Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

Michelle Chesner is the Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University.

Imagining the World: Exhibit Reception

Thanks to all who joined us at the reception for the reception for the exhibit opening of Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia on April 17.  Some pictures of the opening (and the exhibit itself) are included below.  The exhibit will be in the Chang Octagon Room of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library through June 24, so please do come visit!

The Global Studies Curatorial Team

The Global Studies Curatorial Team (Socrates Silva, Rob Davis, Peter Magierski, Yuusuf Caruso, Michelle Chesner, Pamela Graham, Gary Hausman)

Yuusuf Caruso and the African Studies case

Yuusuf Caruso and the African Studies case

GS_exhibit-8

Lively discussion

Online Resource: American Jewish Joint Distribution Council Archives

The JDC Archives holds the institutional records of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee since its founding in 1914. Given the nature of JDC’s work and the role it has played over more than a century of activity, these collections are among the most significant in the world for the study of modern Jewish history and immigration.

The online collections database now has more than 2.6 million pages of documents available. These are fully searchable, with pdfs of the individual documents, and open to scholars, students, and the general public at http://search.archives.jdc.org. Online finding aids for the collections are available at http://archives.jdc.org/explore-the-archives/using-the-archives.html.

This database also includes more than 67,000 digitized photographs that document JDC’s activity around the world throughout the twentieth century, not only in Europe and Israel but also in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.

The Names Index holds more than 500,000 names and is a major source of information for genealogists and family historians. Search results include links to the digitized source documents—index cards, lists, remittances, and others—from which the names were drawn.

The JDC Archives website at http://archives.jdc.org includes curated exhibits, photo galleries, topic guides for educators, and an interactive timeline of JDC history. You will also find guidance on how to search the collections, including video tutorials.

(Image: Jews from the Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp with a memorial to those who died there)

NEH grant to digitize LCCAJ (Yiddish language archive) at Columbia

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) has received an award of $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize field notes and linguistic surveys from the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (LCAAJ) archive.

The LCAAJ archive is an extraordinary resource for research in Yiddish studies that can shed much valuable light on language, ethnography, literature, folklore and music, anthropology, linguistics, Germanic and Slavic studies, and aspects of Central and East European history.  The archive consists of over 600 interviews conducted between 1959 and 1972 with native speakers of Yiddish during a long-range comparative study to document the effects of physical, linguistic, and cultural channels and barriers on the geographic fragmentation of the Jewish and diverse non-Jewish populations that coexisted in Central and Eastern Europe before World War II.  The LCAAJ project collected its interviews at essentially the last moment, when a diverse body of native speakers was still alive, aiming to address both the challenge of an endangered linguistic and cultural legacy, and the special potential that Yiddish provides for studying language and cultural contact and change.

The two-year project funded by NEH will digitize approximately 140,000 pages of interview answer sheets that contain data from the interviews, carry out optical character recognition (OCR) and mark-up to enable their content to be searched and manipulated, and will make all the digitized content freely available to scholars on the Internet on a Columbia website. This source for historical, literary, or anthropological research, and for the study of languages in contact, and the evolution and differentiation of language communities, will then be available to a worldwide community of scholars.

“The Atlas archive is a treasure-house of voices from a vanished world, bearing irreplaceable—heartbreakingly irreplaceable—information about Jewish life, language, and culture,” said Jeremy Dauber, Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture and director of Columbia’s Institute of Israel and Jewish Studies. “It needs to be shared with the world, and we’re delighted—and honored—that the National Endowment for the Humanities is enabling the Libraries to do so.”

The written materials accompany more than 5,700 hours of recorded interviews that CUL/IS has already digitized through generous support from NEH, private foundations, the New York State Conservation/Preservation Program, and EYDES (Evidence of Yiddish Documented in European Societies, a project of the German Förderverein für Jiddische Sprache und Kultur), through which the audio is publicly available.  The long-term goal is to eventually link the written content to the audio recordings of the interviews, and make the entire audio and written corpus available to students and scholars in an integrated form.

The interviews contain a wealth of comments about Jewish culture and history from a place and time that is largely out of our reach today.  Bringing the LCAAJ archive into the digital environment will increase exponentially its value to historians of Jewish Studies and European history, linguists, anthropologists, and students and teachers of Yiddish.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 21 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

See original release here: http://library.columbia.edu/news/libraries/2015/2015-03-31_National_Endowment_for_the_Humanities.html

(Cross-posted on the Jewish Studies blog)

Online resources for Hebrew language and the Israeli elections

In preparation for the elections in Israel, to be held next week on March 17, I’d like to highlight two new freely available resources.

The first, created by the National Library of Israel, relates directly to the upcoming elections.  The NLI has created an online portal to the “Election Chronicles,” an online exhibit and information page documenting elections in Israeli history up to the present.  The website includes basic information about Israeli elections and politics, as well as historic materials (archives, media, political cartoons, and more) from past elections.

Another resource recently made freely available in Israel is Ma’agarim: The Online Database of the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language.  Formerly a subscription database, this project, created by the Academy of Hebrew Language, is now accessible to the public.  The dictionary cites the first existence of words in the Hebrew language, from the Bible through the Gaonic period, and in Hebrew literature from the 18th century through 1948.  This is a powerful resource for the study of Hebrew language.

(Cross-posted on the Jewish Studies Blog)

EIGHT early American Jewish newspapers, now available digitally!

I am pleased to announce that the following Early American newspapers are now available digitally through the following links.  With the exception of the American Israelite and American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger, all newspapers are freely available through the Historical Jewish Press website

Columbia is very proud to have been involved, with New York University and the New York Public Library, in helping the American Jewish Press to be added to the Historical Jewish Press’s corpus.  We look forward to continuing this collaboration in the years to come.

In English:

1. Occident and American Jewish Advocate: http://web.nli.org.il/sites/JPress/English/Pages/The-Occident-and-American-Jewish-Advocate.aspx
2. B’nai Brith Messenger: http://web.nli.org.il/sites/JPress/English/Pages/BBM.aspx
3. Chicago Sentinel: http://web.nli.org.il/sites/JPress/English/Pages/Sentinal.aspx

4. American Israelite: http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio11136600

5. American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger: http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio11136586

In Ladino:
1. La America: http://web.nli.org.il/sites/JPress/English/Pages/usa-section.aspx
2. El Progreso: http://web.nli.org.il/sites/JPress/English/Pages/epo.aspx

In Yiddish:
1. Morgen Zjournal: http://jpress.org.il/Olive/APA/NLI/?action=tab&tab=browse&pub=TJM

(Cross-posted on the Jewish Studies blog)

Lecture: How (and why) the Jews invented Hollywood

Columbia University Libraries is pleased to announce the annual Norman E. Alexander Lecture in Jewish Studies, featuring Neal Gabler, Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC: "How (and why) the Jews invented Hollywood."  The lecture will take place on Wednesday, October 16 at the Skylight Room in the Faculty House (64 Morningside Drive, 4th Floor) at Columbia.  The lecture is scheduled to begin at 7 PM.

Online Resources: Holocaust and Genocide

 

The Shoah Visual History Archive is largest database of first-person Holocaust testimonies, founded by Steven Spielberg.  With over 50,000 testimonies from Holocaust survivors and liberators, carefully indexed in short segments for ease of searchability and use, the VHA is a tremendous resource for the history of the Holocaust.

Recently, the VHA has expanded to include other genocides, and now also holds 65 indexed testimonies of survivors from the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide.

To search the database, visit the Visual History Archive.  Once you create a username and password, you will be allowed access to the tremendous index within the database.  You can search by basic keyword, but also limit by qualifiers like "Warsaw" or 'ghetto bribery," to narrow your search and make it extremely specific.

Due to the large size of the database, the videos are not held locally at Columbia, but are uploaded upon request to a Columbia server.  Once you find a testimony that looks appropriate for your research, click on the link to "request this testimony."  You will receive an email notification when it is available for viewing. Because the uploaded videos are held on a Columbia server, the testimonies can only be viewed on the physical campus.  If you are not in New York, or can't get to Columbia, you can view testimonies at one of many access sites (sfi.usc.edu/locator/) located around the world.

(Cross-posted on the Jewish Studies blog: https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/jewishstudiesatcul)

Crowdsourcing for Yiddish transcription/translation

As anyone who has done research using Yiddish newspapers can tell you, it's not easy to find primary sources, especially those from newspapers, in the digital world.  While Yiddish newspapers contain critical information about the labor industry, immigration, the Jewish day-to-day environment, and so much else, finding these materials is not easy, and often requires endless searches through microfilm or brittle newspapers.

The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, however, have taken impressive action to begin to make these materials available.  Realizing that transcribing and/or translating Yiddish newspapers is no quick task, they have turned to crowdsourcing in order to publish online important papers relating to the Jewish garment workers in 19th and 20th century USA and UK.

Among the newspapers they are working with are The Polish Yidel (1884-1886), Hashulamith. (1891-1895), and The Ladies' Garment Worker. (1910-1918).  One must register for an account to begin translating, but people have already been translating and transcribing!  See here for the full list of scanned pages from the Polish Yidel, for example; (P) indicates a partially completed page; (C) indicates that the page has been completed

Now this is something we can all learn from!

(Crossposted at Jewish Studies @ CUL)