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

Library Week Feature: what can we learn from Nella Larsen’s application to library school?

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.
 
In this brief interview, Professor Emerita Barbara Hochman of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics tells us about her research for her recently published article, “Filling in Blanks: Nella Larsen’s Application to Library School” (paywall). 
 

 

Working in an archive, one never knows which scrap of paper will be revealing.

What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library?

I came to RBML to examine the library school application of Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen. I had been intrigued for some time by both her fiction and her career trajectory. She had successfully transitioned from nursing, to librarianship, to authorship in less than a decade, but although her novel Passing won substantial acclaim when it appeared in 1929, her story “Sanctuary” drew plagiarism charges just one year later. Larsen subsequently cut off her ties with the literary world she knew, stopped writing, and returned to nursing; she died alone and forgotten, leaving no papers. While working on an essay about the way Larsen used her reading in her writing (“Love and Theft: Plagiarism, Blackface, and Nella Larsen’s ‘Sanctuary,’American Literature [September 2016]: 509-540) I learned from George Hutchinson’s biography that Larsen was the first African American to be accepted to [Columbia’s] library school in the United States, and that her application was housed at Columbia. I was curious to see the material artifact in its entirety. Continue reading

100 years of Bauhaus

Bauhaus, the German school where crafts met fine arts and spawned a style, brand and movement, turns 100 this year.

Walter Gropius received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at a 1961 commencement. Columbia President Grayson Kirk recognized him as “a formulator of architectural controls which help to guide the Contemporary Movement” and as a “eminently vital practitioner” within the Bauhaus Movement.page from Walter Gropius oral history transcript

Stop in to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library to read  Gropius’ 1961 lecture, part of the Architecture Project in the Oral History Archives at Columbia.

New oral history collection available | Columbia’s LGBTQ Oral History Project

Newly available in the RBML’s reading room and oral history archives is a six-interview collection detailing the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ people and allies affiliated with Columbia University. Low Library lit up with rainbow colored lights

The LGBTQ Columbia University Oral History Project includes interviews with noted alumni and affiliates John D’Emilio, Tony Kushner, Robbie Kaplan, Ann Kansfield, Laura Pinsky and Dennis Mitchell.

Read more about the project on the Center for Oral History Research’s website.

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

Now Showing | Ilia Zdanevich: The Tbilisi Years

Chang Octagon Gallery | 7 March – 12 July 2019

Tbilisi, Ilia Zdanevich’s hometown, became a haven for artists of all stripes during the Russian Civil War. In this multi-lingual environment where feuds among artistic schools had been suspended, Zdanevich worked out the principles of “mature” zaum and a corresponding approach to book design.

This exhibition, curated by Thomas J. Kitson, begins before the First World War with Zdanevich’s apprenticeship as a propagandist for the Larionov group in competition with Futurist rivals and proceeds through masterworks he designed and typeset as a founding member of 41°.

We include a selection of works by his brother and collaborator, Kirill, and a display of interconnected items associated with other poets, composers, and visual artists who frequented the Fantastic Tavern, center of Tbilisi artistic life between 1917 and 1920.

The exhibition is part of “Displacement and Display: The Ongoing Revolutions of Ilia Zdanevich,” a Global Humanities project led by Professor Valentina Izmirlieva (Slavic Department) and sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Humanities at Columbia University.

The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Bakhmeteff Archive of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Global Studies unit of Columbia University Libraries

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. 

Talk | An aftertaste of dread: Cornel Woolrich in fiction and film

27 March 2019 | 7:30pm | Lenfest Arts Center

This Rare Book & Manuscript Library event marks the opening of the The Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival hosted by Columbia University’s School of the Arts. It will feature James Naremore, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus, Indiana University.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds the Cornell Woolrich Papers.

The festival’s themes is The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Paris 1946 and American Film Noir and is curated by Rob King, Film and Media Studies.

Co-sponsored by the School of the Arts. RSVP is required.