Just the Thing: Recent Acquisitions at the MWWC

August 8th, 2012 by Catherine Fisher

“I am a Thing-finder, and when you’re a Thing-finder

you don’t have a minute to spare.”

Pippi Longstocking, in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

 

Might you be, like Pippi, an avid collector? Is there a certain breed of stuff that you treasure, and thrill to whenever a fresh one of its kind falls into your grasp? A pristine addition to the classic stamp collection, maybe? A rare bit of Elvis memorabilia? How about fine art at an auction, or fridge magnets on vacation? Or maybe you’re one who likes to bag hurricanes, volcano eruptions, or 4,000-footers. Or maybe you just like BOOKS.

Even if you’re not one to stockpile anything in particular and your home looks more like a Zen temple than the thing-finder pad of Pippi Longstocking, still I’ll bet you can muster an imagining of what the collector’s thrill feels like. To capture and cherish something really special, and then share it with others who are equally (or even more) jazzed by it…it’s a happy pursuit that can be as much about the communion of the likewise-interested as it is about the treasured objects themselves.

Here at the Collection, collecting (and protecting) is, of course, a large part of what we do. And even though that’s the case, and has been so for over fifty years, adding new gems to it never gets old. It’s still delicious to slit the packing tape on a plain, cardboard shipping box, lift out a brown paper bundle, peel away its wrapper and release a beautiful book we’ve been expecting. Sometimes it’s old and rare, sometimes it’s fresh and new, and always it’s the one we’ve been waiting for.

And what could be even better? Picture this, if you will: It’s afternoon in our lovely, sunny space, and an author (or an author’s descendent, or agent) comes in and says, “I’ve got a bunch of boxes in the back of my car. Where should I park to bring them in?” Or, “It’s finally here! The book I was researching here last year finally came out this month. Here’s a copy for the Collection.” Or, someone arrives and announces, “We found these papers and notebooks in our barn. Would you be interested?” These are great moments. And equally as enjoyable is the visit to an author’s home to collect her papers, where we get to listen to her talk about her writing life, her home life, and her plans for her next chapter. Just yesterday we traveled to York where Rose Safran generously passed on to us the archive of her art-related journalism, unpublished book manuscripts, commercial work and teaching materials. What a stimulating morning!

Whether it’s books, notebooks, manuscripts or letters; photographs, memorabilia or all of the above; whether it’s by an author who’s well- or little-known, living or deceased; whether it’s a gift or a purchase acquired in person or by mail…new additions to the Collection always feel to me like the addition of fresh cells to the body, key pieces in assembling the whole of what we can and want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On display right now at the Collection are some of the items we’ve recently acquired, both manuscript material and books. Here is a brief synopsis, with hopes that you’ll visit and enjoy them for yourself.

Manuscript material and artist’s books

Theodora Kalikow

This new collection of professional papers of the recently-retired University of Maine, Farmington president, spanning 1974-2012, includes her scholarly articles, presentation papers and organization materials; published reviews and newspaper articles; correspondence; awards; interviews with Kalikow and a bound student thesis on her. Kalikow is taking over as the next president of the University of Southern Maine, just a day or two after her retirement from Farmington!

Rachel Carson

These additions to our Rachel Carson collection, dated 1951, 1962-1963, include correspondence between Carson and literary agent Joan Daves; a photograph of Carson by Erich Hartmann; 2 Carson postage stamps; a copy of her commencement address to Scripps College; and an exhibition catalogue.

Grace M. Calvert

A 1915 daily diary of Grace M. Calvert of Park Street in Portland has been added to our Manuscript Volumes collection, which includes diaries, ledgers and daybooks, copy books, scrapbooks, albums and other personal volumes of unpublished women writers of Maine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lael Morgan

Adding to the wealth of books and periodicals previously given by this journalist/photojournalist who has covered Alaska since the early 1960s, this extensive new acquisition contains over fifty years worth of clippings, notebooks, correspondence, sailing logs, book manuscripts, photographs, videos, slides and memorabilia, including her gold pan!

 

Sissy Buck

We acquired this beautiful artist’s book, She Tells Me, from Cumberland Foreside artist Buck along with another of hers entitled Scarlet Strawberry Runners (Angus). These join a third already in our collection, In Her Memory Garden.

 

Barbara Goodbody

We received Salutation to the Dawn as the generous gift of this Cumberland Foreside artist. The accordion fold book contains original text and eight vibrant photographs of the sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katy Perry

A large amount of new material has been added to the collection of this Hallowell columnist and spans the years 1966-2012. Included are manuscripts and clippings of her articles in the Capital Weekly, Hallowell Register, Portland Press Herald and other publications.

 

Rose Marasco

Two framed photographs from Marasco’s “Domestic Objects” series have joined the sizable collection of her work already gracing our walls. We hope to follow the acquisition of Egg Diary and Sink Diary with more pieces from the series in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books

 

The earliest volume on display at the moment is the 1921 Journal of the Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the Department of Maine Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic at Portland, Maine, June 15 and 16. This slim book in a soft red paper cover records the general proceedings of the convention as well as the detailed reports given by various office holders, with a photograph of each woman accompanying her account.

 

 

Annette Vance Dorey’s Maine Mothers Who Murdered 1875-1925: Doing Time in State Prison explores the incarceration of 3 dozen female murderers in the Thomaston prison. Dorey, of the Androscoggin Historical Society and University of New Brunswick, presented on this topic at our Spring Academic Conference in March.

 

 

Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasures on and Off the Ice, by Erica Rand, Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Women and Gender Studies at Bates College, is Rand’s depiction of her experience as a queer femme participating in the sport of ice skating, “a sport with heterosexual story lines and rigid standards for gender-appropriate costumes and moves.”

 

 

Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland 1900-1940, is a beautiful book by Libby Bischof, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Maine, and Susan Danly, curator of graphics, photography and contemporary art at the Portland Museum of Art. This companion piece to their show at the museum last September explains how forsaking New York pressures for summers on the coast of Maine influenced personally and artistically modern artists such as photographers Paul Strand and Gertrude Kasebier, painters Marsden Hartley and John Marin, sculptor Gaston Lachaise, and others.

 

Pionierin der Arktis: Josephine Pearys Reisen ins ewige Eis might not be destined for repeated use by visitors to the Collection given that it is in German, but it was very exciting for us to receive it in the mail one day, as its very personable author Cornelia Gerlach traveled from Germany to explore the Josephine Peary Collection at the MWWC for her research. We had such a great time with her.

 

 

Three books of poetry are included in the display, just a fraction of those we have added in the last six months. The language of Alicia Fuller’s Tenants is gritty and real as it comes up against and embraces daily life in all its raw imperfection; Drift: A Poem by Kirstin Hotelling Zona is a meeting of the pulsations of the earth body and the body human; and When No One is Looking, by Red Hawk pipik-w-ass (Carol Dana) paints the Indian Island experience of this Penobscot teacher, historian and conservator with both personal and universal strokes.

 

The three food-related books in the display add to the deliciousness factor of collecting in a more literal way. Baker’s Notes, published by the Scratch Baking Company in South Portland, discloses a few of their recipes and brings the reader into the warm, yeasty atmosphere of the bakery in the wee hours of the morning. Wilma Redman’s Neal Street Cookbook achieves a near-complete compilation of her old New England recipes that have stood the test of time and make one proud to be from around here. And Notes from a Maine Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes by Kathy Gunst is a literary cookbook that combines personal essays, recipes, cooking tips and foraging information. And in addition to some fun food activities, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule offers fresh, creative activities families can enjoy in harmony and connection with nature.

 

Of course, a display case and side table only allow us to exhibit a small sampling of the treasures that have been gathered into the Collection in recent months, but we’re always more than happy to pull out other precious gems from the archives and let them shine. Because after all, show and tell is definitely one of the best parts of thing-finding, don’t you think?

 

 

Early NOW in Maine

November 15th, 2011 by Ann Morrissey

Nancy Cushman Dibner (1926-2007) was a political activist interested in many causes but perhaps best known for her work in the early 1970s on the formation of the Maine Chapter of NOW.  National NOW was a powerhouse that lobbied for a multitude of women’s causes.

The collection contains 148 files mostly from 1970-1973 and is separated into sections on national NOW, the state NOW chapter in Maine, issues materials, a short biographical section and a collection of Memorabilia.  These papers were donated to MWWC by her sons, Steve and Eric Dibner.

Some of the highlights of the papers are:

1. How to start a NOW chapter!  The political world of women in the early 70s was dominated by nationwide efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (the ERA).  National NOW was the most powerful and most visual champion of that effort.  Women all over the country wanted to be part of NOW and to have chapters within their own states.  NOW sent out instructional pamphlets with specific instructions on how to organize their chapters.  The Dibner papers contain a copy of the 1970 manual from NOW which includes advice on officers, money raising and available materials.

2. ERA Efforts in Maine.  NOW’s Bill of Rights had as its first demand the passage of the national ERA which required state-by-state efforts.  The battle for the ERA passage in Maine was particularly hot in 1972 and 1973 and is well documented in the Dibner papers.  As the proposed amendment went to the Maine legislature a second time, the language intensified and all out efforts to support the funding of the amendment’ passage were developed including a softball game whose proceeds went toward the ratification of the ERA.

3. Issues Series.  The array of issues in the NOW and Maine NOW files are varied and colorful.  Besides these files, Dibner kept over 50 files of clippings and white papers on some expected issues (abortion, education, employment, legal issues, religion & politics) and on some unexpected issues (feminist items for sale, vegetarian feminists, marriage & name choice, and women & credit.  These folders are an eagle’s eye look at the early 70′s and the concerns of women.

4. Feminist / Political Buttons.  One of the great joys of the collection are the over 100 political & feminist buttons that show the range, humor and pathos of the period.  They range from Nixon eats lettuce, Uppity Women Unite and Abortion Upon Demand, to Sexism is a Social Disease and Respect Animals Don’t Eat Them.

For any researcher interested in the early 70′s, in NOW, or in feminism in general, the Nancy Dibner papers are a treasure of materials.

Access to archives is a feminist issue

July 6th, 2011 by Cathleen Miller

On Saturday, June 25, Jennifer Tuttle and I had the pleasure of hosting a luncheon and roundtable discussion on “Assessing the Stowe Archives” as part of the Harriet Beecher Stowe at 200 conference, which was held at Bowdoin College.  I was lucky enough to share the table with noted scholars Susan Belasco and Joan Hedrick; Katherine Kane, who directs the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center; Judith Ann Schiff, who is the Chief Research Archivist at Yale; Margaret Gaertner of Barba + Wheelock Architecture, Preservation + Design, who assisted in compiling the Historic Building Report for the Stowe House in Brunswick; and Adena Spingarn, who is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Harvard.

Our discussion began with an expansive conception of what constitutes the Stowe archives: archival material, built environments, material culture, graveyards, locations influential to Stowe’s writing, and other such traces of Stowe’s life and work.  Each panelist was free to discuss the archives as broadly or narrowly as they liked.

Adena Spingarn discussed the challenge of access during renovations at the Stowe Center, which took her research in another direction as she waited for collections to be reopened.  She began looking at newspapers for traces of performances of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and though access was a major issue for Spingarn during the early stages of her research, in the end, this difficulty enhanced her work and understanding of her subject.

Judith Ann Schiff spoke primarily about connections of the Stowe family to Yale, and highlighted materials that were related to Stowe’s wider family lineage.

Margaret Gaertner shared photos taken of the Stowe House in Brunswick during the research for the Historic Building Report.  She highlighted traces of the house as it looked in Stowe’s day, which are mostly hidden behind fireplace mantles and odd remodeling choices by former owners.  Gaertner discussed the history of the house itself–when it was remodeled and updated, and how they traced various pieces of that history. She remarked that the future of the house is still under consideration by Bowdoin College.

Katherine Kane began her comments by stating that everything is archives–the built environment, artifacts, ephemera, manuscript material, etc.  She talked about a recent acquisition from the Connecticut Historical Society of an antislavery petition, which was an historic transfer from one institution to another.  CHS deeded the petition to the Stowe Center because of its connection to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and because, as Kane explained,  CHS does not collect Stowe since the Stowe Center does.  She also discussed some of the programs at the Stowe Center, and their efforts to make Stowe’s work accessible and engaging.

Susan Belasco’s remarks pointed to the fact that we still have much to do in the realm of infrastructure and access of the Stowe archives.  She discussed her work with the Walt Whitman Archive and the intense digitization efforts that has entailed, and she pointed out the many issues involved with digitization (human labor, funding, permissions, etc.).

Joan Hedrick echoed Susan Belasco’s comments about access, and elaborated with a story of the difficulties she had as a Ph.D. student traveling to archives during her first pregnancy, and later, as a young mother.  Hedrick stated that she deliberately chose a dissertation subject that would not require archival research, and later settled on Stowe as a research subject because of the proximity of the Stowe Center to her work at Trinity College.

There were many good questions about collaboration between institutions (and the associated territoriality), about the importance of digitization (and the related costs), and the question of how to build infrastructure.  There was so much to say, in fact, that we had to cut off discussion.  I think we could have talked about these issues for hours.  There were questions I wanted to ask, but did not.  I thought perhaps I could start to ask them here.  Joan Hedrick’s story about access highlighted for me a series of questions that we never had time to delve into:

How are some women scholars (or men, who are similarly restricted by their obligations to family members; or researchers with limited financial means) negatively impacted by difficulty accessing places to do primary source research?

Are archivists doing a disservice to women researchers by not digitizing more material?

How is the field of knowledge limited by the inability of women scholars to travel to far-off archives?

How can archives, libraries, and museums be more friendly to the often unique needs of women scholars with young families, or who are committed to caring for family members?

I had never before considered the irony inherent in the fact that while we make available collections of materials that highlight the voices of women, we might be shutting out women who cannot make the journey to visit our collection.  My work as an archivist suddenly took on a feminist mission.  I don’t know the answers to the above questions, but I would like to start a conversation about this issue.

What could archives do to make access easier for women scholars?  Short of digitizing everything, which we can’t afford to do?

Toward a More Feminist Maine

March 16th, 2011 by Cathleen Miller

Next week, on Monday, March 21 at noon, JoAnne Dauphinee will present a talk entitled, “Toward a More Feminist Maine: 40 years of NOW activism and alliances.” Please join us for an engaging conversation.

Monday, March 21, 2011
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Maine Women Writers Collection
Abplanalp Library
University of New England
716 Stevens Avenue, Portland, ME
Free and open to the public.
Lunch will be provided.

JoAnne Dauphinee will present a vivid picture of feminist activism in Maine from the 1960s to the present, with a specific focus on the work of the National Organization for Women and its diverse projects. She will offer a view of NOW’s dynamic actions and events, and of the activists who gave generously of their time and talents to create a more feminist world and a more feminist Maine.  Jo will discuss Maine’s evolving political climate and look at how activist events responded to changing legislative agendas.

As a founding member of Maine NOW, JoAnne Dauphinee has served in various NOW leadership and alliance positions since its founding. Currently, she coordinates Maine NOW’s FAT Liberation Project, Maine NOW PAC and the high-donor program, which includes producing the monthly newsletter JAM–Jo’s Action Message.  She represents NOW on the Coalition for Maine Women and the Maine Choice Coalition, and serves on the board of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor. She is actively involved in NOW’s Maine Feminist Memory Project, which seeks to collect the papers and oral histories of Maine feminist activists.

Celebrating 100 years of International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, “Pathway to Decent Work”

March 8th, 2011 by Catherine Fisher

Here at the MWWC, our mission is to celebrate the “decent work” of writing and to champion any woman’s path to it. Traditionally for women the road to becoming a writer and doing the work of writing has been fraught with obstacles, and in the company of our collection are many women who overcame much to answer their true callings. Their courage to actively pursue the goal of writing, claim the time and the space to write, own and honor a voice to write, and respect the writing enough to make it public deserves our admiration and gratitude. Whether the limitations have been educational, financial, political or domestic, every writer in our archives has seen her way clear to do the decent work of writing and contribute her part to the vibrant collective.

At risk when the pathway is blocked is spelled out in a letter by Gladys Hasty Carroll, 1991:

“If women don’t tell how women feel, and why they feel that way, and how the world and the future look to them, how is anybody going to know? And how much sweet mystery, true enchantment, bewitching diversity, and superb innovation will be lost to the world!”

One of the major obstacles to engaging in the decent work of writing, that of finding uninterrupted time, is explained by poet and journalist Elizabeth Akers Allen in a 1910 letter:

“When I was preparing my last book, I was more than once called down stairs seven and eight times in one afternoon. In fact, I am never sure of one uninterrupted hour. How much work would Longfellow or Lowell have done in such circumstances?…it is the breaking of the thread of thought, the “losing one’s place,” the entire displacing of one’s ideas by something entirely foreign to the work in hand, which does the mischief…”

This difficulty is echoed a few decades later by Florence Burrill Jacobs, who wrote poetry, fiction and greeting card verse:

“It takes time, it takes energy, physical and mental. When you have finished a good big ironing, even with a mangle, you don’t bring to writing a poem the same fresh outlook and uncluttered imagination that you might had you been walking on a beach. Time, actual physical time, three or four hours; it takes energy; and there is always some detail ahead, start supper…and a constant mental drain, bring in the clothes if they are dry enough…”

In the collection and preservation of poetry and cookbooks, novels and memoirs, scientific studies, political papers and scholarly works, the Maine Women Writers Collection honors all women’s voices, all forms of writing and expression, and values the documents that illustrate the pathway each woman traveled and illuminate the obstacles she overcame. Decent work is a choice and a purpose, as activist Ramona Barth declares in her 1990s article, “Woman and the Postwar World”:

“I maintain that today’s woman who is choosing work instead of shopping and playing is better equipped to talk, think and plan peace than the woman rightly featured before this war by the advertisers as the sheltered, pampered lady. She is a responsible, integrated, purposeful being, instead of the useless dilettante of yesterday.”

The choice of Maine’s women to persevere in the work of writing has had positive international impact on peace, education, the environment, empowerment of women, and cultural enrichment. Rather than being lost to the world, their voices have helped clear the pathway to decent work for generations of women, today and tomorrow.