Wanderlust, Women, and Arizona

This week, I was able to set up my very own mini-exhibit here at Special Collections in the reading room. In conjunction with Women’s History Month, this one case exhibit pays homage to the many women who have traveled and explored our glorious state. I wanted to give viewers a glimpse at several different women, both past and present, who have fallen in love with Arizona and explored its many wonders.

The exhibit, of course, cannot highlight all of the many women of Arizona and the borderlands who have contributed to our archive. However, I was able to highlight different types of materials that are housed here: rare small press books (March is also National Small Press Month!), maps, sketches, poetry, and photographs.


The collection features items from Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham), Hazel E. Mills, Annita Delano, and Nell McCarthy. Zepeda is an award winning poet/author and if you’re able to stop by and read some of her O’odham poetry, you will fall in love with Cuk Son all over again. Mills’ sketches of different travels across Arizona are gorgeous, but also highlight the different ways women participate in travel. Delano is an artist and her photographs of archaeological ruins are extraordinary. Nell McCarthy grew up in Douglas, Arizona and documented her experiences with photographs but I’ve also showcased some of her handwritten, hand illustrated poetry. These are just four of the amazing women that have traveled and contributed to Arizona’s history. I hope you’re able to stop by and view some of their work.


Special Collections & Fairy Tales


The Sleeping Beauty (1920) illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Throughout my time in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections archives (six months to be exact), I have taken great delight with my encounters with fairy tales, be it intentional or unintentional. Coming from my background in children’s literature studies with the focus on fairy tale traditions, I always keep an eye out for related material, especially when they pop up in the least likely of places when I’m not necessarily searching. One of my favorite discoveries was when I was searching for items for my November showcase featuring military-service and war related material in honor of Veterans Day. In an archival box labeled “WWI and WWII Media”, amongst the Life Magazines with images of war nurses, soldiers, and President Johnson, I discovered beautiful color-reproductions of illustrations featuring classic fairy tale hero(ione)s by the artist Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935). Smith was an American female illustrator of the Golden Age of Illustration who contributed works to books and magazines, such as Harper’sLadies Home Journal, and Good House Keeping. Smith was also one of the many artists I had researched only a year earlier for my undergraduate honor’s thesis, so needless to say, I was quite excited with this very unexpected find of the fairy tale protagonists Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Jack .


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Stories from Hans Andersen (1925) illustrated by Edmund Dulac

For my February showcase I decided to highlight the Golden Age of Illustration by displaying 20th century books of fairy tales with illustrations by some of the most notable artists of this era. The golden Age of Illustration was a period of remarkable distinction in book illustration productions between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a result of the advances in technology that permitted detailed and inexpensive reproductions of art that ultimately generated a high public demand for this beautiful new art form. Illustrated fairy tale books became one of the most popular genres, garnering the statues of the ultimate “Gift Book”. Among the leading artists of the Golden Age were Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), and Kay Nielsen (1886-1957).

Among some of my sought-after finds was a 1909 edition of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm illustrated by Rackham, a 1911 edition of Stories from Hans Andersen illustrated by Dulac, and a 1925 edition of Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Nielsen. I also came upon the original de Luxe 1919 and 1920 editions of Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty illustrated by Arthur Rackham (I say original because The Folio Society recently produced facsimiles of these works that I am very familiar with), in which Rackham illustrated the classic fairy tales in silhouette. And to my great delight I discovered that The Sleeping Beauty edition is signed by Arthur Rackham on the colophon, No. 31/625. Although I didn’t have space for all of the beautiful books, all three of the artists were represented in the final showcase piece.


Golden Age of Illustration Showcase

Processing Mystery

I am now weeks into processing the Poisoned Pen Press collection. Poisoned Pen Press is an independent publisher of mystery novels located in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was founded in 1997 by Robert Rosenwald and Barbara Peters, who is also the founder of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. The extent of the collection is 63 linear feet and consists of manuscripts, proof galleys, cover designs, digital media, and other materials relating to the creation of the book. This experience has differed vastly from the previous collection I processed last semester. Since Poisoned Pen is a corporate body, I am witnessing the interactions between Poisoned Pen staff, authors, and other individuals assisting with the book development process. Some of the great findings have included eye catching titles like Concerto in Dead Flat by Wendell McCall, and cover designs such the one illustrated on Mary Ann Evans’ book Artifacts. I was excited to find books that have been published by Poisoned Pen Press in countries other than the U.S., and even more excited that the Tucson Festival of Books will be hosting some of the authors. They include Eileen Brady, Donis Casey, Jeffrey Siger, and Jon Talton.

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Each accession is being processed as a series and in alphabetical order by author, then title. This will allow all the materials by the same author to be grouped together. Drafts exist in book form and require housing separate from the manuscripts in an attempt to preserve space. To maintain the author-title organization, these drafts will be intellectually grouped on the finding aid. Since the author and title guide the organization within the series level, I am able to add titles to the folders prior to the arrangement being complete. The title and other related data are entered into an Excel sheet that will then be imported into ArchivesSpace, an information management application, to create the finding aid. Currently this document has minimal organization, but sorting and other useful features in Excel will be applied prior to importing.



Progress 🙂


The Lost Library Book

Besides the lost library of Alexandria, Benjamin Franklin’s personal library was one of the most famous in history. Accounts of his library depict his study as a large chamber with book shelves covering the walls and alcoves stretching the length of the room, all filled entirely with books. Many believed it was the best, private library in the country at the time. After Franklin’s death in 1790 his collection contained 351 folio volumes, 150 topographical pamphlets, 767 quartos, 1,548 octavos, 1,260 duodecimos, and 200 duodecimos stitched. His will, written in 1788, was said to have included a catalog of his books, but said catalog has never been found. In fact, to this day no one has been able to recreate the catalog of his impressive library, though many have tried.

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After Franklin’s death his will instructed his collection be split among various individuals and societies, the majority going to his grandson, William Temple Franklin. His actual will listing the various people and places is currently in an archival repository in Philadelphia. Researchers who have spent considerable time looking into recreating this lost treasure have found that William left for England in 1790 taking only half of his grandfathers collection, and never came back dying in 1823. The books left in Philadelphia were left with a friend of Williams, which is where the first half of the mystery begins. William used the books he brought with him to England as a form of repayment for some kind of debt that he had, other theories include he used them for cash to bail a friend out of jail. From this point, the books, whose titles were still more or less unknown, became a puzzle.

Different researchers and avid fans have since then tried to recreate and account for all the books originally in Franklin’s possession. Since Franklin was such a book man and took great pride in his library all of his books were shelved and organized based off of his own system. The system essentially included documenting which bookshelf the book was on, what shelf, and what number book on that shelf. Franklin documented these locations on the inside cover of most of his books in a similar, notable fashion. The books that were given to different societies are still, for the most part, in their possession now. Other books, like the ones bequeathed to specific individuals are still being accounted for. Edwin Wolf, who devoted his life to finding these volumes, had the most accurate catalog to date. In 2006 Kevin Hayes completed his work for a catalog titled The Library of Benjamin Franklin with 3,740 titles.

As you all should know, I am a big fan of mystery and “lost treasure” so the idea of people going around estate sales and looking through all kinds of bookshelves for these lost items is extremely intriguing. However, the reason I am interested enough to devote an entire blog post about it is because there might be one volume here at the University of Arizona *starts internally screaming.*

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Me looking at every book with “garden” in the title from before 1780

While these books have all presumably been marked by Franklin himself many of these volumes have been rebound or had their markings erased by unknowing owners (can you imagine?) making finding them a little tricky. The volume that might be here is a needle in a very big haystack. The man, a book expert, who believes he had found it has since then lost his notes and can only remember that it was in the main library and had the word “garden” in the title. According to him he came across this book some time ago meaning it may or may not have since been moved from the main library to special collections, where it should be. So where do I start? I get the Hayes book, which may or may not have this specific titles within in and I start cross-referencing what we have here. Then I take it a step further and start searching for books with “garden” in the title from before 1780, then I go insane and look through a ridiculous amount of books trying to find the small “N” and “C” that he used to organize his collection. Which clearly has been so far unyielding.


Why is this search important? They could be anywhere! Keep an eye out and grab all the books from before 1790 that you can and check the covers, check the pages. Look for the “NC” that signified where they sat on Franklin’s shelves. You could possibly even take it back to his archival material and continue searching for the missing catalog. People believe that these books could offer not only an insight into an historically important figure, but it would also be an amazing accomplishment to find and track these books who have since all acquired their own history.

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Find all the books!

For more information I would suggest starting with some basic research on what others have found, and get a hold of a copy of the catalog which can be found in most academic libraries! Good luck, and happy hunting!



Wolf, E., & Hayes, K. (2006). The library of Benjamin Franklin (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society ; v. 257). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society/Library of Philadelphia.


Teaching Archives with a Meaningful (but fun) Methodological Approach: Creating a “UA History” Scavenger Hunt

This week, I continued working on a collection I’m in the midst of processing. I started the week by labeling folders, a process that seems easy (and is) but gets tiresome and tedious after you encounter a unique box with over 200 folders. To be clear, 200 folders is not the norm for an archival box, but some collections are special. So again… I was getting tired of writing the box numbers and folder numbers on these materials — just because it was getting so repetitive.

Luckily, I was asked to help create a scavenger hunt for a visiting group of students!

Middle school and high school students often visit Special Collections on academic field trips. Archivists will explain what Special Collections is, what we collect, why we’re important, and go over how to handle these materials. Students are then able to look through different types of primary and secondary sources — and what is a better way to make a visit fun than having an activity? For a scavenger hunt, you pull materials that are interesting for students, and then ask questions about the items — specifically, you want them to have to do some research!

Step 1 — Pull materials that are fun! For this group of middle schoolers, they wanted to look at materials relating to the history of the University of Arizona. They have indeed found the correct place!


I pulled several different photographs from the University of Arizona Photograph Collection, including photos of Old Main from construction onward. This is a great way for students to “see” the changes that have occurred to this building, and the campus in general. I also pulled collections relating to different types of courses that were taught here (including one devoted to teaching young women social fundamentals), a collection about events happening on the mall, and some important baseball documents from J. F. McKale’s papers. We have it all: photos, books, documents, sports memorabilia, etc. Hopefully, there is a little bit of something for all of these students to take an interest in!

I’m looking forward to seeing if they can “scavenge” all of the different items using my clues!

Alice in the Archives


Marie Laurencin, 1930, Alice in Wonderland

Since its initial publication in 1865 with the beloved original illustrations by John Tenniel, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has inspired countless artists to reimagine the heroine and the enchanting world of wonderland from Arthur Rackham (1907) to Salvador Dalí (1969). In 1930 French artist Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) created her own interpretation of Alice and her world, with 6 original lithographs published by The Black Sun Press, Paris. Upon discovering this gem in the University of Arizona Special Collections archives, I was entranced by the beauty and whimsy of Laurencin’s work, and being a passionate scholar of the Alice stories, I was curious to learn more about this artist.


Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Black Swan Press

Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) was born in Paris in 1883 and by 18 she was studying porcelain painting in Sèvres, after which she studied art at the Académie Humbert with a focus in oil painting. At the time of publication for Arthur Rackham’s illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1907, Laurencin was hosting her first solo exhibition where she met Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). She became an important figure in the Parisian avant-garde as a member of the Cubists associated with the Section d’Or. Writer Gertrude Stein was an important patron of avant-garde artists at this time and was one of the first buyers of Laurencin’s work. In 1924 Laurencin designed the stage set for the Ballets Russes and later the Comédie Française in 1928. She was also painting portraits of Parisian celebrities, including Coco Chanel.


By the 1920s Marie Larencin began to explore feminine themes in her work, incorporating willowy, ethereal female figures with a palette of soft pastel colors. This combination of delicate and celestial evokes a world of enchantment, and we can see this motif transpire in her illustrations of Alice and her wonderland, such as the heroine falling delicately down the rabbit hole, spotting a wisp of the white rabbit at a distance, having a nonsensical conversation with the queen, and sitting by her sister’s side on the riverbank. We can appreciate the whimsy and delicacy of Laurencin’s images as if existing in a dream.


Alice and the White Rabbit, 1930


Alice and the Queen of Hearts

According to the colophon, this Edition is limited strictly to 420 numbered copies for the United States and 370 numbered copies for Europe. The UA’s edition is number 138 of the European’s 370 copies. As someone who has researched the rich history of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with its great cultural influences, this was truly a divine find, for it not only illuminates the beauty of story and imagination, but also serves as a reminder that there will always be something new to discover when it comes to falling down the endless rabbit hole of Carroll’s Alice stories.


Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Marie Laurencin, 1930.


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Graduate Assistants at Special Collections have begun the semester with full force.


I had the opportunity to attend and present, as part of a panel, at the Arizona Archives Summit in Tempe. This experience, though a little nerve wracking, was extremely rewarding. Coming together to learn and collaborate in such spaces provides a connection to varying perspectives to foster ethically sound practices.

This semester I will process a press collection that will gradually grow. In preparation, I have reviewed the file documenting the appraisal and accessions to determine the extent of the collection and to get an idea of the materials I can expect to process. Since additions are ongoing, the collection development plan requires determining how much space is needed to house the collection. Surveying the boxes further provided the insight to plan accordingly. During the survey process, I began to conceptualize scenarios as I drafted my proposal. In addition to determining the best organization for use, I must take into account that future additions will be processed by individuals other than me. For this reason, the documentation of practices and processes must be clear and flexible to not disrupt the organization thaimg_20190129_121439327 (1)t will be implemented,  allow for additions, and accommodate different materials.

Additionally, I will be assisting with a born-digital project that seeks to identify digital media and their content to plan for long-term preservation. While this project is in its early stages, it is exciting to see the smallest of details that must be considered for the project to be a success. This semester I will expand my work with instructional kits, and I look forward to seeing students engage with archival materials.