Will The Real Edgar Allan Poe Please Stand Up?

In honor of Edgar Allan Poe’s 208th birthday, today we are launching the digital complement to an exhibition of delicious Poe rarities currently on view at the George Peabody Library—The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond: Selections from the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection. The digital exhibition lets you explore Poe’s life and work at your leisure, with detailed information about the artifacts in the physical exhibition, plus images you can examine on your very own screen: sweet!

The physical exhibition is on display through Sunday, February 5. On that day, we’ll be hosting a free showing of Spirits of the Dead, a trilogy of campy film adaptations of Poe stories. (More on that later.)

With this exhibition of rare books, manuscripts, letters, magazines, illustrations, and spooky Poe artifacts (like a lock of hair clipped from his head after he died, a fragment of his coffin, a Poe action figure, and the “Poe mask” featured on the TV show The Following), surely we’ve plumbed the depths of the Poe mystery—right? Surely, these amazing materials—over 100 objects on loan to us from Poe collector extraordinaire Susan Jaffe Tane—answer all the questions there are to ask about Poe?

Nope, not even close.

The thing about Poe is, we’ll never know how he died (even the heavy metal analysis of the aforementioned lock of hair is inconclusive), what his temperament was really like (gentle and charming or impatient and selfish? -- there are conflicting reports), or who among his many lady friends was the subject of the poem “Annabel Lee.” We’ll never know what he thought about important features of the world he lived in—the rapidly expanding United States of the 1820s, 30s, and 40s, reckoning with some of the great moral conflicts at its core, like slavery, Indian “removal,” and various restrictions of suffrage. We’ll never know how much his melancholy poems and frightening stories directly reflect his own fears and experiences… or how much they are simply vivid inventions masterfully orchestrated to appeal to readers.

There’s a lot we’ll never know about Edgar Allan Poe the man. However, there is much we can learn about his work: what he wrote, and when, and how. Could close study of his existing manuscripts help us see new connections between his poems, tales, and essays? Could digital tools help us find in his writing traces of what he was reading? Are there important new contexts for his work to be unearthed in the magazines and newspapers where he published?

Here is where an exhibition of Poe’s publications and manuscripts and letters can really help out! We wanted to give you the chance to get up close and personal with these artifacts, so you can: ask new questions, make your own discoveries, or contribute to the vibrant afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe through your own creative work.

Happy Birthday, Edgar! From all of us.

Why We March

When people feel they are not being represented—that their voices and experiences don't matter, when they feel there is a great wrong in the world, and when they have simply had enough—they often take to the streets and march. Increased acts of civil disobedience rose around the world after Percy Shelley’s poem The Mask of Anarchy and an essay by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century became popular rhetoric with freedom movements of the 20th century. Protestors increasingly took to the streets: Ghandi in 1930 for the great Salt March; protestors opposing apartheid in South Africa; students demonstrated for weeks in Tiananmen Square in 1989; the Arab Spring Protests in 2011; and more. While civil disobedience at its root is based in nonviolence, protesters often risk harm and even death when those in power decide to respond.

Across the U.S., protest movements are both an integral part of our past and how we display our opposition to conditions of the day. In our very recent past, protesters have taken to the streets from Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 to Standing Rock in North Dakota in 2016. Peaceful protest is a tool that Americans continue to use across all states in order to give a voice to those who feel they are not heard. But, no location features as prominently for protest movements in the U.S. as Washington DC. Suffragists marched on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1913 for access to the vote. Infamously, large numbers of KKK members turned up to march in DC in 1925. Throughout the Vietnam War, protesters marched on Washington in both opposition to the ongoing conflict and conversely—though in much smaller numbers—in support of Nixon. In 1993, possibly the largest peaceful U.S. demonstration was the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The largest distance covered to protest was the 1978 Longest Walk from San Francisco to DC in objection to increasing legislation that threatened tribal land and water rights.

Civil rights movements are some of the most prominent for making Washington DC their target in the 20th century. The Black Panthers and Louis Farrakhan have called on the leaders of the U.S. from the Mall to legislate to improve conditions for Black Americans. And certainly one of the biggest and most diverse marches was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Although Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead many marches around the U.S., it was the sweltering August 1963 march in which he delivered his unforgettable Dream Speech that is etched as a cornerstone in American history.

While marches and rallies in opposition to government were once seen as actions by radicals—every move by Martin Luther King was tracked by the FBI, after all—it has become an increasingly acceptable public show of a group’s objection to government. Current marches of the day include an annual March for Life in opposition to Roe V. Wade and the Rolling Thunder annual motorcycle rally to support and give voice to veterans and POWs. Just around the corner, on Saturday, January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands have committed both online and through transportation and hotel reservations to attend the Women’s March on Washington. Based on the internet virality of information and preparation for the rally, we’ll soon see if that march also makes history.

People have marched on Washington DC for over a century now in order to give a voice and show of solidarity when they feel that their needs and rights are not being heard or responded to by those who legislate. The ability to be seen and heard and march for that in which we deeply believe is an important aspect to how we peacefully attempt to display our dissent.

Learn more about protest movements:

Watership Down – Book, Film, and Music

"Do tell me how I can help you," said the Chief Rabbit.

"Well sir,' said Hazel rather hesitantly, 'it's because of my brother -- Fiver here. He can often tell when there's anything bad about, and I've found him right again and again. He knew the flood was coming last autumn,...and now he says he can sense a bad danger coming upon the warren."

"A bad danger. Yes, I see. How very upsetting," said the Chief Rabbit, looking anything but   upset.
---Watership Down

Richard Adams made up rabbit stories to tell to his two young daughters during long car rides. He had recently read The Private Life of the Rabbit, and made up the personalities and behaviors of the rabbits in his story from descriptions in the book.

His tales about a community of rabbits, who were brave and timid, big and small, talented and vicious and born leaders, became the beloved classic Watership Down. Adams, who died in December 2016 at the age of 96, had worked at Great Britain’s Department of Environment, and had visited every location that he wrote about in the book.

Why were the rabbits in Britain being exterminated?

Do we have any other fictional stories about rabbits?

Season’s Readings, Guilty Pleasures (and Gift Ideas)

Why do I love these lists so much? Every December, I look forward to the various year-end lists of best books put out by newspapers and other periodicals. True, they are a great place to find something to read, and to get gift ideas for that difficult person on your list. But there's something else that makes them irresistible to me. Maybe it's just that I love checking off items on a list, and seeing books I've read over the past year appear on the lists makes me feel like a schoolgirl again, getting invisible brownie points from an invisible teacher.

Peruse all these lists to see what you might want to read, now that all those papers are (almost?) finished, and what you might buy for your Mom or brother, your roommate or best friend, for Christmas or Hannukah or whatever end-of-the-year festival you celebrate. Festivus anyone?

Okay, I can't resist with such a captive audience. The best book I read in 2014? (Not FROM 2014 mind you). Has to be Strunk and White's (and Kalman's) Elements of Style. Read, or re-read, this one and you'll find yourself reading everything else in a new light!

Let there be Light!

As our daylight hours dwindle, I am always reminded of Dylan Thomas. Not because he wrote "A Child's Christmas in Wales," but because of his poem "Do not go gentle into that good night." Thomas of course was writing of a much more permanent darkness, not the perennial shrinking of the day's sunlit hours, but still, I always "rage, rage, against the dying of the light" at this time of year.

The Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 this year, is the shortest day of the year. The good news is, days will very slowly get longer and longer, until the Summer Solstice in June. But if you can't wait that long to bask in bright light, walk, bike, or drive over to the Hampden neighborhood for one of Baltimore's weirdest traditions: Miracle on 34th Street.

Now in its 70th year, this block-long display of lights, moving figures and sculpture is definitely a one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Some call it "gaudy, ugly", and some call it "awesome, beautiful". Either way, go see it and decide for yourself. It's part of the Hopkins experience!

Snowflakes keep falling on my head…

While I know those are not quite the lyrics for that song, I can't help but want to twist the words around slightly this time of year, particularly when the sky is gray and hats, gloves, and wooly socks are necessary. Even with the rigor of the semester ending, it is hard not to be on the lookout for that first, exciting snowflake of the season. However, that simple, beautiful, delicate little snowflake is actually quite a spectacular bit of science.

Snowflakes have fascinated scientists for a long time. In 1611, Johannes Kepler wrote, "Now Socrates has to say how far a flea can jump. Our question is, why snowflakes in their first falling, before they are entangled in larger plumes, always fall with six corners and with six rods, tufted like feathers." To read more of Kepler's pondering on snowflakes check out his Vom sechseckigen Schnee: Strena seu de Nive sexangula, or, if your German is not up to par, you might enjoy the very short but page turning 1966 English translation.

Snowflakes start as supercooled cloud droplets. Those droplets freeze and as they move through different humidity and temperatures they develop their unique shapes. Most snowflakes exhibit a six-fold radial symmetry, with each arm of the crystal structure growing separately. Most snowflakes are not perfectly symmetrical because of the number of variables that change as they make their way through the atmosphere.

Probably one of the most well-known snowflake researchers in the U.S. was Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. Bentley photographed thousands of individual snowflakes and was the man to declare that no two snowflakes were the same. Check out the beautiful pictures of snowflakes in the classic book Snow Crystals. To read more about Bentley, his biography by Duncan Blancard provides insight into Bentley's singular passion for snowflakes.

Inspired by Bentley, Ukichiro Nakaya, a Japanese physicist and glaciologist called snowflakes "letters sent from heaven." He went on to study snow crystals and produced over 3,000 photomicrographs  by which he established a classification of natural snow crystals. Snowflakes and snow crystal formation continue to be an active field of study. To learn about the latest research do a search in General Science database for full text articles on snowflakes or search the library catalog.

Snowflakes are also a traditional symbol for winter and wintery conditions. I know every winter I always watch White Christmas and sing along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen as they extoll the virtues of snow. However, as winter wears on keep in mind the words of native Baltimore singer, Frank Zappa, "...watch out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow."

Fun Bad Science Fiction

flying saucerHi, everyone! Sci Fi Librarian is here to look ahead to when you'll be finished with exams and have some time to watch science fiction movies again.

My brain will be fried by then. Modern sci fi movies make me think too much.

Then let's choose movies that are just mindless sci fi fun. Get ready to do *zero* thinking.

Step #1: Find them.

  • In the library catalog, put the phrase "science fiction" in the SUBJECT
  • Under FORMAT (on the left), choose DVD. Wow, 313!
  • Change the dates: you'll see that the publication years stretch from 1926-2016: 90 years of sci fi movies! (The 1926 was Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis, but that's sort of not fun.) Change the years to 1930-1960.

Step #2: Choose some that you want to see. For example:

Step #3 -- Take the call numbers to the M-Level Service Desk, and the nice people will bring the DVD's to you.

These look really great, and I won't need to use my brain at all! I love the trailers, too. But which one would you choose as the most brain-vegetating sci fi movie of all?

A more fun question would be, "which has the worst special effects of all?" That's a tough call; like I really loved the alien's costume of gorilla suit plus diver's helmet in Robot Monster. But treat yourself to:

So hang on, everyone! You can do it! And then it will be time once again for classic, awful, no-thought-required wonderful science fiction movies!

Wow, thanks, Sci Fi Librarian!



Women at the Front: Hopkins Nurses during WWI

While soldiers were fighting on the battlefield during the First World War, more than 10,000 nurses were fighting for the lives of sick and wounded military personnel. Thousands of brave women registered for the Army Nurse Corps during the First World War with the desire to do their part in the nation’s war effort at a time when women were not part of the military. They worked in hospitals, on the battlefield and in mobile units. More than 200 would die during their service.


Johns Hopkins nurses wearing gas masks, 1918. From the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives.

Courageous Johns Hopkins nurses staffed all but one of the 65 nurse positions in the 1,000-bed Johns Hopkins Base Hospital Unit No. 18. Initially, the nurses treated cold-related illnesses, but as the war progressed in the fall of 1918, the unit began to treat war injuries with great frequency. In March of 1918 they treated a convoy of 250 soldiers wounded by mustard gas. American medical personnel were ill-prepared for handling chemical injuries. Mustard gas, more like a liquid than a gas and usually dispersed in droplets, posed a unique challenge. Because the gas impacted skin even when it was covered by clothing, affected soldiers needed to be showered and given new clothes within 30 minutes of impact before they even arrived at the hospital. This required some nurses to go into the field in order to aid in the evacuation and immediate care of injured soldiers.  Once the soldiers were at the hospital, healing them required creativity and ingenuity on the part of the nurses. In order to treat the blisters caused by mustard gases, which could span the entirety of soldiers’ bodies, nurses would often have to cut the blistered skin and bandage it in order to expedite healing. Soldiers also suffered from eye and respiratory issues as a result of gassing.

Under the direction of Bessie Baker (Johns Hopkins Nursing Class of 1902), the nurses of Johns Hopkins Base Unit No. 18 were of great service to the United States military throughout the course of the First World War. To learn more about World War I and Johns Hopkins Nursing’s presence in the Army Nursing Corps, check out the Hopkins and the Great War exhibit (on display until January 2017) at the School of Nursing or online in our digital exhibit.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee. Photo: usswestvirginia.org

At 7:55 a.m. on December 7th, 1941, the United States was launched into World War 2. It was a typical Sunday morning at the Pearl Harbor U.S. naval base, when unexpectedly Battleship Row was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Though other attacks were launched against U.S. forces elsewhere (Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Malaysia, Singapore, Honk Kong), Pearl Harbor was geographically closest to the mainland, and as such, raised the most concern among American citizens.



Photo: (Wikipedia) Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Post Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.

The attack was too close for comfort - 2,471 miles from California, compared to battles in far off southeast Asia.  Nevertheless, it was the surprise of the attack, which had a staggering shock effect on the U.S. people. The attack was led by 353 fighter planes and bombers, launched from 6 Japanese aircraft carriers. Battleship Row housed 8 battleships (USS Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Maryland), and other vessels, cruisers, and destroyers. U.S. fighter jets were launched in a counter move, but to no avail. Ships were bottled up in the harbor; some sank, entombing alive some of its crew members in the hull.



Photos: HistoryChannel.com "Tales of Pearl Harbor Heroics"

In total, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,335 officers and enlisted men of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corp were killed, and 1,178 people were wounded. The Japanese forces lost 29 aircraft in the offensive and suffered 64 casualties. Though the damage was unprecedented, there were notable heroes:

  • Doris "Dorie" Miller (U.S. Navy Messman Third Class)
  • Samuel Fuqua (Rear Admiral)
  • Peter Tomich (U.S. Navy Chief Wartender)
  • George Welch (U.S. Army Fighter Corp Pilot) & Kenneth Taylor (U.S. Army Corp Second Lieutenant Pilot)
  • John Finn (U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer)
  • George Walters (Civilian dockyard worker)
  • Edwin Hill (U.S. Navy Sailor)
  • Phil Rasmussen (U.S. Army Air Corp Second Lieutenant)

The following day, December 8th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation, calling it "a day that would live in infamy," and declared war on Japan. As the U.S. took action, Nazi German and Italy declared war on the U.S. to which the U.S. responded.

Pearl Harbor Suvivors Marvin Rewerts, 89, right, Nelson Mitchell, 91, middle, walk with a wreath to place at the USS Arizona Memorial, as fellow survivor Darnel Rogers, 91, left, looks on, at the Peal Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Phoenix. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Source: Associated Press (December 7, 2016): Pearl Harbor Survivors Marvin Rewerts, 89, right, Nelson Mitchell, 91, middle, walk with a wreath to place at the USS Arizona Memorial, as fellow survivor Darnel Rogers, 91, left, looks on, at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremonies Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Phoenix. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Tensions between Japan and the U.S. had long been building. After the U.S.'s failed efforts to negotiate a withdrawal of Japanese military from China and Inodochina, Japan launched the attack. The reasoning behind the attack was in hopes of weakening the U.S.'s Pacific fleet, thereby diminishing the possibility of the U.S. interfering Japan's seizure of Southeast Asia. However, the U.S. used the attack on Pearl Harbor as propaganda throughout WW2 to fight and ultimately defeat the Axis Powers. It was empathically effective, because it centered on the emotional sting (anger) caused by what was described as a cowardly act, i.e. not fighting fair.


Jerry Yellin, a former captain and World War Two Army Air Force P-51 pilot, embraces Hiroya Sugano, director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, during the 6th annual Blackened Canteen ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, during the 75th Commemoration of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. December 6, 2016. US Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman/Handout via REUTERS

Photo source: (Reuters, Dec. 7, 2016) Jerry Yellin, a former captain and World War Two Army Air Force P-51 pilot, embraces Hiroya Sugano, director general of the Zero Fighter Admirers Club, during the 6th annual Blackened Canteen ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, during the 75th Commemoration of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. December 6, 2016. US Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman/Handout via REUTERS

Unfortunately, throughout WW2, innocent Japanese-Americans were relocated to and incarcerated in camps in the western U.S. upon suspicion of being a threat to U.S. citizens. However, time has healed the wounds between Japanese and U.S. soldiers who once fought each other. Several organizations, including the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, were formed to ensure that survivors are honored annually. The outcome of WW2 can be read and viewed in libraries, veteran memorials and museums, as well as online.

Readers are encouraged to visit museums exhibiting official aircraft and sea vessels, as well as to travel to Oahu, HI and visit the USS Arizona Memorial for a humbling, emotional and educational experience.

FURTHER READING - Visit our MSE Library catalog for hundreds of books on Pearl Harbor.

For the most recently published books (i.e. our McNaughton Collection), please see All the Gallant Men: An American's Sailor's Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor, Stratton, D., & Gire, K. (2016).


Photo: USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Official Pearl Harbor Tour Site). The ship was bombed and finally exploded and sank. Casualties: 1,177 officers and crewmen.








FILM - View numerous documentaries and films on Kanopy Streaming.

Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1970.

History and Memory, Akiko Productions, 2008.

Pearl Harbor, Touchstone Pictures, 2001.

TOURIST INFORMATION - Official Pearl Harbor Tour Site


Doyle, Peter, World War II In Numbers: An Infographic Guide to the Conflict, Its Conduct, and Its Casualties. Richmond Hill: Firefly, 2013.

Lord, Walter, Day of Infamy: Illustrated with Photos. New York: Holt, 1957.

Pearl Harbor Casualties: Military and Civilian, Plus Casualties and Survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona. 2007. Bennington, Vt: Merriam Press.

Prange, Gordon W., Donald M Goldstein, and Katherine V Dillon. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.

Spiller, Harry, Pearl Harbor Survivors: An Oral History of 24 Servicemen. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002.

Wohlstetter, Roberta, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962.

White, Geoffrey M. 2016. Memorializing Pearl Harbor: unfinished histories and the work of remembrance. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/9780822374435.

Zimm, Alan. Attack On Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions. Havertown: Casemate, 2011.


For actual damage inflicted on U.S. and Japanese vessels, see Attack on Pearl Harbor, by Zimm, pp. 228-29. For a quick look at other vessels docked at Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, HI:



Enter the Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest

SBC logo

The Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest recognizes the love of books and the delight in shaping a thoughtful and focused book collection. Established by longtime friends of the libraries Betty and Edgar Sweren, the annual contest is open to all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins. All entries are welcome except past winning collections.

The competition includes a graduate and undergraduate division, and winners in each division are awarded cash prizes.

• $1,000 First Place
• $500 Second Place
• $250 Honorable Mention

Awards will be presented to the winners in the spring of 2017. In addition, selected titles from winning collections will be placed on display in the Brody Learning Commons.

Contest criteria

Each entry will be judged on the extent to which the items in the collection form a coherent pattern of inquiry and/or represent a well-defined field of interest. Additionally, consideration will be given to how well the collection reflects the student’s stated goals and interests.


1. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled in a degree program at the Johns Hopkins University is eligible to enter.
2. All items must be owned and collected by the student who enters the contest.
3. A collection need not consist of, or include, rare or valuable books. Paper-bound books may be included.
4. Although the focus is books, the collection may include other media that support the collection.
5. Collections can be on any subject. (Past years have included entries of collections related to Colonial America, feminism, running, and music.)

Application information

Each contestant must submit:
1. A cover sheet including the title of your collection
2. A 2-3 page essay outlining the purpose of the collection, how you started and assembled the collection, items of greatest interest, and ideas for the collection’s future development.
3. A bibliography of 20 or more items (maximum of 50) in the collection. Each item should be numbered, given a full bibliographic description, and briefly annotated as to its importance to the collection. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition.
4. A wish list: A second bibliography listing up to ten items that you would like to add to your collection, with brief annotation stating the reason for adding each item.

Finalists may be asked to bring a portion of their collection to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library for final judging.

Top prize winners of the Sweren contest are also eligible to enter the 2017 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

For examples of winning entries, see last year's first place winners from the undergraduate and graduate divisions.

The deadline to enter is Friday, February 17, 2017.

For electronic entries, please submit as one PDF document, including cover sheet, to libraryfriends@jhu.edu

Hard copy entries may be mailed to:

Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest
Dean’s Office/Milton S. Eisenhower Library
Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Please contact Shellie Dolan with questions at 410-516-8992 or libraryfriends@jhu.edu