Series: 852 RARE • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

852 RARE: Preserving Digital Media at HLS: First Steps

Whether you’re familiar with archives or not, unless you work in one all day you might think of them as mysterious locked rooms full of old (dare I say, “dusty”) books with intricate bindings, manuscripts crafted hundreds of years ago in no-longer-spoken tongues and script, and artifacts once owned by famous people. HLS Library’s Historical and Special Collections does contain “treasures” like these but a much larger portion of our collection is made up of manuscripts that tell the stories of the lives of legal scholars, lawyers, and judges, regardless of fame or fortune. These items make long physical journeys from someone’s home or office through archivists’ hands, workspaces, and many other processes before finally being ready for access by our researchers.

But digital media has turned traditional archiving on its head. With formats and technology evolving much faster than the technology of papermaking and bookbinding, how do we preserve today’s records? Over the past 5 years, we have been building a program that will support the imminent inundation of digital records and allow us to be more nimble through new practices such as on-demand collecting. We already house an array of historic digital media, such as floppy disks, computers and laptops containing twenty or thirty-year-old hard drives, zip disks, files on CDs, and much more.

Image collage of media from a recent acquisition.

A few pieces of media from a recent acquisition. Clockwise, starting top left: HP Omnibook, 1997; La Cie external hard drive, 1994; HP OmniBook’s internal hard drive, 1997; Apple internal hard drive and its laptop computer, ca. 1994; IBM ThinkPad and its internal hard drive, 2004.

To preserve these, we use digital forensics techniques (yes, similar to what law enforcement units do in a criminal investigation!) to safely transfer files off of obsolete media and stabilize them on a secure server space managed by HLS ITS. We have an array of equipment to read the media, such as 3.5” floppy controllers and an UltraDock writeblocker that connects to over 10 different types of media such as internal hard drives and SD memory cards. We have a computer equipped with the Linux-based open-source BitCurator environment to extract metadata and perform many other activities on the disks we’ve stabilized. We recently added a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device Laptop (FRED-L) to our arsenal in anticipation of going out into the field and imaging media straight from donors’ offices or homes, without having to bring obsolete media into the archives at all (yes, I’m sorry to tell you, but that floppy disk is going to be unreadable someday whether you’ve got a working drive for it or not!).

FRED-L and UltraKit

FRED-L and UltraKit

But, all of this actually only solves the FIRST step of archiving – transferring files to the archive. A bit more complicated than going to an office to pick up boxes, but also pretty fun. We are currently working on the rest of the workflow – extracting files from stabilized disk images, migrating them to readable formats (WordPerfect for DOS, anyone?), and making them available through our finding aids in OASIS. I’ll be sharing more about these processes and milestones as we reach them, so come back to Et Seq for more digital preservation 852 Rare posts!

852 RARE: In Celebration of Pranksters and Practical Jokers: The Legend of Lady Ellesmere

April Fools’ day may have come and gone, but in the spirit of keeping the laughter going, let’s look back almost 70 years to a student prank involving the school’s portrait collection. As the story goes, two 3L students wanted to pull off a prank before graduation so they commissioned a young art student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to paint a semi-nude female judge. The portrait, now fondly referred to as “Lady Ellesmere” was painted by Mrs. Vera Chvany Hussey, now Vera Chvany Hussey-Forbes. She was referred to the two HLS students by a friend with strong Harvard connections; Sally Mallinckrodt, the granddaughter of Edward Mallinckrodt. Early in the morning of March 24, 1948, the students made arrangements with janitorial staff to hang the portrait, an oil painting on heavy craft paper, in the Langdell South Middle classroom in the frame normally reserved for the portrait of Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere, who had supposedly been removed for cleaning. Dean Griswold’s 10:00am class experienced the portrait in situ, which is memorialized in the photograph below. The prank received front page coverage in the Law School’s student paper the following week. Sadly, by the time the article went to press no one knew of the painting’s whereabouts.

Langdell South Middle Classroom, 1948

Dean Griswold can be seen in the lower left corner of the photograph. 
Miscellaneous Groups and Events Collection, Box 2
Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

 

The portrait of Baron Ellesmere is currently in storage but we know that it was eventually returned to its frame and remained on display in the Langdell South Middle classroom until at least the 1950s, thanks to this photograph. You can see the left side of the painting on the far right of the photograph. For those wondering what he looked like, we have other images of Egerton in the collection, including the engraving below.

Sir Thomas Egerton

Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, 1615?
Record ID: olvwork177013

Mrs. Hussey-Forbes believes that Griswold confiscated the portrait and hopeful that it might have made it into our collection she has contacted the Law School and other Harvard sources for more than 60 years trying to get more information. Sadly, we have not found it but it seems the incident did make an impression on Griswold, who memorialized it in a scrapbook of clippings, pamphlets, and photographs now in our collection. Griswold wasn’t the only one interested in the prank; the story spread from coast to coast and reached newspapers in California, Colorado, Nebraska, and Indiana just to name a few places. Mrs. Hussey-Forbes has written a memoir that includes the story of the painting and more recently published a blog post on the incident. She was kind enough to speak with me and shared a few more details that didn’t make it into the original news coverage. Vera’s relationship with HLS started long before the prank; she grew up on Everett Street and has memories of running through Langdell Hall as a kid. After the prank, Look magazine contacted her about doing a story, which they hoped would include Griswold giving the painting back to her. But when Vera contacted Dean Griswold to see if this was a possibility his response was that he would only give the painting back if she gave him the names of the pranksters. Vera refused and that was the end of the Look piece.

It is important to note that this prank was pulled off two years before Harvard Law School admitted its first class of women. Thankfully times have changed and multiple portraits of actual female judges adorn the walls of the school and their presence is neither a joke, nor an anomaly like Lady Ellesmere’s brief appearance in 1948.

Correction: April 25, 2016
This post incorrectly stated that Mrs. Hussey-Forbes first contacted Historical & Special Collections eight years ago. In fact she had been contacting numerous Harvard sources for the last 68 years with no success. Thanks to Mrs. Hussey-Forbes’ persistence in bring the story to light and recent digitization efforts, I was able to locate the article published in the Law School student paper, which served as the starting point for further research.

852 RARE: David Sewall: Lawyer, Federal Judge, Weather Aficionado

It’s spring break at Harvard, although March can bring decidedly un-springlike weather to New England. After an unusually mild winter (except for one weekend of record-breaking cold), the first weekend of spring break started off as mild and sunny as a fine day in late April, and is now, well, very March-like. Weather is a perennial topic of conversation in New England (and everywhere else?). It affects us all and is a topic of conversation anyone can participate in and on which everyone seems to have an opinion.

Of all seasons, winter is perhaps especially ripe for discussions, whether one is marveling at, cursing, or boasting about record snowstorms, record cold, unseasonable warmth, and everything in between. Not surprisingly there’s nothing new about the weather as a rich source of conversation. As we approach the vernal equinox on March 20th this year, here’s a glimpse into the meteorological musings of David Sewall (1735-1825). Sewall was a 1755 Harvard graduate (and classmate of John Adams), a lawyer, and a judge, appointed by George Washington to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in 1789, a position he held until his resignation in 1818.

Historical & Special Collections has a letter from Sewall, written from his home in York, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) to an unidentified correspondent, on January 17, 1795.

HOLLIS 2204095_p1

Sewall begins with the acknowledgement of a small book, then talks of politics. But soon the topic of the weather slips in, when in the third or fourth line, he comments: “The month of December as to mildness and agreeableness of weather has surpassed any that the most ancient among us, can recollect. We have now scarcely enough for slaying [sleighing] ….” Shortly thereafter Sewall turns back to politics and government, pondering Alexander Hamilton’s intention to resign as Secretary of State at the end of the month. He mentions meeting and conversing with the Rev. David Osgood (1747-1822) in a public house in Woburn (Mass.) and discusses court and legislative issues. But the next day, a Sunday, when he picks up his pen to continue the correspondence, his opening line sets the tone for most of the rest of the letter.

HOLLIS 2204095_p2-3

“Last Evening we had a pretty fall of light snow … The cold increases and N.N.W. wind blows about the Snow considerably this Evening.” He asks “how comes it that we ever have snow?” and launches into a long, detailed, and thoughtful musing on trade winds, precipitation, temperatures, and weather patterns along the eastern coast of the United States. He marvels at having “known the thermometer to be at 6° below 0 and in less than 9 hours to be above the freezing point” and notes that “I have known the snow to dissolve faster toward the close of Winter with a Southerly Wind of 24 hours (or a little longer) continuance than with a moderate Rain, of the same duration.” Had he lived in our era, the good judge from Maine may have settled down at the end of a long day to watch the Weather Channel.

The Harvard Law School commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1949)

 

Robert Jackson, Opening Statement, November 21, 1945 U. S. Army Signal Corps, photographer Nuremberg Trial photograph collection VIA Record ID: olvwork373967

Robert Jackson, Opening Statement, November 21, 1945
U. S. Army Signal Corps, photographer
Nuremberg Trial photograph collection
VIA Record ID: olvwork373967

The first Nuremberg trial began on November 20, 1945.  The final trial ended in April 1949.  In the intervening time approximately 200 high ranking Nazi leaders were prosecuted for crimes committed during the World War II. The military tribunals created to conduct the trials sought to carry out criminal charges unprecedented in scope and complexity.  As  U.S. chief of counsel Robert H. Jackson said in his opening statement, “The wrongs we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated”.   The Nuremberg trials provided the basis for the modern law of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a model for recent international prosecutions for such crimes.

The Library has created a webpage, The Nuremberg Trials at 70, dedicated to the trials themselves and the Library’s extensive collection on trial related material. This site highlights both circulating and non-circulating material as well as additional resources located across the United States.  There is also a section that reviews Harvard’s connections to the trials (many Law School graduates served on the prosecution team) plus a timeline for the trials. A physical exhibit has also been installed in the case located just outside the Library’s Areeda Hall entrance. It features books and DVDs from the circulating collection, plus examples of manuscript material from various collections. The exhibit will be on display until the end of February.

852 Rare: Colorful Collections – Picture Books in Historical & Special Collections

Although Historical & Special Collections items may sometimes have… colorful… content, you might not expect our material to be terribly colorful at first glance. Recent re-shelving work in the HSC stacks turned up two cheery picture books—an illustrated printing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, illustrated by William Wilson, and Chickens May Not Cross the Road and Other Crazy (But True) Laws, written by Kathi Linz and illustrated by Tony Griego.

Two picture books that are part of Historical & Special Collections.

Two picture books that are part of Historical & Special Collections.

 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Illustrated by William Wilson.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Illustrated by William Wilson.

William Wilson’s illustrations that accompany the UDHR celebrate the 50th anniversary of the document’s adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1948. The book’s introduction states that the “vision [of the book] was to portray this historic instrument with the colours of life and the power of art: an artist is ‘a political being,’ as Picasso said.”[1] Each of the articles of the Declaration is laid out alongside Wilson’s illustrations, one of which is shown here. The goal of the book is to disseminate the entirety of the UDHR with the belief that “there is a vital and urgent need for the Declaration to be understood and learned.”[2]

Shelved just alongside this book is another picture book—Chickens May Not Cross the Road and Other Crazy (But True) Laws. The pen and ink and water color illustrations depict characters acting out strange offenses with the accompanying law prohibiting such behavior alongside it. Further explanation of (crazy) laws are answered in a series of questions throughout the book, including “What is the Oldest Set of Laws Ever Written?” “How About Having No Laws?” “We, the People of the United States, Have Rights, Right?”[3]

Chickens May Not Cross the Road and Other Crazy (But True) Laws, Kathi Linz, Illustrated by Tony Griego

Chickens May Not Cross the Road and Other Crazy (But True) Laws, Kathi Linz, Illustrated by Tony Griego

These books are just two examples of educational material that can be found in Historical & Special Collections that isn’t just aimed at law students. Many more surprising and illuminating (and illuminated!) items pepper the stacks in HSC, waiting for someone to take a closer look!


[1 & 2] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Illustrated by William Wilson. [New York]: United Nations, 1997, Title Page.

[3] Chickens May Not Cross the Road and Other Crazy (But True) Laws, Kathi Linz, illustrated by Tony Griego. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

852 RARE: Open for Research: The Records of the Community Legal Assistance Office

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of a new modern manuscript collection for research — the Records of the Community Legal Assistance Office.

In October 1966, Harvard Law School opened a neighborhood law office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Community Legal Assistance Office (CLAO), with John M. Ferren (HLS ’62) serving as Director. The mission blended service and education providing:

  • clinical legal services to indigent and low-income Cambridge residents;
  • legal education for the poor and underrepresented minorities;
  • contributions to law reform in the areas of housing, community-based municipal government, and civil rights.

CLAO also played a role to the expansion of clinical legal education at the Law School, and promoted curricular and extra-curricular training opportunities for Harvard Law School students in the fields of poverty law and clinical legal services.

 

CLAO_sign

Flyer produced by the Community Legal Assistance Office listing services offered. The Records for the Community Legal Assistance Office, Box 6, folder 1, Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

Financial support came in the form of a grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the agency that, following the approval of the Economic Opportunity Act (1964) by the United States Congress, became responsible for administering the local application of President Johnson’s Great Society legislation. Harvard Law School contributed an additional 10 percent, in order to permit representation of criminal defendants that would be otherwise have been prohibited under the terms of the OEO federal grant. The ability to represent both civil and criminal defendants distinguished CLAO from other OEO-funded neighborhood law offices, which provided legal assistance only for civil issues.

Working out of their office at the corner of Windsor and Broadway CLAO was heavily involved in the Cambridge community assisting with, for example, the drafting of the Cambridge Model Cities Program, which was another OEO funded program for urban renewal, housing and building projects. Additionally, in 1968, Governor of Massachusetts John A. Volpe signed two bills presented by CLAO with reference to housing, tenant rights, and leases. And in 1969 CLAO obtained the release of a young marine by order of the Federal Court on a petition for writ of habeas corpus, after the Marine Corps had rejected his request for a hardship discharge. The opinion established a new precedent by expanding the scope of review of such Marine Corps decisions.

In 1971, CLAO merged with the other OEO-funded neighborhood law office in Cambridge, the Cambridge Legal Services (CLS), which had opened in 1967, in order to form the Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS), which is still in existence.

The Records of the  Community Legal Assistance Office is open to all researchers. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.

Posted on behalf of Lidia Santarelli by Edwin Moloy.

852 RARE: Collection Mysteries – History Sleuths Wanted

Over the years, a few of our 852 RARE posts have focused on parts of the collection that present unanswered questions such as the identity of an individual or date and creator of an image. In 2008, we wrote about a  carte de visite of an unidentified African American man in the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. visual materials collection. Then in 2012 we posted a photograph of HLS graduate students that included an unidentified child in the picture, whom we dubbed “the littlest graduate.” Most recently, we wondered about the origins and purpose of a 1977 student group titled “The Fainwood.”

Historical & Special Collections (HSC) is not alone when it comes to mysteries in its collection. The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (P & P) has a blog titled “Picture This.” In a number of posts they have highlighted mystery photographs that have been placed on the Library of Congress Flickr account along with a call to help identify them. Images have ranged from buildings, to gadgets, to travel views. Thanks to the help of Flickr users they were able to identify and more accurately describe quite a few of the formerly unidentified images.

It takes practice and skill to dissect an image and make meaning from it. This skill is commonly referred to as visual literacy. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) defines visual literacy as: “a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.” You can see visual literacy in action in the comments accompanying the P & P images in Flickr. Some of the observations and types of sources people drew upon are fascinating.

Sadly, we have not solved any of our previously chronicled mysteries and new mysteries present themselves all the time. As you can see below, we have a number of unidentified individuals in our collection of cabinet cards and cartes de visite.

Undated Carte de Visite photograph of a man in wig and gown, head and shoulder view. Photographer Fradelle & Marshall, London, England

Unidentified English Jurist, recto
Carte de Visite 2-102
HOLLIS 012545010

Back of carte de visite of unidentified English jurist. Photographers name printed: Fradelle & Marshall, London, England. Inscription: Unknown English Jurist, (junior barrister JHB)

Unidentified English Jurist, verso
Carte de Visite 2-102
HOLLIS 012545010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabint card of Unidentified English Jurist. Head and shoulder view, turned and facing right in wig and robes. Sticker in upper right corner that says "Y"

Unidentified English Jurist “Y”
Cabinet Card, Box 9
HOLLIS 012545010

Cabinet card of an Unidentified English Jurist, three quarter length view in wig and robes, sitting and turned and facing right

Unidentified English Jurist
Cabinet Card, Box 9
HOLLIS 012545010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is your chance to help us and have some fun in the process. Tap into your inner Sherlock Holmes and put your skills of analysis to work! Send your discoveries or information that could aid in identification to specialc@law.harvard.edu

For those interested in learning more about visual literacy, here are some resources:

Every Photo is a Story: Researching Photographs–Video Series and Exercises, Library of Congress

Visual Literacy Resources, Toledo Art Museum

International Visual Literacy Association

Visual Thinking Strategies

852 RARE: MASS(achusetts) Incarceration During the Nineteenth Century

Recently, an intriguing folder containing six broadsides came to light in Historical & Special Collections. These are very different from our largest collection of broadsides, which are English trial and execution broadsides (sometimes referred to as “dying speeches”) printed for popular consumption.

1827 & 1828

These are single sheet Annual report[s] of the convicts in the Massachusetts State Prison their employment, &c., with a correct view of the expenses and income of the Institution … for the years 1823-1828 and it turns out they’re very rare. According to WorldCat only the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society have some of the issues. For those whose libraries subscribe to Readex’s “America’s Historical Imprints”, five of the reports are available digitally as part of “American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1”.

The state prison, located in the Charlestown section of Boston was built in 1805. With the completion of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord, in 1878, the prison population of the Charlestown prison declined. Among its later and better known inmates were Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, executed there in August 1927.

1825 close up

Detail of the 1825 report

The reports, signed by wardens Gamaliel Bradford (1823) and Thomas Harris (1824-1828), are statistical in nature and models of succinctness. While at first glance they may seem a bit dry, one can glean a great deal of information from them, including all of the prison’s expenses and income; the crimes for which inmates were imprisoned, ages, and lengths of sentences; and their prison employment. During this many period prisoners were engaged in cutting and transporting stone, working in the prison hospital, and picking oakum. Others were let out to contractors as cabinet and brush makers, as well as other skilled labor. The north wing built in 1828, was probably the “new prison” referred to in the reports starting in 1826 when 26 of the 313 current prisoners were working on its construction.

1827 close up

Detail of the 1827 report

Penciled notes on the Library’s copies of these broadsides provide some evidence of their provenance, and the piecemeal fashion in which they were acquired. The 1823 issue was a gift to the Harvard College Library from “Arthur G. Sedgwick of Cambridge” in November 1875–most likely the lawyer and writer who graduated Harvard College in 1864 and earned his LL.B. at the Law School in 1866. Sedgwick moved to New York City in 1875 to continue practicing law after several years in Boston. Perhaps his donation to the College was the result of office-cleaning in preparation for his move?

The back of the 1824 issue bears the signature of “Hon. Levi Thaxter.”

This may be lawyer Levi Lincoln Thaxter (Harvard College 1843, Harvard Law School 1845) who was married to poet and writer Celia Thaxter. “Gratis” is penciled on the front, so it was evidently a gift, but it is unclear from whom.

52256954 Sanborn

Harvard University – Harvard University Archives / Class Album. Class of 1855. HUD 255.704.1, Harvard University Archives

The 1825 and 1826 annual reports were also gifts, in 1865, of Frank B. Sanborn, Harvard College 1855. Here he is pictured in his Class album (HOLLIS 7505074).

The source of the 1827 and 1828 issues remains a mystery. A penciled note reads simply “no date of reception.” All six were transferred from the College Library to the Law School Library in June 1924, possibly in a batch described in the Law Library’s accession book as merely “Miscellaneous material”. These broadsides and their miscellaneous collection of facts and figures offer an intriguing glimpse into the state of Massachusetts prisons in the early nineteenth century. We are thankful to the Harvard College alumni who thought to give these interesting documents to their alma mater and to the library professionals who over the years have sought to preserve them. And given recent interest and concern about prisons and mass incarceration, both nationally and locally, these nearly 200 year old reports are an especially timely find.

852 RARE – New Exhibit! One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library

Magna Carta posterFirst written in 1215, the ideas of liberty and human rights contained in and derived from England’s Magna Carta (the Great Charter) have persisted for 800 years. They have provided inspiration for developments in law now enshrined in constitutions and treaties across the world. The survival and resonance of those ideas is reflected in the manuscripts in this exhibit.

The Harvard Law School Library owns close to 30 manuscript copies of Magna Carta; a few of our favorites are presented here. Tangible items like these connect us with the past and allow us to approach the people who created, used and treasured these documents. Each manuscript tells a different story and raises many questions.

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Mindy Kent, HLS Library. It is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room through March 11, 2016. An online companion to the exhibit is available. All our manuscript Magna Cartas have been digitized and may be viewed online.

852 RARE: A Refresher from Historical & Special Collections

Welcome to campus! Longtime followers of Et Seq. may know that the Library’s Historical & Special Collections staff often submit posts under the heading “852 RARE.” With the start of a new academic year, we wanted to provide a quick reminder of how the name “852 RARE” came to be. The name pays homage to the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) designation for items in the rare book collection; in other words, in Harvard’s HOLLIS catalog record, the 852 RARE field identifies the materials in the Library’s collection which are part of its Historical & Special Collections.

Watch this space for occasional 852 RARE announcements about new exhibits (one is coming soon!); stories about fascinating, unique, beautiful, and occasionally weird items from our collections; and information useful to those who wish to use HSC’s collections – and we hope many of you do.

In addition to rare books, Historical & Special Collections encompasses early and modern manuscriptsprints, photographs, objects, and The Red Set—a collection of Law School faculty, organizational, and student publications made famous in The Paper Chase.

Welcome, and we hope to see you soon!

– From the staff of HSC: Karen Beck, Jane Kelly, Ed Moloy, Mary Person, and Lesley Schoenfeld

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