November 1, 2019
Tomorrow, November 2, is the second annual DFW archives bazaar. This event will take place from 1:00pm-5:00pm at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center in Denton, Texas.
Come visit with archivists, museum curators, librarians, and history professionals from all across the DFW area. Discover the various resources in your own backyard, learn how to preserve your family treasures, interview family members about their own history, digitize family memories, and much more. Visit the “Ask an Archivist” Station, and find out what it takes to become a professional archivist. In addition to the exhibitors and demos, there will be door prizes, trivia, and more.
My path to becoming an archivist was not straightforward. I found my way into the profession while in graduate school working on an MA in history. My first archival gig was as an intern at a local historical museum. From the moment I walked into the stacks, I was hooked.
What I love most about this profession is that every day is an opportunity to learn new things about the people, places, and events of our past. Since we just finished celebrating American Archives Month, I thought I would take an opportunity to answer a few of the questions I get asked the most on the job.
What is the oldest item in your collection?
A Columbus letter dated 29 April 1493.
What is your favorite item in the collection?
This is hard because there are just so many amazing pieces that I could never narrow it to one item. I can say that correspondence is definitely my favorite type of record. Throughout my archivist career I have read thousands upon thousands of letters from centuries old to a few weeks old, from handwritten notes to corporate form letters. Because letter writing is not instant like, say, a tweet or blog post, when I read through these letters I imagine a person sitting down to write out their thoughts and feelings. Combine this with a knowledge of time and place and you can get a visual image of what that particular day in their life was like.
Why don’t you just put everything online?
If I had a dollar for every time I get asked this question, I still wouldn’t be able to put even a fraction of our holdings online. Mass digitization is costly, both in money and time. Each box on the shelf can hold roughly 700-1800 individual pieces of paper and even more photographs, negatives, and slides. Many archival record groups are not easy to scan quickly. The fastest way is with an automatic feeder, but this only works with same-sized pages in good condition. Manual scanning is the best option for unique or fragile records. Depending on the record, it may take multiple scans to capture all of the information. On top of the logistics, there are a number of laws that affect digital projects including privacy laws, HIPPA, FERPA, and of course copyright and intellectual property laws.
Despite these challenges, archives around the globe are working to make materials available online and on improving access to these resources. Here at SMU we have the incredible team at the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions (nCDS). You can follow their blog Off the Shelf to stay up to date with our ongoing digital projects and to see what’s new online.
Visit the DeGolyer library to view rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and other materials. The collections are available to all SMU students, faculty, visiting scholars, and other researchers. DeGolyer Library’s holdings of primary sources are complemented by exhibitions, lectures, publications, and other programs. We hope to see you soon!
October 22, 2019
With Halloween approaching, I went searching for the spookiest book I could find in the DeGolyer stacks. We’ve got items on vampires, ghosts, and creatures that go bump in the night, and one work that claims to offer “full and plain evidence concerning witches.”
Printed in 1681, Saducismus triumphatus, or, full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions: in two parts. The first treating of their possibility, the second of their real existence (BF1581.A2) was written by Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680) and published after his death by Henry More (1614-1687).
Our copy features two striking woodcut illustrations. The first is a frontispiece featuring the Witch of Endor, described in the Hebrew Bible is a woman who aids Saul in summoning the spirit of the prophet Samuel.
The second image features six separate scenes, including the devil and demons, angels, and levitation.
The book makes an argument for the existence of witches, ghosts, and the supernatural. It begins by interpreting biblical stories as evidence of witches, then shares numerous contemporary accounts of the supernatural. The stories are mostly tales of interactions between individuals in English communities and ghosts, such as the story of “a Dutch man that could see ghosts, and of the ghost he saw in the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk” or “the appearing of the ghost of one Mr. Bower of Guildford, to a highway-man in prison, as it is set down in a letter of Dr. Ezekias Burton to a Dr. H. More.”
Additional stories include cases of witchcraft and the ‘confessions’ of convicted witches, such as “the witchcraft of Elizabeth Styles of Bayford, widow” who after being arrested and imprisoned for witchcraft, described how “the Devil about ten years since appeared to her in the shape of a handsome man, and after of a black dog. That he promised her money, and that she should live gallantly, and have the pleasure of the world for twelve years, if she would with her blood sign his paper, which was to give her soul to him, and observe his laws, and that he might suck her blood.”
Contact Christina Jensen to view Saducismus triumphatus and other books at the DeGolyer.
September 30, 2019
October can represent many things to different people. It can mean pumpkin spice flavored everything for those die-hard fans of the Starbucks PSL. It can mean watching scary movies, dressing in costumes and eating tons of candy for the Halloween enthusiasts. It is the start of cooler temperatures (hopefully) and the holiday season.
But for others, October can also mean survival and a time of remembrance of lost loved ones. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Housed in the DeGolyer Library’s Archives of Women of the Southwest are the personal papers of Susan G. Komen and the records of the Foundation. It began in 1980 with Nancy Brinker’s promise to her sister Susan to end breast cancer, and it culminated with the founding of the organization that now bears the sister’s name.
Susan Goodman Komen was born on October 31, 1943 in Peoria, Illinois. In 1977 her doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. Despite nine operations and three courses of chemotherapy and radiation, she died at age 36 on August 4, 1980. Her sister, Nancy Brinker, founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation on July 22, 1982 in Dallas, Texas. That next year the first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® took place in Dallas, Texas, with 800 participants.
The Susan G. Komen collections consist of correspondence, advertisements and news articles, scrapbooks and photographs, clippings, publications, awards and artifacts which document the organization’s history from its start as a grassroots effort to global leader of breast cancer awareness and the fight to find a cure.
Some of my favorite pieces include the records related to the Races for the Cure held around the world. Costa Rica became the first country outside of the United States to host a Race for the Cure event in 1998.
Researchers interested in Dallas philanthropy, women’s health leaders, breast cancer education and outreach initiatives, or even women’s fashion will find the Komen records invaluable.
For access to these collections or to learn more about the adventurous women of the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer Library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.