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.



Professional Development: UA Graduate panel at the Arizona Archives Summit 2019!

The 2019 Spring semester at the University of Arizona is underway, and the graduate students at Special Collections have hit the ground running. This semester, we’ll all be working on a very important aspect of professional development by attending the Arizona Archives Summit conference in Tempe, Arizona. Together, the graduate students will create a four-person panel that will present our experiences working in the archives, focusing particularly on how our experiences working with different collections will benefit various communities.

That is correct, we will all be participating in the harrowing event many nervous public speakers refer to as: Oh no, a conference presentation in front of my peers, people I do not know, and probably lots of other people that stumble into the conference because they have a desire to heckle a young professional trying to reiterate their experiences!  This sense of panic is usually followed by thoughts of: But what if I get up there to present and I have nothing to say, or I have lots to say but everything is really boring and the entire audience falls asleep?!

Luckily, we are a strong group, and we have not felt any of these moments of panic, nor do we expect to feel them at any point between now and our presentation. We are completely rock solid as we begin the process of reviewing our materials, discuss each collection’s connection to the local community, take photographs of interesting items in the collections, and combine these experiences in a Power Point–which will not only have the perfect color and font scheme, but also a series of captivating photographs that will arouse applause from the audience.

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Creating a panel presentation is a challenging task because the collections we will be discussing are so different. Some members of the panel have spoken at conferences before, and for others this will be their first professional development conference. We have two mock-presentation dates set aside where we plan to practice our presentations, one of which will include time for feedback from archivists in Special Collections, and right now we’re a tiny bit nervous but 100% excited to be able to present at an academic conference full of professionals working in libraries, archives, and academia.


We will be presenting at the Tempe History Museum Public Meeting Room on Friday, January 25th from 9:30-10:30 if you are in the area and would like to stop by. However, we know that many of our fans have busy schedules, so we will make sure to update you after our presentation. Expect lots of photos, a Q/A session with the graduate students that will reveal what we loved about the conference, and summaries of our presentations.



A Treasure of the Hogarth Press in the Archives


Poems by T.S. Eliot, 1919. Original hand-painted wallpaper wrappers.

In 1915, Virginia and Leonard Woolf decided to purchase a printing press to occupy their time, distract Virginia from illness, and allow her and her husband to publish their own work directly without risking comments from editors. They began with a handpress, then moved on to a treadle-operated press, and eventually to commercial printers. What was initially intended to be a recreational hobby ultimately blossomed into a business that would leave its mark on the history of printing. In a letter to Margaret Llewelyn Davis, Virginia writes:


“Dearest Margaret […] You must keep us all at bay, until you are prepared to fling yourself into the most absorbing of all pursuits. After 2 hours work at the press, Leonard heaved a terrific sigh and said ‘I wish to God we’d never bought the cursed thing!’ To my relief, though not surprise, he added ‘Because I shall never do anything else.’ You can’t think how exciting, soothing, ennobling and satisfying it is. And so far we’ve only the dullest and most difficult part – setting up a notice, which you will receive one day.”

After doing my own research of the Hogarth Press in between classes and work (and out of great curiosity) I decided to explore the archives to see what treasures I could find. One of my favorite finds: T.S. Eliot’s Poems (1919), the fourth hand set printed volume by Leonard and Virginia Woolf.


T.S. Eliot’s poem “Sweeny Among the Nightingale” from Poems (1919).


As J.H. Willis writes in Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: “They began to set the poems on January 22 and finished printing on March 19, 1919. Leonard Woolf had purchased 8s.6d. worth of Greek type needed for the epigraph to ‘Sweeny’ and two words in ‘Mr. Eliot’s Service.’ Eliot, when he saw the first page proofs, thought they were admirable, and Virginia believed the finished product was ‘our best work so far by a long way, owing to the quality of the ink.’” They printed 250 copies, of which 180 sold immediately, and were sold out within a year.







Right image: Title page for T.S. Eliot’s Poems (1919) printed on white paper and black ink. Note the “Printed & Published by L. & V. Woolf at The Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Richmond, 1919” at the bottom.





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Left image: V. Sackville-West’s The Dark Island (1934). The wolf-head logo of the Hogarth Press printed in the center was designed by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister.









Press offices in 1928 as remembered and sketched by Richard Kennedy, an office boy at the time. From A Boy at Hogarth Press by R. Kennedy (1972).


Sources: Leonard and Virginia as Publishers: The Hogarth Press 1917-41 by J.H. Willis, Jr. The University Press of Virginia, 1992.

The Archives in Storytelling

The sun consumed by the moon, still not a single star in sight, city lights. Abuelito and I sit outside on a step enjoying the cool breeze of the night. Elbow to knee, hand directly under my chin, I lean in as he begins his story. Tonight he talks about his first of two entries to the U.S. as a Bracero. I watch as he no longer looks at me when he talks. Instead, he stares ahead, not quite lost in the memory, as he is there. He recalls every detail: contempt at the El Paso and Juarez border, the vehicle they were transported in, and the laborious hours in the cotton fields. Slowly, he turns to look at me. He smiles and says, “[The other Braceros] me decían Mi Reyna”, “They referred to me as My Reyna”. Just as abuelito transcends to that moment, I do to ours. This is the power of storytelling and of the many ways of knowing.

In the article, The making of memory: the politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness, Brown and Davis-Brown (1998) remind us that “the storing of collective memory must be as old as human communities, although the earliest archives existed mainly in ceremonies, rites and the saying of elders” (p. 18). Indigenous knowledge has for so long recognized the significance of storytelling and the many other ways of knowing. These narratives are not only found in the oral histories of elders, but are alive in song, dance, art, clothing, food, and other traditions. In Portillos’ (2017) book, Sovereign stories and blood memories: Native American women’s autobiography, she identifies these narratives as “multilayered histories and identities” that “assert the ongoing presence and challenges” of indigenous communities (p. 24). As I browsed through the stacks at Special Collections, I took note of the many indigenous stories and how some authors identify their expression as a retelling of a story. When I came across the collection, A Pima Remembers, I knew George Webb’s remembering, like other indigenous authors, is more than memory. These multilayered histories uniquely intertwine our past and present to inform our future.


Webb, G. (n.d.). A Pima Remembers, Ca. 1958-1959. AZ 154

Portillo, A. (2017). Sovereign stories and blood memories : Native American women’s autobiography.

Brown, R., & Davis-Brown, B. (1998). The making of memory: The politics of archives, libraries and museums in the construction of national consciousness. History of the Human Sciences, 11(4), 17-32.

Lacapa, M. (1990). The flute player : An Apache folktale (1st ed.). Flagstaff, Ariz.: Northland Pub.

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.


The Archives Ghost(s)

In honor of Halloween, I wanted to direct attention to a unique member of the Special Collections team: The Archives Ghost(s). When you’re working downstairs in the ‘basement’ of an archive, there are often strange things that happen. Many will tell you that your mind plays tricks on you. You think you hear a sound, but it can easily be explained away as a water pipe or creaky door. You see the lights flash in the motion-sensor aisles and think glitches happen.  But for many of us, we wonder if there is an Archives Ghost that lurks throughout the collections.


Clearly, this is not our particular Archives Ghost because no one has been able to catch the apparition on camera. Yet we’d like to think of the Archives Ghost as a friendly individual that helps us maintain the collections, and hope that we do a worthy job of protecting the treasures that the Archives Ghost oversees.

Some have reported hearing a voice in the annex area, but when you round the corner, there is no one there. Many have reported that while working the motion sensor lights in aisles will turn on, which creates a distinct clicking sound. Yet no one will be in the aisle when you get up to go investigate. Others are even certain that folders will have been moved from one side of a table to another with no explanation. And of course, there have been times when it seems to be oddly cold downstairs.

There are, of course, many that would explain these instances away. Voices belong to people that move. Technology can do strange things by itself. While cleaning someone may have moved folders. And we work in a temperature controlled archive so of course when the a/c comes on, it gets cold for a moment. These are all reasonable explanations. However, if you work in an archive and feel like there may be otherworldly helpers watching over the collections, you’re not alone. Perhaps we all have an Archives Ghost(s) making sure we’re doing our best to preserve their materials!


A Showcase for Mary Shelley


Portrait of Mary Shelley by artist Richard Rothwell, 1840

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary W. Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818). Throughout this bicentennial year Shelley and her creation have been a popular topic, with the release of The New Annotated Frankenstein with an introduction by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro, and the exhibition Its Alive! Frankenstein at 200 on display at the Morgan Library and Museum, to name just a few examples. Personally, Shelley’s novel has been a favorite of mine for its Russian-doll-like structure of stories within a story, from the monster telling his creator his story, to Dr. Frankenstein telling his story to the arctic seafarer Robert Walton, who ultimately writes it all down to send to his sister. And of course, there is the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley herself: her elopement with her soon-to-be-husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, the scandal that derived from it, the tragedy of the deaths of her three young children, and the tragedy of Percy’s death in a boating accident in 1822. Throughout her trials and sufferings Mary turned to words for solace. For my October showcase I wanted to dive deep into the archives for materials related to Mary W. Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their creations. Here were some of my discoveries:



Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translation and Fragments (1840) by Percy Bysshe Shelley and edited by Mary W. Shelley.







Three volume set of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man c.1826. Note below the “By the Author of Frankenstein” and a previous owner’s remedy of including the female author’s name.





Below: History of Six Weeks’ Tour through a part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland by Percy Byshee Shelley c1817. This was my first time coming across a book with uncut pages and I was surprised to see this was throughout the entire volume.








The Choice: A Novel Poem on Shelley’s Death by Mary Shelley c.1876. Privately printed and one of few copies on hand made paper with a portrait of Percy, which according to the finding aid is quite scarce.






The second volume of an 1833 edition of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary W. Shelley.








A 1918 members-only printing of Letters of Mary W. Shelley (Mostly Unpublished) by the Boston Bibliophile Society.




And at last, the final result, which includes Shelley’s letters, the 1833 edition of Frankenstein, and illustration plate by the artist Barry Moser that was included in a special edition printing of the 1818 text:


Needless to say it was a difficult decision of what would make it into the showcase and what story I wanted to create with it. I finally decided to highlight Shelley’s revised 1831 text and how she returned to the story after enduring the loss of Percy and her three children. So not only did she initially pen the tale in 1818 for solace, but she went back and revised it to reflect her anguish during the time-span in between. What started as a prompt by Lord Byron to write a “ghost story”, and thus inspired by a dream, Mary W. Shelley’s story would go on to gift imaginative recreations over the next two centuries.