Strengthening UConn’s Presence on Wikipedia

The post was contributed by Michael Rodriguez, Collections Strategist at the UConn Library. 

The University of Connecticut has a strong presence on Wikipedia, which goes under the tagline “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” In a personal summer project, I wrote thirty new encyclopedia articles and expanded seven others about influential figures in UConn’s history. For sources, I drew on texts and images from Archives and Special Collections, as well as other UConn Library resources that brought to life the university’s remarkable history and people. 

Background 

Wikipedia logo, by Version 1 by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus); Wikimedia. – File:Wikipedia-logo.svg as of 14 May 2010T23:16:42, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33285413

Wikipedia is one of the world’s most-viewed websites. Founded in 2001, Wikipedia has over 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words in English alone. Edits happen at a rate of 1.9 per second. Wikipedia is the first stop for millions of people seeking a quick fact, a topic overview, or links to other sources. But because Wikipedia is 100% crowdsourced, articles exist only if someone cares enough to write them and then navigate Wikipedia’s maze of rules to publish them. 

When I began editing, eleven of UConn’s twenty-one presidents and principals lacked Wikipedia articles about them. Notable scholars such as Henry P. Armsby and Nathan L. Whetten had zero representation. Wikipedia had little coverage of influential faculty and philanthropists whose names we see on campus buildings. Not a single woman who had a campus building named after her was represented on Wikipedia, reflecting Wikipedia’s longstanding gender gap

Wikipedia cautions against editing where editors may have a conflict of interest. I wrote my contributions off the clock, but even so, I generally avoided writing about living people. I wrote about no one I knew. I consulted a range of sources, citing not only university publications, for instance, but also the Hartford Courant and other sources unaffiliated with UConn. 

Who did I write about? 

First, I wrote about UConn women with buildings named in their honor. Did you know that Josephine Dolan—the first nursing professor at UConn—built the school’s Dolan Collection of Nursing History? Did you know that the namesake of the M. Estella Sprague Residence Hall served as UConn’s first dean of home economics in the 1920s? Did you know that the Frances Osborne Kellogg Dairy Center is named for one of Connecticut’s earliest female business executives? Her home is a state museum on the Connecticut Women’s Heritage Trail

Second, I wrote about UConn presidents. Did you know that the college’s first leader, Solomon Mead, patented a special plough? Or that Harry J. Hartley was named Man of the Year by the Daily Campus student newspaper in 1978? Or that Charles L. Beach commissioned Ellen Emmet Rand to paint a posthumous portrait of his beloved wife, Louise? Or that Benjamin F. Koons fought in 17 Civil War battles and ran an Alabama freedman’s school during Reconstruction?

By Topshelver – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92832868

Third, I wrote about the chroniclers of UConn’s history. Did you know that Jerauld Manter, who served as UConn’s unofficial photographer for half a century, has a gnat named after him? Or that forty-eight erstwhile Daily Campus student editors attended the retirement party of their mentor Walter Stemmons, chronicler of UConn’s first semicentennial? Or that Bruce M. Stave, who literally wrote the book on UConn, was president of the Federation of University Teachers during the campaign that brought collective bargaining to the university in 1976? Stemmons and Stave wrote authoritative histories, including Connecticut Agricultural History: A History (1931) and Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits (2006). These chroniclers were such key sources for so many articles that I had to celebrate them with articles of their own. 

Fourth, I wrote about influential faculty. Sidney Waxman brought along his .22 rifle on car trips, shooting down pinecones to augment his dwarf conifer collection. Henry Ruthven Monteith’s daughter, Marjorie, scored the second goal at UConn’s first women’s basketball game. George Safford Torrey played the organ and carillon at Storrs Congregational Church. Albert E. Waugh, provost for decades, was the only American member of a German group called Friends of Old Clocks. While I necessarily focused on getting facts right, the humanity of these figures, as well as their remarkable contributions to science and to the school, shone through my sources. 

Finally, I wrote about figures who, while not faculty members or presidents, nevertheless exerted a powerful influence on the university’s history. Charles and Augustus Storrs donated land and money to start the university in 1881. T. S. Gold was godfather of the school from its inception, shepherding it through its infancy and ensuring it remained viable and appropriately resourced. The Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture was named for an industrialist up the road in Tolland. Ratcliffe’s daughter, Elizabeth Hicks, has a UConn residence hall named in her honor.  

Using the archives 

UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections (ASC) were an incredible resource. ASC collects the papers of presidents, prominent faculty, and other figures associated with the University. To inventory materials and guide researchers, archivists write finding aids, which often include biographical information. Finding aids proved a valuable source, as well as helping me assess who was notable enough to merit Wikipedia articles about them. I linked to finding aids in the “External links” section of most of my Wikipedia contributions, ensuring bibliographical depth. 

For each article I wrote, I searched the Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA), a UConn-sponsored statewide repository for digital cultural heritage materials. I searched the CTDA for digital scans of old photographs, newspapers, Nutmeg yearbooks, and booklets such as Three Pioneers and Handbook of Connecticut Agriculture. I combed past issues of UConn Today and its forerunner, UConn Advance, looking for commemorative essays. Mark J. Roy’s charming series A Piece of UConn History, which ran from 1997 to 2005, was especially useful. In addition, I drew on posts by archivists and graduate students on UConn’s Archives & Special Collections Blog

Finally, I drew on the expertise of archivists. I requested high-resolution images from University Archivist Betsy Pittman when scanned online copies proved too pixelated for Wikipedia. Betsy even found me a never-before-digitized photo of UConn coach and acting president Edwin O. Smith. I am grateful for both archives and archivists—the collective memory of the university. 

By Topshelver – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92092570

In addition to contributing text, I contributed images to Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia. I took photos of various named campus buildings—and a European larch dwarf conifer cultivated by Sidney Waxman—and released the images for unlimited public use on Wikimedia Commons. I downloaded pre-1925 portrait photographs from the CTDA and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons too, maximizing their discoverability and linking back to the CTDA. Where no portrait existed online, I tracked down group photos in yearbooks or newspapers, took screen captures, and cropped them. When the only extant photos were not clearly uncopyrighted, I used one of the very few fair use exceptions permitted by Wikipedia, in which historic portraits of deceased persons may be uploaded solely to illustrate their Wikipedia biography. I sourced most images from UConn’s archival collections, as well as from UConn Today and various books and serials in HathiTrust Digital Library. Contributing images to Wikipedia is a great way to boost visibility of those images while driving traffic to UConn’s digital archival content in the CTDA. 

What’s next? 

UConn’s people, places, and unique resources are better represented on Wikipedia than ever. But this work is hardly done. I plan to monitor the in-memoriam section of UConn Today—what better way of acknowledging a prominent professor’s passing than ensuring that they get the most widely read Who’s Who-equivalent entry on the planet? In fact, one of my most recent articles was on Roger Buckley, founding director of the Asian and American Studies Institute, who died in August 2020. I will continue to create articles for UConn people with landmarks named in their honor, such as puppeteer Frank W. Ballard and cellist J. Louis von der Mehden. 

 On Wikipedia, the editing never ends. 

The Great New England Hurricane lands at the Connecticut State College

On September 21, 1938, just two days before the start of the fall semester, the Great New England Hurricane hit Connecticut State College. The campus had dealt with natural disasters before, such as the ice storm of 1909, but the damage inflicted by the Hurricane of 1938 was unprecedented. The loss of electricity and the impassability of the roads meant that of immediate concern was the water and food supply for the faculty, staff, and students. The College had to resort to using an emergency water pump and chlorinator to provide safe drinking water, and a battery-powered shortwave radio was the only means of receiving outside news. In the days following the storm, workmen and student volunteers scrambled to clear the damage and repair electric lines. The local telephone company hurried to get a pay station working on campus. Fewer than half of the 668 students registered for the fall semester were on campus at the time of the storm, and there were concerns about the rest making it in before classes started.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, news was spread across campus through the College’s publication, the Connecticut Campus. The Campus published special editions on both September 22 and 23 with the use of a hand-cranked mimeograph machine. It supplied updates on the water and food situation, informing students that although the Dining Hall was stocked with enough supplies, “no pie will be served tonight and no ice cream tomorrow.” The newsletter also shared statements made by President Albert Jorgenson and other College staff regarding campus conditions. The superintendent of the grounds speculated that “it would take about one hundred years for the campus to regain its former beauty.” Mixed in with reports on the state of the roads and estimates for the cost of repairs was a concern for returning to the College’s regular activities. The Campus was uncertain if the upcoming football game between CSC and Brown would be cancelled, although it optimistically reported that planning was underway for a barn dance.

Although most buildings on campus suffered some degree of damage, the grounds and barns experienced the worst effects of the storm. In the weeks following the hurricane, various departments across campus reported their losses to President Jorgenson, including those from Forestry, Poultry, Animal Husbandry, Horticulture, Zoology, and Genetics. Some of the campus’ barns, outbuildings, and fences needed to be completely rebuilt, including the horse barn and two sheep barns. One sheep barn was lifted off its foundation in the storm, and the estimated cost to rebuild totaled $16,000. The poultry department also suffered heavy damages, with piles of rubble all that remained of some chicken houses. Not only was the College’s agricultural activities put on hold by the storm, but its scientific research in genetics and animal diseases was also at an impasse until barns could be repaired and rebuilt. While the College’s horses and cattle survived, over 500 birds sadly perished.

There was a great concern with the damage to the trees on campus, and students were involved in assessing and cleaning up some of the destruction. The Campus bemoaned the loss of the Valentine Grove, where some of the trees destroyed had been over 200 years old. Two students counted 1,762 fallen trees on campus, and others were paid 30¢ an hour to salvage apples from the orchard. Workmen used tractors and teams of horses to pull trees back up, however many could not be saved. The College owned over 900 acres of woodlands, and one report advised that the trees lost should be salvaged if possible and cut into lumber. It was estimated that the labor required to clean up the woodlands would cost $10,400.

Fortunately the academic and student housing buildings suffered relatively minor damages. All buildings with slate roofs needed to be repaired, and some of the fraternity houses reported broken windows, leaking roofs, and damaged chimneys. Despite the hurricane, and as a testament to the hard work of both staff and students, the fall semester began on time. However, it would be many months until the campus could return to the extent of its pre-hurricane operations.

Written by Alexandra Borkowski, a UConn PhD student and student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.

How to Research from Home

Learning never stops, even during a pandemic. Many researchers — students, academics, historians, genealogists, and the general public — have had to revert to online sources during the COVID-19 crisis, given that virtually every archives, library, historical society and museum has had to shut down to the public. It is fortunate that many institutions have spent the last several years scanning large swaths of their collections and making them available in digital repositories, or have highlighted their collections in online exhibitions. Given the vast amount of primary sources held in the institutions’ physical spaces the resources that are available online are often just a drop in the bucket, but for many researchers the materials now available online have been as helpful as if they had made the trek to the research institution.

Here are some ideas on how to do your research from home, in this time of limited travel and even after.

How to find archival materials in the UConn Archives:

The UConn Library digital repository holds holds scanned items from the archives. Note that while there are over 500,000 scanned items from the UConn Archives this represents only a small percentage of our overall collections: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/

Information about all of our collections, some of which may be digitized but most of which are not in the digital repository: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/ 

The UConn Library’s catalog, which provides information about published sources in the UConn collection but also leads to primary sources, at https://primo-pmtna01.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/search?vid=01UCT&lang=en_US

If you’re not finding what you’re looking for from the UConn Archives please contact us directly, at archives@uconn.edu, to discuss your research with our staff.

How to find sources in other archives in Connecticut:

The Connecticut Digital Archive has digital collections from over 45 cultural heritage institutions in the state (including the UConn Library), at https://ctdigitalarchive.org/

Connecticut Archives Online is a searchable database of the finding aids to collections in the state, at https://archives-library.wcsu.edu/cao/search/

Connecticuthistory.org, at https://connecticuthistory.org/, provides stories on Connecticut topics, often illustrated with archival sources.

Connecticut History Illustrated, http://connecticuthistoryillustrated.org/

Connecticut State Library Digital Collections, http://cslib.cdmhost.com/index.php

Yale digital collections,  http://web.library.yale.edu/digital-collections and  http://web.library.yale.edu/digital-collections/all

How to find finding aids and research guides, with information about collections in the United States:

ArchiveGrid, which provides access to over 5 million finding aids of collections across the United States and internationally, https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/

Online Archive of California, https://oac.cdlib.org/

How to find archival collections at archives in the United States:

The Digital Public Library of America provides access to digital collection across the United States, https://dp.la/. It also provides themed primary source sets and online exhibits at http://dp.la/primary-source-sets and http://dp.la/exhibitions. If there is any one source to go to for comprehensive information about digital collections this is it!

National Archives catalog, http://www.archives.gov/research/catalog/, their resources for students and teachers, DocsTeach.org, and their online research tools: https://www.archives.gov/education/history-day/online.html

Smithsonian Institution, at https://library.si.edu/collections

The Library of Congress digital collections, at https://www.loc.gov/collections/ and their digital newspapers, at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Digital Commonwealth, which provides access to digital collections in Massachusetts, https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/

Calispere, of the University of California system, https://calisphere.org/

New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/

New-York Historical Society, http://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/

Avalon, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ provides access to documents in law, history and diplomacy from ancient times to the present

The UConn Library has a guide to eResources available primary to members of the UConn community, https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/news/new-eresources-at-the-uconn-library/

Published historical resources, which can often be used as primary sources:

HathiTrust– https://www.hathitrust.org/ — provides access to millions of historical books and journals online

Google books, https://books.google.com/

Research guides to help you get the most from primary sources:

Primary and Secondary Sources Overview, https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/primary

What is a Primary Source?, https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/primary_source

Latin American & Caribbean Studies Guide – Primary Sources, https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/lacarib/primarysources

Joanna Cole, 1944-2020

Joanna Cole
Credit: Annabelle Helms

Creator of The Magic School Bus non-fiction series of children’s books, Joanna Cole, passed away on July 12, 2020. 

Ms. Frizzle, the teacher leading field trips in the series, reflected Joanna Cole’s own lifelong love of science. “Ms. Frizzle is first and foremost an enthusiast…what she likes most is the subject she is teaching…she carries the class along on her enthusiasm.”1 Joanna Cole’s first book published in 1971 and illustrated by Jean Zallinger was about cockroaches.  She went on to make a career out of sharing that love of science by writing about the wonders of human biology, insects, evolution, our animal friends, the earth and the stars. She was an equally prolific fiction writer and edited over a dozen anthologies for children, compiling party games, riddles, rhymes and tongue twisters among others.

Ms. Cole donated her papers to Archives & Special Collections in 2003.  The collection documents her career authoring over 250 books for children and includes manuscripts, correspondence, book dummies, research materials and storyboards for The Magic School Bus series and other works.

We send our sincere condolences to Ms. Cole’s family and friends.

1 Joanna Cole: The Magic School Bus.  Reading Rockets.  December 9, 2013, https://youtu.be/Ws9gjUSnxbE

Maurice Sendak and “The Birthday Party”

“Happy Birthday, Maurice!” © The Maurice Sendak Foundation.

Today marks what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 92nd birthday and the 8th anniversary since his death on May 8, 2012. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 10, 1928, Maurice Sendak was a largely self-taught artist who went on to illustrate over 100 books during his sixty year career. Books for which Sendak became singularly identifiable include Nutshell Library (1962), Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), Outside Over There (1981), and many others. He was honored with numerous awards, including the international 1970 Hans Christian Anderson Award, the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award given by the American Library Association, the 1996 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Sendak was the 1964 Caldecott Medal Winner forWhere the Wild Things Are.

He later held a second career as a costume and stage designer in the late 1970s, completing work on operas by Wolfgang Mozart, Sergei Prokofiev, and Maurice Ravel. Of music, Sendak said in a 1966 interview produced by Morton Schindel at Weston Woods Studios in Weston, Connecticut:

“I do most of my work to music, and music plays an extremely important part in my work. Depending on what I’m doing at the moment, there is always a specific kind of music I want to listen to. All composers have different colors, as all artists do, and I kind of pick up the right color from either Haydn or Mozart or Wagner while I’m working. And very often I will switch recordings endlessly until I get the right color and the right note and the right sound and then settle down happily to whatever I’m doing.”

Maurice Sendak moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1972 with his partner, psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn. He supported the University of Connecticut for many years, speaking to the children’s literature classes of Professor Francelia Butler in the 1970s and 1980s and making important contributions over the years to support the legacy of Professor James. On September 5, 1990, Sendak was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at UConn.

Maurice Sendak addresses the crowd in Jorgensen Auditorium on September 5, 1990. University of Connecticut Collections, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library

To honor Maurice Sendak’s birthday anniversary, it feels appropriate to celebrate with The Birthday Party (1957), one of eight collaborations between Sendak and children’s book author Ruth Krauss (1901-1993) between 1952 and 1960. The Birthday Party follows a young boy, David, who “had been everywhere” except to a birthday party. He arrives home one day and after searching through the rooms in the house, finally finds everyone in the dining room singing “Happy Birthday dear David” and only then does he realize that not only is he at a birthday party but that the birthday is his own.

Final artwork for The Birthday Party, Series 16, Box 3. The Maurice Sendak Collection. Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation.

Sendak reflects on his relationship with Krauss in the 1994 obituary “Ruth Krauss and Me: A Very Special Partnership”:

“Ruth wasn’t so patient, or quiet, and she could frighten me with her stormy tirades. It was hard for such a fiercely liberated woman to contend with a potentially talented but hopelessly middle-class kid. In the end, she slapped me into shape — almost literally. When Ruth approved of a sketch, I was rewarded with the pleasure of her deep belly laugh, which rose upward and exploded in little-girl giggles. But her disapproval could be devastating…

…My favorite Krauss is A Very Special House, published in 1953. That poem most perfectly simulates Ruth’s voice — her laughing, crooning, chanting, singing voice. Barbara Bader, in her American Picturebooks from Noah’s Ark to the Beast Within (Macmillan), sums up that text: “It runs on, it erupts, it runs together — like a dream, daydream or nightdream or playdream; and the disarray, the flux, the indeterminacy were essential to the personal and private fancies that were to chiefly occupy Ruth Krauss thereafter.” “Thereafter” was the series of books Ruth and I collaborated on, eight in all. They permanently influenced my talent, developed my taste, and made me hungry for the best. But nothing was so satisfying as A Very Special House; those words and images are Ruth and me at our best. If I open that book, her voice will laugh out to me. So I will leave it shut a while.”

The Birthday Party charms. A petite book accordingly sized for children’s hands, the images consist of ink drawings with yellow and grey washes. David wanders alone from a scene of a beach, the woods, and a street corner until he reaches the party and suddenly, turning from one page of David peering into a dark room to another, everyone comes into full view. He is surrounded by smiling adults and a young girl, candles set in cupcakes raised high in the air. Sendak’s imagery captures Ruth Krauss’ playful use of rhythm and David’s surprise, delight and joy.

The Birthday Party is a gentle reminder to celebrate the special days of one’s life and to cherish those fleeting moments. Happy Birthday, dear Mr. Sendak!

James Marshall the Educator: Audio Cassette Lectures at UCONN, 1976-1990

The following guest post is by K-Fai Steele, recipient of the 2019 James Marshall Fellowship. K-Fai (www.k-faisteele.com) is an author and illustrator who grew up in a house built in the 1700s with a printing press her father bought from a magician. She wrote and illustrated A Normal Pig. She illustrated Noodlephant by Jacob Kramer (a Kirkus Best of 2019 picture book) and Old MacDonald Had a Baby by Emily Snape. She also illustrated the forthcoming Probably a Unicorn by Jory John and Okapi Tale, the sequel to Noodlephant. She was a Brown Handler Writer in Residence at the San Francisco Public Library, and the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Memorial Fellow at the University of Minnesota. K-Fai lives in San Francisco. 

K-Fai Steele, 2019 James Marshall Fellow

The job of a professional children’s book author and illustrator is challenging. There’s no one formula for, or definition of success. The job walks the line between commercial and creative disciplines and requires a bizarre combination of skills: not only writing and illustrating books but being able to perform in front of large varied audiences (toddlers one day, fifth graders the next), deftness at publicity and social media, teaching, and generally being able to project an aura of success and expertise. It can often feel competitive and lonely. And one is paid as a freelancer, so (at least in the United States) there is no economic safety net and it’s hard to plan for a long term career.  

Another aspect of the job requires constant learning, growth, and improvisation which can either be stressful or exciting and luxurious (if you have the time and space to fully devote to it). Whenever I feel stuck I end up in a library and I’ve learned that some of the best libraries and collections contain public collections of children’s literature preliminary materials. The University of Connecticut is one of these places, and through the James Marshall Fellowship I was given the time, space, and funding to spend time learning and luxuriating in their collection. 

If you spend enough time with someone’s work you get a sense of their process; in a way it’s the closest thing you can get to a mentorship. In his essays Caldecott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures, Maurice Sendak quotes Alphonse Mucha (a mentor to one of Sendak’s heroes Winsor McKay, the creator of the Little Nemo comic): “I think it would be wise for every art student to set up a certain popular artist whom he likes best and adapt his ‘handling’ or style… when you are puzzled with any part of your work, see how it has been handled by your favorite and fix it up in a similar manner.” It’s a very clever way to get a very good (and free) education. 

Audio recordings of lectures by James Marshall presented to students of Francelia Butler

When you read a picture book you only see the finished product. When you visit archives, you see evidence of an often messy process, from sketches and sketchbooks to drafts, manuscripts, and original art. Occasionally you find very special pieces of media, like collections of audio cassette lectures. Francelia Butler was a professor of Children’s Literature at UCONN from the 1960s to 1990s and she invited dozens of authors, performers, and otherwise impressive thinkers to speak in her Children’s Literature 200 class, or as students referred to it, “kiddie lit 101.” She had the foresight to record most of these lectures which are now housed in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. James Marshall lived a couple of miles from the UCONN Storrs campus and would give a yearly lecture to her class of primarily undergraduates from 1976-1990 when he was 34 to 48 years old (he died when he was 50). These lectures are mostly off the cuff; he reads a book aloud (often George and Martha or The Stupids), discusses how he came up with ideas for books like Miss Nelson, then takes questions from the audience. 

Marshall is the perfect guest lecturer. He is funny, insightful, knows how to work a crowd, and best of all he’s a generous lecturer. He knows how to communicate ideas and make them accessible. At his core he was an educator; he worked professionally as one for a while, having taken over Maurice Sendak’s picture book making class at Parsons. Much of the insights he shares in these recorded lectures are still deeply relevant today, particularly in terms of the creative process and the job of a children’s book creator. Marshall agonized about writer’s block and felt the pressure to make money. He also spoke from the perspective of an outsider who worked extremely hard and never took the joy of making books for granted. 

When I arrived at UCONN to start my fellowship I didn’t anticipate that most of my time would be spent using my ears rather than my eyes. I had spent three weeks in 2018 at the Kerlan Collection looking through dozens of his sketchbooks in their collection and since then have tried to read all of his books. I realized I was engaging in a bit of detective work, trying to put the pieces together of a fascinating, talented, funny creator through the crumbs he left behind. Hearing him talk about his work (getting a firsthand narrative) made me feel incandescent. I popped in one cassette after another and was grateful for my fast typing (as of the time of this blog post’s publishing only two of the cassettes have been digitized; according to the archivist it’s an expensive and laborious process). In this post I’m going to share some quotations from these audiocassettes, what surfaced for me as a picture book creator, and what I think other people in the field might find interesting, from his process to how he thought about creative work. 

Character development from the sketchbooks of James Marshall

“I start off drawing. I develop a character, make it as crazy as I can, and put that character in a situation. I start with a visual. I couldn’t sit at a typewriter and start a story with words… Drawings first, and then I type it up” (1977, cassette 504). Marshall was known for his strong characters; consider George and Martha, Fox, or The Stupids; the story revolves around them and how they interact with other characters. It’s not so much about plot; Marshall at one point describes George and Martha as a comedy of manners. “I teach my kids at Parsons that to start out you must have a very solid rounded character that lives. I have lots of sketchbooks and I just develop characters as they go along” (1982, cassette 515). Marshall trusted that a good story would organically come out of a good character, particularly if put in an interesting situation where they have to react. There’s a sort of faith required in starting with a character; you don’t know who’s going to show up on the page. You get to know a character by the way they look, their gesture, and how they react to other characters. 

Marshall didn’t discuss a specific method that he used to generate stories because he didn’t seem to have one. He described working intuitively, relying on his brain and hand to put together funny ideas. “People ask me often where the ideas come from. If I knew that I could probably spell it out to you… I don’t know where the good stuff happens. It happens when I work a lot, and late at night. Usually If I’ve been working 8-10 hours doing just mechanical stuff I’m so tired all my defenses are down. I’m not worried whether it’s going to be a success or not, and some nutty idea comes in, it’s like someone else told me that… You know it came from inside your head but you don’t know why or how” (1979, cassette 506). “What I do is try to sit down, and if I fall down and start laughing that’s a good sign” (1980, cassette 508). It seemed that he didn’t examine his story-making because he was worried that if he figured it out he would lose the muse. “What I do is intuitive and I don’t know why I’m sitting here talking to you because I don’t really know why I do what I do, and to talk about it is a little scary to analyze it. I’m afraid if I look at it too much and try to figure out what I do it’ll go away” (1985, cassette 525). Since he relied so heavily on intuition his fear of losing the muse makes sense. He mentioned this fear in several lectures, and it seems to really be the thing he feared the most: the bucket going down the well and coming up dry. 

Perhaps this fear came from a sense of what we would now describe as imposter syndrome. “Often I have so much trouble coming up with endings. It’s just like hell. Because you think here I am, this is what I do for a living, but maybe I’m not so good anymore, maybe I never had any talent in the first place” (1987, cassette 527). Marshall continues in a 1990 lecture, “I’ve thrown up in my studio from the fear of thinking I’m all finished, I’m washed up, I have no talent, I can’t even write one of these dumb books, I can’t think of another joke” (cassette 531). 

Perhaps it came because making good books for children is deceptively challenging. There isn’t a roadmap, particularly when you’re making something that pushes boundaries of humor, style, etc. “When I’m drawing it’s like heaven, even when it’s not going so well I’m really, really happy. I feel connected, I feel like I belong. Why it’s such hell to get started, I don’t know. I guess it’s because I’m scared. Chekhov had the same feeling, he thought he was no good, couldn’t cut it. If a guy that great can have those feelings maybe it’s not so abnormal, maybe you should have those feelings of insecurity. Because if you’re absolutely sure that what you’re doing is brilliant what you’re doing is copying yourself or copying someone else” (1988, cassette 529). 

Or perhaps the pressure was more external; he needed to make more books in order to keep his career (and income stream) flowing. This is when his practice of writing intuitively probably chafed against a demanding publishing schedule. “I have an artistic problem: when a book is successful, editors like to see success perpetuated, so they hire you to do a sequel. I’ve done so many sequels but I haven’t gotten any quite right. It’s the hardest thing in the world to capture the spirit of another book when you don’t have an idea. I’m doing three picture books, all three are sequels, and I’m stalled on all three. It’s a sickening feeling to think that you’re going to have to turn that money back and that you’ve run out of ideas” (1985, cassette 525). Marshall’s output was prodigious; he made around eighty picture books during his 50-year life. What is the result of working faster than your machine wants to run? The quality may suffer, at least in the creator’s eyes. In one lecture Marshall says, “I’ve made 60 books and only about 20 am I really proud of” (1983, cassette 517). 

Marshall’s writing and drawings have a sense of lightness and ease to them, particularly in the way he draws characters and communicates their emotions through their eyes (often simple dots). In 1997 several years after Marshall’s death, Sendak wrote in the New York Times, “Much has been written concerning the sheer deliciousness of Marshall’s simple, elegant style. The simplicity is deceiving; there is richness of design and mastery of composition on every page. Not surprising, since James was a notorious perfectionist and endlessly redrew those ”simple” pictures.”  

Marshall drew with joy, and this is most evident in UCONN’s collection of his sketchbooks. In his lectures he talks about the phenomenon I hear a lot of other author-illustrators experiencing when they move from sketches to final art; some freshness is lost. “It’s when you have to prepare something that’s going to get published, at least not only me but everyone I know in the business, you get tense and frightened because this is going to be out there, there are going to be 20,000 copies of this, and it gets tighter and tighter. The best stuff I’ve done of any quality is in my sketchbooks and I pick that stuff out and I’m like why can’t I do that here?” (1984, cassette 520). Perhaps it’s different when you’re making final art because you know that you have an audience, that you’re relying on the art to make money. It’s less about amusing yourself; it goes from a private activity to a very public one. “The sketches are so much more interesting, that’s the fun part. It’s when you do a line that you know is going to be published you start to clutch and tighten up. I’m just now learning to do books and get a line that’s going to be published that’s as good as the one in the sketches. I’d love to take my old sketches out and publish them. I feel so much more comfortable with them. I don’t know if it’s a fear of success or fear of failure, it’s a really terrifying process to go through” (1981, cassette 511). 

Preliminary sketches by James Marshall

Marshall also shared insights into how he thought he was perceived by gatekeepers of the industry, specifically librarians who had a more traditional sense of illustration and who also reviewed books and selected for awards (in particular the Caldecott Award). “I work in basically creative periods of about 3 weeks that’s all I can stand… This is dangerous because when I tell librarians (“conventional people”) if I tell them how short it takes me to do a book I can see in their eyes my stock going down. You have to tell them you worked 5 years on this book and you’ve drawn with the blood of your slaughtered children and then it’s a masterpiece” (1985, cassette 519) Marshall drew somewhat injured and bitter conclusions about why he had been overlooked, “People who are in children’s books are ashamed of being in children’s books. People on committees want to pick a book that shows they’re an important, art-minded profession” (1985, cassette 519). 

Sendak wrote that Marshall “paid the price of being maddeningly underestimated — of being dubbed ”zany” (an adjective that drove him to murderous rage)… he was dismissed as the artist who could — or should or might — do worthier work if he would only dig deeper and harder. The comic note, the delicate riff were deemed, finally, insufficient. James knew better, of course, and he was right, of course, but he suffered nevertheless. There was nothing he could do to impress the establishment; that was his triumph and his curse. Marshall did fulfill his genius, and its rarity and subtlety confounded the so-called critical world. The award-givers were foolish enough to consider him a charming lightweight, and when Caldecott Medal time came around, they ignored him again and again.” Marshall also spoke about competition in the children’s literature world, which undoubtedly was connected to him not feeling appreciated, validated, or celebrated by the people who held power. “The world of children’s books I used to say is a nice world. It is not, it’s a nest of vipers, we all hate each other… we’re very competitive” (1982, cassette 513).  

It was interesting to hear Marshall talk about the other authors and illustrators he was in community with. In nearly every lecture he named some of the people who he thought were doing the best work in children’s literature: Arnold Lobel, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer, Rosemary Wells, William Steig, Edward Ardizzone, and Quentin Blake were all mentioned. “If you want to see some magnificent small jewels, look at the Frog and Toad books. I thought, oh I can do that. First I saw Sendak: oh, I can do that. Lobel: oh I can write stories about two friends too. They sort of gave me confidence. I didn’t know how hard it is. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s impossible to try and write two-page stories with a beginning, middle, and end” (1990, cassette 532). He clearly adored Maurice Sendak, who he referred to as “the granddaddy of us all” (1980, cassette 508) in terms of contemporary illustration. The Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall at UCONN contains several of Marshall’s books that he inscribed for Sendak, including a rare copy of his first illustrated book, Plink, Plink, Plink (1971) by Byrd Baylor which Marshall said “sunk, sunk, sunk” due to the “awful poems and awful pictures” (1977, cassette 504). 

Copy of Plink, Plink, Plink inscribed to Maurice Sendak

This collection of recordings is a very rare and special item; you just don’t find a lot of authors speaking in their own words, at length, about their work. I think that this speaks to Marshall’s experience as an educator; someone who has good communication skills, a sense for what might be interesting content, respect for their audience, a willingness to be generous with the knowledge they possess, and their love for the work. 

One of my favorite things that Marshall said had to do with the joy of getting to do the thing you love most in the world as a job. “To be able to support myself by doing what I really like to do best and by being creative, I never dreamed that that could be. I was raised with protestant puritant [sic] ethics. In Texas you had to bring home the bacon by doing stuff that you hated; my daddy hated his job, my mama hated being a housewife, everyone in my family hated everything. I thought when I became an adult I had to just swallow it. It’s not true. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling” (1983, cassette 517). This is something that you can easily lose sight of a children’s book maker as you get involved in the day-to-day of trying to meet deadlines, negotiate with art directors, redo cover art, schedule school visits, make money and budget wisely, etc. I’m writing this blog post in late spring 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic which has made clear that nothing is guaranteed, in particular human life, especially those most vulnerable in our society. For a while I wasn’t sure if books or art even mattered. But of course they do, and the act of engaging in joyful creative work is a much-needed lifeline, as Marshall attested to during his short life, ended by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 1992. “One of the most wonderful things in the world is to do creative work, it is the greatest high, it makes your life come together” (1987, cassette 527). 

Audio recording of James Marshall lecture from the Francelia Butler Papers

Student Unrest Photography in 4D

Howard S. Goldbaum Photography Collection of Daily Campus Negatives,
New York Peace March, April 15, 1967

In the Spring semester of 2020, an exciting use of historical photographs by UConn Digital Media and Design students brought to life the images of student protest in the 1960s and 1970s held by the University of Connecticut Archives.  In collaboration with Assistant Professor Anna Lindemann and MFA graduate Instructor Jasmine Rajavadee of the Digital Media and Design Department, the Motion Graphics 1 class (DMD 2200) spent a portion of their semester in the archives to understand the context of photographic collections and practice their skills on digital collection items. This exploration led to the creation of new uses for the recorded past.  The class assignment drew on digitized 35mm negatives, Kodachrome color slides, and black&white photographic prints to demonstrate a 4D animation process of still images to bring static subjects to life.  Collections utilized for this project ranged from the Cal Robertson Collection of anti-nuclear demonstrations in New London, Howard S. Goldbaum’s Photography for the Daily Campus newspaper documenting anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Storrs, New York, and Washington D.C., and University of Connecticut Photography Collection images of the 1974 Black Student sit-in at Wilbur Cross Library. To view a selection of the Student Unrest Photography in 4D project, follow this link to our Youtube page.      

This project was a timely and innovative use of a subject matter that was re-energized through Storrs campus demonstrations around racism, global climate change and mental health advocacy throughout the 2019-2020 academic year.  In addition, UConn Archives exhibitions Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971 on student life and activism of the Vietnam War Era and UConn Through the Viewfinder: Connecticut Daily Campus Photographs from the Howard Goldbaum Collection at the William Benton Museum of Art reminded the community of it’s involvement during times of national change.  

This is the second time that the UConn Archives has worked with Prof. Lindemann and the DMD department to utilize photographic collections for class projects, the first drew on child labor images from the U. Roberto Romano Collection which can be viewed here.  

A Note from the Director of Archives & Special Collections

An exterior view of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on June 21, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

To our community of scholars, donors, and supporters,

I’m reaching out to provide an update on the status of Archives & Special Collections. In accordance with the University of Connecticut’s response to the COVID-19 situation, Archives & Special Collections remains closed to the public. Although our facilities are currently closed, we remain committed to providing the highest level of care and support for our collections.

In preparing for the shutdown, our staff made all necessary provisions to secure the collections and ensure their safety. We have onsite security staff monitoring our collections, research, and exhibition spaces, and receive daily briefings on the status of our facilities. We also maintain an up-to-the-minute environmental monitoring system, which includes the ability to check on the temperature and humidity of our spaces remotely.

Although some of our services are limited at this time, we are working hard to ensure that you can continue to engage with our collections throughout this closure, from providing virtual instruction sessions to developing online exhibitions from our rich digital collections.

We recently launched a new online search portal, where you can access guides to our collections remotely, and have made more than 750,000 digital objects from our collections available for research and use through the Connecticut Digital Archive. We are active on social media – I encourage you to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram regularly for new content, programming, and collection highlights.

Our staff are teleworking and remain accessible by email and phone – please feel free to contact us at any time with questions or concerns: archives@uconn.edu or 860-486-2524. We will keep you informed about service and facility updates via the UConn Library’s COVID-19 response webpage and our social media outlets.

We appreciate your continued support as we work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities, and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.

~ Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections

UConn COVID-19 Collection

The UConn Archives is interested in documenting the wide range of recent reactions, experiences, and activities undertaken by members of the UConn Nation as we all adjust, struggle and move forward through the challenges of a world-wide pandemic.

Archived news and internet sites will be excellent primary sources for future historians studying the pandemic. It is well documented, however, that the day-to-day activities and social and emotional experiences of people can get lost if not collected and preserved while memories, experiences, and reactions are fresh.

We are reaching out to the UConn community–students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and other affiliated community members–to share your stories, in whatever form you wish, to be collected, preserved for posterity, and made accessible for research and study in Archives & Special Collections’ UConn COVID-19 Collection.  More information and instructions on how you can participate can be found on our website at https://lib.uconn.edu/location/asc/about/documenting-covid/

Thank you for contributing to this important new collection!

Walking with Edwin Way Teale at Trail Wood

On April 26, 1962, Edwin Way Teale, at Trail Wood, his home in Hampton, Connecticut, wrote this passage:

A little after 5 am, just as the sun was rising above the trees along the brook, this morning, I walk down Veery Lane, up over the tundra and to Juniper Hill the long way. The air – down to 35 [degrees] — has an autumn sparkle. I see the earliest tent caterpillar nests shining silver in the crotch of a wild cherry sapling. All the ravines are filled with the yellow-green stippling of the spicebush blooms. Where a maple has fallen across the path near the crossing before Juniper Hill, I see where some animal has gnawed the bark from several branches near the ground. What was it – a rabbit? Because only the lower and smaller branches were attacked a rabbit seems to be the most likely possibility rather than a deer or porcupine…

Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980) was a naturalist, photographer and writer, born in the Midwest but who lived in New York after earning his masters degree at Columbia University. In the 1930s he worked as a writer and photographer for the magazine Popular Science and began his career as the author over 30 books on natural history topics. His books include Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist (1943), The Lost Woods (1945), North With the Spring (1951), Journey into Summer (1960), and Wandering Through Winter (1965), for which he won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

In 1959 Teale and his wife Nellie left suburban Long Island for 130 acres of farmland in Hampton. They named the property Trail Wood and developed a series of looping trails, which the Teales walked almost daily. He describes the property in such books as A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm (1974) and A Walk Through the Year (1978).

A constant writer, for much of his life Teale kept a daily journal with the details of his habits and musings. He also kept a special journal – The Trail Wood Journal – about his observations of the change of seasons of the landscape of his beloved patch of land.

Fifty-eight years after Teale wrote the journal entry noted above, the author of this blog post visited Trail Wood, which is now managed as a nature preserve by the Connecticut Audubon Society and open to the public. It is my impression that the landscape I walked on my visit on April 25, 2020, was fairly close to that of which Teale wrote about on April 26, 1962, excepting the existence of trail signs installed along the way for visitors. The streams of this mid-Spring were running freely, the day was warm and the bugs abuzz. While I cannot claim to be as observant a nature lover or as skilled a writer as Edwin Way Teale, I can claim the same joy he must have felt whenever he strode the trails, discovering whatever revealed itself to him.

Archives & Special Collections holds Edwin Way Teale’s extensive papers and photographs, truly one of our premier collections. Some of the photographs, as well as Trail Wood Journal, can be found online in our digital repository.

The finding aid to the Edwin Way Teale Papers is at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/788

Trail Wood Journal, in our digital repository: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860204261#page/1/mode/2up

Photographs of and by Teale photos in digital repository: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AMSS19810009

In late 2016 and the first half of 2017 author Richard Telford spent many months intensively researching the Teale collection in preparation for a book he was writing on Teale’s life. Mr. Telford contributed many posts to our blog, which are drafts from the book. In them the details of Teale’s life, as revealed in the diaries, correspondence and publications, are beautifully placed into context. You can find Telford’s writings, which he titled Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale in our blog:

Great Years, Great Crises, Great Impact, November 2016: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2016/11/30/great-years-great-crises-great-impact-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart, January 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/01/12/the-lonely-suffering-of-the-fallible-heart-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

Throwing Bricks at the Temple, February 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/02/14/throwing-bricks-at-the-temple-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

Losing the Remembrance of Former Things, March 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/03/16/losing-the-remembrance-of-former-things-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

Into the Beautiful, Free Country, May 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/05/25/prologue-into-the-beautiful-free-country-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

Chasing the Erratic Spotlight of Memory, June 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/06/29/chasing-the-erratic-spotlight-of-memory-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

Nobody and Somebody: The Loving Ways of Lone Oak, August 2017: https://blogs.lib.uconn.edu/archives/2017/08/24/nobody-and-somebody-the-loving-ways-of-lone-oak-reexamining-the-life-and-writing-of-edwin-way-teale/

The Connecticut Audubon Society, which maintains Trail Wood, has information about Edwin Way and Nellie Teale online and on the signs throughout the trails. Happily most of the boards are reproduced on their website. You can find this information at these links:

Trail Wood website: https://www.ctaudubon.org/trail-wood-home/

Trail Wood signs: https://www.ctaudubon.org/trail-wood-the-teales-legacy/

Teale bio: https://www.ctaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/tealebio1.pdf

Sales catalogs of the E. Ingraham Company, makers of clocks and watches

For more than a century, the E. Ingraham Company was a prominent family-operated manufacturer of clocks and watches, with headquarters and plants located in Bristol, Connecticut. Most of its employees were natives of the Bristol region, and members of the Ingraham family of Bristol controlled its management.

The company was founded in 1831 by Elias Ingraham (1805-1885), who opened his own shop in Bristol as a cabinetmaker and designer of clock cases. After several mergers with other companies and name changes the company was known as E. Ingraham and Company by 1884. From 1884 to 1958, the period during which most of the surviving company records were created, the firm was known as E. Ingraham Company. In 1958, the name was changed to Ingraham Company, and in November 1967, when the company was sold to McGraw Edison Company, it became Ingraham Industries.Through much of the company’s history, members of the Ingraham family served as its presidents and in other official capacities. The last to hold the office of president was Dudley Ingraham, until 1954.

E. Ingraham Company’s products throughout its history reflected technological advances and changing consumer demands for timepieces. Until about 1890, the company manufactured only pendulum clocks. During the 1890s, they began making lever escapement time clocks and alarm clocks. Radical changes in manufacturing methods during the following decade enabled E. Ingraham Company to produce 30-hour alarm clocks, pocket watches (1914), and 8-day alarm lever and timepieces (1915). In 1913 the company began to manufacture the popular “dollar watch.” In 1930, Ingraham added non-jeweled wrist watches and in 1931 began marketing electric clocks.

The depression of the 1930s did not affect E. Ingraham Company as severely as it did many other businesses. Employment never dropped more than 15% and wage and salaries were not cut. By the beginning of the Second World War, the company was producing clocks and watches at maximum capacity in order to meet the great export need after many European supplies were cut off. However, in 1942 the War Production Board ordered E. Ingraham Company to cease manufacture of all clocks and watches. By August 1942 the company had entirely re-tooled for production of items of critical war use, such as mechanical time-fuse parts for Army and Navy anti-aircraft and artillery. Full production of clocks and watches was not resumed until 1946, but the years 1946 to 1948 were boom years for company sales.

The company was sold to McGraw Edison Company in November 1967 and its name changed to Ingraham Industries.

In 1980 the company donated its records to the University of Connecticut Library. They consist of account books, general business records, correspondence, printed materials, photographs, maps and drawings which document the company’s history from 1840-1967. Also included are general accounting and administrative records; records relating to sales, purchasing, production, and labor; subsidiary company records. The general correspondence, which comprises more than half of the records, is particularly voluminous for the years 1916-1947. 

Now available online in the UConn Archives digital repository is a set of sales catalogs of the E. Ingraham Company’s clocks and watches, beginning at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19800034Catalogs. These catalogs are a terrific resource for clock collectors and historians.

Outside Over There: Maurice Sendak and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Maurice Sendak signs books at the UConn Coop bookstore on April 28, 1981. Photo: Jo Lincoln, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

“All of my pictures are created against a background of music. More often than not, my instinctive choice of composer or musical form for the day has the galvanizing effect of making me conscious of my direction. I find something uncanny in the way a musical phrase, a sensuous vocal line, or a patch of Wagnerian color will clarify an entire approach or style for a new work.”

-The Shape of Music, Maurice Sendak, 1964

Maurice Sendak, celebrated and renowned author and illustrator of children’s books such as the revolutionary 1963 Where the Wild Things Are and 1970 In the Night Kitchen, held a life-long and deeply intimate and interwoven relationship with music. Holding in high esteem composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Wolfgang and Franz Schubert, he was in the habit of listening to music while working on his creations, and often, references to music crept into his preliminary and final drawings. A significant example occurs in the artwork for the 1981 Outside Over There.

Musically inspired and layered with resounding personal overtures, Sendak was already working on Outside Over There when stage director Frank Corsaro asked him in 1978 to design the costumes and sets on a production of “The Magic Flute” for the Houston Grand Opera. A catalyst for the creation of Outside Over There, Sendak explained: “In some way, Outside Over There is my attempt to make concrete my love of Mozart, and to do it as authentically and honestly in regard to his time as I could conceive it, so that every color, every shape is like part of his portrait. The book is a portrait of Mozart, only it has this form-commonly called a picture book. This was the closest I could get to what he looked like to me. It is my imagining of Mozart’s life.”[i]

In the 1964 essay, The Shape of Music, Sendak describes in beautiful terms the definition of “quicken” as it relates to illustration and animation and that to him to quicken “suggests a beat-a heartbeat, a musical beat, the beginning of a dance.” In other words, to “quicken” is to bring life into the inanimate – a source of rhythm so that a picture grows alive in the flow of imagery, color, and shape, or more succinctly, music in physical form. Outside Over There follows Ida, a young girl bearing the brunt of responsibility for caring for her baby sister while her father is away at sea and her mother immobile from melancholy. While music, or rather the act of Ida playing on her wonder horn and neglecting to attend to her sister, helps to cause the kidnapping of the baby by the goblins, music is the tool or action which redeems Ida. For by playing on her wonder horn, Ida drives and melts the goblins away and results in the siblings’ reunion and reconciliation.  

Sendak acknowledged that “right in the middle of Outside Over There, everything turned Mozart. Mozart became the godhead.”[ii] Dully, Mozart is seen in profile during the children’s return journey from “outside over there,” omnipresent to the scene and story but in shadow across the river in his Waldhütte, the creative cabin in the woods that becomes a recurrent Romantic theme for Sendak.[iii] In the final artwork for Outside Over There, for some drawings Sendak included not only notations for the creation dates, but also, the exact music which helped to inspire his illustrations. For example, for the artwork for page 13, a scene where Ida is playing the wonder horn and an ice baby is substituted by the goblins for the real child, the notation reads “Dec. 28, 77-Dec 30, 77 (tracing & inking)-Jan. 2, 78-Jan. 18, 78.” Above these dates, “string quartet in C- Mozart” is written in pencil. Mozart, by way of this inscription, receives his due acknowledgement as muse.

Outside Over There, after Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, is heralded as the final book in a trilogy of “variations of a theme” in which children cope with the day-to-day pressures of life by way of fantasy.[iv] Maurice Sendak, in speaking of Ida, says, “What she did is what I did and what I know for the first time in my life I have done. The book is a release of something that has long pressured my internal self. It sounds hyperbolic but it’s true; it’s like profound salvation. If for only once in my life, I have touched the place where I wanted to go, and when Ida goes home, I go home too.”[v] If Sendak’s love of Mozart helped to guide the textual and visual feel of Outside Over There and Ida’s journey, it is the underlying touch of the intangible which roams within the other world only to finally return home and perhaps, it is this element which ultimately touches the images and “quickens” them within their physical boundaries.

A curated playlist is available on Spotify based on notes made by Maurice Sendak on final drawings on deposit at UConn Archives & Special Collections. Follow the link to listen: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3YCXQ975xKzXhsWZ4aciG3?si=nrc-j7aKR7i5O0TZ8MYRjw


[i] Jonathan Cott, Pipers at the Gates of Dawn: The Wisdom of Children’s Literature (New York: Random House, 1983), 74.

[ii] Steven Heller, ed., “Maurice Sendak,” in Innovators of American Illustration (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986), 81.

[iii] John Cech, Angels and Wild Things: The Archetypal Poetics of Maurice Sendak (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 218.

[iv] Heller, ed., “Maurice Sendak,” 81.

[v] “Sendak on Sendak as Told to Jean F. Mercier,” Publishers Weekly, 10 April 1981, 46.