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From the Vaults: Home

Episodes from Top of Mind featuring material from the vaults of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections

Top of Mind "From the Vaults" Segments

June 20, 2018: Class Notes From A.D. 370

Guest: Lincoln H. Blumell, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University

Among the ancient treasures housed in BYU’s Special Collections vault is a piece of papyrus that contains the notes of a student who attended the lecture of a famous religious scholar in early Christianity. The document has an incredible discovery story involving a cave and a group of soldiers during World War II who had no idea what they’d uncovered.

Find the episode here.


April 19, 2018: 150th Anniversary of Little Women

Guest: Cheri Earl, PhD, Adjunct Professor of American Literature and Creative Writing, Brigham Young University

The Little Women sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, are coming back to the screen just in time for the book’s 150th anniversary. The story is about to be re-introduced on screen in a major way. Next month, PBS is airing an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic nove. This is by no means the first screen adaptation of the Civil War era story. Since it was published in 1869, Little Women has resonated widely with audiences in its original form and in many adapted versions. BYU Special Collections has two original copies of the novel Little Women, as well as a series of novels with covers based on the various film adaptations.

Find the episode here


February 7, 2018: Illustrating Wordsworth

Guest: Paul Westover, PhD, Associate Professor of English, Brigham Young University

It’s time now for our regular trip over to the Special Collections at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library for the segment we call “From the Vaults.” The collection includes some rare editions of poetry collections by British Romantic poet William Wordsworth. 

“I wandered lonely as a cloud/ that floats o’er high on vales and hills.” That’s one of his famous lines – and an example of the vivid visual quality of Wordsworth’s poems. Those wispy cirrus clouds floating across the sky do seem awfully lonely, don’t they?

Find the episode here


December 7, 2017: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Guest: Michael Lavers, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, Brigham Young University 

Just as World War I was coming to a bloody end and the Roaring Twenties dawned with a promise of political freedom for women and a rebirth of the arts, a young female poet arrived on the American literary scene. Edna St. Vincent Millay, was barely out of her teens when she became a literary star. Her first book of poetry, “Renascence, and Other Poems,” was published 100 years ago. 

Find the episode here.


October 9, 2017: The History of the Charity Bazaar

Guest: Leslee Thorne-Murphy, Associate Professor of English at BYU, Co-Editor of the forthcoming “Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature, 1850-1920,” Curator of “Welcome to our Charity Bazaar,” an exhibit in the Harold B. Lee Library, runs through June 2018. 

Description: Soon the holiday bazaars will begin – you’ll be able to get handmade tree ornaments and jewelry, plus artisan jams and honey - all a bit overpriced, to be sure. But it’s usually for a good cause. The charity bazaar has a great origin story we’re going to explore for this month’s installment of From the Vaults—where we go inside the BYU library’s Special Collection. The library is currently hosting an exhibit called “Welcome to our Charity Bazaar,” and we’ve invited one of its curators to join us in studio.  

Find the episode here


August 7, 2017: Lewis Carroll

Guest: Jamie Horrocks, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, Brigham Young University

Description: As part of our regular series “From the Vaults,” let’s explore some fantastical illustrations in BYU’s Special Collections archive. They’re from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Did you know that surrealist painter Salvador Dalí illustrated a copy? Special Collections has his version—which makes the strange tale even “curiouser and curiouser.” The BYU holdings also include an 1886 edition with the original illustrations by John Tenniel.  

Find the episode here.


June 26, 2018: The Legacy of Langston Hughes

Guest: Kristin Matthews, PhD, Associate Professor of English, BYU

Description: For this month’s segment of “From the Vaults,” we’re going to dive into the BYU Special Collections to celebrate one of America’s greatest poets: Langston Hughes. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his death. The “king” of the Harlem Renaissance was known for writing jazz-influenced poetry that reflected the daily lives of African-Americans at the time and was accessible to everyone, not just scholars. BYU Special Collections has a signed copy of his book of poetry, "The Dream Keeper." Professor Matthews argues that his dreams are still unrealized today.

Find the episode here.


April 20, 2017: Genesis, Apocalypse, and the Maya

Guest: Mark Z. Christensen, Professor of History, Assumption College in Massachusetts, translator of “The Teabo Manuscript”

Description: Several years ago, a BYU alum who now teaches history at Assumption College in Massachusetts went digging in some dusty boxes housed in BYU’s Special Collections library and came up with a whopper of a find. It’s a rare and mysterious 44-page booklet that dates back centuries and comes from a Mayan town on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico called Teabo. The booklet talks about the creation of the world, the mission of Jesus Christ and the Apocalypse. How’s that for intriguing? Check out the Teabo Manuscript here.

Find the episode here.


March 30, 2017: Curious Remedies

Guest: Meg Frost, Physiological Sciences Librarian, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU

​Description: For this month’s installment of From the Vaults, we’ve taken a little field trip across the BYU campus to travel back in time to the 16th Century, when visiting the doctor was not a sterile and sanitized experience. We’re here, in the lobby of the Harold B Lee Library, where, behind a tall black curtain just inside the main entrance, the world of Renaissance Medicine comes alive. The exhibit is called Curious Remedies, and in it we’re introduced to mysterious powders, surgical tools that look like instruments of torture, fantastic masks and lots of blood—and leeches.

Find the episode here.


February 28, 2017: The Tap-Dancing Genius of John W. Bubbles

Guest: Brian Harker, PhD, Professor in the School of Music, BYU

Description: Here’s an example of a figure you’ve probably never heard of, who was a major influence on iconic American performers including Fred Astaire. John W. Bubbles was his stage name. He was a singer and tap dancer of great renown in the early 20th Century. BYU’s Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library here on campus has a large stash of his personal belongings, including the top hat and cane he used in his dancing. For this month’s installment of “From the Vaults,” we’re going to look at the life work of John W. Bubbles with Professor Brian Harker of BYU’s School of Music.​

Find the episode here


December 7, 2016: Graphic Novel Adaptations of Classics

Guest: Kristin Matthews, Associate Professor of English, BYU

Description: The classic novel Moby Dick has around 700 pages, so that’s one reason a comic book version of the book might be attractive to some readers. The practice of adapting classics into comics has a long history in the US – and a controversial one tied up in Cold War politics and debate over what it means to be a good, literate American youth.

Find the episode here


October 26, 2016: Edgar Allan Poe

Guests: Carl Sederholm, PhD, Department Chair for Comparative Arts and Letters at BYU; Dennis Perry, PhD, Associate Professor of Humanities at BYU; Dane Allred, Adjunct Professor of Public Speaking in Student Development at BYU

Description: If you search for Edgar Allan Poe’s famous refrain “Nevermore” from his dark poem “The Raven,” you’re likely to turn up wall art, Halloween wreaths, mugs, even fabric to design your own American gothic creations. So we’ve chosen to look at Edgar Allan Poe for this month’s installment of “From the Vaults,” where we explore the holdings of BYU Special Collections, which houses an 1845 edition of American Review, where Poe first published “The Raven.” Why does this old poem feel so modern? ​

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September 28, 2016: Banned Books Week

Guest: Richard Hacken, Senior Librarian at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library

Description: Book lovers might know the answer to this riddle: what does the classic “The Grapes of Wrath” have in common with the tragic novel, “The Fault in Our Stars?” Or with the romantic tale of “Romeo and Juliet?” All three of those titles have been the subject of calls for them to be banned from libraries or schools. Since this is the annual “Banned Books Week,” we’re dedicating our regular installment of “From the Vaults” to the history and complexity of book banning.​

Find the episode here.


September 7, 2016: Kay Nielson

Guest: Julie Allen, PhD, Humanities Professor at BYU

Description: Do you remember this final scene from Disney’s Fantasia? There’s a winged demon with glowing eyes on top of a craggy mountain. He looms over a sleeping village and then he starts summoning spirits from the grave. They’re flying through the air on wispy skeletal horses and then there are demons dancing around a pit of fire. The whole thing is super-creepy and a lot of people said it was too dark for a kid’s movie. But it ends on a really lovely note when the music shifts to Schubert’s Ave Maria and there’s a serene candlelight procession weaving through stately trees. 

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July 28, 2016: Beatrix Potter's 150th Birthday

Guest: Leslee Thorne-Murphy, PhD, Associate Professor of English at BYU

Description: If you’ve ever owned a stuffed Peter Rabbit, or heard the tale of that mischief-making rabbit that nearly ended up in Mr. McGregor’s pie, you know something about the world of Beatrix Potter: the adventures of naughty or foolish characters like Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle-Duck and their near-disasters are classic childhood stories.

In this month’s installment of “From the Vaults,” where we dive into the holdings of BYU Library’s Special Collections, we’re going to celebrate Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday, which is today. The library houses first edition copies of 21 of Beatrix Potter’s Tales, and we’ve invited BYU English Professor Leslee Thorne-Murphy into our studios to discuss these beloved stories, the genius behind their creation, and Beatrix Potter’s larger influence beyond the literary world.

Find the episode here


May 24, 2016: Copernicus' Revolutionary Theory

Guests: Tom Stephens, a Physical and Mathematical Sciences Librarian in the Harold B Lee Library at BYU; Maggie Kopp, Curator of the History of Science Collection in Special Collections at the Harold B Lee Library

Description: “You are not the center of the universe!” Ever used that retort with someone being annoyingly self-centered? Well, Nicolaus Copernicus essentially began telling that to the world in the year 1514. It was a blow to the collective ego of the West, and, was not warmly embraced by either scientific or religious leaders. We now know he was right. 

Find the episode here.


February 16, 2016: Harvey Fletcher Grammy

Guest: ​Maureen Meyer, Film Teacher at the Walden School in Provo, Utah

Description: You know about the Grammys last night for all the big music awards. But there is also a Technical Grammy Awards ceremony that will be taking place later this spring, and one of the posthumous recipients is a BYU alum named Harvey Fletcher. He died 35 years ago, but his innovations continue to influence just about everything about the way we enjoy music today. Fletcher has been called “The Father of Stereophonic Sound.” And if you wear a hearing aid, you can also thank Dr. Fletcher for his work in that field. 

Find the episode here.


January 26, 2016: Helen Foster Snow

Guest:  Sheril Foster Bischoff, Trustee of the Literary Collection of her Aunt, Helen Foster Snow

Description: News about China’s volatile economy, booming middle class and powerful government is easy to come by these days. But in the early 20th Century, news out of China was very rare. And, in the 1930s the news that the West received about China often came from an unlikely source – a dashing young American couple: Edgar Snow and his wife Helen Foster Snow. They crossed through dangerous military zones to cover student uprisings and the intense political conflicts between Nationalist and Communist forces. Oh, and she befriended Chairman Mao. For this month’s installment of “From the Vaults,” we dive into the holdings in Special Collections at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library, to explore the adventures and legacy of Helen Foster Snow. 

Find the episode here.


December 9, 2015: Dickens and Christmas

Guests: Dane Allred, Actor, High School Drama Teacher, Adjunct Faculty Member of the Theater and Media Arts Department, BYU; and Jamie Horrocks, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, BYU

Description: Back in time now to the year 1843 and the publication of new novel that would change the way the Western world thought about Christmas. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a book that’s still in print and which is performed every year around the world. We look at some early editions of Dickens’ Christmas books in this month’s installment of “From the Vaults,” where we dive into the holdings we have here on our BYU campus over in Special Collections at the Harold B Lee Library and today we also pay a visit to a rare book in the New York Public Library. 

Find the episode here.


October 28, 2015: Spooky and Strange

Guests: Maggie Kopp, Curator of European Books in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Department of the Library at BYU; Scott Miller, Professor of Japanese and Dean of the College of Humanities

Description: A new exhibit at the Harold B. Lee Library’s Special Collections archive sheds some light on why people love haunted houses and horror, and what that means here versus Japan or today versus 100 years ago. The collection features the spooky Japanese ghost scroll and the strange, human hair art. Japanese Ghost ScrollPhotos of Items in Vault​

Find the episode here


September 24, 2015: Rose Marie Reid

Guests: John Murphy, BYU Special Archives Historian; Carole Reid Burr, Daughter of Fashion Designer Rose Marie Reid 

​Description: Any woman who’s bought a swimming suit with a slimming panel in the tummy, an underwire bra for extra support or a flouncy skirt to flatter the hips, owes a debt to Rose Marie Reid. If you’ve noticed the retro look that’s so popular right now poolside, thank Rose Marie Reid. During the 40s and 50s, she pioneered the notion that women could look and feel beautiful in a bathing suit. She used exotic fabrics and design tricks to flatter all shapes and sizes. Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and the cast of the movie “Gidget” wore Rose Marie Reid originals. By 1960, her company was worth $18 million. Adding to her intrigue is that fact that Reid was twice-divorced, a mother of three, and a Mormon. 

Find the episode here.


July 8, 2015: The Death of Alexander Hamilton

Guests: Russ Taylor (Associate University Librarian for Special Collections), and Dr. Matt Mason (Associate Professor of History at BYU)

Description: This weekend marks the two hundred and eleventh anniversary of one of history’s most famous, or infamous, duels. On July 11, 1804, the Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, fatally shot his long-time political rival Alexander Hamilton, a noted Federalist who had been the first Secretary of the Treasury in the US. Here at Brigham Young University, we have in our library’s Special Collections an original letter written by Dirck ten Broeck, a former law clerk under Hamilton, who, in fact, had an appointment to see Hamilton on that fateful afternoon. The meeting never happened, but ten Broeck was there with Hamilton when he died and he wrote this letter to tell his father what happened. Russ Taylor is the Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Dr. Matt Mason is an Associate Professor of History here at BYU. See a scan of the letter here​.

Correction. July 9, 2015. The audio and previous web text state that the duel and death happened on a weekend, but they, in fact, happened on Wednesday and Thursday, July 11 and 12, 1804.

Find the episode here.