Using Defined Learning Objectives in the Burns Library Instruction Program, Fall 2019

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In the Fall 2019 semester,  Burns Library staff has run 42 instruction sessions for almost 850 Boston College students. Working with faculty across 11 disciplines, we’ve custom designed active learning sessions around defined learning goals. We are tired, but we are really happy to see our efforts pay off as students acquire and sharpen their research and inquiry skills, both in the classroom and in follow up visits to the Reading Room. 

A big part of what we do is demystify special collections and demonstrate that these unique materials are accessible to all BC students for any reason. Sometimes simply having students get their hands on rare books and archival material is all it takes to get over the concept that Burns Library is only for “real” scholars (whatever that is) and graduate students. As we routinely tell them, researchers come from around the world to use these collections that are in your backyard, so you might as well take advantage of them, too. 

The Fall 2019 semester has challenged us to be creative in how we use our collections to develop a range of skills related to primary source research. We’ve tried lots of new things, and each session proves to be just as much a learning experience for the librarians as for the students. We’ve enjoyed planning and teaching all our classes, and have highlighted a few below from different disciplines that have been ideal collaborations between the instruction team, faculty, and students, and resulted in some robust special collections experiences.

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Keeping Time: The Sir Jimmy Shand Family’s Music Collection

Burns Library is delighted to announce the availability of a Scottish and Irish music collection from the family of the Scottish accordionist, bandleader, and composer Sir Jimmy Shand (1908-2000). Shand was known worldwide for his musicianship, strict tempos, and devotion to Scottish country dance audiences.  In 2017, Boston College acquired the books for Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives from accordionist, bandleader, and composer Jimmy Shand, Jr.

Born in East Wemyss, Fife, Shand Sr. taught himself to play melodeon and other instruments. The sixth of nine children, he left school at 14 to work in the nearby Lochhead Colliery. After the mining strike of 1926 he moved to Dundee, accepting a travelling salesman position in 1933 with J.T. Forbes to demonstrate and sell accordions. His accordion demo skills led to recording opportunities in the studio and on radio. He began making regular solo accordion broadcasts in the mid 1930s, and by 1940 was leading a Scottish country dance band. After World War II, the Shand Band toured extensively throughout Scotland, Britain, and beyond.

The collection’s 88 printed music titles, dating from the 1850s to the 1980s, were part of the family’s personal library and a local resource for the community. A number of the books in the Shand collection are signed by either Jimmy Shand, Sr. or by Jimmy Shand, Jr., who performed regularly with his father’s band and also had an accordion repair business.

The titles offer insights into the family’s musical interests. About half comprise music for Scottish bagpipes. The collection also includes songs, fiddle music, and music for piano. Connections with Ireland and Irish music are evident in titles such as Captain Francis O’Neill’s The Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems, signed by six members of the musical group The Chieftains.

The Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems, by Francis O'Neill. Signed by The Chieftains.

The Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems, by Francis O’Neill. Signed by The Chieftains.

Growing up in County Clare, Ireland, Boston College’s former Sullivan Artist-in-Residence Seamus Connolly recalls the excitement of hearing Shand on the radio:

“The name Shand is synonymous with the traditional music of Scotland. The rock-solid rhythm and strict tempo of master accordionist and composer Sir Jimmy Shand are forever embedded in my mind. Joyous memories of Mr. Shand’s music have remained with me all my life. They take me back to my youth in Killaloe, as we tuned our crackly radio to the Scottish airwaves to listen to the star of radio and television playing with his band.” 

Connolly, Séamus. “Dominick McCarthy’s Irish Barndance” by Jimmy Shand, Jr. The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, accessed November 12, 2019.

In 1954 Shand and his band made their first tour of Ireland, where they were met with overflow crowds. They crossed the Atlantic in 1955 to tour Canada and the United States, and their first tour of Australia and New Zealand came in 1961. Shand composed over 300 tunes and his band recorded for several labels. His worldwide influence on behalf of Scottish culture was recognized by various honors, including an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1962, an honorary Master of Arts degree from Dundee University in 1985, and knighthood in 1999. 

The printed music collection from the Shand family is one of several Irish Music Archives collections with a Scottish component. If you would like to access the collection in Burns Library’s Reading Room or submit a question, we invite you to contact us using Burns Library’s contact form

— Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian

Sources consulted:

Also of interest:

  • “Bluebell Polka,” performed by Jimmy Shand and his band, YouTube (accessed November 25, 2019)
  • A collection of rare volumes from the Shand family at Wighton Heritage Centre at the Central Library in Dundee, Scotland, 
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A Heckler in Washington

Imagine walking into the House of Representatives on your first day as a newly-elected member of Congress and seeing only ten other women among a total of 435 Representatives. That was Margaret Heckler’s reality as she began her career in Washington in January, 1967. Having won her seat by defeating Republican incumbent Joseph W. Martin, Jr., a former Speaker of the House who had been serving since 1925, she was described as “perky” and “petite” but also “no shrinking violet.” She had already earned a reputation as an astute politician from her two terms on the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, and she was ready to make her mark in Congress. Heckler would go on to champion women’s issues and co-found the Congresswomen’s Caucus, all while navigating the male-dominated world of politics.

Photo of Headline from a Boston Globe article about Heckler, January 15, 1967.

Headline from a Boston Globe article about Heckler, January 15, 1967. Margaret Heckler papers, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

John J. Burns Library holds Margaret Heckler’s Congressional papers as well as materials from her later career as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and ambassador to Ireland. For the past year, I have been arranging and describing her papers (what archivists call “processing”) to make them available to researchers. As Alison Harris mentioned in her blog post about processing the Edward P. Boland papers, Congressional collections often do not come to a repository in a well-organized manner, due to a number of circumstances surrounding reelection, staff changes, and committee assignments. It has been a challenge to make sense of all of the materials documenting different parts of Heckler’s career. As I near the end of this project, I am gratified to see the collection coming together in a way that I hope will be meaningful to researchers.

Margaret Heckler began her Congressional career during the period of second-wave feminism, when women’s rights advocates turned their focus to a broader range of issues: legal rights, domestic violence, reproductive rights, and workplace equality. She often described the difficulty she had getting a job in a Boston firm in the late 1950s  as a recent law graduate. One congratulatory letter from another Representative stated that “We need more good men like you in Congress,” and, throughout her career, she would receive letters addressed to Mr. Heckler or Dear Sir. But Heckler appears to have been unshaken in her quest to advance her career and the rights of women. As a staunch proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), she fought unsuccessfully to keep support for passage of the ERA on the Republican platform at the 1980 Convention. Heckler was particularly interested in women’s economic rights, and was involved in the 1974 passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act which prohibited discrimination in credit transactions on the basis of sex or marital status. She fought for Social Security benefits for homemakers and widowed women, and for affordable, safe child care for working mothers.

Poster advertising child care hearings in Fall River, MA, 1971. "Security of knowing your children are safe while you work" Support the need for more Quality DAY CARE CENETERS in Fall River

Poster advertising child care hearings in Fall River, MA, 1971. Margaret Heckler papers, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

I was excited to discover, however, that women’s issues were not the only thing that Margaret Heckler cared deeply about. A member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee during her 16 years in Congress, she was a tireless champion of veterans’ health care and education benefits. Her papers include extensive files on G.I. bills, Agent Orange hearings, and veteran senior citizen health care legislation. Heckler also served on the Agriculture Committee where she was involved in food stamp and nutrition legislation. Although not from a large agricultural state, she felt that these issues were important and that her voice on the Agriculture Committee would benefit her constituents. She was also a proponent of the development of alcohol fuels and gasohol, pumping the first gallon of gasohol in the state of Massachusetts at a Raynham gas station in 1979. She was deeply concerned about the cost of home heating oil in Massachusetts, and worked as part of the New England Congressional Caucus on energy issues.


Margaret Heckler lost reelection to Rep. Barney Frank in 1982, but was quickly chosen by President Reagan to replace retiring Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Richard Schweiker. Despite having no background or experience in medicine, she vowed to be a “catalyst for caring” at her Senate confirmation hearing. During her two and a half years at HHS she named the AIDS epidemic as the department’s number one priority, increasing research funding. One of her biggest accomplishments at HHS was the landmark Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, known as the Heckler Report, which identified the differences in health outcomes of whites and minorities in America. In late 1985, after criticism about her HHS management and commitment to conservative Republican values from White House aides and officials, she was asked to give up her HHS position and become Ambassador to Ireland. Heckler seems to have thrived in her role representing U.S. interests in the country of her parents’ birth. The papers from her time in Ireland include warm correspondence between her and government officials, business leaders, and friends.


Photograph of Margaret Heckler with her Irish wolfhound, Jackson O’Toole, in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Dublin, Ireland, circa 1986-1989.

Heckler with her Irish wolfhound, Jackson O’Toole, in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Dublin, Ireland, circa 1986-1989. Margaret Heckler papers, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Processing the Margaret Heckler papers has been an eye-opening experience for me, both in terms of learning about Congressional collections and in getting a glimpse of what it was like to be a woman in politics in the 1960s-80s. One of the primary conclusions that I can draw from my experience with Heckler’s papers is that bipartisanship and collegiality were very much alive during most of her career in Washington. I’ve been surprised to discover that, as a moderate Republican, many of Heckler’s views would be considered liberal today. Senator Ted Kennedy introduced Heckler at her Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Health and Human Services. It would be hard to imagine a Democrat presenting a Republican Cabinet Secretary nominee today. Collections like this document important periods in our nation’s political history, and John J. Burns Library is looking forward to opening the Margaret Heckler papers to researchers early next year.

  • Katie Lamontagne, Project Archivist, John J. Burns Library


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What’s in a Game? Some Examples of Board Games at Burns Library

Detail of gameboard with portrait of Queen Victoria,

Detail of gameboard with portrait of Queen Victoria, Historical Pastime: A New Game of the History of England

As we enter the season when cozy indoor activities beckon, the appeal of board games endures despite, or perhaps because of, digital distractions. Burns Library collections include several games, intended to teach, make social commentary, or pass companionable time.

Gameboard, Abbasso le Code!!

Gameboard, Abbasso le Code!!, GV1312 .A23 1848 FLAT STORAGE

Abbasso le Code!! is a satirical board game printed on a single sheet of paper. It can be played, but is also akin to a political cartoon. Published in 1848, its Italian title in English means “Down with the Reactionaries” (literally, “Down with the Tails”). The game’s anti-Jesuit bias is related to their conservative opposition to Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), Cardinal-Deacon Giacomo Antonelli (1806-1876) in mid-19th century Italy. Its decorative artwork features a man thumbing his nose at a priest and caricatures of Catholic clergy. 

The game is played in  a “game of the goose” style, where players start at the outside of a spiral, and move 59 spaces in turns, based on the roll of a die, toward a goal at the center of the board. The rules of the game are printed on its gameboard, and, roughly translated, read as:

Detail of gameboard, Abbasso le Code!!

Detail of gameboard, Abbasso le Code!!, GV1312 .A23 1848 FLAT STORAGE


  • Whoever lands on the white stars goes on, and doubles the number.
  • Those who meet the Jesuits go back to where they were.
  • Whoever lands on the black stars goes out of the game and starts again.
  • Whoever goes to #49 gets stuck until someone else comes to take him out, and he will put himself in the place where he was taken away.
  • Those who arrive at #59 but have surplus numbers go back.
  • The winner is the one who makes the precise number and stops at 59.

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Art, Identity, and Symbolism in Tarot Cards

Boston College Libraries supports faculty teaching and student learning in a variety of ways that can go far beyond a paper assignment. The Burns Library Instruction Team has worked with Professor Jane Cassidy’s Introduction to Digital Art classes for several semesters to prepare them for a key assignment: design two tarot cards, one a recognizable self portrait, and the other a design of the students’ choosing.

We worked with Professor Cassidy to develop a class plan that would give students the skills they needed to tackle this creative challenge.  The learning objectives for the sessions at Burns Library included: 

  • Recognizing symbols and understanding how they work
  • Being able to communicate complex ideas through the visual art medium
  • Drawing on historical/primary sources to generate and refine their own interpretations
  • Examining and synthesizing a variety of sources in order to construct and support an artistic argument

Our class plan includes an introduction to special collections and an overview of symbolism and allegory given by Nina Bogdanovsky, Art History Librarian.  Students then viewed a variety of illustrated materials from Burns Library Collections, and, using some guiding questions, identified a few symbols that they found interesting. Librarians helped students use reference resources—and the papers of G. William Patten, a Boston-area monument designer and artist with copious notes on symbolism—to learn more about symbols and meanings that they might include in their artworks. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Professor Cassidy and this class/assignment for many semesters to come. 

Burns Library staff is always happy to encourage wider use of Burns Library’s unique materials for teaching and research, and will work creatively with faculty and others to develop customized classes, activities, and assignments around course topics and learning objectives. Instructors interested in using special collections materials to enhance the learning outcomes of their courses and/or research assignments should contact Burns Library staff.

We’re always happy when instructors follow up to tell us how a Burns-assisted assignment went, and are pleased to provide the artwork of  Professor Cassidy’s Fall 2019 Introduction to Digital Art below. What symbols do you see?



So much creativity from our Boston College Students!

  • Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services and User Engagement, Burns Library
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History of the Azores, or Western Islands

Image of frontispiece of "History of the Azores" showing a man riding a bull and woman carrying a square, wooden pale.

Frontispiece, History of the Azores, DP702.A86 A88 WILLIAMS

You don’t see many books on the Azores in Burns Library, so having traveled to the volcanic islands myself, once in 1995 and once in 2010, this particular book immediately caught my eye. I found it was a fascinating look at the state of the islands 200 years before I visited. It was remarkable to see how some aspects of the islands remain almost the same as they were two centuries ago, such as the caldeiras (more on that topic below).

In 1810, on his way home from South America, Irish writer Thomas Ashe spent time on the Azorean archipelago. While in the Azores, Ashe wrote a series of letters to the Earl of Moira, Francis Rawdon-Hastings. The Earl, an important figure in British politics, was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill, a Major General in the French Revolutionary wars, and was even considered to replace William Pitt the younger in 1797 as Prime Minister. These letters were eventually collected and published in 1813 as a book titled History of the Azores, or Western islands; containing an account of the government, laws, and religion, the manners, ceremonies, and character of the inhabitants: and demonstrating the importance of these valuable islands to the British Empire.

Image of Map showing the relative position of the Azores to North America, Europe, and Africa,

Map showing the relative position of the Azores to North America, Europe, and Africa, History of the Azores, DP702.A86 A88 WILLIAMS

Thomas Ashe’s goal in writing these letters was to convince the Earl of Moira, and therefore the British government, to obtain the Azores. In letter III Ashe reminds the Earl that Portugal owes Britain large sums of money due to the support of Britain during the Peninsular War, which lasted from 1807-1814. The Portuguese could easily erase that debt by transferring sovereignty of the Azores. Ashe lays out further reasons for acquiring the nine Azorean Islands in letter IV. His first reason is that the Azores, situated between America, Africa and Europe, would make an excellent port for trading with the rest of the world. Second, Ashe argues that Britain needs a colony that can produce wine, which the Azores is perfect for. The third argument is that the Azores would make an excellent military depot for soldiers before they traveled to Africa or the West Indies in order that a soldier’s “blood may be prepared to meet the vicissitudes of those destructive climates.” Ashe further argues that the islands add another military advantage by allowing Britain to deploy troops from there, rather than directly from Great Britain. This would allow troops to reach the Cape of Good Hope and the East and West Indies more quickly. Ashe also suggests that instead of sending prisoners to the colony of New South Wales (Australia), convicts could be sent to the Azores where they could help improve the infrastructure of the islands. While Ashe’s arguments were ultimately unsuccessful in persuading the Earle and the rest of British parliament, his line of reasoning highlights the British empire’s strategic thinking and concerns of the time. Continue reading

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Generations of Fans: Rex Stout, the Baker Street Irregulars, and the Wolfe Pack

The new exhibit here in Burns Library—Golden Spiders and Black Orchids: A ‘Satisfactory’ Look at the Life and Writings of Rex Stout—inspired us to delve a little deeper into the life of American mystery writer Rex Stout.

Rex Stout’s stories featuring armchair detective Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, have inspired many devoted fans through the years. The Rex Stout related collections in Burns Library all contain examples of fan art and fan events celebrating Stout’s colorful characters. So it is interesting to learn that Rex Stout himself was a fervent fan—of mystery author Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.


Stout’s review of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Box 18, Folder 27, Rex Stout papers (MS1986-096)

Stout’s writings show a clear admiration for Doyle’s famous literary creation. Stout’s own books follow the archetypes set forth by Doyle: the cerebral lead detective (Holmes: Wolfe) and his more down-to-earth partner (Watson: Archie), solving crimes as private detectives. Stout wrote impassioned essays about Sherlock Holmes. The Rex Stout papers include a carbon copies of both Stout’s introduction for The Later Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Heritage Press, 1952), and his review in The New Republic of Vincent Starrett’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Macmillan, 1933).

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