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Distinctive Collections: The Smallest Item

What is the smallest item in your collection?

While our Distinctive Collections have many small and fascinating items (a Sumerian clay tablet, a miniature edition of Shakespeare’s plays), the smallest item has to be this tiny seed pod amazingly filled with even tinier carved ivory animals. This item belongs to the James D. Reap, Jr. World War II Collection, which coincidentally also houses one of the largest items from Distinctive Collections (see: Scanning a Panoramic Sketch).

 

The little red seed comes from the red sandalwood tree, common in India and other tropic areas. Sometimes called the Red Lucky Seed, Circassian Seed, Jumbi-Bead, or magic charm bean, the hollow seeds filled with carved ivory animals (usually elephants) were likely sold or distributed as souvenirs that would bring good luck with each animal inside. This seed, like a fancy perfume bottle, has a carved stopper on top that fits just right. Inside easily and comfortably fits thirteen paper-thin little animals. The animals are intricately carved and some are quite recognizable. There is a camel and a giraffe, an elephant, and other four-legged creatures. Each one is only about 4 mm tall (the giraffe is 6 mm tall) and the seed with stopper measures 8 mm wide and 12 mm height.

We are not sure where Reap acquired it, but it was certainly while overseas between 1944-1946. After enlisting in the Navy in November 1943 and training at Bainbridge, MD and Fort Lauderdale, FL, he was then ordered to San Diego to join the Japanese invasion force. The USS White Marsh took Reap to Pearl Harbor, HI, where he was assigned to the USS Proteus, a submarine tender, as a radar and communications technician. He was stationed at various times at: Guam; Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands; Japan; and Panama. After the war, Reap was honorably discharged from Naval service on April 6, 1946.

Earlier this summer we had a chance to revisit this collection with James D. Reap, Jr.’s son and great-granddaughter during their visit to campus. They fondly remembered the little “ivory zoo” and son James J. Reap recalled his father proudly rolling out the sketch of Yokosuka Naval Base in his basement to show family and friends. The family is happy that the collection is now being preserved with Villanova University’s Distinctive Collections, and excited to see items shared online in the Digital Library.

 

James J. Reap, ’69 and his granddaughter, Abby, pose with items from the James D. Reap, Jr. World War II Collection.

 


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A Small Treasure Found in the Stacks

Merriam Webster dictionary defines ephemera as an item of “no lasting significance” and usually pertains to paper items expected to be used temporarily like tickets, greeting cards, menus, pamphlets, bookmarks, and brochures. Though sometimes ephemera is far from transit; ephemeral items are often found in scrapbooks, keepsake boxes, the drawers we never clean out, or, in our case, books. This 1968 football ticket was discovered as a bookmark in a book from the stacks. Its new home is now in the University Archives where it’ll join a collection of Villanova ephemera related to the history of the campus. Preserving such items are significant because they give insight to past events and social attitudes of time.

…By the way, Villanova won the game 21-10!

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Happily Forever After: The Timeless Relevance of Fairy Tales

Distinctive Collections’ new exhibit on the “moral of the story”

From a treacherous trip to grandma’s house, rags to riches, escaping a witch’s oven, a trickster cat that brings good fortune—these are the tales and imagery that shape our happily ever afters and childhood. These tales seem to not fade away but inspire many generations of retellings and adaptions. While we have Charles Perrault, Madam d’Aulnoy, Hans Christian Andersen, and Grimm Brothers to thank for the dissemination of these beloved works, these tales have enduring presence in our society because the morals and lessons continue to have relevance in our culture today. Beyond the imagination of benevolent godmothers and a goose that lays golden eggs, the core conflicts, struggles, and messages of the stories remain reflective of our world. It is why fairy tale imagery is so popular beyond entertainment, but conspicuous in our everyday lives.  

Distinctive Collections invites you to explore the world of fairy tales and examine the importance of morals in the tales with the new exhibit, Happily Forever After: The Timeless Relevance of Fairy Tales. Curated by Rebecca Oviedo, Distinctive Collections Coordinator, and Beaudry Allen, Preservation and Digital Archivist, the exhibit showcases a selection of fairy tales and fairy tale inspired works from Falvey Memorial Library and Special Collections. The exhibit is located on the first floor of Falvey Memorial Library and open to the public throughout the summer. 


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#TBT: Yearbook Staff

Photo courtesy of University Archives.


THROWBACK THURSDAY

The 1962 Villanova University yearbook staff poses for a group photo. View more images from the 1960s in Distinctive Collections’ new digital exhibit, Nova Stories: Campus Life from the 1960s. Curated by Beaudry Allen, the exhibit draws on University Archives to reveal the photographs, newspaper-clippings, audio-recordings, and programs that illustrate what student life was like in the 1960s and highlights some of the traditions and changes happening on campus.


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Last Modified: May 23, 2019