Digitized negatives from the Broadside photograph collection now available!

Archives Assistant Ignacio Bracamonte reflects on the Broadside scanning project and picks an image to share from the recently digitized, and now available online, box 7.

I was very excited to start this new project that Special Collections & Archives offered last semester. It has been over six months since my co-worker Liz and I started with the digitization of Broadside’s collection of photographs. I personally believe that working here, has involved me into George Mason more than ever. I am exposed to hundreds of images every day, where I witness the university’s development, history, important events, and even everyday life photos that were taken by students like me; the members of Broadside, George Mason’s student newspaper.

While  working at Special Collections & Archives, I have familiarized myself with many of Mason’s personalities and it is very easy for me to recognize them throughout the images: the faculty and staff members, the students, and the members of different organizations. After a while, you get a sense of affection to these personages and you can’t wait to know what happens next.


Rubenstein, Michele J. Opening of North Campus Broadside Office 5. October 14, 1973. George Mason University Broadside photograph collection, Collection #R0135, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

This is one of my favorite photographs, where Jay Caine, director of Broadside, is inaugurating the newspaper’s North Campus office. Next to his colleagues, Jay Caine is about to cut the ribbon and establish a new office for George Mason’s student newspaper. This is a very symbolic image because it represents the beginning of Broadside. Even though the photograph was taken on October 14th of 1973, the newspaper endures and remains apart of the student experience at George Mason today.

Ignacio is currently scanning negatives from the Broadside photograph collection. The first box (box 7 in the collection) of over 900 digitized images are now available online. For more on the history of the student newspaper at Mason see the student newspaper exhibit blog post or visit the exhibit on the second floor of Fenwick Library until late April 2014.

Mary E. Fox photograph collection

In honor of Women’s History Month I thought it would be appropriate to share a collection of photographs taken by, and mostly of, women from the 1940s. The Mary Elsie Fox photograph collection documents Fox’s, and her friends’, personal lives in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. during the 1940s, at a time when she was working at the newly opened Pentagon. The collection consists of 423 photographs and one document from a discarded photo album that was found by George Mason University staff and was donated to the University Special Collections and Archives in 2006. The images in the collection date from 1935 to 1959. The entire collection has been scanned and is available as a digital collection.

Screenshot from the Mary Elsie Fox digital collection.

Screenshot from the Mary Elsie Fox digital collection.

The Fox collection is an excellent example of vernacular photography. It was created for personal use and with no artistic aspirations. In many of the photographs Fox and her friends are featured socializing and posing in or near Washington D.C.. Some of the images were also taken in Norway and other geographic locations in the United States and Europe that Fox herself may not have visited since she is not as visible in these photographs. As a collection, some of the images could have been taken by Fox, though it is difficult to know for certain, but all of them were collected, stored, and used by her. Many of the images are identified by writing on their verso indicating dates, names, and places, but there are also many that are not identified in any way. Some of the handwriting differs indicating that Fox was not the only one writing descriptions and that she may have received photographs from friends as gifts. These photographs serve as evidence of average people who chose to photograph themselves for their own enjoyment, posterity, and memory. Today they exist removed from their original function and may provide useful information for researchers about how people lived and recorded their existence at a certain time and place in history.

Screenshot of the Mary E. Fox photograph collection on Tumblr

Screenshot of the Mary E. Fox photograph collection on Tumblr.

Last fall, for the course HIST 696: Clio Wired: An Introduction to History and New Media at George Mason University, I created a digital project on Tumblr using photographs from the Fox collection. This site breaks down the photographs by dates into piles that can be shuffled through. Click on the image above to visit the site.


Special guest blog post from George Mason University Libraries’ Ordering Coordinator Meaghan O’Malley!

sca stacks collage

Cookbooks in situ.

The Rosemary Poole Cookbook Collection in Special Collections & Archives gives patrons of the University Libraries’ unique access to the documentation of 19th century housewifery, cookery, hostessing, basic first aid and treatment of common illnesses, and easy household maintenance tips. These titles supplement the University Libraries’ growing collection of cookbooks (modern and antiquarian) in SC&A as well as our expanding general collection of cookbooks.

Personally, I’ve collected cookbooks for as long as I can remember, fascinated by the descriptions of cuisines and the historical evolution of recipes, tastes, the American palate, and cooking methods. Working in Resource Acquisitions affords me the opportunity to see new titles added to the collection on an almost daily basis, and also inspires me to wander through the open stacks to check out the hidden gems one can only uncover through browsing. The recent uptick in our cookbook acquisitions is due in part to the Nutrition and Food Studies program, part of the College of Health and Human Services, and family recipes projects at New Century College. Sarah Sheehan, CHHS liaison librarian, has taken the lead on these general collection acquisitions after working directly with faculty in CHHS and NCC who expressed an interest in making various kinds of cookbooks available to their students as part of their curriculum and course work.

sca cookbooks in a row

Spines of The Hostess of To-Day, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Recipe Book, Jennie June’s Cook Book, and The Universal Receipt Book.

I was invited to do some cookbook browsing in SC&A recently and was completely mesmerized by our holdings, which contain an assortment of titles ranging from the original receipt book from Gunston Hall to a colorful resource on the seductiveness of casseroles. I elected to focus in on a few cookbooks from the 1800s, and found the variety of recipes and household tips contained within to be intriguing and, occasionally, bemusing.

The Hostess of To-Day, 1899

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, 1852

Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, 1878

The Universal Receipt Book; being a compendious repository of practical information in cookery, preserving, pickling, distilling, and all the branches of domestic economy. To which is added, some advice to farmers., 1818 (Second edition with great additions)

sca recipes collage 1

Clockwise from top left: Universal Receipt Book, The Hostess of To-Day, Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, Universal Receipt Book

sca recipes collage 2

Clockwise from top left: Jennie June’s, Jennie June’s, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, Hostess of To-Day.

sca whopping cough a universal receipt book

A cure for whopping cough from the Universal Receipt Book.

sca spot removal a universal receipt book

“Liquid to take out spots or stains of ink, red wine, iron mould, mildrew, &c.” from the Universal Receipt Book.

Cooking and baking have always been, at least to me, a form of self-expression and even with just a brief glance into this collection, I found the same to be true for their authors. Whether utilitarian, like The Universal Receipt Book, or lavishly decorated with illustrations and graphics, like The Hostess of To-Day, each title in this collection is a reflection of the times, but also a reflection of the socioeconomic status of the consumer for whom it was written. Cookbooks like these have become a form of historical record, giving insight into the appetites and cuisines of the time period in which they were written, as well as the structure of households and families. They were, in essence, the foundation upon which the modern American Family was built, giving women the ability migrate into work life by providing easy reference materials and simplifying their obligations at home; or, in some cases, making knowledge previously only available to women accessible to everyone.

In the coming months, I hope to report back to Vault 217 with some tested recipes from these books as well as others from the Rosemary Poole Collection.

You can follow my journeys through the stacks, as well as old and new cookbook discoveries, by following the hashtag #gmulibraries on Instagram and Twitter.

George Washington’s Last Will and Testament available in SC&A

Although we are supposed to be celebrating George Washington’s birthday, a recent donation to Special Collections & Archives recalls Washington’s life just prior to his death. Included in the recent donation made by Randolph and Ellen Lytton is a published copy of George Washington’s last will and testament that he completed in July 1799 only six months prior to his death. Perhaps the most interesting section of the will states that following the death of his wife, Martha, “that all Slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom” (page 3). Washington, like other Founding Fathers, faced an obvious contradiction as he fought for freedom from tyranny while at the same time he owned people that worked in his houses and in his fields. His will appears to be an attempt to reconcile this contradiction. The will also includes a detailed description of his property and how he wanted it to be divided up among his heirs. According to the Papers of George Washington website, “[t]he language of Washington’s will and its contents combine to make it a document of particular importance among his papers.” The will was first printed in Alexandria shortly after being filed for probate in Farifax County, Virginia in January of 1800. According to the title page of the copy held by SC&A, it was printed in New York “from the Alexandria edition.”


Title page from a published copy of George Washington’s will and testament (January 1800), Randolph Lytton Historical Virginia Graphic Material Collection, George Mason University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives. Public Domain.

There are some noticeable differences between it and the title page from the copy that was printed in Boston in February of 1800 that is available through Google books and held at the New York Public Library.

For further inquiry into this document, the Papers of George Washington includes a transcription of the will as well as the original handwritten will.