Lecture, Oct. 18, 2018 “The Erotic Importance of the Van Buskirk Diaries to the Histories of Art, Literature, and Sexuality”

Matthew KnipJoin us for a lecture by
Matthew Knip

October 18, 2018
3:00 – 4:30 pm
Allen Library Auditorium (ground floor Allen Library North)
University of Washington Suzzallo/Allen Libraries

The Erotic Importance of the Van Buskirk Diaries to the Histories of Art, Literature, and Sexuality

van buskirk imageMatthew Knip will discuss the importance of the Philip C. Van Buskirk diaries—housed in the Pacific Northwest Collection of the University of Washington Libraries Special Collection—to nineteenth century art, literary, and cultural criticism. Knip’s talk will scrutinize the homosocial and homoerotic subculture detailed in the diaries and outline the literary and artistic challenges this previously overlooked and misunderstood cultural world presents to a constellation of commonly-held critical assumptions about the nineteenth century, from authorship, privacy, and friendship to sexuality and identity.


Matthew Knip is a doctoral candidate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an adjunct instructor at Hunter College. His dissertation, Before Melville’s Masts: Sex in the Age of Sail, examines diverse sexual cultures Herman Melville experienced at sea and how these might inform the way we read his fiction. As a component of his research, he created a digital archive of the Philip C. Van Buskirk diaries from 1852 through 1858, including transcriptions of each entry. His essay “Homosocial Desire and Erotic Communitas in Melville’s Imaginary: The Evidence of Van Buskirk,” published in ESQ 62:2 (2016) won the 2017 Hennig Cohen Prize of the Melville Society for best article, book chapter, or essay on Herman Melville.

More about the significance of the Van Buskirk diaries

Between 1850 and 1903, Philip C. Van Buskirk composed more than three dozen volumes of a confessional diary that has the potential to powerfully reshape assumptions within art, literary, and cultural criticism of the nineteenth century. Historian B. R. Burg suggests the journals represent “the most extensive record of introspection ever kept by an American.” Van Buskirk recorded in his journals the everyday happenings that affected him personally. Less interested in the great political and military events that he witnessed firsthand—the Perry Expedition to Japan and the American Civil War, for instance—he outlined the moral and spiritual failings he identified in himself and others, with self-deprecating sincerity and confessional detail. By doing so, he quite unintentionally produced a remarkable, thick description of the homosocial organization of desire he (and Herman Melville) experienced among working-class sailors at sea. He opens a window into a previously overlooked and misunderstood world that existed before the emergence of modern sexuality, which interpellates subjects into identities that coalesce around object choice.

The lecture is free and open to the public.





Marches, rallies & protests: collecting history as it happens



The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States has catalyzed people both for and against him to rally, march and protest.

The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections is interested in collecting materials from these events – signs, flyers, digital photos and videos – all of which help us document this time in American history. We are interested in materials from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.

Since the election in November 2016 a number of protests and rallies have been held across the Pacific Northwest both for and against the new President and we are collecting materials from across the spectrum of support.  Whether you agree or disagree with the policies and have taken to the streets to make your voice heard, please get in touch and let us know if you have photos, videos, posters or flyers to donate.

As of this writing in February of 2017 additional marches, rallies and protests are being organized – we want materials from these events as well! There is little doubt that even more events will be organized in the coming years; we will be collecting these materials as well.

How to donate:

If you have signs, flyers, or other physical materials, please contact Anne Jenner, the Pacific Northwest Curator,  pnwcoll@uw.edu .

If you have digital photos or videos, contact Ann Lally, Digital Collections Curator, digcurat@uw.edu. If you are interested in donating digital items, here are a couple of guidelines:

  • prefer high resolution files from DSLR cameras, but will accept camera phone images
  • please review your images and weed out blurry or repetitive images


Ann Lally | Digital Collections Curator



New History Resource on LGBTQ Activism in Seattle

Advertisement for UW Gay Students Association dance, ca 1971-1974

This week marks the launch of a new UW online project: the LGBTQ Activism in Seattle History Project.   Part of the larger Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, this effort “details and documents the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activism in Seattle with a narrative history, photos, oral histories, a timeline and catalog of LGBTQ activist organizations.” The resource was compiled by UW History doctoral student Kevin McKenna and features many materials from the Libraries Pacific Northwest Collection.

The site is celebrated by the campus community and activists and members of the LGBTQA community.  Kevin McKenna, who is currently teaching at Lewis and Clark in Portland, talked about the project, the oral history interviews, and the work that still needs to be done to document and bring awareness of the history and legacy of LGBTQ activism to new generations.  Kevin stated “the launch of the online project as part of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project is just the beginning.”

Take time to read through the website, view the digitized materials from our many collections, and watch the oral history interviews.

The PNW Collection’s LGBTQ materials continue to grow.  Visit this PNW guide to explore the LGBTQ collections (archival collections, published works, websites, and photographs) in Special Collections.

Anne Jenner
Pacific Northwest Curator


À la Carte ~ Crowdsourcing historic PNW menus ~ We need you!

How did restaurants handle the coffee shortage during WWII?
When did the beverage sauerkraut juice disappear from menus?
What was the price of caviar in 1911?

These are some of the questions we need your help to answer!

The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections has launched À la Carte, a project to crowdsource the transcription of the data contained in our historic menu collection.   Special Collections holds more than 700 menus from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest of interest to historians, economists, chefs, scientists, and everyday food enthusiasts.  The trouble is, the menus are very hard to search for the greatest treasures they contain: specific information about dishes, prices, and all the stories they tell about food history and culture.


To aid in the discovery of these tasty tidbits of history, we’re working to improve the description of the menus in the collection by transcribing the menus, dish by dish.  Doing this will dramatically expand the ways the collection can be researched and accessed.  We built a website that will make this big job pretty easy to do.  This is where you and your friends, who also love food, become part of this crowdsourcing effort.  We depend on you (the crowd) to visit the website, look at a menu, and using the tools on the website, tell us what you see on that menu.  Dishes, prices, menu section, ingredients, and geographical location are the types of information you will be helping us uncover.

Interested? Contact info@uwmenus.org or visit the project website to complete the contact form. We’ll email you with further information about the project and optional summer meet up opportunities.

Don’t miss your chance to take part in this exciting new UW project!


Project staff:
Anne Jenner, Pacific Northwest Curator
Ann Lally, Digital Curator
Sarah L. Ketchley, Digital Humanities


Finding Aids Moving to Archives West


This spring, Special Collections will transition its findings aids from our locally-hosted XTF site to Archives West, formerly known as Northwest Digital Archives.

Archives West, a program offering of the Orbis Cascade Alliance since 2007, provides access to descriptions of primary sources in the western United States, including correspondence, diaries or photographs. Institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, and Utah have loaded descriptions (finding aids) of their collections to Archives West.  In some cases, digital reproductions of the materials are linked directly from the finding aids.

A finding aid is a detailed guide or inventory of the contents of a manuscript or archival collection. The guide provides a gateway to the collection because it allows researchers to identify the boxes or folders they will need for their research. A typical guide also provide biographical or historical information on the person or organization that created the material, an overview of the collection, and how it is arranged plus a detailed container list and any use restrictions.

What will Archives West add to the user experience?

  • It provides access to all of our finding aids.  Our old site is no longer being updated, so use Archives West to find the most current descriptions of our collections.
  • It allows searches across regional repositories. You are likely to find related collections held by other repositories in the Northwest.
  • It creates an updated search environment that will more readily display digitized content and enhance our collection descriptions with more search terms.

What can you expect in the coming months?

  • We invite our researchers to try the new site now.
  • A cut-off date for the current XTF site this summer (date to be announced).

Take the Archives West User Survey to win an Amazon gift card!

Archives West is conducting a two-part assessment of the recent redesign until April 15, 2016. They are looking for people who use Archives West to fill out a survey and to potentially answer some follow-up questions on how successful the redesign of the site is. If you are interested in being part of this effort, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFVBR6B. A  few individuals will be selected for follow-up questions – those selected will receive $10 Amazon.com gift cards.



First Published Views of the Pacific Northwest

Tlingit women pick berries with a dog, Baranof Island Alaska, in engraving made by F. H. Freiherr von Klittlitz, from F. P. Litke’s Voyage autour du monde.  Atlas, 1835, plate 5b.


Travelers and adventurers today document trips with photographs and videos on social media, in published works, and in produced documentaries. The first travel writers to publish narrative accounts and visual depictions of the Pacific Northwest were eighteenth and nineteenth century maritime voyagers from Russia, Britain, France, Spain, and the eastern United States. Published accounts of their voyages were accompanied by illustrations depicting topography, people, crafts, and tools native to this region.

Illustrations of this time period started as sketches and became primarily copper engravings.  These informative, decorative, and didactic illustrations were commonly printed along with maps and charts as plates in a folio-sized atlas. Atlases and exploration accounts were, in first printing, sold as a set, on a subscription basis.  The publications offered never before seen views of far-away places and peoples.


Nootka carvings including masks and rattle, Nootka Sound, British Columbia, in engraving made 1778. From James Cook’s A voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Atlas, 1773-1784, pl. 40


UW Special Collections has an extraordinary collection of these travel accounts, including rare early editions.  Our online research guide, Images of Exploration, Discovery, and Early Settlement in the Pacific Northwest, introduces you to this collection and the fascinating stories of artists who accompanied explorers on historic voyages.  Like photographers and videographers today, these talented artists often wore more than one hat during the voyages, and some followed the project from start to finish.  Their illustrations became the first published images of the land and people of our region.


Nootka group in interior of house, Nootka Sound, British Columbia, in engraving made 1778 by John Webber. From James Cook’s A voyage to the Pacific Ocean.  Atlas, 1773-1784, pl. 42


John Webber 
Third voyage of James Cook, British (1776-1780)

John Webber, an Englishman of Swiss heritage, was the official expedition artist on Captain Cook’s third voyage from 1776 to 1780.  Upon return, Webber was responsible for reducing his drawings and paintings to scale for engravers. The Admiralty also hired him as “art director” for the 1784 publication, the duties of which included supervising the engravers and the printing of the plates.

Lieutenant Blondela and Gaspard Duché de Vancy 
Voyage of Jean Françoise Galaup de la Pérouse, French (1785-1788)

Gaspard Duchè de Vancy, official artist of the voyage of Jean Françoise Galaup de la Pérouse, from 1785 to 1788, was raised in Vienna and exhibited artworks at the Salon of Young Artists in Paris in 1781 and at the Royal Academy in London in 1784.  He was commissioned to execute several royal portraits including: Stanislaus of Poland, the secretary of the Kingdom of Naples, and Marie Antoinette.

A second artist, Lieutenant Blondela (first name unknown) was in the French military before joining the La Pérouse expedition.  While not officially assigned as artist to the expedition, Blondela’s talents were a great asset to the voyage’s visual record. La Pérouse commented on Blondela in his journal, “he applies himself with a degree of assiduity, and executes with an intelligence, order and neatness, that are deserving of the highest encomiums

Chinook women rocking baby suspended in cradleboard in Oregon.  Engraving made 1841 by A. T. Agate.  From Charles Wilkes’s Narrative of the U. S. Exploring Expedition,  1845, vol. 4, p. 338.


John Sykes, Harry Humphrys, Thomas Heddington, and Zachary Mudge
Voyage of George Vancouver, British (1791-1795)

A gross oversight in Voyage of British explorer George Vancouver was the lack of an officially commissioned artist. Fortunately, there were four crewmen aboard skilled enough to provide sketches and drawings that could be transformed into illustrations for the publication.   These men were John Sykes, Harry Humphrys, Thomas Heddington, and Zachary Mudge.  John Sykes, a midshipman, was the most prolific artist. He created over 90 drawings throughout the voyage and his are the first depictions of the Puget Sound area.  Artist, William Alexander, was hired later to redraw the sketches in preparation for the engraving.

Louis Choris
Voyage of Otto von Kotzebue, Russian (1815-1818)

Louis Choris, official expedition artist on the Voyage of Otto von Kotzebue, was only 20 when he when the voyage began. Upon return, Choris solicited subscribers, who included the kings of France and Prussia, to enable publication of his Voyage.


Webber_image- sea horses
“A party from His Majesty’s ship Resolution shooting sea-horses”. This large picture of walruses being shot for food was painted after John Webber’s return to London from Cook’s third voyage (1776–80), where he was the official expedition artist.


Friedrich Heinrich von Kittlitz and Aleksandr Postels
Voyage of Fedor Petrovich Litke, Russian (1826-1829)

Russian explorer Fedor Petrovick Litke hired artists and naturalists Friedrich Heinrich Baron von Kittlitz and Aleksandr Filippovich Postels, who both contributed to the artistic/scientific evidence of the voyage.  Kittlitz’s job in accompanying Litke was to “hunt, collect, describe, and illustrate birds.”  Returning from the voyage, Kittlitz spent time assembling materials for his own personal account of the voyage (published in 1858) as well as giving scientific lectures.

Postels is described in the crew sheet as Mineralogist and sketch-artist. He was key to the expedition, producing sketches of amphibians and fish, as well as recording botanical and ethnographic material.


Haida in canoes watch the Discovery on the rocks in Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia.  Engraving made in 1792 by artist Zachary Mudge.  From George Vancouver’s A voyage of discovery to the North Pacific Ocean,  1798, vol. 1, plate 6.


Alfred T. Agate and Joseph Drayton
Voyage of The United States Exploring Expedition/Wilkes Expedition, American (1838-1842)

Alfred T. Agate, born in New York, executed most of the drawings in the Wilkes Expedition expedition report. Soon after the end of the voyage he died, at age 33, in Washington D.C.

Joseph Drayton, another of the expedition artists, saw the drawings through to publication. He made the engravings, oversaw the coloring of the illustrations, as well as the printing and binding.   In addition, he made the paper on which the works, engravings, and charts are printed.


Choris_image2 faces
Portraits of three Aleuts, ca. 1822, by Louis Choris.  From Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, Paris, Impr. de Firmin Didot, 1822.


Read more here.  Visit Special Collections for a hands-on look these at rare materials.   Our collections are open to the public.

Christmas 1881 in Astoria



In Evergreen Boughs and Mince Meat Pie, Polly McKean Bell tells a grand story of her family’s 1881 Christmas celebration in Astoria, Oregon. The port city at the mouth of the Columbia River was newly incorporated (1876) with a population of nearly 2,000.  The memoir details decorating Christmas trees at the church and the family home, baking sweets, hand-crafting gifts for and by all members of the family, and dressing in fancy new dresses and button boots to perform at the main social event, a program led by children at the church on Christmas Eve.

The climax of the holiday was the family visit on Christmas day to Aunt Eliza and Uncle H. (Hustler), a sea captain, whose life you can read about in this 1928 interview with his widow at age 94.  The couple and their Chinese cook, Wat Sen, served a Christmas feast of shoal-water bay oysters with lemon and cayenne pepper, roast duck, apple sauce and cranberry sauce, small oval mince pies, oranges, hot-house grapes, and a gift box of litchi nuts and preserved ginger. The celebration culminated with presents of exotic toys and gadgets from faraway places.  The girls received dolls, a miniature lacquer chest of drawers with metal pulls, a tiny lacquer work box with small compartments for a child size thimble and scissors. Her mother and father received a stereoscope with views from cities around the world and a barometer.  Above is Polly’s older brother on his new velocipede – the very first in town.

title page

photo of children

Polly McKean Bell (center) was born in Astoria 1876, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Terry McKean Jr. Her grandfather, Samuel T. McKean Sr., had come to Oregon across the plains in 1848, when Polly’s father was 8 years old.  She became widely known regionally for her writings and keen interest in historical affairs the area.  Her article entitled “A Pioneer Woman’s Reminiscences of Christmas in the Eighties” was published in the Oregon Historical Society Quarterly in 1948.  A decade later, she republished it as a small monograph shown here.  Our copy came to us by way of the Stewart Holbrook papers.  Polly inscribed the copy to Stewart – the two were likely well acquainted, as both were Pacific Northwest history authors in the Portland area.  She died in 1964 in Astoria and is buried at Clatsop Plains Pioneer Cemetery in Clatsop County.  The family papers are held by the Clatsop County Historical Society.