23 of the weirdest, funniest, creepiest, most surprising items found by archivists.

Ever wondered what goes on in a library's dark corners, where you aren't allowed to go?

Wonder no more, thanks to The Society of American Archivists' Ask an Archivist Day.

On Oct. 4, university, corporate, and museum archivists around the world dug out the coolest, rarest, and weirdest items in their collections, photographed them, and put the results on Twitter.


They didn't disappoint. Here's just some of what they had in storage.

1. Small items. Very small items. Like a Bible so tiny that it has a magnifying glass with it for reading.

2. And a barely-bigger-than-a-quarter book about birds, published during the deadliest year of the Civil War.

3. Amazing and rare photos. Like this one of unhappy men preparing a diver to check out the bottom of Loch Tay in 1890.

4. Or this one of three women in West Virginia, rocking the slickest hats of 1908.

5. A folding chair used by Barack Obama.

6. Dirt from the grave of a well-known American writer.

7. A Roman-era coin, depicting either a man in a helmet or a curious understanding of human anatomy.

8. A photo of a sailor whose ship vanished in the Bermuda Triangle in 1918.

9. And one of of other World War I sailors giddily posing on top of two ginormous battleship guns.

10. A child's sketch of a groundbreaking concept car — complete with a built-in kitchen and a 300 mph top speed.

11. A legal document drawn up in 14th century France.

12. A pioneering, ultra-glittery work of feminist art.

13. A photo of fashion designer Ann Lowe, the woman who designed Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress.

14. A script for a rarely heard "Empire Strikes Back" radio play.

15. Campus activist fliers from the 1970s.

16. And punk zines from the 1980s.

17. An image of rows and rows of classic radiator shells waiting to be installed at a Depression-era Pontiac plant.

18. A handwritten letter from Sigmund Freud.

19. Ancient technology.

20. Proof that Queen Elizabeth II is apparently a secret football fan.

21. A memo warning campus police about an upcoming Ozzy Osborne concert, citing the singer's involvement with "abuse of animals" and "alleged satanic groups."

22. Perhaps most importantly, a visual reminder of the tedious, painstaking work archivists do to preserve these items for random humans to gawk at on the Internet.

23. And why, if you want to see more, you'll have to visit a library or archive in person.

You can happily scroll through dozens more like this using the #AskAnArchivist hashtag.

No appointment necessary.

Update 10/9/2017: The headline was changed to reflect that archivists and librarians differ, in part by the type of materials handled.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less