Tag Archives: manuscripts

Columbia to House El Diario Photo Archive

Watch the video to learn more about the El Diario collection.

So much of New York’s history has been lived, sung and reported in Spanish.  With the great migration of the 1950s, what had long been a relatively small Latino community in New York became a thriving center of Puerto Rican life and culture.  But in the past half century, the community has grown and diversified. Today, Mexicans, Dominicans, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Peruvians and Cubans have joined Puerto Ricans and comprise about 30 percent of the city’s population.

Columbia students and faculty, and others interested in the lives of New York’s Latinos, have a new resource to learn about that community. El Diario La Prensa, the nation’s oldest continuously publishing Spanish-language newspaper, has given the University some 5,000 photographs documenting the lives of New York’s Latinos, their struggles and their contributions to the city and its culture.

“I study New York, I teach New York and I’m seeing things I have never seen before,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the collection’s co-curator, professor of English and comparative literature and director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, as she combed through 39 boxes of photos that will be housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. “It’s the whole texture of Latino life, which is particularly relevant given Columbia’s location between Harlem and Washington Heights.”

As part of El Diario’s centennial celebration this year, some of those images will be exhibited this fall on the Columbia campus, at the Medical Center and elsewhere in the city, and some now appear on the newspaper’s website. “It’s a story we want to tell, the story of Latinos’ contributions to the city’s culture and politics, making New York a more inclusive and diverse place,” said Negrón-Muntaner.

The collection dates from the 1960s. Although earlier photos did not survive the newspaper’s move from Manhattan to Brooklyn several years ago, the collection includes photos of entertainers, politicians, community events, parades and sporting events: Mayor David Dinkins at the 1990 Puerto Rican Day parade, children at a Three Kings Day celebration in East Harlem, and a young Fernando Ferrer when he was running for Bronx borough president in 1986.  There is Tito Puente playing the timbales on Sesame Street with Elmo and photos of actors Raul Julia and Rita Moreno and singers Julio Iglesias and Ricky Martin, among many others.

There are images of tragedy, too—the funeral of a 6-year-old victim of child abuse and the 1990 fire at the Happy Land social club in the south Bronx that took 87 lives. Other photos illustrate community activism in the 1980s and ’90s. One shows a young man at a demonstration against police brutality holding a sign that reads, “I want to be a Puerto Rican leader, not a victim.”

“This is a unique and very important resource. It is a vivid chronicle of the social, political and cultural life of the diverse Latino population of New York that will be available not only to our faculty and students but will attract scholars from all over the world,” said University Librarian James G. Neal, vice president for information services. “Photographs have a very important place in how scholars do their research.”

Many photos will bring back memories for all New Yorkers: a flooded 14th Street subway station after a 1996 water main break near Times Square, the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Yankees winning the 1996 World Series.

The collection adds to photographic archives in the University libraries as well as to the documentation of the history of Latinos in New York gathered as part of an initiative with the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Last summer the family of Puerto Rican poet Jack Agüeros donated a collection of his papers, videos and photographs. Neal said he hopes to add to the Latino archives as more individuals and organizations recognize Columbia as a repository for their collections.

“This means New Yorkers and beyond will have a better understanding of the Latino narrative,” said Erica Gonzalez (J’05), executive editor and managing editor of El Diario.  “That’s critical in a city that’s 30 percent Hispanic.”

El Diario, which merged with La Prensa in 1963 to form the largest Spanish-language daily in New York, has a long tradition of advocating for the city’s Hispanic population, as well as reporting local, national and international news. The photos are “a treasure of history,” said Javier E. Gomez, manager of El Diario’s centennial project. “To have the photos organized with the tender loving care they deserve and have them available to scholars and to the public is a thrill.”

—Story by Georgette Jasen

—Video by Columbia News Video Team

Loaded Dice

Currently on view in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a small but fascinating exhibition of dice, from the Smith Collection of Mathematical  Instruments. They date from the Roman era to the early 20th century. David Eugene Smith (1860-1944) was a professor of mathematics at Teachers College, Columbia University. He used these dice in his lectures, to show the “development of one of the oldest numbers games known.” Smith’s collection of mathematical instruments, manuscripts, and books is in the RBML, and was the subject of an exhibition in 2002-2003.

I was particularly excited by this exhibition, not only because of my personal interest in the history of gambling, but because (believe it or not) of something in the John Jay Papers.

In 1794, John Jay, then serving as Chief Supreme Court Justice, was appointed by Washington to serve as Envoy Extraordinary to negotiate a treaty concerning the general commerce between the said United States and the British Empire, and also to address certain unexecuted or ignored aspects of the 1783 Peace Treaty.  His eldest son, Peter Augustus, then 18, accompanied his father. He had just graduated from Columbia College, and his mother, Sarah, thought the London trip would be a grand opportunity for him. His father had misgivings, but eventually agreed. During their residence in London, Peter kept a diary in four notebooks, in which he recorded the sights and people they encountered. Among the people he met were the artist Benjamin West, philosopher Jeremy Bentham, Prime Minister William Pitt the younger, and manufacturer Josiah Wedgewood. He attended the theater, seeing Mrs. Siddons perform numerous times, grand balls and assemblies, and visited galleries, libraries, and museums. It was at the British Museum that he encountered a pair of loaded dice.

     

Monday 23rd. June [1794] I breakfasted this morning with Mr. Paradise, who was so obliging as afterwards to attend me to the British Museum– This edifice is a fine one, & it contains such numbers & variety that in one morning, it is impossible to gain much more than a knoledge of their disposition . . . We saw in another room a number of Roman dice, some of which appear to have been loaded, many Play & Lottery Tickets consisting principally of figures cut from ivory

Peter Augustus’s diaries, located in the John Jay Papers collection at RBML, were probably kept both to hone Peter’s observatory and writing skills, serve as a souvenir, and to share with his family and friends back home. They provide a unique window on Jay’s negotiation, as they list where and with whom the father and son visited. The Jay collection also contains many letters, both official and private, from the mission, as well as Jay’s letter book and account book.

(However, it’s not clear if any of the dice in the exhibition are loaded.)

ONLINE EXHIBITION: “Choosing Sides: Right-Wing Icons in the Group Research Records”

The Group Research, Inc. Records, housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University, comprise a rich resource documenting the organizations, people, and campaigns of conservative activists in the United States from the early-1960s to the mid-1990s. Drawn from that collection, the items in this exhibit highlight the important role that illustrators, cartoonists and designers played in the dissemination of conservative points of view during this formative period for modern U.S. conservative ideology.

This 1964 issue of Human Events featured an article by Barry Goldwater attacking Group Research.

The form of the exhibit highlights this theme of division. Two brief essays in the Introduction section describe the ideological motivations of both conservative artists and the organization, Group Research, Inc. that collected their work. Picturing Partners showcases images of sympathetic people that conservative artists felt were either in need of protection by or further support from conservative campaigns and activists. Envisioning Enemies reveals the darker half of America that these activists feared: the individuals, groups and organizations that threaten true patriots. The final section, Portraying Patriotism, demonstrates how conservative activists manipulated politically neutral images such as the U.S. flag or the Statue of Liberty to make partisan arguments about U.S. values and the future of the country.

ONLINE EXHIBIT– “The Unwritten History”: Alexander Gumby’s African America

Alexander Gumby

This online exhibit explores the efforts of Alexander Gumby to create a documentary history of African-American achievement in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.  An influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance, Gumby compiled a scrapbook collection of approximately 300 volumes in support of his project, filled with news clippings, photographs, pamphlets, handbills, original artwork, manuscripts, and ephemera, pages from which are on display here.

599 Years Ago Today

Today, 24 January, five hundred and ninety-nine years ago. The future pseudo-cardinal of S. Onofrio told those guys to pay the wine bill, for pete's sake!  Proof lies in this library's Smith Documents 0300, and here's a picture of it.  (Click on the image to see a larger size.)

It's signed, "J., evesque de Saint Brieuc," and has his mark, the faint swirls that look something like a number 8 with a line through the middle; the small red bits to the right of his mark are what is left of his seal.  The date of the document is in the last line, "le xxiiii jour de janvier l'an mil quatre cens et quatorze."  

The "J." is  Jean III de Malestroit who was bishop of Saint-Brieuc between 1404 and 1419, before he climbed an ecclesiastical ladder to become bishop of Nantes.  He kept climbing after that, and in 1440, he was named Cardinal of S. Onofrio.  It should have been his dream job; who knows? Higher than a cardinal, there is only the step upwards to pope.   But Jean was unwise enough to take the side of the anti-popes, and sadly it was one of them, Felix V, who elevated Jean to the purple.  But "pseudo cardinal"?  Well, such was the wording on fr.wikipedia (accessed last night):  Jean de Malestroit goes down in history, accompanied by that terrible adjective.

For more items like this, see Digital Scriptorium and search on call number beginning with the words:  Smith Documents.

CURRENT EXHIBITION– The People in the Books: Stories from Columbia’s Hebraica and Judaica Manuscripts

Columbia University’s collection of Judaica and Hebraica is the third largest in the country, and the largest of any non-religious institution.

The following link connects to the online version of the current exhibition being held at the RBML from September 12, 2012 through January 25, 2013.

Spanning the 10th to the 20th centuries, the exhibition features highlights from the collection, crosses the globe from India to the Caribbean and focuses on the many stories inherent in each of the manuscripts.

Russian Delegation

On December 18, 2009, the four member Russian delegation led by Aleksandr Pavlovich Vershinin, General Director of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, has visited the Columbia University libraries. This visit was initiated by the Russian side of the team representing the Joint Project between the Library of Congress and the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, the first Presidential Library in Russia.

Russian delegation represents one of five Joint Project Implementation Teams created within the framework of the Russian-American Working Group on Library Cooperation. The focus of these five groups is 1)Technology and Best Practices; 2) Content and Exchange of Materials; 3)Audio-Visual Collections; 4) Copyright and Related Rights; and 5)Specific Joint Digital Projects.

The Russian delegation met with Jim Neal, who introduced them with Columbia Libraries system in general. Then they were hosted by Columbia University Slavic bibliographer, Rob Davies, who made a Powerpoint presentation on the historical background of Columbia’s library, in a national context, 1903-1946.

Tanya Chebotarev, Bakhmeteff Curator, set up a small exhibit of Russian and East European materials which emphasized the vast variety of the Bakhmeteff Archive collecting activities. She also talked about the history and collection development policies of the second largest repository of Russian émigré materials in the United States. See photos.

Patricia Renfro and representatives from RBML, LDPD, Columbia’s Center for New Media Teaching & Research, and the Center for Digital Research & Scholarship gave an overview of Columbia’s digitization program, special online teaching and learning projects, Courseworks, and other digital initiatives.

The group then had lunch at Faculty House with Jim Neal, Patricia Renfro, and former chair of the Baltic and Slavic Division at the NYPL, Edward Kasinec, who is now a fellow at the Harriman Institute.

More Bookplates

Inspired by my colleague’s post about bookplates, I thought I’d like to add a medieval example. Not that the Middle Ages produced bookplates, per se; the earliest one, ‘tis commonly said, is the angel holding a shield with an ox——the bookplate of Hilprand Brandenberg, who in 1505 donated his personal library of some 450 books to the Carthusian monastery of Buxheim in Germany. It is printed (if that’s a necessary component in the concept of “bookplate”), and it was applied to the front pastedown of books, and it did point to a specific owner. You can see a colored example of it at:
http://www.modernmicroscopy.com/article_pix/040420_bookplates/figure5.jpg

But the bookplate I’m talking about here would more usually be described as a historiated initial——an initial that contains a “story,” with human figures in it. No more suspense; here it is:


The initial is an N; two saints stand on a doorstep, admonishing a group of kneeling clerics, an angel flies above, the whole in a lovely verdant landscape. The N begins the mass for Sts. Peter and Paul, “Nunc scio vere …,” “Now I truly know ….” But all Columbia owns of what was once a very large choirbook is this single leaf, catalogued as Plimpton MS 040A. Where was it made? For whom was it made? Squawking birds’ heads (there are three in the foliage across the top margin) point to the Veneto; “broccoli” trees in the landscape suggest Lombardy. And the brilliant blue of the clerics’ robes can only mean one religious order: the Canons Regular of S. Giorgio in Alga whose nickname was “Azzurrini” for obvious reasons. Put it all together! The house of the Azzurrini in Brescia, in territory now Venetian and now Lombard, was dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. Is this historiated initial a bookplate or what?

There’s more. On the edge of one of the steps is a profile face of a man; he looks to me like a real man, as if this is a real portrait. I fondly imagine this man to be the artist who has “signed” his “bookplate.”