Category Archives: News & Events

New Exhibitions Opening Soon!

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

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

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. 

New and Updated Collections | January/February 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.

Now available

Al Jaffee Papers
Al Jaffee (born March 13, 1921) is a comic artist best known for
creating MAD magazine’s iconic Fold-In feature. The collection
contains extensive original artwork, including sketches, tracings, and
proofs documenting Jaffee’s creative process. Publishing and
commission contracts, correspondence, clippings, and a small amount of
programs and ephemera from fan conventions and other public
appearances are also included.

Columbia College Records
This collection is composed of the general files of Columbia
College’s Dean’s Office and the correspondence of Columbia College
administrative officers during the years 1892 through 2019. A review
of this collection allows researchers to gain insights into the
interaction of Columbia College faculty and administrators with
students, fellow faculty members, parents of students, and
administrators of other colleges. Continue reading

RBML is hiring a Curator of Literature

bookstore shelves with levitating book

This is not how RBML handles books. Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

We’re pleased to announce an opening here in Columbia University Libraries’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library for a new Curator of Literature.

The ideal candidate is an accomplished and creative professional with an MLIS or PhD in English, American Literature or related fields.

Primarily, the Curator develops, manages and actively promotes the use of RBML literature collections through programmatic outreach, awareness, public programs and instructional activities.

The Curator is responsible for developing holdings in literature in all formats (e.g., print and archives) through purchase and donation.

Key to the Curator position are archival and/or librarianship skills related to stewarding literature collections that are in place, prioritizing their organization, description, conservation, digitization, and security.

Though very broad in scope, RBML’s Literature collections concentrate around the history of publishing, “obscene” or erotic literature, poetry between the World Wars, the European realist novel, the Beats, African-American literature of the twentieth century, and contemporary poetry, as well as eighteenth-century belles lettres, the novel, fine press and artist books, and twentieth-century small press production.

Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and strongly encourages individuals of all backgrounds and cultures to consider this position.

Please see the full advertisement for more details, qualifications and how to apply. PDF: Curator of Literature Ad

A Ghost in Philosophy Hall

The Columbia University Archive’s spookiest (and only) documented ghost story begins on a dark and dusty evening in 1945, when Professor Jeffery related to Columbiana curator Milton Halsey Thomas a harrowing tale that he had heard nearly a decade earlier from John D. Prince, a professor of East European Languages. Thomas took notes on the story, and later attempted to sleuth out the details as Jeffery had narrated them:

Philosophy Hall, Early 20th Century

On the night of May 22, 1936, Prince was walking the lonely corridors of Philosophy Hall, en route to a meeting with President Butler. While descending a darkened stairway he experienced a distinctive but familiar feeling — “a smart pat on his kidneys” — that he associated with Richard Gottheil, a professor of Semitic Languages, who had long occupied the office next door to his, and who “used to deliver” that exact sort of friendly nudge “from time to time.” When Prince turned to look for his colleague, he found only an empty staircase.

A few minutes later, during Prince’s meeting with the president, secretary Frank Fackenthal entered the office to inform them of some sad, and — in the context — spooky news: Professor Gottheil had just died at his home on the Upper West Side.

An Obituary for Professor Gottheil

Returning, shaken and saddened, to his office, Prince encountered a graduate student, Harriet Levy, “in hysterics.” She too had just had a spectral encounter with the deceased professor. She had been sitting at a desk that evening, and had seen him in the hallway. Since she had the key to his office, she got up and followed after him. As she went to unlock his door, Gottheil had glided by her in silence, “passed through the closed door, and disappeared.”

In the days after hearing Professor Jeffery’s dramatic narrative, the Columbiana curator worked to authenticate the story. He interviewed Frank Fackenthal, who would soon be named university president, about his memories of the incident. His terse summary of their conversation says only that “Mr. Fackenthal cannot confirm any part of this.”

But this non-denial denial only raises more questions about the “Ghost in Philosophy Hall.”

 

 

New Publication | Researching and Writing about Police Abuse

Ronald Kitchen was walking to buy cookies for his young son on a summer evening in 1988 when Chicago detectives picked him up for questioning. As the officers’ car headed toward the precinct, the twenty-two-year-old called out the window to his family, “I’ll be back in forty-five minutes.”

It took him twenty-one years to make it home.

Kitchen was beaten and tortured by notorious police commander Jon Burge and his cronies until finally confessing to a gruesome quintuple homicide he did not commit. Convicted of murder and sentenced to die, he spent the next two decades in prison—including a dozen years on death row—before at last winning his release and exoneration.

My Midnight Years: Surviving Jon Burge’s Police Torture Ring and Death Row was published last week. In this Q&A co-author Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History at the RBML, talks about some of the opportunities and research challenges involved in working on this project.

 

RBML: What types of sources did you use to help write this book?
TJ: 
Ronald Kitchen has an extremely impressive memory and was able to recall so many poignant and telling stories and moments from even his earliest years, so all of the narrative material originated with him, through conversations, writings, and interviews. We were also able to use historical newspapers to trace key moments in his life, including newspaper reports about his arrest, and some of his own published pieces from his days on Death Row, when he was an activist against capital punishment. Kitchen’s defense attorneys provided us with trial transcripts, appeals filings, medical reports, and other legal documentation that were crucial to our efforts to reconstruct the details of his long battle with the criminal-justice system. Continue reading

RBML summer hours

Commencement has come and gone on Columbia’s campus. Bleachers are clattering down in front of Butler Library and RBML researchers are making their way into our reading room in a steady stream.

A few reminders:

  • Always check the RBML website for our summer hours.
  • You can complete registration and ordering materials before you arrive at RBML. This will help you know which materials need to be ordered in advance and which are readily available onsite. Materials are clearly marked in red text if they are located offsite and need to be ordered for them to be available in the reading room for your visit.
  • We have security measures to make sure that our collections are safe and accessible for all users. These include inspecting personal materials before you leave the reading room.
black and read banners on checked background spelling out happy long weekend

Illustration by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation | Giphy

Arthur Mitchell: a trailblazing exhibition for a trailblazing leader in American Dance

These are the last few days to see the Arthur Mitchell exhibition — closes March 11th!

mitchell illustration detail of Michael D. Harris’s “Aspirations + Inspiration” (1985)

A detail of Michael D. Harris’s “Aspirations + Inspiration” (1985), from the exhibition “Arthur Miller: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer.” Credit: Arthur Mitchell Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

The highly anticipated exhibition, Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer, launches January 12, 2018 with a reception at The Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

“I am a political activist through dance.”

Curated by Lynn Garafola, Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, the exhibition celebrates the life and accomplishments Arthur Mitchell, the New York City Ballet’s first African American star, and the founder and longtime director of the Dance Theater of Harlem. Continue reading