Archive for August, 2012


New Watkinson Fellows!

   Posted by: rring    in Creative Fellowships

I am pleased to announce that we have five (5) Creative Fellows this year in the Watkinson Library:

Michael Benson ’13 (Psychology) plans to explore the roots of hip-hop and rap in our collection of recorded jazz and blues music, and produce a CD of songs in a mash-up mix.

Anastasia Edwards ’13 (Political Science and French) plans to design and produce a garment based on fashion and costume books in the Watkinson.

Julia Falkowski ’13 (English and American Studies) plans to create and cook from a “Watkinson Cookbook” of recipes culled from cookbooks, household guides, and other sources.





Georgia Summers (’15, Undeclared) plans to write a mystery novel with fantastical elements set in the Watkinson, featuring its sources and collections in ways germane to the plot.

Laika Abdulali ’13 (Political Science) plans to write a series of four short stories based on select pre-1900 travel literature.  The final event date has not yet been set, but it will likely be held during the last week of April.

As we welcome the new cohort, I thought our readers would enjoy a few excerpts from the process journals of last year’s Fellows, to give a taste of their experience:

Leslie Ahlstrand ’12, writing poems inspired by fine press books of poetry, week 3:  My overwhelming feeling with the Watkinson is that I’m somehow missing something.  Every time I go down to the stacks to find one book, inevitably many more books whose bindings glint & make me wish that I had somehow found/incorporated them, too . . . After looking through the private press books, I’ve gotten a much better idea of how to produce the group of poems I will write, if not what I plan to write about (that seems an ongoing clarifying process as I read more and more) . . .


John Bower, ’12, re-telling Old Norse myths, week 2:  I spent several hours just sitting and searching through the shelves this week. It was incredible. Many old of these books display astounding workmanship in production and also in the design. Some have hand-drawn title pages. If only today’s books displayed such craft. I looked through a few different areas in my search. Not only the children’s books and the area on Norse materials, but I also looked into an area containing mythology that I noticed while I was on the tour . . . There were some fascinating looking books on Egyptian mythology and belief.  If I expand my project I will have to check these out (I may anyway).


Francis Russo ’13, composing music based on a French manuscript (1833) of songs, week 3:  This week I looked at an amazing French book from the early 1800’s with hand-written music.  Even though I don’t speak French, the melodies could still be useful, as they are simple and are short, song-like phrases.  They are also unharmonized, so I would be able to shape the music by adding harmony and English text.  Interestingly, whoever wrote the music must not have been too well-trained in music notation, because note lengths often exceed the space allowed in the bar or there weren’t enough notes in a bar to properly fill it.  Nevertheless, the hand-written music was amazing to look at and was accompanied by hand-drawn images.

Chloe Miller ’14, writing an online fictional travel blog, based on travel books, week 3:  I went downstairs into the stacks alone today.  It was exciting to have shelf upon shelf to myself down there, but also extremely intimidating.  I kept getting distracted . . . it was sort of that feeling that time around you didn’t exist . . . My favorite part of the old books are the maps & pictures. There is a world map from 1773 with a big open space where Alaska should be.  It looks so strange . . .



Perin Adams ’13, filming a narrative on “the solitary life,” week 1:  Tried to sit still and work—silence almost too much at first—too foreign—BUT get used to it after a while—cathartic—not in a traditional sense, but calming.

“The notes of Traill’s Fly-catcher consist of the sounds wheet, wheet, which it articulates clearly while on wing.  It resides in the skirts of the woods along the prairie lands of the Arkansas River, where alone I have been able to procure it.  When leaving the top branches of a low tree, this bird takes long flights, skimming in zigzag lines, passing close over the tops of the tall grasses, snapping at and seizing different species of winged insects, and returning to the same trees to alight.

. . . I have named this species after my learned friend Dr. Thomas Stewart Traill of Liverpool, in evidence of the gratitude which I cherish towards that benevolent gentleman for all his kind attentions to me.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 236 [excerpted].

“This beautiful species is destitute of song, and is of solitary habits, preferring at all times the interior of the forests, but not the densest part of them.  I have observed that woods interspersed with what are called scrubby hickories or stunted oaks, are favourite resorts of the Summer Red Birds.

Their residence in the United States scarcely exceeds four months.  None remain in any of the more southern parts of our districts.  Indeed, by the middle of September, it would be difficult to see a single pair in the forests of Louisiana.  So very tender do they seem to be in regard to cold, or even temperate weather, that they seldom go farther north than Boston, or the shores of Lake Erie, but prefer the sandy woodlands all along the eastern shores, as far as Massachusetts.

. . . I have represented an adult male, his mate, and a young bird in its singularly patched state, to enable you to judge how different a family of these birds must appear to the eye of a person unacquainted with the peculiarity of these differences and changes of plumage.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 232-233 [excerpted].

“The appetite of the Cedar Bird is of so extraordinary a nature as to prompt it to devour every fruit or berry that comes in its way.   In this manner they gorge themselves to such excess as sometimes to be unable to fly, and suffer themselves to be taken by the hand.  Indeed I have seen some which, although wounded and confined in a cage, have eaten of apples until suffocation deprived them of life in the course of a few days.  When opened afterwards, they were found to be gorged to the mouth.

It is a beautiful bird, but without any song, even during the breeding season, having only a note which it uses for the purpose of calling or rallying others of its species.  This note is feeble, and as it were lisping, yet perfectly effectual, for when uttered by one in a flock within hearing of another party, the latter usually check their flight, and alight pell-mell on the same tree.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 227 [excerpted].

“The migration of the Orchard Oriole from south to north is performed by day, and singly, as is that of its relative the Baltimore Oriole, the males appearing a week or ten days sooner than the females . . .

“The arrival of the females is marked with all due regard, and the males immediately use every effort in their power to procure from them a return of attention.  Their singings and tricks are performed with redoubled ardour, until they are paired, when nidification [nest-building] is attended to with the utmost activity . . .

The nest represented in the plate was drawn in Louisiana, and was entirely composed of grass . . . The branch of Honey Locust on which you see these birds belongs to a tree which sometimes grows to a great height . . . it bears a long pod, containing a sweet substance, not unlike that of the honey of bees, and which is eaten by children, when it becomes quite ripe.  The spines are made use of by tobacconists for the purpose of fastening together the different twists of their rolls.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 222-224 [excerpted].


Farewell and Good Luck!!!

   Posted by: rring    in Interns

We bid farewell to Erika Jenns, Indiana University ’13, who has spent an incredibly productive six weeks in the Watkinson creating a 40+ page annotated checklist of our collection relating to Lydia Sigourney, “the sweet singer of Hartford,” poetess and author published widely in the magazines, and a contemporary of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain who enjoyed national fame during her lifetime–but is largely forgotten.  We are intending to illustrate and publish the checklist this year.

Erika also posted to our guest blog, “I Found it at the Watkinson,” from July 4th to August 3rd, and some of these will be excerpted in the publication.

Erika’s work will also provide the foundation for an exhibition at some point in the near future.  We wish her luck in her senior year at Indiana, and beyond!