A braille program from the Arena Stage records

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Oversize braille program for “A Small World” from the Arena Stage records, Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Currently I’m working with Kerry Mitchell, one of our student assistant archivists, on reprocessing the Arena Stage records. The collection consists of approximately 675 boxes of scripts, correspondence, photographs, and audiovisual materials, so even with two people working on it, it has been a time consuming and complex project.

While going through the “Arena Stage Printed Materials” series, I noticed a number of programs created for individuals with disabilities. There are braille programs, large-print programs, and sign-interpreted programs. The braille programs are completely unique due to their tactile nature. I haven’t had much experience with braille materials so this was an interesting item to me. The raised dots on the programs are only on one side of the pages, and the pages are up to 14 x 12 inches. The longer programs are quite thick and only three or four will fit in a five inch document box. This is in stark contrast to printed programs which can fit up to 50 or more programs per box. Larger programs are stored in flat boxes such as the example shown here. The images on this page are of a program for “A Small World” from the 1993-1994 season.
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Detail of braille program for “A Small World” from the Arena Stage records, Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Some of the concerns with preserving braille materials is the acidity of the paper used, fragile or damaged bindings, and flattening of the raised dots. A nice introduction to saving braille documents is Helen Kuncicky’s paper “Saving Raised Dots: A Feel for Braille Materials and Preservation” from 2007.

Braille was invented by Louis Braille in 1824. Braille “letters” consist of six dots that are arranged three high and two across. Dots within this pattern range in size indicating which letter the reader is feeling.
Braille letters from Braille Cards (http://www.braillecards.co.uk)

Braille letters from Braille Cards (http://www.braillecards.co.uk)

For more on disability services at Arena Stage and George Mason University, follow the links below.
At Arena Stage braille programs are available for patrons to use during performances.
Disability services at Mason.

Nixon during Watergate

Another blog post on President Richard Nixon’s activities during the Watergate investigation. The first one can be found here, the second one can be found here, and the third one is here.

Following the release of the White House Oval Office audiotape transcripts in April 1974, Nixon faced additional requests for the tapes themselves. While the court battle over the tapes wound through the court system, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger planned a June trip to the Middle East, including a visit to the State of Israel, the first trip ever by a U.S. president. Both Nixon and Pat, his wife, were no doubt glad to be out of Washington and among cheering crowds in Egypt.

Anwar Sadat and Richard Nixon wave to crowds in Alexandria, Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Richard Nixon wave to crowds in Alexandria, Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Pat Nixon smiles for the cameras as she plays with children at a school in Egypt.

Pat Nixon smiles for the cameras as she plays with children at a school in Egypt (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

A couple of major events prompted the visit by Nixon. In October 1973, Syria and Egypt attacked Israel over territory in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights that Israel refused to vacate. The war did not last long, but both the United States and the Soviet Union became involved and the conflict nearly escalated into a nuclear confrontation. The U.S. support for Israel during the war resulted in an oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which caused a major disruption in the U.S. and world economy.

From left to right: Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

From left to right: Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

Nixon and Kissinger sought to reassure Israel of support by the U.S. and also reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria.

Richard Nixon and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad shake hands as other officials, including Henry Kissinger, watch.

Richard Nixon and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad shake hands as other officials, including Henry Kissinger, watch (June 1974). Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, Box 35, Folder 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives.

You can read more about on the background of the 1973 conflict here.