Earth Laughs in Flowers

“Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.” – “Hamatreya” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post was written by Khalid Tamimi, Research Services Student Assistant and undergraduate in marketing. 

“Cannaceae: Canna generalis Equador,” Box 1, Page 11, Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Special Collections Research Center holds a myriad of materials that cover the flourishing world of Botany. This includes photograph collections, like the one by Kjell B. Sandved, or books like Histoire des plantes vénéneuses et suspectes de la France (The history of venomous and suspicious plants of France), Temple of Flora, and many more that we have in our catalog.





Kjell B. Sandved, Norwegian nature photographer, spent his life traveling across our green planet and capturing its versatility and beauty one frame at a time. His images capture so much detail that a mere glimpse is enough to slow down ones perception of time and get lost in a lifeless image that portrays the very essence of life itself.


“Bougainvillea glabra, Hawaii,” Box 1, Page 7, Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.


As one peruses over the breathtaking photographs you can’t help but envy those who have dedicated their lives to the study and observation of nature’s finest. We as a species seem to be obsessed with beauty yet we tend to forget the ever-blooming beauty that Mother Nature is.





“Grevilla Banksii Kahili flower. Queensland Australia,” Box 1, Page 12, Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.




Flowers are a great reminder that standing out and being different warrant celebration rather than scrutiny. As social creatures, we fixate on assimilation and  yet we often forget that beauty almost always lies in uniqueness. At first glimpse do you notice the single flower? Or the identical leaflets on either side?










Histoire des Plantes Vénéneuses et Suspectes de la France contains over 100 plant species which vary in beauty but are all poisonous. This 1798 book provides information on each plant, though written in French, describing the parts of each plant and other useful facts. L’Hellebore noir is a beautiful flower that can be found across France; also known as the Christmas rose or Helleborus Niger. Despite its misleading name this plant does not belong to the rose family rather is an evergreen perennial flowering plant in the buttercup family. Despite its aesthetic charm, this flower is actually poisonous. Touching or being near this plant can cause the burning of the eyes, mouth, and throat, coughing, and in some cases, oral ulcerations. This may be Mother Nature’s subtle reminder that just because something appears beautiful does not mean that it is harmless or good.

“L’Hellebore noir,” Bulliard, Pierre, Histoire des Plantes Vénéneuses et Suspectes de la France, QK100.F7 B85 1798, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.


“Tulips,” Thornton, Robert John, Thorton’s Temple of Flora, QK98 .T5, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Written in 1951, this oversize edition of Thorton’s Temple of Flora (originally Thorton published some editions in the late 18th century and early 19th century) has large, beautiful illustration of flowers, most of which are in color. The text within the book describes Thorton’s life, interests in botany and his relationship with the Darwin family. Exploring these illustrations, one can learn vital life lessons from natures finest. Not only should we all take the time to appreciate the intricacies of the natural world that we live in. Similarly, we can learn a lot about ourselves and how we coexist with other living things in this world. We can coincide peacefully together, regardless of the differences in the colors of our petals, their origins, or which way we choose to face the sun.

“The Dragon Arum,” Thornton, Robert John, Thorton’s Temple of Flora, QK98 .T5, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.


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.

Get Rec’d: The Difference Between Archiving and Records Management

This post was written by Samara Carter, University Records Manager.

Box for Records Management. The labels indicate the types of materials included in the box (i.e. prospective student sign-in sheets, payment sheets, copies of graduation lists). This photo was taken by Nick Welsh, Records Management Specialist, in the warehouse which is separate space from the SCRC stacks containing rare books and archival materials.

“I have stuff for archiving.”

The word archiving gets used interchangeably day in and day out by university offices wanting to submit records to University Archives or URM (University Records Management), both housed in Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Sometimes departments have photographs or publications for University Archives, sometimes departments have financial documents that need to be stored for a few years before they can be destroyed. While both of our units work in tandem to oversee Masons’ records, archiving is best applied as a term when speaking about historical and/or permanent records. 

Why is that?

An archive is a repository for items that need to be maintained for an undefined period of time, generally forever. University Archives houses collections with the intention of tending to them in perpetuity for the purpose of making them available for research and posterity, including documenting the history of George Mason. URM houses public records with the intention of destroying them at a later date.

Records fall into three categories here at Mason:

  • Historical (permanent)
  • Public (permanent)
  • Public (temporary)

However, all records have a lifecycle that begin the exact same way – a document of some format or another is created and bam – a record is born! Along the lifecycle of a record, though, the path diverges towards two choices: permanent retention or destruction.

Word of the Week: Lifecycle” created by the National Archives, explaining the life cycle of records.

Once a record has reached the end of its active usefulness, a Mason department will contact University Archives or URM about “archiving” it. Historical items are gleefully claimed by our archivists whereas temporary, public items eventually make their way with approval to the URC (University Records Center). Public records are stored, rather than “archived,” at the URC and given a destruction date based on the context of use and date of the documents in question.

At University Archives and URM, we are doing our best to clear up the confusion between our respective tasks to protect against permanent items accidentally being stashed away in an area where they could meet an untimely end in a shredder.

As for those permanent public records? Currently they’re all maintained in-house with their respective departments for accessibility reasons.

For more information about Records and Information Management look here.

Samara can be reached at or  703.993.2201. Nick Welsh, Records Management Specialist, can be reached at or 703.993.5273.

The C-SPAN Chronicles: Part I – A Processing Primer

Brian Lamb and SCRC Staff, September 2016. Copyright GMU University Libraries.

Hello one and all! My name is Amanda Brent, and I am the C-SPAN Papers Project Archivist here at GMU’s Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). I began my journey at SCRC as a volunteer, then intern, then Processing Assistant, and now I have been given the opportunity to work as the C-SPAN Project Archivist, tasked with processing and eventually digitizing the C-SPAN papers. This collection has been through some processing – making the job somewhat easier – but “inheriting” a collection from previous processors comes with its own host of unique challenges, some of which were obvious when I first surveyed the collection, and some that were not. This post will guide you through a few of my challenges in processing this collection – and processing in general – but first, a little bit of background on C-SPAN and Brian Lamb.

Brian Lamb and Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, Liz Beckman, in the stacks – September 2016. Copyright GMU University Libraries.

C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) was founded in 1979 by Brian Lamb, with the aim of televising sessions of the U.S. Congress and offering broader access and coverage of public affairs events. Lamb was an integral part of the development of C-SPAN, and having been a White House telecommunications policy staffer and Washington bureau chief for Cablevision magazine, brought valuable experience and insight to the job. Lamb became renowned for his many interviews and interviewing style, particularly on his show Booknotes (1984 – 2004). Lamb currently hosts the show Q & A on C-SPAN, and his strong and singular influence on the network continues to this day. C-SPAN itself has expanded over the years, covering live gavel-to-gavel floor proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, public affairs events, congressional hearings and history programming. (Source: C-SPAN.)

This collection – created and donated by the C-SPAN Corporation – is large in breadth and scope. The numerous materials include correspondence, photographs, books, press releases, clippings, viewer mail, regalia, audio-visual materials, exhibit objects, and regalia (and more!) totaling to roughly 170 boxes.

C-SPAN records in the stacks.

Additionally, GMU houses all of the books covered in Booknotes, donated by Lamb in 2011, which can be found in our catalog. Processing a collection of this magnitude is no easy feat, and the C-SPAN papers went through many hands before reaching me. Luckily, this meant that some of the baseline processing was done before me – but what does that mean exactly? Let me break it down.

From Left to Right: Dean of the Libraries, John Zenelis, Brian Lamb, and Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, Liz Beckman, September 2016. Copyright GMU University Libraries.

When processing any archival collection, the processor’s first step is surveying the collection. What kinds of materials will you be working with? What kind of condition are they in? Will they need reformatting due to damage or fragility? Once this has been established – which can take days, weeks or months even – baseline processing can begin. This includes re-foldering documents into acid-free folders, removing rusted fasteners such as paper clips or staples (at one’s discretion – see Greene and Meissner’s seminal archival theory “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing” ), locating dates on undated folders, and labeling folders consistently and in the most useful way for researcher access. This may include briefly surveying the contents of each folder to ensure the folder’s title is correct, and potentially expanding the title to include date ranges and key words/subjects that may have been left out. The goal of this step is to essentially make the collection simple to handle (for the processor, Research Services Coordinator, and future researchers) and to ensure the collection is housed using materials that will last indefinitely and will not cause further harm to the materials.


Example of a box that needs re-foldering, re-labeling, and inventorying, but is undeniably colorful!

Example of a completely re-foldered and labeled box mid-inventory. Like true love, it’s not the outside, but the inside that counts.

During this stage, the processor can further survey the collection for information to include in the future Finding Aid. One can explore questions such as: What are the bulk date ranges? What types of materials are present? What subject does the majority of the collection cover? For example, a collection may technically have a date range of 1900 – 1950, but it would be prudent to include that 80% of the collection originates from the 1930s. This kind of information facilitates better access for future researchers and staff membersMoreover, a box list inventory is created throughout this stage, which is a critical step in Finding Aid creation. To concurrently inventory and process saves on time, rather than returning to the box list later in processing.

My desk full of C-SPAN materials.

Once baseline processing has finished, arrangement can begin. This is undoubtedly the most challenging step of processing an archival collection. When I process collections, my goal is to make the collection as accessible and understandable as possible. What arrangement would best suit this collection? In its original order, chronologically, alphabetically, or by subject? How many series and subseries will the collection need? Part of the challenge is the duality of arrangement – the processor must arrange the collection physically and intellectually, or in other words, determine how this collection will be organized on paper, and how that will translate physically. This is why surveying the collection and taking the time to examine it during baseline processing is so important.

Even though some of the baseline processing and inventories had been done before I inherited it, my survey of the C-SPAN Papers left me with the impression that doing my own comprehensive inventory would be the most prudent course of action to ensure that I fully understood the collection. This process has been time consuming, but also absolutely necessary. Having about 40% of the collection re-foldered and labeled was an immense help, but did nothing for me arrangement-wise. Needless to say, gaining intellectual control over the collection was paramount, otherwise I would be almost blindly arranging the collection. As I get further into processing, I am slowly but surely developing an arrangement strategy. It is not fully formulated, nor will be for some time, but I am expecting to complete this initial processing stage by the end of spring so I can begin arrangement at the start of summer. There is still much work to be done before a Finding Aid can be created and the collection can be digitized, but much like building a house, proper and thorough processing is the strong foundation a collection needs before it can be usefully accessed.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of the C-SPAN Chronicles in May: “Unique Finds – Processing is Like A Box of Chocolates: You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get.”

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.

University Archives Series: Student and University Publications

This post was written by Alina Moody, undergraduate finishing her degree in creative writing. She is an OSCAR student (Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, & Research) and is a copy editor for Broadside. Alina has worked on a variety of projects for Special Collections Research Center over the last two years.

Special Collections Research Center keeps a number of materials from student and university publications dating as early as 1960. This includes everything from university pamphlets handed out during Mason Day festivals to copies of Fourth Estate’s predecessor Broadside. Recently, I have taken on the task of reorganizing and creating an inventory for the Student and University Publication collection to include any recent publications or additions to the collection. I look through each box within the collection and organize the folders inside, giving them a more accurate box number.

Once I’ve finished numbering them, I enter their information (box and folder number, name of the work or description of the materials and the year it was published) in an Excel spreadsheet to create an inventory. Once this process is complete, I will use this inventory to create a finding aid and upload it to our website so patrons can see what we have in this collection. This is a small part of our larger project to make materials within university archives more accessible as many collections still lack finding aids. Patrons will then be able to use these materials more efficiently and will begin to see how many interesting collections we have in university archives (our materials are split into manuscript collections, university archives, and rare books).

While working on this project for Special Collections, I have encountered many older publications that I never knew Mason had. One of the most interesting finds I’ve made while reorganizing, has been Mason’s Expulsion paper. Expulsion was described in its debut issue as a, “not-even-remotely-for-profit, not-even-close-to-being-political organization” to rival Mason’s established newspaper, Broadside. It lived up to its secondary title of “Mason’s Superior Underground Newspaper” through sheer witty sarcasm; it featured weekly articles that made light of George Mason University’s news, often appealing to student’s true feelings about the college experience at Mason. Expulsion ran from 1990 to May of 2006, publishing thirty-two volumes in total.

The cover of Expulsion’s 1999 April Fools issue, which features a (badly) photoshopped spread of former GMU President, Alan Merten, doing a “Merten” Klein underwear photoshoot.

Expulsion’s special Star Wars issue in May of 1999. The cover features Expulsion’s own mission to oppose, “the evil Broadside Campus Empire, led by not so evil emperor, Mertentine.”

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.