Category Archives: Special Collections

Information regarding our materials in Special Collections

Welcome Back, and the Papers of Theresa Ann Walker

Hello, and welcome back to Something Uncommon! I hope everybody had a nice Winter Break (and you weren’t too disappointed that we took some time off from the blog?). This week we’re back, and introducing our newest #WyattWalkerWednesday blog post! This week, we’re actually focusing on Mrs. Theresa Ann Walker, wife to Dr. Walker and activist in her own right.

One of the amazing things about the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection is the inclusion of some of Mrs. Walker’s material. While perhaps not as well known as her husband, Mrs. Walker was nonetheless heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in several major protests. In fact, Mrs. Walker was arrested as one of the Freedom Riders during a demonstration in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961.

Some of the material Mrs. Walker included in this collection relates directly to her time in the Jackson, MS jail. Included in that material is the tin cup that Mrs. Walker was given for the five days she was held. Mrs. Walker was also able to remember the layout of the cells she was held in, including the other Freedom Riders held with her and the placement of their cots. Mrs. Walker was kind enough to donate a copy of all her notes, including the layout of the cells and a detailed timeline of her imprisonment.

Handwritten notes detailing Mrs. Walker’s time in jail

Mrs. Walker was held from June 21 until June 26. Rev. Walker was also arrested and held in Jackson, along with 15 other Freedom Riders. This was a continuation of a larger demonstration by the Freedom Riders that began in May of 1961. For more information on the Freedom Riders and their part in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, you can always check out Boatwright’s online catalog or the appropriate Wikipedia pages.

For more information concerning the Walker Collection and my progress processing it, please keep an eye on this space! And as always, check out Boatwright’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for even more glimpses behind the scenes while we prep the collection for use.

Processing Dr. Walker’s Correspondence and Personal Papers

One of the types of materials that many archival collections have in common is correspondence. This can also be one of the most interesting things to process, depending on how prolific the donor’s friends were and what they talk about. In the case of Rev. Walker and his wife, their correspondence is incredible to work with.

For instance, take the manuscript of a play hand typed by Langston Hughes that was sent to the Walkers. This is a real piece of history, from one major 20th century figure to another. Hughes, if you are unfamiliar, is a very well known poet — you can find more on him on Wikipedia and elsewhere (or here). What makes this 1963 manuscript, entitled Jerico Jim Crow Jerico, particularly interesting is how Hughes uses black gospel music as a main pillar within the work, and the connection that creates with Rev. Walker’s own work. (If you will recall, Rev. Walker is an eminent expert on the black gospel musical tradition, with several published works on the topic.) While I have not uncovered further details of any relationship between Hughes and Rev. Walker, it might prove to be a strong topic for further research.

The Langston Hughes manuscript is hardly the only correspondence of interest in the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection. Other items of particular note include several cards from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, including a holiday card from Coretta dated 1970, two years after his assassination. There is correspondence from other major figures, including a dinner invitation for Desmond Tutu.

Rev. Walker is well known both for his anti-apartheid work in South Africa and his expertise on the black gospel tradition. Another, perhaps lesser known aspect of the man was his interest and skill in photography. This is highlighted in another item within Rev. Walker’s donated personal papers, a guestbook from an art exhibition of his photography in 1977 entitled “African Journal.” This helps provide a link between Walker and the community of which he was a part from a different perspective than his more well-known aspects. Luckily for us, the collection also includes plenty of slides to help showcase this different side.

There are a lot more interesting pieces I’ve found in the correspondence and personal papers, and some of them will be posted on the library’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds — make sure to check those out! I’ll also keep updating the blog on a weekly basis as I continue preparing the collection for public use and research, so keep an eye on this space for next week’s post.

Introduction to the New Archivist

staff photo of Taylor McNeilly

Staff photo of Taylor McNeilly

Hi all! I’m Taylor McNeilly, and I’m the new Processing & Reference Archivist here at the Rare Books and Special Collections division of Boatwright Memorial Library. I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little about myself and the work I will be doing here at RBSC.

I’m a New England native, having grown up in Rhode Island (the littlest state with the biggest name!), and went through my undergraduate career in western Massachusetts. I originally was a linguist by training, specializing primarily in Japanese with some minors/various levels of learning in Russian, French, and a handful of other languages. After graduating, I moved to Japan and taught English before deciding my heart resided in libraries and archives more than teaching. (I am still conversationally fluent in Japanese, however — and ASL, too!)

After returning to the US, I studied and worked at Simmons College in Boston, going through a full-time dual degree program to earn both an MLIS with an archives management concentration and a MA in History at the same time. I also worked as a professor’s assistant and, later, as the archives assistant at the college. I was also actively volunteering or interning in various archives throughout my time at Simmons, meaning that I have over 4 years of experience in my field despite only having my degrees for about half that time.

After leaving Simmons, I worked at the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston. There, I was the project manager for two separate, simultaneous, grant-funded digitization projects while also performing a variety of other responsibilities, including running the institution’s ArchivesSpace implementation and helping to develop a three-year strategic plan for the archives.

Many of these responsibilities are carrying over to my work here at RBSC, but my main priority starting out is going to be processing the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection. You may have seen some info about the Walker Collection before now, but I’ll give you a quick refresher now.

The Rev. Dr. Wyatt T. Walker is a prominent Civil Rights figure, renowned minister, prolific author, and international expert on gospel music, the Black religious experience, and non-violent protest. Walker was also the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s chief of staff for the years 1960-1964, as well as the first full-time executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, president of a local NAACP chapter, state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and special assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Walker was also the minister at the historic Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA before becoming active in the Civil Rights Movement, and afterwards was the minister at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, NY for nearly 40 years.

RBSC acquired the Walker Collection in 2015, although that is a bit of an oversimplification. The Walker Collection’s material has been donated in various stages, with some material coming from NY while some comes from Dr. Walker’s current home in VA. Donated material has continued to come in, even as recently as earlier this month. As such, work on arranging and describing the material has had to wait until most (if not all) of the material was available.

Since we now have the majority of the material, and now that I’m here, processing of the Walker Collection can move forward! It will be closed to researchers until I can finish working on the collection as a whole, but I will be sharing the process of arrangement and description here as part of a new weekly blog series. I’ll also be posting interesting items I uncover during processing on the Boatwright Memorial Library’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds, so be sure to follow all our social media accounts to keep updated on what cool stuff I find!

If you have any questions about the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection or RBSC in general, leave them in the comments below! And otherwise, I’ll see you next week for another progress update on the Walker Collection.

What’s in the Pot?

Cookbooks as we know them began as handwritten manuscripts of trial and error, what worked and what didn’t. The first printed cookbook appeared in 1470, but most cooks relied on their mother’s or their cook’s hard won receipts.cook1

Cookbooks can also tell us something about the society and ecomonics of the time. Where eggs and fresh milk were plenty and refrigeration a thing of the future.

In our Special Collections we have many cookbooks dating back to the 17th century. But it is in a fairly new cookbook, Famous Recipes from Old Virginia (1941) that we find some recipes from well-known cooks.

“Thos. Jefferson’s Recipe for Ice Cream

2 quarts of ‘good’ cream

½ pound sugar

6 yolks eggs

Mix yolks and sugar. Heat cream (with vanilla) until near boiling point, the pour it gently into the egg mixture. Stir well, and heat again to near boiling, stirring constantly; strain and when cool, freeze.”

Some recipes almost need translations!

“Martha Washington’s Crab Soup Recipe

Throw into boiling water fifteen crabs that are alive and kicking. When done pick meat up fine. Have ready a broth made of two quarts of water in which you have boiled until done one pound of middling meat, to this add crab meat. Heat two cups of rich milk and stir in well beaten yolks of two eggs. Pour into boiling crab soup, but do not let it come to a boil any more. Cook five minutes. Season with salt and hot pepper and serve from hot tureen.”

The Washington Wedding Cake with its pound and a half of butter, 10 cups of flour, pound and a half of sugar and 18 eggs, is shocking, and then you get to the part about baking for three and a half to four hours! Ah, the good old days!


Civil rights leader donates permanent collection to Boatwright Library

Wyatt Tee Walker, a distinguished theologian and civil rights leader, has gifted his personal collection to the University of Richmond Boatwright Memorial Library. The collection includes hundreds of historical pieces, including papers, recorded sermons and memorabilia.

Walker, who lives in Virginia, served as chief of staff to Martin Luther King Jr., executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference and special assistant for Urban Affairs to Nelson Rockefeller. He is a specialist in sacred music, cultural historian and prolific author. Walker is pastor emeritus of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

Significant items in this historical collection include photographs Walker took of King while they were jailed in Birmingham in 1967; numerous letters to King and others regarding civil rights issues; and journals, drawings, diagrams and notes kept by Walker’s wife Theresa, who was also active in the civil rights movement. The collection also includes books, records, awards and clothing.

“We are justly proud that we were on the right side of history and can share our experiences with the general public through this partnership with the University of Richmond,” said Walker.

“We are honored that Dr. Walker has entrusted Boatwright Memorial Library with the care of this amazing collection,” said Lynda Kachurek, head of rare books and special collections. “We expect civil rights and other historians from all over the country and world to be interested in this scholarship, as well as our faculty, staff, students and the general public.”

This special collection will be the largest under the care of Boatwright Library. It will be housed in the Galvin Rare Books Room. The collection will be catalogued and processed and is expected to be available for research beginning in late 2016.

“This collection documents a critical moment in American history,” said University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher. “It will help generations of students and scholars better understand the men and women who led the Civil Rights Movement and their work for social justice. We are so grateful for Dr. Walker’s generosity and for the opportunity to bring this collection to the University library.”


Link to original press release

Christmas with the Washingtons

George Washington saw more than 60 Christmas’s in his lifetime—some joyful and some not so much. We know of some of the darker Christmases such as Valley Forge. But before that, in 1751, when George was only 19, he sailed to Barbadoes with his half-brother Lawrence hoping the warm weather would cure his tuberculosis. Lawrence did not recover and George spent much of the time sick himself. He returned to Virginia by ship and celebrated that Christmas with an Irish goose and many toasts—a far cry from his Virginia celebrations.

Mount Vernon in setting of snow by Worth Bailey.

Mount Vernon in setting of snow by Worth Bailey.

Many of his Christmases were spent on military maneuvers and in the midst of war. But in 1758 he met the widow Martha Dandridge Parke Custis at a friend’s house. The two wasted no time and planned their wedding for Twelfth Night, January 6, 1759. Eggnog was a common drink at weddings and Washington’s recipe included a pint of brandy, some rye whisky and Jamaica rum. To this mixture he added a healthy dose of mellow sherry to provide the drink with “good fumes.”

The holidays brought friends and family to Mount Vernon as well as admirers from abroad. Washington called Mount Vernon a “well resorted tavern.” A typical holiday menu would consist of Martha’s capon stuffed with oysters, her roast veal stuffed with herbed dressing, pies rich with various meats and savory with herbs grown and cured on the farm. But Martha’s Great Cake took center stage.

Take 40 eggs & divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth start work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well work’d then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Youlks of eggs & 5 pounds of flower & 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace 1 nutmeg half a pint of wine & some frensh brandy.

To read more about the Washington’s and celebrations check out Christmas with the Washingtons: being a special account of traditional rites observed in Virginia and historic Yuletides of one First Family, the Washingtons of Mount Vernon by Olive Bailey in Boatwright’s Special Colllections.

The Man Who Invented Christmas


Scrooge and Marley illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Dubbed “the man who invented Christmas” by the London Times Supplement, Charles Dickens certainly captured the hearts and imagination of many generations with his wonderful novella, A Christmas Carol. Few people are not familiar with the story of the bitter old miser who through ghostly intervention comes to understand the joy of the season. You can find examples of this work in the Galvin Rare Book Room, illustrated by either Gustav Dore or Arthur Rackham.

In 1850, Dickens started his own publication—Household Words. The title was taken from Shakespeare’s Henry V’s speech, “Familiar in their Mouths as household words”. The thin publication cost two pennies with no advertisements or illustrations. With the running header, “Conducted by Charles Dickens”, the journal printed original stories and crusading social journalism. Dickens published Hard Times and A Child’s History of England in the journal along with almost 200 solo articles, stories, poems and “chips” (short satirical pieces). There were also more than 380 other contributors, 90 of whom were women like Elizabeth Gaskell. Wilke Collins, Henry Morley, and a host of unnamed writers writing in a Dickensian style filled the pages of the journal every Saturday from 1850 to 1859.

Copies of Christmas Numbers in Galvin Rare Book Room.

Copies of Christmas Numbers in Galvin Rare Book Room.

And come December, there was always a Christmas Edition with special stories and articles just for the season. Dickens contributed “The Christmas Tree” to the first “Christmas Number” followed by unattributed stories such as “Christmas in Lodgings” or “Christmas in the Navy”. By 1852, the Christmas number became “A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire” and finally the number carried the name of the leading story in the journal. Each story and poem chronicled Victorian life with all its light and dark moments, as so much of Dickens work did.

Come by the Galvin Rare Book Room and take a look at our collection of Christmas numbers of Household Words. We guarantee it’s no humbug.

New Exhibits Around the Library

Fall is here with it’s changing colors and moods. And we have some exhibits to match.

On the first floor in the Reference Commons, we have captured a bevy of mythical beasts and monstersPicture1 for your entertainment. There are witches on trial and monsters of every description.  We have centaurs, gremlins, woodwives, unicorns, dragons, and really ugly bugs from the Rare Book Room and Special Collections.  Then, we found some chimera, man-beasts, mythical monsters, and zombies roaming around the circulating collection.

On the second floor in the Silent Study area, we have gathered some chilling reading to keep you busy in the dark.  From the Rare Book Room come warnings from the dead, witches from Eastwick, treatises on poison and remedies against Satan.  There are hauntings, villagers turned against each other, vampires old and new, man-made monsters, werewolves, and headless horsemen.  Just remember not to scream; it’s silent study.

In Recreational Reading, we are showcasing our 1856 whaling journal, from whence came our blog’s name and image, along with other books and images of whales from around the library.

And don’t miss the display in the open shelves on the second floor.   You can read about the making of your favorite horror movies and learn about some you didn’t know.  See the movies the staff picked as favorites and decide whether you will go for monsters or ghosts or chainsaws for your viewing pleasure.  Whatever you choose, keep the lights on.

A Whale of a Name

Naming a blog isn’t easy. We thought long and hard, enviously looked at other blog names, and tentatively settled on Something Uncommon—a kind of definition of rare and how we feel about the collection. The next step was the image to personalize the page. We looked at several images taken from our shelves and settled on the hastily penned drawing of a whale from our 1856 whaling journal. (SC-1–Journal of a Whaling Voyage in the Atlantic Ocean onboard of the Brig Gem of Beverly, Nathaniel Ryder Master.)

Once we had the image, we decided to look through the journal for a tag line, or something that might make a more unique title. The ship weighed anchor April 7th from Provincetown Harbor, the wind from the northwest. Most entries give the longitude and latitude, the weather, and what transpired that day, such as “Wensday[sic], June 4th. This day lost a 30 bbl whale through Periwinkle.” And while the adventures of Periwinkle and his cohorts are interesting, it did not present us with a likely title.

Then, after some time we came to the page with the whale on it, and, like some karmic gift, directly above the drawing were the words: “Saw a very large school of sperm whale which is something uncommon in this latitude and longitude.” No need to look any further.

So visit us often to see what other uncommon things we have uncovered in the Galvin Rare Book Room.

Drawing of whale with comment: “Saw a very large school of sperm whale which is something uncommon in this latitude and longitude.”



Welcome to our new blog, Something Uncommon!  We are thrilled to launch this site where we will be sharing information about our incredible collections and the work we do.

The blog is managed by the Rare Books and Special Collections division of Boatwright Library at the University of Richmond.  Posts will be made primarily by our staff members, but you may also discover some of our interns and volunteers posting occasionally as well.  Our goal is to share news from our department as well as resources that may be of interest to our researchers, patrons, and colleagues.

We hope you’ll enjoy discovering something uncommon along with us.