There are machine-generated records for many of the smaller manuscript holdings in the Pacific Northwest Collection.  In terms of discovery, this is a good thing, but often these records are so brief or generic that they also can be misleading.  We are trying to rectify this situation, slowly (too slowly, we admit), but surely.  Here is a case in point:

James J. Hill reading a speech on the opening day of the A.Y.P.E.
James J. Hill reading a speech on the opening day of the A.Y.P.E.

Recently it came to our attention that the collection formerly called the James Jerome Hill papers (Accession no. 4756) was not the personal papers of the famous railroad tycoon and developer.  The majority of his family papers are now at the Minnesota Historical Society and, interestingly enough, are also in the process of being recataloged.  Instead, our holdings consisted of the manuscript of a speech Hill gave on the opening day of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, with an additional interesting piece of correspondence explaining how the manuscript came to be at the University of Washington.  It turns out that Hill intended to donate the manuscript to the University to be “preserved among the archives” on the same day he gave the speech, but his lawyer neglected to do so until some six years after the event.

Digging around the Special Collections materials on the UW Digital Collections site also yielded other discoveries: the text of the manuscript speech already had been digitized (minus the letter, which, hopefully, we can now get added).  We also subsequently found that there were two copies of the published edition of the speech among the book collection, somewhat sketchily cataloged since they had been bound together with other speeches by Hill.  These materials have now been a bit more tidily cataloged here and here, hopefully, making them a little easier to find.

What was even more cool, however, was stumbling across the digital image (above) of a photograph of Hill delivering the speech with the actual manuscript in hand.  This is a version of the digital image that was further touched up in Photoshop by Edna for the purposes of this blog.

Image credit:  James J. Hill reading his address on the opening day of the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, Frank H. Nowell Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Photographs. PH Coll 727, Neg. no. UW3012


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I joined The Shubert Archive as Processing Archivist in 2015, having worked previously at numerous archives and special collections, including the University of Washington, New York Public Library, King County Archives, and New York University. I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Hunter College, City University of New York and an M.L.I.S. from the Palmer School of Library & Information Science, Long Island University. I have been a Certified Archivist since 2005. Throughout my career, I have been active professionally and held several leadership roles. Among my favorites are: Dance Librarians Discussion Group convener and editor of the newsletter of the Performing Arts Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists. I also was involved with the American Theatre Archive Project, a national grassroots initiative dedicated to assisting active performing arts companies with the preservation of their legacy. In addition, I have significant experience as a freelance archival consultant.

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