Why should you develop special collections assignments for your classes?

By Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow

Last week, I posted about how to consider using special collections in your class and how to request a class session for this fall. This week, I thought I’d go over some of the key reasons special collections can help make your class an enriching learning experience for your students.


Hoole Reading Room, one of two locations where we can host classes. The Williams Reading Room in Gorgas Library is an additional space where we are happy to host students.

  1. Primary source assignments are nearly plagiarism-proof. The items students work with in special collections can be changed from semester to semester and holdings are unique to each institution, cutting down on students’ ability to plagiarize.
  2. Students enjoy learning about primary sources because they are different. Rather than reading yet another essay or book chapter, they can read a first-hand account or examine an item from the time you discuss. As a result, they will create projects that are unique, exciting, and original.
  3. When students feel ownership over their intellectual ideas, they are more invested in the learning process. Primary source work may be a bit more difficult than the type of reading and analysis your students are used to, but they will be motivated to push through their learning curve by their ability to say something new about items that may be infrequently viewed.
  4. Special collections assignments combat student passivity. Students cannot just sit at home on their computers to do research or go to a familiar library environment. They are forced to move out of their comfort zone and become competent at searching for information in new ways. The outcome is that students will become able to do primary source research for future classes and they will be learn to be assertive and articulate about their ideas when speaking to librarians and archivists.
  5. Special collections pedagogy is an emerging field. You can distinguish yourself as an instructor in your chosen discipline or in composition pedagogy by working with special collections.

Need some help thinking about how to integrate special collections into your assignments?

  1. Contact Amy Chen. Email Amy at ahchen [at] ua.edu to schedule a meeting.
  2. Read about a successful initiative at UA. Check out our pedagogy series featuring Brooke Champagne’s first year writing classes from Fall 2013. This upcoming semester, the majority of honors first year writing sections will take archives as the theme of their course as a result of our successful collaboration.
  3. Read about a successful initiative elsewhere. TeachArchives.org profiles a multi-year project held at the Brooklyn Historical Society to bring primary source materials into college classrooms. TeachArchives.org offers a number of examples to get your creative juices going as you think about what to offer on your syllabus this year.

Want to see for yourself? Schedule a session.

Bring your class to the Division of Special Collections

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow


Amy Chen, waiting to hear from you!

Every semester, the Division of Special Collections invites University of Alabama faculty members as well as local teachers and group leaders to bring their students to visit either the W.S. Hoole Library in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall or the Williams Collection in Gorgas Library.

Follow this link to find the form used to request a session. Or, go to Hoole Library’s website, where more information is located in “Visit,” the upper left-hand quadrant. (Note: Hoole Library’s “For Instructors” page provides the intake form for those interested in coming to either Hoole OR the Williams Collection.) If you want to discuss this opportunity at more length, feel free to email Amy directly at ahchen@ua.edu.

Right now is the best time to request a section! Ideally, requests will be made at the beginning of the semester; at least two weeks’ advance notice will be required.

Read  more about instruction services offered by Amy Chen on behalf of the University of Alabama’s Division of Special Collections: 

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Introduction to French Revolutionary Holdings

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow

In honor of Bastille Day, this week Cool@Hoole will provide readers with a three-part overview of the Division of Special Collection’s French holdings. On Monday, early modern books were covered and on Wednesday, the French Enlightenment was explored. Today, on the last day of our series, we will conclude with a discussion of French Revolutionary pamphlets. 

To provide a brief history, the French Revolution began in 1789 when the French proletariat stormed the Bastille on July 14. In August, the National Assembly abolished feudalism and released the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen (Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen). June 1790 brought the abolition of the nobility and, in May 1791, the Assembly determined that all citizens are equal, regardless of their skin color. King Louis XVI accepted the Constitution on September 1791, but he was tried for high treason in December 1792 and executed in January 1793. By October 14, 1793, his Queen, Marie Antoinette, also was executed. Further executions would follow during the Reign of Terror, which lasted from roughly September 1793 through July 1794. In 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte began his ascent to power; in 1799, he staged a coup that consolidated his rule as first consul. In 1804, he became Emperor, a title he would hold until 1815, with the exception of a period between 1814 and 1815, when he was placed in exile on the island of Elba.

During this time, pamphlets were used to discuss human rights, the roles of citizenship, and class identity. Alabama holds 319 French Revolution pamphlets, which have been digitized and are available on Acumen. Take a moment to explore these pamphlets, which have had their interior pages as well as their covers digitized. Privately printed and meant to be ephemeral, these pamphlets served as an important medium to keep everyday citizens abreast of political and intellectual events during this significant era of French history. Their preservation allows us to read the words that shaped the discourse of the Revolution, which changed the history of France and, eventually, influenced global society to begin to consider the rights of citizens.

The pamphlets pictured here are A mon tour la parole: réponse d’Anacharsis Cloots aux diatribes Rolando-Brissotines (1792) and Essai de Charles Chabroud, membre de l’Assemblée nationale sur l’organisation de la justice en France (1790).

AMonTourLaParole EssaideCharlesChabroud

If you are interested in seeing pamphlets held at other universities, check out those from Ball State, Emory, and Brandeis. The Newberry Library and the National Library of Australia also have substantial holdings in this area.


Introduction to French Enlightenment Holdings

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow

In honor of Bastille Day, this week Cool@Hoole will provide readers with a three-part overview of the Division of Special Collection’s French holdings. Early modern books were covered on Monday and, on Friday, our series will wrap up with a discussion of French Revolutionary pamphlets. 

The French Enlightenment was a cultural movement in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe that eventually spread and influenced the development of the United States. The Enlightenment attempted to reform society using reason instead of tradition and faith. Notably, it promoted science, skepticism, democracy, and the separation of church and state. Significant writers from the period included Voltaire and Denis Diderot.


Image from La Pucelle (1789) Hoole Library Rare Books PQ2080 .P7 1789


Francois-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire, lived from 1694-1778. Voltaire, an anagram of his surname and the word “the young,” adopted this name to distance himself from his family and his past — however, Voltaire was only the most famous of pen names. In total, he used 178 different noms de plume while writing across numerous genres. His first play, Œdipe (1718), gave him a national reputation; he wrote it while imprisoned in the Bastille. Voltaire then spent two years in Britain; while there, he began to admire England’s constitutional monarchy and their greater support for free speech. The book he eventually composed on the topic of England’s superior government, Philosophical Letters (1778), was burnt. Over his life, Voltaire’s repeated confrontation with civil and religious authorities made him a role model for revolutionaries. Pictured here is his Pucelle, or the maid of Orleans (1796), an epic poem about Joan of Arc.

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Happy Bastille Day! Introduction to Early Modern French Holdings

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow

In honor of Bastille Day, this week Cool@Hoole will provide readers with a three-part overview of the Division of Special Collection’s French holdings. Today, early modern books will be covered; on Wednesday, the French Enlightenment will be explored; and, on Friday, our series will wrap up with a discussion of French Revolutionary pamphlets. 


Histrio gallicus comico-satyricus in its original binding

Early modern France, or the age of the Ancien Régime, was an absolute monarchy during the period between the Renaissance and the Revolution (1453-1789). Society was structured into three estates: the first, clergy; the second, aristocracy; the third, the remaining population. Early modern France was geographically much smaller than it is today, with the northern border areas serving as autonomous regions. Additionally, it had a smaller population due to the confluence of the Black Plague (1346-1353) and the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), which lowered population levels significantly for, prior to these events, France was the third largest nation in the world after China and India.

The most famous monarch of this period was Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” who ruled for seventy-two years. He advocated for the divine right of kings; centralized the state; built the Palace of Versailles; legalized slavery, but mandated that slaves be kept within intact families; supported the arts, including the authors Molière and Racine; and served as the most powerful monarch in Europe. All of his immediate heirs died before him, so it was his great grandson, Louis XV, who would succeed him.


Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière)

The Division of Special Collections at the University of Alabama holds over two hundred items from the era of the Ancien Régime. If you would like to search for these books, go to Scout and limit your search by the date range and location on the left-hand column. The date range should be 1453 to 1798 and the location should specify books from Hoole Special Collections Library. Early histories, political works, and accounts of colonialism can all be found — although it helps if you can read French!

If you are interested in literature, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673) was the most famous writer of this period. He was known for his comedy and, as he felt plays were meant to be acted, he rarely published. For this reason, inconsistent records of his ninety-five works are found today. Dom Juan (a French Don Quixote) and The School for Wives are two of his significant plays. The title page from his Histrio Gallius, Comico-Satyricus (1695) can be seen below the cut.

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Interview with Mary Haney, Division of Special Collections graduate assistant

By: Mary Haney, University of Alabama MLIS student

This post is part of an ongoing feature of all graduate students, faculty, and staff working in the Division of Special Collections at the University of Alabama. Read more about three of our previous students: Ellie Campbell, Alex Goolsby, and Haley Aaron. Or check out profiles of Kevin Ray and Tom Land. Kevin is the Archival Technician who supports reference services and Tom, prior to his retirement, managed the University Archives. 


Mary Haney

First off, how did you get started in this field?

My first library job was working as a student page in the Special Collections at Hugh M. Morris Library at the University of Delaware.  I had recently declared a major in the University’s undergraduate program in Art Conservation and sought out my academic advisor for advice on how to gain more experience in the field.  When I mentioned my interest in book and paper conservation, my advisor immediately set me up with an interview for a page position in special collections. While the position did not offer direct experience in conservation, it afforded me the opportunity to work with and learn about the objects that drew my interests. By working closely with the knowledgeable and supportive staff, I learned more and more about rare books and collections management.  One librarian often pulled me aside to show me incunabula he found in the stacks, noting peculiar binding materials or marginalia. The archivists would talk to me about ethical issues in archives. Steadily, I began to realize that my interest in books and papers related more to how people used the materials and what they learned from them rather than their physical properties. By the end of my senior year, I strongly considered pursuing a degree in Library and Information Studies instead of continuing on to an advanced degree in Art Conservation.

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German Cookbooks: A Hidden Gem in the Wade Hall Collection

By: Mark Robison, University of Alabama Information Services Librarian

Although the demands on food are growing ever larger — one person places value on the fanciest treats, while another insists on the lowest possible calorie count –, every now and then almost everyone gets an appetite for hearty, simple home cooking, the preparation of which skimps on nothing.  In rustic cooking, one finds many delicious dishes, mostly from the pan and crock.  Not just pork, but also beef, chicken, fish and various vegetables are turned into tasty, sometimes high-calorie dishes.


Rustikale Kuche, Wade Hall TX721 .K67 1980

This excerpt, translated from the original German by yours truly, comes from the preface of Christiane Korn’s Rustikale Küche: Deftig – Kräftig – Schmackhaft (Rustic Cooking: Hearty — Strong — Savory). This 1980 cookbook contains dozens of recipes for traditional German soups, stews, casseroles, meat and potato dishes, dumplings, and vegetables.

Korn’s recipe for bacon dumplings (Speckknödel) embodies many of our stereotypes about German food and is enough to make any omnivore’s mouth water. Slice and fry half a pound of “fatty bacon” — yes, heavy on the fat. Mix the cooked bacon with bread crumbs, chopped onion, and parsley, and let soak in a mixture of milk and eggs. Once this delicious concoction has sat for a while, work in flour to form a dough. Mold this dough into four dumplings, boil them in salt water, and serve with sauerkraut.

Korn’s Rustikale Küche is one of over twenty German cookbooks in the Wade Hall Collection of the University of Alabama Libraries Division of Special Collections. These cookbooks span the time period from the 1950s to the 1990s. While many of them were published in Germany, some were authored by Americans, such as Das Germantown Kochbuch, compiled by a group of churches in the Nashville area. The titles in this collection are quite unique; in many cases, the University of Alabama is the only library in North America to own a copy. (The only comparable collection I could find at another American university was at the University of Denver Libraries Special Collections, with which UA’s collection has some overlap.)  Other notable titles in the Wade Hall German cookbooks include Die Welt der Marmelade (1978), devoted entirely to marmalade recipes, and Das Mikrowellen-Kochbuch (1984), which presents recipes for that pinnacle of 1980s kitchen innovation, the microwave.

A comprehensive list of the Wade Hall Collection’s German Cookbooks is printed below.  The items with asterisks are the only copy at an American library. These books are available at Hoole Library, in case you get the inspiration to do a little German-style cooking of your own!


Das Mikrowellen Kochbuch Wade Hall TX832 .F76 1984

German Cookbooks in Wade Hall Books Collection:

Between the pages

By: Amy Chen, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow

In September 2014, Wade Hall’s Library, an exhibition of Wade Hall’s extensive collection of books — a large portion are dedicated to Southern Literature — will be mounted in the Pearce Lobby of the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library. Occasionally, we will be promoting this exhibition by showcasing a few of the items that will be on display. Today, we examine one of the most interesting aspects of book collecting, which is occasionally finding the items tucked into books by their previous owners.


Lock of hair found in Women of the South (1860) Wade Hall PS508.W7 F7 1860

Mary Forrest. Women of the South Distinguished in Literature. Illustrated with Portraits on Steel. New York, NY: Charles B. Richardson, 1866. Second Edition.

This anthology of Southern women’s writing is remarkable for both its year of publication and its interest area: Women of the South Distinguished in Literature is not only the first anthology dedicated to Southern writing, but also the first to document women’s writing.[1] Significant authors collected in this anthology include Caroline Lee Hentz, Sally Rochester Ford, and Augusta Jane Evans Wilson. Wilson became particularly famous as Alabama’s first professional author; she was later inducted Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. Also worth noting are the four women who are grouped together as “writers not yet authors”: Jane T. Worthington, R. Jacobus, Bessie B. Cheesborough, and Emelie C.S. Chilton. These “writers” are represented by only one or two pieces, whereas the volume’s “authors” have between four and fourteen pieces included. Helpfully, each entrant in the anthology also is given a brief biographical sketch.

Women of the South Distinguished in Literature was first published prior to the Civil War; this second edition features two ownership signatures inside the front cover and two written in the back. All four are written in pencil by Miss Josie MacDonald, who became Mrs. John Hart. MacDonald clearly treasured the volume: she tucked her calling card into the book and wrote her address on the book, which allows contemporary researchers to learn that she lived in an elegant row house on 1936 Jefferson St. Louisville, Kentucky, which was built in 1900 and is still standing.

Also of interest are a number of items Mrs. John Hart slipped into the pages of the volume. The first item that can be seen is a form from postmaster John Barrett addressed to the occupant of 1936. The postmaster requests the names of all residents of the home and notes that women should have their first name represented, not just the name of their husband. An article, likely from the local Louisville, Kentucky newspaper titled “Augusta Evans Wilson: A Venerated Novelist” can also be located. The article does not have a date or author indicated, but it discusses “the truth about the origin of the name ‘St. Elmo,’” which is the title of one of Evans’s books.

Additionally, a brown ringlet of hair can be found within the selection of Carrie Bell Sinclair’s poetry. While hair seems to be an odd item to come across in a book, those from the turn of the century treasured it; hair was often made into jewelry or wreaths, kept to make into hairpieces, or exchanged by friends and lovers as a memento. The hair as well as all the other items in the book is in good condition. However, the book itself is only in fair condition, as the front cover has become detached from the spine.

[1] Susan H. Irons, “Anthologies of Southern Literature,” The Companion to Southern Literature: Themes, Genres, Places, People, Edited by Joseph M. Flora, Lucinda Hardwick MacKethan, and Todd W. Taylor (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 35.

CSS Alabama, Part III

By: Kevin Ray, Archival Technician

This post is the third of three posts in a week-long series describing the history of the CSS Alabama and the resources available in the Division of Special Collections on both this ship and the naval history of the Confederacy. June 19, 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the battle between the CSS Alabama and the USS Kearsarge, which resulted in the sinking of the Alabama. If you’d like, review the first and second posts of this series. 


CSS Alabama muster log, the Edward Maffitt Anderson photograph album, and the bottom of the model of the CSS Alabama

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library contains a number of primary and published materials about CSS Alabama. 

Among the manuscripts holdings are partial log books for CSS Alabama and CSS Tuscaloosa. These were kept by Lt. John Low, who Semmes placed in command of Tuscaloosa after its capture and re-christening. A photo album that belonged to Midshipman Edward Maffit Anderson contains pictures of many of the officers and crew of Alabama. A partial muster roll of Alabama mentions some of those who died during the battle with Kearsarge.

The University Archives section of Hoole Library holds a set of plans of the ship, which were copied from the originals. Numerous published works are available on CSS Alabama, its captain, and crew. These include published firsthand accounts such as The Cruise of the Alabama and the Sumter by Raphael Semmes, and The logs of the C.S.S. Alabama and C.S.S. Tuscaloosa, 1862-1863,by John Low, edited by William Stanley Hoole.

Additionally, there are published works by scholars, including William Stanley Hoole and Charles Grayson Summersell. Published works relating to the Alabama Claims are also available.

Finally, the CSS Alabama Digital Collection can be viewed online. This exhibition contains images, documents, and a clickable map of Alabama’s journey and it was created in 1996 by P. Toby Graham, who at that time was a doctoral candidate in The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies. Graham was just named the University Librarian of UGA and the Associate Provost of UGA Libraries.

The story of CSS Alabama is more than the story of a single Confederate warship. She was the scourge of United States merchant shipping during the Civil War. And, in postwar peace, she was a contributing factor in the development of international law.

Interest in Alabama continues to this day. Her wreck was discovered in 1984.  The wreck has been explored by scientists as a part of a cooperative effort between France and the United States. In a sense, the legacy of international cooperation established by the Alabama Claims continues today in the exploration of the wreck of CSS Alabama.

The Hoole Library is proud to have its own collection of items related to the cruise of CSS Alabama, and we welcome the opportunity to share them with scholars and the public.

CSS Alabama Bibliography

Bowcock, Andrew. CSS Alabama: Anatomy of a Confederate Raider. London: Chatham, 2002.

C.S.S. Alabama partial muster roll. University Libraries, Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama.

C.S.S. Tuscaloosa Logs. University Libraries, Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama.

Edwin Maffitt Anderson photographs. University Libraries, Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama.

Hoole, William Stanley. Four Years in the Confederate Navy: The Career of Captain John Low on the C.S.S. Fingal, Florida, Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and Ajax. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1964.

Low, John. The Logs of the C.S.S. Alabama and C.S.S. Tuscaloosa, 1862-1863, Edited with an Introduction by W. Stanley Hoole. University, AL: Confederate Publishing Company, 1972.

Semmes, Raphael. The Cruise of the Alabama and The Sumter: From the Private Journals and Other Papers of Commander R. Semmes, C.S.N, and Other Officers. New York: Carleton, 1864.

Summersell, Charles Grayson. CSS Alabama: Builder, Captain, and Plans. University, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1985.

The University of Alabama Libraries. “C.S.S. Alabama Digital Collection.” Accessed June 13, 2014. http://www.lib.ua.edu/content/libraries/hoole/digital/cssala/main.htm.

CSS Alabama, Part II

By: Kevin Ray, Archival Technician

This post is the second of three posts in a week-long series describing the history of the CSS Alabama and the resources available in the Division of Special Collections on both this ship and the naval history of the Confederacy. June 19, 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the battle between the CSS Alabama and the USS Kearsarge, which resulted in the sinking of the Alabama. Read the first post in the series. 


CSS Alabama, photograph from the Edward Maffitt Anderson photograph album


Alabama left Cape Town and sailed on to Cherbourg, France, where she docked on June 11, 1864.  The ship was in serious need of repairs and supplies and the men were in need of rest.  Time, however, was running short for Alabama and her crew.  On June 14, USS Kearsarge, commanded by Captain John Winslow, arrived off Cherbourg.  Semmes weighed his options and decided to take his chances in battle.

Alabama and Kearsarge met in battle on Sunday, June 19, 1864.  They fired at one another several miles off Cherbourg, while a crowd of witnesses watched the battle unfold from any vantage point available.  Englishman John Lancaster and his family watched the battle aboard their yacht, Deerhound.  This private vessel would play a key role in the battle.  Alabama fired first, apparently missing.  Over the course of the battle Alabama fired more rounds, but either missed, or hit to little or no effect.   Alabama’s ammunition was old and faulty and the crew had taken little gunnery practice while at sea in an effort to conserve the ammunition that they had.  The crew of Kearsarge fired more slowly, more carefully, and more accurately.  The damage to Alabama mounted.  Realizing his ship was sinking, Captain Semmes sent up a white flag of surrender and gave orders to abandon ship.  Survivors plunged into the English Channel.  Some were picked up by French boats, others by Kearsarge.  However, about 40 officers and crew were rescued by the yacht Deerhound and taken to Southampton, England, thereby avoiding capture by Captain Winslow.  Among those saved by Deerhound were Captain Semmes and his first officer, Lieutenant John McIntosh Kell.  In all, some 40 crewmen aboard Alabama perished in the battle, while only 1 crewman was killed aboard Kearsarge.


Captain Semmes, taken from the photograph album of Edward Maffitt Anderson

As the battle ended, CSS Alabama sank to a depth of nearly 32 fathoms.  Within a year, the Civil War itself ended.  Then a new battle ensued. This battle was waged not on the high seas, but in courts of law.  The United States government brought claims against Great Britain for losses caused by CSS Alabama and other Confederate commerce raiders which had been built in England.  The United States claimed that ships had been built in violation of Britain’s official policy of neutrality, and that the British were responsible for damages caused by the vessels.  The claims were settled by an early means of international arbitration.  Britain agreed to pay a settlement of over $15 million.  Afterwards, the United States and Great Britain became steadfast allies.