Page 13 - Windows_Fall 2016
P. 13

The Sandbox:                                                                    A Tribute to Roger Rainwater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              by Dr. Linda Hughes
                                                            A Place to                                                          I am deeply grateful for the many ways in which Roger Rainwater’s generous collegiality and expert knowledge have enriched my

                                                                                                                                life as a teacher and scholar at TCU. I’ll start with research, since that led me to him first, then take up teaching and end with an
                                                                                                                                example in which teaching and research were inseparable—that combination central to our teacher-scholar mission at TCU.
                                                            Experiement                                                         One of my research areas is British literature and publishing history. When I arrived on campus I was just finishing a book co-

                                                                                                                                authored with Michael Lund on Victorian serial literature, or works first published in installments, and I was soon given a list of
                                                            With New                                                            the Luther Lewis Collection of rare books and manuscripts housed in Special Collections. Besides gems like first editions of Jane
                                                                                                                                Austen’s Emma, Oscar Wilde’s hand-corrected proofs of An Ideal Husband, or a manuscript letter or two of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
                                                                                                                                and other poets, the Lewis Collection includes a number of Victorian novels in their original monthly illustrated parts.  My eyes
                                                            Technology                                                          lit up when I discovered that I could go to Special Collections and look at parts-publication novels by Charles Dickens, W. M.
                                                                                                                                Thackeray, and others; each part included not only text and illustrations but also the extensive ads (often for competing serials
                                                                                                                                and books) at the front and back.  Access to these enriched my grasp (in both the conceptual and tactile sense) of what I was
                                                                                                                                researching.  And Roger always welcomed me to Special Collections and smoothed my way to access.

                                                            Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that     But Roger also helped me as a teacher, enriching graduate and undergraduate students’ study of British literature in my classes.
                                                            changes everything.  ~ Steve Jobs                                   When I taught a graduate seminar on late nineteenth-century Aestheticism and Decadence, which promoted beautiful decorative
                                                                                                                                and household items for daily use including books, I could bring students to Special Collections and let them see for themselves
                                                            When introducing new technology equipment, the Sandbox is           numerous books that were beautiful in their bindings, covers, and decorative touches inside.  I let Roger know what the course
                                                            the place for people to come to try out the new technology, learn,   focus was and suggested an item or two that could be interesting for students.  Roger then used his in-depth knowledge of
                                                            experiment and simply have fun. Located on the first floor of the   the collection and book history to share other examples housed at TCU.  The students loved this close-up look at an aesthetic
                                                            Library, the Sandbox is filled with the latest gadgets and unique   philosophy materialized in the books it produced, and I learned new things too.
                                                                                                                                As new ideas about how to handle rare materials evolved among professional librarians, so did Roger’s librarianship with students.

                                                            The Sandbox also serves as a launch pad for new OS presentations    At one time we all needed to don white cotton gloves to hold rare materials, but once librarians concluded that sometimes gloved
                                                            and other equipment launches from various vendors.                  hands were less sensitive and could inadvertently tear pages or drop books, Roger let us take our gloves off and hold a book in the
                                                                                                                                same ways Victorians themselves did.  One thing always stayed the same, though:  Roger’s dedication to seeing that rare materials
                                                                                                                                did not sit entombed in Special Collections but were USED in the TCU community to strengthen its mission.
                                                            People are naturally anxious about change and new technology,
                                                            so the Sandbox is the perfect place to put physical units that TCU   That went for undergraduates as much as graduate students.  When I taught courses on the Victorian novel and assigned one or
                                                            might need or want to demonstrate to the campus community.          more serial novels (read in parts over the semester), I again brought students to Special Collections so that they could encounter
                                                            Students find this pretty neat to be able to test new technology    original serial parts from 150 years ago or more.  This made the past real for students in a way hard to achieve any other way;
                                                            before it might be rolled out to the entire campus. It’s also an    meanwhile, due to the conventions of adverts and illustrations at the front, more ads at the back, students were also realizing that,
                                                            awesome way to get faculty interested in ways to utilize the        just as today, the making of literature was a business as well as an art. As a careful custodian of rare materials, Roger knew that
                                                            technology in terms of teaching and enhancing the educational       these precious artifacts could take only so much handling and use, but fortunately that limit has not yet been reached.
                                                                                                                                I’ll end with the teaching-research convergence that Roger enabled. One semester I brought a graduate class studying Victorian
                                                            The Sandbox is open Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.          women writers to Special Collections to again experience the materiality of the historical past. As usual, I suggested an item or
                                                                                                                                two in advance, but then Roger added items he thought might interest us—and they always did. That semester he brought out
                                                                                                                                something I didn’t even know TCU owned, a handwritten notebook of Greek vocabulary words compiled by George Eliot, the
                                                                                                                                famous author of Middlemarch and other novels. This was an amazing revelation.

                                                                                                                                When, early this year, I was invited to contribute to a journal’s special issue devoted to “Object Lessons,” that is, Victorian material
                                                                                                                                culture and the complex meanings it encodes, I immediately thought of the George Eliot Greek vocabulary notebook.  I got in
                                                                                                                                touch with Roger, and on my asking how we came to have this artifact here, he also pulled out the file that documented how a
                                                                                                                                major British author’s personal notebook came to rest at TCU. Telling this story in the article involved everything from an early
                                                                                                                                twentieth-century film director to a California rare book seller and a son who graduated from TCU. And it was also fascinating to
                                                                                                                                discover that George Eliot scholars elsewhere didn’t seem to know about it and to analyze why Eliot was keeping such a notebook
                                                                                                                                at the time.  This research project would never have come into being without Roger, who wanted to make sure we in the TCU
                                                                                                                                community knew of this invaluable acquisition and could draw from it to create new knowledge. The article is named after the
                                                                                                                                notebook itself, but in my mind the real title is “The Roger Rainwater Tribute” essay.
                                                                                                                                Thank you, thank you, Roger for the difference you have made in the lives and thoughts of my students and me.

     4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        13
   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16