It’s the Holiday Season: Shopping and Advertisements in Historic Maryland Newspapers

Holiday shopping has always been popular. But thanks to the ample opportunities for online shopping, free shipping, early Black Friday deals, and stores opening on Thanksgiving, it’s fairly easy to spot the ways shopping has changed throughout the twenty-first century.

With the COVID-19 pandemic enacting many changes, it’s fair to assume that holiday shopping is going to be a little different this year: Amazon shifted their annual Prime Days from the summer to the fall, Target and Walmart announced store closings on Thanksgiving Day, and many small businesses will continue to rely on curb-side pick-up and online ordering this holiday season. 

Continue reading

Made possible by viewers like you: Maryland Public Television finding aid goes live!

black-and-white images of public broadcasting professionals in the background. white and yellow text in the foreground reads: Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50, September 2019-July 2020.
Special Collections and University Archives exhibition poster for Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50

The Mass Media and Culture unit in Special Collections and University Archives holds a wide range of collections documenting U.S. television and radio broadcasting history, including the Maryland Public Television (MPT) collection. In celebration of the University Libraries’ extended “Year of MPT” celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary, we just published our finding aid for the MPT records! This finding aid is an invaluable resource for our campus community and for the public to learn about this unique and vital collection documenting the history of Maryland’s only state-wide public television broadcaster.

While the library is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, explore the finding aid from home. There is something for everyone in the 3,920 itemized videos (including over 700 with links to digitized content) and the 47 boxes of print records and photographs:

Behind the scenes: What’s in the finding aid? 

The finding aid is a guide to the entire Maryland Public Television collection, including print records, photographs, and recordings on open-reel film, Betacam, U-Matic, and VHS tapes. The print records include administrative records, correspondence, memos, program guides, promotional materials, publications, marketing and development plans, newspaper clippings, budgets, and reports. The thousands of videos represented in the MPT finding aid document the breadth and depth of MPT’s broadcast programs, primarily from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s but dating as late as 2013. 


This most recent phase of documenting the MPT collection began in January 2019 in anticipation of last fall’s exhibit opening, Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50. Processing Archivist Jen Wachtel spearheaded the inventory and finding aid project. Although previous archivists documented portions of the collection, Jen started from scratch with the audiovisual inventory so that we would have an up-to-date and accurate record. An important milestone for Special Collections in working with large audiovisual collections, the publication of this finding aid also reflects an enormous effort on the part of many other people from MMC including graduate student assistant Emily Moore, past graduate assistant student Liz Holdzkom, and Curator Laura Schnikter.

Processing archivist Jen Wachtel barcoding MPT videotapes, many of which have been digitized and are linked to the new finding aid

Of course, documenting thousands of videotapes takes time, as does ensuring the accuracy of the metadata (the detailed information in a library catalog record). Proceeding shelf by shelf throughout 2019, the team updated and refined the inventory. Just as they neared the last few stacks of videotapes in early 2020, the University Libraries shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Working remotely with the pre-pandemic inventory, Jen Wachtel and Archival Metadata Librarian Liz Caringola experimented with workflows for reconciling large amounts of data across multiple inventory spreadsheets and linked digitized videos to the corresponding items on the inventory. In the meantime, Jen Wachtel created descriptions about the print and audiovisual series so that public viewers would be able to navigate all components of the collection. For example, although the physical videotapes and film reels are not necessarily shelved by program title, for the sake of discoverability, each item is arranged alphabetically by MPT program title in the finding aid. 

We are so excited to share this public broadcasting collection, made possible by viewers like you! 

___

Jen Wachtel is the Mass Media and Culture and Processing Archivist and Special Collections Engagement Specialist at the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives. She is also a graduate student in the History and Library Science (HiLS) dual master’s  program and Museum Scholarship and Material Culture graduate certificate program at the University of Maryland, concentrating in modern European history and archives and digital curation.

Wolf Trap: Performance, Up Close and Personal

St. Petersburg’s Kirov ballet performs Swan Lake

For the uninitiated, the term “Wolf Trap” likely inspires visions of fur trappers, wintery wilderness and small, cozy cabins. For anyone familiar with the Wolf Trap of Fairfax County, Virginia, however, the name evokes something quite different. The only national park for the performing arts in the United States, Wolf Trap is a “unique marriage of arts and nature” (https://www.wolftrap.org/about.aspx) that has played host to performers from Elvis Costello to the classic improv troupe Second City (https://www.wolftrap.org/calendar.aspx). A 117-acre campus, only 30 minutes from the University of Maryland College Park, Wolf Trap, like every other venue, has had to close due to covid, canceling all live performances until 2021. Luckily, Special Collections is home to recordings of “On Stage at Wolf Trap”, a behind-the-scenes show that features some of the park’s most famous musical and cabaret performances. Rather than underscoring the loss of live performances, these recordings, full of archival images and interviews with performers, offer a depth of access typically only available to ticket holders with the best seats. Combine that with the technical and contextual information provided and you’ve got yourself a real-deal cultural experience, pandemic-style. 

One of the best parts of seeing live performance is the sense of immediacy and intimacy – the feeling that anything can happen. Watching the National Symphony Orchestra perform Shostakovich on my screen at home takes that sensation of proximity to a new level – in On Stage at Wolf Trap: Rostropovich Conducts Shostakovich (episode 102), we see close-ups of the conductors face, zero in on the musician’s hands, see the wiggling eyebrows of the woodwinds section, and admire the lace edge on the sleeve of the harp player. After so many months without live music or the feeling of camaraderie that performances bring, this footage is balm for my music-starved self. The same goes for Great Performances at Wolf Trap, episode 139, which features a Dizzy Gillespie performance from 1987. We see Gillespie, dapper in a salmon jacket, sing and start a call and response with the audience during setup; it’s like being present for a studio recording session. 

Image shows four men playing horn instruments. Gillespie is on the left, wearing a salmon blazer and playing his bent trumpet. The other men play a trumpet, a saxophone and a trombone.
Gillespie in pink, with his signature bent trumpet.

Beyond feeding our appetite for live performance, On Stage at Wolf Trap gives viewers a peek behind the scenes, rounding out the music with insider’s info on how the shows get made. In the Shostakovich episode, for example, we watch the assembly of the stage, a process that takes six people a full two hours. The ceiling, made from three massive pieces of douglas fir that each weigh 1,200lbs, sits on top of 24 sections of wall, each 30 feet tall and weighing 3,000lbs. The construction of the stage is a feat of engineering, and one that remains unseen to most attendants at a Wolf Trap performance. Another backstage look, this one of the legendary Soviet Kirov ballet company, is offered by Weeknight Alive!, a Maryland Public Television series focusing on the arts. Hosts Brian Whitley and Michael Joyce take viewers behind the scenes to show how the live performance, shown simultaneously on 273 public television stations, was successfully made. Seven camera operators choreograph their work alongside 100 dancers, and the episode offers some serious technological throwbacks, made all the more impressive when we realize that this 1987 performance was done decades before the era of the drone. The final product, the first time the Kirov ballet had performed in the United States in 25 years, is available in our digitized archival collections here

A female dancer in costume makes a series of small, short jumps backstage. She wears pink toe shoes and a dress with a white, romantic tutu skirt and a blue bodice.
A dancer warms up backstage

So while you’re transporting yourself to this beautiful Virginia site, imagining the fresh air and buzzing energy that accompanies live performance, be sure to check out a few more gems from the collection:

Next up, join us for a little virtual nature break with an episode of Nature’s Trail, another treat from MPT.


Emily Moore is a second-year MLIS student with a background in art and theory. In addition to her role as a student assistant at Special Collections and University Archives, she works as the Archival Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Shelleys, Godwins, and Wollstonecrafts in Literature and Rare Books

What do anarchism, science fiction, women’s rights, and Romanticism have in common?  One family!  William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley wrote in different genres but the writings of all four continue to provoke thought and provide enjoyment centuries later.  You can learn more about this fascinating family by viewing their works in Hornbake Library’s Literature and Rare Books collection!

William Godwin was a British philosopher, novelist, and a radical critic of British government and society in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Godwin was a proponent of utilitarianism and anarchism, and many of the radical critiques of these schools of thought can be found in his writings.  For example in St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century Godwin ponders the value of the aristocracy and questions what truly makes people free.

In 1797, Godwin married Mary Wollstonecraft.  Like Godwin, Wollstonecraft was an author and philosopher.  Wollstonecraft is best known for writing a Vindication of the Rights of Women,  a work that was highly influential on the early women’s rights movement.  In Vindication, Wollstonecraft argues that a lack of education, rather than inherent differences due to sex, is what prevents women from achieving the same things as men.  You can find both the 1794 edition and the 1796 edition in the Literature and Rare Books collection.

Godwin and Wollstonecraft had one daughter, Mary.  Wollstonecraft died shortly after Mary’s birth and Mary was raised by her father and step-mother.  At age 16, Mary met the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Percy, despite his aristocratic birth, was a follower of Godwin’s radical political views.  Despite the fact that Percy was already married, the two fell in love and fled along with Mary’s stepsister, Claire, to Switzerland.

In Switzerland, Mary would write Frankenstein, her best known work. Hornbake has several fascinating editions of Frankenstein such as a specialty edition given out to the armed forces during World War II and an edition featuring engravings from the acclaimed artist Lynd Ward.

While Frankenstein is what Mary is most well known for, she continued to write in a variety of genres after it was published.  Her novel Lodore follows a widow and her daughter as they struggle to find their way in a patriarchal culture after the death of her husband.  Mary also wrote a travel narrative, Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843.

Mary’s literary output also included editing her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works after his passing.  Mary edited volumes of Percy’s poetry that were published in 1824, 1839, 1840, 1854, and 1892.  Hornbake’s Rare Books collection also includes works that were published before Shelley’s death such as Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, The Revolt of Islam: A Poem, in Twelve Cantos, and Rosalind and Helen: A Modern Eclogue: With Other Poems.

Writings by Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and the Shelleys are only a portion of what Literature and Rare Books has to offer.  For more information about our holdings contact us!

Spooky Celebrations

Evening capital and Maryland gazette. (Annapolis, Md.), 31 Oct. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88065726/1921-10-31/ed-1/seq-1/>

All Hallow’s Eve, All Hallow Eve, Hallow Eve, Hallow Even, Hallow E’en, Hallowe’en, Halloween, Eve of All Saints’ Day–whatever you want to call it or however you’d like to spell it–is a day with origins dating all the way back to the Celts, and it came to the American East Coast in the 1600s (“Halloween 2020”). More common in Maryland and southern states, Halloween wasn’t celebrated nationally until the Third Wave of Immigration (“Halloween 2020”). Today, many people in the US have come to observe Halloween as a commercial and secular holiday, but the way that people celebrate it may differ by individual or family. We can recognize these differences throughout the years, across the state of Maryland.

Continue reading

New Resource: Black Writers and Artists in Special Collections

Literature and Rare Books in Special Collection and University Archives is a rich resource of works black artists and writers. Explore these items in our new subject guide on Black Writers and Artists!  

Non-fiction writing by black authors covers a wide variety of topics, including pamphlets on politics, racism, activism, and culture in our African American and African pamphlet collection. The subject guide also highlights fiction ranging from children’s books by Chinua Achebe to literary masterpieces by writers such as James Baldwin.  Contributions of black artists and printers to other parts of the bookmaking process, such as illustrators like Cledie Taylor and black owned presses like the Broadside Press, are also included.

Continue reading

A Bonanza of Baltimore Bounty on Chesapeake Bay Collectibles

For fans of libraries and archives who harbor a special place in their hearts for Maryland history, Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a treasure trove! A Mid-Atlantic version of Antiques Roadshow, Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a great starting point to explore the best of our region’s history. This 2011 episode features a couple of antiques specific to Baltimore, embodying some colorful parts of its fascinating past. 

First up is a relic from the infamous Great Baltimore Fire, which ripped through the city in February of 1904. A stack of melted eyeglasses, grabbed by the owner’s grandfather, bears witness to the destruction of the blaze.

A stack of melted metal-rimmed glasses sits on clear plastic display stand on a red background. In the bottom left corner of a screenshot, there is a picture of a ship with its sails unfurled on a blue background
Glasses melted in the Great Baltimore Fire, screenshot by the author.

Over the course of two days, the fire, which started in a dry goods store, decimated the downtown areas around Camden and the Inner Harbor. Baltimore’s narrow streets accelerated the spread, resulting in a towering blaze that could be seen as far away as Washington, D.C. Aid from the Capitol proved to be useless as the couplings for the fire trucks did not fit the hydrants in Baltimore. Eventually, firefighters from Philadelphia and Delaware would join the battle. A February 7, 1904 issue of the Sun Metrogravure, the Baltimore Sun’s weekly pictorial magazine, covered the destruction, and can be requested here in our special collections. 

Next we’ve got the Betsy Patterson music box, a beautiful piece named after a woman commonly referred to as “The Belle of Baltimore”. The daughter of an Irish immigrant who eventually became the second richest man in Baltimore, Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson was beloved for her grit and risque fashion. Perhaps most famous for her short-lived marriage to the younger brother of Napoleon I, Patterson enjoyed a brief stint in Europe during which she was forbidden from touching French soil. A number of tomes celebrate Patterson as the heroine of Baltimore, including Glorious Betsy, being the romantic story of the Dixie belle who defied Napoleon, by Arline De Haas and Rida Johnson Young, currently available in UMD’s collection in the Maryland Room. 

The dust jacket of a book entitled Glorious Betsy by Arline De Haas features a woman in a Dixie dress, Betsy, holding her finger up against a man dressed in French imperial clothing, Napoleon. The scene is set on a dark orange background.
Dust jacket from Glorious Betsy, image retrieved from Amazon.

For more on Patterson, check out the Traveler’s Narratives series of the Maryland Manuscripts collection, which includes William Pickney’s account of her Atlantic journey in 1804. 

While we at Hornbake Library have finished celebrating MPT’s 50th anniversary, our digital archives of their offerings continue to entertain and educate viewers of all stripes. Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of our digital collections – a treasure hunt that you can do from your couch! Matching items from the show with resources in our collections demonstrates the web-like nature of our holdings: each object speaks to another! From rare books to antique maps, UMD’s special collections build out the context around each object and provide the opportunity for creativity in search. It’s a great reminder that our holdings can be applied for learning in a ton of different ways. Be sure to check out our next installment on MPT, where we check out Wolf Trap, and the amazing cultural events that you can enjoy from home.


Emily Moore is a second-year MLIS student with a background in art and theory. In addition to her role as a student assistant at Special Collections and University Archives, she works as the Archival Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

17 million pages in Chronicling America!

This month, Chronicling America reached 17 million newspaper pages! Historic newspaper pages are contributed to the Chronicling America newspaper database by National Digital Newspaper Program partner organizations from all across the country. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), which is a partnership between National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.

Image courtesy of National Endowment for the Humanities.
Continue reading

Collection Highlights: Lester N. Trachtman Papers and the African American Labor Center Records

African Labor Union Records Now Available!

Two new labor collections are now available to the public: the Lester N. Trachtman Papers, and the African American Labor Center records.  Both of these collections are focused on African labor and trade unionism, and complement the existing public holdings of the AFL-CIO Archive’s International Department in the Special Collections and University Archives at University of Maryland.  

Continue reading

New Resource: Science Fiction Pulp Magazines Finding Aid

Whether it is novels like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, major franchises like Star Trek, or recent television series like Lovecraft Country, science fiction is one of the most popular and profitable genres in pop-culture.  And now you can discover science fiction among the Literature and Rare Books collections in Special Collections and University Archives! You can now explore the stories which have influenced the genre, and take a look at our new finding aid for the Howard and Jane Frank Collection of Science Fiction Pulp Magazines!

Continue reading