August 29, 2014

The Allston Dana Papers and the Panama Canal

August 15th marked the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. Coincidentally, August also brought a visit from Dr. Peter H. Dana who had the distinct pleasure of conducting research about the canal in his grandfathers’ papers. Housed in the Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections, The Allston Dana Papers include material regarding the design of the third lock of the Panama Canal as well as the design or study of the Delaware Bridge, the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the Triborough Bridge complex. The collection includes blueprints, drawings, reports, photographs and correspondence.

"Figure 1 from Appendix 2 from “The Report of the Governor of the Panama Canal. 1947” shows only the thirty possible isthmian routes still being considered in the mid 20th century." Image and caption courtesy of Dr. Peter H. Dana. From the Allston Dana Papers, Box 2.

Dr. Dana, an Electronic Navigation, Precise Positioning, and Geographic Information Systems Research and Development consultant, has studied the development of routes across the isthmus for a number of years. He tells us “The Nica canal notion (never far from public discourse during the last two centuries) was the basis for my interest in Greytown, Nicaragua, the place considered in my 1999 dissertation, Diversity in Descriptions of a Destroyed Place: Greytown, Nicaragua. Department of Geography, University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Dana continues to write about the region, most recently contributing a chapter entitled “Cutting Across” to Mapping Latin America: Space and Society, 1492-2000. Jordana Dym and Karl Offen, Editors, 2011. Of his time spent working with The Allston Dana Papers, he shares "I really enjoyed seeing my grandfather’s name at the bottom of Panama Canal Documents."

Photo courtesy of Dr. Peter H. Dana. From:"Panama Canal Third Locks project Miraflores locks drawings, 1912-1913, 1941." The Allston Dana Papers, Box 6

In preparation for Dr. Dana’s visit, we reviewed the existing HTML finding aid for The Allston Dana Papers and determined that it was a good candidate for our EAD conversion project. For this project, our legacy finding aids are being enhanced with additional descriptive material and converted into Encoded Archival Descriptions using the OhioLINK EAD Finding Aid Creation Tool. We are excited about providing this new level of access to our collections and look forward to posting more updates in the near future.

For more information contact the Special Collections reference desk at

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March 03, 2011

Notes on Our Researchers: Professor Timothy K. Beal

February brought the much anticipated release of “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: the Unexpected History of an Accidental Book.” by Professor Timothy K. Beal. Since accepting appointment as the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University, Professor Beal has been a familiar face in the Special Collections Research Center. We are, of course, pleased that the range of our holdings provided Professor Beal with a fine array of working material. Whether teaching a class in the Hatch Reading Room or conducting research among the many fine examples of printed Bibles in our collection, Beal promotes and expands the University’s exhortation to “think beyond the possible.”

In his personal introduction to Rise and Fall, Beal states: " Even in the early centuries of the print era, after Gutenberg, we find a burgeoning Bible-publishing industry with literally thousands of different editions and versions.” Of these thousands, relatively few copies remain in good condition and are preserved and made available to researchers as are those in the Special Collections Research Center. One of the most vital links to our holdings are our original cataloging records. Here are links to a few of the rare book cataloging records for some of our 16th and 17th century Bibles:

Bible. Latin. Vulgate. 1572
Bible. O.T. Hebrew & Latin. 1546
Bible. Polyglot. 1657

The Kelvin Smith Library's online catalog provides one measure of access to our book collections. Search results indicate a Special Collections item if the citation notes one of the following locations: UL Spec Col Stacks; UL Spec Col Reference; UL Spec Col Vault. Contact with Special Collections staff for further assistance can be arranged by voice (216) 368-0189/(216) 368-2993 or email

Lastly, we can’t close this post without providing a few of the many links available to online discourse on Rise and Fall. We hope that you will enjoy listening to and reading these as much as we have: review

Dr. Beal on YouTube

Kirkus Reviews

The New Republic. editorial

Off the Shelf Beal interview with Kelvin Smith Library’s Information Literacy Librarian William Claspy.

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August 17, 2010

Summer Practicum in the KSL Manuscript Collection

In July and August the Special Collections Research Center was host to a Kent State University School of Library and Information Science student, Mary Kate Rosfelder, who worked on a fifty hour project with us as part of her practicum in academic librarianship at the Kelvin Smith Library. Mary Kate worked with the Special Collections Archivist to become familiar with basic theory and practice of arrangement and description of rare and fragile items and the scholarly merits of digitizing manuscript materials.

Many thanks to Mary Kate for her dedication to this project. She devoted thought and effort to understanding why we create and maintain special collections in academic libraries and why scarce resources must be used wisely in the creation of digital assets. Her work will be part of a new Guide to the Kelvin Smith Library Manuscript Collection to be released in the fall of 2010.

Mary Kate's assignment involved updating folder labels and finding aid entries for 25 folders, evaluating their content and planning and executing a digitization project plan involving items from those folders. We would like to highlight one of the items that Mary Kate chose for her project - a letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to retired Supreme Court Justice John H. Clarke in 1937.

The Roosevelt-Clarke letter illuminates significant events in the lives of both men. John Hessin Clarke, a Western Reserve University graduate [1877] and trustee, was active in Ohio politics for many years. In the early months of 1937, Clarke spoke out in favor of the Judiciary Reorganization Bill, also known as Roosevelt’s court packing plan. The bill was not enacted into law but Clarke's assistance was not forgotten. Later that year Roosevelt sent the following one page typewritten and signed letter to his friend and supporter:

The White House

September 11, 1937

My Dear Justice Clarke:

Please accept my warmest felicitations upon the
occasion of your eightieth birthday.

One who enjoys long life and yet retains undimmed
the flame of a liberal spirit is indeed to be envied. Many
there are in this country who have been inspired by the
fullness, the purpose and the enlightenment which have
marked both your private life and your public career.

Our jurisprudence is richer for the part you have
played in its development, the cause of social progress
more advanced for the contribution you have made to it.

I extend hearty good wishes for your continued
health and happiness.

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Honorable John H. Clarke,
El Cortez Hotel,
San Diego, California.

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April 08, 2009

Reports from our researchers

Recently we heard from Erin Valentine, CWRU graduate student and Special Collections patron, about her work with our 19th century Japanese prints

"This semester I am taking a class in Multimedia, and our last project
required us to scan images from a number of books and combine them into a collage. I was interested in older books, and so emailed Sue Hanson in Special Collections to see what we had in the Case collection.

As it turns out, we have a lot of amazing old books about Japanese culture written around the turn of the century. I ended up getting even better images than I expected, and enjoying the project even more than if I'd used books from circulating collections."

Erin kindly sent images of her work and her artist's statement which we share here:

Download file



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