Occasionally, the connections of the sporting world are documented in “ephemera,” the fancy archival word for “paper-based miscellany.” This week, while finishing up our reprocessing of foxhunting books, we happened across a copy of Letters from an Old Sportsman to a Young One by A. Henry Higginson.

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“Gun Metal, A. Henry Higginson up. December 1, 1913.” National Sporting Library & Museum, A. Henry Higginson Scrapbook Collection (MC0012), Middlesex Hounds Photographs, 1909-1914.

Higginson was an influential foxhunting gentleman in his day, serving as president of MFHA from 1915 to 1930. He also wrote several books on foxhunting. In 1934 he took up residence in England, where he spent the rest of his life.

Our copy of Letters from an Old Sportsman was owned by Lester Karow.

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Copy owned by Lester Karow, 1929.

Lester Karow was one of the four founders of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Originally from Savanah, Georgia, he spent much of his time in Virginia.

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“Lester Karow, undated photograph.” Photograph courtesy of Charles Mackall, Karow’s nephew.

Pasted into the front endpapers is a clipping of Karow’s comments on the book from a 1942 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

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Higginson, on seeing this, took the time to write a letter of thanks to Karow. The letter is also pasted onto the endpapers of the book.

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It’s fitting: a letter from an old sportsman to a young one. And we can read it today because Karow donated it to our Library in 1957, shortly before Higginson died in 1958.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Most Americans are now familiar with the concept of STEM learning, curriculum that carefully focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The goal is to inspire the next generation to work in STEM-related fields and become the vanguard of science and mathematics. The arts community quickly got involved in this goal by adding an A (for Arts) to the equation. Thus, STEAM was born.

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STEAM brings a multitude of opportunities to classrooms across the country. Working together, science and art instructors might have their students build a bridge or design a diorama. Theater instructors might team up with math instructors to teach lessons about building sets for a play. Many schools and teachers find they were doing STEAM lessons without realizing it!

Beyond the classroom, museums have also stepped up to provide students with cross-disciplinary activities they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. NSLM is proud to join this educational revolution and show how sporting art is teeming with hands-on learning opportunities.

For example, did you know that there are math lessons hidden inside the artwork in NSLM’s collections?

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Finding Sea Hero’s proportions. How do artists use proportion?

 

Drawing with ratios- just like Da Vinci!

Not just math, either. It turns out that NSLM’s art collections are also chock-full of science!

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Visiting students use pieces from the permanent collection to learn about ecosystems, biomes, geographic zones, food chains, and even the water cycle!

How many herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores can you find in the paintings below? How many coniferous and deciduous trees? How many different kinds of waterways?

It’s not just sporting art, it’s natural science!

 

 

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John Frederick Herring, Jr. (English, 1815-1907) Eight Farmyard Vignettes oil on canvas, 16 x 16 inches. Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008.
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John Bucknell Russell (Scottish, 1820-1893) The Day’s Catch, c. 1865, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 29 1/4 inches. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Greenan, 2011
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Michael Lyne (English, 1912-1989) Frederick M.M. Warburg with Middleburg Hunt at Goose Creek c. 1950, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008.

Architects and engineers depend on art and design to create cities, roadways, and space shuttles. Artists, musicians, and designers use geometry, physics, mathematics, and technology to create culture as we know it. These topics are all tied very closely together, so it only makes sense that they appear in NSLM’s collections. But don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself!

Do you know an educator, parent, or PTO member who would like to book one of our STEAM-related tours? Contact Anne Marie Barnes, Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator, at ABarnes@NationalSporting.org (540) 687-6542 x25.


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Anne Marie Barnes is the Educational Programs Manager and Fellowship Advisor at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). Her passion for museum work began shortly after graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in History from James Madison University. Between her expeience working at the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center and the Washington Heritage Museums, she has done everything from designing summer camps to formulating major fundraisers. Have a question? Contact Anne Marie by e-mail

An enduring cultural myth about librarians is that they spend a lot of time reading. While we pretty much all love reading, and books, and research both wide-ranging and obscure, there’s a major reason many of us don’t read as much as we would like: no time. This blog is a blessing because it provides an opportunity to really interact with the collections at NSLM, and we get a chance to read a bit before diving back into our many projects.

What keeps us so busy in the Library? I’m glad you asked! I like to tell people that life in the Library is a lot like a duck: above the water, everything looks placid but under the surface, the feet are kicking fuiously.

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“Mallards,” from Thirteen Drawings by Robert Ball, c. 1950. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection. Note: actual Librarians may not fly.

As we head into the holidays, I figured it would be a great time to explain what has filled up our daily work in the Library in 2016.

Collections Projects

In 2016, we welcomed Erica Libhart, the Mars Librarian. Erica is a skilled technical services librarian and has used her background in cataloging and classification to push forward our Main Reading Room reprocessing project.

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The Library’s old filing system made inefficient use of space and posed difficulties in locating materials.

Under Erica’s energetic care, the Main Reading Room is more than 75% reprocessed. This means that all materials are being cataloged, labeled, and made findable on the NSLM online catalog. Findability is a huge deal for us, because if a book doesn’t show up correctly in the catalog, a researcher might miss out on a valuable resource.

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A unique classification system was created for NSLM’s sporting topics, and labels applied to make finding books easy. The Main Reading Room project has required reprocessing of over 6,000 volumes in 2016 and will be complete by Spring of 2017.

Also during this year, we have focused on our Archive Collections. As part of a larger shift to expand shelving and alleviate our shortage of space, we re-structured our archives and moved them to another part of the Library.

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Documents, letters, photographs, and ephemera were re-boxed and updated finding aids generated.
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Custom cabinets were built for the new Archive Room, which will become a silent study room upon completion.
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Over 2,750 containers across 165 boxes were inventoried, re-housed, and moved by hand to the new Archive Room on the Lower Level. 30 backlogged archive collections were processed and added, almost doubling the number of collections accessible at NSLM.

We’re indebted to part-time staff members Emily Perdue, Laura Shearer, and Jessica Festa and to NSLM’s archival interns for their help on the Archives in 2016. All of the new finding aids can be found on the NSLM archives website.

Maintenance Projects

It’s no mean feat to swap out a Library’s roof! As of this writing, our Library is closed for construction.

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We worked very hard to take our beloved Main Reading Room…
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…and completely wrap it up to protect collections from dust and debris generated by the project.
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Artwork, furniture, and trophies from the Main Reading Room take up more than half of the Founders’ Room.


Helping Researchers

People are usually surprised how much our collections are used by researchers. Here are a few of our vital stats from 2016 (as of this writing).

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So far in 2016, the Library has received 2,300 visits from guests and researchers. This figure only counts Library users, not program attendees or Museum visits. The number would be higher if NSLM were not obliged to close for our re-roofing project or due to a blizzard in January.

Although NSLM does not lend materials to take home, we do lend through the interlibrary loan system. We’ve lent 107 times through this system in 2016, which is more impressive when laid out on the map:

We also help with research requests every day. Requests come from e-mail, telephone, and in person.Over 430 research requests have been handled by two librarians this year, in addition to other projects.

Building for the Future

We’re running out of space in the Library. Our rate of donation has increased rapidly in the past few years. This winter we plan to install additional shelving to increase storage capacity by about 12,000 volumes. It’s a temporary measure, but coupled with a new Collection Management Policy, we hope these efforts will keep the collection safely housed for at least another five years before further expansion is required.

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Space on our shelves has slowly dwindled in the past few years. Our newest projects will expand storage capacity significantly.

Our Book Adoption Program has been a tremendous success, and only two books remain to be adopted. We’re also trying to build a prototype repository for our digital collections, and at the same time we’re upgrading our online catalog software.

Most importantly, much of what we do is focused on expanding access to our collections beyond the walls of the Library building. This blog is a large part of that, and it also affords us a rare chance to open the books and explore the collection. Now that winter is upon us, we’ll definitely be spending more time with some great books, magazines, and archival materials to share with you.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Most people are unaware of just how unusual the NSLM Library collections are. Most libraries set an acquisition plan and purchase their materials to fill the collection. However, almost everything at NSLM was donated by members of the sporting community, making it a unique communal reflection. We receive thousands of donated books every year, many are rare or antiquarian books.

Sadly, some donated books come to us in a very “well loved” condition. It’s impossible to make these damaged books available to the researchers that visit us. Further, it’s often prohibitively expensive to outright replace the book.

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Sporting Almanac, 1839 (B018). Adopt for $150.

This week, we launched our first-ever Book Adoption Program. We’re asking the public for assistance in restoring these books to a safe and usable condition, preserving their contents for future research.

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All adoptions will be commemorated with a special plate in the restored book. It’s an excellent way to honor friends and family for the holidays.

I’m excited by the response we’ve had to the program so far. With thousands of research visits every year, it’s critical for us to keep our books in a usable condition. So many of our titles are out of print, and for some of them, their contents are at risk of being lost for good. It’s intimidating (but true) that our donors and members often are all that stand between preservation or loss.

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Racing Calendars: 1866-1867 (B017). Adopt for $275.

What goes into book restoration? It all depends on what’s ailing the book. In many cases, our adoptable books are suffering from disintegrating spines, deteriorating paper or leather covers, detached boards, or weak hinges.

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Victorian Photo Album, .c 1890 (B003). Adopt for $300.

Each adoption covers the work of a qualified restoration professional to repair the damage.

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The Thoroughbred Horse, 1867 (B010). Adopt for $150.

We started with 18 books for adoption, and 13 were adopted in the first two days! The five books pictured in this blog post are still available for adoption.

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Ouvres de F. Baucher, 1867 (B013). Adopt for $275.

In the future we’ll have another blog post to cover the restoration work on some of our adopted books. If you are interested in learning more, you can get in touch or view our program catalog.


 

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

In the past week or so my cataloging project has reached the hunting section of our collection.  While the bulk of the books in this section are about fox hunting, there is a subset on… beagling.  Beagling?  At this point it will be obvious to those in the know, that I don’t have a background in sporting pursuits.  However, since I joined the NSLM staff last spring I’ve been learning quite a lot, much of it through skimming the books as I work with them and from my coworkers, but also a great deal from visitors to the library.  It turns out beagling is hare hunting using a pack of beagles with the field following behind on foot.

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

For more information I pulled Peter Wood’s, Thoughts on Beagling (1938), off the shelf.  He discusses the ideal conformation for beagles.  In his opinion, “Anyone who wishes to go steady should hunt with a 14-inch pack, at which size the pace of the hounds should generally be compatible with the capabilities of the followers.  Those who feel fit, energetic, and full of running should hunt with a 15- or 16-inch pack, which will give them, if there is a scent, all the exercise they can wish for.”  He describes the hunting year for beagling which includes rest and showing in the spring, increasing levels of exercise and training over the summer, and hunting September through March.  The staff of the hunt is introduced.  The roles of the Master, the Huntsman, and the Whippers-In are explained.  He also offers general guidance on appropriate behavior for members of the field following the pack.

Wood’s book stands out for me because of its lovely illustrations by Thomas Ivester Lloyd, a lifelong hunter and one time Master of the Sherington Foot Beagles.  His drawings clearly transmit a love of the sport.  Looking at his pictures, it is easy to imagine tramping along with the rest of the field, chasing after the hounds on a crisp, cold day.

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

 

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Thoughts on Beagling (1938)

I have been enjoying learning about sporting and equestrian topics as I work with NSLM’s collection.  If you’d like to learn more too, please drop in and see me in the main reading room.  The collection includes volumes on equestrian sports, hunting, wing shooting, and angling.  We have books on sporting art and a large selection of biographies detailing the life and times of sporting personalities past and present.


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Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

 

You see, I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain. – Dewey Newell

I once read that Dewey Newell, a member of the band, America, wrote the lyrics for the quintessential 1970s flower-power ballad, A Horse with No Name, inspired by the works of two artists – Salvador Dali’s surrealist desserts and M.C. Escher’s horsemen.

Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931)
Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931), source: https://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/salvador-dali/the-persistence-of-memory-1931.jpg

 

M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946
M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946, source: http://www.mcescher.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/E67-MC-Escher-No-67-Horseman-1946.jpg

Works such as these are obviously not intended to depict a particular horse. Sporting portraits, though, are usually realistic renderings of the unique physical traits a specific equine subject. Whenever I come across a portrait of an unnamed horse, America’s song inevitably crosses my mind, even if for a second. Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock, 1884, by Henry Stull was one of the paintings that made me hum the haunting tune to myself. The oil on canvas is a life estate bequest from George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. and has been on extended loan from Mrs. Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom to the National Sporting Library & Museum for several years.

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Henry Stull (American, 1851-1913) Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock,1884, oil on canvas, 29 x 39 inches, Collection of Jacqueline Ohrstrom

Who was this dark bay stallion? The painting also puzzled me because it is a bit of a departure for Stull and shows British influences.  The early composition was completed when he was still working as an illustrator, before he turned completely to easel painting (Burlew  94). The horizon line is low, which allowed an artist to contrast the subject against the sky as a background. The groom’s face is hidden. Was Stull masking his weakness in human portraiture, or was he emulating earlier sporting artists such as John Wootton who sometimes positioned grooms or jockeys facing away from the viewer or obstructed by compositional elements?

John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton's Grey Racehorse, 'Victorious,' at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection [source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034]
John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton’s Grey Racehorse, ‘Victorious,’ at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034
Stull’s painting is now on view in the exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, at the National Sporting Library & Museum through March 26th.  In researching the exhibit, I came across this Chronicle of the Horse cover:

The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.
The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.

It was a revelation. The horse had a name. The famed Duke of Magenta was a Preakness, Withers, Belmont, and Travers Stakes winner, and the painting was completed for the race horse’s owner George L. Lorillard, as noted in the unpublished manuscript, A Glow of Silver: Henry Stull, 1851-1913, by Frederick B. Burlew held in the NSLM’s manuscript collection. Additionally, the painting was previously owned by another founder of the NSLM, sporting scholar Alexander Mackay-Smith.

There is nothing that pleases me more than to reconnect the dots of history and provenance. “In the desert you can remember your name. ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain. La La la-lalalala…” – Dewey Newell


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

I find it hard to indefinitely ignore the things that catch my eye. Passing a shelf and seeing something day after day compels me to take a look, sooner or later. A pleasant-looking blue cloth binding had been beckoning to me from the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room for some weeks. Looking for something to blog about, I fished it out: A Leicestershire Sketch Book by Lionel Edwards.

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“A red ribbon in the tail denotes a kicker. Judging by the proportion of horses one sees so adorned, when one is going through a crowded gate, it is marvellous we come through alive.”

I’m a huge fan of Edwards’ work. He was a noteworthy sporting illustrator of the early 20th Century, and many of his sporting travels were memorialized in sketches compiled into published volumes.

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“All the same a voluntary is usually quite involuntary on our part. That depicted took place owing to my deciding to jump the fence, and the horse deciding to go through the gate. ‘In medio,’ etc. is not always a sound proverb!

Leicestershire is at the very heart of the English tradition of foxhunting. Reputedly the home to the first pack of foxhunting hounds. Edwards brings humor, realism, and thoughtful analysis to his sketch book.

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“The day after hunting I went back to sketch what I took to be the remains of [Thomas Boothby’s] kennels and yards, but there seems to be considerable doubt if what is left was not originally the walls of his kitchen garden, not the kennels.”
In sporting art, depictions of people, landscapes, and animals meet and combine. Edwards excels at sketch work that is both sharp and picturesque. My librarian side also appreciates that his art serves the communication of his own story.

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The Fernie Hunt. “[T]aken from the hillside below Carlton clump — in the distance Tur Langton Church.”
I’m glad I took the time to open this one! There are plenty more like it that I hope to browse soon.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail