Author Archives: Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library

United Bronx Parents – A “Community Grown Organization”

By Rachel Klepper

(This is Part I of a two-part story. Read part II.)

In 2018, the Lorraine Montenegro Women and Children’s Program Facility opened in a new building at 773 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx. With $12 million from New York State, this residential recovery center was built on the site where United Bronx Parents (UBP) began and worked for decades to improve the health and education of its community. The original building was called “La Escuelita,” and it was known in the Bronx as a hub for activism, community development, and social services. The new facility was named after UBP’s second executive director, Lorraine Montenegro, who died in 2017 in the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria. The RBML’s newly processed collection documents UBP’s path from its founding and the legacy that the new facility sought to honor.

Photograph of United Bronx Parents marching in a New York City parade, c.2000

In 1965, United Bronx Parents began as a grassroots coalition of Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned with the quality of their South Bronx public schools. Founder Evelina López Antonetty (1922-1984) brought her experience as an organizer and as a parent together to call for changes to an unequal and segregated school system. United Bronx Parents led workshops that trained parents to advocate for bilingual schools, more relevant curricula, and free lunch, among other demands. They called for “parent power,” joining the many Black and Latinx activists that fought for community control in the 1960s. These efforts led to the decentralization of the New York City school system in 1969. Other successes included the founding of the first bilingual public school in New York City, and a free summer lunch program that fed thousands of children. Continue reading

Tips for researchers’ first time in the archives: photos and scanning

blue and white arabic writing on page from Q'uran

Photo credit: Ali Wahid

Carrie Smith, Lecturer at Cardiff University, recently posted a thread on Twitter with basic advice for first-time archives researchers. The thread has  tips that work well for our own RBML users — even for our more regular visitors. Continue reading

It might’ve heated up outside — welcome, summer! — but inside the RBML reading rooms it can be quite chilly.

While we can’t let you bring in coats, jackets or other large coverings, you can bring a light cardigan or long-sleeve shirt. Please review our reading room guidelines before your visit. 

New from RBML’s Archivists | May – June 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.

Barnard Family Papers
“Correspondence, financial records, and legal documents of the Barnard family of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Frederick A. P. Barnard (1809-1889) was President of Columbia College from 1864-1889. His brother John Gross Barnard (1815-1882) was a career officer in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers who served as a Brevet Major General for the Union during the Civil War. Anna Eliza Barnard was John Gross Barnard’s second wife, who raised four children and managed the family’s affairs during her husband’s last illness, 1879-1882. Augustus Porter Barnard, the son of John G. Barnard and his first wife, was a mining engineer.”

United Bronx Parents Records
“United Bronx Parents (UBP) was founded in 1965 as a grassroots organization of parents and local businesses advocating for improved education for children in South Bronx public schools. In 1984, under executive director Lorraine Montenegro, the organization shifted focus to address other issues facing Bronx residents, including homelessness, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS. The United Bronx Parents, Inc. Records document the organization’s work for social services in the Puerto Rican community of the South Bronx from the 1960s to the 2010s.”

Albert Goldman Papers
“The papers consist of correspondence, diaries, journals, interviews, manuscripts, transcripts, and printed material of  Albert Goldman, one of the foremost chroniclers of American popular culture. ”

Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1864-2011
This collection contains the recorded minutes from the different faculty meetings: from the representative University Council to the individual schools (Columbia College, Engineering, Journalism, Law, etc.). Faculty meeting minutes include information on admissions, the academic calendar, curricular changes, faculty appointments and leaves, student petitions, fellowships, grants, prizes, and graduation requirements among other topics.

Flat Files Collection, 1754-2018
This collection consists of oversize posters, maps, newspapers, drawings, floor plans and architectural plans related to Columbia events, people and locations. The collection has been organized by subject matter.

Departmental Reports to the President, 1890-1927
This collection contains three sets of reports from the academic departments to the President of Columbia College (1890) and Columbia University (1900 and 1927).

Nicholas Murray Butler football correspondence, 1905-1907
This collection contains correspondence received by Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler regarding the banning of intercollegiate football at Columbia in 1905 and the ban lasted for 10 years.

***An exhibition on Football at Columbia will open in the fall.***

Collections of speeches by Columbia University Presidents:
– Seth Low speeches, 1878-1916
– Nicholas Murray Butler speeches, 1882-1947
– William McGill speeches, 1971-1980

J. Franklin Crowell Papers
“Correspondence, manuscripts, notes, questionnaires, and printed materials relating to a study of lynching conducted by Crowell. Included are letters from governors, elected and appointed officials, and others replying to inquiries from Crowell. There are more than 100 manuscripts and manuscript notes by Crowell, eleven completed questionnaires returned to him approximately 150 newspaper clippings, and twelve printed items on the topic of lynching.”

Updated F. A. P. Barnard Papers
Four boxes of Frederick Barnard’s professional materials were separated from the Barnard Family papers and added to the end of the existing collection.

Lawrence Walsh papers — Pepperdine Law Collection Series
One large series of the Lawrence Walsh papers, consisting of law volumes, books, and clippings, has a finding aid.

The listing of the Tennessee Williams library were added to the existing finding aid as series X, making directly discoverable over 2,000 previously hidden books.

The Indian Princely State Documents now have a container list:
“These are manuscripts and typescript documents of 34 different princely states that existed as distinct political entities in pre-independence India. Although the majority of these states were tiny principalities in western India (primarily in what is now Rajasthan), some (e.g., Hyderabad) were located in other regions of India and represented major powers in the region at that time.”

Librarian Jane Siegel picks favorites from the RBML collections

The Current, a journal of contemporary politics, culture, and Jewish affairs at Columbia, stopped in to the RBML to speak with Jane Siegel, Librarian for Rare Books.

She’s all-around fount of knowledge about how so many of our rarities and oddities came to reside in Butler Library.

Read more about Jane’s career here in the Libraries and which items in the RBML’s vast repository are her favorite. Yes, we play favorites.

How to tame an opossum…and other childhood preoccupations through the Barnard children’s letters

In 1876, Sanford Curtis asked John Hall Barnard about his career plans, depicting the options of a naval officer aboard a ship or a man sitting in an office. His own plans took the shape of a detailed farm scene with animals and a hoe, a rake, and a pitchfork.

Processing collections according to updated archival standards gives RBML archivists the opportunity to discover anew our collections. In this post, Processing Archivist Celeste Brewer offers us insights into the practice of children writing letters during the Civil War-era. Historians typically foreground the writings and papers of “Great Men,” but as Celeste notes, paying attention to children’s words and ideas helps us see nuances in interpersonal relationships of the past.

With summer vacation here for most school-aged U.S. children, perhaps Willy Fred, Porter and John will inspire you to get your kids to put pen to paper instead of eyes-to-screen. 

“We have bows and arrows and we shoot the pigs away from the gate,” seven-year-old Willy Fred Barnard announced to his father on October 4, 1854.  This news opened the earliest in a group of letters written by children between 1854 and 1878, which can be found in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s newly processed Barnard Family Papers collection.

William Frederick Barnard (1848-1863) and his older brother, Augustus Porter Barnard (1847-1911), wrote letters to their father, John Gross Barnard (1815-1882) as soon as they were able.  These letters are unusual for several reasons.  First, that they exist at all; the Barnard children came from a wealthy family that valued education highly.  (Their uncle, Frederick A. P. Barnard, would become president of Columbia College in 1864.)  Willy Fred and Porter were privileged to be educated by private tutors from approximately the age of six.

The first letter from Willy Fred Barnard to his father, John Gross Barnard, about a visit with family at Niagara, New York.

Even the minority of young children living in the mid-nineteenth century who could both read and write—and had access to writing tools more permanent than a piece of chalk and a slate—had little reason to write letters to their parents until they were old enough to go away to school.  However, Willy Fred and Porter’s father was an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Their mother had died in 1853.  The boys lived in rural Maryland with their aunt and uncle, Sophia and William F. Brand.

Continue reading

A Tainted Gift: Why would an avowed fascist donate a letter from a Founding Father to Columbia?

Extract from the Trustees Minutes, October 3, 1927, Columbia University Archives

In 1927, an Italian medievalist and prominent Fascist named Piero Misciattelli gifted to the Columbia University Libraries an autograph letter written by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in 1821.  Jefferson’s letter to Parisian booksellers DeBures Frères placing an order for his burgeoning library was, according to an extract from the Columbia Trustee Minutes of October 3, 1927, “hitherto unpublished and unknown.”

Such a remarkable gift prompts several questions: What was the connection between Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler and a Fascist university professor? How did this Italian scholar of medieval mysticism and literature acquire an American president’s epistle sent to Paris in the 19th century? Why would Misciattelli, a loyal Fascist, express open admiration for an American champion of democracy like Jefferson?

Though the letter’s provenance and its pathway to Misciattelli’s possession remain a mystery, the esteem for Jefferson and the relationship between Butler and Misciattelli hinges upon the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). An international think tank founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1910, CEIP was, and remains, dedicated to the cause of advancing world peace. While also serving as Columbia’s President, Nicholas Murray Butler steered the CEIP for 20 years, 1925-1945, through the entire Fascist ventennio and the ravages of WWII.  Misciattelli, a member of the European Committee of the Division of Intercourse and Education of the CEIP and thus known to Butler, shared Mussolini’s ironic Fascist policy of peace through disarmament. In a New York Times article from October 1931 announcing Misciattelli’s visit to New York to lecture on Dante at Columbia’s new Casa Italiana, he is quoted parroting Mussolini’s rhetoric:

“Disarmament is the first condition of peace, wealth and real progress for the whole world. Of course, no country can have social peace without order and discipline and all of the other old Roman virtues. Mussolini believes, as does bold young Italy, that the spirit of Roman laws, of Roman civilization, is immortal. …Mussolini is a sincere advocate of international peace.”

The NYT article also includes Misciattelli’s thinly-veiled attempt to assert a long-standing amicable relationship between Italy and the United States by referencing an 1853 message sent by President Abraham Lincoln to famed Italian physicist Macedonio Melloni. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Misciattelli would have acquired the Jefferson letter and then gifted it to a prestigious American university such as Columbia, particularly since Misciattelli and Butler were supposedly proponents of the same peaceful ideology.

High-ranking Nazi and Fascist officials in Piazza Venezia, 1938. The red arrow indicates Misciattelli’s building while Palazzo Venezia (and its balcony) are in the center background. Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv

Despite his status as a professor at the University of Siena, Misciattelli, also a Marquis, lists his address on the letter to President Butler as Piazza Venezia 5, in Rome. Piazza Venezia was the literal heart of the Fascist regime, as the Palazzo Venezia’s infamous balcony (located at number 10), was the site of so many impassioned Mussolini orations to the Italian people. If Misciattelli’s base in Rome was located just steps from Mussolini’s office then we can safely surmise that he was in favor with Il Duce, perhaps because of the inroads he was making in spreading Fascist ideology through his lectures, his work on the CEIP, and his strategic gifts of friendship to universities like Columbia.

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

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.