Tag Archives: Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Columbia University Libraries’ New and Noteworthy Acquisitions

From seventeenth-century Japan to twentieth-century New York, the Libraries’ latest acquisitions span place and time, bridging countries and cultures and furthering the Libraries’ mission to support a global community of scholars. Here is a selection of new and noteworthy holdings from the Libraries’ special collections and archives and digital resources in women, gender, and sexuality studies.

Distinctive Collections

Sagabon Ise Monogatari. Sagabon (“Saga book”) is the generic name for publications produced by the printing studio of Soan Suminokura in Saga village (near Kyoto) in the early Edo-period. Estimated to have been produced in 1608, these particular volumes are an early example of printing with movable wood blocks that contained multiple characters, connected by ligatures, which gives the illusion of handwritten calligraphic text that flows from one character to the next. This Sagabon was acquired in honor of Columbia’s distinguished Professor Donald Keene, a prominent Japanese literature scholar and steadfast supporter of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, who passed away in February 2019.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) made a number of important acquisitions in the past year, including:

William Yukon Chang Papers. A Chinese-American journalist and community organizer, Chang’s archive features unique materials related to New York City’s Chinatown, including the Chinese-American Times, an English-language weekly that he edited from the 1950s to the 1970s. In tandem with the Yuri Kochiyama Papers and the records of United Bronx Parents and the New York Guardians (an organization of African-American New York Police Department officers), this collection builds on efforts to enhance collections with a more inclusive archival record of the city’s history.

Publisher of the newspaper the Chinese-American Times, William Yukon Chang, provided a venue for Chinese Americans to read and write about their own communities.

Lydia Davis Papers. The archive of Man Booker International Prize recipient, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow, and 1970 alumna of Barnard College, Lydia Davis, was acquired in early 2019. According to Nicholas Dames, Theodore Kahan Professor of Humanities, Davis “will be regarded as one of the handful of truly significant American writers at the turn of the millennium. … Literary historians will be reckoning with her influence for decades to come, and her papers will be much sought after as a result.” The acquisition was announced in conjunction with a reading by Davis, sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities.

Recent years have seen major acquisitions in the performing arts, including the archives of composer Serge Prokofiev and dancer Arthur Mitchell. This summer, two-time Tony Award and two-time Olivier Award-winning actress Patti LuPone donated a portion of her archive, including correspondence, annotated scripts, and memorabilia, enhancing RBML’s rapidly-growing performing arts collections.

Kimberly Springer, Curator of the Oral History Archive, has continued to add interviews to the archive that respond to urgent social issues, including “Mass Incarceration Through One American Family,” which concentrates on a single family caught in the middle of the mass incarceration crisis; “Mi Maria Puerto Rico,” which documents the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; and “The 40% Project,” which captures the stories of gun violence survivors.

Avery Library recently acquired the architectural archives of Haines Lundberg Waehler (HLW). In operation for 134 years, HLW is one of the oldest continuously-operating architecture and engineering firms in the United States. When founded in 1885, the firm quickly emerged as a pioneer of new technologies being applied in New York City architecture. Early commissions included the Metropolitan Telephone Building, designed for the company newly founded by Alexander Graham Bell. In the opening decades of the twentieth century, HLW emerged as a leader in the design of skyscrapers, constructing numerous iconic buildings. In 1905, they designed the New York Times Building, which established Times Square as a landmark and also created the first tall structure in the city with the an integrated subway station. Other designs included the Western Union Building in Soho (1930), the Salvation Army Headquarters on 14th Street (1930), and the Irving Trust Headquarters Building at 1 Wall Street (1931, pictured). The nature of the materials in the HLW collection is significant for how they illuminate underrepresented narratives in architecture, especially labor politics in relation to the history of the New York City built environment.

Manuscript journal of young woman’s conversion to Methodism. This unique journal dates from 1838-41, the end of the “Second Great Awakening” of evangelical pietism in the United States and shows in vivid detail the struggles of a young woman wrestling with the religious ideas of the era.

Ling-Ling: Revista misional ilustrada para ninos. Mid-twentieth century Spanish-language missionary periodical and comic that informs children about missionary practices around the world.

Bunriha kenchiku kai no sakuhin. A catalog of their second exhibition in 1921, the Bunriha kenchiku kai (Secessionist Architectural Group) initiated Japan’s avant-garde architectural movement. The group was founded in early 1920 by six students from the Architecture Department of Tokyo Imperial University and played a significant role in the development of Japanese modern architecture.

Electronic Resources

LGBT Magazine Archive. A searchable archive of periodicals that date from the 1950s, and provide access to backfiles of ephemeral and overseas titles not typically collected by libraries in the United States. The archive traces the evolution of LGBT history and culture, including legal contexts, health, politics, social attitudes, activism, gay rights, arts/literature, and for the first time makes digitally available the complete backfile of The Advocate. The oldest surviving, continuously-published American title of its type, and as one of the few LGBT titles to pre-date the 1969 Stonewall riots, The Advocate spans the history of the gay rights movement.

Gale Archives of Sexuality & Gender. This collection spans the sixteenth to twentieth centuries and is the largest digital collection of primary source materials relating to the history and study of sex, sexuality, and gender. Documentation covering social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the world is included, as well as rare and unique books on sex and sexuality from the sciences to the humanities. Selection of materials for this digital program is guided by an advisory board consisting of leading scholars and librarians in sexuality and gender studies.

Women at Work during World War II. Contains records documenting the experience of American women during World War II: Records of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor and Correspondence of the Director of the Women’s Army Corps. Primary sources document a range of issues, including studies on the treatment of women by unions, women’s work in war industries, equal pay, childcare, race, and extensive documentation on those serving in the Women’s Army Corps.

Women’s Studies Manuscript Collections from the Schlesinger Library: Voting Rights, National Politics, and Reproductive Rights. This collection of materials from the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College tells the story of the fight for voting rights for women at the national, regional, and local levels. The papers of key national leaders like Julia Ward Howe, Anna Howard Shaw, and Matilda Gage are included. Equally important are the papers of lesser known state and local leaders like Catharine Waugh McCulloch of Illinois, Olympia Brown of Wisconsin, and Nellie Nugent Somerville of Mississippi. In addition to the voting rights papers, this resource also includes records on women involved in national politics, like Mary Dewson and Jeannette B. Rankin, plus records from the Schlesinger Library’s family planning oral history project and records of Mary Ware Dennett and the Voluntary Parenthood League.

Meet Yingwen Huang, Processing Archivist

“I’m Yingwen Huang and I arrange and describe archival collections in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, specifically historical manuscripts and documents in the Chinese language. My interests include East Asian languages, history, and culture. My favorite part of my job is making our collections more accessible to everyone and assisting researchers from all over the world in learning more about our collections and utilizing them.”

Yingwen Huang

Columbia Libraries Launches Website for the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (LCAAJ)

Columbia Libraries is very pleased to announce the launch of the website for the digitized data of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry. An accompanying guide to the use of the digitized materials with many supplementary materials is also available.

The LCAAJ archive is an extraordinary resource for research in Yiddish studies that can shed much valuable light on language, ethnography, literature, folklore and music, anthropology, linguistics, Germanic and Slavic studies, and aspects of Central and East European history. The archive consists of over 600 interviews conducted between 1959 and 1972 with native speakers of Yiddish during a long-range comparative study to document the effects of physical, linguistic, and cultural channels and barriers on the geographic fragmentation of the Jewish and diverse non-Jewish populations that coexisted in Central and Eastern Europe before World War II. The LCAAJ project collected its interviews at essentially the last moment, when a diverse body of native speakers was still alive, aiming to address both the challenge of an endangered linguistic and cultural legacy, and the special potential that Yiddish provides for studying language and cultural contact and change.

The LCAAJ archive consists of over 600 interviews conducted between 1959 and 1972 with native speakers of Yiddish, documenting the effects of physical, linguistic, and cultural channels and barriers on the geographic fragmentation of the Jewish and diverse non-Jewish populations that coexisted in Central and Eastern Europe before World War II.

This two-year project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, digitized approximately 140,000 pages of interview documents containing data from the interviews, carried out optical character recognition (OCR) and mark-up of the printed responses to enable their content to be searched and manipulated, and made all the digitized content freely available to scholars via the Digital Library Collections at Columbia. Additional work, funded by the Libraries, allowed for complete reprocessing of the full LCAAJ archive for scholarly use. This source for historical, literary, or anthropological research, for the study of languages in contact, and for the evolution and differentiation of language communities, is now available to a worldwide community of scholars.

The written materials accompany more than 5,700 hours of recorded interviews that Columbia Libraries has already digitized through generous support from NEH, private foundations, the New York State Conservation/Preservation Program, and Evidence of Yiddish Documented in European Societies (EYDES, a project of the German Förderverein für Jiddische Sprache und Kultur), through which the audio is publicly available. The long-term goal is to eventually link the written content to the audio recordings of the interviews and make the entire audio and written corpus available to students and scholars in an integrated form.

The interviews contain a wealth of comments about Jewish culture and history from a place and time that is largely out of our reach today. Bringing the LCAAJ archive into the digital environment will exponentially increase its value to historians of Jewish Studies and European history, linguists, anthropologists, and students and teachers of Yiddish. The availability of this data will greatly facilitate the online work of scholars to continue and enhance the important mapping work begun in the first three volumes of the printed Atlas, which were published by Niemeyer in 1992-2000.

As part of the launch of the project, an exhibition called “Yiddish at Columbia” will be mounted in the Chang Octagon Gallery in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library in early March. Additional events will be announced at a later date.