The program of the 1934 Pageant of the Celt is found in very few library collections. Printed programs tend to be quite ephemeral, but when they survive they give a great glimpse into an occasion. Visiting art historian Dr. William Shortall has provided an essay on the Pageant, contextualizing this interesting publication.
When the Irish government was invited to take part in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Century of Progress International Exposition, they were initially reticent. Tariffs and trade barriers meant there was little prospect of any financial gain. Eventually they decided to participate because ‘considerations such as those connected with national publicity and prestige might outweigh the more tangible considerations of trading advantage’. Essentially they sought a soft power and cultural diplomatic benefit from their presence at the event and sent a cultural and industrial display that was housed in the monumental Travel and Transport building. When the Fair organizers decided to run the event again in 1934, numerous countries—including the Irish Free State—did not participate and their places were taken by private concessions. However, there were a number of events that the Irish State did participate in during the second manifestation, the most prominent was an open air theatrical pageant representing Irish history, The Pageant of the Celt. Irish Consul General in Chicago, Daniel J. McGrath, was on the executive committee of the production.
The Pageant took place on the 28th and 29th August, 1934, at Chicago’s main sports stadium, Soldier’s Field, in front of large ‘marvellous’ crowds. Although the pageant is credited to Irish-American attorney John V. Ryan, it was most likely co-developed with its narrator Micheál MacLiammóir, to whose work it bears similarities. Some contemporary reports credit it solely to MacLiammóir. The Pageant was produced by Hilton Edwards and covered the period of Irish history from pre-Christian times to the Easter Rising of 1916 and it had almost two thousand participants. The imperfect resolution to the War of Independence with Britain in 1921 and the subsequent Civil War were still fresh in people’s memory and, as in the earlier MacLiammóir pageants, were avoided. Almost ninety years later, the upcoming centenary decade faces similar problems on how to commemorate these divisive events.
The Program describes the scenes of Irish history presented in pageant, starting from ancient mythical beginnings with the Battle of Tailté; to the emergence of a Catholic Nation and the ‘coming of [Saint] Patrick’; followed by ‘The Golden Age of Ireland’; a nation defended from Viking invaders by Brian Boru; followed by the country’s ultimate subjection by Britain, beginning with the marriage of ‘Eva and Strongbow’ followed by the ‘rise of republicanism’ and culminating in ‘Easter Week 1916 [when] Phoenix-like, the Irish nation rises from the fires of defeat to wage anew the centuried struggle for liberty’. The Pageant’s finale was a mass singing of ‘The Soldier’s Song, Irish National Anthem’. The elaborate Program published the anthem’s lyrics, it also featured 17 chapters relating to Irish cultural endeavours, including Irish music, the Harvard Irish Archaeological mission, and the Celtic Revival; and it contained messages of goodwill to Ireland from other Celtic peoples.
The program itself has a richly decorated cover and small illustrations and decorated capitals throughout by Irish-American artist Vincent Louis O’Connor (c.1884-1974). The cover contrasts Celtic Ireland with modern Chicago. Round towers are juxtapositioned with skyscrapers, separated by clouds, both icons of their time and the spirit of their respective ages. A man and a woman in distinctive ancient Irish dress festooned with a Tara brooch, stand on Ireland’s green shore facing the Atlantic. These and Saint Brendan’s ship anchored, trademarked with a Celtic cross, signifying the Irish-American connection. This was an Irish pageant suitable for diaspora consumption, with its mix of the mythical and ancient, cultured and catholic, distinctive and unique, oppressed but not beaten, leading to phoenix-like revolution and rebuilding.
The artist O’Connor was born in Kerry and immigrated to Chicago in 1914. An art teacher, he began teaching in Ireland in 1904. In America he taught in the University of Notre Dame from 1915 to 1922 and contributed sketches to the university yearbook as well as an architectural rendering of Notre Dame’s proposed 50-year building plan. O’Connor held several exhibitions of his work which frequently featured prominent Irish personalities or landscapes. This Program connects Ireland, America and Notre Dame University and speaks to ongoing difficulties in reconciling Ireland’s turbulent past and how the events of 1922 can be commemorated a hundred years later.
We are excited to announce that Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections will once again be open to researchers from both on and off campus during the period May 23 to August 20, 2021. We will continue to operate our reading room by appointment only, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday to Friday. To schedule an appointment, please email RBSC staff.
Patrons are encouraged to send their requests at least two business days in advance so that materials will be ready upon arrival. All visitors must wear a face covering and comply with the University’s health and safety protocols.
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.
A recent request for information on publishing an image from our blog prompted us to consider how our blog interacts with other ways of sharing our resources.
If a teacher in Mexico or Ireland saw a picture in a recent post and wished to use it for teaching, or perhaps to share in a publication for colleagues, can she or he do this?
The usual answer is, yes, and this should be clear from the Creative Commons license in the blog’s left side-bar.
Our preferred way of acknowledging that the image is from our collection is as follows:
Reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.
However, it would be good to let your readers know where they can find the image online, and so you might also want to reference the blogpost.
Five years ago, when we first began to share information about our collections and our work through this blog, we hoped that people would use it freely, and so we decided to use a Creative Commons license. We opted for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This allows readers to copy and redistribute content from our blog as long as there is attribution, or as long as appropriate credit is given. On occasions when a blogpost has restrictions, this is stated at the bottom of the post.
The Creative Commons website provides all the information on this license, which includes the condition of attribution, that is, making sure readers are informed in an appropriate manner where the material has come from.
Let’s imagine that I thought the Juneteenth blogpost by Rachel Bohlmann would be a great contribution to my local newsletter. According to the license, I would be free to take the whole post and publish it, or adapt it for my purposes. The Creative Commons license requires that I give appropriate credit. In any case, it’s just good manners to acknowledge the source of the text, and this is also helpful for my readers.
So I incorporate text from Rachel’s blogpost into my newsletter article, omitting some parts, and I help my readers with more information, at the same time satisfying the requirements of the CC license, with the following statement:
The most attractive items on our blogpost, however, and the most valuable, are the images from the Special Collections. Here, there is some ambiguity between the Creative Commons License of the blog and our normal procedure for providing images on request. The best way to sort through this ambiguity is to look at the different ways of obtaining images and their different uses.
Readers are welcome to request images from our collections, which we are happy to provide if possible. If they wish to include those images in a publication, this is usually straightforward as long as the item is in the public domain, that is, old enough so that copyright restrictions do not apply. Otherwise, readers may need to obtain permission from the owner of those rights. Discovering who owns those rights is not always straightforward, and may be a significant research project.
When we supply an image, which we can provide in a higher-resolution format than that on our blog, we also provide an agreement, signed by us and by the requestor. This agreement includes the required statement to be included in the publication, as follows:
Reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.
Let’s imagine you are writing about the famous Edgeworth family of Ireland and you happened upon our blogpost describing the family’s album of drawings. You might take an image from our blogpost and cite the blog appropriately, thus satisfying the conditions of the CC license.
But you might also contact us, discuss the publication with the curator, and discover that another image from the book is even more appropriate for the intended publication, or that the image in the blog is a cropped version of a larger image that is available. We could then provide you with high-resolution images as well as the Agreement for Publication of Reproductions from Materials held by the Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.
Over the summer Rare Books & Special Collections and University Archives began combining patron services by launching our joint reading room. All researchers wishing to use materials from either collection should now come to Rare Books & Special Collections (Hesburgh Library 102) located on the ground floor of the Hesburgh Library near the West entrance. For researchers who have used University Archives in the past (located on the 6th floor of Hesburgh Library), please come to the Special Collections front desk to inquire about and to consult University Archives’ materials.
If you are looking for materials from either collection, there are numerous ways to search Special Collections and Archives holdings:
NDCatalog contains all cataloged books, pamphlets, periodicals, broadsides, prints, posters, published materials, single manuscript volumes, and small archival collections held by RBSC.
To find large archival collections for both Special Collections and University Archives, you can search NDArchiveSpace. While most of these collections are also discoverable in the catalog, NDArchivesSpace goes much deeper, allowing researchers to discover many more names, dates, and content types than are included in the catalog record.
In addition, both Rare Books & Special Collections and University Archives hold other materials that are not currently discoverable in the library catalog, NDArchivesSpace, or on their respective websites. Because of this, researchers may also want to contact staff directly about their research projects to see if there are other materials that may be of use.
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.
Special Collections has had the pleasure to work with students and their service animals on multiple occasions during the past year.
Our first visit occurred last fall. A faculty member inquired about her class’s upcoming visit to Special Collections. She had a student with a service dog and inquired if this would be an issue and what needed to be done. We told her that there was absolutely no problem and that we were excited to work with the student and her service dog. We did inform her, though, that this was the department’s first experience so we were not sure what to expect and would do whatever we needed to ensure the student and service dog had no issues navigating the room.
A student in the Honors College and her service dog, St. Patrick (aka Paddy), visited with her class. Paddy assists the student with general mobility, as the student described in an article for Notre Dame’s student magazine, Scholastic. With Paddy at her side, they navigated the tables, making their way through all of the materials with ease. Paddy was even excited to make a return trip to pose in front of her namesake.
We then had another student and her service dog come with two different classes, one last spring and another last week. Again, the visits went smoothly. Maddie and Snowbird (right) navigated the tables with the class.
Madeline Link is a junior at Notre Dame, double majoring in History and Theology and minoring in Philosophy, Religion, and Literature. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions about how she and Snowbird were paired and what it is like to work together. Here is what she has to say:
Snowbird and I have worked together for a little over six years. The pairing process was quite comprehensive. For the first week of our month-long program, the trainers learned everything they could about us, asking us questions about our habits, walking speeds, and even posing as dogs so that we could practice holding the harness and appropriately instructing the dog. After that, they selected 2 to 3 dogs that seem to match our personalities, and on the first Friday of the program, my six classmates and I had to guess which dog we would be matched with. All seven of us guessed correctly.
I have visited Special Collections with two of my classes here at Notre Dame. It’s been an incredible and enriching opportunity! Snowbird typically lies beneath the table in my classes, and I exam in the books and maps pertaining to the subject we are studying. A wonderful aspect of visiting Special Collections at Notre Dame is that I have the opportunity to touch some of the manuscripts and examine them up close.
For me, Snowbird is my eyes. Though he unfortunately cannot read the manuscripts to me, he enables me to travel confidently and independently. Guiding the blind is far from the only thing that service dogs can do. They make day-to-day life possible for people with a wide range of physical and emotional challenges, and their presence allows many students like myself to thrive at this great university.
Thank you Maddie and Snowbird for sharing your experiences with us. It’s been a pleasure having both of you visit Special Collections.
Behind the timing of this post is a question that arose this summer. I participated in a class on teaching with rare materials at California Rare Book School at the University of California, Los Angeles. A curator from another institution asked whether anyone had experience working with service animals in Special Collections. To my surprise, no one else in the room of fifteen participants representing departments located in both the US and Canada had experience with service animals accompanying students during classes in Special Collections. Given their interest, all of us in Special Collections at Notre Dame would like share our experiences with the community.
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 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
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
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.