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Study of a primary source such as a letter or diary is not just about performing research. You are physically, intellectually and emotionally interacting with the past. What drew you to the item in the first place? Let curiosity be the guide in finding out more about both item and creator. Ask questions about them, and set out to find the answers if you can. In a way, a researcher is a combination of detective and journalist: the former identifies the physical evidence, the latter reveals context and develops a narrative or backstory about the item and creator, with the ultimate aim of showing the world why they are important.

Here is a letter written by Christina Rossetti to a Miss Crowe regarding a forthcoming visit to the Victoria Press, which was founded by Emily Faithfull in England in 1860. Questions that could be asked to reveal context and develop a narrative about this item might include:

—Can you read the letter? (Cheat: see transcription below)
—Who was Christina Rossetti?
—What was the Victoria Press?
—Who was Emily Faithfull and what was her significance in the 19th-century publishing industry?
—Look for contextual markers such as writing style, punctuation, penmanship; references to dress.
—Consider looking at related subjects to establish the significance of the item in a broader historical and cultural context: women’s rights, business women, publishing industry, British history, 1815-1914, Victorian period literature. 

Letter transcription:

My dear Miss Crowe

Though I don’t suspect you of being an idle lady of leisure, I prefer for once troubling you with a query, rather than Miss Faithfull who must be so busy and whom I have applied to so often.

Will you very kindly inform me – I ask for a friend’s guidance – whether what I understood is true: that ladies visiting the Victoria Press must divest themselves of crinoline?

Of course if this is not the case my question must sound supremely absurd: but I really understood (or misunderstood) that so it is ruled. Anticipating thanks for your obliging answer. I remain

Sincerely yours

Christina R. Rossetti
45 Upper Albany Street, N.W.

Find help on researching primary sources in the Special Collections guide on Archival Research. Read more about researching primary sources in the “Making Sense of Evidence” series at Look out for more of my blog posts on working with manuscripts as primary sources.

Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

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One of the aspects I enjoy most about working in the University Archives is the occasional unexpected little find that I come across, serendipitously, while on the hunt for something else. This photo is an example of one of those finds.

Several months ago, while looking for pictures of former Georgetown president Coleman Nevils, S.J., I came across this delightful photograph. Tucked in amongst various headshots was this image of Nevils from his inauguration as President of Georgetown University in 1928 (Nevils is pictured third from the left). At first glance this photograph didn’t appear to be any different than the thousands of other photographs we have of University officials and guests posing together. But, upon closer inspection, I noticed that all of the men, save the one on the far right, had their eyes closed. What a wonderfully timed photograph! Or so it seemed.

When the photograph is blown up it appears that the subjects’ eyes are both open and closed. How is this possible? Photography in the 1920s had a slightly longer exposure time than we are accustomed to today. Any movements made by those being photographed within the exposure period were also captured. While this photo was being taken, five of the six men managed to blink and the developed photograph reveals an image that shows the men with their eyes both open and closed. You have to really get up close to see it but it produces quite the optical illusion.

Ann Galloway, Assistant University Archivist

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Detail from Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delawareat The Met.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the German-born history painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, whose monumental painting Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) hangs regally in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and decorates the reverse of the New Jersey State Quarter. Although best known for this and his iconic Westward the Course of Empire (Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1861), commissioned for the Capitol Rotunda, Emanuel Leutze was also a talented portrait painter, and Georgetown owns the artist’s self-portrait, donated to the University in 1957 by Harold Hudson.

Leutze’s first major commission came in 1836 when he was employed to take likenesses of famous public figures for Longacre and Herring’s National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans. This was followed by two years of itinerant portrait painting in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. With income generated from sales of his work, Leutze moved back to Germany in 1840 to study at the Dusseldorf Academy, at that time the most famous school of art in Europe. While there, he experienced the German revolutions of 1848-49 and was a strong advocate of its goals of unifying the German states and challenging political systems that had been in place for centuries. To encourage the liberal reformists, he decided to paint the now famous scene from the American Revolution depicting Washington courageously leading his troops across the Delaware River to Trenton, N.J. during the momentous night of December 25th, 1776.  

In 1845 the artist met and married Juliane Lottner, daughter of a military officer. He painted her portrait, now at the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, early in their marriage.

It is thought that Georgetown’s self-portrait, by far the best likeness Leutze painted of himself, was created around the same time, a common practice in celebration of betrothals and weddings. The portrait is rendered with such skill in naturalism that one can barely detect the lenses of the artist’s spectacles.

Leutze’s hometown of Schwabisch-Gmund commemorated the centennial of the artist’s birth earlier this year with a grand retrospective of his work.

LuLen Walker, University Art Collection Curator

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The Library's proxy server will be offline on Friday, September 2 from 7:30am - 9:00am for software patching and upgrading. This server authenticates Georgetown members to our licensed e-books, e-journals, and other electronic resources.

During this time off-campus patrons will be unable to access most Library resources, including online books, journal articles, and databases. (The Library Catalog will remain available.) On-campus patrons may also find their work impacted; however, patrons may wish to employ the following workaround (below).

We apologize for the inconvenience. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at

On-Campus Workaround for Proxy Outage

Many Library links begin with the proxy URL string. For example:

During the proxy server outage, these links will fail. However, you can strip out the proxy information (highlighted above) and go directly to the resource. Example:

Note that this URL will only work on-campus -- without the proxy information, your computer needs a Georgetown IP address to "prove" to the provider (JSTOR in this case) that you deserve access.

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Electronic Resources Updates
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A collection of East German film posters, most from the 1980s, lends a lighter tone to that region’s time spent under Soviet rule. East German film posters of foreign movies always differ from the originals, even if these differences are barely noticeable. Some of these posters were newly created through the commission of East German artists. Other posters kept the same promotional features displayed in their Western counterparts, save for a few minor changes, such as in chosen fonts.

The countries of production for the films advertised by the posters are surprisingly varied. There are token Soviet satellite state productions, such as Antonyho šance [Anthony’s Chance] from the CSSR and Die Csárdásfürstin [The Csárdás Princess] from Hungary. On the other hand, there are many posters depicting Western productions. France, Italy and the U.S. are the most frequent production countries we see while sifting through the film posters. Considering restrictive Soviet oversight of East German propaganda, the inclusion of movies such as Legal Eagles from the U.S. and Les Ripoux [My New Partner] from France may seem more than a bit confusing. But most of the posters for these movies, as mentioned before, were redone by East German artists to fit East German—or rather Soviet—ideological standards.

While all of the posters were either created or modified by East German artists, a third or more of the films themselves were produced in East Germany by DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft), better known as the production company that churned out all East German films. DEFA was a major vehicle for Soviet efforts to turn East Germans away from their recent Nazi past and toward a Communist-utopian future. The company held a virtual monopoly on the film industry, as well as the final word in the visual composition of the film posters.

One film poster quickly catches the eye. The objects of attention are not the graphics but rather the countries of production, East and West Germany. flüstern & SCHREIEN [Whisper and Shout] is a documentary film made in collaboration by West German film crews with DEFA. The film documents young people in the 1980s East German punk rock scene and the music genre’s perceived subversiveness. Visually, the poster, a photo-collage, represents the documentary’s contents well; young men and women with spiked hair, metal piercings, and dark face makeup walk the streets, attracting disapproving looks from those around them. In a country as politicized as East Germany, the fact that this poster was widely circulated, as well as the subsequent popularity of the film, comes as a surprise. Perhaps the best explanation for its popularity is the year the documentary was produced, 1988. Just a year later, the Berlin Wall fell and East Germany ceased to exist. flüstern & SCHREIEN foreshadowed changing political values and social tensions. Its poster is here to remind us how revealing films are of the social, political and economic climate of the countries in which they were produced.

The University Art Collection holds 500 film posters from East Germany and 205 from West Germany, purchased from a collector in 2008.

Stefania Lazar (C’2018), Booth Family Center for Special Collections Student Assistant

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Off-campus users may experience problems using Google Scholar to access GU library resources. Some users have reported seeing the following error:

 "ERROR for site owner: Invalid domain for site key

This is related to Google Scholar's interactions with our proxy server. If you experience this error and are off-campus, a possible workaround is to go directly to Google Scholar (i.e., not through our proxy server). This will allow you to search Google Scholar, although you won't see the "Find Full Text @ GU" links within GS using this method.

We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to have this problem fixed soon.

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Electronic Resources Updates
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In 1858, U.S. Navy engineer Jackson McElmell participated in the laying of the Atlantic telegraph cable.  Several letters in the Jackson McElmell Papers document his assistance with this immense scientific achievement.


U.S. Navy Secretary Isaac Toucey ordered McElmell, a 3rd assistant engineer, to report for duty aboard the U.S. steam frigate “Niagara,” a ship charged with laying the first Atlantic telegraph cable.  On April 19, 1858, George Saward, Secretary of the Atlantic Telegraph Company based in London, England, wrote to McElmell to invite him to inspect the machinery to be used in the paying out of the transatlantic cable.  Specifically, Saward asked McElmell to report to London “for the purpose of examining its [the machinery’s] capabilities & witnessing its operation.”

On April 24, 1858, Jackson McElmell wrote a letter in reply to Saward about the machinery.  McElmell concluded, “I have to state that after witnessing its operation for one whole day I am of the opinion that it is well adapted to the intended purpose & I have no suggestions whatever to make in regards rendering it more perfect.”

More than a year later, on August 23, 1859, the New York Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to McElmell awarding him a medal for assisting in the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable.  Although a problem had occurred after the cable was installed, the Chamber of Commerce stated, “The accident which has for a time delayed the successful working of the Telegraph, has by no means defeated the ultimate attainment of this important object.”  The Chamber expressed hope that “daily” communication would be established “with Europe and the more remote parts of the Eastern World.”

The Atlantic Telegraph Company, founded in 1856, made two unsuccessful attempts in 1857 and 1858 to lay the Atlantic cable.  The line was completed in August 1858; however, in October of that same year the cable ceased functioning.  Complete success was ultimately achieved in 1865.  U.S. Navy engineer Jackson McElmell, who later served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War, made a significant contribution to the Atlantic telegraph cable project.

Scott Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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Thanks to the generous support of a group of Hoya alumni, the first decade of The Hoya (January 14, 1920-May 22, 1930) has been digitized and is available in DigitalGeorgetown for searching and browsing. The gift was given in the name of Sergeant Stubby, the Boston terrier mix and decorated war hero who arrived at Georgetown in 1922 with veteran tuned law student J. Robert Conroy. Stubby served as mascot for the Georgetown football team for several years. The 1920s Hoya joins issues from 1959-1980 which were previously digitized.

Student newspapers have significant research value. The Hoya documents student perspectives on issues and events, trends and controversies, and decisions and policies that have impacted and shaped the University and those associated with it. Recently I have used the 1920s Hoya to answer questions about the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster in January 1922, in which five Georgetown students died along with 93 others when the roof of an Adams Morgan movie theater collapsed under the weight of heavy snow; and about Georgetown alum Alford Williams who set the world air speed record in his Curtiss Racer in 1925. Digitized issues of The Hoya have also supplied needed information about the first Diplomatic Ball held at the Mayflower Hotel in December 1925 and the appointment of a Chinese language instructor in the School of Foreign Service in 1929.

As well as searching for specifics in response to research and reference requests, however, I have enjoyed the act of simply browsing through Hoya issues on my computer, becoming sidetracked by fascinating glimpses of a school where Freshman will not wear bow ties before 7 o'clock in the evening, according to the Freshman Rules printed in September 1929, or where a controversy between the Bricklayer’s and Plasterer’s Unions delayed work on New North for over six weeks in 1925. I have also learned about a number of intriguing off-campus happenings. For instance, according to The Hoya, Volume 2, No. 1, in the summer of 1920 Jim Sweeney (C’1922) caught Agnès Souret (the prettiest girl in France) from his seat in the balcony at the Folies-Bergere in Paris, France, after she fell from a basket suspended high over the audience. And, according to a column written by Erik Kjellstrom  (C’1930), who competed for Sweden in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1928 Olympic Games,  Mademoiselle [Halina] Konopacka, a Polish discus thrower, was so happy at winning Olympic gold that she danced around the field and kissed several of the judges.

If you have a research need that would benefit from a study of student perspectives, or just a love of Georgetown history and traditions and a few minutes to spare, who knows what you might find in the pages of The Hoya online or in hard copy in the University Archives. 

And, of course, individuals or groups who would like to help preserve and make the The Hoya more accessible by sponsoring the digitization of a decade of issues should contact the University Archivist for more details.

Lynn Conway, University Archivist


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Terry Parmelee
Night of the Fourth, 1984
Woodcut on Goyu paper, 7/50
34 x 24 inches
Gift of Ingrid Rose in memory of Milton M. Rose

In honor of our 240th anniversary of national independence, it is a propitious time to present a masterful woodcut in the University Art Collection.  Entitled Night of the Fourth, this large-format color print was made by Washington artist Terry Parmelee in 1984. It is part of a suite of prints based on Washington monuments including the Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and the U.S. Capitol. Night of the Fourth is an elegantly spare image of exploding fireworks surrounding the Washington Monument, an event we all anticipate whether heading to the National Mall, a local fireworks display, or settling in at home to watch a live broadcast. This print celebrates patriotic sentiments Parmelee experienced while living abroad, first in Tokyo in the 1950s, and then in Guinea the following decade. Her husband was posted to both countries, first with the Department of State, and later with the US Agency for International Development.

While living in Tokyo, Parmelee was fortunate to meet and study with the preeminent woodcut master Un’ichi Hiratsuka, the leading printmaker of the sōsaku hanga (“creative prints”) movement in 20th Century Japan. Hiratsuka moved to Washington, D.C. in 1962 and lived here thirty two years during which he taught and influenced a number of artists. He was commissioned by the government to create woodblock prints of national landmarks including the Washington Monument, and received the Order of Cultural Merit from the Japanese government in 1970.

According to Parmelee, who began as a painter, she wouldn’t have transitioned into printmaking without the influence of West Coast artist Carol Summers, who happened to be teaching at the Center for American Students and Artists in Paris when Parmelee enrolled there during the summer of 1966. Summers taught her to combine an innovative paper staining technique together with the traditional Japanese woodcut method to create saturated colors rendered in flattened shapes and forms. The primacy of color has always guided Parmelee’s work, which emerged during the Washington Color School movement of the 1960s and 70s. During this time a small group of local painters including Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Gene Davis and Paul Reed created vibrant abstractions on unprimed, stained canvas rendered in sharp, geometric shapes. Like the canvases of these painters, Summers’ staining technique created an intensely saturated support which exploited color for its own effects.  The technique involved rolling ink thinly onto the back or front of Japanese Goyu paper, then spraying with a solvent which forces the ink to flow into the paper instead of merely sitting on the surface. 

Night of the Fourth began with printing the single wood block monument in relief, then rolling and spraying the deep blue background. In this edition of 50, the blocks were printed first then the rolled ink and solvent were applied to create the night sky. Parmelee worked over the course of one long summer at the Discover Graphics Workshop at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, creating the edition.

A catalogue raisonné of Parmelee’s prints was published in 1999 about the time she ceased creating woodcuts, devoting her attention to painting thereafter. The introduction to the catalog was written by Georgetown’s former print curator, Rev. Joseph A. Haller, S.J., a champion of Parmelee’s who, after visiting her studio, recognized the need to publish a guide to her “spectacular oeuvre.” The catalogue also includes essays by Sylvan Cole, director of the Associated American Artists Gallery in New York where Ms. Parmelee exhibited her work, and also by Washington gallerist Jane Haslem, who featured Parmelee in a solo exhibition in 1993. Father Haller acquired fourteen of Parmelee’s prints including the fifth woodcut in the Washington series, published on the cover of the Washington Print Club Quarterly in 1984. Night of the Fourth was generously donated by Ingrid Rose in memory of her husband, Milton, in a group of fifty-one prints by local artists. We look forward to presenting another Parmelee woodcut in the forthcoming exhibition Color in Relief, opening August 31st at Georgetown University Library.

Until then, Happy Birthday, America!

LuLen Walker, Curator, University Art Collection




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Born in the Netherlands, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917) traveled to Java, Indonesia, at age 18 in response to an advertisement for marriage placed by army captain Rudolf MacLeod. Two children ensued; however, the marriage foundered and ended in divorce in 1907. Zelle sought solace and escape from domestic circumstances by immersion in Indonesian culture, especially traditional dance forms. By 1897, she had joined a local company.

In 1903, Zelle moved to Paris where she performed on horseback and supplemented her income by posing as a model for artists. Zelle’s specialty became exotic dancing, inspired by her training in Indonesian dance. Contemporaries in dance included Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, both significant figures in 20th-century modern dance which found inspiration in Asian and Egyptian cultures. In 1905, Zelle was invited to dance for Émile Guimet, owner of an oriental art museum. Guimet encouraged Zelle to adopt a more evocative stage name than Lady Gresha McLeod, the one she had been using. As early as 1897, she had written to a friend that she wanted to dance under the name Mata Hari, a Malay phrase for “sunrise.” Mata Hari made her debut at the Musée Guimet to a select audience, causing a sensation, not least of all because her performance included dancing nude.

During World War I, Zelle traveled freely across borders due to the neutrality of the Netherlands. Unfortunately her movements drew attention, and in 1916, en route from Spain to England, she was detained by Scotland Yard for questioning by Sir Basil Thomson, who was in charge of counter-espionage. Zelle was eventually released, but in 1917, radio messages between Madrid and Berlin reporting on activities of a German spy codenamed H-21 were intercepted by French intelligence, who identified the spy as Mata Hari. Zelle was arrested in her room at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. She was accused of spying for Germany and causing the deaths of fifty thousand soldiers. She was tried, found guilty of treason, and executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917.

In 1985, official case documents, which were to remain sealed for a hundred years under the authority of the French Ministry of Defense, were opened at the behest of biographer Russell Warren Howe. He was able to reveal that Zelle was innocent of the charges of espionage. Her body was never claimed by any family members, and was accordingly disposed of for medical study. Her head was embalmed at the Museum of Anatomy in Paris; in 2000 archivists discovered that the head, as well as other body parts, had disappeared without record. The Frisian Museum in Zelle’s native town of Leeuwarden exhibits a Mata Hari Room and is dedicated to collecting research materials on her life.

Shown here are letters written by Zelle to Jean Hallaure, requesting assistance for safe passage to Vittel, a spa that Zelle frequented. Hallaure was a second lieutenant in the Deuxiѐme Bureau (the intelligence branch) of the French Ministry of War, with whom Zelle was romantically involved and who was ultimately responsible for Zelle’s arrest. Biographer Pat Shipman vividly recounts this episode in her book Femme Fatale: Love, lies, and the unknown life of Mata Hari (2007).

All are welcome to see the Mata Hari letters located in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection GTM.Gamms430, Box 3.

Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

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