The Story Behind a Surprise Find

Measuring less than two inches by one inch, this Baltimore City streetcar ticket was left in a book, presumably as a bookmark. Using convenient items as bookmarks isn’t all that uncommon, right? We use store receipts, gum wrappers, or trusty Post- It Notes to mark our pages all the time, but usually they are discarded once the reader is finished with the book. So, why is this ticket so fascinating? Because it was left as a bookmark for almost 125 years, its survival opens a window into the past.

Photo of a streetcar ticket from the Baltimore and Curtis Bay Railway Company
The Baltimore and Curtis Bay Railway Company ticket
Continue reading

Celebrating Women’s History Month with Selections from Literature and Rare Books!

A new exhibit case featuring works by women writers is now on display outside the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library!

Taken from the literature and rare book collections in Special Collections and University Archives, these books represent a variety of genres and styles; from the popular girl detective adventure Nancy Drew #1: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene to the powerful poetry of Baltimore native and abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins.

Included in the exhibit are the landmark works of mother and daughter Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelly. Wollstonecraft wrote the highly influential, early feminist work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792). 26 years later, her daughter Mary Shelly penned the horror classic Frankenstein (1818). An early 1796 edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Women is on display alongside a WWII armed services edition of Frankenstein.

Also included is Katherine Anne Porter’s collection of short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939). The eponymous story is an account of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, which Porter herself was stricken with while working as a reporter in Denver, Colorado. Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Katherine Anne Porter literary archive.

Two works by artist/author Djuna Barnes are also featured: Ryder (1928), and Nightwood (1936), one of the first works of lesbian literature. Special Collections and University Archives is also home to the Djuna Barnes literary archive.

Works by Anaïs Nin, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Kau Boyle, Virginia Wolf, Flannery O’Conner, Gertrude Stein, and Louisa May Alcott are also on display.

Stop by the Maryland Room to view this colorful and diverse selection of works by women authors. Interested in exploring more works by women? Check out literary special collections, housed in Hornbake Library, or contact us!

New Acquisitions in the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library: Adding to the Papers of William J. Murtagh

This past October, the historic preservation community lost one of its champions in Dr. William J. Murtagh. Dr. Murtagh, who served from 1967 through 1979 as the first “Keeper” of the National Register of Historic Places, led the movement and fostered the organization which recorded, approved, and promoted the preservation of historically significant locales throughout the United States. The Special Collections at the University of Maryland libraries is especially proud to house the William J. Murtagh papers, a portion of which has been available since 2004 within the National Trust Library in Hornbake Library.

A Philadelphia native, “Bill” Murtagh studied abroad from 1954-1955 at the Universities of Bonn and Freiburg in Germany before returning to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a PhD in architectural history in 1963. His early academic career led to a focus in Moravian architecture, a southeastern Pennsylvania Dutch style characterized by its masonry, attention to city planning, and communal organization. In 1967, Murtagh published Moravian Architecture and Town Planning, documenting the style’s prevalence in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and other North American communities.

Murtagh wore many professional hats during a long life devoted to historic preservation, promoting the National Trust for Historic Preservation and supporting preservation efforts nationwide. All of this comes in addition to his service as the National Register’s first keeper, where he presided over the approval of over 20,000 historic sites ranging in size and scope from the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater, to an 18th century brick schoolhouse in Providence, Rhode Island. The position also inherited the registry of other incredibly diverse locales such as the Lincoln Memorial and the San Francisco Cable Car system. [1]

He saw the movement as “a way to combat visual and cultural pollution” and emphasized the intrinsic connection of historic places to local communities [2]. He accepted proposals broadly “so long as a state provided evidence that a place was somehow, to some degree, significant, no matter how provincial it might seem to outsiders” and made the National Register a designation encouraging of local definitions of historical importance rather than a top-down or dismissive establishment. [2]

His organizational presence was boundless and included service on numerous preservation-focused boards and committees including the U. S. Committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS), Historic Bethlehem, Inc., Preservation Institute-Nantucket, the Governor’s Consulting Committee on the National Register for the state of Maryland, the Pacific Preservation Consortium, and many others.

Dr. Murtagh extended his academic career as a professor and administrator. He taught at George Washington University, the University of Florida, Columbia University, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and here at the University of Maryland, just to name a few. In 2006, he would also publish Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, a textbook and primer introducing a wide range of students to the concepts and field of historic preservation.

In his later years, Murtagh resided in Sarasota, Florida, and Penobscot, Maine, where he continued his involvement in the historic preservation movement, following and advising on both local, national, and international topics. In October 2018 at the age of 95, Dr. Murtagh passed away from heart failure at his Florida residence. [2] [3] He left behind an extensive body of work and a permanent imprint on the protection of many significant “districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects” in the United States. [1]

University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives received Murtagh’s papers in three different accessions. The first and largest accession of the William Murtagh Papers spans 50.25 linear feet and is fully processed. It is organized into 15 series detailing Murtagh’s careers in academia, published writing, and service to professional organizations. Materials include extensive mixed personal and professional correspondence, postcards, photographs, travel materials, reports, papers, conference materials, notes, speeches, publications, course materials, blueprints, drawings, audio recordings, and memorabilia.

The two new additions supplement the original collection in more ways than previously imagined. Newly received lecture recordings, notes, and correspondence enhance our understanding of Dr. Murtagh’s academic and publishing careers while drawings, photographs, and daguerreotypes further contextualize his personal life and genealogy. Lectures, notes, and faculty filings demonstrate Murtagh’s value to historic preservation programs at multiple schools like the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Extensive unprocessed slide collections, estimated at around 9000 slides, document his work and leisure activities (which were not far different), displaying sites across the country and the world.

The new collections also add awards and memorabilia including a key to the city of Savannah, Georgia, a Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award for historic preservation, family keepsakes, and artistic paintings and sketches done by Murtagh post-retirement.

The new collections reiterate and emphasize Dr. Murtagh’s vast commitment to Historic Preservation into retirement and with his local communities in Maine and Florida. The materials also document his active role in the Keepers Preservation Education Fund (a scholarship fund for preservation students), the writing of Keeping Time, and participation in local preservation societies.

University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives, also home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library, is honored to have the William J. Murtagh papers, alongside those of his fellow preservationists Frederick L. Rath, Charles Hosmer, Ernest Allen Connally, and Charles E. Peterson, and hope that they are utilized by researchers investigating the history and practice of historic preservation in the twentieth century.

[1] U.S. National Park Service. n.d. “National Register of Historic Places.” Accessed February 4, 2019.

[2] Smith, Harrison. 2018 “William J. Murtagh, ‘Pied Piper’ of American Historic Preservation.

Dies at 95.” The Washington Post, October 30, 2018.

[3] Roberts, Sam. 2018. “William J. Murtagh, Lion of Historic

Preservation, Dies at 95.” The New York Times, November 5, 2018.

Willem Kalbach is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.

Offensive content in our collections

Since the revelation of Governor Ralph Northam’s offensive yearbook photos a few weeks ago, many have taken time to dig into their own University’s historical yearbooks to see if they also contained offensive and racist imagery. Due to libraries’ efforts to provide free and publicly accessible digital versions of material online, it didn’t take researchers long to find these histories in their alma mater’s past.

Academic librarians are actively communicating with each other, seeking advice so that we foster access to these materials, and the offensive language and imagery, in responsible ways. Historical material can contain images and language that illustrates racist or hateful attitudes toward people of color, people identifying as LBGTQ, people with disabilities or people from other marginalized communities. These images and language are offensive, and sometimes traumatizing, especially for those who have experienced violence, acts of hate, or microagressions in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Here at the University of Maryland, our librarians believe in the importance of facilitating the dissemination of knowledge and information, providing a broad view of the University’s history. We seek to be transparent about our digitization choices and practices. Digitization has allowed increased access and discovery of our collections and our campus’ history.  It is not our wish to hide anything from our collections. We know offensive material is there, and we want these records to be to used for research. Our collections enable all of us to engage in more truthful conversations about this history.

We encourage you to use our online collections or to visit us in person to see material that is not yet available online.

Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence Project: An Introduction

“She always kept things secret in such a public way.”

Katherine Anne Porter, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” (1930)

        Katherine Anne Porter’s description of Cornelia, daughter of the titular Granny Weatherall, is apt considering the tensions between Porter’s own private and public personas. Porter, too, was a secretly-public person – she was forthcoming with information about her life and experience, though she sometimes elaborated on the facts, exaggerating details or creating new information.  The reality of her life became mysterious, as Callie Russell Porter became the Katherine Anne Porter who captivated the literary communities of which she was a part. In the margins of Katherine Anne’s books in Hornbake Library’s Porter Room, there are even notes from Katherine Anne’s sister, Gay, that call attention to the points at which Katherine Anne’s stories depart from or obscure the source material of her own life.

Katherine Anne Porter with hair down in garden, Mixcoac, Mexico. Back inscription: “Ophelia in Mixcoac, March 1931.”
Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries

Porter’s 1930 story, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” served as my personal introduction to Porter, but it is her 1939 collection of short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, that sealed my appreciation of her work. The three short novels – “Old Mortality,” “Noon Wine,” and the titular story – take the reader from the shadows of the old moneyed South, to a Texas farm, to war-weary and flu-ridden Denver. What is most striking about Porter is her ability to cut to the bone with language. “Granny Weatherall” is a stream-of-consciousness story, stylized to read as a string of dying thoughts, regrets, and potentially hallucinations. Porter’s short novels are sharp, each imbued with a touch of mystery themselves – what is the truth about Aunt Amy’s hemorrhage? What was hidden in the Swede Helton’s past? How did Adam feel as he met his fate, alone?

“Day at Night: Katherine Anne Porter, novelist and short story writer.” For more video and radio interviews of Porter, visit the University Libraries’ Digital Collections.

Porter’s stories, short novels, and sole novel, 1962’s Ship of Fools, leave readers entranced by her language and enticed by her mysteries. Fortunately, the Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence Project has been at work digitizing Porter’s copious correspondence, held in Hornbake Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, as her correspondence is as literary as her fiction. Since its work began in 2012, the project has published two phases worth of Porter’s correspondence. Phase 1 centers Porter’s relationships with her family, most importantly her sister Gay. Phase 2 focuses on Porter’s literary relationships and correspondence with personal friends. Porter’s social circle ranged widely, as she maintained friendships with Flannery O’Connor, Glenway Wescott, Cleanth and Tinkum Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, and Josephine Herbst, to name just a few. Phase 3 shifts gears yet again, and includes letters related to publishing, agents, and financial and legal matters.

Katherine Anne Porter portrait with typewriter and Juniper (kitten). 1946, Santa Monica, California.
Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

The most recent phase, Phase 3, features the largest batch of correspondence to be digitized yet, with a total of 2,433 items. The contents of these items range widely – from newspaper clippings with annotated notes sent to her late-in-life lawyer, E. Barrett Prettyman, to long letters sent to her longtime friend and agent Cyrilly Abels (who also served as managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine). The aim of the Correspondence Project is to make accessible the wealth of correspondence and records that Katherine Anne maintained throughout her rich life. There is a scholarly thrill to the ability to peek behind her fiction and become acquainted with Katherine Anne through the rhythms of her friendships, the reports and contracts with her editors. Though many Katherine Anne Porters exist in the archives of twentieth century American literature, now there is the opportunity to openly, publicly assess on what grounds the myths of Katherine Anne are founded, and which myths are embellished or misunderstood. We’re excited to continue making more of Katherine Anne’s correspondence available on a digital platform, and we look forward to the new avenues this material makes available for scholarship on Katherine Anne’s life and works.
Jeannette Schollaert is a graduate assistant in Special Collections and University Archives who works with the Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence Project. There, she assists with compiling and organizing metadata and contributing to the Project’s online exhibitions. She is pursuing a PhD in English, and her research focuses on twentieth century American women writers and ecofeminism.

The Letters of Katherine Anne Porter Now Available Online!

We are proud to announce a new online resource exploring the life and work American author Katherine Anne Porter is now available!

Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977  provides access to digitized correspondence written by Porter, whose literary archives is held in Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library. Previously, researchers interested in reading her letters visited the Maryland Room (the reading room for special collections and University Archives) in person or requested photocopies/scans of the materials. Now, users have instant access to approximately 3800 items of her correspondence, which have been digitized and made accessible online, via a searchable and browsable database .

This online resource is the result of an extensive digitization project in the Libraries. The Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence Project is an ongoing collaboration between the University of Maryland Libraries Special Collections and University Archives and Digital System and Stewardship units, supported by a grant from the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Trust. 

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) is known primarily for her short stories and novel, Ship of Fools. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966 for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter. She lived a rich life, traveling across the United States and abroad while writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her correspondence highlights her interests in writing, travel, politics, and current events, as well as documenting her private life and career.

Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977  offers a glimpse into her bustling life and career, providing background information and historical context for both Porter enthusiasts and those unfamiliar with her work.

Along with images of Porter throughout her life, users can explore details of Porter’s life by decade, as well as by the places she lived and visited, both in the US and abroad. These glimpses into her biography reveal fascinating aspects of her life. For example, did you know Katherine Anne Porter contracted the Spanish Influenza while working as a reporter in Denver? That she lived in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party? Did you know Porter lived in College Park, MD? And she lived in Washington D.C. at the time of the Kennedy inauguration?

Visit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977 and discover more!

Celebrating Black Authors and Poets in Special Collections

To celebrate Black History Month, a new exhibit is on display in Hornbake Library highlighting black authors and poets from our literary collections in Special Collections and University Archives!

On display are landmark 20th century literary works by Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alex Haley, W.E.B. DuBois, Chester Himes, John A. Williams , and Richard Wright. Also included in the exhibit is poetry by Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Ted Joans.

Ranging from signed first editions (Invisible Man, Ellison) to popular trade paperback editions (If He Hollers Let Him Go, Himes), these titles offer a glimpse into the wide variety of African American literature and poetry in our collections.

Also on display is a rare edition of Negro Anthology, edited by activist Nancy Cunard. Published in 1934, Negro Anthology is a collection of poetry, historical studies, music, and other writings documenting Black culture of the era. Artists represented in the book include Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

Visit Hornbake Library to view these impressive works of literature in person, or visit us online to explore more titles in our literary collections.

Have any questions? Contact us!