Food, Glorious Food!

By Kendall Hallberg

Catesby’s “Natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Isles” was created for an interested European audience. Many of the plants and animals of the New World were completely unknown to them as a three-month long trip didn’t make America very accessible. Catesby’s unique work was one of the first that pictured animals together with the plants that dominated their habitats. By virtue of this, there are quite a few well-loved and delicious foods alongside a few that you may not be familiar with.

Let’s start with a crowd favorite: Chocolate. By the time Catesby was creating these books (think early 1700s), chocolate had made its way into the hearts of Europeans. However, they still would not have known how this plant was cultivated. While Spanish and French colonies were producing chocolate, Catesby wanted to encourage cultivation of “this excellent tree” by the English (Catesby, 1731, p.6). While publishing his work on the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas, he also collected accounts and made illustrations that he knew would be of interest.  This reasoning is why we also have the addition of Mexican Vanilla. While Mexican vanilla has since been introduced to regions in the United States and Territories, Catesby likely wouldn’t have come across it in his day. In fact, Catesby says, “With this fruit the Spaniards perfume their chocolate . . . This perfume is so little agreeable to an English palate, that it is rarely made use of any more in our American Plantations than at home, and therefore not cultivated by us” (Catesby, 1731). Can you imagine? Another plant that Catesby includes is the Cashew. It is included both as a curiosity as well as a correction upon the work of previous naturalists which illustrated the growth of the plant incorrectly. The inclusion of all three of these plants work to elucidate European audiences with what they may be familiar with, but misunderstandings of their nature still existed.

Catesby wasn’t just recording plants with popularity in Europe, he also exposed his audience to the many plants the New World had to offer; some more familiar to us than others. First, there is the Sweet Potato. Catesby’s descriptions of all the potatoes in America speaks to their general greatness. We, in South Carolina, are also very familiar with Persimmons as a common fruiting tree. Whether they are eaten fresh or dried, they are quite delicious as Catesby would attest. A bit less familiar is Yaupon. It’s in the holly family and can be brewed into tea though it has a rather unfortunate scientific name, Ilex vomitoria. This name links back to Yaupon’s traditional medicinal use by Indigenous people to detoxify, but the plant itself does not cause vomiting. It’s more like a relative, Yerba Mate, in flavor (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 2016). Last, but not least, the Pawpaw or sometimes called a custard-apple. Discovering this in Catesby’s work was my first time learning about this fruit. However, if I go by Catesby’s word, it might not be that delicious. He describes, “All Parts of the Tree have a rank, if not a [fetid] Smell; nor is the Fruit relished but by very few” (Catesby, 1731, p.85). There are plenty of other native plants that may or may not be delicious, but these are just a few. To discover more, join me next time as I explore other Natural Histories from our collections! (aka browsing the library in pajamas? Fun!)

 

References

  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2016). Ilex vomitoria. Retrieved from: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ILVO
  • Catesby, M. (1731). The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants : particularly the forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by authors : together with their descriptions in English and French, to which, are added observations on the air, soil, and waters, with remarks upon agriculture, grain, pulse, roots, &c. : to the whole, is prefixed a new and correct map of the countries treated of. London: Printed at the expence of the author, and sold by W. Innys and R. Manby, at the West End of St. Paul’s, by Mr. Hauksbee, at the Royal Society House, and by the author, at Mr. Bacon’s in Hoxton.

Introduction to the Center for Digital Humanities’ Piranesi Project

By Mackenzie Anderson

Hello! My name is Mackenzie Anderson, I am a graduate student in Library and Information Science here at the University of South Carolina, and I am working on the Piranesi project.

The Piranesi project was created and is spearheaded by Dr. Jeanne Britton, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections curator and Department of English Language and Literature affiliate faculty. The project itself is executed by both the Center for Digital Humanities, located in UofSC’s Innovation Center, and the Digital Collections department, located in the Ernest F. Hollings Library. Awarded an NEH grant 2019-2021, “The Digital Piranesi” digitally enacts graphic features of Giovanni Piranesi’s innovative works in a comprehensive digital collection and an interactive digital edition.

Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)

Although the project regularly continues to expand as the Center for Digital Humanities discovers new, exciting possibilities for showcasing the wonders within Piranesi’s works, the current goal is to create an interactive, virtual exhibit of 29 volumes of Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi’s etchings. Piranesi was an eighteenth-century artist famous for his etchings of Rome and his fictitious prisons (or Carceri d’invenzione). His work is breathtakingly beautiful and astonishingly detailed. Although I had little exposure to visual art before I started working in Digital Collections, I have since become a huge fan of Piranesi’s work. My favorite part of my job is opening a new volume and exploring the etchings inside for the first time as I scan each of the pages. You never know what you’ll find!

My work consists of scanning the etchings volume by volume to create TIFF copies of the images. I then convert these files to JPEGs and subsequently use Photoshop to create cropped copies of the images for the Center for Digital Humanities to use. The biggest surprise I have encountered so far is how difficult and tedious the scanning process can be. The volumes I work with are bound so that there are big gaps between pages, and the heavy ink can cause the etchings to warp. My job is to get as perfect of a scan as possible. Usually this means invoking techniques such as positioning foam or fabric underneath the pages, using weights to prop up the spine, pulling pages tight with a ruler, and adjusting the pressure of the scanning beds against the book, all while exercising great caution not to damage the books or pages themselves.

Occasionally, when I encounter very difficult pages, I have to take over ten scans to get a usable image. It is tedious and highly detailed work, and it took me several weeks to become fully comfortable scanning independently. Nevertheless, I love my job, and I am very excited to get to be a part of the Piranesi project. I hope that those who view the Piranesi exhibit after its completion find his work as captivating and interesting as I do. To learn more about the project click here. To view our work to date, visit the Piranesi project website.

Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de' Metelli sulla via Appia ... (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de’ Metelli sulla via Appia … (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)

 

Introduction to James T. McCain

By: Chauna Carr, Kaylin Daniels, and Laura Stillwagon

James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist remembered for his selfless volunteering and organized marches. One of his main endeavors was making it possible for African Americans to register to vote during the Civil Rights era. As a very active Civil Rights leader, he was incredibly organized, making note of everything he did, down to his car mileage. His collection is housed and maintained by the South Caroliniana Library here at the University of South Carolina, and consists of yearly calendars and notebooks used as day planners to organize his Civil Rights endeavors.

McCain was a huge supporter of the War Resisters League – many of his calendars held at South Caroliniana Library are from this organization. For those who do not know, the War Resisters League has been around since 1932. They work to spread nonviolence and advocate to end war. As shown by their calendar covers, the League supported other movements and prominent non-violent figures of social justice, like a calendar in the McCain collection that includes a dedication to Mahatma Gandhi, and one to Jessie Wallace Hughan, an American educator, social activist, and radical pacifist.

Another calendar supports equality for women, and another promotes Civil Rights peace with the gospel song lyrics “We shall overcome”. One of our favorite calendars includes a photographic collection of the Civil Rights Movement and some other fun features like rock and roll music lyrics and an uplifting message for peace. The calendars themselves are very inspiring; with many motivational poems and quotes included throughout. McCain interacted extensively with his calendars and each one shows what he believed and aligned with. Illustrated with the pacifistic nature of Gandhi, equality for women, and using one’s right to protest, the calendar covers were a reminder of what McCain was fighting for.

“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League

McCain used his calendars to plan his events, track his meetings and travels, and record other miscellaneous things about his daily life; for instance, he logged his speedometer readings, meal prices, and resting days. On top of recording local community accomplishments, he always tried to acknowledge the achievements of people of color by taping or stapling news coverage of their successes directly into his calendars. For example, he wrote:

“Sumter schools reopen today – black parents and citizens negotiated with school authorities not to dismiss students to roam the streets again but try to deal with protesters at sch. Mission successful.”

 

 

Here are some other examples:

“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9,

James T. McCain was a prolific figure working behind the scenes during the Civil Rights movement. The South Caroliniana Library is in the process of preserving and displaying McCain’s collection, and Digital Collections is working in collaboration with them to digitize his work. We’re digitizing this archival collection of day planners as part of a university awarded ASPIRE II grant, written by Graham Duncan, Head of Collections and Curator of Manuscripts at South Caroliniana Library; Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor and Head of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research; and Mēgan A. Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian.

There’s still more to come! This project is still in process and on track to being completed this semester. We are looking forward to learning more, and sharing more, about James T. McCain!

 

Introduction to the M. Hayes Mizell Papers

By Stephanie Gilbert

My name is Stephanie Gilbert and I am one of the new Digital Assistants here at Digital Collections. Perhaps some of you have heard of Hayes Mizell. For several years, Mizell was a prominent Civil Rights Activist.  He served as director of the South Carolina Community Relations Program of the American Friends Service Committee from 1966-1982, and in one of his speeches likened his role to that of a “professional advocate”.  Mizell traveled all over the U.S. delivering speeches in support of school integration and educational improvements for students from low-income families. His collection includes personal images of himself and his associates as well as letters, programs, and copies of his many speeches.

Three Negative Strips from a Photoshoot for Hayes Mizell 
Three Negative Strips from a Photoshoot for Hayes Mizell
Hayes Mizell Giving a Speech 
Hayes Mizell Giving a Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what exactly is my role when digitizing this collection?  As the digital assistant, the first step is always scanning.  I ensure that each item is clearly scanned, edited, and stored in the proper format. Next, I create metadata that is entered into an excel spreadsheet which will then be run through a series of programs to polish the data.  It then gets loaded online through ContentDM which makes it public so that researchers have full access to the materials.  Though this process is lengthy and detail heavy, it ensures that another format of the materials exist, so the documents are preserved physically and digitally.

Speech by Hayes Mizell to AFSC Middle Atlantic Regional Office Fall Retreat, October 2, 1976 
Speech by Hayes Mizell to AFSC Middle Atlantic Regional Office Fall Retreat, October 2, 1976

New job + new skill set = amazing!  I am thoroughly enjoying my time here at Digital Collections.  I have found it quite refreshing to meet new people and learn more about a different area of information science.  The environment is quiet, peaceful, and filled with friendly people who are a pleasure to work with and learn from.  I am also enjoying the Mizell Collection.  I find that I always become fond of whatever collection I work on.  I tend to form an emotional connection through physically handling documents, and the items in this collection to me serve as the physical embodiment of Mizell’s influence in the community.  It is so easy to form an attachment when you think of his work in this way.  It is also eye-opening to preserve items digitally as opposed to physically rehousing with folders and boxes.  I look forward to what else my future spent with Digital Collections and the Hayes Mizell Collection will hold!