Author Archives: Kimberly Springer

About Kimberly Springer

Curator of Oral History Center for Oral History Archives Rare Book & Manuscript Library Columbia University

Exhibition | Florenz Ziegfeld & Joseph Urban: Transforming Broadway

Starting on September 17th: come see how Florenz Ziegfeld & Joseph Urban transformed Broadway!

This exhibition from RBML’s vast Joseph Urban archive, features a selection of original drawings, set models, and plans created by Urban for Florenz Ziegfeld. These included all but one of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 through 1931, the Midnight Frolics, and numerous other Broadway shows and plays, including Century Girl, Sally, Rio Rita, Smiles, Show Girl, and Show Boat.

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Workshop | Explore oral history and the future with CCOHR

library aisle of books

Our colleagues over in the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR) will host series of workshops on Oral History and the Future. The sessions are centered around the question, “How is this future orientation made real?”

Read more about the series and see the list of presenters coming to campus this fall. 

September 13, 2018, 6:10 – 7:30 PM
Pan Dulce: Breaking Bread with the Past 
Maria Cotera

October 4, 2018, 6:10 – 7:30 PM
The Uses of Narrative in Organizing for Social Justice
Sujatha Fernandes

October 18, 2018, 6:10 – 7:30 PM
Confessions of an Accidental Oral Historian, Archivist, and Podcaster
Eric Marcus

November 1, 2018, 6:10 – 7:30 PM
Accelerating Change: Oral History, Innovation, and Impact
Doug Boyd

November 29, 2018, 6:10 – 7:30 PM
Words Transmitted; Worlds Apart
Fernanda Espinosa 

 

 

Remembering 9/11 through oral histories

To say that the events of September 11, 2001 had a lasting impact on New York City, the nation and the world would be an understatement.

In the days after the attack, the Columbia Oral History Research Office, as the combined research and archives arms were known then, had the foresight, skill and tact to design and execute a large-scale oral history project to hear from New Yorkers about how 9/11 had already changed their lives.

Under the leadership of oral historian Mary Marshall Clark,

The September 11, 2001 Oral History Project consists of five projects and programs focusing on different areas of inquiry related to the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. As of the tenth anniversary, the project as a whole amounts to over 900 recorded hours (23 hours on video) with over 600 individuals.

Click to play video on The New York Times’ website.

You can hear excerpts from some of the oral histories from this New York Times article and read more about the project.

Oral history interviews with Supreme Court justices

Who will be the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy?

The confirmation hearings to vet this administration’s nominee have begun. Reporters are describing what went down on day one as unlike anything they’ve seen before in, collectively, years of judicial reporting.

While you watch and wait to see what happens, stop into the RBML’s Center for Oral History Archives and read transcripts with past Justices.

Here are the interview transcripts we have available in our reading room:

Lebron james in white judge wig and robe

If you only know TV judges, please come read some oral histories with actual judges.

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Now accepting applications for The Pine Tree Scholars program

book pages turningThe Pine Tree Scholars program introduces Columbia and Barnard graduate and undergraduate students to the crafts associated with fine book production, such as typography, letterpress printing, bookbinding, and papermaking, as well as to the rare and art book trades. This program is open to students in all departments and programs.

An informational session for the 2018-2019 program will be held in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Reading Room (Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, Room 423) from 2-3pm on Friday, September 21. 

Comic featuring Curator Karen Green wins Eisner Award at Comic Con

Cartoonist Nick Sousanis ’14TC recently received the Eisner Award for Best Short Story for his comic, A Life In Comics: The Graphic Adventures of Karen Green. The comic details how the RBML came to have a curator for comics and cartoons by taking the reader through Karen’s evolving affinity for comic books.

Columbia University graphic novel librarian Karen Green, alongside cartoonist Nick Sousanis, holding the Eisner Award he received for Best Short Story for ‘A Life In Comics: The Graphic Adventures of Karen Green.’

The Eisners are given for creative achievement in American comic books and are presented at the annual San Diego Comic Con convention.

You can read the full comic in Columbia Magazine.

In the alcoves…of your mind with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The RBML is home to a number of Carnegie Corporation collections, including the records for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) organizational records. The CEIP, established in 1910, was dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States.

In this post , Steven Witt, an associate professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, takes a look at The Mind Alcove: “The International Mind Alcoves (1917–1954) aimed to change global perceptions regarding armed conflict and international peace. Central to this goal: the idea that a sustained peace requires cultural understanding engendered by education and exchange.”

handrawn graph of book donations

This handwritten bar chart represents the distribution of approximately 156,000 books under the auspices of the International Mind Alcoves, comprising 1,567 collections spread across the United States and around the world between 1925 and 1951. | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Records, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Read the full post on the Carnegie Corporations’ blog.

 

Marking Juneteenth in the words of formerly enslaved Africans

Mary Freeman, a doctoral student in Columbia’s History Department and a valued student employee here in the RBML, shared a few of her findings related to the Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, holiday.

Mr. D.N. Leathers Sr., Walter Leathers’ Father Celebrating Juneteenth | DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865, presents an opportunity to highlight a rare resource at Columbia’s RBML in the Frederic Bancroft Papers. Bancroft’s notebooks include interviews he conducted with former slaves during trips he took to the South in the early 1900s. Bancroft recorded their answers to questions he asked about their experiences under slavery as well as many of his own observations about life in the Jim Crow South.


During the Great Depression, the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration assembled an extensive collection of narratives told by former slaves. Despite its biases and limitations—the interviews were conducted almost entirely by white researchers, who often used racist dialect to record the words of their subjects—historians have come to rely on the WPA collection as one of the few archival resources that tells the story of emancipation from the viewpoint of former slaves who experienced it. Frederic Bancroft, who received his PhD in history from Columbia, interviewed former slaves during his travels in the South in 1902 and 1907, thirty years before the WPA conducted its interview project. Bancroft used these research notes when compiling his book, Slave Trading in the Old South (1931).

Bancroft’s interviews suffer from some of the same interpretive issues as the WPA sources. Bancroft grew up and was educated in the North, but he, like most white Americans of his time, held racist views. Furthermore, many of his notes are in shorthand, which presents a challenge to modern-day readers. Even so,  they offer a rare glimpse into the experiences and memories of former slaves and their descendants.

Featured oral history | Max Pruss, the captain of the Hindenburg airship

One can’t help but notice the explosion of podcasts available for download from sources both commercial and nonprofit.

The Columbia Center for Oral History Archives fields requests for permission to use excerpts from our oral history collection in radio and podcast productions. In addition to any restrictions or permissions that might apply, as Curator of Oral History, I consider the integrity of the project: will the oral history narrator’s story be served and/or augmented by the production?

A recent example of good use of our oral history collection is this story from the CBC’s podcast, The Hook. Max Pruss, air pilot of the ill-fated Hindenburg. Pruss sat down with, as it was called then, the Oral History Research Office in 1960 as part of our Aviation Project. For The Hook, Pruss’ granddaughter Viola, produced this documentary, Finding Max.

Hindeburg airship crash

Photo | David Erickson | e-strategycom | Flickr