Friday, March 31, 2017

Barrie at Bay

A photograph of Melville Island, primarily a large snow-covered mountainside with several small figures at the mid-right and one tiny individual standing in the lower left corner of the frame.
In October of 1916, the world-renowned arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson had returned to his winter quarters on Melville Island in the far north of Canada. As the leader of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1916), he had just spent the past several months discovering new islands in the Arctic Circle, including Meighen Island and Laugheed Island. Although the return to Melville was meant to signal the beginning of the expedition's official completion, Stefansson would defy his orders and strike north again one last time, eventually returning home in 1918. It was the last time that he would venture into the Arctic.

First page of Barrie's Letter to Stefansson: "3 Robert Street, Adelphi, W. C. 2. London. June 9, 1918. Dear Sir, It may amuse you as it has amused me to know the history of your letter to the author of "Barrie at Bay," which you sent off from Melville Island in Oct 1916 and which has just been forwarded to me. In those two years you must have been living a stirring..."While on Melville Island at the conclusion of his 1916 exploratory adventure, Stefansson evidently found time to catch up on news about the world war that had begun since he had set out on his expedition back in 1913. During his perusal of what must have been a stockpile of old papers, Stefansson happened upon a write-up of an interview conducted by "Anon" in the October 1st 1914 issue of the New York Times. The interview was ostensibly a tell-all about the author of Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie, by his manservant Brown and provided several opinions about the war and what America's role should be. After reading it, Stefansson took the time to send a letter of appreciation to the reporter who conducted the interview.

Page two of Barrie's letter to Stefansson"...time while I have been a dreary stick at home (I have always wanted to do the things you do). However you are chiefly (?) wondering why your letter was sent to me, and I have to confess (with bowed head) that it came to its rightful owner, as it was I, in some spirit of gentle (?) diablerie, who wrote that paper about myself. Long forgotten and now recalled by you, and I was very pleased to think it gave any one on Arctic exploration bent (Cpt. Scott of the Antarctic was a close (?) friend of mine) a moments exhilaration. Now I know why I wrote it. With kindest regards Ever Sincerely (Signed) J. M. Barrie
Nearly two years later, on his way back to civilization, Stefansson must have been surprised to receive a personal letter from J. M. Barrie himself. In his missive, Barrie somewhat abashedly confessed to being the author of the fictitious interview (which is how he had belatedly received Stefansson's letter) and concluded by expressing his delight that it had been of enjoyment for "any one on Arctic exploration bent."

To see photographic images from Stefansson's Canadian Arctic Expedition (MSS-229), come to Rauner and have a look at them in person, or take a look at the digital archive available online.  To see the letter from J. M. Barrie to Stefansson, ask for MSS-196, Box 2, folder 45.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Poster for "Insta-Exhibit" exhibition. It shows nine images from Rauner Library's Instagram: an Ethiopian scroll; a cuneiform tablet; a jugsaw puzzle; a minitature book of Rudolph; a marbled endpaper; two people and a piece of the Old Pine; a manuscript drawing of a ship; a mineature book next to a hair pin; an a detail from a medieval manuscript.This is getting absurd. Here I am using one form of social media (this blog) to promote a physical exhibition that is based on another form of social media (Instagram) that, at least for us, is a virtual gallery of our physical objects. Arghh, to almost quote xkcd, It's So Meta Even This Acronym....

But really, it is a great exhibit that you should come in and see. It features items from some of our most popular Instagram posts from the past 18 months. The actual physical objects are in the cases alongside the wise and whimsical commentary of Bay Lauris ByrneSim '15 and Hannah Chung '16.

So, even if you are not on Instagram, now you can enjoy our posts through May 1st! And, if you are on Instagram, follow us at @raunerlibrary.