Halloween updates from Rare Book Cataloging

By: Allyson Holliday, W.S. Hoole Library Complex Copy-Cataloger

In the spirit of the season… there’s something for everyone in the Division of Special Collections! Whether it’s skeletons, haints, headless horsemen, witches, or demons, we have your interests covered.

For skeletons: take a look at Hollick’s Outlines of anatomy and physiology  published in 1846. This text features a “dissected plate” of human anatomy and is extra special due to the signature on the front flyleaf from Thomas A. Cooper. Cooper was a distinguished actor and is recognized as America’s premier tragedian. Cooper was born in London in 1776 and found great success on the London stage as Hamlet and Macbeth. He would later travel to America and make appearances in the theatre scenes of Philadelphia, New Orleans, Boston, New York, and cities in-between from 1796 until his death in 1849. His repertoire included 2,671 performance nights including 37 leading roles from Shakespeare’s plays (Smith, 299).

dissected plate

Dissected plate of Anatomy and Physiology, Hoole Library Rare Books Collection QM31 .H7

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We went viral, Part II

By: Nancy DuPree, Curator of the Williams Collection

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First page of letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to Simon Cameron, November 6, 1863

Despite the excitement over the Lincoln letters covered in Monday’s post, the documents themselves appear rather ordinary. The paper has yellowed over the years, although the writing is still strong and clear. Like his literary style, Lincoln’s handwriting is clear and businesslike, but rather plain — unlike John Hancock or George Washington’s fine aristocratic hand. We might not expect to see letterhead stationery from the 1860s, but  one letter  is written on paper with the letterhead “Executive Mansion,” with a printed line “Washington, ____, 186___.” The blanks are filled in Lincoln’s hand, “Nov. 6” and “1863.”

The two documents, one written by Lincoln to Simon Cameron and one written by Orison Blunt, are not directly related and came into the Collection separately.  The Blunt letter is a single item; the Cameron letter is one of a set of nine letters sent to Cameron by various individuals.


First page of letter written by Orison Blunt to John Loomis, July 23, 1862

The Blunt document dated July 23, 1862, concerns a straightforward item of business: the writer, firearms dealer Orison Blunt, has written to Col. John S. Loomis, assistant adjutant general, to suggest that some British-made Enfield rifled muskets, seized from captured Confederate blockade runners, be turned over to Union units from Illinois, who badly need weapons. Blunt was an expert on weapons, one of the Union’s biggest suppliers of rifles and the inventor of a forerunner of the modern machine gun, as well as a New York City alderman and political foe of Tammany Hall Boss Tweed. On the back of the letter Lincoln wrote an endorsement of the plan, subject to the approval of the Secretary of War.

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We went viral, Part I

By: Nancy DuPree, Curator of the Williams Collection


Abraham Lincoln, from President Abraham Lincoln’s Quickstep, a piece of sheet music from our collections and available through Acumen

On the website of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln database, a news release dated August 11, 2014 proudly headlined “New Lincoln Papers Found in the Heart of Dixie.” The article that follows announces the addition of  digitized images of two hitherto unknown Lincoln letters to the Papers project, which is sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. The originals of those letters are held by the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection on the third floor of Gorgas Library at the University of Alabama.

News of these letters reached the Lincoln Library through the good offices of several alumni of the University of Alabama Department of History and the book, From a Love of History, by Stephen Rowe (University of Alabama Press, 2013).  Rowe’s book contains a photograph and a description of one of the letters, and Robert Ritzer, alumnus of the University of Alabama history department and professor of history at the University of West Alabama, immediately recognized its importance.  He contacted another alum, Christian McWhirter, an editor at the Lincoln Library, who after conversations with Nancy DuPree, curator, and Mary Bess Paluzzi, Dean of Special Collections,  came to Tuscaloosa to examine the letters and to have them digitized.

The story attracted some interest, including a print news release; an article in Tuscaloosa News; and several television news segments, including WVUA, FOX6WBRC, NBC Chicago, CBS Atlanta, and ABC 33/40. The actual letters were on exhibit for a week and were viewed by a number of visitors. The Collection continues to exhibit copies of the letters, though the originals are kept in a vault for security and protection from strong lights. Copies of the letters, alongside journalists’ accounts of the find, can also be seen in a small exhibition called “We Went Viral!” on the second floor of Capstone Village.

On Wednesday, come back to read more about the letters themselves!


The Deseret First Book, Part II

By: Ashley Bond, SLIS graduate student


The Deseret First Book‘s front cover (Hoole Library Rare Books PE1152 .U7 vol.1)

In 1868, the Deseret First Book was one of two elementary readers printed in the Deseret alphabet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The University of Deseret, now the University of Utah, utilized the texts to help the community learn this new alphabet. At the beginning of the book is a translation key, followed by reading and numerical lessons. The book also contains many illustrations, with the most intricately drawn images on the front cover and title page. While these cover drawings serve an aesthetic function in framing the title of the work, they also contain imagery significant to the Mormon Church.

The building pictured at bottom center of the cover depicts the Latter-day Saints’ Salt Lake Temple located in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Historically, it is said that Latter-day Saints President Brigham Young designated the site for a future temple within days of his arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. In July of 1847, while he and a few others were walking through the area now known as Temple Square, Young stopped between two forks in City Creek and struck his cane on the ground. Wilford Woodruff placed a stake in that specific spot, marking where the center of the future temple would be. With the help of architect Truman O. Angell and draftsman William Ward, Young designed a temple with six towers: three on the east representing the President and his two counselors and three towers on the west representing the Presiding Bishop and his two counselors. The building was constructed with granite in addition to symbolically placed ornamental stones throughout the structure. The Salt Lake Temple was completed and dedicated on April 6, 1893, exactly forty years after the day the cornerstones were laid.

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The Deseret First Book, Part I

By: Ashley Bond, SLIS graduate student


The Deseret First Book alphabet key, found in Hoole Library Rare Books PE1152 .U7 vol.1

The Deseret First Book is one of four books published in the late 1860s in an alphabet created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This alphabet, known as the Deseret Alphabet, was created when the second president of the church, President Brigham Young, called a committee to develop a new phonetic alphabet that would help simplify spelling the English language.

The story behind this alphabet originates with the initial emergence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. Due to some resistance to this new church, founder Joseph Smith and his converts were driven westward to Illinois. After much persecution and the death of Smith and his brother Hyrum, Brigham Young led the church to settle further west around the Great Basin in the area we now recognize as Salt Lake City, Utah. Over 350 Mormon settlements in the region would eventually form the Territory of Deseret, ruled by Young as president. Congress, however, rejected this area as a territory and created the much smaller state of Utah with Young as its governor. It was in the midst of these developments in the Latter-day Saints Church that Young and fellow leaders proposed a new alphabet be created to aid immigrants and children in more easily learning English. George D. Watt, the first English convert to the new church, had studied Pitman shorthand in England and was chosen along with other church leaders to design the phonetic letter set. On January 19, 1854, the Board of Regents at the University of Deseret, known now as the University of Utah, announced the creation of the thirty-eight character Deseret Alphabet, which contained a letter for every sound in the English language. Critics claimed that the alphabet was the Church’s attempt to isolate converts and prevent outsiders from easily deciphering Mormon literature. However, this notion is unlikely, as each publishing in the alphabet includes a table of letters in order for readers of the traditional English alphabet to translate it. Once the alphabet was formed, Orson Pratt was given the task to create elementary texts that would help the population more easily learn how to read the new letters. In 1868, Russell Brothers Publishing Company in New York printed ten thousand copies each of the Deseret First Book and Second Book Readers to be shipped to Salt Lake City. When errors were found throughout the two primers, however, Orson Pratt, George D. Watt, and R.L Campbell formed a committee and made corrections in the form of an errata sheet to be added to the back of each copy. In addition to the elementary primers, the Book of Nephi Part One and eventually the entire Book of Mormon were also available in print for purchase. Between 1854 and 1870, the alphabet underwent many revisions, including the addition and removal of characters as well as shape and design changes in the letters themselves.

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April Burnett becomes a Certified Archivist

By: Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator

This fall, two Special Collections staff members received honors and promotions. Kevin Ray was promoted to Institutional Records Analyst and April Burnett became the Division of Special Collections’ only certified archivist


April Burnett joined the University Libraries in 2007 when she interned with Doug Boyd, the former head of digital collections. She already had obtained a Master’s degree in public administration from UA, and in late 2007 she graduated from the School of Library and Information Studies with an MLIS. In January 2008, she accepted the position of archival technician in the Hoole Library, a position she has held since then. As an archival technician, April first learned how to arrange and describe manuscript collections so that she would understand the larger picture of archives. Through the years she increased her knowledge base and skillset by taking additional courses on preservation and archival practice.


Example of metadata entered for Keene family biography by James Anderson

Her position is responsible for creating item-level metadata of Special Collections materials that are included in the Libraries’ Digital Collections. After other staff in Special Collections select a collection for inclusion in the digital program, April examines every item that will be digitized, and at the bare minimum, assigns a title to that item. She inputs that title, along with a number of other pieces of data about the item, in a spreadsheet developed by Cataloging and Metadata Services. Searching for that item in Acumen is then pretty easy!

Yesterday a patron asked me if I was familiar with an unpublished biography of the Keene family in Tuscaloosa. The patron had seen it at some point on her many visits to the Hoole Library, but she couldn’t recall how she stumbled upon it. With more than 8000 linear feet of manuscript materials at the Hoole Library, it’s impossible to remember every item. A search of our finding aids and our in-house database found nothing—archivists don’t typically describe materials at the item-level and instead describe materials at the collection, series, box, or folder level. When I keyed “Keene family” in the search bar of Acumen, the University Libraries’ portal for digital collections, the first hit was for “Biography, Sketch of Keene Family and Keene’s Mill, by James A. Anderson, circa 1940” in the James A. Anderson papers. Bingo!


Keene Family biography displayed through the Acumen interface

Thanks to April’s work, we and our patrons are able to locate items, along with their digital images, that earlier would have required the patron to spend an inordinate amount of time searching our materials. April must read letters, diaries, receipts, deeds, and various legal and financial documents to decipher names and dates, as well as the general content of a document. Since we primarily digitize materials that are in the public domain, a great number of these items are written in nineteenth-century script and often very difficult to read. She amazingly has provided the item descriptions for over 71,000 items—an item might be a postcard, or it could be a ten-page letter. Her work often requires her to conduct research to discover the identity of the writer and to inform the creation of names for our database. April is, of course, only one person in the digital program—numerous people in several Libraries departments work to make it easy for patrons to find their materials.  Her portion is the first and very visible step in the larger process.

After receiving training from Cataloging & Metadata Services a few years ago, April is now able to add very important subjects and names to our finding aids to add another level of discovery and standardization to our finding aids and collection records in Special Collections. So far, she has added over 1000 names and subjects for us.

This summer she applied to sit for the Academy of Certified Archivists’ examination, which just happened to be in Tuscaloosa. The Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) was established in 1989 to “develop and administer a program of certification and certification maintenance for archivists in the United States and internationally; increase knowledge of archival certification and its benefits within and outside the archival profession; and promote among archivists the attainment of a high level of professional knowledge.” Anyone interested in becoming a certified archivist must apply and gain approval from the ACA to take the test, and upon approval, sit for the exam in one of several designated sites each year. Only archivists with the requisite amount of experience and qualifying educational background may take the exam. The rigorous exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of archival history, theory, practice, and management.

April took the exam in August and recently received confirmation that she passed the examination and is now a certified archivist! She is the only certified archivist in the Division of Special Collections. We are all so proud of her and this accomplishment!

Kevin Ray promoted to Institutional Records Analyst

By: Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator


Kevin Ray, Institutional Records Analyst, and Donnelly Walton, Archival Access Coordinator

This fall, two Special Collections staff members received honors and promotions.

Kevin Ray first started working at the Hoole Library in 1993 and stayed until 1998, when he received his MLIS and left UA to work as a media specialist at a public school. Kevin returned to the Hoole Library in 2002 to work as a project archivist for the Bevill Foundation. As the project archivist, he arranged and described the papers of Tom Bevill, a long-time member of Congress from Jasper, Alabama. When the grant project ended in 2004, Kevin began working as the institutional records assistant, a position he held for about nine years. He worked with Tom Land, who was the institutional records analyst. As institutional records assistant, Kevin was responsible for the daily running of our large records management program. Departments on campus send us their non-current records which state law mandates we keep until a certain amount of time (ex: 10 years after creation) until we can destroy them. Occasionally, however, these offices might need to view the record again. A representative from the office then contacts us and requests delivery of the record. We deliver the record to them and retrieve it when they are finished, recording its chain of custody along the way. In addition to non-current records that may be destroyed eventually, we also hold student transcripts as well as many other permanent records that record the business of the University. Requests for these vital records come from the Records Office; we deliver and retrieve these records as well.

In 2013, Kevin became an archival technician, a role that is responsible for arranging and describing manuscripts. Around the same time, Jessica Lacher-Feldman, our faculty member who was responsible for managing our reference activities, resigned and moved to another institution. Kevin very successfully took on the added responsibilities of managing our reference activities—he answered all incoming questions via email and phone calls, and he supervised our reading room activities. Always an essential member of the Hoole Library staff, Kevin’s role and the importance of his contributions skyrocketed in March 2014 when Tom Land retired after twenty-seven years. For several months, Kevin, still an archival technician, took over management of the University archives and the records management program (with the help of Gates Winters, who joined Special Collections in Spring 2013 as institutional archives assistant), while continuing to oversee all reference activities in Special Collections.

As of October 1, Kevin Ray is now officially the institutional records analyst. He has made an impact on our services by developing new records management guidelines that will soon be shared with offices on campus; working with Gates Winters and various offices on campus to very quickly identify large amounts of records (6000+ linear feet) that can be destroyed according to state law and work with University Recycling to accomplish this feat; and updating our reference practices. Special Collections has undergone several changes in the last few years as staff have retired and resigned; Kevin’s selflessness and dedication have made these changes painless for other staff and our patrons. A past recipient of the Library Leadership Award, Kevin continues his long-standing commitment to providing excellent service to our patrons, whether that patron is an undergraduate, a faculty member from UC-Berkeley, or a representative from President Bonner’s office. Special Collections and the University Libraries are very fortunate to have Kevin Ray.

Introducing the blog of Digital Services & The End of the Corolla

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow


Corollas from the late 1940s and early 1950s

The Division of Special Collections and Digital Services work closely together. One of the mandates of Digital Services is to digitize materials from Special Collections to place into the University of Alabama’s online repository, Acumen.

While Acumen contains only a small percentage of the overall materials found in the W.S. Hoole Library and the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, Digital Services works continuously to increase the amount of items that can be viewable online. Just this summer, Acumen released its new interface. Now, users can contribute to the repository themselves by adding their own tags and transcriptions to what they find.

Digital Services has its own blog, which features longer articles on topics related to the materials they are digitizing, fun features on interesting items they come across, as well as guides and discussions of the technical aspects of their division. And, if you want to keep up with the most recent happenings in Digital Services, check out their Facebook and Twitter feeds (@UALibDS).


The Corollas are all available in a cabinet in the Hoole reading room.

Most recently, Digital Services’ blog did a profile on the Corolla — the University of Alabama yearbook that began in 1893 and, it was announced recently, will conclude publication after the 2013-2014 edition due to low sales numbers. Those of us in Special Collections and Digital Services were sad to hear this announcement, as the Corollas are some of the most fun items to pull out to show students and patrons. The Corollas are all available in a special cabinet in the reading room of the W.S. Hoole Library as “ready reference,” which means you can select and browse these volumes independently, unlike the majority of materials in Special Collections that can only be pulled by staff.

In response to the announcement that the Corolla would cease publication this school year, Kate Matheny, the Digitization Outreach Coordinator from Digital Services, generated a series of blog posts documenting aspects of the Corolla as seen in issues from the 1890s-1900s1920s-1930s, 1950s-1960s, and the 1980s-1990s. As Digital Services has an initiative to digitize all the Corollas, many more issues than can be featured on the blog are also available through Acumen. So far, issues from 1893-1909, 1938, and selected volumes from the 1950s-1960s can be found.

We encourage readers of Cool@Hoole to check out Digital Services. Our content is different: Digital Services focuses on longer-form articles and in-depth features written by their staff, while Cool@Hoole strives to recruit short pieces from a diverse set of authors. However, we both feature items and content of general interest to the University of Alabama community, such as information pertaining to the traditions and content found in the Corolla.

Banned: To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved

By: Page Novak, UA undergraduate

This fall, step into the lobby of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall to see Page Novak’s display of banned books celebrating Banned Book Week, which was September 21-27. Novak’s exhibition will be up for the remainder of the semester.

In case you can’t manage to stop by, you can read more about the books she selected to feature here. On Monday, she discussed Ulysses and 1984; today, she shares information about Beloved and To Kill a Mockingbird


Beloved Hoole Library Wade Hall Collection PS3563.O8749 B4 1987


The novel Beloved (1978) by Toni Morrison follows a slave named Sethe who escapes to Ohio from a plantation in Kentucky owned by Mr. Garner to find her family and free herself. Throughout the novel, flashbacks portray what Sethe’s life was like in Kentucky as well as when she first came to Cincinnati.  Sethe was free when she first arrived, but a school teacher from the plantation came to find her and her children.  Before the school teacher could get to Sethe’s children, she took them to a shed to kill them, but only succeeded in killing her youngest daughter who became the ghost that haunts Sethe’s house on 124 Bluestone Road.

Many school districts throughout the United States challenged the inclusion of the novel Beloved on their curriculum.  In 2011, parents of AP English students brought up the racial slurs and sexuality present throughout the novel.  These charges made Beloved one of the most challenged books in the United States since it was published.

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Banned: Ulysses and 1984

By: Page Novak, UA undergraduate


Banned, curated by Page Novak

This fall, step into the lobby of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall to see Page Novak’s display of banned books celebrating Banned Book Week, which was September 21-27.

Novak’s exhibition will be up for the remainder of the semester, but in case you can’t manage to stop by, you can read more about the books she selected to feature here. Today, she shares information about Ulysses and 1984; Wednesday she will discuss To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved



Ulysses Hoole Library Rare Books PR6019.O9 U44 1929


Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce is set in Dublin, Ireland during the day of June 16, 1904. The novel begins at eight o’clock when one of the main characters, Stephen Dedalus, wakes up for work.  Stephen teaches history at Garrett Deasy’s boys’ school. Dedalus meets Deasy, who wants Stephen to take an editorial to his friends at the newspaper company.  That same morning, Leopold Bloom brings his wife Molly her mail and breakfast in bed. At each following hour of the day, Stephen and Leopold’s actions are noted.  Bloom and Dedalus finally meet at the end of the novel.

The novel Ulysses is one of the most challenged and controversial books in history; it was banned in the United States until 1934.  U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey presided over the court case United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses in 1933. He ruled the novel was not pornographic and, a decade after it was published in Ireland, Ulysses would legally debut in the United States. However, it was quickly banned in communities in both the US and the United Kingdom to the novel’s strong sexual themes.  Some groups, such as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, even took legal action to not allow this book to be sold in the United States.  Ulysses still resides on the top 100 most challenged books in the United States and Apple, the company that sells iPhones and iPads, even declined to sell the novel when it was turned into a digital comic because of the presence of nudity.

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