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New Digital Collection: Irish International Exhibition, 1907

We recently digitized a collection of colorful postcards and other ephemeral materials related to the Irish International Exhibition held in Dublin, 1907. These items are part of a larger collection of Irish postage stamps and postcards given to Falvey Memorial Library by Johan Albert Norstedt (1937-2020). View the items in our Digital Library HERE.

The Irish International Exhibition was a world’s fair held in Herbert Park, in the Ballsbridge neighborhood of Dublin from May to October, 1907. It was typical of expositions of the time which were meant to promote industry, arts, and manufacturing and to stimulate trade and commerce. Featured buildings included a Grand Central Palace, the Fine Art Gallery, the Palace of Industries, the Palace of Mechanical Arts, a Canadian Pavilion, and a Concert Hall and Bandstand. A program for the exhibition details the buildings and features, which also included “an extensive lake with picturesque bridges and islands, … a Water Chute, Rivers of Ireland, Switchback Railway, Helter Skelter Lighthouse, Shooting Galleries, and Somali Village” as “some of the numerous Side-Shows which afford amusement to visitors.” The Somali Village was an ethnological exposition or a “human zoo” and a quite literal display of British imperialism.


This is a welcome new addition to our Digital Library where you can also find the full 204-page Official Catalogue for the exhibition in the Joseph McGarrity Collection as well as many references and reactions in our extensive newspaper holdings. One such article appears in The Gaelic American, a newspaper published in New York City devoted to the cause of Irish independence from British rule. The cartoon titled “Irish Anti-National Exhibition 1907” and the article headline says it all: “The International Exhibition Fraud: British Show in Dublin a Mere Loyalist Demonstration – Chief Manufactures on Exhibition are Loyalty, British Officials, Soldiers, and Castle Hacks.”


Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Librarian/Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.

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From the Archives: Digitized Primary Sources on the 1918 Flu Pandemic

By Rebecca Oviedo

Preserved in Villanova University Archives and now available in the Digital Library are dozens of first-hand accounts and records from women religious of Philadelphia who volunteered to nurse the sick during the 1918-1919 “Spanish Influenza.” The accounts were solicited and collected by Rev. Francis E. Tourscher, O.S.A., who quickly took up the timely task to “assemble facts while they are still a living memory” and compiled that research as Work of the Sisters during the epidemic of influenza, October, 1918 / Philadelphia : American Catholic Historical Society, 1919.

Now we are making the original experiences and recollections written by the Sisters available online. Rev. Tourscher served as University Librarian from 1923-1939, and his papers are part of the Falvey Memorial Library records. His aim in gathering these facts was “to record the experiences and impressions of the Sisters, and incidentally to record their personal observations of the symptoms of the disease and conditions existing during the epidemic in private homes and hospitals.”

Senior Elizabeth Lyons works in the library as a Collections & Stewardship Technician in the scan lab and was eager to digitize the papers. “These papers were a crucial part of my research into volunteering efforts during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic in Philadelphia. They offered a unique insight into what it was like at the hospitals in Philadelphia. There weren’t a lot of personal accounts of what it was like to live through this period of time, so these offered a really unique perspective. I love working in the library and getting to interact with all sorts of historical documents. It’s really exciting to see what sorts of things have been preserved and what life was like back then! A lot of my fellow history majors were jealous that I get to keep working with primary sources like this, since most archives are closed right now.”

Further access to the manuscripts is provided through careful transcription of each handwritten document. Briana Felice is pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is completing an internship at Falvey Memorial Library. She has been transcribing the Sisters’ recollections into machine-readable format (Microsoft Word document and PDF) where they are available alongside the digitized item in the Digital Library. This added process ensures that the papers are more easily accessible and findable for users when performing keyword searches. She observes, “With everything going on with the looming pandemic, these letters are very timely. It shows that history really does repeat itself. Hopefully, we can learn a little something from the past.”

Just as scholars today are examining these records of the past, we anticipate that future scholars, staff and students may wish to know and understand what it was like for the Villanova community living through the current COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to submit your own story and be a part of history:




Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Librarian/Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.





100 Seasons of Villanova Basketball Now Available in the Digital Library

By Rebecca Oviedo

This past year, in celebration of Villanova’s 100 seasons of men’s basketball, and in partnership with the Department of Athletics’ External Operations Unit, Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections & Digital Engagement has added a significant contribution of basketball-related images and content to the Villanova Digital Library. The items from University Archives include nearly 400 photographs and negatives, and more than 60 additional items, such as media guides, schedules, tickets, and scorebooks.

Since 1920, Villanova Basketball has produced three NCAA national championships and a rich history of outstanding players and coaches. Search and view images of such iconic Wildcats and future NBA stars as Paul Arizin, Larry Hennessy, Bob Schafer, and George Raveling under coach Alex Severance; Wali Jones, Hubie White, Jim Washington, Bill Melchionni, Howard Porter, Chris Ford and Tom Ingelsby from the Jack Kraft era; and, of course, selected images from Rollie Massimino’s 1985 NCAA championship team. One of the most photographed: legendary longtime athletic trainer John “Jake” Nevin.

Negative, Basketball (Jake Nevin/ Trainer and Howard Porter), 1970.

The process to convert these analog materials to a digital environment involved many hands and multiple steps.

The work began last summer, with the help of Erik Sherwood, Laura Davis, and Jessica Leventry, three Penn State students participating in the Villanova Athletic Department summer internship program with Assistant Athletic Director/Marketing Jacob Whitten’s team. The students spent two weeks in University Archives transcribing data from University Negatives Collection envelopes housing the negatives and entering the information into a spreadsheet to be incorporated into University Archives and Digital Library databases. They recorded such metadata as box and folder numbers, names, dates, subject headings, and descriptions for each negative.

Laura Davis carefully examines a negative.

Villanova College Basketball Facts, 30th Season, 1949-1950.

In September of the fall semester, several undergraduate Collections & Stewardship Technicians began scanning the items using the library’s Indus Color Book Scanner and a recently added Epson 12000XL Photo Scanner. These students, trained in appropriate collections care and proper handling techniques for rare materials, included Bernadette Goratowski, Martin Han, Courtney Schultz, and Erin Warren. After scanning materials, the students performed several post-processing steps, including rotating, cropping, and tonal adjustment of the digital images. They logged and tracked their work in the same spreadsheet started by the summer interns. Images were then uploaded to a library server to await further description and metadata by Distinctive Collections staff.

Items were scanned through March 2020, when campus was closed due to the growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sadly the remainder of Villanova’s 100th season of basketball was cancelled. As much of the world’s workforce transitioned online, I continued my work of describing and entering metadata, now from home, a task that surely could not have been completed had it not been for the careful work of our student employees and interns this past year.

Some images still require additional identification and description. I tried to identify players and add subject headings as best I could, and the media guides proved invaluable for this. If you can identify or date any images lacking this information, please email We have scanned selected images from the University Negatives Collection through 1974, and there are still several hundred images that have not yet been digitized. The collection spans the 1930s to 1985. If you have a favorite past player, let us know by email or in the comments below.

Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Librarian Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.





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Now Digitized!

Over ten years ago, Distinctive Collections posted a blog post, “THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY…,” about the many materials that are too difficult to digitize. Michael Foight, Director of Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement, described how the unique Special Collections materials sometimes are too fragile or too tightly bound to be properly scanned. Another complication brought to light is how complex materials once digitized can lose its context with each other. For example, digitizing scrapbooks with many components are digitized individually may lose the interrelationships between each other and the scrapbook as a whole.  These obstacles highlight how the argument for “digitize everything” is not so simple or easy. But with the years of upgrades to the Villanova Digital Library we are able to revisit the scrapbooks that could not originally be digitized!

A page from the O'Reilly scrapbook. Includes envelopes sent to O'Reilly.A page of O'Reilly Scrapbook. Includes newspaper articles and envelopes.

Robert Maitland O’Reilly Congratulatory Letters Scrapbook

The Robert Maitland O’Reilly Congratulatory Letters Scrapbook, was mentioned as one such scrapbook that could not be digitized, with over a hundred letters in their original envelopes and many loose newspaper clippings. The scrapbook is a compilation of personal and professional congratulatory correspondence upon his appointment as Surgeon General. The letters and telegrams come from across the globe. As mentioned, the complexity and amount of loose material would be very difficult to scan and retain connection. Today, the digital library allows for pagination for the scrapbook and complex digital objects to be individually scanned yet retain connection as one entire entity in the digital library.

Though the digital library infrastructure did not solve all the problems of digitization. What remained a huge obstacle was the format itself. Over the years the binding of the scrapbook had deteriorated making the pages brittle, so each page had to be handled carefully to not exasperate the pages crumbling in scanning. Even the letters themselves were quite fragile.  Letters were made of different kinds of paper making some delicate or hard to remove from the envelopes. Each letter had to be opened carefully and set down with bone folder creasers so the letters could be open just enough without too much pressure to be scanned without ripping the paper.

A page of the O'Reilly Scrapbook with a letter pulled out.      A letter tightly folded.


The entire process was done a couple hours each week and done over the span of eight months. Evoking Edgar Albert Guest’s poem,”It Couldn’t Be Done,” the scrapbook is done and can be viewed in the digital library.

So who is Robert Maitland O’Reilly?

Robert Maitland O’Reilly (January 14, 1845 – November 3, 1912) was the 20th Surgeon General of the United States Army, serving from September 7, 1902 to January 14, 1909. O’Reilly was born in Philadelphia and studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania when the Civil War broke out. In August 1862, he was appointed as a medical cadet and served in several army hospitals, including Cuyler General Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in the office of the medical director of the Army. After the war, O’Reilly return to University of Pennsylvania to finish his studies.  Upon graduation, O’Reilly continued working in the military and was chief surgeon for several units during the Spanish-American War. In addition, O’Reilly held appointments as a physician in the White House during both of President Grover Cleveland’s administrations.

In 1902, O’Reilly was appointed as Surgeon General of the United States Army and he and his administration made significant improvements to the army medical corps and medical research within the Army.

The scrapbook is also on display now in the exhibit, “Scraps for Keeps,” currently open to the public on the first floor of Falvey Library. His personal correspondence is also discoverable in our digital library and his other personal papers can be physically accessed through the American Catholic Historical Society:

O’Reilly, Robert M. Papers, 1864-1916 (MC 34), Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center.

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Navigating with Jones

Matthew Gray, Digital Library Intern, 2017-2018:

Throughout the course of my internship, I was heavily involved in the digitizing the Thomas John Jones, Merchant Navy Officer, personal archive recently purchased by Villanova University’s Special Collections. Jones was a Welsh officer in the British Merchant Navy from 1893 to, at the least, 1913. Much of his naval career involved the foreign-going steamship, the S.S. Knight Errant, where he served as an officer.

A few interesting aspects of the collection include a map of the Atlantic Ocean published two weeks after the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage, two World War I medals, and a logbook penned by Jones.

The map illustrates the Titanic’s nautical route and maps several glaciers directly in the path of the Titanic. Indeed, there is a cluster of glaciers notated on the map very near where the Titanic sank. Interestingly, Jones navigated the same water a week after the Titanic sank and noted there “was not a vestige of ice or wreckage.”

The collection also includes a set of World War I medals. Initially, I thought this indicated that Jones served in the war; however, as I delved deeper into the collection, I discovered that the war medals did not actually belong to Jones, but to Jenkin M. Evans. Perhaps, he was a friend or crew mate of Jones? Unfortunately, we may never know.

The logbook comprises of Jones’ account of his voyages from 1909-1913 while aboard the S.S. Knight Errant. He detailed each route in nautical miles and compared variant routes in order to determine the most efficient course from multiple ports around the world. His notes contain information on various topics that include commentary on East Asian monsoons and hurricanes in the West Indies, on entering the Yangtze River, on how to accurately navigate sea currents, and on pilot signals in England. His insights on these subjects may provide nautical scholars with invaluable primary source material.

The project was enlightening and served as a platform for much professional development. My time working on this project, and my time at Villanova in its entirety, has reinforced my passion for information access. Indeed, it has fostered an appreciation for the digital humanities and its integral role in the preservation and dissemination of information. For more information please visit Thomas John Jones, Merchant Navy Officer @ Villanova’s Digital Library or visit my Wikipedia article here.



Last Modified: April 26, 2018

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