The following is a guest post from retired cataloger Sharon McKinley.
I’ve always enjoyed living vicariously through the Music Division’s special collections. Staffers who work in the Acquisitions and Processing Section become quite intimate with the collections they process. The rest of us are more likely to happen upon wonderful finds by serendipitous means. The collections are in secure Music Division areas, but when you’re just passing through, who knows what treasures you may find?
One of my favorite personal discoveries is in the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. I am fascinated by the kinds of things the Library ends up with when it receives a collection. There are the fabulous scores, books, letters, business papers, and such, which can be invaluable to researchers. We have Danny Kaye’s television and film scripts. Sylvia Fine’s Emmy award: check! Her music and lyrics? Scripts? Scrapbooks? Yes, yes and yes! Correspondence, books, scores, scrapbooks and photos all seem like logical things for us to own. They’re all there tucked away in boxes and duly noted in the finding aid, waiting for someone to stumble across them. Then they take on new life by giving us insight into the people who owned them.
Danny Kaye is one of my all-time favorite performers, so I was intrigued when I happened upon a table with items awaiting processing. Among them was Harry Lauder’s walking stick! The famed Scottish entertainer often gave them away as personal mementos. Someone was betting that the Library would find room for Kaye’s memento in the stacks. Ooh, there’s an extra tie-in here; there are Harry Lauder’s walking stick bushes growing in front of the Library’s Jefferson Building. But I digress. You can look it up.
So many of these items are no-brainers. But airplane models? Time to start reading up on Kaye. Oh, he was a pilot, so it makes more sense than I thought. The keys to numerous cities? Of course! Baseballs—we have 4 plastic-encased souvenir balls from the 1977 Inaugural Game of the Seattle Mariners, against the California Angels. They lost, 7-0—not so obvious. But Kaye was one of the original Mariners owners. It all falls into place. These objects give a bit of insight into what a famous entertainer might have been interested in, collected, and hung onto. Just like the rest of us? Yes…and no. After all, how many of us have keys to cities? Which is why these eclectic collections are so valuable to researchers and the world. They sure make perusing the finding aids and online presentation entertaining! And entertainment is what Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine were all about!