Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Happy World Oceans Day!

Greetings from the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Today is World Ocean Day! Time to shellebrate!

In honor of today's event and our upcoming "Oceans of Possibilities" theme for our summer library reading program ... I offer you one of Keith Henney's most unusual books...

...with the intriguing title, "A Hunt for Sea-Going Elephants, 1899-1901." 

You can find a link to it in our online catalog here. For more on Keith Henney see our previous blog here

This book is quite a departure from the many technical and scientific books he wrote on electricity and radio, or his many books on local history.
It serves as a good introduction to today's theme.  The purpose of World Ocean Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world's population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans. 

The book's title refers to the hunt for elephant seals for their oil to light lamps before electrical lights were available. The book is based on the logs and records of a year long voyage of a the R. S. Graham, a schooner, sailing vessel to the far South Seas. 

According to various internet sources, elephant seals were hunted for their high-quality oil, 200 pounds of which could be obtained from a large, adult male. The oil was used for lamps, lubricating machinery, and making paint, soap, and candles. It was so popular that by the end of the 1880s, after 40 years of hunting, elephant seals were thought to be extinct.

Elephant seals are large, oceangoing earless seals in the genus Mirounga. The two species, the northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris) and the southern elephant seal (M. leonina), were both hunted to the brink of extinction for oil by the end of the 19th century, but their numbers have since recovered. They are the largest extant carnivorans, weighing up to 4,000 kilograms (8,800 lb).

Elephant seals are marine mammals classified under the order Pinnipedia, which, in Latin, means feather- or fin-footed.

Throughout the book, Henney's interest in period language and arcane and obsolete terminology such as gaboon, earing, gripes, yard, opodeldoc is on display.

FMI on our summer reading program for 2022 "Oceans of Possibilities" and our kick-off event on June 16, see our website here. Throughout the summer we will host other events focusing on turtles, seashells, lobsters, microplastics, and stories, songs and dance. 

The Mount Washington Valley has some other "ocean" related claims to fame. For info about local polar explorers see some of our previous blogs here and here

We have a large collection of books on these expeditions and details about the ocean voyages they undertook. 

While New Hampshire only has 13 miles of ocean coastline, our ocean related property played an important role in late 19th century art. Here are a selection of artworks to enjoy. 

In previous blogs we have explored the farm related works of Winslow Homer. This summer New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit of Homer's artworks related to the ocean. 

FMI on the exhibit see this link here

Homer's work spanned the frigid, tumbling waters of the North Atlantic to the tropical waters of Florida and the Caribbean. 

The centerpiece of the exhibition is Homer’s iconic The Gulf Stream, a painting that reveals his lifelong engagement with charged subjects of race, geopolitics, and the environment. Featuring 88 oils and watercolors, Crosscurrents represents the largest critical overview of Homer’s art and life in more than a quarter of a century. Here are some more of his works to enjoy. 

In addition to art, songs, stories and dance, science is another way to understand the oceans. 

Recently the ocean mapping at UNH was featured on NH Chronicle. You can learn more about that program and view the segment here

Back in the sub-tropics my new son-in-law has been mapping the warmer waters around Florida in part with an un-manned device. 

These and other scientific processes will help us meet the goals outlined above for World Oceans Day. 

The Conway Public Library's Henney History Room offers free outreach programs on all of the topics above to local schools and community groups. Feel free to contact us.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Happy World Art Day!

Forget that today is tax day. Instead celebrate World Art Day!

World Art Day was established ten years ago after a proposal was put forward at the 17th General Assembly of the International Association of Art (IAA) to declare April 15 as World Art Day.

According to the IAA, World Art Day celebrations help reinforce the links between artistic creations and society, encourage greater awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development.

Art nurtures creativity, innovation and cultural diversity for all peoples across the globe and plays an important role in sharing knowledge and encouraging curiosity and dialogue. These are qualities that art has always had, and will always have if we continue to support environments where artists and artistic freedom are promoted and protected. In this way, furthering the development of art also furthers our means to achieve a free and peaceful world.

It is also an occasion to shine a light on arts education in schools, as culture can pave the way for inclusive and equitable education.

There is much to learn, share and celebrate on World Art Day, and UNESCO encourages everyone to join in through various activities such as debates, conferences, workshops, cultural events and presentations or exhibitions.

April 15 was chosen for World Art Day as it is also the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci, a symbol of world peace, freedom of expression, tolerance, brotherhood and multiculturalism. 

DaVinci's Mona Lisa was used to promote the Conway Public Library's display and silent auction of local art.  

The curious, but judgmental, chicken above is one of the paintings available through the silent auction which is being held to raise funds for our Teen Leadership Council. The auction is being held at the library until April 30 at 1pm so put your bid in early and often. 
FMI and to see all the 27 works of art in the auction see the link here
The paintings are on display in the circulation area stacks. 

 Can you find the chicken painting in the photo above?

You can also see some important examples of earlier local art of the White Mountains on display at the Conway Public Library. An internet search for the keywords "mwvhistory art" here yields images of some of the artworks we have explored in previous blogs here. 

Last night, Inez McDermott presented an excellent introduction to White Mountain art and artists as part of a lecture series hosted by the New Hampshire Historical Society in celebration of a temporary exhibit there. The lectures are being recorded for future research. 

FMI see this link here

Inez started her presentation with this painting by Winslow Homer entitled Artists Sketching in the White Mountains

I argue that the view is from North Conway's Sunset Hill, now the site of the Red Jacket Resort. FMI see our previous blog here

Inez also explained the important role that Benjamin Champney had in developing White Mountain Art. The Conway Public Library's Henney History Room offers a number of free outreach programs on White Mountain Art, some of which include examining some of the seventy plus items related to Champney in the collection of the Conway Historical Society including an artist's folding stool like the one seen in the painting above, Champney's brushes, sketchbooks, chromolithographs, vasculum, trade sign, painted firescreen, rocking chair and even his baby bonnet.


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Happy Antique Day!

Today is National Cherish an Antique Day! In the photo above, my son is posing with my grandfather's coal miner's helmet. It is now a treasured family heirloom. My grandfather was about ten years old when he started working in the mines. 

The thrill of antiques cuts across the generations. For a while now, the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room has been doing an outreach program at the Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center using historical artifacts from the collection of the Conway Historical Society. 

Our program is just one of many that the Center provides with the help of local resources including health, fitness, dance and craft programs. 

We present a new program a couple times a month. In our "hands-on" program we use these artifacts to stimulate exploration and discussion about the larger cultural stories that these items tell.  

We have covered themes such as women's work, farming tools, and keeping warm for the winter. 

We offer similar programs for free to local schools and community groups. One school asked for a program on the history of local crafts and trades. 

One of the collections we included in that program were these wooden shoe heel blocks showing the stages involved in making historic shoes. The heel factory building these were made in still exists on Conway's Main Street just a short walk from the library. 

Recently we did a program of "mystery items." As soon as I pulled the item below out of a box one of the participants immediately recognized it and told us all how she remembered standing over one of these with her mother adjusting the hems on dress she made. 

This was a new discovery for me and after closer examination we did find the word "hem" stamped on it. 

We also found who made it and the patent number. FMI see the link here.

We soon looked it up on Google patents and learned even more. 
Another participant told us about this glass item and said it was for cutting the dough for tea biscuits that were boiled in water. 

Does anyone know more about this item? I have not been able to find another documentation on it yet. 

In previous blogs we have looked at antiques used as lawn decoration. 

FMI see this link here

Another interesting antique that serves as the Conway Public Library's official mascot was featured in our previous blog here

If you have cherished antiques of your own and want to learn more about saving or preserving them, searching or researching them and sharing them through family stories, scrap books or your own family history website let us know and we can suggest the best ways and more importantly the methods not to use. Did you know there are "good plastics" and "bad plastics" to keep your priceless heirlooms in? Especially bad are those so-called "magnetic" photo albums that were popular a number of years ago. 

So be careful! Be educated! And enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Happy National Read a Road Map Day!

Today is National Read a Road Map Day. It encourages people to go on an adventure the old fashioned way, with a paper map! We took the advice and drove up through Crawford Notch this afternoon. 

A keyword search in the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room online catalog for the word "map" yields 475 results. Try it through this link here

The collection includes tourist maps from guidebooks, geological maps, soil type maps and even a  handwritten map by John Cannell on the back of photo on how to find the site of the Wizard Birch.

A search for the word "map" in our main library catalog here yields 21,118 items including maps, books on maps, and even novels with the word map in the title.

In this blog today, we will look at just a handful of maps intended to whet your appetite. Of course we would be happy to show you around our map collection and we do offer a free outreach program on historic maps and map making for local schools and community groups, 

Let's start with the 1853 Bond map. We have two copies here of the book that it came from here. (click on images to enlarge them).  The library has a number of copies of  Benjamin Willey's book, Incidents in White Mountain History. For preservation reasons one of the maps was removed from the book and cataloged and stored separately listed in our catalog here

Here is a detail of the map... 

... and details showing how it served as a road map following the route we took today. 

According to a description by Adam Apt on the White Mountain History website here, the map was issued in boards covered with cloths of different colors. In some copies, Benjamin Champney illustrations were printed on the reverse of the map; in others, these are printed on a separate sheet. 

Now let's look at Boardman's White Mountain Guide, 1858. As you can see this map features the mountain topography more prominently. FMI see this link here


Now let's look at the Eastman/Cavis map. 

This copy is from the White Mountain History website here

... with details here. 

One of our copies at the Henney History Room shows the problem (inherent vice) of maps that have been "tipped" into books. 

Again for better preservation the map has been cataloged separately here

Now let's go way back in time. Did You Know that the Turin Papyrus is thought to be the oldest recorded road map in the world? Historians believe that it was created around 1160 BC.

FMI see this link here

It is in fact also a treasure map. Inscriptions describe the "Mountain of the Gold”, the “Mountain of the Silver.” It is also the earliest known geological map because it showed the local distribution of different rock types, the diverse wadi gravels, and contained information on quarrying and mining.

Now for our final and most recent map. The map below was only created last month by cartographer Larry Garland and shows the planned trail into the Redstone Quarry as well as key landscape features and topography. 

Larry collected the GPS data points with his high quality "backpack" style equipment on March 27, 2022. 

For more information on this project or any local history topic contact us at the Conway Public Library.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Headin' for the Rhubarb...

... so they say.

While the deadline for removing bob houses from New Hampshire lakes and ponds is not until April 1, I would not recommend waiting until then. 

If you do, you are just "headin' for the rhubarb." 

Colloquially that phrase means you are about to "get into trouble," as explained in Rebecca Rule's New Hampshire dictionary of the same title. 

You can find her book in several libraries in the Mount Washington Valley. See this link here

However, phrases can have multiple meanings, or layers of meaning. In another, seasonal sense, the title of this blog can refer to the traditional role of heading towards the season of rhubarb, one of the early crops we harvest fresh up here. 

Historically in New England the rhubarb harvest is an almost sacred celebration as it represents the end of winter, the end of fear from famine and the promise of a new beginning. 

However in New England, the transition from winter to spring is not often quick nor consistent. 

While the astronomical beginning of Spring started more than a week ago, it will still be a bit before we can actually harvest the rhubarb. 

It will be almost two months before the cows go out, so historically farmers would check the hay left in the barn this time of the year. 

For most of us, this time of scarcity is more of an inconvenience than an actual struggle between life and death as it was for many in the past. 

Meteorologically winter has returned with a vengeance. We hear the weather on the nightly news punctuated with terms like wintry mix (sleet, snow and rain), arctic blasts, record cold and a frigid feel due to the wind chill. 

Charles Dickens wrote about this climatic variability when he said “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Other writers have sung the promises of spring and the harvest to come. Our own Eaton Poet, Thomas Randall wrote in his poem entitled "Birth of Spring and Death of Winter" that ...

Phebus comes with brilliant rays, 
Cuts short the nights t' increase the days; 
He now forsakes the southern pole, 
Around the northern start to roll

Phebus in Greek mythology is also known as Apollo or the sun. 
To learn more about the science behind the seasons see our previous blog here
In the last stanza he writes...

Here now I'll drop these scatter'd lines, 
And hope and wish for better times, 
When nature all shall join and bring 
Some livelier airs that all may sing

FMI see this link here

This optimism of spring is tempered by another, bit more well-known poet, Robert Frost. In "A Prayer in Spring" he opines...

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away

While he refers to the pleasure of spring and the promise of the harvest, he continues... 

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year

His underlying theme is to both enjoy the moment, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. 

I had a lot to learn about New Hampshire when we moved here more than a quarter century ago. For one thing, I learned that I will always be a flatlander.  

In her dictionary, Rebecca Rule says in New Hampshire a flatlander is anyone born south of the state line. For those born in the White Mountains a flatlander is anyone born south of the notches. And for those hardy few who man the observatory on top of Mount Washington, a flatlander is everyone but them. 

I literally had to learn to read the signs of Spring. Instead of flowers in March, we get bright orange signs that read "Frost Heaves." 

You can read our previous blog on wicked nasty frost heaves and politics here

I discovered that perhaps the best solution is to laugh it off. See our previous blog here about the droll Yankee approach which coincidentally connects mud, hats, maps, bird feeders and local history.  

In her dictionary, Rebecca Rule tells a short story about frost heaves and politics, but I will leave it up to you to check out her book to read it. 

There is another humorist, Ken Sheldon who performs under the name Fred Marple from the fictional town of Frost Heaves. FMI see this link here and his facebook page here

During mud season the towns also post signs reading "Load Limits." I had to look that up too. 

Another "must read" Rebecca Rule book is Moved and Seconded. Town Meeting in New Hampshire, the Present, the Past, and the Future

You can find info about the book here. You can visit the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room to view our collection of town reports, ledgers and papers for the history of Conway. The Conway Public Library also offers a free public program on all things spring and seasonal for local schools and community groups. 

Not that long ago Conway went to an SB2 form of Town Meeting with the town elections and final voting on the town warrant articles coming up April 12. 
Now that's what I call headin' for the rhubarb!