Lady Masters of Foxhounds (Lady MFH) are a compelling topic around the NSLM lately! When that happens around here, it’s usually time to take to the shelves to see what our collections can tell us. For this topic, I checked out the “The Story of American Foxhunting; From Challenge to Full Cry” by J. Blan Van Urk.

Shelf of foxhunting literature in the main reading room
Shelf of foxhunting literature in the main reading room

“The Story of American Foxhunting,” published in 1940, tells the story of foxhunting history in North America. The book is written in two volumes; Volume I covers 1650-1861 and Volume II covers 1865-1906. This classic book is a comprehensive history. I dug in to see what I could find here on Lady MFH.

Title page of "The Story of American Foxhunting." I love the red fox mask
Title page of “The Story of American Foxhunting.” I love the red fox mask

Women in hunting have few mentions in these pages. Interesting tidbit: did you know Martha Washington used to hunt with her husband George?

Martha joins her husband George in the hunt
Martha joins her husband George in the hunt

Martha wasn’t a MFH though. The first Lady MFH, according to Van Urk, was Mrs. Gertrude Rives Potts with the Castle Hill Hounds in the early 1900s.

"In modern times, the Castle Hill hounds made history when...it became the first pack of record to be owned and hunted by an American woman, Mrs. Allen Potts, MFH"
“In modern times, the Castle Hill Hounds made history when…it became the first pack of record to be owned and hunted by an American woman, Mrs. Allen Potts, MFH. Here indeed is romance in sport!”
Mrs. Potts, MFH
Mrs. Potts, MFH

Mrs. Potts’ story with the Castle Hill Hounds leads to Urk’s discussion of previous ideas of women as incapable of hunting. It appears that opinions were, for a long time, that women could ride well but not well enough for hunting. While Urk does discuss the controversy surrounding women’s roles on the field, he also leaves us with this (remember, this was published in 1940): “The ladies – God Bless them! What would hunting be without them!”

If the stories, history, and controversy of Lady Masters of Foxhounds is a topic you wish to learn more about, join us on May 23th at the NSLM for The Dynamic Role of Lady Masters: A Foxhunting Roundtable. A panel of Lady MFH will join in an open and candid discussion, with time for questions and comments from the audience. Reception begins at 12:30 pm, and the roundtable discussion is from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Email for more information.

Our recent Fellow, Collin McKinney, has left the NSLM and returned to Bucknell University. We asked Collin to share some of his experiences over the last two months in Middleburg and in our collections. Here’s what he had to share.

I arrived in Middleburg on a sunny day at the beginning in January. I think it might have been the only sunny day during my entire stay. Notwithstanding the snow and cold—and it sure was cold—I spent a fantastic two months working at the National Sporting Library. During my eight weeks in Middleburg I had a simple routine. I would wake up and go for a jog around town and out by the Salamander Resort. After breakfast I would work at the library, compiling notes and references from the books in the library’s collection. After lunch and an espresso at Common Grounds I would head back to the library and work until closing time. After dinner in the cottage I would review my notes for the day and plan my work for the next morning. That might not seem very exciting to most people, but for an academic to be able to escape department meetings, course prep, and household chores in order to focus on research, it was pure bliss.

My short stay was extremely productive. I am researching the link between masculinity, militarism, and sport in Spain. Although the library’s collection is especially rich in American and British sources, there are also some real treasures on Spain. I found books on bullfighting, jousting, fencing, dueling, and hunting. One of my favorite discoveries was a hunting manual attributed to the King Alfonso XI, Libro de la montería (the NSLM has an 1582 edition as well as a facsimile version from the nineteenth century).

Cover page from "Libro de la Monteria" used in Collin's research
Cover page from “Libro de la Monteria” used in Collin’s research

Besides being a fascinating description of the hunting practices in medieval Spain, it confirms the link between hunting and martial success. King Alfonso tells his readers that: “a knight should always engage in anything to do with arms and chivalry, and if he cannot do so in war, he should do so in activities which resemble war. And the chase is most similar to war.” Over the centuries, as military activity became professionalized and Spain created a standing army, men no longer needed to hunt but continued to do so for pleasure.

Woodcut illustration from "Libro de monteria"
Woodcut illustration from “Libro de  la monteria”

While a cursory glance might suggest that modern sport is far removed from the battlefield, a more careful look will reveal the link between field sports, indeed all sport, and warfare.  The next time you turn on a football game, notice the military rhetoric used by sportscasters, watch the strategies involved as teams attack and defend their terrain, and note the way spectators demonstrate their loyalties with flags, fight songs, and uniforms as they celebrate symbolic battles of controlled violence.

Another illustration from "Libro de la monteria" - Dogs and men hunting elk with a fence barrier
Another illustration from “Libro de la monteria” – Dogs and men hunting elk

During the coming months I plan to write two articles. The first is titled “How to Be a Man in Nineteenth-Century Spain,” which will outline the tension between traditional, rough masculinity and modern, refined masculinity. This study will examine the rise of the bullfight as an example of the way that bellicose masculinity was socialized, codified, and relegated to the sporting arena by Spain’s middle class. The second article I plan to write deals with the sportification of warfare more generally, beginning with medieval field sports and continuing to present-day activities like soccer and tennis.

 


With snow still on the ground and the temps way colder than we prefer here in Virginia, I’m thinking ahead to summer for many reasons. One in particular is that summer means internship time! I’m a big fan of internship programs. In the liberal arts fields, especially museums, internships are essential for gaining experience and getting started in your career. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunities I found through museum internships, so I’m always excited to work with students and help them along on their career path. Plus, interns can provide a huge amount of help to all of us here at the NSLM! (Not to mention they are often young, tech savvy college kids who help me figure out all the latest apps for my iPhone.) It’s a win-win-win.

Are you, or a student you know, interested in an internship at the NSLM? We are now accepting applications for Summer 2015. Take a look at the available positions and application instructions on the NSLM website here.

Last summer, we were lucky to have three fantastic recent college graduates spend several weeks interning at the NSLM. They were kind enough to take time out of their busy young-people lives and answer a few questions for us.

Our 2014 all-star line up was:

Kasey Morris – Princeton University, Class of 2014, Major: Classical Studies

Emily Perdue – Winthrop University, Class of 2014, Major: History, with concentrations in Art History and German

Anna Carneal – Longwood University, Class of 2014, Major: Public History

 

1. What led you to look for a library or museum internship?

Kasey: The summer before my senior year at Princeton, I went on an archaeological excavation and realized how much I really liked handling artifacts and objects; it was fascinating to begin to understand history from a more physical, hands-on perspective.  I knew that I wanted (and needed) to get more experience in a museum setting if I wanted to seriously pursue such a field of work in the future.

Emily: I heard about the internship program from a family member who had recently become an NSLM member. I was looking for an internship for the summer after graduation, in order to start getting some experience in a museum or library field. I was extremely excited to learn more about the program. It was a perfect opportunity to learn more about what I wanted to make a career in.

Anna: After graduating from Longwood, I wanted to stay involved with museums – I figured interning at the NSLM would be the perfect opportunity to get hands-on experience and apply what I learned at school in the field. Plus it’s a great resume builder!

 

Anna Carneal, in museum art storage
Anna Carneal, in museum art storage
  1. Who did you work with and what types of projects did you work on during your time here?

Kasey: I mostly worked with Nicole Stribling, but also had the chance to assist Claudia Pfeiffer and Alexandra McKay. I gained a lot of experience not only with the curatorial side of things, but also with the membership and events aspects of museum work, to include helping at the front desk and being involved with the annual polo benefit match. The great thing about my NSLM internship was that I was able to learn at least a little about all the things that make a museum run efficiently by interacting with almost all members of the staff at one point or another.

Emily: I had the opportunity to work with John Connolly, the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian, on archive collections. My first project was sorting through and creating an archival system for documents and photographs from the family of Leon Rasmussen, a journalist and editor for the Daily Racing Form. (He was the creator of the “Rasmussen Factor” which looks at the effect of inbreeding in stallions and how that determines the level at which they could win). The archival project was by far my favorite during my internship because it gave me the knowledge and experience in the field that I’ve always wanted to work.

Anna: I worked with Nicole Stribling, Curator of Permanent Collections at the Museum, on a variety of projects – many involving work with the collections database, called EmbARK. This included helping to complete a thorough inventory of the art collection in the Library and Museum, and conducting research on artists in the database.

 

Emily Perdue and Front Desk Attendant Laura Shearer at the 2014 NSLM Polo Event
Emily Perdue (right) and Front Desk Attendant Laura Shearer (left) at the 2014 NSLM Polo Event (Photo by Julie Napear)
  1. What was your favorite part of your NSLM internship?

Kasey: My favorite project was definitely completing the initial processing on a very large collection of antique dog collars which were donated to the museum. This included measuring, photographing, and researching collars which ranged in date from around the 4th century BC through the 20th century, from places all over the world! There were so many interesting stories connected to particular pieces – names of pets and messages from their owners inscribed on collars, including one from a small pub in England and another connected to a famous World War I American general. However, even more than this particular project, I would have to say that my favorite part overall was getting to meet and work with everyone – NSLM is a wonderful community of incredibly intelligent and fun people.

Emily: My favorite part of my NSLM internship was being given the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people and in a wonderful institution, on projects that have given me great experience and new knowledge. I graduated with a degree in History and have always wanted to work within a museum or as an archivist.  As far as a specific project that was my favorite, the Rasmussen archival project was definitely the best.  I was able to work on it on my own to create a system for searching the documents that had been donated. It was awesome to learn more about Leon Rasmussen and his career first-hand.

Anna: My favorite part of the internship was how tightly knit the full time staff seems to be. It helps working at a smaller institution because you can get a better view on how a museum runs. I feel it’s important to know more than just one single aspect of how a museum operates, because a future job may require a more diverse skill set than what is listed in the job description.

 

  1. What’s next in your academic or work career?

Kasey: I am currently working on my Master’s in Classical Archaeology at Oxford, with an emphasis on Roman portraiture and the history of collecting classical art. I volunteer in the museum system here (mostly working on coin cataloguing at the Ashmolean), and I hope to stay in the UK to pursue a doctorate in either archaeology or ancient history.

Emily: I am currently working part-time at the NSLM and am still learning so much about working in a museum every day, which is absolutely amazing. I love every minute of it! I am planning on attending graduate school soon to get my Master’s degree in Museum Studies. I am also hoping to find a full-time job at an historical institution to continue learning and gaining new experiences as much as I can.

Anna: I recently accepted a full time position as a Museum Educator with Morven Park in Leesburg. I am excited to see where this job leads me over the next couple of years as an emerging Museum Professional.

Kasey Morris, in her Oxford matriculation outfit
Kasey Morris, in her Oxford matriculation outfit

A big Thank you and Congratulations to our interns for all of their hard work and accomplishments!

This week I wanted to write a little bit about libraries in general. Like many things today, libraries are easily decried as out-of-date relics. Librarianship has no lack of people to prophesy doom in the future. And yet, sometimes the trends might surprise you. Take, for example, a recent Washington Post story, reporting that for serious reading, younger generations prefer printed books to e-reader text.

The preference for print over digital can be found at independent bookstores such as the Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick, Md., where owner Marlene England said millennials regularly tell her they prefer print because it’s “easier to follow stories.” Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

Michael S. Rosenwald, The Washington Post, “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.” February 22, 2015. Accessed March 3, 2015.

The nature of the book lends itself to greater comprehension. It’s likely no accident: screens and monitors have existed a paltry 80 years compared to the thousands of years of human reading and writing. I’m not terribly surprised that digital natives are rediscovering the value of printed books.

IMG_6575
According to the Washington Post, millenials report preferring print books to digital ones. Guess who has a generous supply of print books?
Libraries exude timelessness. The earliest libraries date to over 4,500 years ago.

Over the past 100 years, libraries have transformed from restrictive repositories of information to open-access spaces for exploration and study. The NSLM Main Reading Room is designed for comfort while reading.

The Librarian can attest... those cushions are just as soft as you suspect.
The Librarian can attest… those cushions are just as soft as you suspect.

I’ve seen quite a few visitors come to the Library over the past year to enjoy the Main Reading Room, even if they weren’t reading books. The addition of wireless internet access has made it an ideal space to study and conduct research projects.

The reading alcove is a comfortable place to settle in and read.
The reading alcove is a comfortable place to settle in, either for reading or browsing.
We've welcomed many new guests this year who come to enjoy the quiet beauty of the Main Reading Room.
We’ve welcomed many new guests this year who come to enjoy the beauty of the Main Reading Room.

The Main Reading Room holds more than just books. Paintings, prints, sculptures, and framed flies decorate the space. I think the room expresses a warm, at-home feeling. I hope to see you in the Main Reading Room soon!

It’s cold outside. Why not come in and enjoy a book?