Currently on Display
Lobby, W.S. Hoole Library
Artifacts of Ancestry
December 2014-March 2015
Archives offer a unique perspective on any given historical moment or narrative. Reading love letters between a husband and wife separated by war, perusing journals of homeopathic remedies, or looking at sheet music and album covers from the past – these glimpses of personal and cultural history offer researchers a depth and complexity difficult to capture in secondary materials. The holdings of the University of Alabama’s Division of Special Collections present personalized snapshots of history, whether in the marginalia of a colonist’s personal Bible, the journal and records of a general store owner, or the property photographs taken by a local farmer.
During Fall 2014, I asked my students from three sections of English 103: Advanced Composition to research their family histories. This project had three primary learning objectives: to familiarize students with the process of archival research; to conduct research using a range of sources; and to synthesize this material to create a narrative situated within a larger context.
Most students began with genealogical websites like ancestry.com
, where they traced their roots deep into the American colonial past, to Mexico, or across the ocean to Europe and the Middle East. Students then began to use other methods: consulting scholarly materials for historical context; reading the histories of towns and cities; recovering their families’ passenger manifests and pictures of steamships in the Ellis Island archives; talking to their relatives about family stories; and viewing the archival materials in the Division of Special Collections at both the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection and the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library.
The selected displays featured in this exhibition demonstrate exceptionally well-researched, engaging family histories as well as innovative incorporations of archival materials. The students whose works are featured have made some remarkable discoveries. They learned that their families have been employed in an impressive range of trades and professions, from farming to mining to working on railroads during westward expansion. Some served in the military; some gained international recognition in the fine arts; some were business entrepreneurs, religious leaders, or physicians. Many have landmarks, buildings, roads, or even cities named after them. The artifacts they have selected offer a direct emotional connection between the students and the world of their ancestors.
Pearce Lobby, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library
Wade Hall's Library: The Poetry of History
September 2014-January 2015
Wade Hall’s library allows researchers to see the full flowering of American writing through nearly 17,300 titles that date from 1779 through the 1990s. These books encompass a wide range of genres, including poetry, prose, travel narratives, religious tracts, abolitionist material, government documents, and cookbooks. His holdings in the field of Southern literature alone include books by antebellum and reconstruction-era humorists, Kentucky authors, writers he took as subjects for his literary criticism, and poets he met and published as a result of his time editing the Kentucky Review
.Notably, authors who never received critical attention sit on shelves beside many of the field’s most canonical names. Wade Hall’s library is not significant only for the many types of texts it contains; it also is consequential for its ability to represent the history of print culture. Hall gathered a few Confederate imprints alongside a much larger number of volumes published in the North during the Civil War. Furthermore, he compiled extensive holdings in publishers’ bindings and pulps. Publishers’ bindings are cloth-bound books without duct jackets that were popular with middle-class readers from the middle of the nineteenth through the first few decades of the twentieth century. Working-class readers during the middle of the twentieth century primarily chose to read pulps, books that were made with low-quality paper. Hall’s large number of publishers’ bindings and pulps show that Hall invested his resources into portraying the preferences of lower and middle-class Americans. For this reason, the books Hall found interesting were not necessarily those belonging to important and wealthy people, but rather copies of texts that were read, treasured, and widely circulated.
W.S. Hoole Library, Reading Room
The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection
The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection contains ninety-six books from eleven countries, including Austria, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The Bible in miniature: or a Concise History of the Old & New Testaments [sic], published in 1780, is the oldest book in the collection. A wide variety of American presses are represented. Additionally, a series of miniature editions of Shakespeare’s plays can be found. The Memorial Miniature Book Collection was created to recognize Kate Ragsdale’s life and career following her death in 2013. Ragsdale earned a BA from Sweet Briar College and a MLS from The University of Alabama. She began her career as a Program Coordinator in the College of Business and Commerce before joining the Libraries administration team as a planning officer in 1987. Ragsdale managed construction and renovation projects, including the building of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall and the Library Annex, during her over twenty years of service at the Capstone. Ragsdale frequently served as an officer in organizations such as the Alabama Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In 2004, she received the UA Library Leadership Award for faculty. In 2012, she won the UA School of Library and Information Studies Alumni Award.