New Rare Books in the Spotlight

Example of four flap enclosures for rare books and pamphlets.

For a brief period Wednesday, normal activity came to a halt in the Special Collections Research Center. Our fabulous Cataloging & Metadata Librarian, Friedgard Cowan, brought down a cart packed with recently cataloged rare books from Technical Services. When a rare book is donated or acquired, it is first cataloged in Technical Services, so that it will be accessible to researchers through our online Catalog. After it’s cataloged, the rare books are brought to the Research Services Coordinator in the Special Collections Research Center, so that we may assess any preservation needs it may have before shelving it in the stacks. Books in more fragile condition require an enclosure, like a phase box or four flap folder, before being able to be shelf-ready. Once it is determined that the book is “shelf-ready,” it is shelved in our closed stacks–ready to be pulled for the researchers who need it!

Seeing the “new to us” rare books is always exciting. So here, making their Special Collections Research Center debut:

First, an addition to our Decorated Bindings Collection! Elizabethan Songs “In Honour of Love and Beautie” Collected and Illustrated by Edmund H. Garrett, published in 1891.

Elizabethan Songs “In Honour of Love and Beautie” Collected and Illustrated by Edmund H. Garrett, published in 1891, PR 1207 .G3 1891

Elizabethan Songs “In Honour of Love and Beautie” Collected and Illustrated by Edmund H. Garrett, published in 1891, PR 1207 .G3 1891

In fact, music seems to be the theme of these recently cataloged books. From 1935, we have a first edition vocal score, “Songs from Top Hat,” with words and music by Irving Berlin. Songs included in this piano-vocal score include classics like, “Cheek to Cheek,” “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” and “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free).”

Songs from “Top Hat”, Lyrics and Music by Irving Berlin, published 1935, M 1508 .B465 T66 1935

Finally, an early musical manuscript: plainsong!

Can you see the grotesque face in the initial below?

Vellum Manuscript Leaf from a Choir Book in Latin, produced in the late 15th/early 16th century in Italy, M2147 XVI .M4

Special Collections Research Center’s Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, Liz Beckman, admiring the vellum manuscript leaf: Vellum Manuscript Leaf from a Choir Book in Latin, produced in the late 15th/early 16th century in Italy, M2147 XVI .M4

You can find these items and many more in our rare books collection. To search the rare books collection for interesting items from our collection, search the Mason Catalog, click on “Set Limit” and limit by the location “Fenwick Special Collections.”

E-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have any questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

The C-SPAN Chronicles: Part II – Unique Finds – Processing is Like A Box of Chocolates: You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

Hello there! Amanda here again with another edition of the C-SPAN Chronicles. This week I will be exploring unique items found in the C-SPAN records – some straightforward, some, well…not so much.

As a processor, I have spent many an hour surveying collections, and usually this task is fairly clear-cut. But despite knowing the majority of the contents of a collection, occasionally I have been surprised, and scratched my head in wonder at the materials hidden away in boxes.

Talking to archival processors, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who did not have a story of a strange object uncovered during processing. Not only can these objects be entertaining, they oftentimes can be baffling. What do you do with these objects? Do they belong to the series of the surrounding materials? Will it need its own unique container? Is this object considered of enduring archival value? How does this object work with the rest of the collection? I personally find it a fun challenge to figure out the arrangement of these unique processing finds, and to stretch my intellectual and physical arrangement abilities. 

Moreover, processors occasionally come across objects or documents that are just plain cool. These are the moments archivists live for, whether it be a document with the signature of a famous historical figure, an original Playbill from a Broadway musical (in my case, this is equivalent to the Holy Grail), or a rare book made over 500 years ago – much like the ubiquitous “Forrest Gump” quote – processing is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get!

In processing the C-SPAN records, I have come across some unique objects leading me to ask the above questions. Needless to say this has kept me both busy and entertained. Below is a sampling of my finds. Enjoy!

The C-SPAN records contain hundreds of viewer letters – this one stuck out to me due to its unique format and the writer’s interesting handwriting.


Letter from President George W. Bush congratulating Lamb on C-SPAN receiving the Records of Achievement Award from the Foundation for the National Archives.


A “Celebrating C-SPAN’s 20th Anniversary” Frame containing an interesting drawing, Artist Unknown.


This shirt was coveted by most of SCRC staff- luckily it will be preserved indefinitely to the joy of all.


From a series of original mixed media paintings on board of various authors – this particular one features the writer Zora Neale Hurston.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of the C-SPAN Chronicles later in May!

Follow SCRC on Social Media and look out for future posts on the processing of the C-SPAN Papers on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

New Collection-Prince William County Historic Newspapers

Special Collections Research Center received a new collection of historic local newspapers from the Prince William County Library in November 2016. We have been working to reorganize and address preservation needs of these papers for future use by our patrons. The papers in this collection date roughly from 1861 to 1992. They are currently organized by date and paper title which has been split up into six series. The series are:

  • The Manassas Journal
  • The Prince William News
  • The Manassas Messenger
  • The Journal Messenger
  • Potomac News
  • Miscellaneous
    • This contains article clippings and issues from other papers like the Alexandria Gazette, The Fauquier Democrat, The Richmond News Leader, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch

We began processing this collection in January and have just finished boxing the documents and created the Finding Aid in early February.

Processing Coordinator and Manuscript and Archives Librarian looking through new collections in the processing area of Special Collections Research Center.

Along the way, we found many interesting articles. One article that stood out to us came from The State:

“A Woman in Pants” from The State. Undated but between 1870’s to 1890’s.

And of course the advertisements are always entertaining, like these from The Manassas Messenger dated November 15, 1951:

“Magic skin bodies…”


So if you are doing research on local history, love newspapers, or just have some free time, stop by and check out the new Prince William County Historic Newspaper collection, #C0301! The finding aid is now up on our website and you can find it here by searching our collections alphabetically or by subject under Northern Virginia and Regional History. You may also e-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Robert Clark papers and the Process of Processing

Robert (Bob) Clark was born in May 1922 in Omaha, Nebraska. He received a B.S. and M.A. while studying journalism and politics. He went on to become a Washington and White House correspondent for ABC News throughout the 1950’s and 1970’s, but continued to work for ABC until the 1990’s. Most notably, he covered and witnessed the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Later in his life, around the 1990’s, he was a guest commentator on C-SPAN. Bob Clark passed away in December 2015.

I have been fortunate enough to process this collection in its entirety. This is something I have wanted to do for a little while now. I am currently the Research Services Assistant, which means my main tasks are to assist researchers and answer questions they have along with updating our social media sites. This role is a graduate student position here at GMU and I have worked here since August of 2015. I have been lucky enough to pick up other tasks within my position, and processing is just one of those things that I have wanted to learn more about. Since this was a small donation, it was a great collection to start with. The donors, Douglas and Sandy First, were neighbors of Robert Clark and had organized his papers into five boxes which were then given to us. My first step was to re-folder all of the papers. Some were already in folders but many papers were placed in the boxes. I took papers out of old folders and placed them into new, acid-free folders. Other papers had to be organized into smaller sections based on the subject. There ended up being so many added folders that I had to add another box.


Empty boxes that the Robert Clark papers were in when they were donated.

Once all of the papers were in new folders, I arranged them into Hollinger boxes. Most of the documents were already organized by subject. We typically keep all papers and materials in the same order they were donated in, if we can, so that SCRC staff and researchers can better understand the context and intent of the donor or author.


Folders from all six boxes were then reorganized into these nineteen Hollinger boxes.

All folders have the collection title, “Robert Clark”, on the top left side. The middle of the folder is left for a brief title which explains the content, date, and sometimes the sort of materials that are in each folder. The right side always lists the box number followed by the folder number. In the image below, the folder says 8.1, meaning box 8, folder 1. This makes it easy for researchers to view our finding aid and know where to look for information and which boxes to request. It also helps keep everything in order. At this point, I had a pretty good idea of the contents of these boxes. I knew that I wanted to organize them into six series: JFK assassination, Politics, Foreign relations, Domestic issues, Personal files, and ABC files. But first, an inventory had to be made.

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The boxes are then organized into series by subject. Folders are labeled with the collection name, a description of what the folder contains, and a number which lists the box and folder.

An inventory is the first step to creating a finding aid which will later be uploaded to the website for people to search. The only information required for this step is box and folder number, title, and date of materials in each folder.


All of the information is placed into Excel to create an inventory of the materials to eventually be used for making the Finding Aid.

We currently use Archivists’ Toolkit for our collections. After the boxes are organized and the Excel inventory was created, I filled in the necessary information such as the description and container summary. I listed the six series that I thought best organized the collection and I added notes about copyright, restrictions, the donation and other details that go on our finding aids. Once that is completed, I hit the “Export EAD” button, which saves the file so it can be opened in Notetab and coded for our website. When all the coding is done, an html file is created and is made available to the public.


Archivists’ Toolkit file for Robert Clark

The final step was to print out labels, place them on the boxes, and shelve them in our stacks with the other collections. Now the Robert Clark papers collection can be searched online, used for research, or used by SCRC staff for social media posts!

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.


To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

Recent Acquisitions

Special Collections recently added notable collections that add to existing collection strengths in transportation, technology, and conflict resolution. Please note that most of these collections are unprocessed, so please allow us several days notice if you would like to use these collections. Visit the SC&A website for more information.

Transportation and Technology

Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit Project. Source:

The Steven Barsony papers consists of speeches, reports, correspondence, and photographs on mass transit projects, particularly new technology developments such as the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit Project in West Virginia. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1970s and 1980s.

The Robert Truax Washington, D.C., transportation collection consists of a variety of transportation-related documents, maps, and images. The most numerous group in the collection is approximately 150 postcards of Washington, D.C., from the early to mid-20th century, many of which include streetcars as well as famous streets and buildings. The collection also includes a variety of other transportation documents, including two large volumes of passenger and conductor receipts from around the turn of the 20th century.

The Interstate history research project collection documents the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASSHTO) project in the 1980s and 1990s to interview individuals that played an important role in the planning and implementation of the construction of the interstate highway system in the United States. Please note that some of these interviews have access restrictions.

The John Patrick Hawker papers consists of a substantial document archive of significant intelligence content, written and compiled by John Patrick Hawker, British SOE (Special Operation Executive), pertaining to British intelligence, cryptography and clandestine radio in the Second World War. Hawker was a professional and amateur radio engineer, who during the Second World War was actively engaged in British Intelligence services, and is associated with the Bletchley Park code-breaking center, working with clandestine radio to support resistance units. Hawker was involved in many aspects of radio, beginning in World War II as a member of the Radio Security Service (RSS) and its connections to British Security Service Military Intelligence Ml5 and the Secret Intelligence Service Ml6.

Conflict Resolution

Harold Saunders

Harold Saunders in 2008. Source:

The Harold Saunders papers consists largely of speeches, meeting transcripts, newsclippings about Saunders, photographs, and approximately 150 pocket notebooks that he carried with him that include insights from conversations and other experiences that were important to him. Saunders worked at the National Security Council (NSC) Staff in the White House (1961-1974) and the State Department (1974-1981) at the center of U.S. policymaking toward the Middle East and South Asia.

The Louise Diamond papers consists of files created by Louise Diamond that include workshops, writings, consultations, and study groups. Diamond was a founder and co-founder of several peace study policy groups. She wrote many articles on the subject of peace and conflict resolution, and the articles were published in a wide variety of journals, magazines, and books. She held several degrees, including a Ph.D. in Peace Studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio (1990).