To Kill a Habsburg: An Explanation of Historiography

by James Rucker

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered why people continue to write new history books about very old topics, and why libraries need to buy them? Once something happens, it doesn’t change, right? So why can’t we just read old books about it and be done with it? In today’s post, James explains how historiography–or the study of historical writing–has changed over time, and how various approaches to history differ. –Brittney Reed-Saltz

Like any trained professionals, historians have a history, and there are two watershed moments where we could start telling it. The first is in ancient Greece, with Herodotus. Renouncing the authority of myth and legend, he embarked on a self-critical pursuit of knowledge. When interviewing witnesses to the events, he did what any good attorney does to a witness in a court of law: He cross-examined them. He called his book Inquiries. (The ancient Greek word was ‘istoriai, the root of our modern word “history.” Modern translations just call the book Histories.) For our purposes, it doesn’t matter whether Inquiries is entirely free of errors or assumptions; it quite obviously isn’t. What matters is it represents an undeniable and fundamental shift in the concept of historical truth: It is not something to be related, it is something to be discovered. This attitude has generally characterized historians ever since.

The history of history-writing (historiography) since the Inquiries has taken many forms.

Read More »

Library Cookbooks: Savings to be Thankful For

by Kathleen Tyree

I am thankful for the vast and ever-changing collection of cookbooks in our library system.  Cooking has always been passion for me. Mom went through a nouveau cuisine phase when I was the only child left at home, and this had a huge impact on my understanding of food and dining.  But cookbooks are expensive! By checking out the new offerings at the library, I can decide if a book is worth purchasing for my personal collection.

(Of course, by using my tablet in the kitchen I can go to Saveur or Food 52 and follow recipes online.  But that just isn’t “the same”.) I also shop at the Friends of Linebaugh Library book sales for cook books – great deals and adventure found there.

According to my records in Goodreads, I average 10 cookbooks every year (this doesn’t count the dozens I flip through when they are returned by other patrons).  Thanks to my library, that’s $300+ saved annually on just cookbooks!

Favorites from the RCLS shelves:

I always try at least one recipe, that’s why they are written after all.

Here are a few I enjoyed, so glad they’re at the library because I’d never buy:

I found this last one when walking through the 641s at Smyrna Public Library.  Not an item I would have thought to search for, didn’t know it existed!  My husband and I have been very pleased in learning the history of bread, pasta, potatoes, and more through historic texts and tapestries.  

Thank you, RCLS, for anticipating this foodie’s need to learn more about food!

Yarn Love: Kicking an Unhealthy Habit and Finding a Passion

by Marlene Kupsch

I am too young for this yarn obsession!

There was a time in my life where I thought that I would never be old enough to use yarn for any purpose. I was the one who made fun of everyone younger than, say, 80, including two of my closest friends for acting like Grandma and Grandpa. There was even a time where I was obnoxious in my taunting, and I may have snorted with laughter a time or two. Surely, only old people did that, or people with nothing better to do. I was too cool for that! Turns out I was completely wrong, and I needed to apologize to my friends.

I had decided to quit smoking, and I needed something to keep my hands busy. I immediately thought of my friends and their hobbies. So I went to the local craft store, and I bought a few skeins of yarn and a 5 mm hook. My idea was to learn to crochet a granny square afghan and drape it across my sofa like I used to see on a TV show growing up. Now, did I run right out to the library and grab some books full of beautiful patterns? No way, José. I did not want anyone to see me with those uncool books. The fun part was, I worked at a library and saw these books everyday. I knew there was an endless supply of beautiful patterns that were FREE and available to me. Pride, people, my pride just would not let me.

So, home now from the craft store, where no one can see me,  I do what everyone does: I Google what I want to know. Well, wouldn’t you know there are thousands of videos to choose from. I felt intimidated and frustrated immediately. I spent an hour trying to find a video that wasn’t too fast or slow, because remember, I was detoxing that nicotine out of my body and was quite irritated that this was not simpler and I couldn’t figure it out. I hated having to pause and rewind, or worse yet,  the person talked really slow and I had to fast forward. I had succeeded in making knots and chains, a few single crochet stitches, but mostly I just kept “frogging” my weird little knotted creation and trying to make the same thing over and over again. I wanted to give up! But oh, I had this beautiful yarn and I had never quit anything before. I know, I was quitting smoking, but hey, there are always exceptions!

The next day on my lunch break, I run off to the nonfiction section and I find the 746s. I pulled book after book after book off the shelf and wanted to take them all home. There were titles like First Time Crochet: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide, Deborah Burger; Crochet : The Complete Step-By-Step Guide, DK Publishing, Inc.; Easy Weekend Crochet Hats: A Ski-Style Collection for the Entire Family, Jennifer J. Cirka; Granny Squares & Shapes : 20 Crochet Projects for You and Your Home, Susan  Pinner… I mean it was endless and so secretly exciting! I imagined myself in a blanket fort in my living room with all of these books, intertwined with yarn and hooks spread out all around me. I was excited and inspired! I was going to make afghans for everyone I knew, and I would have them all done for Christmas! Deflating my happy balloon now… If you have ever tried to crochet, you find out a few things. One being that there is something called time, and that sucker gets in the way. Thankfully, though, the time it took me to learn the basic stitches to crochet a lap size afghan, a few scarves, and one Christmas gift, two and a half months had passed and I was nicotine-free and I had a rewarding hobby that I loved!

It’s been a few years since then, and I have been crocheting away! I love it, and I am nowhere near 80 years old. I offer my humble apologies to anyone whose feelings I have hurt about their yarn love! Through the years I have created many different projects and I am currently hooked on making amigurumi animals. Snuggle and Play Crochet: 40 Amigurumi Patterns for Lovey Security Blankets and Matching Toys  by Carolina Guzman Benitez is one that I borrowed, renewed, and then I didn’t want to give back. I was lucky enough to receive a copy for Mother’s Day! Thanks, Bro!!

P.S. I am still smoke-free!!

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Do you share Marlene’s yarn obsession, or do you want to get into knitting or crocheting? Come to the Smyrna Knitting and Crochet Group or the Yarn Love group at Linebaugh! Check out our events calendar for more details.  

 

I Forgot, What Was That Word, Again?

by Marlene Kupsch

You know when you walk in a room and you stand there for a second and laugh cause you have no idea why you went in there? You’re talking to someone and you can’t think of that word, yeah you know, the one you say when you want to sound smart?  It eventually comes back, right? What if it didn’t? What if that happened to you with every single thing in your daily life? What if it repeatedly happened and your doctor told you that it will only get worse and he can’t stop it?

I have the joy of meeting and spending time with some pretty great people through volunteering with a local hospice. Most of the patients I meet are older and have a variety of health issues. One very common health issue is Dementia/Alzheimer’s. It is not an easy disease to understand, and I feel grateful that most times the patients do not know what is happening to them and they do not suffer. One special lady, who has the symptoms of Dementia/ Alzheimer’s loves to do crafty things. I came across these styrofoam shapes that you push colored tissue paper into with a little plastic stick. She loved it and was very pleased upon completion. Although she no longer remembers where she has left her rainbow, and that we made it together, she does remember how to use the plastic stick. She smiles every time I pull the stick out of my bag for another project! Repetition for our brains, very important!

I am pretty biased and believe that nurses are smarter than doctors (two of my aunts are great nurses), but to help better understand from the doctor’s perspective there is Alzheimer’s Disease: The Complete Introduction by Dr. Judes Poirier and Dr. Serge Gauthier. This one has color photos and diagrams to help you better understand what happens to the brain and body as you go through all of the different stages. For a more hands on approach, I recommend Alzheimer’s Activities That Stimulate the Mind. I have found that books like these that are written by nurses are always on point and make you feel the love and time that was put into it. I will be putting these activities to good use. Emilia C. Bazan-Salazar, R.N., B.S.N., I, Thank you!              

Children have a hard time understanding that just because they can’t see it happening, that our brains change. Also, as parents we want to protect our children from all the scary things that life throws at them.  Faraway Grandpa written by Roberta Karim tells the story of Kathleen and the special bond she shares with her grandpa. Every summer she visits him and he always does the same things to make her smile. One summer, Grandpa forgets to do his shenanigans and even comes to live with Kathleen. She then figures out that when she sings their special song that the “clouds” will lift from Grandpa for just a few minutes and that’s where she can always find him. I am not a fan of telling children lies or sugar coating many things. The last thing you could want is your child realizing you lied to them. I believe that you should answer any and all questions that they have, but don’t give more details than necessary. Besides,  they get bored fairly quickly!

Finding Nemo and of course Finding Dory! No other explanation needed!  

Even adult children can sometimes have a hard time with this and need the comfort of each other to get through!  The film Savages is about a dysfunctional family that must come together to help Dad (Philip Bosco) when he starts showing signs of dementia. Son (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and daughter (Laura Linney) place Dad in a nursing home and then care for him through his remaining time, while struggling with their own personal lives.  

The family and caretakers are the ones who experience most of the emotional effects of Dementia/Alzheimer’s. It’s a difficult situation to be in when someone starts forgetting who you are and what is happening to them. It hurts, and it hurts a lot! I often think that because memory loss runs in my family, that I should make sure that my nearest and dearest understand my wishes, if this were to happen to us. It’s not typical table talk, but it is definitely an important conversation to have. All too often I come across a family who, when asked a question of this nature, sound the crickets, all look at each other, and wait for someone to answer. That’s not going to help when you can no longer make your own decisions and your family is arguing over what you would want. Let them know! Today!

The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman will give you a glimpse of what it might be like to start losing your memory. The main character, Claire, is suffering from Dementia/ Alzheimer’s. When she is lost, so are you. When she doesn’t understand, neither do you. It made me think about being in her place and what I would want my family to know if this started happening to us.  

I do not know how it feels to be on the spousal end of this disease, and I hope that I never have to. Since I have been watching  films and reading books on the subject, I at least have a glimpse of what it might be like. Away From Her, a Canadian film, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent is based on Alice Munro’s short story, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” The film  won seven Genie Awards. Seven! The story is about a husband and wife who have lived over 40 years together. She has started to show signs of Alzheimer’s and moves into a facility that can care for her around the clock. Upon moving in, they cannot see each other for 30 days. In those 30 days, she forms a close bond with another resident and forgets who her husband is. You go through this with him, you feel lost and betrayed, and in the end, you also feel all the love he has!     

I believe that this is one of the worst diseases ever.  It’s a hunter that has no rules or regulations. There is no cure, and it slowly attacks and eats your brain. You cannot run and hide, it comes from within you! We must fight it head on! 

Help me raise awareness! The state of Tennessee participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Hopefully, by the time you have read this,  I have completed my 2 mile walk in Nashville and donated a few bucks to a worthy cause that affects my family and I. There are local walks in your area in the month of November. Put on your sneakers and get going!!

31 Books About Witches

by Britney Reed-Saltz

For centuries the witch has been a powerful archetype. Feared or revered, emulated or persecuted, her position in society has evolved throughout history, but one thing has remained certain: her presence.

What better time than now, as Halloween approaches, to sit for a spell and read tales of witchcraft? Whether you prefer fantasy, romance, horror, mystery, or nonfiction, this list will point you to the grimoire you seek.

Garden Spells  Sarah Addison Allen (magical realism, series)witches 1

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (magical realism, series)

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (fantasy, series)

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (humorous fantasy, series)

The Good House by Tananarive Due (horror)

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (horror)

witches 2The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (historical fantasy, series)

Bell, Book, and Murder by Rosemary Edghill (mystery, series)

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M. J. Rose (historical fiction)

Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood (YA short stories)

The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell (YA fantasy)

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (fantasy, series)witches 3

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay (historical fiction)

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan (historical fiction)

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé (historical fiction)

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (fiction)

Circe by Madeline Miller (historical fiction)

witches 5The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (historical fiction, series)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (YA historical fiction, series)

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA Afrofuturism/fantasy, series)

Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen (YA fantasy, series)

The Graces by Laure Eve (YA paranormal fantasy, series)

Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan (YA paranormal fantasy, series)witches 6

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw (YA paranormal fantasy, series)

Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts (romance, series)

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell (cozy mystery, series)

The King of Bones and Ashes by J. D. Horn (urban fantasy, series)

witches 9Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (urban fantasy, series)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (urban fantasy, series)

Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (nonfiction)

Witches of America by Alex Mar (nonfiction)

 

 

 

 

 

Roots, Heritage, and the Antiquarian Way

by James Rucker 

Just a few minutes before I began writing,  I reshelved a total of sixty-eight books in a locked room on the second floor at Linebaugh. Genealogy enthusiasts among you might already know the room in question, though it goes by multiple names. Some call it the Tennessee Room. Others call it the Historical Research room (or HR Room for short). Our more functionalist patrons call it the “Genealogy Room.” I’ve even heard some older patrons refer to it as “the Vault,” which was its nickname, according to one of them, at our former location at 110 W College Street. Way back when, Murfreesboro’s post office had a room with a locked, metal gateway where they stored valuables. When Linebaugh Library moved into the building, they repurposed this “Vault” into an archive of various official records and historical publications. We eventually moved to our current location and now the former post office houses the Murfreesboro Center for the Arts.

When our current building was under construction, the head librarian at the time, Briley Adcock, gave a tour to some reporters from the Daily News Journal. The interview ran on May 3rd, 1992.

archive blog 1

Adcock was particularly enthusiastic about the new accommodations to local historians, both professional and casual. As the reporter wrote, “Also on the second floor is Adcock’s favorite room, a new improved version of the Tennessee Room./ ‘It’s about three times larger than what we have now,’ she said. / Stored in the Tennessee Room will be all the library’s geneological [sic] resources, she said, as well a copy machine, microfilm readers and a vault for storing rare volumes. / ‘The people who use this part of the building regularly will be really pleased,’ she said.”

Archival documents say both too much and too little at the same time. It can be overwhelming to think of the volume of material to comb through. Of course, the modern world is riddled with unchecked bureaucracies and their meticulous record-keeping, but we mustn’t mistake the chatter in the archives for a clear voice. In a way, these many words say nothing at all. Documents aren’t self-conscious and can’t interpret themselves. Therefore, the archive cannot speak for itself; the historian must speak for it. If I may repurpose an ironic quip from a 19th-century, German journalist, “They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented.”

For those who don’t know where to begin, I will recommend a book: The Allure of the Archives by Arlette Farge. Don’t judge the book by its call number (it is miscategorized); it may be shelved with books on the French Revolution (944.04), but it is actually about historical research methods and what to expect when you visit an archive. I found her prose not only instructive but also a pleasure to read. As Natalie Zemon Davis wrote in her introduction, “Arlette Farge takes us into archives and pulls us into the experience of research” (xi-xii). It isn’t a dry instructional manual, but a visceral and tactile read that aquaints you with the textures, discomforts, and pleasures one should expect.

However, more than anything, Farge wants us to prepare to be surprised. For example, when looking into the history of my mother’s family, I consulted census data from Dickson county in the 1800s. Strangely enough, during one decade’s census, the number of people in my family’s household spiked. There were unfamiliar people several different surnames between them. Clearly my family had taken in several, seemingly random, people, only for them to disappear a decade later. Perhaps they were refugees? Or maybe my family had hired some people to help out on the family farm? Had I investigated further, I might have found out more, but  for the time being it is a mystery. To quote Davis again, “Arlette Farge is our guide — for the unexpected, the surprise. We rejoice when we make a find, even though the story or event itself may be sad, troubling, ghastly, baffling; even though it may oblige us to rethink our earlier understanding of our topic and restructure it” (xii).

We must be careful, however. Archives are, of course, products of institutions or governments which have objectives and desires. Therefore, archives, like all institutions, have biases. A census, like the one I consulted above, views its subjects as quantifiable entities, to be counted and categorized so officials can draw districts and collect taxes. The state collects this data in order to govern more easily and effectively. This state-bias is perhaps most clear in Farge’s own case, since she works with the records of arrests and interrogations kept by French police. As she puts it, “most of the dossiers ultimately put forward only one version of the events, that of public order and police authority. The questions that were asked have a policeman’s directness. Above all, the police were looking to identify the culprits” (87). The perspective of the judicial archives has an accusing eye, one that sees the population as a problem to be solved; “in a sense, they catch the city red-handed: craftily maneuvering around the rules, refusing outright to accept the policemen’s vision of order, choosing to acclaim or snub its kings, and rising up whenever it feels threatened. When reading the police records, you can see to what extent resistance, defiance, and even open revolt are social facts to which the city is accustomed. […] Deviance and marginality are powerfully indicative of political authority and of norms, and each type of crime reflects an aspect of the society in which it occurred” (25 & 27). Farge stresses how important it is to overcome this bias of an archive and capture the voices of those common people under their regime. “As historians, we must take into account the reflexes, habits, and weaknesses of the police” (88). As I mentioned above, a census doesn’t see people as concrete individuals but as abstract quantities without any qualities it considers irrelevant. To the eyes of the census, people only exist to be counted. And in the antebellum South, the census counted certain “properties” as only three-fifths of a whole person. I am, of course, referring to slaves.

In many cases, these biases are  most visible where the archive falls silent. The census has nothing to say when it comes to the parts of life we care about most. For those moments, most people have birth and death certificates or records of marriage and divorce, but not everyone has those resources. African American genealogy illustrates this problem quite clearly. Precise records of the births, deaths, marriages, and divorces of slaves were rarely kept in much of the antebellum South. Alex Haley’s Roots and the miniseries of the same name might be the most famous genealogical work to date, but it was a remarkable achievement precisely because of the hurdles my people sometimes have to go through when finding out about our heritage. My father once told me about how hard it was to find information when trying to map out his paternal bloodline.

Daniel, my great-great-grandfather, was the last man in that part of my family to be born a slave; therefore, he had no birth certificate. The earliest record of him was when he was mentioned in a court case. When a plantation owner with our last name died, there was a lawsuit to determine who would inherit the estate. In court, they had to list every piece of property, slaves included. Among them, there was a single child of the correct age named Daniel who we assume must be our ancestor. But there is no way to be sure. This court case is as far back as our paternal bloodline goes. My paternal grandmother’s line, by contrast, can be traced all the way back to the auction block, where my ancestor and her mother were sold separately, cutting that tie forever. But it isn’t state documents that let us trace our family that far, but an oral tradition that was passed down every generation to us (similar to the one in Alex Haley’s family).  Examples like those above show how creative a researcher has to be with archival evidence, since it is not always obvious where to find the needed information. They also show the importance of oral tradition for filling in gaps in the documentary record.

For those interested in researching their own families, now is the perfect time. October is Family History Month in the United States, and upstairs at Linebaugh is a book display by our own Lisa Ramsay, showing some of our available materials on genealogical research.

arhive blog graphic

After that you can take a look at the HR room to your left, or walk down the non-fiction stacks to “929” where you can check out a book on genealogy to take home. If Linebaugh doesn’t have what you need, we also have an HR room at our Smyrna branch, and the Rutherford County Archives are at 423 Rice Street, northwest of the Murfreesboro town square. Perhaps you’ll find some answers, or even better, some questions. And next month, at the Thanksgiving table, you might be able to ask them of your grandparents (or whoever your oldest living relatives are). If all else fails, you can ask them to tell you about their own grandparents.

And when you get the chance, check out Allure of the Archives for yourself. I’ll close with another quote from Davis’s introduction: “Newcomers to historical studies will welcome Arlette Farge’s introduction to archival research. Amateur history enthusiasts will be fascinated by her insider’s account of how historians practice their craft. But old-timer’s like me will have their memories enriched and their understanding deepened by this book” (xiii).

Is It Clutter or a Hoard?

by Marlene Kupsch

Yes, I am referring to the people who collect things–a lot of things–and yet they believe they still do not have enough. Most of us have a Hoarder/Collector in our own families. Their collection may not be as big as the ones you see on the TV show Hoarders that airs on A&E, but they are there. We are told that the reason people hoard is a compulsive need to acquire things that comes from a traumatic experience. Roughly 16 million people in the U. S. are affected by it.

Well, what do we do when we see the signs, whether in ourselves or someone else? I can tell you first-hand that it is frustrating to want to help someone, and they refuse to acknowledge it is even a problem. This is not an easy subject for me or my family. I believe most of us would rather speak about death, and even that is taboo! So, my hope is to give you a few options on reading material so that you can try to understand a bit more.

There are two little fantastic hardcover books, less than 150 pages each, that will help you in the hinting department to your loved one. The Art of D*scard*ng, written with lots of joy by Nagisa Tatsumi, would make a great stocking stuffer! This books gives you the permission your loved one needs to throw it away!

I love to throw things away and I get such euphoria every time I accumulate a bag or two to drive over to the dump. When I get back and see that space empty and clean, I feel like I cleansed my soul. Truthfully!

The other one is The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I like the way Margareta draws little pictures in the book. I think it is her way of trying to lighten the mood and not make you feel like you are being targeted and should be punished for what you have accumulated. She gives you tips on sorting and cleaning, and helps you focus on what is really important. Cleaning used to be a compulsive need for me. Everything had to be in its place, and every dust bunny must be chased into the field, especially if company was planned. Oh dear, then I spent all night the night before making sure everything was spotless. I was unable to sleep till it was. I certainly do not recommend this extreme, either! I lost a lot of time cleaning instead of spending every moment I could with my daughter when she was growing up.

So if you have A&E or Hulu and feel like bingeing some episodes (it becomes addictive) of Hoarders, watching the transformation of the people and the houses they clean, is utterly amazing. Max Paxton, who is one of the cleaning specialists on the show, has written a book called The Secret Lives of Hoarders : True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter. We also have a few more books here in our library catalog that are worth a gander: Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. 

Happy cleaning!