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Georgetown Map 1793

December 1, 2020

Last month Cassandra Berman, Archivist for the Maryland Province Archives, sat down (virtually) with volunteer Kathleen Oakley to talk about her project this summer in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

What do you study, and what was the project you were working on for the Booth Family Center for Special Collections? 

Kathleen OakleyIn the summer of 2020, I was fortunate to work with the Booth Family Center for Special Collections and Professor Adam Rothman of the Georgetown Slavery Archive to commemorate the history of slavery at Georgetown University by creating a walking tour of significant sites on and near campus. At Skidmore College, I study American Studies and Dance. This project provided me with the opportunity to expand upon my interest in American history and culture by studying a new setting located close to my home.

Was this project your first exposure to public history and archival materials?  What had your knowledge of archives and primary sources been prior to the project?

Prior to working on this project, I had no significant experience in these areas. I had seen materials in Skidmore’s special collections and archives a number of times, but I never had the opportunity to work with them directly. I have, however, always had an interest in how we can tell stories through primary source material, and I was excited to explore the digital archives for this project.

What was it like to work on such an important topic?  How did this challenge your understanding of history, and of Georgetown?

This project was of particular significance with the rising national discourse on systemic racism and injustice in America following police violence against Black individuals. I think that Georgetown’s work on slavery, memory, and reconciliation serves as a reminder of the deep, often overlooked, historical ties many American institutions have to slavery and institutionalized racism. I hope this work challenges other institutions to reexamine their past and use this awareness to build an inclusive, just future. Similar initiatives should be undertaken at a variety of educational institutions. Many private schools in the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area, for example, were founded in reaction to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional; these schools attempted to uphold the segregation of young students.

Healy Hall

Healy Hall, commemorating Georgetown College President Patrick Healy,
who had been born into slavery in 1834.

How did you approach this project given COVID-19 restrictions?  Did this present any new opportunities for approaching the project creatively?

This project was completed fully remotely to accommodate COVID-19 safety guidelines. Meetings were held over Zoom, and the only access I had to campus was to photograph the sites themselves. While it was strange to work on an archival project without ever seeing the physical archives, the unusual situation pushed me to approach the project creatively. I wanted to design a walking tour that was engaging and fully accessible to accommodate our new, virtual world. The online setting of this project allows it to be accessed by anyone, from anywhere. I hope this expands the reach of the walking tour and the archival material on which it is based.

Philodemic Room

Philodemic Room, in which Georgetown students
debated the morality and legality of both slavery and abolition.

Has your work with archives and public history influenced your studies or your career objectives?  If so, how?

This project inspired in me a new interest in archives and public history. As a senior in college, I am looking at many options for the future, including programs and careers in museum studies and archives. Regardless of what path I choose, this experience has provided me with many skills that I can use throughout my academic and professional career.

What would you like other students to know about special collections?

There are an incredible number of fascinating resources in Special Collections that put forward important details and share captivating stories that inform our understanding of America’s past, present, and future. The staff is knowledgeable and welcoming, and I hope all Georgetown students get to interact with the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

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Detail from Lisa Sergio Papers photograph

We're celebrating #AmericanArchivesMonth this October with reflections on the subject from some of our archivists here at the Library.

October 26, 2020

When I think about my own experience as an archivist, my thoughts always go back to the first major collection I ever processed: the personal papers of Italian-born NBC radio broadcaster Lisa Sergio (1905-1989). 

Personal papers are testaments of an individual’s life. Invariably such a collection will include personal letters, journals, photographs, and artifacts, a great proportion of which are hand-created and selected by the individual. This kind of material can bring a person to life by fleshing out their interests, thoughts, relationships, and physical surroundings in a way that no secondhand biographical account can achieve. The experience of plunging into someone’s life through their personal papers and paraphernalia and recording the discoveries—an activity that archivists call “arrangement and description”—is matchless.  While I was processing her collection, I felt as though I were immersed in Sergio’s living autobiography, and by the end of the project, I felt like I’d made a friend. 

Photo of Lisa Sergio with Helen Keller

Photograph of Helen Keller with Lisa Sergio, 1938.
Photo credit: Haas, N.Y. 
(Lisa Sergio papers GTMGamms172, 14:58)

There’s a kind of magic that happens when working with personal papers. The order of the materials is defined by the life to which they belong, and it is the duty of the archivist to follow the path laid out by the individual who created them. While processing the Lisa Sergio papers, the standout memory is that the collection came to life once the storage boxes were opened. As I arranged the material, I felt her relevance reviving and that I was assisting in making her lifetime achievements as a woman and an advocate for peace, women’s and human rights, discoverable to the world again.

Recruited by Mussolini as a news commentator for Rome’s 2RO Radio, Lisa Sergio was known as the “Golden Voice of Rome” and was instrumental in establishing shortwave radio programs in 21 languages. In 1937, an arrest order was issued against Sergio for her persistent anti-Fascist sentiment. She fled to the U.S., eventually gaining citizenship in 1944.  Already well‐known to American radio newscasters for her broadcasts in Italy. Sergio was invited to be a guest commentator for NBC by David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America. Over the ensuing five decades, Sergio was commentator for New York City's WQXR and ABC radio in New York City, and for WMAL radio in Washington, D.C. With the advent of television, Sergio also hosted programs for NBC‐TV and ABC‐TV. 

During the late sixties, Sergio began extensive lecture tours around U.S. universities in response to the anti‐war movement. She spoke about women’s rights, the detrimental effect of war, and the promotion of peace. Her travels also took her to India, Israel and Jordan, where her focus was on improvement of living conditions, especially for women. She came into contact with both humanitarian and political leaders, including Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s minister of health and  prime minister, respectively; King Hussein of Jordan; and Anwar and Jehan Sadat of Egypt. Sergio’s dedication to humanitarian causes garnered her recognition, as well as the friendship of eminent Americans who included Helen Keller, Jacqueline Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Photo of Lisa Sergio with Martin Luther King Jr.

Photograph of Lisa Sergio with Martin Luther King, Jr. Undated.
(Lisa Sergio Papers, GTM.Gamms172; 14:38)

The Lisa Sergio papers, GTMGamms172 are open to researchers at the Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from Parmelee's Road to Vermont

October is American Archives Month. To celebrate, we asked Georgetown undergraduate student Sophie Bennett about her experience working at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections with the University Art Collection this summer.

October 21, 2020

What do you study, and what have you been working on at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections?

Sophie BennettI am a sophomore at Georgetown, studying art history and French. This summer, I researched women printmakers and identified keywords for works in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections by those women printmakers. 

What have you learned about special collections and archives during your time at Booth?  What had been your exposure to special collections before you started working at Booth?

Before this opportunity, I had the chance to enjoy works from Georgetown’s special collections a few times as part of my art history courses. I suspect that being an art history student is advantageous in that regard; many people do not question the value of seeing a work of art in person. I would argue that viewing rare books or manuscripts actually has some of the same benefits as viewing an artwork in person. It isn’t just about being able to get a closer look—there’s also power in being in a space that’s designated for reflection. I think that enables a person to understand the gravity of an important document. 

Having worked with Booth this summer, I’ve certainly gained an appreciation for its function as a space for people to learn in an intimate way. This appreciation grew as I learned about the breadth of the collection but it was also a result of our current circumstances, where museums and libraries are more inaccessible or closed altogether due to Covid restrictions.

Can you tell us about an especially interesting item that you've come across in the Art Collection?  What did you do to find out more about it?

More than a single item, I was fascinated by the lives and shared experiences of some of the female printmakers in the collection. It was wonderful to see that Booth has accrued works from a range of female artists, some very well known and others barely recorded in history. Women printmakers at both ends of the spectrum worked hard to sustain their careers; and by virtue of their gender and the time in which they lived, female artists relied on the same kinds of paying jobs to keep their artistic careers afloat. Both Wanda Gág and Marie Laurencin, for example, illustrated children’s books. It’s made me think a lot about the subjects and media that women artists have turned to in history, and whether those patterns were a reflection of choice or of gender norms. It makes me especially appreciative of the fact that artists such as Gág and Laurencin are represented beyond those traditional roles in the collection and given the opportunity to be viewed as artists with a diverse skill set.

Laurencin's Alice dans le Vallee

Marie Laurencin
Alice dans le Vallee
Lithograph, 1930

Has your work with the Art Collection influenced your studies or your career objectives?  If so, how?

I find myself thinking a lot more about what it means to have a functional collection. In art museums, a tiny fraction of the works in their possession are on view in a given month. I used to find this fact quite frustrating, but I’ve grown to see that a collection has to be quite diverse and expansive before you can start curating shows and engaging with the public. The smaller and more uniform the collection, the worse equipped the institution is to present relevant material to its audience. I’ve also learned how important it is to honor the works of an artist by researching their life; for one artist I researched, the only source I could find was from a family member a couple of generations down from her. If we had waited too long, the family lore would have become less reliable or even have disappeared. That ongoing commitment to learning more is how you give an artwork, and its creator, meaning and depth. Should I be so fortunate as to end up working in the art world, I hope to resist the temptation of a mainstream name, or simplified narrative of an artist’s life, in hopes of uncovering complicating but important biographical details or a new artist.

Parmelee's Road to VermontTerry Parmelee
Road to Vermont
Woodcut on paper, 1978


What would you like other students to know about special collections?

Undergraduates use quiet spaces to study—as in, review. But quiet spaces can also be used to study—as in, analyze. I believe that learning is even more enriching when it is unhurried and unguided. The Booth Family Center for Special Collections is the perfect place for an unhurried and unguided experience, and I hope that more students use it for that purpose; that is, as a place to remember the joy of learning.

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Art Collection
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Detail from McHarg baseball letter

We're celebrating #AmericanArchivesMonth this October with reflections on the subject from some of our archivists here at the Library.

October 15, 2020

In honor of American Archives Month for October 2020, I decided to write about one of my favorite documents in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Archivists collect, describe, preserve, and make available primary source documents, which are documents that were written or created at a specific time describing events taking place at that time. One of our most compelling documents is a detailed baseball box score from an amateur baseball game played in New York State in 1864. Yes, 1864! The American Civil War was still being fought at that time.

A box score is a list of statistics providing information about how players and teams performed in one game. It summarizes the results of the game. As an avid baseball fan, I was amazed when I first saw this 1864 document. I had not realized that the box score has been part of baseball, the national pastime, for so many years.

The McHarg Family Papers, one of our manuscripts collections, includes three amateur baseball box scores. A manuscripts collection is essentially a collection of personal papers generated by an individual, family, or organization. Several men in the McHarg family from New York State served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Henry King McHarg was a young member of the family, living in Geneva, New York in 1864. His friend C. D. Sheldon, who lived in Albany, New York, wrote letters to Henry describing the amateur baseball games of his team, the Hiawathas. The McHarg Family Papers include five such letters and three box scores. I have chosen to write about the first letter and the box score it contains found in box 1 folder 40 of the McHarg Family Papers.

On September 26, 1864, on page 1 of his letter, Sheldon wrote to Henry informing him about one of his baseball games. It should be noted that the game was played in late September so the team played some games into the cooler weather. Sheldon stated that the “Times and Courier” reported on the game and that the Hiawathas were playing a team named the Alpines. Of course, media coverage of baseball is vast in our own time.

McHarg letter page 1

The box score shown below, from page 5 of the letter, documented a 34-25 win for the Hiawathas. The box score can be compared and contrasted with modern, Major League box scores. To begin with, in C. D. Sheldon’s box score, the players’ personal statistics are recorded in neat, uniform columns. Sheldon batted fifth and played shortstop. He had 5 runs and 2 outs. Modern-day box scores always include at bats, runs, hits, and runs batted in, and list each batters’ batting average at the end of the game. They also list extra base hits, including doubles, triples, and home runs.

McHarg Letter page 5

In Sheldon’s box score, both pitchers batted. There were no designated hitters.  In the box score in question, each pitcher also pitched a full nine innings, which rarely happens today. As each pitcher gave up so many runs, their earned run average (number of earned runs allowed per nine innings pitched) would have been astronomical. (The year 2020 is the first season in Major League Baseball that the designated hitter was used in both the American and National Leagues; no pitchers batted this year.)

In Sheldon’s game, a full 27 outs were recorded for each team. The score was tied 25-25 going into the bottom of the ninth. In today’s game, the game is ended if the home team takes the lead in the bottom of the ninth. However, in this box score, the Hiawathas scored a full 9 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 34-25. The scorekeepers for each team were listed, as was the umpire. A note below the box score reported that the Hiawathas won a trophy by winning the game.

Statistics have always been important in baseball, and baseball has always been important in American culture. A continuum can be seen from this basic box score in 1864 to modern Major League Baseball analytics, which provide scientific, statistical analysis of players’ performances. This box score shows how it is useful for archives to preserve primary source documents to shed light on the past. One can see the similarities and differences between past events and current ones. Sheldon would have liked to keep this box score to be reminded of his youth. He would probably never have expected that it would provide meaningful information to historians and people of today. That is the value of archives.

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from the Proposals

October 8, 2020

October is American Archives Month. To celebrate, University Archivist Lynn Conway sat down with Cassandra Berman to talk about archives at Georgetown.

What is your position at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections?  Can you tell us briefly what it entails?  

University Archivist Lynn ConwayMy job title is Georgetown University Archivist. That means I collect, organize and preserve records relating to the history of the University and help people access and use those records. I also teach instruction sessions in which I introduce students to records in the archives and, from time to time, curate exhibitions (both physical and online) which focus on aspects of the University's history.

Why did you get into the archival profession?  What was your path to your current position?  

I love history, which is probably part of the answer any archivist will give to that question. While I was in college in the U.K., I had an internship at PRONI (the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) and enjoyed every part of it. If I remember correctly, my main project there was organizing breeding records for pedigree bulls. Content-wise these were probably not the most interesting records (which is why I suspect they were given to an intern) but I loved the idea that what I was doing would help anyone who needed to access them in the future. After studying archive administration in graduate school and a transatlantic relocation, I came to Georgetown. That was 26 years ago. 

What do archives mean to you?  Why are they important at this current moment?  

When the Georgetown University Archives celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016, I spoke at a celebratory event and said that archives reveal the past to provide context for the present and to inform the future. And while I'm not sure of the decorum of quoting myself, I do think that is probably still the best answer I can give about what archives mean to me and why they are always important. 

Can you tell us about an especially significant, interesting, or unexpected item or items you've come across in one of your collections?  Do you have a favorite type of item to work withdiaries, letters, yearbooks, etc.?

One of my favorite things to come across are notes in margins or on the backs of records. These can provide a glimpse into reactions to the records or to the information they contain and sometimes add information which isn't available anywhere in official University records. A great example of this is a note written on the  back of the Proposals, the document which Georgetown's founder, John Carroll, circulated in 1787 to raise money for starting the University. We don't know who wrote it but it perfectly sums up the results (or rather lack of results) of John Carroll's fundraising efforts - it reads: Prospectus for building G T College. Useless.

Writing on back of the Proposals

I also like working with student-produced records, such as letters written home, for similar reasons—they add realism and color to the facts, figures, and dates found in University-produced records. The content of these records can be amusing but they can sometimes be plaintive as well, especially when students talk about the spartan conditions they endured in the 18th and 19th centuries. I found an especially evocative letter published in the December 1906 issue of the Georgetown College Journal (our student newspaper at that time) which was written by poet, journalist, and alum James Ryder Randall. In it, he describes his life as a nine- year-old student in 1848: . . We slept in a cold dormitory, in winter, and had to rise at 5.15 in the morning. If we did not get down to the subterranean wash-room where often the ice had to be broken to get water for ablution, we were barred out and obliged to wash at the pump, on the campus, which still remains. Often I have, in sleet and snow, with wet shoes and shivering frame, performed that task while bitter tears streamed down and froze upon my cheeks and I thought of my mother and my home, wondering why such affectionate parents as mine had condemned their little boy to such torture. Pneumonia . . . came speedily . . .

College Journal article 1906

I'd love to know about a pop culture representation of archives, archivists, or historical documents that you've come across -- and whether it made you amused, frustrated, or something else entirely?  

Most fictionalized representations of an archives, in my experience, seem to involve dimly lit and dusty spaces with, of course, few if any researchers. And these "archives" are often staffed by cardigan-wearing archivists with a penchant for being at best unhelpful and at worst an unyielding barrier between "their" records and anyone who wants to use them. I will confess to liking cardigans (it can get chilly in our climate-controlled storage spaces) but everything else about how archives are usually depicted is wrong and a little maddening. I work in a modern space that underwent a multi-million dollar renovation a few years ago. We are certainly not a low-trafficked area, in non-pandemic times anyway—there have been instances when every seat in our research room has been occupied. And like all my colleagues in the Booth Family Center, I work hard to connect researchers with the materials they need for their research projects.

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Detail from postcard of the Lusitania

In 1912, at the outset of his career, American diplomat Cornelius Van Engert booked a ticket on the famous British ocean liner Lusitania. Engert sailed on the vessel from New York City to England.  Three years later, the ship became the source of international controversy when a German submarine torpedoed it. The ship sank and 1,198 people of the 1,959 aboard drowned.  The Cornelius Van Engert Papers, which are preserved in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, contain a document granting Engert a trip on the Lusitania in 1912.

In 1904, the Cunard Line in Britain started construction on the Lusitania. The company hoped to make sizeable profits by providing reliable service on the sea voyage across the Atlantic Ocean between England and the United States. Cunard completed construction in 1907. The Lusitania was the largest ship in the world, measuring 787 feet in length and 31,550 tons in weight. It was also to become known for its speed: in October 1907, the ship crossed the Atlantic in record time.

Born of Dutch parents, Cornelius Van Engert received a B.A. from the University of California Berkeley in 1908 and an M.A. in 1909. He also attended Harvard University for one year as a non-degree student. On March 12, 1912, Engert joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a student interpreter to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in Constantinople.

Box 12 folder 3 of the Cornelius Van Engert Papers contains a document concerning Engert’s voyage on the Lusitania. Dated May 6, 1912, the document was sent to Engert by an official from the Cunard Steamship Company. The Cunard Company sent the item from New York City on company stationery. The representative addressed Engert as “Mr. A. Van H. Engert” at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C. When Engert first entered the U.S. Foreign Service, he used the name “Adolph Van H. Engert.” He eventually started using Cornelius, one of his middle names, as his first name.

Letter to Van Engert from the Cunard line

In the letter, the correspondent acknowledged that lower E 17 on the ship had been reserved for a trip on May 29 for Engert for the price of $127.50. The official requested that Engert “kindly favor us with remittance to cover.” Further, the company staff member asked whether Engert would travel to London or Paris.  There would be additional small fees depending on which city was his destination. In the top right-hand corner of the document, a handwritten note indicated that payment of the bill for $127.50 was sent on May 20, 1912.

Box 12 folder 3 in the Engert Papers also contains a postcard depicting the Lusitania in Liverpool, England, dated June 6, 1911.

Postcard of the Lusitania

On May 7, 1915, a German submarine torpedoed and sank the Lusitania off the south coast of Ireland. Among those killed were 128 Americans. The ship was on its way from New York City to Liverpool, England. Many Americans reacted with outrage, and some clamored for U.S. entry into World War I. Although the ship was not armed, the Lusitania was carrying a load of 173 tons of shells and rifle ammunition when it was sunk. When the United States eventually entered the war on April 6, 1917, it listed unrestricted submarine warfare as one of its grievances against Germany.

Engert’s trip on the Lusitania must have been uneventful, as his granddaughter Jane Morrison Engert did not mention this trip in her biography of Engert entitled, Tales From the Embassy: The Extraordinary World of C. Van H. Engert (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2006).

Cornelius Van Engert became a respected authority on the Middle East. During his early years in Turkey, he transitioned to the rank of Consul. Over the course of his career, he held diplomatic posts in Cuba, El Salvador, Chile, Venezuela, China, Ethiopia, Iran, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Engert’s last posting was as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 1942 to 1945.

This document from the Cunard Company seems to indicate how Engert made his way across the Atlantic Ocean in 1912, as part of his journey to Turkey. The document acquired more historical significance and became more intriguing three years later in light of the sinking of the Lusitania.

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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Detail from John Carroll statue unveiling ceremony

August 7, 2020

There are many oral traditions on campus, rooted in varying degrees of fact (and some which are rooted in no fact at all). One which I hear quite frequently relates to the John Carroll statue. According to this tradition, the statue now sitting in Healy Circle is a slightly modified version of the original; in the original design, the space under John Carroll’s chair was open. This led to objects such as trash and, according to one version of the story, a chamber pot being placed there by students. Such disrespectful treatment of our founder eventually moved University officials to action, and bronze books were added to the statue, under the chair, to fill in the space and prevent further deposits of foreign items.

Carroll Statue unveiling ceremony

John Carroll statue unveiling ceremony, May 4, 1912. From the GU Archives.

University Archives records hold no information about the design of the statue, although we do have financial accounts for the project and many details about the May 4, 1912 unveiling ceremony. And nothing documents later modifications to the statue. So in an effort to confirm or deny this story once and for all, I decided to look at early photos of the statue. None of the unveiling ceremony photos seem to help. Photographers on that occasion, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not focus on the back or side of the statue and instead left us with a series of images either taken from a distance or showing the front of the statue. However, a snapshot from 1913 is taken at exactly the right angle, and provides conclusive evidence that it would never have been possible to perpetrate that chamber pot joke.

John Carroll statue and students, 1913

Students next to the John Carroll statue, 1913.
From the GU Archives.

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

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Detail from Gaston tuition ledger

I am sometimes asked how archivists decide which materials to add to their collections and which materials to decline. My accurate but somewhat unwieldy explanation is that archivists consider records to be worthy of addition if they have a permanent value, and that this value is typically defined in terms of a research, historical, legal, financial and/or administrative value. And that for a university archives specifically there is an additional value to be considered—an emotional or nostalgic value attached to records with the potential to connect Georgetown alums to their part in the continuum of the University’s rich heritage. To further complicate the explanation, it is necessary to add that different values can attach to the same record over time.

Recently, I was looking at the financial accounts of our first student William Gaston, which are among the earliest records in the Georgetown University Archives. I realized that they are an almost  perfect vehicle for illustrating the concept of archival values and how they can shift over time.

Billy Gaston traveled to Georgetown at the age of 13 from New Bern, North Carolina. His father, a doctor, was killed during the Revolution, so arrangements for his education fell to his mother. He first arrived in spring 1791. Georgetown was not yet open for students, so he went on to Philadelphia. When he returned in November, the only building on campus was still not ready for habitation and he moved into a nearby inn for almost two months. This is reflected in the opening entry of his account: November 10, 1791: To washing at tavern 2 [shillings]. Gaston’s account, like all our early accounts, is kept in pounds sterling and so three columns are needed, for pounds, shillings, and pence.

Detail of William Gaston accounts
(Click to enlarge)

I think everyone would agree that Gaston’s financial accounts belong in the University Archives, but by looking at the values listed in the first paragraph, we can link this instinct to archival theory.

When created, the accounts had administrative value as they documented whether Gaston’s mother had paid his fees in full. And they carried legal or at least quasi legal/fiduciary value. Georgetown’s early students were not allowed to have any money in their possession; the University held it for them.  As a result, the financial accounts had to record every debit or credit, however small.

However, with the passage of time, the values attached to the accounts change. They acquire research value, given the insights they provide about Gaston’s student days and about the operation of the fledgling Georgetown College. Similarly, they acquire historic value by virtue of their being a record of Georgetown’s first student; as such, I frequently incorporate images of them into presentations to alumni groups, etc.  They certainly have a financial value as an 18th-century document, although I am not precisely sure how to calculate that value. Like many items in the archives, the accounts are unique and we cannot buy replacements for them. For this reason, the insurance value of our items is calculated as the cost of salvage if they were to be damaged. And finally, had Gaston seen these accounts on one of his post-graduation visits, (he was elected to Congress in 1813 and frequently visited the College while serving in the body), they presumably would have had an emotional impact as a reminder of his time as a student on the hilltop.

These kinds of multiple and shifting values for one record over time are why archival selection is one of the most complex and challenging activities that any archivist undertakes.

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Detail from Montevue Diary

June 12, 2020

"Belle Reade, on the crazy ward, will soon give birth.
She is much afraid that she will at that time loose [sic]
her mind again.  She asked very earnestly that a priest
baptize the child & have it sent to an asylum.  She
is not capable of taking care of it.  She is a good Catholic
& was to Communion lately.  Inquiries ought to be made
as soon as possible, whether she was delivered,
as she must then be most likely in a very crazy mood -
& the officials will not bother about the child."

When I began my position as the Archivist for the Maryland Province Archives (MPA) at Georgetown University, I did not expect to find many women in the collection.  The MPA documents the presence of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in North America from the 17th through 20th centuries.  I knew it would be a fascinating collection, but I also assumed that most of the figures I would meet would be male.  I thought that I might encounter women in religious orders, or that I would read here and there of a woman who had provided excellent service to the Church.  I did not, however, expect to find Belle Reade, a vulnerable woman on the cusp of motherhood and on the margins of society.

Cover of Montevue DiaryDuring my first week at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, I stumbled upon four bound items labeled “Diaries of Montevue.”  Dating from the 1890s, these station diaries chronicled the experiences of Jesuit novitiates serving the Catholic inmates at Montevue Asylum in Frederick, Maryland.  Inserted into one of these volumes was a loose page titled “Information about Montevue,” dated June 21, 1897.  It contained the brief account of Belle Reade, above.  Reade, who may have suffered from postpartum depression after a previous birth, seems to have been so worried about her state of mind after her impending delivery that she begged for her infant to be taken away.  [On left: Cover of “Diary of Montevue, 1893-1896.”  (Box 111, Folder 2, GTM 119, Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.  Please note that the collection is currently being reprocessed; this citation conforms to the collection’s unrevised finding aid.)]

Reade was not the only woman at Montevue with a complicated relationship to maternity.  The document also relayed the stories of “Mrs. Penna, a county ward,” and “a negress, named Rosie.”  Mrs. Penna’s daughter, Daisy, was in a children’s asylum in Baltimore.  “She would like to hear about her now & then,” the diarist wrote, though whether or not her desire was honored went unrecorded.  The fate of Rosie, the mother of twins, was clearer.  Though a Catholic who had ensured that her children were baptized, she was also described as “more than half-crazy.”  As a result, it was determined that “the children ought to be sent to an asylum, as the Board will not allow her to keep them.”  Whether she wanted to or not, Rosie would have to give up her children.

Founded in 1870, Montevue was a county-run complex that served as an almshouse for the poor, workhouse for detainees, and asylum for those perceived to have mental illnesses.  It had separate wards for whites and for African Americans, along with a “tramp house” located behind the main building.  It would, without a doubt, have been a difficult place to give birth and care for an infant.

Even so, the Frederick Jesuits recognized that poor women should have some say in whether or not their babies would be removed from them and sent to an “infant asylum” – or orphanage – in in Baltimore.  The document went on to explain, “About sending children to an asylum, the best plan is to get the consent of the mother.”  In the cases of Mrs. Penna and Rosie, however, this consent was “not required” – perhaps due to their mental health, extreme poverty, racial status, or a combination of all three.

Insert page 1 from Montevue Diary

Insert page 2 from Montevue Diary

Front and back of “Information about Montevue,”
June 21, 1897, inserted into the diary.

Apart from their brief appearances in the MPA, I have not discovered much more about these women.  Belle Reade is mentioned three more times in the Montevue Diaries, in earlier entries from 1895, indicating the woman’s longstanding, or at least intermittent, presence at Montevue.  On January 21, she was “very sick after child birth.” On February 16, she was “removed from the pauper [ward] to the ward for the insane,” presumably the experience that had made her so afraid of a subsequent birth.  Though this suggests a link between childbirth and a vulnerable mental state, the diarist also conceded that “her insanity is more of stubbornness than anything else.”  On February 23, a priest named Father Pendergast made arrangements for Reade’s baby to be “sent to infant asylum at Baltimore.” Her first child, as well as her second, had almost certainly been removed from her care.

We can learn a great deal from the Maryland Province Archives – about the history of American Catholics, about Jesuit slaveholding, about the ways in which Georgetown itself profited from the slave trade and from the labor of enslaved people.  And, as I learned when I began my job, we can find mothers who confronted, willingly or not, separation from their children.  It is certainly true that many, if not most, archival documents from the 19th century were created by those in positions of power.  Even so, by reading closely, we can learn about the experiences of those who had all but fallen out of society’s precarious social safety net.  Though Belle Reade, Mrs. Penna, and Rosie may have never created their own documents – and though we may never know what happened after they left Montevue, if they ever did – the MPA ensures that their lives and their struggles need not be entirely forgotten.

--Cassandra Berman, Archivist for the Maryland Province Archives

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Detail from Home Baseball Game

May 5, 2020

The Booth Family Center for Special Collections owns a board game called the “Home Baseball Game,” made by McLoughlin Brothers in 1900.  It is somewhat unusual for an archival repository to own a board game. Nonetheless, this artifact reflects the fact that American children and adults have customarily enjoyed playing board games, including those involving baseball, the national pastime.

Detail from Home Baseball GameThe board game kit includes several components. The cover of the game has a color image of a batter and a catcher. Wearing a matching striped shirt and hat, the batter is right-handed. His pants are cropped just below his knees. The catcher wears a facemask and chest protector. This particular cover of the game is a bit dirty.

The main wooden board displays bases along a diamond and space for the outfield. The positions of the nine defenders are listed on the board. Wooden pieces are used as the players on both sides. It is interesting that the second baseman’s position is directly on second base, not in between first and second bases. Such an alignment would work well as a shift against a modern-day, right-handed pull hitter. The final part to the game is the spin wheel, which players spin to determine the outcome of each at-bat.

McLoughlin Brothers, a long-standing company based in New York City, produced children’s books and board games.  At the turn of the 20th century, Americans played and watched baseball avidly across the nation. Amateurs and professionals alike played the game with passion.  Baseball organizers created the American League in 1901. The American League champion Boston Americans defeated the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903.  The National League had originated as the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in 1876.

In the age of baseball video games, this board game may seem old-fashioned. However, children across the country enjoyed using their imaginations to simulate baseball games by using this game.

Home Baseball Game gameboard

Home Baseball Game gameboard

Home Baseball Game gameboard

Another set of the 1900 Home Baseball Game exists at the New-York Historical Society. It is not known how the Booth Family Center acquired its set.

This blog post was intended to celebrate the opening games of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, now postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

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