Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope everyone enjoys a delicious Thanksgiving!

Illustration from Uncle Wigglily's HolidaysIllustration by Lang Campbell in Uncle Wiggily’s Holidays or How Uncle Wiggily Had a Turkey for Thanksgiving and How He Delivered the Christmas Presents and How He Baked the New Year’s Cake, by Howard R. Garis, published in 1920.


‘Slow Violence, Environmental Activism, and the Arts': Teale Lecture happening today

nixonToday November 19 at 4:00pm in UConn’s Konover Auditorium, the Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment presents Dr. Robert Nixon, The Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment at Princeton University.

Dr. Nixon will explore the imaginative and political challenges posed by slow violence, by the incremental casualties that shadow our most pressing environmental crises. His talk will focus on activists and artists who are responding with an urgent creativity to the challenge of representing unspectacular environmental violence in a spectacle-obsessed age.

A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Dr. Nixon’s writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, The Nation, The Guardian, and Outside.  His book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor has received several awards since its publication in 2011, including American Book Award, the 2012 Sprout prize from the International Studies Association for the best book in environmental studies, the 2012 Interdisciplinary Humanities Award for the best book to straddle disciplines in the humanities; and the 2013 biennial ASLE Award for the best book in environmental literary studies.

Co-sponsored by UConn’s Teale Series, Junior Faculty Forum of the Humanities Institute, and the Dodd Research Center, 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.

Semiotics in the archives: Reflections on ‘Eviction and the Archive’ by scholar Daniel Nemser

image of front cover of Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which will housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which would later housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.” ― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.

Today’s story is not about books talking about books necessarily but of a book talking about archives and their buildings, and the rationale, in this particular story, to evict people from a building to replace them with books and records in the name of history and imperial memory. In a way you can say that this is story of semiotics of archives, signs and meanings found in an article talking about a book talking about an archive to be born…

As I said in a previous post, it is valuable to hear from our researchers and to learn about how they used our archival materials in their work. Professor Daniel Nemser contacted me in April 2014 asking for access to one of our rare books titled, Justa repulsa de ignorantes y de émulos malignos: Carta apologético-crítica en que se vindica la obra que se está haciendo en la Lonja de Sevilla (1) written by the architect Lucas Cintora in 1786. Prof. Nemser needed to consult the piece for a scholarly article he was writing. As far as we know, there are two known copies in the world, one located at the University of Seville’s library and the other at the Archives and Special Collections here at UConn Storrs (2). Prof. Nemser was able to visit us last May 2014 to consult the book and last September 2015 he contacted me to let me know that his article, “Eviction and the archive: materials for an archaeology of the Archivo General de Indias” was published in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies that month.

I was immediately intrigued and enchanted by the title of the article. It is not common to see literature scholars studying archives and their place in history. But this article delved into the history of the establishment of one of the most important archives ever created – an archive which documents “four centuries of Spanish colonial rule” and is considered the “first modern archives in Spain and one of the first in Europe” (page 131), el Archivo General de las Indias.

The article documented how a particular building known as La Casa Lonja de Mercaderes in Sevilla, designed by architect Juan de Herrera, a magnificent building to house the Consulado de Mercaderes (the city merchant guild), was repurposed to become the Archivo General de las Indias. After the construction “la Lonja”, the guild moved their office to the city of Cádiz and the building was abandoned, but right after people of poor means moved in and occupied the upper levels. The article explored how the founding of the archive, the eviction of its inhabitants and the modifications to the original building were part of an Enlightenment project by the Spanish crown to create a “modern archive” that justified their imperial project. Prof. Nemser explained that “the materiality of the archive itself would tell an epic tale about Spain’s colonial achievements and highlight the value of its ongoing colonial enterprise” (page 136).

The rare text from our collection was key to Prof. Nemser’s argument that the modifications of the original building by architect Lucas Cintora served to reshape the building’s functionality to conform to this enlightenment project. The modifications also represented a break with the past and the embrace of a new future, one that emphasized the importance of the Spanish empire and its validity to rule its colonies in the Americas. Prof. Nemser explained:

Since each type of building has a specific function and as such requires different formal characteristics, it will be necessary to “destroy” – Cintora does not pull his punches here – any elements of the original that are contrary to this new purpose. Of primary importance for an archive, he argued, was an open layout with what he called a “diaphanous” character. This was especially the case for an Enlightenment project such as the AGI [Archivo General de Indias], and as such it is understandable that the metaphor of light runs through much of the writing about the archive. In the structural transformation of the building, however, this metaphor takes on an architectural dimension: the need for light, clarity and transparency was precisely why the separation walls [inside the Lonja] had to be demolished (136).

As an archivist, it was fascinating to discover through the work of this scholar that Archives and Special Collections had a text in its collection that sheds light on the colonialistic root of the AGI. Prof. Nemser’s research left me pondering about the origins of other archival institutions, including our own. As Umberto Eco deftly explained in his novel The Name of the Rose, archives and libraries’ books are full of signs and meanings in constant dialogue with each others through the eyes of its readers.

We are honored and delighted to have facilitated Prof. Nemser’s research and to learn more about the complex history of archives.



1: We recently digitized this book and now it is available at the Connecticut Digital Archive.

2: From the article, “According to Humanes Bustamante, 200 copies of Cintora’s book were printed but later withdrawn and destroyed (339n11). However, at least two copies remain. Zerner has analyzed a copy held at the AGI, while the copy I consulted is located at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. I am grateful to Marisol Ramos for her assistance.”

Connecticut Children’s Book Fair 2015: This Weekend!

Lowly-reading_smSmiles, laughter, children’s books and their authors await you at the 24th Annual Connecticut Children’s Book Fair happening this Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15 at the University of Connecticut.  The fun begins at 10:00am.  Check out this year’s exciting schedule of Authors and Illustrators featuring Ross MacDonald, Wendell Minor, Florence Minor, Cynthia Lord, P. J. Lynch, Jane Sutcliffe, Pamela Zagarenski, and Connecticut’s-own Barbara McClintock.  Parking, directions, and links to local attractions, including the Ballard Museum of Puppetry, are available on the Book Fair website.  Drop in to hear distinguished illustrators discuss their work, browse the latest releases, attend storytime and other events throughout the day including a visit by Clifford the Big Red Dog!

The Connecticut Children’s Book Fair is a program of the University of Connecticut Libraries and the UConn Co-op. Proceeds from sales at the event are used for the growth of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection in the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut Libraries.

Armistice Day 1945 [70 Years After Nuremberg] | Human Rights Archives

blog_11111945-300x96“This is Armistice Day–and I suppose a holiday at home. The first peace-time Armistice day in a long time. Here it is another day–another mark on the calendar.” [p. 192, 11/11/1945]

Tom Dodd spent the holiday working in an effort to “hasten these proceedings along” rather than sitting out in the cold watching two service teams play football. [p.192] The middle weeks of November saw regular clashes between General Donovan and Robert Jackson regarding the best way to present and try the case–Donovan preferring to emphasize witnesses and Jackson documents. Dodd felt caught in the middle. He liked both men and understood their individual perspectives while trying to stay out of the fray.  Continue reading …


TONIGHT: The Story of Richard Scarry’s Busytown with Special Guest Lecturer Huck Scarry

Busytown, the bustling small town and home to such resident characters as Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Mr. Frumble, Police Sergeant Murphy, Mr. Fixit, and Hilda Hippo, was first depicted in the book Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World.  The fictional town was a central feature in several Richard Scarry books and has been depicted through time in a variety of formats, including games, toys, activity books, and an animated series.

Richard Scarry, the popular and much-loved American author and illustrator of over 300 children’s books, is known for such classics as Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever released in 1963, Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World(1965), Richard Scarry’s Storybook Dictionary (1966), and What Do People Do All Day (1968).  Selling millions of copies Huck Scarry 2during his lifetime, many Scarry books, though regularly updated and re-issused, have never been out of print.  Several have have been translated into over 20 languages.

Join us tonight Tuesday November 10, 6:00pm for a special guest lecture “The Story of Richard Scarry’s Busytown” with Scarry’s son, Richard “Huck” Scarry II. Also an artist and author of children’s books, Huck Scarry published a new Scarry picture book for the first time in the U.S. since the elder Scarry’s death in 1994.  With Richard Scarry’s Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! Huck Scarry began a season of re-releasing Scarry’s classics to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Richard Scarry’s best-known book, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever.   Read more…


Veteran’s Day, UConn style

Veteran's barracks, 1946

More than 2000 UConn alumni served in World War II; 114 of them lost their lives in the conflict. After the war the Veteran’s Administration requested that the university accept between 3000 and 4000 returning soldiers as students. In 1946 the campus had 792 veterans enrolled as students (11 of them were women) with another 300 at the Hartford and Waterbury extension campuses and 154 are enrolled in the Law, Insurance and Pharmacy schools. Eleven temporary barracks, nicknamed “Siberia” because of their distance from the main campus, were built on “the site of the former agronomy plots bordering the main road to Willimantic.” This site is now the Fine Arts Complex and E.O. Smith High School.  As more veterans were accepted to UConn more housing was built or found in nearby Willimantic.

More information about the expansion of the campus for returning World War II veterans can be found in the UConn Chronology at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/collections/chronology/index.cfm and photographs of scenes such as the one above, of “Agronomy Field” can be found on the Digital Repository.

Can We Save the Botany Degree? Naturalist & Teale Researcher Richard Telford’s Latest Post, from Connecticut’s Trail Wood

By Richard Telford, The Ecotone Exchange, 23 October 2015 (excerpt)

fungi-trail-wood-rOn October 17, 1959, less than six months after moving to Trail Wood, the beloved private nature sanctuary where he would spend the rest of his life, American naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale wrote the following entry in his private journal:

We are presented with life memberships in the Baldwin Bird Club and  given a fine vasculum for collecting plants. So we round out our long association with this nature group—over a period of more than 20 years.  Now we ‘have other lives to live.’  We watched them go with thankfulness in our hearts that we could stay.

I first read this passage two summers ago while researching Teale’s early days at Trail Wood with the generous support of the University of Connecticut, where Teale’s papers are permanently housed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. At the time, I was examining the extraordinary transformation that occurred in the lives of Edwin and his wife and collaborator Nellie with their move to Trail Wood, a site Edwin would subsequently declare to be “our Promised Land” (September 8, 1959). Teale chronicled this transformation in The Hampton Journal, 1959-1961, the first of four 500-page unpublished observation journals he kept at Trail Wood over a period of twenty-one years.  Continue reading…

Archivist Laura Smith featured in Hartford Courant story about 1880 telephone directory

hc-1880-phone-book-cover-20151023In a recent news story in the Hartford Courant, archivist Laura Smith was asked to share her knowledge and expertise relating to a historical curiosity — an 1880 Hartford telephone directory listing the few hundred households with telephones, including that of “Clemens, Samuel L., author, 95 Farmington” aka Mark Twain.  The item appeared last week in an online auction catalog.  Spencer Moore is the owner of the artifact. Moore inherited the directory from his grandfather, Carlan Goslee, who died in 1970.  “Goldin Auctions, based in West Berlin, N.J., lists Moore’s artifact as the second-oldest telephone directory in existence, which is not accurate,” according to reporter Susan Dunne.

“Archives and Special Collections at University of Connecticut Libraries owns one of two existing original copies of the oldest phone directory in existence, according to UConn archivist Laura Smith. The single-sheet director was produced in February 1878 by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, the world’s first commercial telephone exchange, which had been established the month before.”   Read more…

Human Rights Photographer’s Collection Donated to UConn

by Suzanne Zack, University Libraries, for UConn Today

RomanoChildLaborersPickCoffeeOnACoffeePlantationThe late U. Roberto (Robin) Romano was an accomplished photographer, award-winning filmmaker, and human rights advocate who unflinchingly focused his eye and lens on children around the world, capturing the violation of their rights.

Since 2009, Romano had made a limited number of his images available to researchers through the UConn Libraries’ Archives & Special Collections. Now, two years after his death, his total body of work, including video tape masters and digital video files, hundreds of interviews, thousands of digital photos and prints, plus his research files have been given to UConn and will now be available to those who examine human rights issues.

More than 100 of Romano’s images of child labor originally exhibited at the UConn’s William Benton Museum of Fine Art in 2006 are available online from the University Archives & Special Collections. These are the first of the more than 130,000 still images that will be available online for research and educational use once the collection is processed. The Archives & Special Collections plans to digitize the entire collection of analog still images, negatives, and research files, creating an unprecedented online resource relating to documentary journalism, child labor and human rights, and other social issues that Romano documented during his lifetime.  Continue reading…


Bill Clinton back on campus to accept the Dodd Prize

President Bill Clinton came to the University of Connecticut in 1995 to dedicate the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. He returns today, exactly twenty years later, to receive the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, along with the international Human Rights Education organization Tostan.  We’re delighted to welcome him back to UConn!  Here he is at the ceremony on October 15, 1995.

Bill Clinton at the dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, October 15, 1995

Bill Clinton at the dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, October 15, 1995