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New Exhibitions Opening Soon!

New exhibition | Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards

Playing cards were once condemned as “the Devil’s picture book,” gaudy bits of pasteboard that encouraged sins such as time-wasting and gambling. Mirror of Humanity: Seeing Ourselves in Playing Cards instead approaches playing cards as mirrors which retain images of past perceptions of ourselves and others.

Whether commercial products made to appeal to buyers, or fanciful gifts created as souvenirs or advertising, playing cards are objects people at every social level, and in many parts of the world, use regularly. Mirror of Humanity focuses on imagery in playing cards and how they reflect the creators’ alliances and biases.

Cards made in Europe and the United States from the 16th to 21st century are arranged in categories reflecting positions on education, gender, race, celebrity, scenic views, war, politics and political satire.

Click through to hear select songs about playing cards and wheelin’ & dealin’! https://tinyurl.com/playing-card-playlist

The exhibition opens Augusts 26th and runs through January 31, 20120. Please join us on November 11 for a gallery tour, followed by a reception at Hex & Co., where we will announce the winner of a playing card design competition.

New from RBML’s Archivists | August 2019

rows of archival boxes in a white room

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened or updated by RBML’s Archivists.

New finding aids

Yehudah Joffe papers, 1893-1966, bulk 1920-1945
“The collection consists of Joffe’s correspondence, manuscripts/notes, and newspaper clippings. Joffe’s correspondence in Yiddish in English is both personal and professional, covering communication with institutions he was working at or hoping to work at. Joffe’s manuscripts contain drafts for lectures and notes on university seminars and lectures he attended under Prof. Roman Jakobson and others. Joffe’s newspaper clippings contain a selection of clippings relating to Prof. Peck, his undergraduate advisor, and miscellaneous clippings.

Agudath Israel Records, 1933-2008, bulk 1940-1947
” This collection consists of autograph signed letters, typed signed letters, postcards, telegrams, printed material, programs, newspaper clippings, and written public announcements pertaining to the Agudath Israel movement in America, Eretz Israel/Palestine, and Lithuania. Most materials are dated during the 1940s (wake of WWII). Most letters are addressed to Rabbi Aaron Ben Zion Shurin. The materials are mainly in Hebrew and English with some in Yiddish. Most materials concern the role of Orthodox Jewry in the wake of the Holocaust.”

Andrew Alpern Collection of Edward Gorey Materials
“A collection of original artwork, published books, printed ephemera, and branded merchandise by the writer and artist Edward Gorey (1925-2000), assembled by Andrew Alpern.”
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Remembering the Chicago Defender’s Influence

Noted African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, announced earlier this summer that it will cease print production. The weekly paper, founded in 1905, played a crucial role in providing news for scores of migrating African-Americans. With the rise of industrialization, job creation and seeking greater opportunities than in the South, migrants relocated to the North, especially Chicago. The Defender was a resource for establishing black political, social and cultural roots in the city.

A notable number of reporters and editors interviewed for the Oral History Archives’ Black Journalists Collection reflect on the Chicago Defender’s role in their training and influence in creating a black press in American communities.

Panel from Bungleton Green, which ran in the Chicago Defender

Blacks in urban centers used newspapers like the Defender to acclimate to cities and new social mores. One feature newspapers used to convey etiquette and ethics for city living was the cartoon Bungleton Green.

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A Rare Hatless Herriman, with Scotties

George Herriman, creator of the newspaper strip “Krazy Kat,” is generally acknowledged as one of the true geniuses of the comics medium. The endless invention of his strip’s setting, Coconino County, combined with Krazy’s philosophical musings conveyed in a playfully creative language, led cultural critic Gilbert Seldes to devote a chapter to the strip in his book, The Seven Lively Arts, describing it as “the most amusing and fantastic and satisfactory work of art produced in America today.”

Yesterday, Jens Robinson presented us with this remarkable undated Herriman artifact, from the personal art collection of his father, Jerry Robinson:

Herriman sketch Continue reading

Researcher Profile | Dana Williams on Toni Morrison’s Editorship

Morrison holding manuscript

Photo via The Pieces I Am (Magnolia Pictures)

Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a new documentary about Nobel laureate and novelist, Toni Morrison. In the film, The Pieces I Am, her editor, literary scholars and friends discussed Morrison’s unwavering commitment to writing about African-American life as quintessentially American life. Central to her writing life was not only her own work, but the care with which she stewarded other writers as an editor at Random House. This re-published profile takes look at one researcher’s work on Morrison’s editorship through the Random House Archives, housed here in the RBML. It’s both a pleasure and an honor to be the caretaker for knowledge that, in some small way, fosters work that makes lives richer as Morrison’s life and writing does in perilous times. Rest in Power, Ms. Morrison. – Kimberly Springer, Curator for Oral History Continue reading

An oddity in the comics collections

A true treasure trove of a gift has been coming over the past few years from Jens Robinson, the son of illustrator and Golden Age comics artist Jerry Robinson. In addition to all of Jerry’s Playbill art, his strips, his book illustration, and other materials, Jens has been giving us Jerry’s library.

In preparation for his book The comics: an illustrated history of comic strip art, 1895-2010, Jerry collected a lot of comic strip history. One oddity is this long, slender, staple-bound publication (32 cm/13 in):

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United Bronx Parents – A Commitment to Service

By Rachel Klepper

(Part II of II. Read part I.)

Founded in the 1960s by Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) as a movement for school reform, United Bronx Parents developed into an important grassroots social-services provider.

Over time, the networks and power that Antonetty built transformed into an organization that provided public health services to Bronx residents and advocated for solutions to issues that residents faced, including substance abuse, hunger, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS. There are many reasons for these shifts, and UBP was certainly impacted by changes to neighborhood needs, local and national politics, and the nonprofit sector. The United Bronx Parents Inc. Records offer the opportunity to look to two internal factors that contributed to these changes: the staffing and management of UBP and its funding sources.

Executive director Lorraine Montenegro posed with a poster of her mother and UBP founder, Evelina López Antonetty

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Lo and behold: a new finding aid for the Wellington Koo Papers

Processing collections and creating finding aids according to updated archival standards gives RBML archivists the opportunity to discover anew our collections. In this post, Processing Archivist Yingwen Huang reflects on creating a new finding aid for the heavily used Wellington Koo Papers. Wellington Koo, a graduate of Columbia and a prominent statesman and diplomat from China, played a major role in positioning China in the 20th Century international political scene. Koo used this papers as the basis for his extensive (10,000+ pages!) oral history interview held in RBML’s Oral History Archives.

“I hope this record will contribute in some small way to a mutual understanding between East and West, and to an understanding of history.” – Speech on the presentation of the Koo oral history to Columbia University, May 28, 1976

At the age of 31, Koo was the youngest delegate in the Chinese Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. He was the key figure in speaking on the behalf of China in the direct restitution of Shandong province during the conference. He later went on to serve as the Chinese Ambassador to France, England, the United States, while representing China at the League of Nations and contributing to the founding of the United Nations.

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