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.



The Last Crusade

As I begin the end of my graduate career and my time here at Special Collections I have been reflecting on what I have learned and accomplished. One of my last program requirements for graduation is a portfolio highlighting how the program has taught me a list of ALA standards through coursework. While my experience in library school has been helpful I know, without a doubt, that everything I have learned about library sciences and archives has been from my opportunity here as a Graduate Assistant. For this assignment I am restricted to only talking about my Library Science program experience and not my outside work so I want to take a moment to talk about all the things I learned in Special Collections that I never learned in Library School.

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A visual representation of my last semester.

The List

  1. Dust – no one ever tells you how much dust, dirt, and bugs you will be dealing with on an almost daily bases. Other notable mentions include hair, teeth, and mouse droppings.

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    Me watching my trash bag full of papers break and fly all over the dumpster area.

  2. Trash day – possibly one of the more important days of the month, taking* out all of the boxes that can’t be reused and all the weeded material. *Make sure the trash bags are heavy duty otherwise the bags may break and you will cry.
  3. Shredding – speaking of weeded material, the confidential things you don’t need can’t just go into the trash so you have to shred, which can sometimes take forever.
  4. SHIFTING – this is hands down my least favorite thing, but everyone has to do it, am I right? I see it almost as a rite of passage for library students
  5. The mystery – hands down one of my favorite parts of my job is having to look in boxes (AKA almost all of my job) and finding some of the most amazing things! Last week I came across an awesome set of bookplates and a projector from the 1800’s!
  6. The nudity – The one thing I did not expect getting into this field was all the naked pictures! I have officially seen more nude strangers then I care to admit (sorry Mom).
  7. XML/ Finding Aids – I can’t even express how cool I feel working on finding aids. I never would have been successful with XML if I didn’t get the hands on practice and mentoring that I’ve received here.
  8. The archival process – While my two archival classes covered all the steps to a successful archival process through various readings, it wasn’t successful in really teaching someone how to actually do these things. More then anything after this experience I feel more confident then ever that I can successfully work in this field, which is honestly a great feeling.


Fortune and Glory, Kid

I always seem to forget that I taught English to Middle Schoolers for a year, and yes, it was as just as weird as you would assume.

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What its honestly like teaching hormonal preteens

Working in a library I thought my teaching days were over, but I suppose you never really stop teaching. As a library on an academic campus Special Collections holds classes throughout the year to a range of disciplines using resources from the archive. The goal of these classes is not only to supplement what they are learning with the physical remnants of history, but to teach them about archives and how they can be utilized for both academic and personal uses. In preparation for next semester’s classes I have been working on creating instructional kits that we can pull and utilize for different classes so that we are always ready with lesson plans and objectives.

The most interesting thing I noticed while going through the case studies is that they all have one common theme- students no longer know how to use primary sources. A majority of the students who filled out a survey after the class were still confused about the archive and how to use it, buy why? And how do we change it?

From a teaching perspective I have a lot of theories, but most importantly I think we need to change when we teach these students about archives and primary sources as opposed to how. While Archivists and Librarians now are focused on finding college classrooms to bring in I think we should also be looking beyond our own campuses and start creating educational relationships with local Middle and High Schools. Let me throw some teacher facts at you.

  1. Students love field trips
  2. They actually listen to guest speakers better then they do their teachers
  3. They will go to libraries if you make it part of an assignment (and threaten their grade a little)
  4. Computer days are their favorite, get them in a lab and teach them how to explore databases that don’t include Google, then let them go crazy
  5. Kids these days can find anything on the internet thanks to social media, they can absolutely be taught to use these skills in the same way for research
  6. They would much prefer teaching themselves through physical history then sitting through another PowerPoint

So where do we start? Teach Middle School students about primary vs. secondary sources with a strong focus on primary. Show them how to use different databases and have them practice constantly to find new sources through different outlets. Take them on field trips to museums and treat the pieces as primary sources, teach them to talk about and describe things based on their historical context. As they go into High School keep widening the scope. Bring them to archival repositories and have them handle the material, keep practicing these skills with more hands on and unguided work.

What are the perks? Students are more inclined to do their own research and make their own judgments instead of relying solely on secondary sources. They can analyze and describe history from firsthand accounts and are more comfortable using an archive for any kind of research they will do moving forward. Finally, when they get to college and are back in an archives instruction class you can spend more time analyzing and discussing the material instead of teaching them how to find it.Image result for indiana jones x marks the spot

Of course, kids will always be kids, but encouraging them to be active in their own education and giving them these skills is incomparable. Encourage them to get out there, you never know what they might find.


Boxes in Boxes in Boxes

As the weeks have progressed here at Special Collections, so have I. I am still processing the John Weston Papers. I am at the point where I am arranging and foldering all of the materials in his collection, which can be surprisingly frustrating. For example, while arranging his manuscripts in alphabetical order I found another “A” titled manuscript that I had to shift all of my folders for. Luckily, I have also started on other projects to keep me sane.

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Me trying to figure out if I can fit one more folder into the box.

I have been working with our Collections Management Archivist to create a new system for our acquisitions. Basically we want a new system to help make processing our new collections easier and quicker to ensure access is readily available. This week, in implementing this new process I discovered a “matryoshka” collection, or boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes, the insanity!


“big box, small box, flat box, shoe box” — Dr. Seuss, probably

Surveying should be a fairly quick process, maybe 5-10 minutes a box, mostly depending on the state the collection came in. When materials are in envelopes or smaller boxes, it makes this process harder.  Once you get past that though, surveying shouldn’t be too stressful, you are more or less just opening boxes and looking at stuff. When surveying you want to ask yourself, what kind of shape are the boxes/materials in? Are there any immediate preservation concerns? Mold? Insects? AV or born digital materials? Is there an order? And of course you’ll want to take a quick note of what kind of materials are in the box. For students this can be confusing, how detailed should one be? This step is really just getting a feel for what you have and what you might be able to do with it, so don’t go too crazy and take note of every item in there, just get to know your collection.

I will have finished processing my Weston collection before my next post. Until then enjoy this GIF of me dealing with the more complicated boxes that I’ve saved until the end, wish me luck. Image result for indiana jones gifs

Indiana in the Archive

After a year of working at Special Collections as a Student Page I am excited to say that I, Kimberly Ramsey, am moving up in the archival world and will be finishing my last year in the Masters in Library and Information Science program as a Special Collections Graduate Assistant.

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*crowd cheers*

Working in an archive isn’t necessarily what I thought I would be doing. The Anthropology department never encouraged students to look into this field and I was so focused on being Indiana Jones that what happened to these materials after they had been collected didn’t even cross my mind, how young and naive I was. Luckily for me I’ve found my way here, call me Indy of the Archive if you’d like.

“That belongs in an archive” – Me

Now that you know a little about me, let me introduce you to my new friend, John Weston. Weston was a writer of a plethora of novels, short stories, poems, articles, plays and screenplays. Though a popular author, Weston also spent time working as a professor at different academic institutions, including the University of Arizona. There are 15 boxes of materials, and frankly they are pretty well organized, maybe he was an archivist too.


One of Weston’s very full, yet very organized, boxes.

His materials contain correspondence, play  material, photographs, and plenty of manuscripts. Weston kept all of his drafts which, along with the correspondence, really create a story of his time as a writer and how hard he worked and struggled to create the legacy he did.

15 boxes is a lot, and arranging them will definitely take longer then I had imagined it would, but I am none the less excited to keep working through his stuff while sharing it with you.

Catch me in the basement,