Friday, May 1, 2015

Panchatantra: Stories of ageless wisdom from South Asia

It’s May, the month of finals! There’s more to May, though; it’s also the South Asian Heritage Month. In the light of this, we want to point out some exciting books we have here at LITS to help you learn more about the culture of story telling in South Asia. The Panchatantra (which in Sanskrit means ‘Five Principles’) is a canonical collection of animal fables in verse and prose. It contains stories of Sanskrit (Hindu) as well as Pali (Buddhist) origins.It is one of the earliest and most frequently translated literary product of India. It contains numerous fables, often three to four layers in depth, arranged inside a frame story. It is believed that the original version, attributed to Pandit Vishnu Sharma, was composed in the third century BC.

*A page from a Persian translation of Panchatantra depicts
 a manipulative jackal trying to lead his lion king into a war.

The prelude of Panchatantra illustrates that Vishnu Sharma was asked by the King of Mahilaropya, to teach the principles of governance to his three unruly sons. Through his stories, Vishnu Sharma was able to teach nitishastra (treatise on government and political science) to the three Princes, who otherwise refused to study. According to Patrick Olivelle (the author of an English translation of the book), “Panchatantra is a complex book that does not seek to reduce the complexities of human life, government policy, political strategies and ethical dilemmas into simple solutions; it can and does speak to different readers at different levels.”  The five principles illustrated in its five volumes are -separation of friends (The Lion and the Bull), gaining of friends (The Dove, Crow,  Mouse, Tortoise and Deer), war and peace (Of Crows and Owls), the loss of gains (The Monkey and the Crocodile) and imprudence (The Brahman and the Mongoose). 

Some of the translated versions of Panchatantra available through LITS are:
  1. The Panchatantra : translated from the Sanskrit by Arthur W. Ryder (MH Cutter Collection 69Y P1 E - can be requested at the Circulation Desk) 
  2. Pancatantra of Viṣṇuśarman : by M. R. Kale (MH Stacks PK3741 .P2 1969)
  3. The five discourses on worldly wisdom by Viṣṇuśarman : translated by Patrick Olivelle (MH Stacks PK3798.V835 P3613 2006)

If you are looking for a fun and engaging book to read once you are done with finals, check out a copy from the Circulation Desk and enjoy some wonderful stories from South Asia!

*Image obtained from the New World Encyclopedia under Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The bunnies are back!

Finals got you frazzled? LITS has bunnies! Join us for our Spring Study Break Tea, a.k.a. Tea and Buns!

Visit the Stimson Room on Library Level 6 this Wednesday, April 29 from 4-5pm.  There will be snacks, button making, graphic novels, and - most importantly - baby bunnies!  Come take a break, cuddle a bunny, and feel all your finals stress melt away . . .

Friday, April 17, 2015

From the Archives: The Diary of Gertrude "Scuddy" Scudder, Class of 1915

 "Today is one of the most memorable in my life. Mother and I, together with the Sharkeys, set out for college. Bess S. for Smith and I for Holyoke!"  Sunday, September 17, 1911

  A recent acquisition to the Archives and Special Collections provides fascinating insight into the daily life of Grace Scudder, a graduate of the class of 1915.The diary came to us through surprising means-- it was discovered in an antique cabinet and was donated to the Archives by someone who had no relation to Scudder! Her diary contains entries from the years 1911-1916, with entries beginning on Scudder's first day at Mount Holyoke College. The highlights of her first week include:

Monday: "Mother and I go wild over the lovely campus and  the glorious mountains."
Tuesday: "I put mother on the 11:22 train at Holyoke for a while. I certainly felt mighty miserable for a while. Dear Mother! However, this afternoon and evening I've met heaps of the loveliest girls and have gone around to the cosiest rooms!"
Thursday: "I had my first experience of Holyoke's beautiful chapel services and my first glimpse of Pres. Woolley. Had a 'scrumptious' time at a freshie tea in Grace Hallock's room."
Friday: "I had my first taste of recitations today. The German class struck terror to my heart."
Saturday: "At 5 o'clock I went to the Y.W.C.A. recep. with Alice Jones, and shook hands with Pres. Woolley." (all emphasis original)

The format of a line-a-day diary is perfect for busy college student: each page contains brief entries from each day over a five year period. The day of the month is inscribed at the top of the page, and the writer fills in the year next to reserved lines for that entry.

The front cover of Scudder's diary. Imprinted in the soft red
leather are the words "A Line A Day."

Gertrude Scudder, known as "Scuddy" to her friends, participated in an active civic life at Mount Holyoke and  afterwards. After graduating from MHC, she taught English and Latin in a junior high school, although she did not want to teach as her vocation and sought to work in journalism or have an exectutive position in business. She gained experience on the staff of the Trenton Times and Springfield Union, and also worked as a a social investigator for the Trenton Welfare Association.
These entries from May 6 highlight graduation activities. The top entry from 1912 reads,
"The seniors couldn't spin tops today on account of the rain."

She had a long history with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) as a member during her time at Mount Holyoke and as an active leader of her local chapter in Trenton, New Jersey. She served for six years as the president of the Trenton chapter and wrote a 50 year history of the organization. She continued her civic mission by working with the Garden Club, Trent House Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, and was also active in MHC alumnae activities.
This paper lapel clip in the design of a golden sphinx was found tucked in the pages of the diary,

Monday, April 13, 2015

Reminder: A Chance for Fame and Fortune!

We're looking forward to seeing your creative pieces!  Please remember to complete your submissions for the Emily Silverman ’81 Student Prize, a juried competition to recognize an outstanding work of student creativity.  Open to all current Mount Holyoke College students, the winning entry will be displayed in a LITS space and will also receive a monetary prize!

Deadline for submissions: Sunday April 26, 2015. For more information, visit:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Calling All Faculty! ~ Suggestions for Future Moodle Events

Attention MHC Faculty Members!  Your LITS liaisons want your suggestions for future Moodle faculty brown bags, workshops or events.  Is there something you want to know more about, or something you'd like to learn how to do? Please send us your suggestions at or

Monday, April 6, 2015

I Found Spring In The Archives: A History of the Talcott Greenhouse

With spring finally starting to shine through, it's always nice to pay a visit to the Talcott greenhouse (known over the years as Talcott Arboretum or the "plant house") a warm spot of green even in the middle of winter. Warren O. McAvoy, who was head of the greenhouse starting in the early 1960s, stated that in winter the "lift the students get is reason enough for the Talcott Conservatory."

Mount Holyoke students model in the greenhouse in the early 1970s

Constructed in the late 1890s with funds provided by Mr. James Talcott,  the greenhouse was mainly used as a laboratory for students of botany. Talcott was related to the family of a Mount Holyoke student by marriage, and two of his great-great-grandaughters attended the college in the 60s. The greenhouse structure itself remained largely unchanged until a new section was dedicated in 1980, behind the original left wing. The entire greenhouse was renovated 1992-1997. It was fitted with new glass, wood, and modernized heating.
Farmerettes examining plants in the Talcott greenhouse

The greenhouse has been used as a facility for many different education programs about plants and farming. It was also used during both World Wars as a learning environment for Mount Holyoke's "farmerettes," who spent time during the school year and in the summer tending farm land to help provide labor to local farmers while many workers were away at war.

The greenhouse has been host to a flower show on and off since about the time of the greenhouse's construction, but it was horticulturist John Walker who revitalized the project around 1970. Past themes have
included: Dutch, Japanese, Wizard of Oz, and Italy.
Photo from The Springfield Republican captioned "Patricia A. Mayweather, '72,
 wears hotpants in the hot house as Arboretum staff director Myron J. Robinson
arranges a display."

The idea of giving out plants to students was thought up by John Walker around 1970-71. John Walker, described in one Daily News article as "a green-thumb version of santa claus" provided up to two or three plants for any student that showed interest, a practice that developed into our current tradition of receiving "first year plants." Walker also had an "emergency room" for plants that were freezing, overwatered, or infested with bugs.

Photo from The Springfield Republican

Samantha Snodgrass, Class of 2018, is a volunteer student assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Archives. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ancient cult unearthed at MHC

Did you know that "Mount Holyoke College" is an anagram of "loon leg leukocyte ohm"? Researchers speculate a connection with the ancient cult of The One-Legged Electrically-Resistant Waterfowl with Extraordinary Healing Powers. A modern-day practitioner was recently captured on video, revealing that this cult, while well hidden, still has a presence on campus: