Around the World in (Almost) Eighty Days

Summer is approaching and travel plans have been made! Special Collections Research Center holds many images and books that represent great travel destinations in the United States and around the world. That is why we have planned a new exhibit – “Around the World in (Almost) Eighty Days: Traveling the Globe with Special Collections” to show off these wonderful pieces and maybe even help those who are still trying to figure out where to travel in the upcoming months. The exhibit will run from June 5 until mid-August and a reception will be held in Fenwick Library on June 15 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Hope to see you there – Bon Voyage!

The President and The King or Art Imitates Life

I was traveling on an airplane recently and stumbled across an interesting film while browsing the in-flight entertainment options at my seat. Elvis and Nixon is an eighty-six-minute history/comedy treatment of the infamous December 21, 1970 meeting between “The President and The King”.  The film features Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon, Michael Shannon as Elvis, and Johnny Knoxville and Alex Pettyfer as Memphis Mafia members Sonny West and Jerry Schilling. Having worked at two libraries holding materials created by the man who photographed the meeting, I am quite familiar with Presley’s visit to the White House. I had several hours remaining in my flight, the book I had been reading had become boring, and this movie seemed to scream “watch me!,” so I decided to view it.

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, the most popular photograph in the history of the National Archives and Records Administration. From the Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036, Box 21 Folder 8. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The meeting between Nixon and Elvis was hastily arranged by both Presley, himself, and Special Assistant to the President, Egil “Bud” Kroh.  Elvis simply showed up at the White House gate on December 21, 1970 and asked that a letter he wrote to the president be delivered to him. Presley, an avid badge collector, wished to meet with Nixon to discuss America’s growing problem with dangerous drugs and volunteer to help out in the effort to stop it. He also hoped that Nixon might give him a badge from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs for his efforts.  Krogh thought a meeting with the famous rock star would provide the opportunity for the president to earn a little “street cred” with America’s younger set.  Fifteen photographs of the meeting in which Elvis and Nixon exchanged gifts and compliments were captured by White House photographer Oliver “Ollie” Atkins.  At the conclusion Nixon instructed assistants to make certain the appropriate official secured the badge for Elvis.

Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon (left) and Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley (right) in Liza Johnson’s ELVIS & NIXON, an Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street release. Credit: Steve Dietl/Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street. In this still from the film Oliver Atkins, played by Gus Rhodes, is taking the infamous photograph while Egil Kroh, played by Colin Hanks, looks on. Used with permission.

The National Archives and Records Administration’s Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum holds negatives to photographs Atkins took while serving as Nixon’s photographer (1968-1974). Included in this collection are all 15 images of the famous meeting between the two. The photo of the two in mid-handshake, smiling, and looking directly at the camera is regarded by NARA as it’s most requested photograph, ever.

The George Mason University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center maintains a collection of photographs personally donated by Atkins in 1977. Atkins was an early neighbor and long-time friend to George Mason University since the early 1960s. This collection features about 60,000 photographs he made between 1943 and 1974. The photographs document his work as a photographer for the American Red Cross, The Saturday Evening Post, and the White House.  The White House photographs, which comprise a selection of prints he made while he was White House Photographer, contain two different images from the Nixon-Elvis meeting. For more information on the Atkins Photograph Collection visit the finding aid at http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/atkins.html.

A storage box from the the Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Photographer Olliver F. Atkins. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036, Box 27 Folder 4. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two films have been made and several articles and books, including one by Egil Kroh, himself, have been written about the very brief but intriguing meeting. Krogh’s 1994 work, The Day Elvis Met Nixon, is his personal recollection of the meeting from memory and notes he made while taking part in it.  Comparing the meeting as portrayed in Elvis and Nixon with Krogh’s written description of the actual meeting might lead one to the conclusion that a bit of artistic license was taken in parts of the 2016 film.  Of particular note is a sequence during which Elvis eats M&Ms belonging to Nixon and another where he teaches the president some karate moves. Each of these, while perhaps not historically accurate, is very funny!

Richard Nixon shaking hands with Elvis Presley, December 21, 1970. Oliver F. Atkins Collection, C0036, Box 21 Folder 8. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

I found Elvis and Nixon to be a fast-moving and fun film.  Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon each did a fine job portraying their character’s unique posture, gesture, and speech.  The film succeeds in portraying an actual historical event while flavoring it with clever comedic moments. It is one of those films which can reach a broad audience and illustrate a moment in history, all while being entertaining in the process.

 

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 speccoll@gmu.edu 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.

The C-SPAN Chronicles: Part III – To Rebox or Not to Rebox?

Hello again! Amanda here with another edition of the C-SPAN Chronicles. As processing has progressed, I now find myself with the task of reboxing and finalizing the official inventory of the C-SPAN records. Though a somewhat straightforward task, reboxing and inventorying isn’t without its challenges. But first of all, let’s unpack these simple yet critical processing steps.

Reboxing is both exactly as it sounds and deceptively simple: it involved removing archival materials from either non-archival quality or archival quality boxes, and placing them in other archival quality boxes. There are three groups of boxes that I generally encounter in processing: records boxes, document boxes, and everything else. Now you might be asking yourself, a box is just a box – what can make these three kinds so different? Well, below are some important criteria when selecting boxes to house your records, manuscripts, or whatever you may have in your archives.

  • The box must be acid-free
  • The box must hold your records comfortably without damaging them
  • The box must be in a condition that is accessible to researchers (not too large or too heavy – this is a much more malleable criterion depending on your institution.)

A typical Hollinger records box.

The two boxes that fit these criteria are records boxes and document boxes. Records boxes fit more materials, and can fit legal and letter sized folders. Document boxes can do the same, but come in legal, letter, and oversize so your records fit snugly and securely. The most popular and reliable source of these boxes is the company Hollinger Metal Edge, and as a result the larger records boxes are colloquially known as “Hollinger Boxes.” One records box equals about two and half legal-size document boxes, and this must be taken into consideration when ordering enough document boxes to house your collection. A box that does not fit the above three criteria is not an archival-quality box and should never be used for long-term preservation.

Hollinger boxes are expensive – thus it is common practice to reuse them indefinitely in an archives.

Though your records or manuscript collections will be safe in either records or document boxes, I prefer document boxes. Not only are they easier to handle during processing, but more importantly, they are easier to handle for the researcher. Access is of the utmost importance in an archives or special collections, and if your researchers find the boxes which house your records unwieldy, you’re in for some trouble. In my opinion, document boxes also make inventorying easier, as I don’t have to count to larger numbers, thus keep the sub-inventories (so to speak) much more manageable and easy to correct. For example, if you incorrectly label a file within a large records box, you might potentially have to relabel the entire box, which could house 100 files or more depending on the materials within. With a document box, however, mistakes like this can easily be caught and fixed.

Document boxes holding the C-SPAN records.

When it comes to inventorying, I prefer to have a system of checks to ensure that the inventory is as accurate as possible (yet again, ensuring ease of use for potential researchers.) During my initial baseline processing, I take a rough inventory of the entire collection – or in other words, inventorying everything as-is, unarranged. Once the final processing stages have begun and I am reboxing the collection, I will create my final inventory by copying and pasting from the first, and doing so after each box has been completed. Pacing myself like this ensures that I am not missing any files, helps find and correct spelling errors or double entries, and doubly ensures that the correct file, labeled the correct way, is in the correct box. At times this stage can be painstaking, but it is critical to ensuring the collection you are processing is accurately represented in your finding aid.

That’s all for now folks! Thank you for taking this processing journey with me – as always!

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

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 speccoll@gmu.edu 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

Summer Hours

The Special Collections Research Center’s Summer Hours will begin this Wednesday, May 17th. During the summer, the Special Collections Research Center will be open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. For questions or general inquiries, please contact speccoll@gmu.edu.

We hope you enjoy your summer!

 

(1980s) Two Kappa Sigma fraternity members lying on the sand, next to a boom box and keg lying on top of a small hill, holding beers, from the GMU Broadsides Collection, R0135, Box 20, page 51, number 10

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 speccoll@gmu.edu 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.