Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Things You Wouldn't Expect to Find in Special Collections

The Mount Holyoke College Special Collections is a treasure trove of books and manuscripts. Here are a few of the more unique items from the collection.

1. Pocket-Sized Literature

Perhaps “pocket-sized” is a bit of an understatement for this fine-press book. Measuring 1/2 inch by 5/16 inch, this tiny tome relates the fictional advice of King Arthur to a person choosing to embark on a quest. Complete with purple leather covers, three illustrations, and handmade paper, this book comes with all the trappings of its full-sized counterparts; it is even bound just as a normal book would be. Entitled Grail Field Notes, this miniature volume was printed in 1995.

2. Mark Twain’s Signature

Hidden among a nondescript set of Mark Twain’s writings is this autographed edition of The Innocents Abroad, a travel book originally published in 1869 chronicling the author’s journey through Europe and the Holy Land. Perhaps best known for his novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain is one of America’s most beloved novelists; the author William Faulkner even declared him to be “the father of American literature.” Although he is better known by his pen name, Twain’s given name was Samuel Clemens; both signatures can be found in this edition.

3. The Manuscript of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Autobiography

Best known for his tales of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a prolific and well-loved author in both his native Scotland and around the world. This is the manuscript of his autobiography Memories and Adventures that was published in 1924. Written in the author’s own hand, this draft contains numerous corrections and revisions, giving us a sense for the process and challenges of writing an autobiography.

4. Illuminated Manuscripts

While illuminated manuscripts are typically defined as those that have been decorated with gold or silver, this term may also refer to those that have simply been decorated or painted. Special Collections is home to two illuminated manuscripts, one from medieval France and another from early Persia.

This first manuscript is a page from an edition of the Vulgate Bible dated 1230 AD.  The Vulgate was the definitive Latin translation that was officially disseminated by the Roman Catholic Church between 400 and 1530 AD. The edition this page was taken from was created in France during the reign of St. Louis IX, one of France’s most beloved kings and the only one to be canonized. Manuscripts such as this one were usually prepared using a sharp stick to make light grid marks before filling the page with script, illustrations and flourishes. The grid lines are still evident on this manuscript, giving us a sense, not only for the finished product, but also the work that went into its creation. The colorful flourishes that accompany the text have a decorative as well as spiritual purpose. The use of color in manuscripts from this time was meant, not only to bring its text and images to life, but also to instill the glory of God into the work.

Very little is known about the Persian manuscript from our collection, however we don’t need to know much in order to appreciate the beauty of its text and embellishments. Like illuminated manuscripts from Europe, the flourishes that adorned the pages of Persian manuscripts were more than just decorative. These colorful decorations were meant to balance the text, bringing harmony to the work.

5. Papyri Fragments

These fragments date from approximately 2nd century A.D. Their subjects are surprisingly ordinary: letters, tax receipts, petitions, land leases, even some fragments from Euclid. Papyrus was made from a plant of the same name that was once abundant in Egypt. It served as the main writing material for many centuries but was eventually replaced by parchment, which provided a smoother writing surface and was more durable.

You can come visit these treasures Monday-Friday, 9:30-12:00 and 1:00-4:30 in the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

Friday, May 17, 2013

LITS Student Employee Profile: Kelsey Bentham on the LITS Web Team!

After two years of work making new things possible on the College website, LITS student employee Kelsey Bentham is graduating this weekend and beginning her professional career in an exciting new position. Congratulations to Kelsey, to our other departing LITS seniors, and to all the 2013 Mount Holyoke College graduates!

Kelsey Bentham

Wilmette, Illinois

Class Year:

Computer Science and Studio Art

Student Employee Position:
Web Programmer

When did you start working for the LITS Web Team?
Fall 2011

How did you hear about the position, and why were you interested?
I heard about the job through JobX and thought that it looked like something that was relevant to my interests and my major.

What is your favorite LITS Web project thus far? Least favorite?
I think my favorite was also my least favorite, I was working with another student on migrating a bunch of content from an old news system into what was at the time the current news system. It was really interesting and challenging but it was also very frustrating.

How do you think this position has helped your professional development?
This position has definitely helped my professional development. It had opened me up to a really cool subsection of computer programming, as well as some awesome communities that I probably would not have otherwise been exposed to like the HighEdWeb and Drupal communities.

Career goals?
After graduation I will be working for a web development company called where I will continue working with Drupal and programming for the web.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Found It In The Archives: The History of Archives & Special Collections

Today Archives & Special Collections takes up two rooms filled with hundreds of shelves. But did you know that originally the Archives material filled cupboards on the top floor of the library? A look into the past of Archives & Special Collections reveals a long history of moves.

Today the contents of the Archives and Special Collections is carefully tucked into special boxes and neatly arranged on shelves in a temperature-controlled room. It wasn't always so. From the early 1930s stretching back possibly to the construction of the library, three cupboards on the top floor of the library served as the location for the Archives. Letters, documents, and a variety of other things (including locks of Mary Lyon’s hair!) were packed into boxes of all shapes and sizes in these large cupboards. Nineteen thirty-three was the year everything changed after the Class of 1929 donated a generous gift to the cause.

The Rare Books now housed in the Special Collections were in a better state at this point. They and the main Archives were stored in the Treasure Room, or Mary Cleveland Room, now staff offices, found on your left before the Stimson Room. Marion Marsh Randall, Class of 1910 and head cataloguer at the MHC Library in the 1930s, describes the room in detail in the May 1937 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly:

“Greens, golds and brown predominate; pale tinted walls, the dark woodwork of long recessed bookshelves, deep rug and comfortable low chairs of rust color.”

Over thirty years later, after a renovation of the library in 1969, the Archives moved to the mezzanine at the south end of the Reference Room, now home to the SAW Center. After another renovation in 1975, the Archives gained some space on Floor 2 ½, under the Reference Room. The Archives could not entirely fit in these spaces, however, so the materials were also spread to a study on the sixth floor as well as some filing cabinets on the fourth floor and some stacks in the Library basement. It wasn’t until 1976 that someone had the idea to move the Archives to its final basement home in Dwight Hall. Material from the Treasure Room, also known at the time as “The Vault,” as well as the Cleveland Room and even three different floors of Mary Woolley Hall (commonly known today as Chapin because it houses Chapin Auditorium) were set to be brought together in to the College History and Archives collection.

In April 1990, the Archives moved a final time to the basement of Dwight Hall. Our reading room may look quite different, but one thing has stayed the same: our Archivist, Patricia Albright, pictured below with Elaine Trehub.

The Special Collections wasn’t done moving yet, however. By 1999, it was located on the seventh floor of Miles-Smith, now home to Digital Assets and Preservation Services. It only moved to join the Archives in the basement of Dwight five years ago, in 2008.

Come be a part of Archives and Special Collections history by stopping by at any time Monday through Friday, 9:30am to noon and 1pm to 4:30 pm. We're also open extended hours during Reunion I and II weekends! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2013's Glorious Griffins: Mount Holyoke Class Traditions

To celebrate this year’s reunions, Archives & Special Collections will host Open Houses on the lower level of Dwight Hall on Friday, May 17, 8:30-5:00; Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19, 9:00-5:00; Friday, May 24, 8:30-5:00; and Saturday, May 25, 1:00-5:00.  The festivities will include an exhibition about some of the traditions which students have used to establish class identities and forge bonds with their classmates.

Congratulations to Archives & Special Collections students
 Clara Bertagnolli, Lily Hoot, Alena McNamara, Kate Potter,
and everyone else in the Class of 2013!

  • The griffin, a mythological beast with a lion’s body (winged or wingless) and the head of an eagle which symbolizes wisdom and strength;
  • The winged horse Pegasus, one of the best-known figures in Greek mythology which symbolizes wisdom, fame, poetic inspiration, and spiritual energy;
  • The sphinx, a mythological creature with a human head and the body (sometimes winged) of a lion which symbolizes wisdom, truth, abundance, and unity;
  • The lion, which, in addition to referencing the name of Mount Holyoke’s founder, symbolizes strength, power, courage, and majesty.

The most familiar of these traditions began in the 1880's, when students selected a color and flower to represent each class.  The practice of choosing an often mythological symbol began with the Class of 1905 and by 1908 students had (for unknown reasons) decided to use the following symbols with the associated colors of green, red, yellow, and blue.

In 2010, Frances Perkins students and alumnae selected the phoenix and purple as their own symbol and color.  As every Harry Potter fan knows, this magical bird perpetually sacrifices and renews itself through fire and represents transformation, rebirth, growth, expansion, and mind and spirit.

Since the 1850's, students in most classes have had also their own jewelry.  The earliest rings and pins were often decorated with class mottoes.  Beginning in the 20th century, most rings featured a stone in the color of each class.

"Parting songs" and other original compositions have been written by members of many classes and students in each class participated in an annual competitive singing contest from 1919 until the early 1940's.  The Canoe Sing tradition began in the first decade of the 20th century as the Senior Serenade.  Initially, seniors dressed in caps and gowns would carry Japanese lanterns as they moved from dorm to dorm, singing their Class Song and two or three College songs at each location.  By 1927, the location of the Serenade had moved to Lower Lake.  The workers’ anthem “Bread and Roses” was first sung by members of the Class of 1978 at the conclusion of the Laurel Parade as an expression of solidarity with all women.  Classes through the 1920's also had their own mottoes as well as yells and cheers which they shouted with great gusto during inter-class athletic competitions.

Seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen (called first-year students since 1989) have created many other class traditions and rituals over the years.  In the 1840's, just before graduating, seniors began planting ivy next to the Seminary Building —a custom that continued on campus until it was replaced by the senior tree planting ceremony in 1964.  Junior Show and the Laurel Parade have been part of College life since the early 20th century and the “elfing” of new students by sophomores began in the mid-1960's.  Some traditions such as the hazing of freshmen by seniors (now known as Disorientation) have changed over time while others (Senior Mountain Day?  Junior Top-Spinning??) have disappeared.

To learn more about Mount Holyoke's class traditions, please visit Archives & Special Collections during the reunions or any other time the collections are open (Monday-Friday, 9:30-12:00, 1:00-4:30)!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Email Scam - Warning, Your mailbox is almost FULL??

Don't take the BAIT!  It’s an Email scam! MHC is not trying to close your mailbox, your mailbox is NOT full.


  • Hackers are trying to get your personal information -- usernames, passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers.
  • You need to be in charge of your information. 
  • There are many HINTS in fraudulent email to look for:  Spelling errors are common; formatting of email is crazy; no familiar MHC tone, nor author; rollover a link and it has a different destination!  
  • But the key thing to remember is that LITS will NEVER ask for usernames, passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers in an email and neither will your bank, nor your airline -- don't be fooled!
Billions of dollars have been exchanged in these attempts; people like your neighbor, your mother, your co-worker or friend have fallen for such attempts.  As always please come by the LITS Tech Help Desk, email or call x2600, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas on this, or any other IT topic! 
May 2013 Version of Email Fraud  
Subject: Warning! Your mailbox is almost full.
"You have exceeded your email limit quota of 450MB. You need to upgrade your email limit quota to 2GB within the next 48 hours. Use the below web link to upgrade your email account." 
Do NOT click on this link -- or any link.
-->  webmailhelpdeskonline . com 
Thank you for using our email.Copyright ©2013 Email Helpdesk Centre.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Kate Lowry for winning the Emily Silverman ’81 Student Prize that recognizes an outstanding work of student creativity for display in the Mount Holyoke College Library! Kate's work of art is being prepared for hanging on the wall across from the Circulation Desk.

Thanks to everyone who submitted entries and to the donor of the prize, Emily Silverman '81, for her generosity in furthering the intersection of art and ideas in the Library.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Honors thesis submission to LITS

Are you a senior putting the finishing touches on your honors thesis? If you need tech help (MS Word formatting, charts and graphs, etc.) visit the Information Commons (IC) or email

Once you've got the final version in hand (hooray!), remember to submit a digital/e-copy to LITS by July 1. Start off at for submission help and instructions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Need to Recharge?

You've got your backpack, books, notebooks, laptop, phone, and energy for the final haul!  You have settled into LITS for reading, exams & papers -- but forgot your laptop power cord!  OH NO!  Did you know LITS has power cords available for circulation?  YES!  We have Mac and Dell PC laptop power cords available for your use within the library.  So don't loose your power, come to the Circ Desk and recharge!