This Month's Highlights:
A Wordsmith's Wine Boxes
The University Archives holds a set of three wooden wine boxes in its artifact room, but it is not the Savory & James Sherry or Freixenet Cava these cases once held that make these items relevant to our collection. After wine moved out, a group of literary manuscripts moved in. Specifically, these were the manuscripts of three novels by the late Northwestern Professor Leon Forrest.
Though not a household name, Forrest is considered by many to be one of the major literary figures of his generation. His four massive, dense, modernist novels explored questions of African-American history, culture, and identity. While dealing with major themes such as slavery, orphans, and storytelling across generations, Forrest kept his focus on vibrant and complex characters.
Read the rest of this entry here.
This post is from the "Object Lesson" series, a monthly feature on the University Archives blog that highlights the artifact collection. You can explore the whole blog in the University Archives News section of our website.
Northwestern's Story of 'O':
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we would like to share a bit of Northwestern's Irish history. Our focus is one William O'Flaherty, born February, 1863 in Ireland. By the turn of the century, O'Flaherty was an Evanston restaurateur, running the eatery known simply as "O's"on Davis street. O's was a popular student hang-out where generous portions and generous tabs made sure that no one ever went hungry.
O'Flaherty, himself also often referred to by his initial letter, was a great supporter of Northwestern University and its athletic teams. Back when it was a legal endeavor, O was the preeminent bookie for odds on collegiate sporting events. O was a staunch supporter of the "Purple," though his nose for business often led him to place bets against the hometown boys. Learn more about this vibrant man by watching a short video produced by the Archives here.
William Montgomery McGovern: Northwestern's "Indiana Jones":
One of the most colorful figures in Northwestern's past has been back in the spotlight in recent days. William Montgomery McGovern was a professor of Political Science, engaging lecturer, charismatic campus presence, and honest-to-God adventurer. He was one of the first Westerners to enter the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa, disguising himself as a native porter and crossing the Himalayas in mid-winter. He also went deep into the Amazon, seeking Incan ruins and surviving on monkey meat and insects. This double life of adventure and scholarship made him a real-life Indiana Jones.
After returning from his globetrekking adventures, McGovern would regale students and faculty alike with his enthusiastic and skilled storytelling. His classes were wildly popular and his iconoclastic appearance was consistently entertaining. He could often be seen sporting a massive Chinese otter coat and hat, a Persian shepherd's coat, or wearing bright yellow shoes. So great was his fame that we still get periodic inquiries today.
We also recently received a call from Routledge, informing us that the publishing house was going to reissue McGovern's 1922 work Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism, and seeking information on surviving relatives. While we had little of relevance in regard to present-day kin, we do have some very interesting material in McGovern's papers. You can view the full finding aid to the collection here.
Read an article about McGovern in the most recent Northwestern Magazine.
Tip of the Month:
University Archives Available for Firesides:
Over the years, staff members from the University Archives have spoken to multiple generations of residential college students about Northwestern's storied past. Topics have ranged from a general history of the school's origins to "women on campus". Most recently, Assistant University Archivist Janet Olson spoke to a group at the Public Affairs Residential College about how the student life scene has changed over time. While there is usually a central theme to a discussion, wide-ranging questions are welcomed and encouraged.
If you would like to invite someone to speak, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stop by for a chat any time.
The University Archives:
The Archives has nearly 1000 processed collections and thousands of linear feet of material, including University records and publications, manuscripts of faculty, students, and alumni, graphics, sound recordings, and artifacts relating to Northwestern and its history. Browsing our website can help inspire choices of topics for research or general-interest purposes. Check our Finding Aids site for information about processed collections; our History and Traditions pages and Exhibits sites provide some great ideas; and browse through past entries in our This Day in NU History for items that pique your interest. As most of our holdings are not listed in the Library catalogue, we encourage inquiries by those looking for primary source documents or just a stroll through Northwestern's past.