FROM THE BOROUGH TO THE BEACH, OR, THE LIFE OF LINDA THE INTERN AT THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY
This semester, The Wolfsonian-FIU library is proud to be hosting three library interns: Jonathan Sanabria, Isabel Brador, and Linda Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez has been working under the supervision and tutelage of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. In that capacity, she has been cataloging some of the hundreds of reference books donated to the library collection by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Today’s post (contributed by Rochelle Pienn) discusses Ms. Hernandez’ internship experience with that collection. Stay tuned for updates on the work and experiences of our other interns.
Why are we here? Of course human beings have been asking this broad philosophical question throughout the ages. As a writer and a special collections librarian, however, I tend to be more interested in individual experiences that give each of us our unique life stories. It would be these personal points of view, in context with time and place, which result in the historical records of society (and fill our amazing special collections shelves with rare books, original photograph albums, correspondence, and other primary resources). What is it about the past that contributes to the present?
LINDA HERNANDEZ, LIBRARY INTERN. PHOTO BY DAVID ALMEIDA
Part of being the Sharf Associate Librarian involves passing the rare book cataloging torch, as it were, to future librarians. This semester I was pleased to collaborate with the University of South Florida’s graduate program in library studies to administer course credit for work at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library. Linda H., our new intern, hails from Queens, New York, just like yours truly. Curious about her career choice, I asked Linda why she wanted to be a librarian. She seemed surprised. “Oh, I always knew I wanted to do this,” she said. “When I was a little girl, I lived in the Queensbridge projects. They had a tiny room for the library. I remember going there and knowing it was where I wanted to be.” Both Linda and I cherish fond memories of family trips to the New York Public Library, a practically sacred landmark in an asphalt jungle, flanked by its guardian lions, Patience and Fortitude.
“FORTITUDE,” MARBLE, 1911. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
I started Linda’s rare book cataloging training by teaching her the basics. To do this, she would pick recently published books from our generous donation from Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Then she would search the Library of Congress catalog to find what we call in the trade “good copy” for entry into our public online, searchable database.
For example, current scholars in women’s studies find the stories of Japan’s turn-of-the-century society historically significant. These heavily researched volumes pay particular attention to prostitution in those times.
In this 1906 period imprint, a Christian traveler from the West recounts her journey in Japan. Upon attending a crowded street parade featuring a public procession of prostitutes, the author lamented, “Closely I looked for the hidden history in the face of each courtesan. I never saw pleasure, not a vestige of joy. If the face were not a blank, it stood for stony indifference, as if the girl were driven blindly on through empty space. Sometimes there were pathos and sadness, a hunger and longing in the eyes which might never again be lighted by hope … Not once did a girl show consciousness of the staring crowds.”
As a result of British colonialism, interest in all things Oriental became the rage in the Western world at the turn of the twentieth century. Japan, the Middle East, China, and India posed new and exotic sources of exploration for curious Europeans and Americans. Linda discovered this 1999 Sotheby’s auction catalog filled with archival treasures that had been for sale.
This 1886 image comes from a magnificent, one-of-a-kind photo album in the Sharf Collection. It documents Mr. H. W. Benson’s peacetime service with the 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment of Great Britain, which surveyed the Northwest Passage of India.
Another photograph album from the 1880s contains hand-colored albumen prints of Burmese and Indian natives. Handwritten captions document the travels of Frederic Houlton Summers, who was employed by Gillander & Co. (mercantile) in its Calcutta and Rangoon branches.
This spectacular shot shows Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which opened in 1881.
The popular “before and after” theme in contemporary pictorial works is exemplified in this book on Shanghai, China. New color photographs of landmarks are juxtaposed with antique prints and accompanied by descriptive narrative.
James Harrison Wilson’s 1888 book, China travels and investigations in the “Middle Kingdom,” covers everything from social customs in Shanghai to the highly profitable opium trade.
In an album called Le Tour du Monde, or, Trip around the World, well-to-do ladies and gentlemen cruised around Japan, China, the Philippines and India circa 1900. Part of their itinerary included visiting this five-story pagoda in China, seen here perched dramatically at the top of a hill, behind a perimeter wall.
Passengers also took their own snapshots of natives, temples, and other sites. On this page of the album in the bottom right-hand photo, a “lyon” sculpture defends a doorway.
This period photograph shows the interior of China’s Temple of the 500 Genii.
My three wishes for the genii are: 1. for Linda to enjoy her experience with the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library; 2. for Linda to have a fruitful career as a future librarian; and finally, 3. for the library lions to bring Linda good luck on her journey.
LION HEADS, BRONZE, 1901, THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU ELEVATOR.
PHOTO BY DAVID ALMEIDA