Friday, December 1, 2017

Getting into the Spirit

Black and white photo of college students walking to class on the green in the snow with the christmas tree in the backgroundThis evening, the giant Christmas tree on the Green will be lighted to start the holiday season here in Hanover. It is a really festive evening: there are carols, cookies and hot chocolate, and horse drawn wagons full of cute kids. Still, there is something missing--college students. Now that Fall term ends just before Thanksgiving, the undergraduate have almost all gone home and we don't get to see scenes like the one pictured here from 1940--students tromping to class in the snow with the tree towering over them on the Green.

Here in Rauner, there will be plenty of good cheer in December. Next week we will put up a small display featuring Christmas lore created by two Dartmouth alumni: Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Robert May's Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Both stories--one a bit saccharine, the other more acerbic--are sure to put you in the spirit the of the season.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Cover art from A. Greely's Three Years in the Arctic showing a man struggling in a storm with a compass in the background pointed north.Feeling stuffed after your Thanksgiving dinner? Our latest digitized collection, David Brainard's Diary, may make you appreciate that overly-full feeling. In 1881, Lieutenant Adolphus Greely led an expedition into the Arctic as part of the First International Polar Year. After a period of relative comfort and success, bad luck hit the expedition and they were forced to retreat southward to Ellesmere Island to await rescue. From March 1st to June 21st, 1884, young Sargeant David Brainard kept a meticulous diary. At the start, there were 25 living crew members; in the end, only six survived--most died from starvation (one was shot for stealing food from the others). At least some who survived resorted to "the last dread alternative," a euphemism for cannibalism.

Page 221 of Brainard's diary
Brainard's diary, now housed here in Special Collections, elides the incidents of cannibalism, but he carefully documents the daily life and struggles of the crew as they slowly perished. Independent scholar Laura Waterman transcribed Brainard's diary and she has allowed us to put up her transcriptions side-by-side with the scanned page images. Laura also provided an essay that introduces Brainard's story and the diary. The diary is a harrowing read: Brainard had a talent for writing, and the diary puts you on Ellesmere Island with him. It will make this winter's weather seem like nothing, and it may inspire you to make good use of those holiday leftovers.

To see the actual diary, ask for Stef MSS-189.