Author Archives: Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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

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

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].

 

Exhibition | Remaking the World: Columbians and the 1919 Peace Conference

If you’re enjoying PBS’ Women, War and Peace series, stop in to the RBML for our current exhibit, Remaking the World. The exhibit explores Columbia University’s connections to the 1919 Peace Conference. To be specific, the exhibit explores the role of men deemed significant to The Paris Peace Conference, also known as the Versailles Peace Conference.

poster of versaille hall and illustration of weeping angel

Continue reading

New and Updated Collections | March 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 archivists.

Dawn Powell Papers
“Dawn Powell (1896-1965) was an American author of novels, plays, and short stories. The collection includes address books, appointment books, books, clippings, correspondence, diaries, ephemera, family materials, manuscripts, notes, notebooks, photographs, programs, research files, reviews, scrapbooks, sketches and drawings. ”

Kudos to Cathy for making sense of this fascinating but sprawling collection; for a tiny taste, here’s an excerpt from the finding aid:

“…portions of the collection were deposited and then either donated or sold to Columbia University in several different tax years during the period of 1995-2014, and this affected how the papers were organized, processed, and maintained by the Library until processing of all collection materials was completed in 2019.”

LGBTQ+ Columbia University oral history collection, 2016-2017
“The LGBTQ+ Columbia University oral history project was a collaboration between Columbia University’s LGBTQ Faculty Diversity Initiative and the Columbia Center for Oral History Research at INCITE. During 2016-2017, a six-interview pilot was undertaken to document LGBTQ history at Columbia University through life histories.” Continue reading

Book History Colloquium | Who made this book? Bookwork in the Global Supply Chain

18 April 2019 | 6pm | Room 523 Butler Library

Most any author can tell you who published their book, but how many know where it was printed? Or by whom?

This talk explores the nature of contemporary bookmaking amid the realities of a global supply chain, an increasingly casualized labor market, and digital workflows that effortlessly move digital files around the world. Continue reading

Reprocessing reveals role of disability in Randolph Bourne’s radicalism

Archival materials have the curious ability to change their meanings over time.  Scholars in different eras, regarding the same items, can interpret them in vastly different—sometimes even contradictory—ways.  Largely, this is scholarship functioning as it was intended, as different methods and fields of inquiry develop and are modified in turn.  Yet it is especially true of materials with a hint of mystery about them. The papers of Randolph Bourne, a brilliant interdisciplinary thinker who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic at just 32 years old, illustrate both of these points well. Continue reading

Symposium | The Wilsonian Century: Critical Perspectives on the Treaty of Versailles at 100

1 April 2019 | 6:00pm | Room 203 Butler Library

Scholars and authors examine the centennial of the Treaty of Versailles peace agreement that ended the First World War, tracing its impact on democracy and tyranny, international governance, and the shaping of the modern world.

The talk will be moderated by Ted Widmer (CUNY Macaulay Honors College). Panelists include: Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University), Erez Manela (Harvard University), and Patricia O’Toole, author of The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made.

poster of versaille hall and illustration of weeping angelThe panel highlights themes and issues raised in the exhibition on display in the RBML, Remaking the World, on display now.

This event is co-sponsored by the History Department. Registration is required. 

Chinese oral histories at Columbia

In many ways, both professionally and collegially, the addition of Yingwen Huang, is a boon to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

In particular, Ying has brought both archival and historical perspective on several oral history interviews and supplementary archival materials that were bequeathed to the, as it was known then, Oral History Research Office at Columbia.

In this post, Ying showcases the Chinese Oral History Project, a 1959 oral history project begun with Academia Sinica’s Institute of Modern History and the Claremont Graduate School’s China missionaries project. Ying’s diligent work on this collection addresses valid concerns regarding the processing, cataloging and accessibility of these valuable collections that offer a window into the historical dynamics shaping modern China.

As the Communist party took over mainland China in 1949, Republican officials began to leave for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States. In 1957, Clarence Martin Wilbur, the professor of Chinese history at the Columbia University’s East Asian Institute, was inspired by Allan Nevins’ American oral history project to start a Chinese oral history project and saw the possibility of procuring primary historical sources using oral history interviews to capture the life stories of these prominent Chinese political officials living abroad. Professor Franklin L. Ho, who at the time was the Professor of Chinese Economics, agreed to join as the project’s co-director. The project officially began in 1958 and ended in 1980. Over two decades, the project’s oral historians interviewed a total of 19 prominent Chinese figures from the Republic of China period and produced a total of 16 extensive oral history interview transcripts in English, with many later were translated and published in Chinese and English. The project also collected eight autobiography manuscripts from related individuals as well as 13 interviewees’ personal papers.

Over two decades, the Chinese Oral History Project’s oral historians interviewed a total of 19 prominent Chinese figures from the Republic of China period and produced a total of 16 extensive oral history interview transcripts in English…

The Chinese Oral History Project (COHP) documents the legacy of the COHP at Columbia University dating from 1958 to 1980. The collection primarily consists of administrative records, photographs and portraits of the interviewees, interview reports and transcript drafts, sample audio recordings, as well as related autobiographies that the project’s organizers collected. Records from the collection document the close connections between the project staff and the interviewees. Researchers who wish to learn more about the history of the lives of the interviewees as well as their collaborative work with the project will find the collection useful.

The Chinese oral history project not only contributed to the timely acquisition of primary historical materials for the study of modern Chinese history, it also initiated and promoted the interest of oral history in Taiwan and later in mainland China. In 1958, Hu Shih, the first interviewee of the Chinese oral history project, was appointed as the president of the Academia Sinica. After returning to Taiwan, he advocated and supported oral history in Taiwan. During Dr. Hu Shih’s oral history interview in 1958 as noted by his interviewer Te-Kong Tong, he had strongly encouraged another individual to participate and “to leave a record for the future generations”.

Interview report with Dr. Hu by Te-kong Tong, 1958, page 2. (Note: The full name of Dr. Niu mentioned in the excerpt is Niu Yongjian 鈕永建). Chinese oral history project collection; Box 6 Folder 11 | Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The oral history project at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Modern History began in 1959. The project was initially subsidized by Columbia and later funded by the Ford Foundation. The project focused on collecting oral histories from important political and military figures who settled in Taiwan after the Communist took over in mainland. The interviews documented the lives of political figures representing nearly all provinces of Republican China. The Academia Sinica oral history project deposited a total of 37 finalized handwritten oral histories transcripts, photographs, diaries, and memoirs at Columbia.

The interviews documented the lives of political figures representing nearly all provinces of Republican China.

With the Chinese version of these prominent political figures’ memoirs later published in the Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China, the Chinese oral history project and the Academia Sinica oral history project are viewed as the foremost oral history projects that documented the life of Chinese political figures during the troubling period of China dating from the early to mid-20th Century.

Another oral history project housed by the oral history archives related to religious missionaries based in China is the Claremont Graduate School’s China missionaries project. The project, started in 1969 and funded by Henry Luce Foundation grant, collected oral history interviews from 44 individuals who worked as missionaries in China. The oral history transcripts were later deposited at Columbia.

The Oral History Archives at Columbia also house two versions of the Peter H. L. Chang (Zhang Xueliang) oral history transcripts as well as his papers that were opened to the public in 2002 on his 100th birthday. One of the interviews was conducted by T. K. Tong in 1990 and another by the Chang sisters (Chih-ping Chang-Sobelman and Chih-yu Chang) from 1990 to 1993.

In addition to the aforementioned projects that mainly focus on the Republic of China period, the oral history archives also collected oral histories of Chinese-Americans in New York as part of the September 11, 2001 Telling Lives Oral History Project and the Nobel Laureates Project on scientific research project, which include the Reminiscences of Tsung-dao Lee and the Reminiscences of Chen Ning Yang.

Thank you to Chengzi Wang and his article,  “Chinese Oral History Collections at Columbia: Toward Better Access” in the Journal of East Asian Libraries.