Organized by: Kathleen Williams (Boston College)

John Waters (New York University), Spatializing Subscription Lists and Topographical Poems
Jeff Ksiazek (WIMA), The Ward Irish Music Archives
Ciara Ryan (UCC), The Family Papers of Seán “Irish” O’Sullivan, Butte-Silver Bow (BSB) Archives, Butte, Montana
Kathleen Williams (Boston College), Information Wanted: A Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants in the Boston Pilot Newspaper: A New Version of the Data, Available on the Boston College Dataverse Site
Elizabeth Sweeney (Boston College), The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music

Links to further information

ACIS:
https://acisweb.org/

ACIS 2018 (conference website):
http://acis2018.com/

Atlas of the Irish Revolution:
http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Atlas-of-the-Irish-Revolution-p/9781782051176.htm

Dion Boucicault Collection:
http://www.lib.usf.edu/boucicault/

The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music:
https://connollymusiccollection.bc.edu/

Duchas.ie:
https://www.duchas.ie/en

The Great Book of Ireland – Leabhar Mór na hÉireann:
https://cora.ucc.ie/handle/10468/3053?show=full

Industrial Memories:
https://industrialmemories.ucd.ie/

Information Wanted: A Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants Published in the Boston Pilot:
https://infowanted.bc.edu/

Dataset extracted from the Information Wanted online database:
https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/UNJU3N

ITMA (Irish Traditional Music Archive):
https://www.itma.ie/

P. S. O’Hegarty Collection at Kansas University:
https://spencer.lib.ku.edu/collections/special-collections/irish

Irish Queer Archive:
http://www.nli.ie/pdfs/mss%20lists/151_IQA.pdf

NLI Web Archive Collections:
https://www.nli.ie/en/udlist/web-archive-collections.aspx

RASCAL:
http://www.rascal.ac.uk/index.php/

Ward Irish Music Archives:
https://wardirishmusicarchives.com/Ward-Music-Archives.htm

Congratulations to the 2018 Graduates!

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.

Ed Kreienberg (ND ’18), who along with Camila Sacher (ND ’19) received the Monsignor Francis A. O’Brien Award for the best essay by a history major. Ed conducted research for his essay using the Le Rossignol Correspondence Collection, the Dr. George Marshall Oakden Collection, and the Humphrey M. Barbour World War I Scrapbooks.

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.

Both images: MSE/EM 110-1B, Diploma, University of Padua, 1690

Inspiring Young Minds Visit Special Collections

Photo by Matt Cashore
Pritzker arriving at Hesburgh Library
All photos of Pritzker students provided by teachers at Pritzker

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 Gradual MS 61and 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 Garbagegoes 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.

In addition to the massive book (that no one wanted to have to carry) and the book with the yucky chicken bones in it, the ECDC group learned about the big book’s complete opposite, Spectrum A to Z Tunnel Booka miniature that is but 2 centimeters tall, a pop-up book and a tunnel book, ephemera (in this case, the uniform of the Chicago Cubs’ Johnny Evers), and early American commodity money exemplified by a beaver pelt.

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 students in Notre Dame Special Collections Pritzker 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 Nuremberg in Liber cronicarumwestern 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 revolutionibusPritzker student examining Copernicus (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 Pritzker students viewing Spanish materialmanuscript of trial proceedings from the Spanish Inquisition, the first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (currently celebrating its bicentennial), and a Bible illustrated Salvador Dali Bibliaby 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.

Bringing Classes to Special Collections

Teaching a class at Notre Dame? We invite you to bring your students to Special Collections: freshmen, undergraduates of all levels, grad students, or fellow faculty for that matter.

Teaching a class elsewhere in the Michiana area? We invite you to bring your students—of any age level—to Special Collections, too.

Special Collections offers a wide range of instruction from show-and-tell sessions that introduce students to materials from 2400 BC to present to specialized instruction tailored to course syllabi and assignments. Our staff is more than happy to work with instructors to tailor sessions to meet their needs.

We hold strong collections pertaining to: Dante, Italian literature, American Catholicism, Antebellum and Civil War America, American Sports, History of Science, Irish Literature and History, and Latin American and Early Modern Hispanic Literature and History. We also have a growing collection of medieval manuscripts as well as a substantial collection of medieval manuscript facsimiles. Our political and cultural materials of the Soviet Union and the Russian Diaspora to Europe and the United States is another area of recent development for the department.

Special Collections also runs our own workshop series. We currently offer Archival Research Skills and Introduction to Special Collections: From Clay Tablet to Graphic Novel. Coming in 2017-18 are two new workshops: History of the Printed Book in the West and The Book as Object. All of these workshops provide hands-on experience working with materials to reinforce the concepts covered.

Examples of classes we have taught sessions for recently:

Intrigued?

Contact us for more information about how to bring your class to Special Collections.

More information and examples of materials pulled for instruction sessions can be found on the Class Instruction page on our website.

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.

Themes

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.”

 

Research Finds: The Enduring Joy of Friendship for Young Women

While searching for primary sources she could access nearby to develop a seminar paper on the lives of women in the nineteenth century, Jenifer Blouin, a master’s candidate in History at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, ran across the online description of friendship albums and commonplace books at Notre Dame. Intrigued, she made the trek south.

As she read through seven or eight albums, Jenifer realized that they not only gave her, as she states in an email interview with Special Collections, “a really good look into the lives of young women in the 19th century—especially how their friendships played out”—but that they also provided unexpected access to the young women writers themselves. Her close reading of the texts told her “a lot about young women’s friendships,” but more interestingly, it revealed an interesting preoccupation these women had with “ideas of eternity and things that are everlasting.”

Given the dearth of scholarship on friendship albums, Jenifer’s project is a welcome addition. Her research, in particular, expands upon a topic that two historians, Anya Jabour and Catherine Kelly, according to Jenifer, only briefly mention, namely the enduring nature of friendship. During her analysis of the albums, Jenifer examined the messages friends left to the album’s owner as well as the physical artifacts themselves.

image of curry manuscript
MSN/EA 8606-1-B

One particularly fruitful investigation centered around the album of Harriet Curry. Jenifer noticed that a note, “drowned in Lake Erie,” after an entry by Abby Jane Williams differed in color from the ink used in the entry. This began Jenifer’s search to verify if Williams did drown in Lake Erie and to identify who wrote that note. Jenifer recounts:

After some online searching using the search terms “Abby Jane Williams” and “Lake Erie,” I found a book titled Lloyd’s Steamboat Directory, and Disasters on the Western Waters (published 1856) that detailed the account the burning of the steamer Erie in 1841. Among the listed dead was a Mrs. Giles Williams. I was later able to corroborate that this was the same Williams who had left an entry in Harriet Curry’s friendship album by locating her record on ancestry.com and findagrave.com, which confirmed that Abby Jane’s husband was indeed named Giles. Giles apparently survived the boat’s burning.

Still to be resolved was who wrote the note. After further analysis of the album’s contents, Jenifer concluded that “drowned in Lake Erie” was written by Harriet Curry herself. This was in line with similar notes in the diary “denot[ing] when one of her friends had gotten married, moved away, or died.” Jenifer further explains, “This, to me, showed that even after years had passed, Harriet still cared about her friends. Her friendship lasted forever, just like many of her friends wrote in her friendship album.”

The Curry example was but one among numerous pieces of evidence that Jenifer located in the albums she consulted to argue that these albums contained an “exhortation to . . . trust in everlasting eternal things,” rather than “temporal things that would eventually pass away.” She identified that there were certain everlasting qualities valued by these women; these were “God, prayer, and friendship itself.” Her research brought her to the conclusion that these young women writers:

valued the everlasting over the ephemeral. Transitory things such as youth, beauty, and suffering were dismissed in favor of enduring communion with God and friends. Friendship, of course, was the ultimate enduring joy to these women, and the survival of their friendship albums through to the present day proves the unending nature of their affections.

The argument substantiating these conclusions can be found in Jenifer’s article, “Eternal Perspectives in Nineteenth-Century Friendship Albums,” published in The Hilltop Review, Western Michigan University’s journal of graduate student research.

Jenifer Blouin earned her BA in History from Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana in 2015 and expects to earn her MA in Public History from Western Michigan University in December 2017. Her research focuses on the historical significance of cemeteries as sites of memory and cultural resources. More generally, Jenifer is interested in gender and women’s history.

Special Collections thanks Jenifer for her time and for sharing the results of her research that brought the friendship albums in our collections to light. We also appreciate the review she wrote of our department for the American Historical Association’s Archives Wiki.

 


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The Mary Huntington Morgan Diary and Campus Collaboration

Mary Huntington Morgan was the daughter of Daniel Nash Morgan (1844-1931), Treasurer of the United States during Grover Cleveland’s administration. Her diary from 1896 (MSN/MN 8009-1-B) recounts the life of this young, single socialite in the nation’s capital.

MSN-MN 8008-01-B 12v-13r

She narrates the demands of such a life—lunches and teas, dinners and dances, theater performances and lectures, ceremonial appearances at government events and diplomatic receptions. Yet, Mary also pens her personal endeavors, weaving through her music lessons and letter writing to her fondness for reading.

This semester (Spring 2017), the department piloted a new project to facilitate the diary’s use by a class in the Notre Dame History department, the United States’ Gilded Age. Collaborating with the professor, Special Collections digitized and made the Mary Huntington Morgan diary available in the Hesburgh Library’s new digital artifact viewer. In addition to being able to work with the physical object in Special Collections, students now have the opportunity to study the diary more extensively using the digital artifact, not only reading its contents but also learning skills such as how to transcribe text. The digitized artifact has made it possible for a class of 15 students to work on the same item simultaneously and to discuss their work and the diary itself in their own classroom.

MSN/MN 8009-1-B 4v

The Julia Stevens Buffington diary (MSN/MN 8009-1-B) has also been digitized for use this semester in another History class, the U.S. in the World in the 20th Century. Special Collections invites instructors interested in collaborating on similar projects to contact the department.

 

Summer Adventure: A Curator Attends the Western Archives Institute

WAI2016_GroupPhotoIn July, with support from Hesburgh Libraries, one of our curators attended the 30th annual Western Archives Institute (WAI) held at Santa Clara University (SCU) in Santa Clara, CA. Julie Tanaka was one of 26 participants who came from locations across the United States. Though many were from California, others flew in from Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, and Maine. The group spent over 80 hours in the classroom during the two-week institute learning the fundamentals of archives from Tom Wilsted, former Director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut and principal faculty member for the 2016 WAI, and 10 other professional archivists from corporations, public libraries, universities, and government agencies.

Background

WAI is an intensive, two-week, residential institute co-sponsored by the California State Archives and the Society of California Archivists. The institute was founded in 1986 to fill an existing gap in archival training on the West Coast. Modeled on the National Archives and Records Administration’s Modern Archives Institute founded in 1945 and the Georgia Archives Institute founded in 1967, WAI distinguished itself by becoming the only program that trains both people who already have appointments as archivists and those who do not consider themselves to be archivists but who manage archival materials as part of their job.

Scope

The institute provides participants with intensive instruction in archival theory and practices. Sessions cover more than thirteen major topics including an introduction to the archival profession, managing an archives program, grant funding, and professional ethics. Some of the topics related to practice include records management, arrangement and description, preservation, photographs, and electronic records.

WAI gives participants the opportunity to observe a variety of archives in operation and to gain different perspectives from practicing archivists.

Site tours included the Computer History Museum Archives in Fremont, the Society of California Pioneers at the Presidio, and the Santa Clara University Archives.

ComputerHistoryMusuem
Computer History Museum Archives, Fremont, CA
Image of archives
Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco, CA
A Typical Day

Each day began at 8:15 in the morning and ran to around 5:00 in the afternoon and was divided into two sessions. Because of the nature of the institute, many sessions devoted a significant portion to lectures in order to cover the required content. There were ample opportunities, however, to discuss particular questions people had, to seek advice from one another, and to share practices and ideas already in place at participants’ home institutions.

Some of the most memorable parts of the institute were sessions which featured a practicum. One practicum was devoted to arranging and describing a collection that contained correspondence, financial records, disciplinary records of a ship’s crew, and documents about individual crew members. Groups of five surveyed the collection and made decisions about how to arrange the collection before writing a preliminary description of its scope and contents.

Image of Treatment exampleAnother practicum was devoted to conservation. Participants had the opportunity to get hands-on experience doing some minor treatments such as flattening a crumpled document with a mist sprayer. Their finished treatments were then housed in polyester L-sleeves for storage.

After the second session concluded, the majority of participants who were staying on campus for the duration of the WAI had dinner together in the SCU’s dining commons. Conversations about the day’s sessions continued but often steered toward lighter topics and gave everyone the opportunity to decompress before heading back to the dorm to spend another 2-3 hours reading in preparation for the next day.

Take Aways

Two weeks of intensive archival training will not turn a newcomer into an archivist overnight, but this institute provides a solid foundation and the basic skills someone needs to work in and with archives. WAI provides participants first and foremost with an understanding of the profession, from the development of modern archives in France as a by-product of the French Revolution to the code of ethics that governs the profession.

WAI is an invaluable experience. The intensive, residential format encourages attendees to focus their attention on all things archival and to draw connections between policies, procedures, and practices. Participants all agreed that well-defined policies and procedures about the archives’ mission, collecting, access, use of materials, and preservation as well as for processing collections in a timely manner are critical to the professional integrity of an archives and help ensure equitable, high-quality, consistent services.

In addition to gaining knowledge of archival theory and practices, participants at WAI develop new friendships within the community of archivists. These connections form the beginning of a support network that will continue to grow and also serves as points of first contact to which the 2016 WAI participants may turn when questions arise and they need advice.

Summer Archives Workshop in RBSC

RBSC_NB_Flyer_ArchivesWorkshop-Sum16
Click for PDF.

This intensive workshop targets graduate students interested in conducting archival research. Participants will acquire a solid foundation in archival terminology, how to identify and use archives, and other fundamental skills.

The workshop will introduce best practices and some of the crucial cultural and practical differences between libraries and archives. It will also give attendees hands-on practice reading and transcribing different handwritings from various time periods, identifying important parts of manuscripts, and reading historical maps. We will also cover select participant-requested topics.

Monday-Friday, August 1-5, 2016
9 am-noon
Special Collections Seminar Room
(Hesburgh Library 103)

Register Online

Led by:
Rachel Bohlmann, Ph.D.
U.S. History and American Studies Librarian

Julie Tanaka, Ph.D.
Curator, Special Collections and Western European History Librarian

Questions or requests? Please email either Rachel or Julie.

Making the Most of Your Visit to Special Collections

by James Cachey, Stacks Maintenance and Patron Services

Rare Books and Special Collections is a public research facility that houses over 175,000 volumes of printed books and periodicals, manuscript holdings that range from medieval codices to contemporary collections, and a variety of other formats including printed ephemera, maps, newspapers, and numismatic and philatelic items. All of these materials are available for use upon request. In order to expedite access to using these materials, this post offers some guidelines to our potential patrons.

The majority of our collections are located in our basement storage stacks and need to be retrieved when a patron requests to use them. Because of this, it is helpful for both you and the department if you email your requests at least 24 hours before you plan to visit. However, if you are unable to email in advance, please expect up to a 20 minute wait for us to retrieve your materials. When you email your requests for materials, please include the full location for books found in the Location tab of the catalog record or the manuscript number for manuscripts from our website. This is important because our stacks are separated by type of material (Rare Books, Medium Rare, Manuscripts, and Ephemera) and by size (Jumbo, Oversize, Extra Large, Large, Small and Extra Small).

For example:
Special Collections, Special Coll. Rare Books Small – PT 2473 .G4 R4 1831
Special Collections (MR), Special Coll. – PQ 7797 .B635 A23 1964
Lat. b. 2
MSN/MN 8004
MSSP 2002-1-B

When you arrive at the department and if it’s your first time visiting, you will be asked to read our policy and procedures and to fill out some paperwork. Once you have registered, you will be asked to check your bags and jackets in our locker room. During this time, we will enter your information into our database and set up the items you requested in our reading room.

We hope this information will help you become familiar with how to use our collections and expedite the process of retrieving materials for you in order to maximize your time in our department.

 


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