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Fire tweets marking Columbia ’68 protest today

Today marks 50 years since the infamous Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Students Afro-American Society (SAS) rally at the Sun Dial.

The gathering kicked off a week long student protest primarily focused on the construction of a new university gym on public land in Morningside Park and university ties to the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). The week included the take over of five buildings on campus, cancelled classes, counter protests, many meetings, press conferences, and much media coverage.

The week ended in a violent police bust that then led to an end of semester strike by students — an organizing strategy that still echoes today on campus?

Dramatic times indeed.

african american child holding protest sign 1968

To see these events unfold as they happened 50 years ago, please follow @1968CU – a special project created by Columbia University Archives to mark this anniversary year.

No Twitter account? You can also follow the feed on the Columbia University Communications and Public Affairs 1968 website.

And if you just want a run down of what happened on campus 50 years ago, you can always browse our online exhibition.

Not Lord Stanley’s Cup, but … meet Columbia’s Goodwood Cups

ticket with cherub and horn

Goodwood Ticket, 1875

In 1864, the Columbia College graduating class decided to give an award to its most popular member. Other awards were presented to the class members by the alumni association and by the faculty; but this one would be given by the members of the class themselves. And thus, the Goodwood Cups, a not-long-term tradition, was born. Thanks to the efforts of T. Arthur Booth, CC 1878, there are now 12 of the 15 Goodwood Cups in the University Archives holdings.

The Cups’ name comes from its most likely model, those awarded at the popular races at Goodwood Park in England. The first recipient of the Goodwood Cup was Joseph Bayley Lawrence, Class of 1864, followed by Seymour Van Nostrand, Class of 1865. In 1866, the Cup was presented at the end of the junior year and so it became a tradition for the junior class. The Cups were specially designed each year (for example, S.A. Reed 1874 designed the 1873 Cup) and they were made from different woods (oak and butterwood) and in different shapes (goblets and steins). The presentation of the Cup was normally held in June and it involved a speech by the winner, followed by a dance, and then a stag drinking party for the members of the class.

blue and white dance cards from 1800s

The Goodwood Cups, however, proved to be a short-lived tradition. The last Cup was given in 1877 to James W. Pryor 1878. Class politics had become an issue and the manner for securing votes and campaigning led to much resentment and hard feelings, all extensively covered in the student newspaper, the Spectator. The following year, the Class of 1879 refused to award the prize and so too the next two class years. Classes would eventually find other ways to recognize their own – such as the Senior Poll included in the yearbook.

In 1919, Robert C. Cornell’s 1874 Goodwood Cup was returned to Columbia. Soon after, T. Arthur Booth (CC 1878, P&S 1882) started an effort to track down all of the Cups and have them become part of the Columbiana Collection. By 1925 only one of the original recipients was still alive. Through an extensive letter writing campaign, Booth was able to bring the total number of Cups at Columbia to 12. Of the remaining 3 cups: one could not be found but the silver engraving was secured (Cup of 1864); one was willed from father to son and was on loan once at the University (Cup of 1868); and only one was completely lost and unaccounted for (Cup of 1871).

Goodwood beer stein and cups

Material about the Goodwood Cups is available in the Historical Subject Files. There you can find invitations, tickets, programs and dance cards; the typescript and original photographs from T. Arthur Booth’s article on the search for the Goodwood Cups; and a scrapbook compiled by Robert Arrowsmith, Columbiana curator. — Columbia University Archivists

Event | HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit

Thursday, April 12, 2018, 5:00 – 8:00 pm, The Social Hall, Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway at 121st Street

exhibition details with recorder and microphones

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, an interactive exhibit will be curated by the students and faculty of Columbia’s Oral History Master of Arts program. Please RSVP on OHMA’s Eventbrite page.

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RBML Researcher Profile | Wouter Capitain, Fulbright Scholar

We see them every day, handing them a key as they walk in each morning, and receiving it back toward the end of the day. Most often they are hunkered down over a particular archive, getting to understand a portion of one of our archives better than anybody here. We await the longer scholarly projects that they are developing from this research but in the nearer term thought it would be interesting to give a preview of their work.

In this brief interview, Curator for Literature Karla Nielsen, asked Wouter Capitain about his research in the Edward Said Papers. He’s visiting Columbia’s Music Department as a Fulbright Scholar from the University of Amsterdam.

photo of cassette tapes

Select interviews, lectures and music from the Edward Said Papers.

Wouter Capitain first showed up in the Columbia RBML this past January. He is here for three months as a Fulbright scholar to do research on the Edward Said Papers. He is working on his doctoral dissertation at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam). Edward Said was internationally recognized as a literary critic and postcolonial theorist but less well known is his work related to music. Wouter Capitain’s research foregrounds Said’s interest in music, both as a performer and critic, and offers a re-reading of Said’s significance from that perspective. He proposes a contrapuntal theory of reading an archive that should have resonance beyond this particular project.

What is your research project?

I am writing my PhD dissertation about Edward Said’s work on music and its interactions with his theoretical and political engagements. I try to understand Said’s “work” or oeuvre as broadly as possible, not restricting it to his published output. The Edward Said Papers offer me the opportunity to study his unpublished work, such as teaching materials and personal correspondence. In this study I am influenced by Said’s “contrapuntal” perspective by paying attention to how different voices interact and overlap. Within the archive, I study the interactions between his various musical, theoretical, and political engagements, and his different professional activities as an author, teacher, and public intellectual.

How did you become interested in Edward Said?

I have a background in musicology, yet I am not necessarily interested in music as such but rather in how music interacts with other domains, and specifically with social and political issues. Many scholars have studied the ways in which society has an impact on music, but Said was also interested in how music has the potential to influence society. Through my former professor Rokus de Groot I became acquainted with Said’s writings about music and I wrote my master’s thesis about Said’s essay on Verdi’s Aida. I continued this research for my PhD dissertation on his work on music in general. Although many scholars have already written about Said, my dissertation will become the first book-length study of his work on music.

With a “contrapuntal” perspective on his work I try to demonstrate that Said had multiple voices which interact and overlap with each other, sometimes sounding harmonious but at other times dissonant. The archive enables me to study the interactions and tensions between his different professional activities.

What are you finding in the archive that is relevant to your project?

Much more than I can deal with in only three months. I am interested in the development of Said’s ideas about music and society, and the archive includes many documents that help me to trace these developments. These documents relate to his activities as a teacher, such as course descriptions and teaching notes, but also to his published writings themselves. For example, I have found many different drafts of his essays and books, as well as outlines and book proposals, which demonstrate the genesis and development of his ideas before they were published. In these three months I do not have the time to study all of these documents in detail, but I have already taken over fifty thousand words of notes and have photographed hundreds of documents which I will study more closely back home.

What is the most interesting thing that you have found in the archive? The most surprising?

I find Said’s handwritten drafts most interesting. Said always wrote with a pen; he didn’t use a typewriter or a computer. Obviously his published writings are typed out, but that was done by his assistant, who was Zaineb Istrabadi for most of Said’s later career. She would type out his handwritten draft, hand it back to him in print, and he would make handwritten corrections and additions, which she would incorporate in the typed version. This process would be repeated for perhaps three or four drafts before the text was finished, and most of these drafts are in the archive. It is thus relatively easy to trace how Said’s texts developed, although his handwriting is sometimes difficult to read. Interestingly, Said’s first handwritten drafts are often fairly close to the final published version of the text. (By the way, Said’s typed letters, faxes, and emails were also written by his assistant, based on his handwritten notes.)

These materials illustrate that exclusive attention to Said’s published output can be quite misleading.

What I find most surprising is that Said was in frequent contact with musicologists. In his published writings it seems as if he was criticizing musicology from a distance, because he was of the opinion that the discipline was not paying sufficient attention to the social and political aspects of music, but from his personal correspondence it becomes clear that he was actively intervening within musicology. These materials illustrate that exclusive attention to Said’s published output can be quite misleading. He supported young and progressive musicologists in early stages of their career, for example by helping them to get their research published and by writing letters of recommendation. Besides, he evaluated the Music Department of Columbia in the late-1980’s and was on a number of tenure committees related to musicology, although the access to some of these documents is restricted. Even though I have studied Said’s writings for several years, I was not aware of the extent to which he directly interacted and intervened in musicology.

How do you think your project will change the way that we think about Edward Said?

Said’s work is often read rather monophonically, where the wide scope of his professional activities is reduced to just one publication, Orientalism (1978), and where his complex identity is similarly reduced to a singularity, Palestinian. With a “contrapuntal” perspective on his work I try to demonstrate that Said had multiple voices which interact and overlap with each other, sometimes sounding harmonious but at other times dissonant. The archive enables me to study the interactions and tensions between his different professional activities. Although I focus specifically on his work on music, I believe that this contrapuntal approach is also relevant to his legacy in other domains.

Anything else that you want to say?

This archive is enormous, with over a hundred and eighty large boxes full of paperwork. For my research it is extremely helpful that the documents are organized and indexed in a very accessible and systematic way. Without this organization it would cost me much more time to find and research the relevant materials, and I very much appreciate the effort that is spent on the structuring and indexing of the documents.


Exhibition | RBML: Becoming the “Pink Palace”

Columbia Rare Book library under construction

It’s tempting to attribute the pink-almost-salmon color of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library to the times during which the library was constructed: 1983 – 1984. But, since the RBML construction just slightly predates the premier of Miami Vice in all its pastel, crime-fighting glory, we’ll go with this explanation:

“The use of … warm pastel colors was designed to be interesting but not overwhelming, quiet but not still.”

Visit the RBML to learn more about this penthouse atop Butler Library designed by Byron Bell (C’62). RBML Records Manager Joanna Rios has curated an exhibition on our historic construction. You can find the materials in the cases near our front desk check-in area.

Exhibition | Tennessee (Williams) in Texas

If you happen to be in the longhorn state, stop by the University of Texas at Austin to see some RBML holdings in the Tennessee Williams exhibition, No Refuge but Writing. From the curator,

“Opening February 2 and continuing through May 13, Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing highlights the playwright’s creative process and his close involvement with the theatrical production of his works, as well as their reception and lasting impact. Uniting his original drafts, private diaries, and personal letters with paintings, photographs, production stills, and other objects, the exhibition tells the story of one man’s ongoing struggle for self-expression and how it forever changed the landscape of American drama.”

A Wrinkle in Time author talks about choosing the writer’s life, motherhood and a villain for her novel

Columbia Center for Oral History Archives blue and white logoAs if coming out of a wrinkle in time itself, the oral history interview for author Madeleine L’Engel’s jumped out at me when I was looking for something else entirely.

That’s not a wholly unique experience since, as a relatively new curator here in RBML, I have yet to grasp the total depths of the oral history collection here. But given the fantastical nature of her most popular young adult novel, A Wrinkle In Time, and the hotly anticipated premier of the Ava DuVernay-directed film, it’s not surprising that L’Engel related materials are making themselves know.

As most of our oral histories demonstrate, L’Engle’s 1976 interview is an enthralling look at the memorable moments that shaped her as a person and as a writer. These three excerpts cover why being an only child inspired her to write at a young age, the inevitable conflict one experiences if one is a writer and a mother, and (***spoiler***) why the villain in her most A Wrinkle in Time is a brain.

The full-interview can be heard and read in Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.