Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuscaloosa Entertains: A New Exhibit

A new exhibit is on display in the administrative suite area on the 2nd floor of Gorgas Library. This collaborative exhibit project, Tuscaloosa Entertains: Where the Fun was had in the Druid City between the World Wars features narrative and images that explore aspects of leisure time in Tuscaloosa from the 1920s through the early 1950s.

Using digital surrogates of archival materials from the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library and other sources for their research, three graduate students in History, Mills Barker, Jensen Branscombe and Stephanie Chalifoux provide insight into entertainment venues including dance halls, theaters, soda fountains, and jook joints in the Druid City, Tuscaloosa. The project was advised by Kari Frederickson, Associate Professor of History and director of the Frances Summersell Center for the Study of the South, as well as Jessica Lacher-Feldman, Associate Professor and Public and Outreach Services Coordinator for the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library.

The exhibit project also explored ways in creating visual interest with limited collections-based resources. The exhibit relies in part on the use of Sanborn Fire Maps to illustrate the physical space in downtown Tuscaloosa where photographs are non-existent. The exhibit also features advertisements, anecdotes, quotes, and descriptive narrative to inform the audience.

One fun anecdote reads, "Tuscaloosa attracted some famous performers and traveling vaudeville acts like the Marx Brothers. Harpo Marx recalled that the brothers were so bored in Tuscaloosa that they stopped singing in the middle of a song to watch a large bug walk across the stage. He remembered, 'the four of us got down on hands and knees and began to follow the bug, making bets whether it was a beetle, a cockroach, or a bedbug'.”

That visit must have stayed in their minds when writing their film, Animal Crackers, as this clip will attest -- watch it, it's worth it (or if you're impatient, skip to the 2 minute mark)!

Please be sure to visit the exhibit in Gorgas Library 2nd floor!

Hoole Library Featured in ARL book and website, Celebrating Research

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, and specifically the David Walker Lupton African-American Cookbook Collection is featured in the Association of Research Libraries' book and website, Celebrating Research: Rare and Special Collections from the Membership of the Association of Research Libraries.

The book and Web site profiles selected rare and special collections available for use in the major research libraries of North America, compiled to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Association of Research Libraries.

The collection profile for the David Walker Lupton Collection is available on the site at

and the profile for the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library is available at

The David Walker Lupton African American Cookbook Collection consists of over 450 volumes covering the period from 1827, when the first book with recipes by an African American was published, through the year 2000. To read more about the Lupton collection and to view a hand list of the volumes in the collection, visit The collection and the book was also recently featured on Join us at the Table, a weekly radio show in Miami. The show's website is here: and to listen to Jessica Lacher-Feldman's interview about the Lupton Collection visit The interview is towards the middle of the show.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day! A Memorable dinner at Antoines in New Orleans: March 17, 1914

Featured here is the menu and program cover from the annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner in New Orleans. This particular dinner was held at Antoine's and featured such delicious green delicacies as Absinthe Verte and Artichaux Bayard. The final course seems especially compelling -- cigars, cigarettes, and Café Diabolique -- flambéed coffee served tableside, and still an Antoine's tradition. This program and menu and several other equally interesting St. Patrick's Day Dinners, including one from 100 years ago - 1908) are from the T.P. Thompson Collection at the Hoole Special Collections Library. T.P. Thompson's book collections are the foundation of the Hoole Library's rare books collections. And his papers are an incredible collection of materials that relate to his collections, his civic and business life, and his deep love for the city of New Orleans.

To learn more about T.P. Thompson, stay tuned for Exhibit Mashup No. 2! (Hint No. 2) And have a very happy St. Patrick's Day and a very safe and happy spring break to those who are lucky enough to get one!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Turning Japanese: How Winnifred Eaton became Onoto Watanna in Victorian America

Join us Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at the Hoole Special Collections Library, 2nd Floor Mary Harmon Bryant Hall at 4:30 pm for a lecture by Dr. Edward Tang, Associate Professor of American Studies, The University of Alabama. [flier for event here]

His talk, Turning Japanese: How Winnifred Eaton became Onoto Watanna in Victorian America explores the complicated life of Winnifred Eaton (1879-1954), one of the first known writers of Asian descent to be published in America. She wrote several popular novels set in Japan, yet she tried to hide her own ethnic identity – she was born in Canada to an English father and Chinese mother who had been adopted by missionaries. Eaton published under the Japanese pen name -- Onoto Watanna.

Many of Eaton’s novels revolve around romances between American men and Japanese women. In Me, A Book of Remembrance, which was published anonymously, she wrote a thinly veiled autobiography in which she discussed her work as a writer but avoided mentioning her half-Chinese background.

“Eaton’s identity as a writer relied on cultural borrowings and blurrings,” Tang said. “By assuming the identity of a Japanese woman, she bowed to market demands for things Japanese but also challenged distinct racial or ethnic categories that many people at the turn of the century assumed to be fixed and stable.”

The lecture is in conjunction with an exhibit of books by Eaton/Watanna from the Hoole Special Collections Library and the 2008 Sakura Festival at UA and in Tuscaloosa. The books on exhibit are from the Richard Minsky Collection at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, and from a gift from Dr. John Crowley. Some of Eaton/Watanna's works are featured in the UA Libraries collaborative digital project, Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books.

Onoto WatannaIt was in Chicago that Eaton/Watanna published her first novel, Mrs. Nume of Japan (1899), which told the story of a romance involving two couples, one American and one Japanese, who switch partners during a series of romantic and tragic encounters. It was an immediate success. From then on she published almost a novel a year. Moving to New York she wrote her next novel, A Japanese Nightingale in 1901. It was translated into many languages and was even made into a Broadway play and film (1919). She lived in New York until 1917. During that time, she married and divorced Bertrand Babcock with whom she had four children. She had much financial and writing success. In 1910, she wrote the bestseller Tama, which is shown here.

This lecture is part of the Sakura Festival in Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama. A reception will follow. This event, is of course free and open to the public.

Exhibit Mashups @ Hoole: Bringing things together in wild and wonderful ways!

Exhibit Mashup No. 1, Dickens meets Goetzel meets the WPA is about to come down! Come see it at Hoole Special Collections Library lobby before Friday, March 14. After spring break, the new Exhibit Mashup No. 2 will open.

Want a hint about what's coming next?

Here it is! This exhibit will open the first week in April in the lobby of the Hoole Special Collections Library.