Travel Series: The Americas

This post was written by Tiffany Kajer Wright. “I am a grad student in the English department’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric program. If I’m not cooking, I’m probably watching a historical documentary on Netflix. I also love traveling with my husband – I’ve been to 19 countries and counting. I’m brand new to the SCRC, but I look forward to contributing more blogs in the future!”

This post is the first in a series of blogs coordinated with our Around the World in (Almost) 80 Days exhibit. We’re highlighting some of our collections and books that focus on travel and can be accessed here at the Special Collections Research Center. In this article, we’re taking a look at North and South America.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see far-flung parts of the world? Two of our collections can take you virtually anywhere. The first is the extensive Edith McChesney Ker collection of slides, scrapbooks, and other documents covering her global adventures. The second is the largely insect-focused Kjell Sandved collection, of Butterfly Alphabet fame. Both photographers are notable for capturing animal and plant life, as well as striking landscapes.

Reviewing these collections can bring the distant and exotic corners of the planet a little closer to home. This is especially true for areas of the world that are difficult to access, such as Easter Island or Angel Falls. Other places, like the Galapagos Islands or Nova Scotia, have well-traveled routes but are no less fascinating. We’ll begin this week’s journey with Easter Island.

“Easter Island-Ahu Nau Nau”, Edith McChesney Ker papers, #C0077, Box 12, Page 28, Image 4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

The six stand in silent judgement, backs to the ocean. Their eyes are gone, but most still have their topknots. One is missing his head, and only the base remains for another. They are the Anakena Moai of Rapa Nui – Easter Island, to those outside of the South Pacific. Since 1888, it’s been a territory of Chile, and the mystery surrounding the immense statues has attracted travelers since the island was discovered. More than 800 Moai can be found on the island today, and most are easily accessible to the 80,000 tourists that stop by every year.

 

“Waterfalls: Amgel Falls World’s Highest Venezuela,” in the Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Box 4, Page 24, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Water tumbles over the edge of a cliff nearly three-quarters of a mile high, often shrouded by clouds. Toward the bottom, the water dissipates into a fine mist before converging into the Rio Kerepacupai Meru. This is Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, and it sits deep in the Venezuelan jungle. Named after American pilot Jimmie Angel, the first to fly over it in 1933, the falls draw visitors from all over the world each year.

“Fernandina Marine Iguanas and Bluefoots”, Edith McChesney Ker papers, #C0077, Box 13, Page 06, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

Home to some of the most specialized wildlife in the world, the Galapagos Islands have been the location for numerous scientific surveys for centuries. When a young geologist called Charles Darwin visited in 1835, he was so inspired by the variations of birds and other animals that he wrote On the Origin of Species. Scientists and researchers continue to visit this volcanic archipelago to better understand our planet’s history and evolution. Ecuador governs the islands today and has declared them a national park, drawing over 220,000 tourists per year.

 

“Peggy’s Cover Near Halifax Nova Scotia” in the Kjell Sandved nature photograph collection #C0020, Box 4, Page 22, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Nova Scotia is a breathtaking province, with Bay of Fundy and its extreme tides on one side and the battering North Atlantic on the other. Fishermen have done very well in this part of Canada for centuries, though not without cost. More than 5,000 shipwrecks are documented in the region. Despite this historical precedent, well over 2 million tourists visit Nova Scotia each year, with the percentage of Americans steadily increasing.

Sources:

Easter Island History

Island Heritage

Easter Island Tourism

Angel Falls History

Galapagos History

Galapagos Tourism

Nova Scotia History

Nova Scotia Tourism

Our exhibition will be up until mid-August. Stop by anytime to view our materials on display. 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.

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.

Charles Magnus, Patriotic Civil War Propaganda Printmaker

This post was written by Leanne Fortney, who began working with us in March as a Graduate Student Assistant within Research Services. Her main responsibilities are safeguarding our materials and assisting patrons with their research needs. She is a mother of two working on her MA in Art History with an interest in U.S. modern art between World War I and World War II. 

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

In the United States, the Civil War created such a great demand for patriotic propaganda. Printmakers, such as Charles Magnus, produced over a thousand illustrations within the course of the war. This entire Northern Virginia Civil War images collection consists of nearly 200 images on various historical subjects in a variety of formats, including wood engravings, steel engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, maps, and manuscripts from three periodicals: The Illustrated London News, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and Harper’s Weekly. Most of the images depict battles and maps of the Civil War. The maps include the cities of Arlington and Alexandria and the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William. Columbia Pike, Chain Bridge, Long Bridge, the Little River Turnpike, Centreville and Manassas all existed at the time of the Civil War and all of them are represented or referenced in these images.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Magnus’s Civil War illustrations depicted scenes of civil war camps, battles, and portraits of military officials, but he specialized primarily in decorative patriotic stationary such as cards and envelopes. Although pictorial images comprise the majority of the collection, there are also numerous maps, most of which were produced by lithography. A number were produced for military purposes and employed by both the North and South alike. Maps made during the Civil War were often exceedingly accurate; their usefulness carried on into the twentieth century. Magnus’s lithograph series entitled, “Bird’s Eye View of Alexandria, Va”, are illustrated on well-preserved envelopes that are no larger than 3 inches by 5 inches and include a few that are hand colored! In 1798, German inventor, Alois Senefelder, created an innovated and revolutionary printmaking process that is now known as lithography. Lithography allows for artists to produce an unlimited set of images. This enabled Magnus to keep up with the high demands for his patriotic illustrations.

Illustrations like these have been created and used by the public to highlight news events, political satire, coverage of wars, marriages, and even celebrity (like Kings, Queens, Popes, etc.) outings. The practice of creating woodblock prints has been around since at least 220 C.E. with the Han Dynasty. Eventually, through the use of removable type and the invention of the printing press, artists were able to distribute their images over an even larger population.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Northern Virginia Civil War images, #C0150 folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

IMG_8662-1.jpg

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 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.

Reorganizing the GMU Oral History Program Collection

This post was written by Emily Curley, our Oral History Program Coordinator.

The George Mason University Oral History Program has conducted over 200 interviews since 1999. Because we’re always adding to the collection, it’s time to reorganize the physical collection and the finding aid.

Oral History Collection, #R0122, in our closed stacks.

What we’ve done so far:

We’ve reorganized the physical collection. This included moving CD’s of oral history interviews into new boxes and arranging the individual interviews by date, rather than alphabetically. The collection increased from nine to eleven boxes and range from the late 1970’s to 2017. These histories cover a wide variety of topics including the history of George Mason University and Northern Virginia.

Our Next Steps:

  • Comparing the finding aid to the physical collection
  • Revising long abstracts and creating missing abstracts
  • Creating a new finding aid
  • Creating workflow for periodic updates of the Oral History finding aid

We will compare the finding aid to the physical collection and fill in any missing interviews. The finding aid was last updated in 2013, so there are over 50 oral histories that need to be added. After we have confirmed that all of the interviews are updated, we will check the finding aid once again and revise some of the abstracts. Some abstracts have too much information while others have too little. Our aim is to be as consistent as possible.

A box with an oral history pulled out to show what information goes on the labels.

After confirming that the abstracts are correct, I will be working with the Archives and Manuscript Librarian, Liz Beckman, to create a new finding aid, which is expected to go on our website sometime this summer.

Finally, I will create a guide for the next oral historian (who will start in September) so that they can periodically add new interviews and keep the finding aid up to date.

Links

GMU Oral History Program

Youtube

Finding Aid

Other Oral History Holdings

OMEKA Site

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections. Additionally, requests can be made to listen to oral histories in our Reading Room. Copies can also be made for a fee, which are listed on our website. Some oral histories may need to be converted to disk before they are available to patrons. For questions about oral histories, contact Emily Curley. To schedule an appointment or to request copies of an oral history, contact our Research Services Coordinator, Rebecca Bramlett.