Monthly Archives: December 2014

“El Temblor”: Description of an 1870 Ecuadorian Earthquake

ecuadorWKU is celebrating the International Year of Ecuador during the 2014-2015 academic year. All types of events including film presentations, lectures, exhibits, and foodways demonstrations have been planned across campus. Interestingly in researching for an exhibit titled “Ecuador in Library Special Collections” at the Kentucky Building, curators found several letters written by the U.S. consul to Ecuador and his wife, Edward Rumsey Wing and Louise (Green) Wing. They both write back to her Kentucky parents telling them about their exciting adventures, longing for home, intellectual pursuits, family affairs, and adjustment to a new culture. Wing served in Quito from 1870 to 1874.

In late-September 1870, Rumsey (as he was called) wrote to his in-laws about an earthquake that he and Louise experienced in Quito.  With the skill of a poet, Wing described the event:  “It was ten o’clock and Louise had gone to sleep on a sofa over a ‘Cornhill Magazine’ whilst I was lying on the bed reading a law book and deeply interested, which I presume kept me from fully appreciating the situation at the first shiver of the earth I could still hear voices in the street and and then a heavy heel went clanging by over the resonating sidewalk.  The white light of the moonlight enwrapped the houses and the hills and silvery kiss of our windows.  All at once there was a sudden silence that I now remember first attracted my attention, & the very night seemed to hold its breath as if waiting, listening, terror-stricken at the coming shock.  The next moment it struck me that the bed curtains were stirred as if by a strong wind.    Still I did not think of the dreaded ‘temblor’ until in a flash I heard groans, screams and prayers issuing from every direction – our own servants rushing across the courtyard with loud outcries for ‘El Senor Ministre’ – and the bed trembled as if in the grasp of some fierce giant.”

“I recall then the queer jingle of the windows,” Wing continued, “and their latches, & springing up felt the room with its ‘six foot’ walls reeling like a beaten ship at sea.  Glancing from the window at the moonlit street I could see many people on their knees & many prostrate on their faces. praying most fervently, whilst loud above all other sounds. I could distinctly catch the cry of ‘El Temblor, el Temblor.’”

After a contemplative night, Wing summarized his reaction to the event:  “The most disagreeable thing in connection with an earthquake like a battle is really ‘after it is over.’  Then one begins to realize what an infinitesimal atom he is, and not only himself but all men and all nations and all the ambitions of life and all the absorbing interests which we so untiringly & eagerly pursue, – in the face of these tremendous convulsions.  These terrible forces of nature, these awful agencies, so bitterly dreaded and so little understood, & of their supreme ruler and controller…Why should helpless man be thus made  the unwilling sport of misfortune – or of superior power & wisdom & goodness?”

These ruminations continue to arise after each natural disaster.  Some things do not change, even in this rapidly evolving world.

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Katie DeCoursey receives first WKU Library Student Assistant Scholarship

DSC_0277Western Kentucky University senior Katherine “Katie” DeCoursey was recognized last week for being selected as the recipient of the inaugural WKU Library Student Assistant Scholarship. From Hopkinsville, Kentucky, DeCoursey has worked for the Libraries for three years and will be graduating in May 2015 with a degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

“Katie has embraced a professional demeanor and work ethic from the beginning of her academic career,” said Doug Wiles, library security coordinator and DeCoursey’s supervisor. “She has maintained exemplary academic performance in a rigorous Communication Disorders program (while working) and has engaged in numerous extracurricular and professional engagement activities in her chosen field.”

Her library duties include working as a Circulation Assistant and as a Stacks Management Assistant, has cross-trained for library security functions, and has assisted with complex projects, such as implementing StackMap (digital search software), installing compact shelving, shifting entire floors of main collections, and relocating Circulation Services during a remodeling project.

DeCoursey was hired the second semester of her freshman year, working winter and summer breaks in addition to the regular academic school year. “I am very proud of my job. The Library has supplied an environment that has helped me grow as a student through my college experience,” said DeCoursey.

The scholarship is sponsored through funding from the Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information on the Friends program, go to and click on “Support Us.”

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WKU students receive undergraduate library research awards

fall student awards

Bowling Green, Kentucky – Western Kentucky University students Elizabeth Howard(Owensboro, Kentucky), Chris Riehl (Louisville, Kentucky), and Frances “Currey” McCullough (Nashville, TN) received undergraduate research awards at a recognition ceremony in Helm Library on Tuesday, December 2. WKU Libraries and WKU University Experience faculty offer the awards in an effort to recognize the important role of good undergraduate research in college academic success.

“Information literacy and library skills are essential for student success at any level, and I am happy to be a part of introducing the importance of college level research skills to our first year students,” said Sara McCaslin, University Experience Coordinator.

Howard, a first-year student representing the College of Health and Human Services, received the award for the subject-specific category from the University Experience class on the main campus. Her annotated resource list is pertaining to a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Her instructor was Lynn Hazlett-Sherry.

Riehl, a first-year student majoring in history, received the award for best annotated resource list featuring TED Talk information titled, “Photos that Changed the World.” His instructor was Cort Basham, University Experience 175 on the main campus.

McCullough, a first-year student from the University Experience class at South Campus, was recognized for the best career essay titled, “Exercise Science.” Her instructor was Dr. Anne Heintzman.

Students received a monetary gift along with a plaque honoring their achievements. The winning documents, along with those of past recipients, are posted on TopSCHOLAR–WKU’s research and creative database—at For more information, contact Amanda Drost, chair of the Research Award Committee, at 270-745-2962.

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Dear Santa

Training School GirlsThis year the WKU Archives Elves have been quite good.  We have digitized over 3500 images, scrapbooks, audiotapes, videotapes, posters, student newspapers, newsletters, programs, and other types of documents and described over 400 record groups and answered over 400 reference requests.

And all we want for Christmas (in addition to our two front teeth) is:

So Santa, baby, hurry down the chimney and leave us some goodies for the collections.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


WKU Archives Elves


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A Cavalcade of Cards

In the course of processing family papers in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, we regularly uncover a variety of Christmas cards sent to Kentuckians from family and friends across the country and the world.  Here are a few of the more eye-catching ones that have surfaced this year; they date from the 1920s to the 1970s:

A. Ross Pittman linoleum block prints, cards sent to Drucilla Jones, Bowling Green

A. Ross Pittman linoleum block prints, cards sent to Drucilla Jones, Bowling Green


From Olive Sewell, Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk, to Marjorie Clagett, Bowling Green

From Olive Sewell, Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk, to Marjorie Clagett, Bowling Green


Sent to the Clements family, Owensboro

Sent to the Clements family, Owensboro


From her niece Emma to Senora Tolle, Glasgow

From her niece Emma to Senora Tolle, Glasgow

For more on Christmas letters, cards, customs and folkways, search our collection finding aids in TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Recent book publications by DLPS colleagues



The Department of Library Public Services hosted a reception honoring Library Professors Haiwang Yuan and Charles Smith with recently published books. Yuan’s book, Tibetan Folktales, was published in November 2014 by Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO,LLC. The collection of folktales provides readers with an extensive overview of the breadth of Tibetan culture, revealing the character of the region and its people as well as their traditional customs and values.  Haiwang Yuan is professor of Library Public Services at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY. His published works include The Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales of the Han Chinese and Princess Peacock: Tales from the Other Peoples of China, both Libraries Unlimited titles, as well as This Is China: the First 5,000 Years and Celebrate Chinese New Year. Yuan holds master’s degrees in history as well as library and information science from Indiana University at Bloomington, IN.

Smith’s book, Dear Sir: Sixty-Nine Years of Alfred Russel Wallace Letters to the Editor, was recently released from Siri Scientific Press, featuring Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin and known in many circles as the “father” of evolutionary biogeography, and more than 200 of Wallace’s published works. Charles H. Smith, Ph.D., has been studying Wallace’s work for more than thirty years, and has several other books on him to his credit; he also maintains ever expanding research on his website, The Alfred Russel Wallace Page at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, where he is the Library Faculty for Science and Professor of Library Public Services.

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Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Book Award

AdamsWKU Libraries hosted the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Book Award luncheon last Friday, November 21. Author Christa Carpenter and Illustrator Mark Wayne Adams were the recipients of the award for the book Jilli, That’s Silly!  Friends, Library Council members, staff, faculty, and family attended the luncheon which is given annually to recognize an author and illustrator for their work in children’s literature with a Kentucky connection. More than forty people attended the luncheon with a special program featuring WKU Libraries faculty member Lisa Miller who recently did extensive research on Evelyn Thurman, former librarian and donor for the program, and Galen Currington, the man who purchased Evelyn’s Volkswagon bug which was on display at the entrance to the building. On the days leading up to the luncheon, Adams and Carpenter went to several schools offering author/illustrator visits.

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SOKY Book Fest partners select finalists for 2015 Kentucky Literary Award

Bowling Green, Ky. –The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership announces the five finalists for the 2014 Kentucky Literary Award. This year’s award will go to a work of non-fiction by a Kentucky author or with a significant Kentucky theme that was published in 2013 or 2014. The five finalists include:

The Kentucky Barbecue Book, Wes BerryKentucky Barbecue Book

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage, Michael R. Veachky_bourbon_whiskey_final.indd

Mud Creek Medicine: the Life of Eula Hall and the Fight for Appalachia, Kiran BhatrajuMud Creek Medicine

Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry, James C. Nicholson


Unbridled Service: Growing Up and Giving Back as a Frontier Nursing Service Courier, 1928-2010, Ann Z. Cockerham

Unbridled Service

The award winner will be announced at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest’s Meet the Authors Reception to be held Friday, April 17–the night before the main Book Fest event. The Kentucky Literary Award is presented annually by the Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership, and the 2015 award is sponsored by the Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information about the award, contact Kristie Lowry, Book Fest and Literary Outreach Coordinator, at or 745-4502.

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest is a partnership of Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and Western Kentucky University Libraries. For more information, visit

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A December Election

Elizabeth Martin's take on the 1844 election

Elizabeth Martin’s take on the 1844 election

When last we left the Whigs, they were fighting the presidential race of 1844, pitting their candidate, Kentucky’s Henry Clay, against Tennessee Democrat James K. Polk.  Both parties had dumped their presumptive heirs to the nomination, Vice President John Tyler and former President Martin Van Buren, respectively.

With their nation poised to become a continental power, the Whigs and Dems sparred bitterly over the annexation of Texas and Oregon, Manifest Destiny, and the westward expansion of slavery (Polk was for, Clay against).  But economic issues such as the tariff (Polk wanted to lower it) also hovered in the background.  Voting began on November 1–this was the last presidential election to be held on different days in different states–and when it concluded on December 4, 1844, Polk was declared the winner by a narrow margin.

In Elkton, Kentucky, 53-year-old Elizabeth Martin found herself on the wrong side of the vote (had she been able to vote, that is).  Writing to her nephew Benjamin Hinch, she mourned the outcome as “a grate calamity indeed” that left the defeated Whigs “all down in the mouth.”  Elizabeth’s daughter Avaline was also disappointed.  “The times are very hard with us,” and were likely to continue “since they have elected old Polk.”  But this joint mother-daughter letter included another, more personal debate, as the women earnestly proposed suitable names for Hinch’s newborn son.

Elizabeth and Avaline Martin’s letter is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections about politics, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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WKU Special Collections Department Head Jonathan Jeffrey receives the 2014 Kentucky History Award at ceremony in Frankfort

Jeffrey History AwardProfessor Jonathan Jeffrey, department head for Library Special Collections and coordinator for Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, recently was awarded the 2014 Kentucky History Award in Frankfort, Kentucky for his efforts on the JFK Memory Project. The Kentucky Historical Society sponsors this program to recognize outstanding achievements by individuals and organizations throughout the commonwealth. Jeffrey was recognized during the Kentucky History Awards ceremony on Friday, November 7, at the Old State Capitol in downtown Frankfort.

The JFK Memory Project, organized and led by Jeffrey, was a special effort to collect people’s memories of two events: John F. Kennedy’s campaign visit to Bowling Green in October 1960 and his assassination on November 22, 1963. During a five-month period, Jeffrey encouraged anyone to forward their remembrances to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU Libraries for permanent retention with intent to capture a clearer picture of his local visit and to demonstrate how national/international events affect people at the local level.  As a result, 130 responses were compiled, including numerous emails, 27 photographs, 14 personal interviews, news clippings, and various campaign paraphernalia. Materials are available through WKU’s digital archives, TopSCHOLAR.

Jeffrey, a native of Texas, has been at Western Kentucky University Department of Library Special Collections since 1990. He has published numerous popular and scholarly articles and mongraphs related to local history, architecture, women’s history, the Shakers, and the history of the Commonwealth’s libraries. His most recent book is Stock Car Racing in Bowling Green. He has served on numerous boards for Kentucky historical organizations, and has been recognized with various awards, including the Historical Confederation of Kentucky’s Award of Distinction, WKU’s Outstanding Public Service Award, and WKU’s Jefferson Award for Public Service.


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