The Project

Best of the Archives

One of my favorite aspects of this internship, in addition to the wildly fascinating material stored in the discreet archival boxes, is how it’s unique nature allows me to work simultaneously with SCUA and Digital Projects. This affords me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of individuals as well as explore the offerings of both units.

About a week ago, I was lucky enough to receive a mini-tour of some of the archival holdings of SCUA from Adam Burkhart. Adam has worked with SCUA for several years now, and as a Special Collections Specialist, his knowledge of the collections extends well beyond the finding aids as he has processed numerous collections and designed many exhibits. I had simply asked Adam to show me some of his favorite collections or artifacts, and he did not disappoint.*

His tour progressed chronologically, and began with two of the oldest documents in IMG_4532SCUA holdings. This first (left) is an illuminated manuscript from Italy. It is stored in a plastic sleeve not simply because of it’s age, but also because it is used frequently in teaching. The second (right) is a translation IMG_4531of The History of the Peloponnesian War in German. This item stuck out to me in particular; as a student of the German language, and an MLS student who is all too aware that many early books were printed in Latin, it was terribly exciting to see (and read parts of!) a early German translation of Greek history.

Next on the tour was the Civil War collection. Although less than four cubic feet, this collection contains fascinating items, such as a signed letter from Abraham Lincoln to General Joseph Hooker (below, left) and a bill of sale for a young slave (below, right).

Marian Osgood Hooker, the first woman to climb Mount Whitney, was a physician with a penchant for photography. Born to a wealthy family, Hooker’s photographs, such as those IMG_4540 to the right, often accompanied travel books authored by her mother (although my image has fallen victim to a glare, SCUA has digitized the entire photo album and made it available online here).

Similarly, although several decades before, an unknown artist compiled a sketchbook of their IMG_4533tour through Europe. His journey began in London, with stops in Austria, Germany, and several other countries; the artist captured the beauty of the journey (left) as well as the frustration. Below, he describes wanting to view the Alps, but instead depicts the “utter failure” when his sight was completely obstructed by clouds.


Jumping forward to the Second World War are the papers of Grattan H. McCafferty. After he was taken prisoner in 1942 and forced on the Bataan Death March, McCafferty kept near daily accounts in various journals, such as the one below, until the Japanese surrender in 1945. In order to ensure he could keep his journals and continue his detailed accounts, McCafferty often wrote in sloppy, cramped handwriting, which led Japanese generals to assume it was nonsense. Also, as his supplies would run short near the end of notebooks, McCafferty would also begin to write two lines per each line on the notebook, to save space.


Lastly, Adam showed me a collection to leave a chill in your blood: the Carl Panzram Papers. This collection contains the papers of a career criminal, Carl Panzram. In his handwritten autobiography, which he authored while in jail with the help of the guard Henry Lesser, Panzram claims to have: murdered 21 people; raped thousands of men; and even burglarized the home of President Taft. However, he was not tried for any of these crimes. It was only after he bludgeoned a laundry foreman to death that he was sentenced and hanged for murder in 1930.

The originals of this collection are not available for public use, and require special permission from the Head of SCUA. However, there are digital folders available online.

Although excerpts of his autobiography have been used in books and films about Panzram, it has never been reprinted in full.

And with that last item, our brief tour of SCUA was over! With such a diverse collection of scope, age, and content, it was tough to pick just a few items to write about.^

Thank you again, Adam, for your time as well as for picking such excellent items to share!

*In my excitement, I failed to photograph several items I was shown, such as a mathematical incunable, which was the first to have geometric shapes printed alongside the text, as well as a German guide to discovering and eradicating witches from the 16th century.

^Some of the items excluded, simply for concerns of length, were the Fritzenkotter Papers, the Leon William Collection (who was integral in establishing the trolley system this intern uses to commute), and the Bohmer Collection.


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