Vulnerability Empowering Advocacy: The Phyllis Zlotnick Papers

The current political climate has re-invigorated discussions regarding advocacy as well as boosted interest in the affairs of both local and state government.  It is fortuitous, then, to be working on the collected papers of Phyllis Zlotnick (b.1942-d.2011), who was a pioneering advocate for the civil rights of disabled people in Connecticut.  Her collection of personal papers centers primarily on her work as a lobbyist for legislation pertaining to disabled populations.  Reading through transcripts of her speeches, correspondences, and publications reveals a rich life of political activism, intellectual engagement and staggering patience.

Born with muscular dystrophy, Zlotnick used a wheelchair for most of her life.  In defiance of the convention at the time, Zlotnick’s parents Sidney and Marion refused to institutionalize her because of her disability.  Zlotnick’s education was an uphill battle for Sidney and Marion as well, having to picket the Hartford Board of Education for enrollment into a special education class, and needing to participate in her Portland High School classes via speaker phone.  Despite these isolated experiences, she graduated with honors from Portland High School in 1960.  Six years after her high school graduation Zlotnick would be hired as a receptionist at the Hartford Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center, a job that would prove to be a formative time for her developing acumen in advocacy.

Zlotnick’s work with the Hartford Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center and The Easter Seal Society of Connecticut brought her in contact with June Sokolov, a trailblazer for increasing access to occupation therapy within Connecticut.  Sokolov’s work proved to be a powerful influence and inspiration for Zlotnick throughout her life.  The Zlotnick papers include a large collection of Sokolov’s work, papers written, as well as speeches given, and correspondences made to cultivate awareness on the effectiveness of occupational therapy as a discipline.  The commitment to advocacy and empathy within Sokolov’s works has a clear influence on the directions and writings of Zlotnick herself.

At the start of the nineteen seventies, Zlotnick began to be an active presence for increasing awareness about architectural barriers to disabled populations in Connecticut.  This start to advocacy work would see her contribute repeated testimony before the Connecticut General Assembly, work as an aide to House Speaker Earnest Abate, and eventually be called upon for her input in the Americans with Disabilities Act in the nineteen nineties.  The Zlotnick papers offer an insight into the process of struggling to be heard in legislative and civic meetings, getting laws passed, and then fighting to have those laws enforced and implemented.  The struggles that took place to have the Connecticut legislature pass laws for disabled individuals to have access to buildings and sidewalks involved long struggles for implementation as well as for enforcement.  Zlotnick summarizes the challenges of advocating for equality in her talk entitled “Victory in Pursuit of Patience”,

It’s a seemingly never ending task for recognition of rights; of demonstrating the inappropriateness of exclusionary policies.  There will always be those who are trying to undo or dilute the progress, people who repeatedly have to be educated and reminded of man’s inhumanity to man.  We must keep going until we achieve full equality and integration.

(“Victory in Pursuit of Patience” c. 1992).
One of the most striking features of Zlotnick’s writing is the vulnerability within it.  In her writing one reads not just how architectural and attitudinal barriers (to borrow one of Zlotnick’s own phrases) impact her on a physical and emotional level, but how the legibility of vulnerabilities in disabled populations reminds many with able bodies of the precarious nature of their own mobility, cognition, and autonomy.  In a transcript of Zlotnick’s speech to the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Connecticut in 1974 she writes, “We [disabled people] represent a psychological threat – the average person is afraid of illness and by accepting us he must also accept his own potential for disability.”  Zlotnick engages with these overlapping vulnerabilities in her testimony before the State and Urban Development Committee in 1978,

Many of you know that great numbers of handicapped people can appear to testify or otherwise show support.  You will not see that kind of demonstration today because I am taking a gamble, the biggest one of my life.  Rather than trying to persuade you by intimidation through a sea of wheelchairs, I am going to rely on your intelligence and my personal credibility.  Should pressure tactics by more powerful lobbies who oppose the handicapped, for whatever reasons, break down the members of this committee or another committee should these bills be given a change of reference then I will have led thousands of handicapped people to the slaughter by not having a demonstration today.  I’ve opted for intelligence and wisdom rather than fear and intimidation – please don’t prove I overestimated you.

(Testimony Before the State and Urban Development Committee 1978).

My instinct is to want to push back against the characterization of a group of people advocating for civil rights as intimidating, but in her acknowledgements Zlontick addresses the apprehension of her audience before offering a connection of her own.  This acknowledgement is not an act of apologetics, it recognizes the tacit agreement behind the circumstances of Zlotnick acting as an advocate alone.  Both sides of the conversations should start a discussion with an awareness of what renders them vulnerable to one another.  It is a penetrating insight that sees traction in all vulnerable populations, not just those with disabilities, and exhorts us to conceive of vulnerability as a commonplace to draw communities and identities together rather than build barriers between them.

Patrick Butler is a Ph.D. Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Connecticut; his areas of interest are in Middle English romance and depictions of violence and vulnerability.  In addition to his graduate studies and work in Archives and Special Collections, he is a Modern Language Association Connected Academic Proseminar Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Throwing Bricks at the Temple: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. The chapter published below, “Throwing Bricks at the Temple,” follows a previous one published last month, “The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart,” which can be viewed here. For greatest clarity, these chapters should be read in order. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section here or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Chapter 10: Throwing Bricks at the Temple

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.[1]

Ecclesiastes 9: 11

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.[2]

Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat,” 1897

 

Box 219 of the Teale Papers in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut houses only one object, a Nazi flag measuring roughly 88 inches by 46 inches. Its folds through 71 years of storage have become deeply ingrained, and the viewer is hesitant to pull and flatten it too much. The remaining half of its red field, torn along a diagonal axis, is still bold. It is a monument to a long-dead empire—a Reich, in its own anachronistic parlance—and it is a monument to the fifteen young men who signed their names in the four quadrants formed by the perpendicular bars of the angled cross that forms the center of the black swastika sewn to the circular white central field. Laying the flag down horizontally, as its signers clearly did 72 years ago, the viewer’s eyes are drawn first to bold green script: “Tiger Patrol 346th Infantry.” The four components of this inscription, staggered across the white field, step down the dark lines of the debased Hindu symbol, the second and the third occupying the horizontal pockets formed by the swastika’s angled tails. The capital letters T, P, and I are drawn in rough, oversized calligraphy, and the infantry numbers are drawn with like flourish. Pride, hope, just action for a just cause—all are expressed by the added insignia of this captured flag.

Just as the swastika divides the patrol and regiment designations, so too does it roughly divide the names of the signers. In the north quadrant of the white central field we see the signatures of Antonio J. Alvear, John A. Thompson, Eugene B. Pings, Frank Minnis; along the north-facing tail of the swastika are the signatures of George W. Muschinske, Roy Salame, and Edwin A. Stroh. In the west quadrant are the signatures of Lester L. Snider and Merle H. Patison; adjacent to them and to the right of the scripted “346th” are those of Mahlon Angstead, Billy Richardson, and Ernest Sachau. In the south quadrant, there is only one signature, that of John Steele. Finally, in the east quadrant, moving south to north, are the signatures of Irving J. Greenfield, Harold F. Gould, Jr., Bill Cummins, and, finally, David A. Teale. One can readily imagine Edwin and Nellie Teale intently searching for David’s signature—for any evidence of their only child, declared Missing in Action “somewhere in Germany” five weeks earlier—when the flag arrived to their Baldwin, Long Island home on May 9, 1945. Noting the flag’s arrival in his Guild diary for 1945, Edwin expressed the hope that he and Nellie might “get in touch with those near here” to learn more of the events leading up to David’s disappearance.[3]

Five weeks earlier, on April 3, the day after receiving the first War Department telegram, Edwin wrote, “For so many days, since [leaving Popular Science Monthly in] 1941, I have been awakening to happy dreams in the work I love—Now we wake to the reality of a nightmare we have dreaded—we are hoping and believing that Davy is ‘safe’ as a prisoner.”[4] Both Edwin and Nellie clung tenuously to such hope and belief as bulwarks against waves of grief that now defined “one of the great crises of our lives.”[5] Three days later, on April 6, Edwin wrote, “Little by little, like an island eroding and disappearing in the flood, our standing-space has decreased—our hopes are now basing themselves on other hopes. Grief comes in waves.”[6] Still, the Teales armored themselves with “thoughts of hope: that patrols are likely to be captured; that the wars may end soon and all prisoners will be released.”[7] David’s work in the Tiger Patrol, conducted mostly near and behind enemy lines, justified this hope, but it likewise placed him in greater danger, and Edwin wrote on April 6 that such hopes were “only small, shining stars in the universal darkness.”[8] Expressing the despair that was the constant counterpoint of such hopes, he wrote, “The sun is gone from the sky.”[9]

Nearly thirty years later, in 1974, coming to terms with his newly received prostate cancer diagnosis, Edwin would reflect back on the agonizing uncertainty of the 132 days during which David was declared missing and his fate unknown to them: “Remembering the year David was missing in action and contemplating my current condition, it occurs to me that, in some ways, it is easier to face the inevitable than the uncertain.”[10] In the early days of April 1945, however, uncertainty was exceedingly more palatable than relinquishing hope to the certainty of David’s death.

The Teales straddled a thin, ever-shifting line between despair and hope, and the fragmental evidence of David’s fate that came to them throughout that dark spring was alternately palliative and jarring. David’s final letter, written March 14, arrived on April 5, thirty-three days before the delivery of the Nazi flag. “How precious and how hard to read,” Edwin wrote of the March 14 letter in the Guild diary, adding, “The date on the outside was March 19th and the postboy thought that meant he was all right”[11]—a thin ray of hope. Edwin found “relief from the pain in my heart reading Thoreau’s journals all afternoon,”[12] a practice he would continue in the coming weeks. In Thoreau’s writings and those of W.H. Hudson, he found sanctuary. On April 5, Edwin noted, “’Newsday’ as well as ‘Review-Star’” had “long announcement[s]” on David’s MIA status. “What a joyous day it would be,” he added, “to see the write-ups changed for the better! I alternate between confidence of hope and the depth of black despair.” Still, he was determined to “hope to the end!”[13]

On the following day, April 6, Edwin finished reading the first volume of Thoreau’s journals. Continue reading

World War Two Newsmap Collection Added to the Archives

Just a few months after its transfer from the main library’s Federal Documents Collection, the World War Two Newsmap Collection is now available for patron use! The finding aid can be found here.

For me, processing this new acquisition was a real pleasure; while I consider myself fairly well-versed in the history of the Second World War, I had never heard of the Newsmaps, and welcomed the opportunity to educate myself on them.

Newsmaps would often feature informational lay-outs for service members, like this one from the July 5, 1943 edition.

These large, two-sided posters were first published in the spring of 1942 by the U.S. Army’s Information Branch. At a minimum, they were meant to inform American service members on the progress of the war in the various theaters of conflict, and expose them to information on both enemy and friendly equipment and tactics. By 1943, many of them followed a common format: brief snippets of war news accompanied by maps and photographs on one side, and either a full-page detailed map or illustrated informational lay-out (how to prevent disease, how to avoid unexploded ordnance, the layout of a German infantry regiment, etc.) on the reverse. As the war progressed and Allied victory seemed more and more certain, the themes for these lay-outs transitioned to topics like the GI Bill, post-military life, and U.S. occupation policies.

Several versions of Newsmaps were produced. Large posters like the ones in this collection were distributed to military installations in the United States, while smaller Newsmaps were sent to units overseas. An industrial version was also published for display in war production facilities. In total, Newsmaps were published weekly from April 1942 until March 1946, with an additional eight issues produced after that.

An example of the large-scale maps featured on many of the posters. From the October 25, 1943 edition.

Our collection consists of forty-four posters, most of them two-sided, measuring 36 by 48 inches each. Publication dates range between 1943 and 1946, with the bulk of the posters dating from 1943. It should be noted that this represents only a fraction of the entire run, as more than two hundred posters were eventually published. If you’d like to see the entire set, or can’t make it in to examine our physical collection, check out this page from the University of North Texas Digital Library, which has digitized the entire run of Newsmaps for online use.

Wild, Outside, in the Night: Maurice Sendak, Queer American Jewishness, and the Child

The following guest blog post is by Golan Moskowitz, a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, where he received a joint M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.  Mr. Moskowitz is the 2016 recipient of the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant, an annual research grant awarded to scholars to encourage use of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  Mr. Moskowitz is also a visual artist with a B.A. in Art from Vassar College.

Children’s books are serious business.  So thought the late Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), who believed that the apparent simplicity of the children’s book – along with children’s talent for intuition and interpretation – made it an ideal form for burying complex messages. Among the most serious of artists to ever write children’s books, Sendak offered messages about how the wider society might neglect or threaten unusual individuals, but also how those individuals might harness fantasy, animal strength, and improvisation to endure and survive.  As a recipient of the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant, I had the privilege of studying several of the collections in Archives and Special Collections, which enriched my understanding of Sendak’s relationships with children’s authors Ruth Krauss (1901-1993) and James Marshall (1942-1992), as well as with children’s literature scholar Francelia Butler (1913-1998). Sendak absorbed much of Krauss’s critical stance toward social conventions of constrained gender and sexuality.  He found solidarity with Marshall’s good-natured cynicism and candidly shared some of his controversial intentions and interesting underlying beliefs with Butler.

Selling over eighty thousand copies by its fifth year in publication, A Hole Is to Dig (1952), children’s literature scholar Leonard S. Marcus writes, first established the twenty-four-year-old Sendak as “a talent to reckon with.”[1] To write the book, which was published as “a series of definitions reflecting childlike logic (many supplied by children themselves),”[2] Krauss studied children at the progressive Bank Street School, collecting definitions offered to her by the toddlers and preschoolers on 3×5-inch index cards.[3] She assembled and typed lists of these definitions; some that did not make it to the final version included: the stomach is a “food factory,” a match is “to light cigarette,” a chimney is “Smoke comes up and Santa Claus comes down,” and a shell is “Lobsters – snap your hand off.”[4] The Krauss papers also include hand-written comments on Sendak’s sketches for the book.  The author advised against pictures of children sitting on books (to get higher up), as books should not be treated “too rough.”  She also asked that for the caption, “dogs are to kiss people,” Sendak include among the other children being licked (each by a different dog) “one polygamous child with many dogs.” [5]

Krauss’s input sheds additional light on the young Sendak’s forming artistic values.  To better access his own vitality and humor, he was learning to revere books as sacred objects while demystifying the dominant, often clichéd narratives of the social order. [6]  Extraneous doodles in Sendak’s layout sketches for A Hole Is to Dig reveal the young artist’s self-liberating impulse during his work on the book. One sketch depicts two nude figures with a relaxed line, one leaning on the other, genitalia exposed.  Beside them, a small girl reclines with a dog, kissing the dog on the mouth. [7] Such free-flowing sensuality surely helped Sendak resist the self-policing of a closeted gay son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants – an essential exercise for an artist to strengthen honest expression and resist cliché. Sendak applied such subversive, child-like flow to the close relationships of his own life, including with Krauss, whom he loved dearly.  When he later visited her on her deathbed, he kissed the withering writer on her lips with tongue, eliciting a giggle that emanated the mirth and energy that was sadly fading from her body.[8] Sendak might have seen himself as something of a playfully welcomed intruder and an anomaly in the social matrix of heterosexuality – not belonging, but carving out a relational position for himself with play and affection.  One of his unused sketches for A Hole Is to Dig depicts a child on his mothers lap with the caption, “Marriage is so your brothers and sisters could get married when they grow up and then you could be the only child.”  A comment below reads, “This needs some rephrasing.” [9]

Sendak viewed illustration as a means for illuminating hidden interpretations or expressing his own emotional truth between the lines of the text. He enjoyed the illustrator’s prerogative, for example, in his Hector Protector (1965), which enlivens a short, ambiguous rhyme: “Hector Protector was dressed all in green; Hector Protector was sent to the Queen. The Queen did not like him, Nor more did the King; So Hector Protector was sent back again.” Sendak’s illustration of the poem creates a face-off between a scandalized, rotund Victorian queen reading Mother Goose and a wild boy, phallus erect in the form of an extended sword, riding on the back of a masculine lion. A serpent tangled around Hector’s sword in the shape of two coiled circles and a lunging head further emphasizes the phallic element (pp.15-16) [image at top]. One young male reader responded to the drawing with a letter to Sendak, asking, “When I grow up will mine be as big as Hector’s?” Describing his drawings for this book as a sort of revenge against critics who found his work too explicit for children, Sendak admitted, “I very consciously, obviously used and played with the snake in just those ways. Those pictures are so obvious it is embarrassing.” [10]

Sendak’s dark sense of humor and questioning of social boundaries was shared by artist and writer James Marshall. Sarcasm and morbid jokes helped them protect themselves against the potential pain that could result from clashing so starkly with aspects of mainstream, bourgeois culture. Both artists were gay men in an era that predated mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ people, especially in the field of children’s literature. A handmade birthday book [11] from Marshall to Sendak brims with delightful snark and suggests a level of solidarity that was rare for the reserved Sendak – a man who once confessed, “My rough time comes when [a] book is over and then I have to go to dinner with people and I am expected to go uptown and act like a grown-up at a party.”[12] Marshall and Sendak, however, much enjoyed their visits with each other.

Marshall seems to have appreciated the latter’s identification with German high culture, playfully inscribing a copy of one of his books to Sendak “For Wolfgang, Carl, Gustav Maurice.” He accompanied the inscription with a drawing of a boy blowing a horn, dressed in the German Romantic style of Sendak’s Outside Over There (1981). [13] Like Sendak’s proclivity for empathetically illustrating pigs, even coming from a culture that treated swine as abject and impure (Bumble-Ardy, House of Sixty Fathers, Swine Lake, etc.), Sendak’s identification with Germany may have reflected his own sense of difference or rejection. Germany and its art were queer love objects for a WWII-era Jewish child of an Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking family – much of which was destroyed in the Holocaust. Like his homosexuality and his veneration of childhood and artistic pursuits, Sendak’s identification with German culture signified a socially rebellious impulse to sometimes honor his own personal tastes and sensory drives even against the expectations of the wider public and of his family heritage. But as children, LGBTQ people, those resisting acculturation, and others who follow their inner drives understand, Sendak knew early on that integrity to an unusual calling could cost him the privilege of social belonging, even as it offered distinction.  An unused panel by Sendak for A Hole Is to Dig paired the caption “Lonely is to be like a star” with the image of a solitary boy staring up at a star.

My research at the Dodd Center adds important elements to my dissertation, which explores how Sendak contributed to shifting conceptions of modern childhood in relation to his own boyhood internalization of his immigrant family’s losses in Europe during WWII and the years surrounding it, as well as his “queer” difference as a gay, physically frail artist. The project examines Sendak’s articulations of how marginalized human beings – including refugees, traumatized individuals, and LGBTQ people – navigate a social order that neglects or threatens them. I am grateful to Melissa Watterworth Batt and Kristin Eshelman for ably administering the Dodd Research Center’s collections, generously facilitating my visit, and making it such a pleasant and productive one.

-Golan Moskowitz

 

[1] Leonard S. Marcus, “Chapter I: The Artist and His Work: Fearful Symmetries: Maurice Sendak’s Picture Book Trilogy and the Making of an Artist,” Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work, ed. Leonard S. Marcus (Abrams, 2013) 18.

[2] Vincent Giroud and Maurice Sendak (curators), Sendak at the Rosenbach, exhibition catalog, Rosenbach Museum, April 28-Oct. 30, 1995, 8.

[3] Marcus (2013) 18.

[4] Ruth Krauss, list collected from the class of Dorothy Walker, Group G., January 12, 1951. Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 261: “A Hole is to Dig Teachers’ Notes, Jan 11-12, 1951,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[5] For unknown reasons, the published drawing does not accommodate this request.  Ruth Krauss, letter to Sendak (“Thursday,” n.y.), Ruth Krauss Papers, Correspondence to Sendak, Series 1, Box 2, Folder 63. Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[6] Typed definitions from the class of Margaret Jane Tyler, Group F, January 11, 1951, Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 261, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[7] Maurice Sendak, layout pencil sketch for A Hole Is to Dig, Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 270: A Hole is to Dig Layout Sketches by Maurice Sendak, n.d., Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[8] “‘Don’t assume anything’: A Conversation with Maurice Sendak Philip Nel,” 2001, rpt. in Conversations with Maurice Sendak, ed. Peter C. Kunze (Jackson: U. Press of Mississippi, 2016) 138.

[9] Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 282: “A Hole is to Dig Cover Paste-up Dummy and Copy (Images not used in book), n.d.,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[10] Maurice Sendak, Interview with Francelia Butler’s children’s literature class, April 1976, 19. Francelia Butler Papers, Series 2, Box 9, Folder: “Sendak, Maurice – Children’s Literature,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[11] James Marshall, birthday book for Maurice Sendak, Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall, Box 2, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[12] Maurice Sendak, Interview with Francelia Butler’s children’s literature class, April 1976, 26. Francelia Butler Papers, Series 2, Box 9, Folder: “Sendak, Maurice – Children’s Literature,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[13] James Marshall inscription to Maurice Sendak in Sendak’s copy of James Marshall, The Stupids Die (1981), Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall, Box 1, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

This Week: Rachel Carson The Film and Elizabeth Kolbert Speaks at UConn

Rachel Carson, a new documentary film produced for the PBS series American Experience, is now available to watch online marking its debut broadcast on CPTV Connecticut public television.

Archives and Special Collections contributed collection materials to be included in the production of the film and we have been eagerly awaiting its release.

According to PBS, the film draws heavily from Carson’s writings and letters and incorporates recent scholarship: “Rachel Carson illuminates both the public and private life of the woman who launched the modern environmental movement and revolutionized how we understand our relationship with the natural world.”

The film features photographs and letters by the naturalist Edwin Teale from the Edwin Way Teale Papers held here in the Archives and Special Collections. [Read more about the correspondence between Teale and Carson on the blog post “Nature, Wondrous and Fragile” by Richard Telford.]

Silent Spring was published in September 1962 and became a national bestseller.  The film features rarely-seen images and home movies, unpublished letters and writings, and explores the science and public debate surrounding pesticide-use ignited by the book. Special features can be found on the American Experience website, including an introductory essay, bonus video, and an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and science writer Elizabeth Kolbert.

Join us on Thursday, February 2 at 4:00pm to hear Elizabeth Kolbert’s lecture “The Sixth Extinction” at UConn in the Dodd Research Center.  The event is FREE and open to the public, no registration is required.  The event will be live-streamed, details can be found here.

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker and won the Pulitzer for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change in 2015. Her series on global warming, The Climate of Man, from which the book was adapted, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine writing award and a National Academies communications award. She is a two-time National Magazine Award winner.

The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series brings leading scholars and scientists to UConn to present public lectures on nature and the environment.  Since 1995, the UConn Library has sponsored the award-winning Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series in partnership with several UConn departments.  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 Archives and Special Collections.

 

Veteran’s Expressions After War

Currently on display at the Archives & Special Collections is the guest curated exhibit Veteran’s Expressions After War: Every Veteran’s Life Tells a Story and Every Veteran Leaves a Legacy, by Robin Albarano and Jordan Kiper.  This exhibit features visual art, poetry, correspondence, photography and ephemera relating to veteran’s experiences from the Vietnam War to the War in Iraq.  Materials featured draw from The Alternative Press Collection, Cal Robertson Papers and First Casualty Press.

This exhibition will be on display in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery from January 1st 2017 to February 28th 2017, open Monday to Friday 9 – 4 pm.

 

A correlating exhibition will be on display this spring in the hallway of the Dodd Center featuring photographic prints and oral histories of veteran’s from the Balkans conflict.  Materials featured will be products of Robin’s photographic work and Jordan’s PhD research.

Stop the Presses: UConn’s Student Newspaper is Now an Online Resource

Viewing a newspaper issue in the digital repository

Have you ever wondered when the first female editor-in-chief of the UConn newspaper was elected? Or wanted to examine student reactions to the attack on Pearl Harbor? Have you ever desperately needed to know the time and location of the Philosophy Club meeting on November 28, 1945? Thanks to an ongoing project here at Archives & Special Collections, the answers to these and other questions concerning campus history will soon be just a few clicks away. Several staff members, myself included, have been working since last summer on uploading past issues of the campus newspaper, from its inception in 1896 until 1990, to the Archives’ digital repository, a component of the Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA).

To date, everything up to the 1942-1943 school year has been completed, as well as some years in the 1970s and late 1980s. Once uploaded, every issue becomes a permanent digital object that is searchable within the repository. Associated metadata includes publication date, editor, genre, and, when applicable, a short description that lists any errors particular to that issue (i.e. a mislabeled volume or issue number or date.) Users can conduct term searches within each issue, and there’s also the option to download and print a PDF version.

Prior to this project, access to most of the student newspaper archive was available only through the use of paper copies, like this one from 1940

Want to check out what we’ve completed so far? Visit the digital repository here.

Access to UConn’s student newspaper archive, in both physical and digital form, is relatively old news (pun intended.) Researchers who visit Archives & Special Collections have been able to examine bound volumes or microfilm reels for years, and the UConn Digital Commons has offered online access to some copies of the newspaper since early 2012. Frequent use and the passage of time, however, have begun to show their effects on both the physical copies and the microfilm, and although plans were made to make all issues available online through the Digital Commons by the end of 2012, the project was never completed. Finally having the collection completely digitized will address these concerns and essentially make the newspaper a “self-serve” resource, available at any time and from anywhere.

Completing the project is no small task, in part because there is so much material to process. For the paper’s first eighteen years, for example, it was published monthly during the school year with an occasional summer issue. That works out to approximately 170 issues produced for the years 1896-1914. At an average of 20-25 pages per issue (although some, like the Commencement Issue, ran much longer), the total number of pages is more than 4,000! The numbers only increase as the years progress and the paper becomes a semi-monthly, weekly, biweekly, and finally a daily in 1953.

Editorial staff, Connecticut Campus, 1924

Another challenge has been tracking the changes undergone by the paper to ensure that the proper metadata is created and recorded for each individual issue. Just as the university has changed its official name several times over the course of its existence, so too has the campus newspaper gone by a number of different titles: the S.A.C. Lookout­ (1896-1899); the C.A.C. Lookout/Lookout (1899-1914); The Connecticut Campus and Lookout (1914-1917); the Connecticut Campus (1917-1955); the Connecticut Daily Campus (1955-1984); and finally the Daily Campus (1984-Present). There is also the Connecticut Scampus, an annual satirical issue first published in the 1920s. In addition, a new editor-in-chief was elected at least annually, and sometimes more frequently than that.

Luckily, the necessary groundwork had already been completed before we began the project. Realizing the historical significance of the newspaper, the UConn Libraries funded the scanning of the entire collection onto microfilm in the early 1990s. The Library again offered its support in 2012 when that microfilm was scanned and .txt, .jp2, and .pdf files were created for each individual page. It was from this cache of digital images that the Digital Commons issues were produced, and it is from there that we’ve been doing the majority of our work, grouping the individual pages into zip files (each one representing a single issue), ingesting them into the repository, and then adding the necessary metadata and PDF files.

Quality control is an important step throughout this process. The editors of yesteryear were far from perfect, and there are plenty of instances where volume and/or issue numbers are mislabeled and page numbers are out of order (or omitted entirely.) There are also errors from the microfilm scanning that need to be accounted for, like removing duplicates resulting from the same page being scanned more than once.

Challenges notwithstanding, progress has been steady, and we are looking forward to completing our work. In its entirety, the newspaper represents an integral part of UConn’s historical record, and is an ideal complement to the several excellent histories of the university that have been written (the out-of-print Connecticut Agricultural College: A History by Walter Stemmons, Bruce Stave’s Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits, and Mark J. Roy’s University of Connecticut) which, owing to limitations of space and other factors, can never hope to include everything. When finished, the online archive will span more than a century and include thousands of pages. In using it, researchers will be given a unique perspective into the everyday nuances of campus life, and the reactions of students, staff, and the Storrs community to events, both major and mundane, that affected the campus, the nation, and the world.

A Brief History of the Student Newspaper:

1896 — Students of the Storrs Agricultural College establish a student newspaper, the S.A.C. Lookout.  It begins as a monthly, and the first issue is published on May 11, 1896. The cost of a subscription? 50 cents a year, paid in advance.

1899 — The school is re-named Connecticut Agricultural College, and the paper becomes The C.A.C. Lookout.

1902 — The paper transitions to the simpler title the Lookout.

1914 — The paper changes its name to the Connecticut Campus and Lookout, and is published semi-monthly during the college year.  It also takes on the standard newspaper format.

1917 — The paper simplifies its name to the Connecticut Campus beginning with the October 30, 1917 issue.

1919 — The paper begins publishing weekly with the October 3, 1919 issue.

1942 — The Connecticut Campus is published semi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays. It will revert to a weekly two years later.

1946 — The paper again becomes a semi-weekly.

1950 — The paper is published three times a week.

1953 — Beginning with the September 21, 1953 issue, the Connecticut Campus becomes a daily.

1955 — The paper is renamed the Connecticut Daily Campus, and is published every weekday morning.

1984 — The school paper again simplifies its name, becoming the Daily Campus.

 

Watch Full Movie Manchester by the Sea (2016)

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Teaching Nineteenth-Century Media

A fascinating interview with UConn Professor Jennifer Terni went live this week on the Humanities Institute’s new blog Brain Bytes: Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Professor Terni discusses her teaching methods and “experiments” incorporating 19th-century artifacts into the classroom experience.  She reflects on a recent visit with her students to Archives and Special Collections where they examined 19th-century photographs with Archivist Kristin Eshelman.  Below is a clip from that interview

This past semester I taught a new graduate course on 19th-century media.  It would have been impossible to give this course even a decade ago, since it was built on the shoulders of major digitized archives including Gallica at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Hathi Trust, and ARTFL, to name but a few.  To make use of them effectively, however, I had to build an extensive website as a platform from which to organize the many primary sources that we explored as a group as well as to give a picture of what 19th-century media would have looked like. What is more, I tried, as much as possible, to get the students to experience what it would have been like to consume media in the 19th century, for instance, by reading a pulp fiction novel in installments in a newspaper.

This experiment was more successful than I could have hoped.  What is more, occasionally I sent the students to the Dodd archive to encounter 19th-century artifacts more directly (illustrated newspapers, daguerreotype, stereoscopes, photographic technology).  The impact of those encounters was intense in large part because the students had been engaged with primary sources throughout the semester: they had seen the exploding variety of media forms in the 1800s, but also knew firsthand how even very disparate forms were interconnected. They had also read theoretical and historical articles that helped them think about what kinds of cultural work these different genres and platforms were performing.  Touching the actual artifact was meaningful because to them it was already embedded in a web of references and ways of thinking about media, but also because it contrasted with all of the digital content they had been using throughout the semester.  It was thus doubly a material encounter with material culture.

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75 Years Later: Pearl Harbor Remembered

Editor's column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

Editor’s column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

December 7, 1941 was a Sunday. In Storrs, UConn students prepared for end-of-the-semester exams and the upcoming winter break. That evening, History Professor Andre Schenker traveled to Hartford with his family to see a play. At some point, an usher approached him with an urgent message. Five thousand miles to the west, at 1:18pm that afternoon (7:48am Hawaiian time), Japanese naval and air forces had attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, inflicting heavy casualties and causing severe damage. Schenker immediately set off for radio station WTIC, where he served as a world affairs commentator. Later that night, he began his broadcast with the following words:

“It has happened. Japan has decided to commit suicide by attacking the strongest power on earth, the United States…As you all know by now, this morning in the Far East, which means this afternoon our time, a Japanese force suddenly attacked Manila, in the Philippines, and another force attacked the Gibraltar of the Pacific, our base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.”

(You can hear Professor Schenker’s full commentary on the attack here)

Maurice “Moe” Daly

Maurice “Moe” Daly

The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt called for a declaration of war against Japan, which led to Germany and Italy issuing similar declarations against the U.S. on December 11th. America had officially entered the Second World War.

Even as the students and faculty at Storrs processed the news, Connecticut alumni halfway around the world already found themselves in harm’s way. Major Maurice F. “Moe” Daly, a popular football player from the Class of 1923, was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Japanese attack there on December 8th. After participating in its heroic defense, he would eventually be taken prisoner when Bataan fell the following April, and died in captivity.

The attack on Pearl Harbor signaled a major transformation in campus life at Storrs. Blackouts were put into effect, ROTC training was ramped up, and the pages of the student newspaper were increasingly filled with war-related news. Soon, male students and faculty members alike left the campus in droves to join the armed forces. At least 114 of them would not return after the war’s end in 1945.