Researcher Profile | Janelle Drone

We see you every day, handing you a lockers key as you walk in each morning, and receiving it back toward the end of the day.

Most often you’re hunkered down over a particular archive, getting to understand a portion of one of our archives better than anyone who works in the RBML. We await the longer scholarly projects that you’re developing from this research but in the nearer term we thought it would be interesting to give a preview of your work.

 

Please meet Dr. Janelle Drone, Resident Research Scholar with the New York Public Library. She also serves on The American Institute of Architecture’s (AIA) Cultural Facilities Committee for whom she’s writing about African American architects.

 

Dr. Done describes the project that’s brought her to the RBML, “Engaging Feminist Mystique: A Comprehensive Chronicle of Pedagogy and Practice in The Male Dominated Architectural and Construction Industry.”

 

What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library?

[I’m here to] rummage archival properties for information that describes the challenges, path and journey taken to build a profile for Norma Merrick, the first African American female to graduate from the Columbia University School of Architecture (1946 to 1950) and become licensed that same year. I learned from Avery Library that the type of information that I was seeking (e.g. architectural course offerings, access to student activities, events, residential spaces, building and grounds, campus newspapers, correspondence records of attendance, etc.) could best be found in RBML. In particular I wanted to know the structures in place that helped Merrick continue enrolling in a program that had few women and possibly no other people of color. Above this, I was impressed that she was able to graduate on-time — that is, in four years.

African american woman sitting near lake and mountains

Norman Merrick Sklarek, the first African American woman to graduate from the Columbia University School of Architecture | Photo via BlackStar.org

How long have you been using RBML materials?

I arrived in early January 2019, after an Avery Hall librarian, informed me to further inquire on the 6th Floor of Butler. As a matter of fact, she directed me to the Rare Books and Manuscripts desk where I explained briefly why I was there and I was given the card of Ms. Jocelyn K. Wilk. I sent Ms. Wilk an email with much of the above mentioned information. Her immediate responding put me in the library within days. I attend the library twice a week. Continue reading

Celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table in our collections

Let’s be honest: most contemporary awareness weeks and anniversaries are commercially-driven attempts to garner social media clicks and buzz.

But occasionally there’s something worth noting related to the humanities or the sciences. Herewith, the United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table.

“The Periodic Table” by James Nicholls is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Continue reading

Pride Month and history in the RBML collections

Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash

Getting to tell your own story is a gift, but it means that you have to contend with other people’s stories, and I guess that can mean arguing, maybe for 50 years straight. And that’s O.K.  – Who Threw the First Brick at Stonewall? Let’s Argue About It

The RBML’s archival, manuscript, oral history and University Archives are full of materials from people who were out and proud, recently revealed queer collections and likely materials and people still somewhat closeted by historical forces and past archival practices rooted in homophobia.

You’re invite during PRIDE month, and every other month, to explore the collections we have on offer that begin to demonstrate the range of LGBTQIA people, voices and experiences. Some materials to start with include, but aren’t limited to:

Ephemera relating to the LGBT movement in Croatia // A collection of leaflets and cards and one button relating to the LGBT movement in Croatia. Several of the items were issued by Kontra or Iskorak, both based in Zagreb. // http://tiny.cc/rbml_CU_croatia_lgbt

And, by all means, if you come across items in our collections that show evidence of LGBTQIA histories, let us know so that we can update our records accurately.

Oral History | Aging, disability and medical care at Guantánamo

From The New York Times, “Guantánamo Bay as Nursing Home: Military Envisions Hospice Care as Terrorism Suspects Age“:

More than 17 years after choosing the American military base in Cuba as “the least worst place” to incarcerate prisoners from the battlefield in Afghanistan, after years of impassioned debates over the rights of the detainees and whether the prison could close, the Pentagon is now planning for terrorism suspects still held in the facility to grow old and die at Guantánamo Bay.

The Columbia Center for Oral History Research’s Rule of Law Oral History Project, initiated in 2008, explores the state of human and civil rights in the post-9/11 world.

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Exhibition Reminder | Ilia Zdanevich: The Tbilisi Years

Guest curator Thomas Kitson, a freelance translator, and Professor Valentina Izmirlieva (Slavic Department) collaborated with RBML Bakhmeteff Archive Curator and Librarian for Russian, Eurasian & East European Studies Rob Davis on our current exhibition, “Ilia Zdanevich: The Tbilisi Years.”

Read more about the exhibition, featured materials and the avant-garde movements inspiring Zdanevich work on the Global Studies blog. The show runs now through 12 July 2019.

Muslim World update

As a part of the Manuscripts of the Muslim World project, a team of librarians, faculty, students, and other experts from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and the Free Library of Philadelphia are working together to catalog and digitize their libraries’ manuscripts in Arabic and Persian, along with examples in Avestan, Berber, Coptic, Ottoman Turkish, Samaritan, and Syriac. Manuscripts from the libraries at Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College are also being included. As texts, these holdings represent the flourishing intellectual and cultural heritage of Muslim lands from 1000 to 1900 CE, covering mathematics, astrology, history, law, literature, as well as sacred texts including the Qur’an and Hadith. As manuscripts, these unique objects also exemplify traditions of calligraphy, illumination, and bookbinding from this period, and carry traces of the many scribes, patrons, readers, and collectors who produced, read, and owned them.

…these holdings represent the flourishing intellectual and cultural heritage of Muslim lands from 1000 to 1900 CE, covering mathematics, astrology, history, law, literature, as well as sacred texts including the Qur’an and Hadith.

An example of the lacquered covers that typically appear on Persian manuscripts.

After the first year of the project, which is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, over two hundred manuscripts from the participating institutions are now newly available in digital editions on the OPenn website, with more added constantly. Over half of those are of manuscripts held in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which can also be searched in CLIO.

As the project continues over the next two years, it is anticipated that the online collection will grow to more than 500 manuscripts and 800 paintings from the partner institutions. This will include some manuscripts from the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary as well. Digital editions of Columbia’s manuscripts will also be made available as part of the University’s collections in the Internet Archive.

Updates on the project, including selected images, can be found on Twitter at @MMWProject.

 – Matt Haugen, Rare Book Cataloger, Columbia University Libraries

Collecting News | Obama presidency oral histories to be archived at Columbia

The Oral History Archives at Columbia (OHAC) is pleased to announce that it will be the sole repository of the official oral histories of the presidency of Barack Obama (CC ’83).

President Obama on the phone at his desk in the Oval Office with quote from President Bollinger about the value of oral history to understanding the presidency

From the University’s official announcement:

Starting this summer and over the next five years, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will conduct interviews with some 400 people, including senior leaders and policy makers within the administration, as well as elected officials, campaign staff, journalists, and other key figures—Republican and Democrat—outside the White House.

The Obama Presidency Oral History Project also will incorporate interviews with individuals representing different dimensions of daily American life, whose perspectives enable the archive to weave recollections of administration officials with the stories and experiences of people who were affected by the Administration’s decisions. This project will also examine Mrs. Obama’s work and legacy as First Lady.

Continue reading

RBML opens later on Commencement Day

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

As it does every year, Butler Library and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library will open at 1pm on Commencement Day. This year the celebrations fall on Wednesday, May 22nd.

Please plan your research agenda and travel options keeping the festivities in mind.

Here are some tunes from Columbia alumni to enjoy while you wait for the building to open.

From Columbia Magazine, Spring 2019

Newly Available | Oral histories documenting the Tunisian government transition

The Tunisian Transition Oral History Project’s thirty-eight interviews document the Tunisian revolution (2010-2011) and the period of the transitional governments (2011-2014), with a particular emphasis on the technocratic government of Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (January 2014-December 2015).

(FILES) A photo taken on January 23, 2011 shows inhabitants of the central Tunisia region of Sidi Bouzid demonstrating in front of the Government palace in Tunis as they came from a poverty-stricken rural region where the crackdown against a wave of social protests in the final days of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year regime was at its harshest. Tunisian mediators of the socalled National Dialogue Quartet (Tunisian General Labour Union UGTT, Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts UTICA, Tunisian Human Rights League LTDH and Tunisian Order of Lawyers) won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, for helping to create the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring, at a time when the country is under threat from Islamist violence, the Norwegian Nobel Commitee announced on October 9, 2015 .

AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

Consistent with the composition of the technocratic government that it documents, the collection’s narrators come from a wide range of expertise: businesspeople, union leaders, NGO leaders, human rights advocates, and bureaucrats in the areas of security, education, economics, and more.

The Columbia Center for Oral History Research, a the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) conducted roughly 110 hours of interviews. Read more about the project on INCITE’s blog.

Highlights from the RBML Collections | Puppets of Butler Library

puppet on strings with conical hat and read and gold trimmed robe

Yoké thé marionette | Burma (Myanmar) | Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum records, 1750-1970

From Columbia Magazine’s Spring 2019 print edition with the title “The World on a String”: The marionette shown here was purchased in Singapore in 1926 by John Mulholland, who taught at Teachers College and later became a famous magician. Matthews, a skilled conjurer himself, retired from teaching in 1924. He died five years later, leaving his papers — and puppets — to Columbia [Full article].