On November 6, Archives and Special Collections opens its latest exhibit, “All Aboard!” We are celebrating our L&N Railroad collections — the Photographic Archives collection of L&N photographs (including glass negatives), Rare Books’ early railroad publications, and University Archives’ L&N Railroad Company records. For the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of going through these materials looking for photographs, documents, maps, menus, timetables… all sorts of items that will help tell the story of the L&N.
I was already familiar with the L&N collections, since these records are frequently used by academic historians, community researchers, and train modelers. But preparing this exhibit helped me see it in a whole new way. First, it made me appreciate the tremendous variety and quality of photographs in this collection. As you would expect, there are many pictures of trains – interiors, exteriors, loaded freight cars, locomotives — you name it, and there is a picture of it.
Among my favorites are several shots of workers on and around the locomotives, as in this image of locomotive number 209 in Decatur, Alabama, taken around 1915.
The photographs sometimes include sweet surprises, as with this image of the of Ringling Brother-Barnum and Bailey circus train. If you look closely, you can see elephants reaching their trunks out of the car:
Working with the L&N Magazine has also been a special treat. In addition to stories on different cities, it ran features on the different types of freight carried by the railroad: the L&N shipped everything from bananas, peanuts and other types of produce, to coal (lots of coal!), to appliances, to special shipments including “Iron Lungs” and race horses.
The magazine also featured photographs of company sports teams, and shared information about different employees’ hobbies and family events including weddings. It warned workers of possible threats to their safety and their health, including alcoholism and heart attacks. It also profiled employees, departments, and services, helping promote a wider understanding of the tremendous variety of activities going on within this large and multi-faceted organization.
All Aboard! runs through February 7, 2014. Archives and Special Collections is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; we are having a special Sunday showing of the exhibit on Sunday, November 10, from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Mark your calendar for the 2013 Corn Island Storytelling Festival, which will be held on UofL’s Belknap Campus on October
11! The stories start at 7:00, in the Quad in front of Ekstrom Library. If you haven’t been to a Corn Island Storytelling Festival before, I encourage you to give it a try – bring a blanket or a folding chair, sit back, and enjoy the stories. Some are clever, some are scary, but they all invite you to see the events unfolding in the narrative in your mind’s eye.
Storytelling is a rich feature of Kentucky culture, and we are proud to announce that the Corn Island Storytelling Festival has donated their records to Archives and Special Collections (ASC). These materials document and reflect the organization’s mission to celebrate and preserve the tradition of storytelling and oral tradition, from Corn Island’s founding in 1976 by Lee and Joy Pennington, to the present day – the materials tell the Festival’s own story. The collection totals 42.5 linear feet and includes operational records, correspondence, audio visual recordings and images of storytelling events, posters and promotional ephemera, articles and press, as well as biographical information and photographs of storytellers. We are preparing the collection for use by researchers, and hope to have them available for use by the public soon.
In conjunction with the storytelling festival and National Archives Month, we will exhibit items from the Corn Island Storytelling Festival’s history. The exhibit, which will open in early October, will be located on Ekstrom Library’s first floor. The theme of this year’s Archives Month is “folklore and superstitions,” which is a perfect fit for Corn Island. Come see how Corn Island has spread and ensured the survival of our folklore – and be sure to stay to listen to the stories.
Nearly one hundred years ago, in the fall of 1913, Florence Daisy McCallum began her career as a University of Louisville student and joined the “girls’ basket ball team.” She chronicled the team’s triumphs and defeats, as well as their exploits off the court, in her “Basket Ball Journal.” The journal is now available in digital form as part of the University of Louisville Images digital collection.
Highlights include documentation of the team’s handy defeat of University Kentucky – known then as State University – at Lexington in January 1914, with a repeat the next month on our home court. UofL’s women had lost to UK the previous year, but the January win was so complete (with a score of 23 to 12) that “it well wiped out all memory of past defeats.”
Our women’s and men’s teams also played each other that year — the men defeated the women 40-14. In addition to documenting the final (and disappointing) score in that game, this scrapbook tells the story of how these young people interacted. There are cartoons that hint at some interesting “guarding” of members of the opposite team, and others that underscore the height differences between the men and the women. It is apparent that these students knew each other well, and that they shared camaraderie as much as competition. Given that there were only 203 students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, it is not surprising that they knew each other well. At least one member of the team, Charlotte Wimp, met her husband, Donald Butler, through basketball.
While the scrapbook holds many wonderful photographs of the team (sometimes including someone’s dog – a mascot, perhaps?), the cartoons drawn of various events are especially sweet. In some cases their message is easy to read (for example, the cartoons from the game played between the men and women), and at other times they refer to what must have been inside jokes. But even though the specific meaning of these cartoons is lost, anyone who has been a teenager can relate to the image of “Shrimp” quaking before her “Ma” – while it’s not clear whether she is coming or going, she is definitely afraid she is in trouble.
Scrapbooks like this, which are not just collections of newspaper clippings or photographs, but also contain commentary and other personal touches, help give us a sense of what it was like to be a student in earlier days. They show us what is different, and what is still very much the same.
On June 18, 2012, Louisville lost a particularly wonderful citizen: Helen Mazzoli. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mazzoli as the University Archives & Records Center worked with her husband, Congressman Romano (Ron) Mazzoli, to process his papers and renovate our reading room in his honor. She was the kind of woman you meet and think, “Wow. I want to be like her when I grow up” — even if you are, technically, already well past that mark.
As part of the Mazzoli Papers Project, we conducted a series of oral history interviews with the Congressman’s staff and colleagues, as well as with his family. I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. Mazzoli in January 2011. She deserved a far better interviewer, but she was a very gracious interviewee. While I enjoyed hearing about her work on Congressman Mazzoli’s campaigns, their life together while he was in Congress, and their time at Harvard after he left politics, my favorite story concerned her going to Hollywood at the age of three to audition for the movies. I won’t relate the entire story, as her interview is now available online, so you can hear her tell the story herself.
That is one of the beauties of oral history: hearing her tell her own story is far better than reading my words. And her voice, her inflection, her way of telling that story, is captured forever in this recording. Knowing that I’m helping to preserve this memory – and making it available to the public – is one of the best parts of my job as an archivist.
Anyone who was on the fourth (okay, and third) floor of Ekstrom Library on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 8 knew something was up. This area — normally known for its silence — was packed full of people who gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Romano L. Mazzoli Reading Room in the University Archives and Records Center. A native Louisvillian and alumnus of the Brandeis School of Law, Romano (Ron) Mazzoli represented Kentucky’s Third Congressional District for 24 years, from 1971 until 1995. We also opened his papers to researchers and launched an online oral history collection focusing on the Congressman, his life and career.
The reading room includes exhibits focusing on Congressman Mazzoli, which can be enjoyed anytime between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm Monday-Friday. A companion exhibit showcases Louisville’s Italian American community. The Italian American Association (IAA) has been a generous supporter of the Archives’ work on the Congressman’s papers, and we are working with the IAA to collect materials that document the lives of Italian Americans in Louisville. If you are interested in making a donation, please give us a call at 852-6674!
The Congressman’s papers themselves fill 633 boxes (that’s nearly 700 feet of shelf space). They document his campaigns as well as his time in office, including his work on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. They also tell the story of a Congressman who placed a very high value on being accessible and helpful to his constituents. A detailed description of the papers is available online (http://uofl.me/lib-mazzoli), and the papers themselves can be accessed in the Archives on the fourth floor of Ekstrom Library.
In addition, we conducted 66 hours of oral history interviews with the Congressman, his colleagues, staffers, campaign volunteers and family. These interviews complement the papers, giving life to the official record and telling stories that simply aren’t captured on paper. These are being made available online via the University Libraries’ Digital Collections (http://uofl.me/lib-mazzoli2).
So come take a look at these new resources – whether in person or virtually!