Archive for October, 2011

Practicing Catholics

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, the LSU Libraries Special Collections presents “Practicing Catholics: Finding Faith in Family Papers,” a display that features letters, documents, photographs, and ephemera drawn from the papers of Baton Rouge area Catholic families from the early 1800s through the 20th century.    The exhibition opens October 31st and continues through December 17th.

The selected items illustrate family members’ religious practice, efforts to continue to observe the faith during the Civil War, and participation in their church communities and involvement in Catholic schools.  In addition, the exhibition includes materials related to St. Joseph’s Church (later St. Joseph’s Cathedral) and clergy who served there.

“Our collections document the history and culture of Louisiana and the Lower Mississippi Valley.  Certainly the Catholic Church and the role it has played in lives of people in this region are an important part of that history, so it seemed fitting that we highlight these holdings as the diocese commemorates its founding,” said Interim Head of Special Collections Tara Zachary Laver, who curated the exhibit.

The earliest document displayed is an 1804 certificate of baptism for Theresa Allemand, who was baptized in Donaldsonville.  Prayer books and prayer cards from the Raphael Hebert family of Plaquemine and Brusly, some in French and dating from 1835 to 1934, are included.  An 1861 letter records the determination of a young woman to practice the Catholic faith despite her family’s opposition.  In another Civil War era letter, a Baton Rouge soldier describes his unit’s efforts to construct a make-shift chapel in Virginia, where he was encamped.  Several photographs of children dressed for their first communion or confirmation are shown, including three generations of the related Gebelin, Walsh, Hynes, and Frenzel families, and two members of the Dudley Turnbull family, who descended from a Baton Rouge family of free persons of color.  Service to the Church and Catholic schools and the involvement of the laity, particularly women, in the mid-20th century is represented by selected papers of Ann Wilbert Arbour and by artifacts found in the papers of Rowena Sceroler Flynn and Loretta Sceroler Meaney.  The latter include miniature versions of vestments, which members of the Council of Catholic Women used to educate parishioners in rural and missionary churches throughout the diocese about traditions and symbolism related to the liturgy and other practices.

In addition to the focus on families and individuals, the exhibition features materials related to the parish of St. Joseph’s in Baton Rouge.  Among these are accounts with a Baton Rouge craftsman for painting and graining architectural features of the church in the 1850s, receipts for pew rent in the 1860s and 1870s, a 1905 photograph of the building, photographs of and ephemera related to past rectors and bishops, and drawings by John Desmond, the architect who oversaw the 1970s renovation of the cathedral.

The Many Faces of Natchez

Monday, October 24th, 2011

The exhibition “Portraits of a River City: Natchez in Photographs,” opens in Hill Memorial Library today and runs through February 18, 2012. This exhibition showcases selections from the Thomas H. and Joan W. Gandy Photograph Collection. The streets of Natchez and its diverse population are seen through the eyes of photographers at work in the area from 1851 – 1951. The display is free and open to the public.

Mexican Music in 19th-Century New Orleans

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

In 1884, Payen’s Eighth Cavalry Mexican Band performed to great acclaim at the New Orleans World’s Fair (better known as the World Cotton Centennial Exposition), setting off a popular craze for Mexican and Cuban music in the city. Over the next decade, music publishers there, led by Junius Hart, published hundreds of pieces of sheet music by Latin American composers, mostly for voice and piano. One of these songs, the waltz “Sobre Las Olas” (“Over the Waves”) by Juventino Rosas, went on to become one of the most popular melodies of its day. It is still heard at fairgrounds and circuses, and has also found its way into New Orleans jazz, Tejano music, and even old time country fiddling.

Forty-eight pieces of sheet music performed at the Exposition or written by Mexican composers who worked in Louisiana in the late 19th century have been digitized by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections and added to the Louisiana Digital Library. The music may be freely accessed and downloaded in PDF format. To view the collection, click here or visit the Louisiana Digital Library’s website.

“Speaking Volumes” Discussion Oct. 28 at Hill Memorial Library to Focus on Archives and History

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

LSU Professor of History Sue Marchand, LSU History Department Alumna Allison Cooper, and Interim Head of LSU Special Collections Tara Laver will present “Speaking Volumes: Classroom Experiences with Archival Record Books” on Friday, Oct. 28, at noon in Hill Memorial Library.

The three speakers will provide their perspectives on a research assignment Marchand has used for the past several years in a required introductory course on historical research methodology. The talk will be of interest not only to students and faculty, but to anyone with an interest in history. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the crucial role primary sources play in understanding the past.

The exercise they will discuss makes use of standardized record books found in LSU Libraries’ Special Collections that record daily events on a plantation in Amite County, Miss., in the 1850s, as well as the type and amount of work performed by individual slaves, births and deaths among the enslaved population and medical treatment they received, clothing issued, and financial aspects of plantation business.

Laver will discuss the books as a standardized way of recordkeeping, the history of their development by writer, agriculturalist, planter and entrepreneur Thomas Affleck, and why she suggested them as a body of evidence for the class’ assignment. Cooper, who completed her Master of Arts degree program in 2010, will give a student’s take on the assignment, covering the challenges she and her classmates faced in using the collection, some of her conclusions and the overall experience. Marchand will talk about what students gain from the assignment and how it fits into her teaching objectives.

“The assignment provides an introduction to primary sources and how historians conduct research,” Marchand said. “I ask the students to confine their conclusions to what they can deduce based exclusively on the information in the record books and selected contextual readings.”

“This collaboration is just one example of how professors are incorporating Special Collections materials into their classes,” Laver said. “We are always looking for other opportunities to work with them and their students.”

Attendees are invited to bring a brown-bag lunch. Beverages and snacks will be provided.

The event closes out LSU Libraries Special Collections’ recognition of American Archives Month, an annual effort by the archival community to raise awareness about the value of archives and their importance in preserving our history.

For more information on LSU Libraries Special Collections, visit

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