Special Collections COVID-19 Response

Rare Books & Special Collections will continue to provide service via virtual access to expertise and online/digital resources in support of teaching and learning. During this time, our expertise and services are just a phone call, email, or Zoom consultation away. We invite you to consult with us as often as needed.

All tours and in person classes are currently suspended.

We encourage you to visit our Library Service Continuity webpage for detailed information about how to access Hesburgh Libraries digital services and resources, or email us at rarebook@nd.edu.

Happy Holidays and a COVID-19 update

This year, we have no special announcement about closure for the Independence Day holiday, as the Hesburgh Library remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to serve our community remotely, drawing on digital images and other resources while working offsite, and we expect that the continuing challenges of limited in-person visits will demand more digitization.

As we move gradually back into our workspace, we look forward to working creatively with faculty and students to make the next semester successful for all and to figuring out how we can best serve our Notre Dame community in these different times.

For up-to-date information on the Hesburgh Libraries’ services at this time, please see the Hesburgh Libraries COVID-19 Continuity page. University plans are subject to change based on our evolving understanding of COVID-19 and its impact. Check the Notre Dame “Return to Campus” website often for the latest information.

Wishing you and yours a happy Canada Day (July 1) and a festive Fourth of July!

Bald eagle from Studer’s Popular Ornithology : the Birds of North America (1881).
Moose from William Ross King’s The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada (1866).

 

Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Archival Collections

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Juneteenth (the June 19th celebration of freedom from slavery) and Black Lives Matter (BLM), RBSC highlights several collections about African American life in the United States over the last century. We also reflect on how social and cultural changes—some of them the result of protest movements like BLM—have reformed and are reforming collecting and practices in special collections libraries and archives.

One important collection is the National Ideal Benefit Society records, an African American cooperative and fraternal organization that spanned more than 50 years during the early to mid-twentieth century. Another is a late 1920s ledger book for the Birmingham Black Barons, an elite Negro League professional baseball team, that recorded the team’s financial transactions with players. The collections provide sources about the economic and working lives of African Americans and the unequal labor and social contexts of twentieth-century America.

National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.
National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.
Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society's choir, 1914.
Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society’s choir, 1914.

The National Ideal Benefit Society was an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits supported people through illness, offered cultural events, and provided death benefits for survivors to assist with burial costs. The society was established in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, by Alexander Watson Holmes (1861-1935). The collection holds correspondence from policy holders, official society publications and records, and letters to Holmes from individuals and institutions.

Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.
Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.

The Birmingham, Alabama, Black Barons were a professional baseball team during the sport’s long period of segregation. The ledger book records the club’s financial transactions with players over five seasons (1926-1930). The accounts include credits (monthly salaries) and debits (cash advances, equipment charges, fines, extra meals, taxi fare, phone calls, and so on). Satchel Paige was one of many notable players on the team.

These collections underscore the shift in collecting that has occurred over the last 40 years in special collections libraries.

Special collections such as ours, and archives also, collect unique and rare manuscripts and books to preserve our society’s cultural record. Until the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States that cultural record largely consisted of the records of elite, white men, mostly from the Northeast with ancestors who came from the British Isles. A number of changes in American society led to a major shift away from this cultural identity in archives and special collections libraries.

Social reform movements that culminated in the 1960s and 1970s—for the rights and full participation of African Americans, women, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ, and others in American life—fueled demands for archival collections that more accurately reflected and included the diversity of American society.

At the same time the rise of social history demanded new sources. Focused on writing the history of ordinary people and changes that came from the many rather than the few (history from the bottom up), social historians relied on documents of everyday life as well as social movements—letters, diaries, ledger books, and scrapbooks of the non-famous, as well as ephemeral printed materials like posters, broadsides, menus, annual reports, and programs.

More recently, archivists and special collections librarians have, as a profession, begun seriously to grapple with questions of power in archives: who is represented and who is left out in our collections? Are collecting decisions made independently, or under institutional or donor guidelines? How are people of color and non-elites and their accomplishments described in catalogs and finding aids? Is the archive open to community members, or are there professional or membership requirements to use the collections? Do staff working in the archive represent the diversity of the collections and their users? As we honor Juneteenth and confront Black Lives Matter’s challenge to truly achieve the promises of American freedom and democracy, these questions become even more sharply relevant.

For reading on Black Lives Matter, see Lauren Michele Jackson’s “What is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?” and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Black Liberation Reading List.

For archives and power, see the American Library Association’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section’s Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Randall C. Jimerson, “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” The American Archivist, Vol. 70 no. 2 (Fall – Winter 2007): 252-281.

Who’s Who in RBSC: Julie Tanaka

“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections

Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.

Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.

Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.

Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.

Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen,  with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.

The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.

As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.

Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.

We wish Julie the very best in her new endeavor.

Narratives about the Corby Statues—at Gettysburg and on Campus

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

The story behind the statues is well known: a young CSC priest, William Corby, offered a general absolution to members of the Irish Brigade, part of the Second Corps of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, minutes before the soldiers engaged in fierce fighting late on the second day of the battle at Gettysburg (July 2, 1863).

Corby served as chaplain to the 88th New York Infantry, which was part of the famous Irish Brigade. This group of soldiers were mostly Irish and Irish-American Catholics from New York and Philadelphia who were formed from five regiments: three from New York (the 69th Infantry, 63rd Infantry, and 88th Infantry), the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, and the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry. After the war Corby returned to the University of Notre Dame where resumed his teaching position; he later became the school’s president.

The priest had given general absolution to his flock of mostly Irish Catholic soldiers before, most notably at Antietam in September 1862, just before the brigade suffered heavy casualties. But this time, as fighting raged around the soldiers at Gettysburg, when Corby climbed up on a boulder and spoke, not just the Irish Brigade but the whole Second Corps fell silent. It was a moment that many officers and soldiers remembered later. For many Catholics it came to mean recognition, if not full acceptance, by their non-Catholic fellow Americans.

Less well known is how the statues materialized. The Catholic Alumni Sodality of Philadelphia spearheaded the project and reported it in this pamphlet. The sodality had been formed in 1902 to promote faith and collegiality among Catholic men who were college graduates. The sodality implemented the statues’ financing and creation, but it acted on an idea of St. Clair Mulholland, commander of the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment and witness to Corby’s actions at Gettysburg.

The Irish-born Mulholland was just 23 years old when he began serving as a Lieutenant Colonel of the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry in 1862. He fought in some of the war’s major battles, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and of course, Gettysburg.

After the war Mulholland dedicated himself to commemorating Civil War soldiers, particularly the Irish Brigade. In 1888 he led the initiative to raise a monument to the brigade at Gettysburg. The Alumni Sodality of Philadelphia embraced the idea of creating a memorial to Corby only after a member heard Mulholland speak movingly about the incident. It was a speech the old soldier had given countless times over the years.

The sodality hired sculptor Samuel Murray to create the monument. It was placed at Gettysburg, amid an extensive program of speeches and dignitaries, on October 29, 1910. A replica, created by the artist, was mounted on Notre Dame’s campus on Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day), 1911.

Mulholland and the sodality were not unique in remembering those who served. Between the end of the war and the 1930s thousands of Civil War monuments rose around the nation. As we have seen in recent disputes over monuments in the United States, public statues have multiple uses and their meanings change over time. Monuments evoke the past even as they convey contemporary expectations about class, race, gender, and religion.

As this pamphlet reminds us, Corby’s memorialization was about more than the priest’s service. It created a narrative of Catholic loyalty and patriotism at a time when American nativism was again on the rise, sparked by large immigration from southern and eastern Europe. By focusing on a priest rather than on Catholic soldiers, the statue’s creators deemphasized the larger Irish Catholic experience of the war, fueled as it was by a mix of American patriotism, Irish Republicanism, and economic need. The image reinforced instead a message of cleric-led, middle-class Irish American respectability. [1]

 

 

[1] Randall M. Miller, “Catholic Religion, Irish Ethnicity, and the Civil War,” in Religion and the American Civil War, Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 285-86.


A happy Memorial Day to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

2016 post: Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran
2017 post: “Memorial Day” poem by Joyce Kilmer
2018 post: “Decoration Day” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2019 post: Myths and Memorials


During June and July the blog will shift to a summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication August 10th.

New Digital Exhibit: Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital

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.

 

Congratulations to the 2020 graduates!

All of us in Rare Books and Special Collections send our best wishes to all of the 2020 graduates of the University of Notre Dame.

We would particularly like to congratulate the following students who have worked in the department:

Eve Wolynes (ND ’20), Ph.D., Department of History. Her dissertation is titled Migrant Mentalities: Reconstructing the Community Identity and World of Venetian Merchants in the Late Medieval Mediterranean.

Hannah Benchik (SMC ’20), Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College, with a minor in German from Notre Dame.

Jessica Saeli (ND ’20), Bachelor’s, double major in Philosophy and Russian.

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

Recent Acquisition: Living Hiroshima photo anthology

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies Librarian

The anthology Living Hiroshima: Scenes of A-Bomb Explosion with 378 Photographs Including Scenery of Inland Sea (1948) was planned and published by the Hiroshima Prefectural Tourist Association for the purpose of introducing images of post-war Hiroshima to the world. The production was handled by Bunkasha (formerly Tōhōsha, which had published propaganda materials for the Japanese military during the war). Most of its photos were taken in 1947 by three Bunkasha photographers, two of whom also had formerly worked for Tōhōsha. The anthology also includes photos taken in 1945 by Kimura Ihē, the former head of the Photography Department at Tōhōsha.

Although published under U.S. military censorship during the American Occupation, the anthology is a rare and valuable documentation of the devastation and the recovery of the city from the bombing.

Marsilio Ficino’s Consiglio contro la pestilentia

by Tracy Bergstrom, Curator of Italian Studies and Dante Collection

Throughout the 15th century, outbreaks of the bubonic plague frequently occurred in the city of Florence. The most severe of these epidemics, or plagues, struck in 1430, 1437-38, 1449-50, and 1478-80.

Engraving of Marsilio Ficino from Jean Jacques Boissard’s Bibliotheca chalcographica.

Following the last of these devastating outbreaks, the philosopher and physician Marsilio Ficino composed the treatise Consiglio contro la pestilentia (alternatively, Consiglio contro la pestilenza, or Advice against the Plague), a text that would remain influential for nearly three centuries. Intended to be of practical use, the treatise was initially published in Italian in 1481, and subsequently published in Latin in 1518. Rare Books & Special Collections owns a copy printed in 1556 by the heirs of Lucantonio Giunti, part of the famous Giunti (or Giunta) family of printers. This 1556 reprint attests to the longstanding popularity and continued relevance of the vernacular text.

Consiglio contro la pestilentia opens with initial chapters concerning the origins of the disease and recognizing its signs, with the remaining text then devoted to preventative measures and cures. Some portions of the treatise, including the advice to avoid contaminated spaces and seek out fresh air, are still relevant to us today. Other recommendations, such as the guidance to consume crushed emeralds as apotropaic medicine (or, if unaffordable, horseradish), we might best avoid. Also mentioned is the idea that the plague wanes within forty days, or quaranta giorni, the etymological root of the English word quarantine.

Introductory text on the origins of the plague and the resulting poisoning of the air.

A complete copy of this text from the same edition as that owned by Notre Dame has been digitized by the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma and is available online via Google Books. This particular edition is a reprint of that published in Florence in 1522, to which are appended tavole or indexes by topic; an espositione d’alcuni vocaboli toschani, or explanation of Tuscan vocabulary as found in the text; and a brief section titled Segreto & rimedio contro la peste, or Secrets and Remedies against the Plague. It also includes the treatise Consiglio di M. Thomaso del Garbo Fiorentino contro la pestilentia, which initially circulated in the mid to late 14th century. These additions would have helped contemporary readers understand and give context to Ficino’s text.

Earth Day 2020

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator of North Americana

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).

We hope that this online resource will help faculty and students to Take 10 for the Planet this week.

      • 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.

Movements in Art: Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)

by Julie Tanaka, Curator of Special Collections

In 1911, a new group of artists who called themselves Der Blaue Reiter organized its own exhibition and published an almanac also named Der Blaue Reiter. Edited by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc and published by Reinhard Piper in Munich, this volume contains a wide range of contributions including theoretical treatises on artistic form, vocal scores, children’s drawings, and illustrations of sculpture.

The formation of this group stemmed from an event involving Kandinsky. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), the Moscow native who was among the pioneers of abstract art, composed ten works between 1910 and 1939 that he considered to be his most important paintings. These ten paintings constitute his Compositions of which seven survive; the first three were destroyed during the Second World War. The artist’s guiding principle for each of these works was what he called the “expression of feeling” or “inner necessity,” a combination of “perceptions that arise from the artist’s inner world [and] . . . the impressions the artist receives from external appearances.” (1) In these paintings, Kandinsky explored the manipulation of color and form, emphasizing the artist’s process of creation and “pure” painting.

During the process of creating Compositions, Kandinsky submitted Composition V (1911) to the Neue Künstlervereinigung (NKV) to be considered for inclusion in the NKV’s third exhibition in 1911. The NKV jury rejected his work on the grounds that it was too large though the rejection probably represented the opinions of a faction within this group who opposed Kandinsky’s experimentation to represent spiritual values in a new way. (2) Upon his work being rejected, Kandinsky along with Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter left the NKV. Joined by others including Paul Klee, August Macke, and Marianne von Werefkin who also rejected the NKV’s traditionalism, these artists founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).

Special Collections’ copy of the 1912 printing of Der Blaue Reiter is one among a few works acquired related to German Expressionism. These acquisitions were made in collaboration with faculty in the German Department to support the undergraduate courses they teach. Notable among these works are:

 

Notes:

(1) Magdalena Dabrowski. Kandinsky Compositions (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1995), p. 11. Accessed April 12, 2020, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015034282809 (\Access provided through HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service).

(2) Shearer West, The Visual Arts in Germany, 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001), p. 65.