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April 17, 2014

Arab American Print Material on Display at the Immigration History Research Center Archives

by Sara Wakefield, Reference Librarian, Immigration History Research Center Archives

In the fall of 2013, the Immigration History Research Center & Archives partnered with the University of Minnesota's Religious Studies Program and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI to bring their traveling exhibit, "Little Syria, NY: An Immigrant Community's Life and Legacy" to the Andersen Library's gallery space on the 1st and 2nd floors.

In conjunction with this exhibit, Sara Wakefield, Reference Librarian, and Hope Shinn, Student Archives Assistant, created a display of Arab American print material from the IHRC Archives. 

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The display includes duplicate rare books, contemporary books, serials, and photographs. The display also includes a map from the 1936 Festival of Nations Exhibit Hall in St. Paul, MN, sponsored by the International Institute of Minnesota. On their Homelands Exhibits hall map you will find a Syrian booth between the Italian and Chinese booth.

Items of interest on display are a copy of the Federation Herald of the Syrian and Lebanese American Federation of the Eastern States, April 25, 1949 edition with the headline "New Haven club rehearses for Arabic-English musical comedy May 22". The photograph of this theater troupe and their exquisite costumes is amazing. Also on display is a copy of Sittee Saltany A'laat: a Compilation of Arabic Proverbs Grandmother Told Me by Margaret Salamey, 1982 and Prairie Peddlers: the Syrian-Lebanese in North Dakota by William Sherman, Paul Whitney, and John Guerrero, 2002.

Continue reading "Arab American Print Material on Display at the Immigration History Research Center Archives" »

April 11, 2014

Jewish Cookbook recipes for Passover

By Kate Dietrick, Assistant Archivist, Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives

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Next week begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach, the commemoration of the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt over 3,300 years ago. It is said that when the Israelites were freed they left in such a rush that they could not wait for bread dough to rise, or leaven. So in commemoration, during Passover no leavened bread is eaten. Chametz, five types of grain (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats) are forbidden; thus matzah, flat unleavened bread, is eaten during the eight-day holiday. But what might you make with matzo?

One of the unique collections that the Jewish Historical Society amassed before donating their materials to the University of Minnesota is a collection of Jewish cookbooks. These cookbooks, mostly from local women's groups, are filled with great recipes, including ones particular to Jewish holidays.

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In Hot off the Range, compiled by the Jewish Women of the Hibbing-Chisholm Hadassah in 1981, they list suggested menus for Sabbath and holidays.

Continue reading "Jewish Cookbook recipes for Passover" »

April 4, 2014

The Importance of Serendipity

By Kris Kiesling, Director of Archives and Special Collections

You never know when your day-to-day work is going to have some kind of unanticipated impact. As you'll see from Rebecca Wilson's posting on her Exploring Minnesota's Natural History project blog (a project to digitize all of the natural history materials in the University Archives funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund), the lantern slides from the Minnesota Seaside Station have been discovered by the Pacheedaht Heritage Project.

One of the best parts of our jobs as archivists is that we never know how our materials are going to be useful or used. Ned Huff was at the Seaside Station to study the botany of the area, not to document the indigenous peoples. But as it turns out, that documentation is now enormously important, perhaps even more important than his primary purpose for being in British Columbia. Serendipity? You bet! How fortunate that the University of Minnesota established the Seaside Station so researchers could work there. How fortunate that Ned Huff was there with his camera and took an interest in things not botanical. And how fortunate we now have the technology to share these slides, which have been part of our collections for decades, with the world.

And, if you're not already following Rebecca's blog, I highly recommend it!

March 23, 2014

100th Birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug

Elmer L Andersen.jpeg"What nobler purpose can there be for a University than to gather up the prizes of a culture--preserve them, propagate them, make them available--so that the best of what has gone before can be preserved and built on?" -- Governor Elmer L. Andersen

"I've worked with wheat. But wheat is merely a catalyst, a part of the picture. I'm interested in the total economic development in all the countries. Only by attacking the whole problem can we raise the standard of living for all people in all communities, so they will be able to live decent lives." -- Dr. Norman E. Borlaug

Elmer L. Andersen (1909-2004) embraced many roles: businessman, Minnesota governor and state senator, newspaper publisher and writer, University of Minnesota Regent, University alumnus (B.B.A. '31), philanthropist, and rare book collector.

The University of Minnesota Archives is one of the units housed in Elmer L. Andersen Library, the University's archives and special collections facility named in Governor Andersen's honor, and among its 19,000 cubic feet of material chronicling the history of the University, you will find the personal papers of Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009): University alumnus (B.S. '37, M.S. '39, Ph.D. '42), noted plant pathologist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and father of the Green Revolution.

Continue reading "100th Birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug" »

March 14, 2014

The Migration and Social Services Collections

By Ellen Engseth, Curator of Immigration History Research Center Archives and Head, Migration and Social Services Collections

Joining the staff of Archives and Special Collections a few months ago, I have the welcome charge of exploring the contents of four archives, or what we call units. These are the Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives (UMJA), the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, Immigration History Research Center Archives (IHRCA), and Social Welfare History Archives (SWHA). The Migration and Social Services Collections is a new administrative construct which includes these four units; individual archives remain distinct within it. Because these four archives complement one another so well, we have an exciting future working with each other to benefit our users, the collections, and staff.

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Though I haven't yet had the time to physically explore the collections, I have been learning from my knowledgeable colleagues and reading our collection descriptions. I am repeatedly struck with how the sources in each of these units are global in scope, though at first glance it might not appear so. For example, a current favorite collection from the YMCA of the USA's Archives, fondly termed "the punch cards," uniquely informs us of Americans serving the final year of WWI in various YMCA non-combatant roles, largely in the European theater. The Y's International Division records contain source material on countries from Angola to Zimbabwe. The rich and deep collections of the IHRCA document among other things the relationships, travels, and culture of migrating people moving across the globe. UMJA's collection also share the story of migrating people, those identifying with a specific culture or religion and who moved to or through the upper Midwest region of the U.S. The SWHA includes an important collection: the records of the International Social Service, USA Branch, an organization which promotes professional and legal social work practices across national borders. As noted in the finding aid, "[the] records reflect human needs and social services in areas undergoing war, enforced migration, or other crisis as well as peacetime social and family services worldwide. In particular, the records deal with methods and problems in international adoption." I am both humbled and excited to begin working with all of these materials that help us in the world understand each other better.

Continue reading "The Migration and Social Services Collections" »

March 7, 2014

Camping on the Farm

By Linnea Anderson, Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives


One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching with archival collections is participating in the students' discovery process as they uncover unexpected documents and stories in the archives. It is a chance for staff as well as students to gain new insights about collections.

While preparing materials for an honors seminar on Summer Camps, I discovered Minnie Walker, the "camp cow," in the Hartley House records at the Social Welfare History Archives. Hartley Farm camp in Towaco, New Jersey was the summer camp for children from Hartley House settlement in the "Hell's Kitchen" neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side. Settlements such as Hartley house served as community centers for urban neighborhoods with large immigrant populations. Among many other services, they offered recreational activities and stressed the importance of exercise and the natural environment for children raised in an urban setting. Many settlements sent children to summer camp - often at property provided by a donor. 

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In addition to being a charming peek at the history of camping, the story of the Hartley Farm cows is also a wonderful example of how much information can be gleaned from only a few documents. The Hartley House records include two registry forms for Holstein cows at the camp. The first is a certificate of registry from The Holstein-Friesian Association of America for a cow named Minnie Walker. Minnie's sire was the illustriously named Sir Hengerveld Prilly Walker and her dam was listed as Minnie Abbekerk 2nd. She was born in December, 1915; purchased for the camp from W. S. Phillips of Huntsville, New Jersey; and registered in May, 1919. Using the diagram provided on the back of the registry form, someone carefully drew Minnie's markings in blue ink.

Continue reading "Camping on the Farm" »

February 28, 2014

Student Staff Interviews

By Mary Blissenbach, Student Supervisor

In Archives and Special Collections, we hire a number of student employees to help in many ways. Student staff work in the Reading Room as a Reading Room monitor to assist researchers as needed. They help to communicate questions researchers may have to the Collecting unit staff. Student staff may also work in our Information Registration desk in 219 helping first time researchers. When they are working in these areas they may have projects from any of the ASC Collecting Units. Student staff may also work within one of the ASC Collecting units to help with paging materials from the stack area, shelving materials when researchers are finished, and helping with data entry for the unit. As you can see, our student staff plays a vital role in the functioning of Archives and Special Collections. This spring we will be losing four of our wonderful student staff due to graduation. I took some time to find out more about them and also find out how working in Archives and Special Collections may have impacted their college experience.

Interview with Lindsey Geyer
Lindsey.jpgLindsey is one of our star student staff that will be graduating this spring. I sat down with her for a short interview to find out more about her.

Name and how long you have worked in Archives and Special Collections ASC?
Lindsey Geyer, I have worked here for about three and a half years. I started during my second semester of freshman year, and never looked back!

What ASC units have you worked for in your time here?
I have staffed the Reading Room and Information/Registration desk, as well as work projects for Children's Literature Research Collections CLRC. I have also done projects for various units including SWHA, UMJA, YMCA to name a few.

Do you have a favorite memory of working in ASC?

Continue reading "Student Staff Interviews" »

February 20, 2014

An Evening with Steve Berry

By Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, Curator, James Ford Bell Library

Join us for an evening with bestselling author and historical preservationist, Steve Berry, as he shares his writing and research process. A reception and book-signing follow the talk.

Wednesday, Feb 26, 7:00 p.m., Coffman Memorial Union Theater, University of Minnesota east bank campus.


Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of "The Lincoln Myth," "The King's Deception," "The Columbus Affair," "The Jefferson Key," "The Emperor's Tomb," "The Paris Vendetta," "The Charlemagne Pursuit," "The Venetian Betrayal," "The Alexandria Link," "The Templar Legacy," "The Third Secret," "The Romanov Prophecy," and "The Amber Room."

His books have been translated into 40 languages with 17 million copies in 51 countries. They consistently appear in the top echelon of The New York Times, USA Today, and Indie bestseller lists.

History lies at the heart of every Berry novel. It's his passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, which led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have crossed the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers workshops. To date, more than 2,000 students have attended those workshops.

In 2012 and 2013 Steve's devotion to historic preservation was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve its spokesperson for National Preservation Week. Among his other honors is the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award; the 2013 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award given by Poets & Writers; the 2013 Anne Frank Human Writes Award; and the Silver Bullet, bestowed in 2013 by International Thriller Writers for his philanthropic work.

Tickets: $5 for U of M students; $10 for Friends of the U of M Libraries/Associates of the James Ford Bell Library; $15 general public.

Tickets available online at and by phone at 612-624-2345.

This event is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Libraries in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the James Ford Bell Library.

February 18, 2014

"Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness"

Emily Hagens is co-curator of Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness and a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of MinnesotaAside from Masterpiece Theater and rare books, she studies 16th century Italian domestic medicine and vernacular print and manuscript culture.

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After a long wait, season 4 of Downton finally reappeared on PBS at the beginning of January! Lois Hendrickson and I, co-curators of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine's current exhibit Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness, have been continuing our conversation about Downton and health. The war over, the family seemed quite settled again, however Matthew's fatal car crash at the end of season 3 foreshadowed significant shifts in the way the Abbey's characters would view the world and each other. The subtle medical concerns the characters continue to deal with reflect these newfound nuances. Unlike the bombastic and brutal problems of seasons one through three, The Great War, Spanish Influenza, and Sybil's eclampsia, this season has so far presented issues that reveal the impact that early twentieth-century society had on the way people dealt with their health.

Lady Edith has become a more significant and substantial character and many medical questions have revolved around her. Edith's love and editor, Mr. Gregson, has a wife in a mental institution. Although viewers have not yet met this character, it is interesting to think about the legal status of insane people in early 20th-century England. According to A Practical Treatise on the Law of Marriage and Divorce by Leonard Shelford (1841), "The subsequent insanity of a person who was of sound mind at the time of the marriage, does not avoid it, (n) nor release the parties from the duties of their marriage vow." (163) Gregson decides to become a German citizen, giving him new legal avenues to rid himself of his wife in hopes of being with Edith.

Continue reading ""Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness"" »

February 12, 2014

Sir Arthur and the Olympic Games

by Tim Johnson, Curator of Special Collections & Rare Books
E. W. McDiarmid Curator of the Sherlock Holmes Collections

The Sherlock Holmes Collections publishes a quarterly newsletter for Friends of the Holmes Collections. On a regular basis we publish articles focusing on items held in the collection (or found elsewhere in the University Libraries) that bear on Mr. Holmes or his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that were published fifty or one hundred years ago. Once or twice a year I create a new list of books or periodical articles to consider for our "50 Years Ago" and "100 Years Ago" columns and share this list with our volunteer editor, Julie McKuras, and Friends president, Dr. Richard Sveum. Julie and Dick meet with me nearly every week to plan the next issue of the newsletter or discuss other matters related to the collections. This last Monday, during our weekly meeting, we came across a short piece written by Sir Arthur and published a century ago that was timely and too good to pass up.

Doyle skiing.jpgIn 1914--ten years before the first Winter Olympic Games--Heath, Cranton & Ousely, Ltd. of Fleet Lane, London published a book by Frederick Annesley Michael (F. A. M.) Webster entitled The Evolution of the Olympic Games, 1829 B.C.--1914 A.D. Webster--a javelin champion, Olympic coach, and author--was the honorary secretary of the Amateur Field Events Association. He recruited the President of this same organization, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to write a preface to the book. The introduction was written by His Grace the Duke of Somerset, Chairman of the British Olympic Council. (If this sounds a bit like Chariots of Fire, there is a connection: Webster knew and worked with Evelyn Aubrey Montague who ran steeplechase in the 1924 Paris Olympics--and who was depicted in the movie by actor Nicholas Farrell.)

Continue reading "Sir Arthur and the Olympic Games" »

February 5, 2014

"Let the materials speak to you."

Elizabeth Vocasek (M.Ed. in Youth Development Leadership, 2013) contributed this blog entry about using sources in the Social Welfare History Archives and Kautz Family YMCA Archives for a class project for the Organizational Approaches to Youth Development course in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Her entry reflects on the challenges and inspirations of her time at the archives. She also reveals how her experiences using the archival collections influenced her when preparing her M.Ed. degree portfolio. Inspired by her archival research to reflect on the "artifacts" of her time at the University, she framed her portfolio as an historical narrative and retraced her steps through the degree program by looking at various artifacts that were produced over the course of her studies at the University. Her essay is a wonderful example of how the impact of using archival sources spreads beyond the classroom setting.

Linnea M. Anderson, Interim Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives

By Elizabeth Vocasek, .Ed. in Youth Development Leadership 2013


            As I entered the Andersen Library Reading Room a little over a year ago with nothing but my pencil, notebook, and the instructions to look for something related to youthwork within the Social Welfare History Archives, I felt more than a little bit daunted.  I stared at the boxes full of reports, photos, memos, pamphlets, flyers, and books, and I thought back to the advice I had received: Let the materials speak to you.  So, I started digging, sorting, scouring, trying to make sense of it all.  Yet, after what felt like hours, days, years of rummaging through folders and boxes looking for an ambiguous something, the only "speaking" I heard was not from the materials, rather from my project partner as we exasperatedly whispered across the table clueless as to what we were supposed to be finding.

            Yet, as all things eventually do, the project slowly but surely began to take form.  The bits, pieces, memos and reports that had originally seemed stale and pointless began to weave together into a vibrant story that neither my project partner nor I could validate nor discredit.  Though at first we felt confident that we had truly found something real and concrete, we eventually began to question that which we were finding.  Moreover, we began to question that which we weren't finding.

Continue reading ""Let the materials speak to you."" »

January 28, 2014

Students Make Creative Use of Archival Collection

by Linnea Anderson, Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives

Archives and Special Collections staff work with numerous graduate and undergraduate classes during a semester. One of the classes that regularly use the archives is Organizational Approaches to Youth Development taught by Professor Jennifer Skuza from the Center for Youth Development. Lindsey Cacich Samples, a student in this class wrote a blog entry reflecting on her experience using a collection in the Social Welare history Archives. Lindsey and her class partner, Genta Hayes, did an historical research project using records of the National Florence Crittenton Mission maternity homes for single mothers. Inspired by the documents, they wrote a script and delivered a dramatic interpretation about the Crittenton Homes for their class project.


A little over a year ago, I was in a class that culminated in a final project involving research in the Andersen archives. On an October evening, our class was given an orientation by Andersen staff as we perused some sample boxes of archives from youth serving organizations of the past. Unfamiliar and overwhelmed by the number of choices, my partner and I finally stumbled upon an organization that struck a chord with us. The Florence Crittenton Mission was a home for unwed mothers, providing them a safe place to stay, where they wouldn't be scorned by their community, and where they learned job and life skills to support their young family. After honing in on a topic, we asked to view a number of boxes from the archives. A full day at the library skimming over the contents of the boxes and we were able to narrow down our search- we were interested in the early years of the budding organization with a goal to find as much evidence to the client's experience in the homes as possible. There was a lot of information that discussed what services the homes provided the women, but it was more of a stretch to find the voices of the women they served in their archives.

Continue reading "Students Make Creative Use of Archival Collection" »

January 17, 2014

Video Tour of the Minnesota Library Access Center

If you have toured Archives and Special Collections, you know that we share an amazing facility with Minitex and the Minnesota Library Access Center. The latest episode of Minitex Minutes features a video tour of the Minnesota Access Center. If you haven't yet taken the tour and wonder what 1.5 million books look like, here is your chance to peek in the cavern!

Archives and Special Collections also has a cavern, filled with tens of millions of pages of material and other items related to our special collections. The ASC webpage is a good starting point to browse our treasures.

January 14, 2014

"Have I Got Something For You!"

by Kate Dietrick, Processing staff and Curator of the Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives.

When Lisa Von Drasek, curator for the Children's Literature Research Collections, came into the Archives and Special Collections Central Processing suite and announced, "Have I got something for you!" before revealing her newest acquisition, I believe it was the first time I audibly squealed while at work. Because what she revealed was a rare gem whose final product delighted me as a child--she had the artist's dummy for the beloved children's book Amelia Bedelia.

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Donated to the Kerlan Collection by Gretchen Siebel, the widow of the artist Fritz Siebel, the dummy documents the early drawings and layout of the 1963 publication Amelia Bedelia, written by Peggy Parish. Each page holds original ink drawings and watercolors by Fritz Siebel, matched up with taped-in text from Peggy Parish. On some pages there are scribbled notes - "Fritz--don't have drapes 'drawn' i.e. not closed!" that help illuminate the process from draft to final product. By paging through the dummy you begin to see the makings of the lovably comedic Amelia Bedelia as she takes her chores list a bit too literally.

Continue reading ""Have I Got Something For You!"" »

January 3, 2014

Special Collections Cataloger as History Detective

By Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Manager, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Unit

518px-Washington_1954_Issue2-1c.jpgAnyone familiar with the PBS series History Detectives knows that invariably, the show's investigators searching for the story behind family heirlooms and artifacts will begin their search in a library or archive. As a special collections cataloger, on occasion I've been presented with an item that requires research and investigation beyond the routine in order to provide adequate description and context for the item to be found in the library's catalog and useful for researchers. In the past, I've been presented with a Civil War diary that turned up in a box of donations to the Andersen Horticultural Library, and a guest book that contained the signature of Sinclair Lewis. Neither of these items came accompanied by any provenance information, so correctly identifying the source required extensive detective work.

Recently, while cataloging items from our rare books backlog, I came upon a postcard. The front of the postcard is a color photograph of the United Nations Secretariat Building. On the back, the postcard is addressed to a Sally Caen in San Francisco, California, and the message is signed "Truman." There are two 1-cent stamps depicting George Washington affixed to the card, and the item is postmarked from Brooklyn, NY, with a date of May 8. Unfortunately, only "19" appears for the year: the final two digits are not visible.

Continue reading "Special Collections Cataloger as History Detective" »