Water: Pollution / Protection and Play

Ca4WHLTW4AIJNTh2On display now in the McDonald Reading Room, and through February, a new exhibition by Archivist Graham Stinnett examines the role that water plays in our daily lives.  From consumption and utility to containment and disposal, clean water relies heavily on human impact on the ecosystem.  As archival documents reveal, water protection and access to clean drinking water has been a rallying cry for decades, long before it made national headlines, again, last month.

Since the breaking news of the Flint Water Crisis began, a state of emergency within the city of Flint, Michigan was called on January 5, 2016.  The city had incorporated its drinking water from the nearby contaminated Flint River which led to the corrosion of aging lead pipes in the city’s waterworks.  This leaching of lead began in April of 2014, exposing the population to health risks associated with drinking and bathing in the water unbeknownst to them.

This exhibition draws from collections in Archives and Special Collections, including the Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records and the Alternative Press Collection, relating to water and our demands upon it as a resource and a necessity. The materials document that water protection is not a new social issue in the US.  Since the 1960s, as the historical record illustrates, failing economies, and lack of investments in cleanup in the long term, have lead to crises for already marginalized communities.  Materials in the exhibition, encompassing photographs, leaflets, serials, clippings, and government documents, examine how people in those communities have responded through time.


Nazi Aggression [Series: 70 Years After Nuremberg] | Human Rights Archives

By Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

TNOn February 7th, 1946, the French concluded their segment in the prosecution case, and were succeeded by the British who were eager to present evidence concerning Rudolph Hess and his journey to England. On the following day, the Russians took the floor in order to present their opening statement delivered by General Rudenko. He spoke for an immense portion of the day as the Russians made their presentation of their evidence.

Portion of a letter, 2/9/1946

Portion of a letter, 2/9/1946

Afterward, Thomas J. Dodd of the U.S legal team spoke with Justice Jackson regarding the segregation of Göring from other defendants. Dodd explained,” he is browbeating and threatening them – and particularly those who might admit some guilt” [p. 229, 2/09/1946].

Continue reading…


Today: Of Mice and Men – Emerging Infectious Disease in a Warmer, More Fragmented World

Today February 4 at 4:00pm in UConn’s Konover Auditorium, the Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment presents disease ecologist Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies for his lecture  “Of Mice and Men: Emerging Infectious Disease in a Warmer, More Fragmented World.”

ostfeldWe are living in an age of emerging infectious diseases, scientists and health officials agree.  Most of these diseases are transmitted from wildlife to humans, but scientists are only beginning to understand the ecological causes of disease emergence in the 21st Century.  In this talk, Ostfeld will describe the ecology of three emerging tick-borne diseases in the northeastern United States, most prominently Lyme disease.  He will show how small mammals, such as white-footed mice, are instrumental in fostering both blacklegged ticks and the pathogens they transmit.

More than 20 years of ecological research in Ostfeld’s lab reveal how anthropogenic environmental changes, such as reduced biodiversity and global warming, affect our risk of exposure to infectious diseases both locally and globally.  The presentation will demonstrate the importance of ecology as a health science.

Co-sponsored by UConn’s Junior Faculty Forum of the Humanities Institute, the Dodd Research Center, and several UConn departments, the event is free and open to the public.

Since 1995, UConn presents the award-winning Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series that brings distinguished speakers to the University to speak in public lectures on various aspects of nature and the environment.  The Lecture Series is named in honor of the Pulitzer-prize winning naturalist and author, Edwin Way Teale, whose vast archive of literary manuscripts, letters, diaries and photographs is preserved and accessible at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections.

Anniversary of Colt Armory fire

Colt Armory, Hartford, Connecticut

On February 4, 1864, the East Armory of the famous Colt Patent Fire Arms Company, built in 1855 in Hartford, Connecticut, was completely destroyed in a fire, incurring $2 million in damages. Elizabeth Colt, Samuel Colt’s widow, had insured the factory buildings and the structures were quickly rebuilt, including the distinctive blue onion dome.  Today the armory is part of a National Historic Landmark District.

Celebrating Black History Month

Did you know that William Henry Johnson, the first African-American from Connecticut who volunteered to serve in the Civil War, enlisted in the all-white Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry in September 1861? Later African-American volunteers from Connecticut generally joined the all-black Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment. It wasn’t until November 1863, as the North’s insatiable need for soldiers intensified, that the Twenty-ninth (Colored) Connecticut Regiment Volunteer Infantry was formed.

Our collections include the publication “Connecticut’s African-American Soldiers in the Civil War, 1861-1865,” written in 2000 by Diana Ross McCain. You can read it in its entirely on our digital repository.

Cover of Connecticut's African-American Soldiers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, by Diana Ross McCain

Orienting Oneself Inside Charles Olson’s Thought – A Prospector’s Guide

by Matthew L. Kroll

To say that readers need a roadmap to guide them through the prolific, often perplexing work of American poet Charles Olson (1910–1970) perhaps edges too close to cliché —  the kind of bland and general statement which Charles Olson successfully and adamantly avoided throughout his career.  But it is, I think, true.  As is the fact Charles Olson spent much of his career making ‘maps,’ of one kind or another.  Olson’s interest in cartography and archival maps, and his almost ontological understanding of geography, manifest his acute thinking of and through space and place.  But Olson also created ‘maps’ of thought across his writings and lectures: uncovering and connecting people, places, languages and literatures across various eras of human history, including his own.  The work of the Olson scholar involves tracing these ‘thought-maps,’ if you will, to the benefit of readers and students of Olson.

To add clarity and depth to the scholarly exploration of Olson’s idiosyncratic thinking and writing, a researcher will surely benefit from the vast and varied Olson material available at the Archives and Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.  Thankfully, this carefully curated collection has a detailed finding aid, and the staff has a wealth of knowledge to further help visitors navigate the collection.  But all that guidance could not fence me from the inevitable sense of disorientation I felt after my first day engaging with the Olson archives during my research trip.

Suffice to say, the breadth of Olson’s knowledge can make his readers’ head spin, leaving us grasping for a sense of direction.  The archived material available in Storrs attests to the immense range of thinkers and writers of various fields and genres with which Olson engaged.  The unpublished material there can help us fill in the gaps and make our own pathways through his dense thought.  The Olson scholar must, I think, (paraphrasing his line) “find out for him-/herself” a way to orient oneself to Olson’s mind.[1]  For my own research purposes, this has been to focus on Olson and early Greek thought.

Before arriving in Storrs I was confident I had a good plan of research going in.  Within only a few minutes of arriving at the Charles Olson Research Collection, however, I realized the most important, and unexpected, task of my week: orienting myself to Olson’s often unintelligible handwriting!  The image below demonstrates both the difficulty in reading Olson’s handwriting, and offers us a glimpse of how his mind worked.  Note the multiple directional orientations of his handwriting across these two pages from a notebook dated 11 November – 13 December, 1964 (Box 56, folder 103).

KrollCOB56f103pp45revA dizzying experience, indeed.  This image is particularly relevant here as it shows us Olson working through Whitehead’s concept of the ‘extensive continuum’ (from Process and Reality), essentially, the spatio-temporal extensiveness of the world.  This is vintage Olson: working through a philosophical concept which is fundamental to how human beings orient themselves in the world, doing it with such freedom and instantaneous changes of direction that he actually writes along several different axes across the page.

But for all the frustration readers and researchers may find in Olson— his layered and obscure allusions, his frequently challenging syntax, his penmanship—there are some constants in Olson’s writing, especially in his magnum opus, The Maximus Poems.  Olson’s modern verse epic is populated with many historical and geographical explorations of his adopted hometown of Gloucester, MA.  We see through Maximus’ (Olson’s?) eyes Stage Fort Park, Dogtown, the waters and islands off Cape Ann and its surrounding environs, the settlers and early inhabitants of the area, its fishermen, its modern inhabitants, its poets…we even get a sense for life inside his 28 Fort Square apartment and the very desk he enveloped with his physical and intellectual magnitude.  The early published versions of each of the three volumes of Maximus featured maps on their covers, maps which would later feature as the first pages of the volumes in the collected edition (ed. George F. Butterick, 1983).  This was not merely a decision by Olson and his publishers to add cover art to the Maximus volumes.  These maps serve to orient the reader to the directions which the subsequent poetry will take: from Gloucester out to the sea; from Gloucester back through deep and mythological history; and finally from Gloucester toward the West.

KrollCO710HomermapcovrevAs I came to “find out for myself,” Olson himself mapped out the geography present in his favorite literature.  I couldn’t help but laugh when I came across Olson’s Modern Library Edition (1935) of The Complete Works of Homer (Olson #710).  Upon opening the front cover, I found a rather impressive freehand map of Greece which Olson drew in pencil.

And later in the volume, on the first page of Book IX of The Odyssey, Olson again appears to be orienting himself to his reading, this time drawing a map of the west coast of Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  In his challenging fashion, the map is drawn right through the type!

This kind of interaction with his books is apparent throughout his library—as if Olson were responding to the text in his own hand in live time, creating a sort of interactive textual dialogue with whatever he was reading.


To conclude, Olson’s work is if nothing else rooted in place.  It expresses particular locales with an energy that, for me at least, few poets have been able to transfer “all the way over to the…reader” as successfully as he does.[2]  Fitting that a particular place exists—the University of Connecticut, where Olson taught briefly during what became the last year of his life—where Olson scholars can enact the very “prospecting” which his projective verse calls for, digging through his archived material to, hopefully, uncover some new place on the map of his thought—a new connectivity between his writing, his life, and the places, peoples, histories, and literatures which live in his work.  Thanks to the generous support of a Strochlitz travel grant, I was able to at least begin the digging for my own research project.  The Charles Olson Research Collection reinforced the aspect of his work which I think most gives it a unique vitality: it emanates a multiplicity of intense localities he’s “prospected”: places (physical, literary, and psychological) he inhabited, studied, and mapped.

Matthew Kroll is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University working on his dissertation titled “The Poet and the Polis: Early Greek Thought in Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems.”  Mr. Kroll was awarded a 2015 Strochlitz Travel Grant from Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research.


[1] Olson’s line is in “A Later Note on Letter # 15” [Maximus, 249 (II.79)], in reference to Herodotus’ “concept of history”, ‘istorin, which Olson tells us “was a verb, to find out for yourself.”  This understanding of the term is largely informed by J.A.K. Thomson’s The Art of the Logos (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1935).  Olson’s copy is in the Charles Olson Research Collection in Storrs, call no. Olson 450.

[2] “Projective Verse”, in Selected Writings, ed. Robert Creeley (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 16.


A new semester, and a poem by Marilyn Nelson


No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.  – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


As classes begin today, we welcome back students, faculty and staff to the University by sharing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a poem by Marilyn Nelson.

faculty_nelsonBorn in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman, Marilyn Nelson is an accomplished and award-winning poet, children’s book author, and translator of over fourteen books of poetry. A professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and Connecticut’s poet laureate from 2001 to 2006, Marilyn Nelson has won two Pushcart Prizes, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the 2012 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America.  In 2013, she was elected as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  Today she is listed among the faculty of the  Cave Canem Foundation for young African American poets.  Marilyn Nelson’s literary manuscripts, letters, photographs and publications are being preserved and made accessible at the University of Connecticut in Archives and Special Collections.


Worth by Marilyn Nelson


Source: Poetry Magazine, September 2005, p. 403 and available online at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse/186/5#!/20607120.



2016 Events Spring Into View

edicionesvigiaArchives and Special Collections is excited to announce its preliminary schedule of programs and events for Spring 2016.  In the months and weeks ahead, handmade books, photographs, and rarely-displayed visual materials highlighting artists and artwork found in Archives and Special Collections will be featured in a series of exhibitions in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and Homer Babbidge Library.  Below is a list of exhibitions and events coming your way.  All are free and open to the public.

Flight by Force or Free Will (exhibition)
On view: 1 January – 26 February, 2016
Gallery: Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery, UConn
Curator: Graham Stinnett, Archivist for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections

Migration has occurred throughout human history.  The fluctuations of population from one geographic location to the next has occurred in times of tragedy, opportunity and emergency; by flight, by force and free will.  This exhibition highlights selections from Archives & Special Collections about expressions of displacement, forced migration, coercive settlement, asylum under the state and the globalization of refuge-seeking.  Prints, illustrations, pamphlets, artists books, multimedia, and photographs from the Human Rights Internet Collection, Mia Farrow Collection, University of Connecticut Films Collection, International Rescue Committee, (Central America) Records, Eric Reeves Papers, and Artist’s Book Collection, are represented.

Of Mice and Men: Emerging Infectious Disease in a Warmer, More Fragmented World” (Lecture, Teale Lecture Series)
Date: 4 February 2016, 4:00 PM
Location: Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, UConn
Speaker: Rick Ostfeld, Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York

Exhibition prepared by Guest Curator Elizabeth Barbeau (title forthcoming)
On view: 7 March – 13 May 2016
Gallery: Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery, UConn

Cyborgology: Female Automata and Science Fiction (tent. title) (exhibition)
On view: 1 March – 29 April 2016
Gallery: John P. McDonald Reading Room, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, UConn
Curator: Giorgina Paiella

Comedy, Economics, and Climate Change” (Lecture, Teale Lecture Series)
Date: 3 March 2016
Location: Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
Speaker: Yoram Bauman, Author, “standupeconomist,” and carbon tax activist

Cuban Bricolage: The Artists’ Books of Ediciones Vigía /
Bricolaje Cubano: Los libros artesanales de Ediciones Vígia (exhibition)
On view: 21 March – 21 May 2016
Gallery: Homer Babbidge Library, UConn
Curator: Marisol Ramos, Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Latino Studies, Spanish, and Anthropology


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Our reading room will be closed for the two weeks between December 21 and January 4 but please contact us at archives@uconn.edu if you have questions about our collections.

uconn_asc_clc_boyson_1869_scan_of_boys_0001From Christmas Rhymes and Stories, Original and Selected, including a Visit from Santa Claus, by Kriss Kringle, published in 1887.


Reading Room closed December 21, 2015 through January 1, 2016

Archives and Special Collections’ Reading Room located in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center is closed Monday, December 21, 2015 through January 1, 2016.  The Reading Room will resume its regular schedule of Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm on January 4, 2016.

Inquiries regarding archival collections can be submitted via email to archives@uconn.edu or directly to archives staff.