Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

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Smell, part five: Musée international de la parfumerie, Grasse, France

Image courtesy Vanity Fair.

The Musée international de la parfumerie, in Grasse, birthplace of the luxury perfume trade, boasts 50,000 items related to the history of perfume. Since its 2009 renovation the museum offers olfactory tours, allowing participants to sample various scents in the perfumery’s collection. Also available are interactive exhibits for children, a contemporary art collection, and a garden of sweet-smelling plants such as centifolia rose, jasmine, and orange blossom.

The collections of the Musée may be searched here, along with those of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence and the Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard (search facility in French only).

The Musee received much attention when it reopened in 2009, after a four-year renovation. You can watch a report from France 24 on the Museum’s 2009 reopening, listen to this NPR story, or read an article from Vanity Fair.

Click here to download a guide and schedule of exhibitions at the Musée, and for contact information.

Click here to see previous posts in That’s Not Online’s series on smell.

Art at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Image courtesy of Jennifer Howard

The Library, Art and Archives department at Kew Gardens has one of the most impressive botanical collections in the world, containing over half a million items. While the library has a detailed online catalogue, and there is a digitisation project for part of the archive collection, the art collection remains offline apart from a few online exhibitions.

Its offline status does not diminish the collection’s significance at all, though. Among the holdings are:

  • A complete run of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, the longest running horticultural periodical in the world, which started in 1787 and continues to be published today. Early issues include hand-drawn and hand-coloured illustrations by leading botanical illustrators such as Walter Hood Fitch and Lilian Snelling. The exceptionally detailed nature of the drawings makes them an important reference for botanists all over the world. A few can be seen on the National Agricultural Library’s website, but the majority of them remain undigitised.
  • A copy of Anna Atkins’s Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Only about a dozen copies of this handmade book of experimental photographs exist today, and it is a fine example of how the Victorian discovery of photography interacted with the popularity of exploring the natural world.
  • A large portrait collection. Subjects vary from the expected ones like botanists to rather more unusual ones, like Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine.

The art department also has a huge collection of early books of botanical illustration, including the influential Flora Graeca and works by Redouté. All this illustration is in addition to the paintings by Marianne North (prints of some of her paintings can now be purchased online) and Shirley Sherwood held there, and the work of previous artists in residence at the gardens.

More information about the collections of art department is available on its website.

Smell, part one: L’Osmothèque

That’s Not Online! reader and idea-generator Vassiliki Veros (@VaVeros, shallowreader.wordpress.com) has suggested a post on the olfactory sense. We’ll take it, since we haven’t gone wrong with her suggestions yet: previous posts inspired by Vassiliki were those on Wood and Meteora Monasteries. And of course, smells can’t be transmitted online (yet). As it turns out, though, there is more than one institution worldwide dedicated to preserving the history of scent. One such is the Osmothèque in Versailles (website in French only).

The Osmothèque takes its name from the ancient Greek words osme, meaning smell, and theke, meaning repository or receptacle. True to its name, then, the Osmothèque’s mission is to “protège le patrimoine mondial de la parfumerie" (protect the world heritage of perfumery). The brainchild of the Commission technique de la Société française des Parfumeurs and founded with the support of the Comité du Parfum and the Versailles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Osmothèque was inaugurated on 26 April 1990. At the time, the perfume enthusiasts and devotees who founded the institution had in their possession 400 perfumes, 70 of which were no longer in production. Today that collection has grown to 2300 perfumes, of which 400 are no longer being produced. Frangrantica (page in English) reports that the Osmothèque is in possession of 170 formulae for historical perfumes. According to the Versailles Office of Tourism, the Osmothèque played a key role in recreating Marie Antoinette’s perfume in 2007. Read more about the Osmothèque’s collection; see France Today for a brief history in English.

A team of “osmothècaires” delivers olfactory training and conferences in Versailles, on the campus of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire (ISIPCA). Through a partnership with the Academy of Perfumery and Aromatics, “Osmothèque-based presentations" are also available in New York City.

The Osmothèque is supported by the Société des Amis de l’Osmothèque; to become un ami, follow the joining instructions. To learn more, try a conference, visit, or cultural activity, where you will be able to sniff scented mouillettes of many perfumes. By appointment only.

Contact:

36 rue du parc de Clagny
78 000 VERSAILLES
FRANCE
Tel : 01.39.55.46.99
email: osmotheque@wanadoo.fr

The Vatican Library, mostly, for now

In March 2010, the Vatican announced that they would be digitizing, in conjunction with Hewlett Packard, 80,000 manuscripts equal to about 40 million pages. The project has a planned duration of 10 years and three phases, employing from 60 to 120 people at a time. At the moment, it does not appear that any of these documents may yet be viewed digitally.

The Vatican Apostolic Library has a long history. Evidence of a manuscript collection in the Roman church dates back to the fourth century and the first Vatican librarian to the eighth. (Given this it is perhaps fitting that the Vatican has its own School of Library Science.) The collection itself has moved between France and Italy only returning to the Holy See in 1891. In the seventeenth century the library was augmented by libraries “of princely or private origin”, many of which have been maintained as separate collections. The twentieth century saw further acquisition of entire libraries as well as substantial physical and technological development. See the Library’s website for a detailed history.

At the present time the Vatican Library “preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including 80,000 archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, about 8,400 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings and over 150,000 photographs.”  This means the manuscripts selected for digitization count for about 44% of the entire manuscript collection and represent a fraction of the Vatican’s holdings.

The Vatican provides several online catalogues: search the catalogue of printed books, the manuscript collection, the collection of prints and drawings, and that of coins and medals. Information on each collection may be found on the catalogues page. Unavailable manuscripts are listed here.

The website provides details of the criteria for admission, including necessary documentation. Eligible readers will be issues a “reader’s ticket”, valid from the day of issue until the next annual closing, which according to their calendar starts in mid-July and ends mid-September. Photographic reproductions may be requested only if you have registered on the private area of the website. Rules for readers are quite extensive. Maps of the reading rooms are provided.

See also this clip about the digitization of the Vatican’s photographic archives. Please note that this post does not cover the Vatican’s Secret Archives.

Contents of the Joe Fishstein Collection of Yiddish Poetry

Image of Vilyam Shekspir’s sonetn from A Garment Worker’s Legacy: The Joe Fishstein Collection of Yiddish Poetry online exhibit.

The Joe Fishstein Collection of Yiddish Poetry was donated to McGill University in 1981 and represents the collection of Joe Fishstein (1891-1978), a Bronx, New York garment worker.  According to the collection’s website it “is considered to be one of the finest private collections of its kind in the world.” Read a description of the collection from Library and Archives Canada.

The 2300 items in the collection consist of monographs, serials, and ephemera like bookmarks and postcards in Yiddish. Front and back covers and title pages may be viewed by subject category in the online exhibition; the entire collection has been catalogued and may be searched. A print catalogue (ISBN 0-7717-0511-5), edited by Goldie Sigal, appears to be online in its entirety. The collection may also be browsed by topic and index.

The Joe Fishstein Collection is housed in the Rare Books and Special Collections division, McLennan Library, McGill University, Montreal.  Opening hours and contact details may be found here.

Other notable collections of Yiddish literature may be found at Leeds Central Library (Porton Collection of Judaica), The Jewish Public Library in Montreal, the Bodleian Library’s Hebraica, Judaica & Semitics Collection, and Tel Aviv University’s Sourasky Central Library (Margulies Collection).

Colonial Blue Books (except Malta)

By 1817, Great Britain controlled a vast empire, and they wanted it to drop them a line every now and then. At least, that’s what the Commons Select Committee of Finance wanted. And so, in 1822, a book was sent to each colonial governor, to be returned complete with statistical information. This practice was repeated every year thereafter until just after World War Two.

The resulting volumes are known as the Colonial Blue Books. Sarah Preston gives a detailed account of information that was typically included in the blue books, such as taxation information, public works, population, eccesiastical and educational statistics, the civil and military establishment, imports, exports, and the penal system, among other things. The first books consisted of printed forms that were then filled out by hand; later volumes were completely printed, and by the end of the nineteenth century no manuscript reports are to be found.

As Preston notes, the quality of information returned depended greatly upon the governor compiling it, and could be very revealing, as in the case of one governor in Sierra Leone who suggested a new, grander Governor’s Mansion was of greater importance than a new Gaol. Some surprising inclusions include watercolours of native plants of the Gold Coast, detailed maps from Malta, and swatches of American cotton from Bermuda.

The largest collection of Blue Books is held by the Royal Commonwealth Society, who moved their library to Cambridge University in 1993. Catalogue records for the Colonial Blue Books may be found in the Newton Library Catalogue and are classified under the classmark stem RCS.L.BB. Books may be viewed by request in the Commonwealth Room. Copies of Blue Books can be ordered here.

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London lists 47 Colonial Blue Books in their catalogue. Information on how to request them was not available at time of posting.

Microfilm copies of the Newfoundland Blue Books can be found at Library and Archives Canada. Consult their catalogue. Instructions on requesting material are found here.  Microfilm copies of Blue Books pertaining to Basutoland, Gambia, Gold Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Sierra Leone, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar can be found in UPenn libraries. More information here.

Finally, Malta seems to have retained their Blue Books. Books from 1821 to 1938, with the exception of 1919, have been digitized and may be viewed online.

The Blue Books themselves, along with related records and copies, are probably as far-flung as the Commonwealth itself, and this list is most likely incomplete. Any further information on Colonial Blue Books may be left in the Comments section.

The George Orwell Archive at University College London

The George Orwell Archive at University College London consists of manuscripts, personal papers, correspondence, original background material, articles, reviews, printed books and audio-visual material either produced by George Orwell or pertaining to his life and works.  The collection amounts to 2000 volumes, 20 manuscript boxes, and 200 photographs and is, according to UCL, is “the most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author George Orwell (Eric Blair) (1903-1950) anywhere.”

According to the full collection description on AIM25, the material is primarily in English, with some German, French and Japanese. Parts of the collection are closed to access. None has been digitized.

UCL Special Collections have recently moved from 140 Hampstead Road to the National Archives in Kew, Richmond.  As of 4 October the collections have been open to users once more. To view the collections, make an appointment with UCL Special Collections quoting collection name, reference number or shelf-mark.

If you can’t make it to London try this online BBC archive of documents produced by and written to George Orwell during his stint writing “what was essentially propaganda for broadcast to India,” from 1941-1943.

Rare Books and Archives at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Image courtesy The Osler Photo Collection.

Sir William Osler, by the time of his death the most famous physician of his era, was born in Bond Head, Ontario, Canada in 1849.  He obtained his medical qualifications from McGill University in 1871, went on to help found the Johns Hopkins Hospital and medical school, and rounded off his career as Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, a post he held from 1905 until his death in 1919.  Osler was the author of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, for decades a key medical text.  He was also a collector of rare medical and scientific books.

Osler bequeathed his considerable collection of rare books to his alma mater.  These 8000 books, listed in the Biblioteca Osleriana, now form the heart of a collection of about 100,000, comprising rare and archival materials as well as current books and periodicals.  To date, the Osler Library has digitized two photographic collections: The William Osler Photo Collection and the Marjorie Howard Futcher Photo Collection (the daughter of an influential McGill University physician, Futcher’s photo albums feature many notable figures in medical history).

The Osler Library provides finding aids for the following collections:

All books and periodicals, rare and otherwise, held by the Osler Library are listed in the McGill University Library catalogue.

Textiles

Image courtesy SpindlierHades.

As useful as the web is for finding resources, sometimes it just can’t duplicate the experience of seeing them in person. This is especially true of non-written materials like textiles. Researchers are trying to create tactile pixels that would allow us to feel some textures on a screen, but in the meantime there are a lot of collections that are best consulted in person. Several do have a web presence, but there’s nothing like a visit for the true textile experience.

The Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles is a valuable source of information for anyone interested in the traditional production or use of textiles. Based at Goldsmiths University Library, the collection includes:

traditional costume, folk art, social customs, textile materials, techniques and processes such as weaving and embroidery, domestic textiles and catalogues of international museum collections and textiles reference works. There is a substantial section on textile and fibre art…

The Constance Howard Centre also maintains a material archive and a textile reference library that includes rare books and first editions. Some photos of the material are available online, but a large portion of the collection remains strictly offline.

Not surprisingly, the Victoria & Albert Museum also has a large collection. The website is a great starting point, including subject hubs for forms of textile crafts like quilting and embroidery. They also have fun things like free 1940s knitting patterns. The textile archive collection is part of the larger Archive of Art and Design, housed near Olympia.

Expanding on the knitting theme, the University of Southampton houses a Knitting Collection and Knitting Reference Library. It includes examples of knitting equipment and completed knitting projects, as well as over 5,000 patterns.

More UK textile archives and libraries can be found through the UK Craft Council.

In the United States, the Textile Museum might be worth a visit. Its library has a large collection of textile samples and books about textiles. Both the museum and library are open to the public, and the website includes a convenient glossary of textile terms.


This lock of Mary Shelley’s hair is part of a collection of realia and rare documents currently on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library.  May 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the iconic building in which it resides.
This article from Salon defends the idea of the library as place, as well as noting that not all of the items held by the library are scannable documents.  Also on display: Charlotte Brönte’s writing desk, Jack Kerouac’s Valium box, and a pamphlet, entitled “What To Do If You’re Arrested,” distributed in the 1960’s by the gay-rights organization the Mattachine Society.
See also: This video, a news story on the anniversary from WABC.  In response to some more controversial items on display, such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hood, curator Thomas Mellins cautions, “the library’s mission is to be our collective memory, it is not to be our collective conscience.”  For more information on the New York Public Library, see their Tumblr page, NYPL Wire.

This lock of Mary Shelley’s hair is part of a collection of realia and rare documents currently on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library.  May 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the iconic building in which it resides.

This article from Salon defends the idea of the library as place, as well as noting that not all of the items held by the library are scannable documents.  Also on display: Charlotte Brönte’s writing desk, Jack Kerouac’s Valium box, and a pamphlet, entitled “What To Do If You’re Arrested,” distributed in the 1960’s by the gay-rights organization the Mattachine Society.

See also: This video, a news story on the anniversary from WABC.  In response to some more controversial items on display, such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hood, curator Thomas Mellins cautions, “the library’s mission is to be our collective memory, it is not to be our collective conscience.”  For more information on the New York Public Library, see their Tumblr page, NYPL Wire.

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