This year’s McMaster-ASECS fellow, Anna K. Sagal examines a White Orchid Phalenopsis in the McMaster Biology Greenhouse, a flower specimen prominently featured in a number of rare 18th century botanical textbooks written by early female botanists. Sagal has been examining these textbooks, which are housed in McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, for the past month.
While examining a rare botanical textbook contained in McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, visiting scholar Anna K. Sagal made an unexpected discovery.
Pressed between the brittle pages of one of the textbooks written and used by early female botanists, she found a tiny golden flower, likely placed there more than 200 years ago– a tangible connection to the world of the 18th century and a symbol of women’s participation in one of the few fields of science open to them at the time– botany.
Sagal, who recently completed her PhD at Tufts University in Boston is this year’s recipient of the McMaster-ASECS fellowship,* a program that supports 18th century studies.
For the past month, Sagal has been poring over McMaster’s unique collection of 18th century English botanical textbooks, examining a number of works written and referenced by trailblazing women, early pioneers of female science education.
“This is science education for women by women,” says Sagal, “I’m interested in the role that scientific writing plays for women’s intellectual lives in a culture where women and science were often divorced from each other.”
According to Sagal, in the late 18th century, while many fields of science were still largely closed to women, botany was considered a “feminized science,” making it socially acceptable for women- who were culturally linked with nature and flowers- to participate in the practice of botany.
Unlike other fields of science like chemistry or astronomy, Sagal says botany was also comparatively accessible to women, requiring only simple, inexpensive equipment– like a magnifying glass– and access to a garden.
A number of female writers emerged at this time, publishing botanical textbooks aimed primarily at a feminine audience, but which turned out to have broader appeal.
“This is a rare moment when all of a sudden it’s OK for women to be publishing on this subject,” says Sagal. “You get male authors recommending these books and praising these female authors. These books also sold really well, they all went into multiple editions.”
Sagal says these textbooks, many of which are contained in McMaster’s collection, were quite different from works authored by men at the time. While they were scientifically accurate and contained the Latin terms associated with the Linnaean system of plant classification, they were written in a simplified, conversational style– sometimes taking the form of letters or dialogues– so they could be easily understood by female readers, many of whom didn’t know Latin.
And to keep costs low, they used fewer illustrations; instead providing detailed descriptions and encouraging aspiring botanists to take the textbooks into the field to identify plants and collect specimens, like the one discovered by Sagal.
Despite the popularity of these textbooks, she says many female authors nonetheless encountered strong cultural disapproval.
“These textbooks were being published by more liberal publishers– there was still broad social resistance to this,” she says. “There was an interesting tension at the time as to whether women were compromising their femininity by being too engaged with botany on a technical level. It took a lot of courage for these women to get these books published and then stand by their work as an intellectual authority.”
Sagal’s research at McMaster is contributing to her larger body of scholarship on women in scientific writing in the 18th century and the different genres in which scientific writing appears.
McMaster University Librarian Vivian Lewis says she’s pleased the collection is helping to support scholarly research like Sagal’s.
“The collection contains a diverse array of texts and materials that provide valuable insights into many aspects of life in the 18th century,” says Lewis. “It’s very gratifying that as this year’s McMaster-ASECS fellow, Anna has been able to make use of this unique collection to shed light on the some of the central social and cultural themes of the period.”
The materials consulted by Sagal include The Botanical Magazine, or Flower-Garden displayed (1787-1798), Botanical Dialogues (1797) by Maria Jackson, The British Garden (1799), by Charlotte Murray, and An Introduction to Botany (1796) by Priscilla Wakefield.
*The McMaster-ASECS fellowship is a month-long program administered annually by McMaster University Library and funded by McMaster’s Faculty of Humanities and the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS).
Sagal discovered this 200 year-old flower pressed between the pages of an 18th century botanical textbook. Aspiring female botanists,"were collecting, pressing and saving these specimens so they could then sit down and classify them. It’s evidence that people were using these in the way they were intended to be used, which is always a question coming up against historical texts,” says Sagal who discovered pressed flowers in a number of textbooks while conducting her research.
Filed under Library News: Maps, Data, GIS
Students from Arts and Science 3BB3: Technology and Society II work with map expert Gord Beck, Maps Specialist, Maps, Data, GIS (second from the right) on an experiential learning project featuring a number of the rare maps contained in McMaster’s Lloyd Reed Maps Collection.
Arts and Science students pore over a series of rare maps in McMaster’s Lloyd Reeds Maps Collection.
From a 300 year-old English county map, to an oversized map of the Franklin expedition, the students are learning that these artifacts are more than simply tools for navigation– each one tells a story about the period in which it was created.
Now, many of the insights revealed in these maps can be found in a digital display and experiential learning project created by students in Arts and Science 3BB3: Technology and Society II in collaboration with maps experts from McMaster University Library.
“For a long period of time, maps were the only way to get information about the spatial distribution of cities or see what rivers actually looked like, we couldn’t simply go to Google Earth,” says John Maclachlan, course instructor and Assistant Professor in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences.
“I wanted students to see how maps have changed over time,’ he says. “These maps are different from modern maps- they’re more artistic. They’re not always complete, but they give you different types of information.”
Maclachlan worked with library experts Jay Brodeur, Manager of the Maps, Data and GIS Department and Gord Beck, Maps Specialist, Maps, Data, GIS, to develop the project, which is now available online.
“We wanted to expose students to this incredible collection,” says Brodeur. “This project was a great way to get students into the Library and interacting with library materials. We also wanted to take the work they produced for this assignment and share that with the public. ”
“There’s a lot these maps can tell us,” says Beck “If you’re looking at a map of North America created 200 years ago by a European, how are they portraying the indigenous people in the illustrations around the edges of the map? How accurately are the maps drawn and what might that tell us about the degree of the scientific knowledge? “These maps can help students wrap their minds around culture and society at a given point in time.”
Students began by visiting the library to view a range of rare maps from McMaster’s extensive collection.
Students were asked to select a map and formulate three research questions. The map collections staff then connected students to a range of reference resources, which the students used to complete a research essay on their map.
Brodeur then incorporated the students’ work into the digital exhibit, which is now permanently accessible through the Library’s website, providing context and background information for members of the public or researchers seeking to learn more about these maps.
“I can lecture all day about the usefulness and history of maps, but for them to formulate their own questions and put their own identity on that work can be a very valuable experience for them,” says Maclachlan. “It’s nice that this isn’t just another project students put in their drawer, it’s out there, it’s being used and it’s useful information.”
Mack Gillies, a third year student in the Arts and Science program who contributed to the project agrees, adding that working hands-on with the map collection provided him with a unique learning experience.
“There’s a big difference when you can actually see the history and you can touch it, it makes learning that much more enriching,” says Gillies. “You can come in to the map library any time and examine any map you want. When you come to university you don’t realize how many learning opportunities there are, but this is a great resource.”
About 2000 students come to the map library each year to work on assignments, a number that continues to climb as library experts work with an increasing faculty members to develop experiential learning opportunities.
“The library has been changing over the past decade or so and moving from a place where the books are to where learning happens,” says Brodeur. “It’s important that we’re not just a repository of the University’s maps, but that were also a place with the expertise to structure students’ learning and develop activities where students can use our materials to learn in a different way.”
Distinguished Canadian author Austin Clarke passed away over the weekend. McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections is home to the author's extensive archives which, in addition to drafts, correspondence and photographs, also includes the manuscript for Clarke's Giller Prize-winning novel The Polished Hoe.
We were saddened to hear of the loss of this great talent,” says Vivian Lewis, University Librarian who says the Library enjoyed a relationship with Clarke that spanned more than three decades. “His work expressed a perspective that added much to Canadian literature. We hope that his remarkable archive, of which McMaster is the proud custodian, will help to preserve his legacy and continue to be used by future generations of students, scholars and aspiring authors as a source of learning and inspiration.
Born in Barbados on July 26, 1934, Clarke immigrated to Canada with his family in 1956. His interest in writing began early in life, and in the 1960s his short stories began to be published in Canadian and other periodicals.
Clarke's stories and novels are primarily centred around the plight of the immigrant West Indian in Canada, although his first two novels, The Survivors of the Crossing and Amongst Thistles and Thorns, take place in Barbados.
Clarke’s archive which contains material from between 1949-2013, consists of a number of manuscripts including a version of The Polished Hoe with the author’s hand-written revisions, manuscripts of his short stories, plays and poetry as well as a large number of tape recordings of interviews and programmes he recorded as a correspondent for the CBC, including a 1963 interview with Malcolm X.
In addition to winning the 2002 Scotia Bank Giller Prize for his novel The Polished Hoe, which also won the Trillium and Commonwealth prizes, Clarke was the inaugural recipient of The Rogers Communications Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for his semi-autobiographical novel The Origin of Waves, published in 1997.
McMaster is also home to the archives of Canadian literary talents Farley Mowat, Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, Matt Cohen, Sylvia Fraser and Peter C. Newman, as well as Canadian publishers McClelland and Stewart, Key Porter Books, Macmillan Canada and Clarke Irwin.
McMaster Alumnus and actor/comedian Martin Short (left) appears with a classmate in a series of sketches created for psychology course, ‘Personality and Psychopathology, Psychology 1A6.’ The footage, from 1978, is one of a number of McMaster videos and films that have recently been made public as part of a new digitization project funded by the Class of 1950.
From the pomp and circumstance of convocation ceremonies in the 1930s to a short film produced and directed by celebrated McMaster alumnus Ivan Reitman, a new video digitization project is taking vintage McMaster films and making them publicly accessible for the first time online.
Thanks to a gift from the Class of 1950, McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, has digitized a number of films and videos that have been in storage for decades.
The films, shot between 1930 to 1980, capture a number of key events and prominent figures in the University’s past including the opening and dedication ceremonies held after McMaster relocated to Hamilton in 1930 and footage of George Gilmour and Harry Thode, both of whom served as McMaster’s President and Vice-Chancellor in the 1950s and 60s.
The films also capture student life over the decades and feature some hidden gems including a series of skits created for a psychology lecture and performed by McMaster alumus and actor/comedian Martin Short, as well as Orientation, a short film produced and directed in 1968 by McMaster alumnus, Ivan Reitman and the McMaster Film Board. The film. According to Reitman, the film was the forerunner to his comedy classic, Animal House.
“These films are snapshots of McMaster’s history,” says Wade Wyckoff, Associate University Librarian, Collections. “This is about making that history accessible to a much larger audience and making sure that these films are preserved.”
Wyckoff says that so far, roughly a third of the collection has been digitized, adding that more videos will be digitized in the near future.
“This gift leaves a wonderful legacy,” says Wyckoff. “It ensures that this important archive will be available not just to current students, staff, faculty and alumni, but to the McMaster community for generations to come.”
Long-time supporters of McMaster University Library, the Class of 1950 have provided funding for a number of Library technology projects over the years– most notably the McMaster University Library Gateway Project in 2002. This project resulted in a redesign of the Library’s website, making easier for users to access the Library’s diverse array of electronic resources at that time.
Filed under Library News: Events
Dr. Goldie Morgentaler will be at McMaster on June 9 to speak about her mother, writer Chava Rosenfarb’s three- volume novel, The Tree of Life, based on her experiences as a prisoner in the Lodz ghetto. Rosenfarb was one of the great Yiddish writers of the second half of the 20th century, and a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Called one of the seminal works of Holocaust literature, The Tree of Life is not widely known because it was originally published in Yiddish, and was not available in English until 2006.
Morgentaler is Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge.
When: Thursday, June 9, 2016, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Great Hall of the University Club (located in Alumni Memorial Hall), McMaster University
World-renowned concert pianist and former Associate Professor in McMaster’s School of the Arts, Valerie Tryon performed at Convocation Hall during an event celebrating the donation of her archives to McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.
That was how world-renowned concert pianist, Valerie Tryon was described at a recent concert hosted by McMaster University Library which paid tribute to her life and work.
“Valerie is a consummate musician in almost every form,” says internationally recognized conductor Boris Brott who spoke at the event. “She plays with such perfection, that I think that’s why the word ‘incomparable’ is truly the right word to describe her.”
The event, held in Convocation Hall, featured performances by Tryon and celebrated the donation of her personal archives to McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.
“The collection is quite extraordinary in importance,” says McMaster University Librarian Vivian Lewis, “While it is not physically large, it helps to tell the story of one of Canada’s great musical figures. It tells the story of a woman, British by birth, who travels the world to perform and record, but who considers Hamilton and McMaster her home. We are grateful to have been entrusted with the documents and artefacts that capture the life’s work of this remarkable talent.
The archive, in large part assembled by Alan Walker, Professor Emeritus in McMaster's School of the Arts from scrapbooks kept by her father, consists of a range of materials collected between 1941 and 2012 including newspaper clippings, reviews, photographs, concert programs, and other artefacts that document her prolific and celebrated career.
For many years, Tryon served as both Artist-in-Residence and an associate professor in McMaster's School of the Arts. She was awarded a Honourary doctorate upon her retirement and since then, has continued to teach, record and play at concerts and recitals around the world.
“To be here at McMaster, the place that I’ve known for so many years is really quite wonderful,” says Tryon. “I started my whole Canadian ‘visit’ here in the 1970s and I’ve played in this hall so many times that I know the names on all the portraits. McMaster really feels like home to me. It seems absolutely right that this is the place that my archives should go to.”
McMaster is home to the archives of a number of prominent musicians including Bruce Cockburn, Ian Thomas, Jackie Washington, Boris Brott, Alan Walker, Morely Calvert, and Louise Bennett Coverley (Miss Lou).
Dean of Humanities, Ken Cruikshank, who also spoke at the event, says it’s important to continue to build these archives.
“It’s these special collections– these things that people can come and see and feel and touch– that are really important,” says Cruikshank. “Having collections like this one are extremely important to our students and our researchers and this collection adds remarkably to that.”
The youngest student to be admitted to the The Royal Academy, Tryon is a Juno Award winner, a Hamilton Gallery of Distinction inductee and also holds the Harriet Cohen Award for Distinguished Services to Music, and the Franz Liszt Medal from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture for her life-long commitment to, and promotion of, Liszt’s music.
Watch video of Valerie Tryon performing "On the Wings of Song," composed by Felix Mendelssohn and arranged by Franz Lizst.
The above painting by Kristina Durka, Riley Vanderzee, Tess Visser and Maria Simmons was the winner of the Innis Library Art Competition, one of two art student competitions recently hosted by the McMaster University Library.
It's an art student's dream to have their work displayed and recognized. This dream became a reality for five Studio Art students, the winners of two recent art competitions hosted by the McMaster University Library.
Open to students enrolled in ART 3D03 – Practical Issues, and organized in partnership with McMaster’s School of the Arts, the competitions provided an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned and for the winners to have their work displayed in Mills and Innis libraries.
The Mills Learning Commons competition was funded by the MSU through the Student Life Enhancement Fund, part of a number of improvements to the Learning Commons funded by grant. The Innis Library competition was held in celebration of its 40th anniversary and was funded by McMaster University Library. The prize for each competition was $1000.
Judy Major-Girardin, Associate Professor of Art and the coordinator of the competitions says this kind of practical experience is valuable for students.
“The library art competitions provides an opportunity for students to prepare a professional proposal that includes a cover letter, artist statement, concept statement, C.V., bio, visuals and creative packaging,” says Major-Girardin. “This learning activity is transferable to many situations and employment opportunities in the arts.”
The winner of the Mills Library Commons competition was Stephanie Grant. The winners of the Innis Library competition were Kristina Durka, Riley Vanderzee, Tess Visser and Maria Simmons who submitted a joint proposal in keeping with the competition’s theme of collaboration.
“Our piece portrays the theme through the imagery and through the way in which it was constructed,” says Durka. “The theme of the piece is the union of the areas surrounding McMaster University and features Downtown Hamilton, Westdale, and Cootes Paradise through an abstracted landscape.”
A number of student art pieces are featured throughout McMaster’s libraries, including works from previous art competitions, self-portraits in the staircase of Mills Library and pieces displayed in the Lyons New Media Centre.
“The studio art program is grateful for the ongoing support of the library,” says Major-Girardin. “We hope that the art collection accumulating there will enrich the library experience for students, staff and faculty at McMaster for many years to come.”
View all the student artwork on display in McMaster University Library:
A memorial service for former University Librarian Graham R. Hill will be held tonight at 7:00 pm in the Great Hall of the University Club. Hill, who was the University Librarian from 1979 until his retirement in 2005, passed away on April 13. He also served as president of the University Club for many years.
Hill received a B.A. from the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1968, an M.A. from the University of Lancaster in 1969, and an M.L.S. from the University of Western Ontario in 1970. He came to McMaster in January 1971.
During his tenure, Hill oversaw tremendous changes in the University Library, from the advent of the computer age to unprecedented growth of the campus in the 1980s and 1990s and the digital revolution in collections. Asked upon his retirement about his proudest achievement, Hill referenced the major expansion and renovation of Mills Memorial Library in the early 1990s, which significantly increased collections and study space.
In 1998, Hill was named as the first winner of the CARL (Canadian Association of Research Libraries) Award for Distinguished Service to Research Librarianship, recognizing, in particular, his longstanding commitment in the areas of copyright reform and education. He served on the CARL Board of Directors from 1981-1987 (President from 1985-1987), and was Chair of the CARL Standing Committee on Copyright. Hill was also an active member of the Association of Research Libraries. He served as a Governor at Hillfield-Strathallan College from 1981-1993, and Chairman of the Board from 1989-1991.
McMaster’s current University Librarian, Vivian Lewis, recognized the indelible contributions Hill made to libraries on campus and across Canada. “I had the great honour of working with Graham for many years prior to his retirement. He was an inspired leader and a trusted colleague who will be missed by the library community.”
Filed under Library News: Mills
December 9th, 1961: Renowned peace activist Bertrand Russell addressing a crowd in Trafalgar Square on behalf of the Committee of 100, a leading British anti-war group. This photo is just one of the many items on display as part of the Perspectives on Peace exhibit in the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.
Did you know the peace symbol, now a globally recognized icon, was first created in the 1950s as the symbol of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a movement in which internationally renowned peace advocate Bertrand Russell was deeply involved?
The Perspectives on Peace exhibit, on display until the end of April in McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections located in Mills Library, features materials from this campaign and other selections from Russell’s vast archives, as well as materials from many other notable peace activists.
Part of the campus-wide Perspectives of Peace campaign, the exhibit showcases a variety of items from influential peacemakers of the 20th and 21st centuries including musicians, writers, activists and performers, providing a unique look at the evolution of peace movements and human rights.
The exhibit includes selections from:
The Bertrand Russell Archive: The most complete collection of Russell materials in the world, the archive contains photographs, manuscripts, medals, and other personal items belonging to Russell, one of the most influential social thinkers and peace activists of his time. The exhibit includes material on Russell’s opposition to nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, including the Russell-Einstein manifesto, photographs of the first use of the peace symbol, and letters from Albert Einstein andboxing legend Muhammad Ali, as well as a Christmas card from John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The Vera Brittain Archive: Consisting of nearly 300 boxes, this archive contains diaries, manuscripts, lectures, books and many other materials documenting Vera Brittain’s remarkable life as a peace activist. Brittain first witnessed the horrors of war while serving as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse in the First World War, losing both her brother and her fiancé in the conflict. The exhibit features Brittain’s diary in which she details her tragic personal losses and also contains a manuscript of Testament of Youth, Brittain’s best-selling memoir that captured the impact of the war on her generation.
The Perspectives on Peace exhibit also features a number of other materials including; letters describing the WWI Christmas truce of 1915 from the Gerald Blake archive, lyrics of songs about human rights from the Bruce Cockburn archive, and handwritten poems and letters by McMaster alumnus and acclaimed poet Bernard Trotter that describe the plight of soldiers in World War One.
Filed under Library News: Alerts