Spotlight on Wonderland: The Dormouse


Feeling sleepy? You must be channeling the Dormouse, the drowsiest guest at the Mad Tea Party in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice first encounters the Dormouse napping at the table, with the March Hare and Hatter using it as a cushion.  It initially sparks her sympathy as she approaches the scene:

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and the talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,’ thought Alice; `only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.’

Sympathy soon turns to frustration as Alice tries to keep up with the never ending nonsense of the March Hare’s tea party.  Throughout the mayhem, the Dormouse occasionally wakes up to assure the group that he wasn’t sleeping. He also tells a rather perplexing tale about three sisters who lived in a treacle-well.

`They were learning to draw,’ the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; `and they drew all manner of things–everything that begins with an M–‘

`Why with an M?’ said Alice.

`Why not?’ said the March Hare.

Alice was silent.

The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: `–that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness– you know you say things are “much of a muchness”–did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?’

`Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, `I don’t think–‘

`Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.

As Alice abruptly leaves the tea party out of frustration, the Dormouse falls asleep again as the March Hare and Hatter try to stuff him into a teapot. Poor little guy!


Alice later crosses path with the Dormouse at the trials of the Knave of Hearts. He briefly wakes from his slumber to state the Queen’s tarts were made of treacle. His claim outrages the Queen, who calls for him to be collared and suppressed. It seems this slumberous creature can’t catch a break!

The Dormouse is staple in illustrations of the Mad Tea Party, often flanked on either side by the March Hare and Hatter. Since Tenniel’s original illustrations, artists have provided their own interpretation of this sleepy tea party guest. Many have singled out the Dormouse in their illustrations, shining a spotlight on a character so closely connected to (and perhaps overshadowed by) two of Wonderland’s maddest inhabitants.

Is the drowsy Dormouse your favorite Mad Tea Party guest?

Did you know?

  • Dormice were a popular pet in Victorian England. They are nocturnal, squirrel-like (and adorable) animals, small enough to be kept in teapots with a bit of hay.
  • Dormice are nocturnal animals, known for long periods of hibernation. The Latin word “dormire” means to sleep.
  • Treacle is a sugary, molasses syrup popular in Britain.

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to explore the Hatter and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.


Maryland Day 2016 in Special Collections

Special Collections and University Archives celebrated Maryland Day 2016 with crafting, coloring, croquet, and discovery! Among the activities we hosted in Hornbake Library were kid-friendly crafts like Color Your Own Terrapin, Color Characters from Alice in Wonderland, Perform Your Own Radio Advertisement, and Play a Game of Alice in Wonderland Croquet with flamingo mallets and hedgehogs- just like Alice!

Visitors also had an opportunity to discover more about Special Collections with activities highlighting our collections and exhibits. these included Meet the Real Testudo– the taxidermied terrapin who served as the model for the beloved statue located outside McKedlin Library, View Student Posters on UMD history, listen to the Alice in Wonderland audio book as they walked through out Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, and explore one of our newest collections- the Filipino American Community Archives.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to make it a fun-filled day in Hornbake Library!


Teaching with Special Collections

We enjoyed visits from a variety of English classes this semester and look forward to future visits.

ENGL702 – Cultures of Theory

Students discussed author and artist Robert Carlton Brown and his optical poetry.

ENGL 304 – The Major Works of Shakespeare

Students prepared for a research project by learning how to navigate scholarly resources and the primary sources available on campus.

ENGL 601 – Literary Research and Critical Contexts

Students got a behind the scenes peak at our collections and got some hands-on time with special curator-selected objects.

If you are planning your summer or fall classes and would like to include a visit to Special Collections or would like to work with a librarian to design a new project for your students, please contact us.


Join us for a Labor History Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in Hornbake Library

flyer - laborwiki

Join a community interested in promoting labor history by editing the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Part celebration and part workshop, Edit-a-Thons are organized around a single topic as a means to build awareness and community. We’ll draw content from labor-related collections at the University of Maryland, including the AFL-CIO Archives. No editing experience necessary, however participants should have basic computer skills. All participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal.

Encore of ‘Alice Goes to the Movies’

Hornbake Library is excited to announce a three-part film series- Alice Goes to the Movies. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see early Alice films and learn about how they were saved from the passage of time. David H. Schaefer, longtime Lewis Carroll collector and Alice film expert, will be sharing some of the highlights of his Alice film collection and discussing the process of restoring and digitizing them.

Join us on Thursday, May 5 from 4:30-6:00pm in Hornbake Library, Room 0302J for our final film night. Dr. Schaffer will be opening the film series with a brief introduction on Fort Lee New Jersey as the film capitol of the world.  Afterward, munch on popcorn as we enjoy the 1931 film Alice in Wonderland, directed by Bud Pollard. For some animated fun, we will also show the Mickey Mouse and Popeye shorts with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Alice at the Movies Flyer week 3a


All are welcome – even Mad Hatters and March Hares! Whether you are interested in learning about film preservation or are one of many Alice fans, you are certain to enjoy a one-of-a-kind adventure in Wonderland. Directions and parking information can be found online.

Don’t forget to visit our Alice 150 Years and Counting: Legacy of Lewis Carroll exhibit, currently on display in Hornbake Library, to explore all things Alice.

If you are a film/theater/music fan, don’t miss the exhibit Alice in the Performing Arts, now on display in the Lowens Reading Room at the Peforming Arts Library. This companion exhibit features unique Alice film items, like this book of previously unpublished Walt Disney illustrations.

Visit our online exhibit and take a look at some of the illustrations inside this and other Alice items on display

Heavy Metal Parking Lot and the Jeff Krulik Collection

When aspiring filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn visited the Capital Centre parking lot on May 31, 1986, they had little more in mind than to document a fan scene at full peak. What they ended up creating was a cult film now considered among the greatest rock documentaries of all time. Just under 17 minutes long, Heavy Metal Parking Lot features local heavy metal fans expressing their enthusiasm for Judas Priest before the band performed in concert that night. Thirty years later, the film continues to resonate with fans around the globe.

HMPL Judas Priest banner

The University of Maryland is proud to honor both the legacy of the film and that of its co-producer. Jeff Krulik, a lifetime Marylander and graduate of UMD (B.A. English, 1983), is an independent documentarian, videographer and cultural preservationist who has built a distinct career tapping into the rich ore of local culture in the Maryland/D.C. region. In 1996, the Washington Post noted that his esteemed documentaries “demonstrate a loving eye for Americana and eccentricity.”

Krulik, Maryland Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001, photo by John ConsoliThe Jeff Krulik Collection, acquired by Mass Media & Culture collections within the UMD Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives in November 2015, includes research files and source tapes for more than a dozen documentaries, as well as photos, catalogs, magazines, guides, posters, ephemera and audiovisual materials that represent a lifetime fascination with the offbeat and unusual. The collection is currently being processed, and will be available to researchers within the next two years.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Krulik’s most iconic film, the exhibit “Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The 30-Year Journey of a Cult Film Sensation”, opening next month in the Gallery at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, illustrates the film’s unexpected path from bootleg copies to international fame. Additional items from the Krulik Collection will also be on display.

Please join us for the opening reception in the the Pavilion of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on May 27 from 6-8:30pm. This lively event will feature short presentations by film scholars, a screening of the film and a Q&A session with Jeff Krulik and John Heyn.

Click here for more information.

Spotlight on Wonderland: The Duchess


With a frustrating mix of rain, wind, sunshine, pollen, and taxes, the month of April is certainly reminiscent of the volatile tempers of the Duchess. Blustery then blithe, raucous then regal, the duchess is an absolute mess of contrary and contrasting emotions.

When Alice first walks into the Duchess’ home, she notes the distinct and overwhelming aroma of peppery soup, followed by the sound of howling and sneezing. These sounds arise from the duchess and her baby sitting in the middle of the room, feeling the effects of an overzealous cook.

`There’s certainly too much pepper in that soup!’ Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.

There was certainly too much of it in the air. Even the Duchess sneezed occasionally; and as for the baby, it was sneezing and howling alternately without a moment’s pause. The only things in the kitchen that did not sneeze, were the cook, and a large cat which was sitting on the hearth and grinning from ear to ear.

When Alice attempts to calm the cacophonous kitchen, she is rebuked. “If everybody minded their own business,” the Duchess said, in a hoarse growl, “the world wound go round a good deal faster than it does.” Not long after, the Duchess all but flings her child into Alice’s arms in her haste to get ready for the Queen of Hearts’ croquet game.


But this is not all we see of the Duchess. Later, at the croquet game, she appears again in a completely different state of mind and attitude. It is not hard to understand why Alice feels something akin to whiplash when she is greeted again.

`You can’t think how glad I am to see you again, you dear old thing!’ said the Duchess, as she tucked her arm affectionately into Alice’s, and they walked off together.

Alice was very glad to find her in such a pleasant temper, and thought to herself that perhaps it was only the pepper that had made her so savage when they met in the kitchen.

In the dialogue that follows, the Duchess reveals that she can find a moral in absolutely anything. Inevitably, when these morals are stated, they cause the reader’s eyes to cross.

Would you rather encounter a cantankerous Duchess or a short-tempered Queen in Wonderland?

Did you Know:

  • Tenniel’s illustration of the Duchess may be based on a 14th century painting of Margaret Maultasch, Countess of Tyrol, which is titled ‘The Ugly Duchess’.
  • The Cheshire Cat belongs to the Duchess. You can see it in the background of illustrations of her kitchen. When Alice asks why her cat grins, the Duchess, in her usual huffy manner, replies “It’s a Cheshire cat…and that’s why.”

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to discover more about the Duchess and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.