The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center – not just a space, a legacy

“Imagine a near-perfect environment for the preservation of rare books and research collections. A place that welcomes the public with exhibitions, conferences, and lectures. A facility that encourages education, exploration, and scholarship. A place where knowledge is paramount and the past intertwines with the future.”  

Betsy Pittman, University Archivist; Senator Christopher J. Dodd; and Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections outside the newly renamed Dodd Center for Human Rights at the rededication on Friday, October 15, 2021.
Betsy Pittman, University Archivist; Senator Christopher J. Dodd; and Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections outside the newly renamed Dodd Center for Human Rights at the rededication on Friday, October 15, 2021.

These are the words used in the campaign to build the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, recently renamed the Dodd Center for Human Rights in a ceremony presided over by President Joe Biden. To better understand how we got here, we need to go back to the mid-1980s and two conversations that would ultimately converge. Within the History Department, emeritus faculty Thomas G. Paterson and Richard Brown, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of History, had initiated conversations with then-Senator Christopher J. Dodd around building an archive of Connecticut leaders. At the same time, the UConn Library had a vision – to build a facility to properly house UConn’s archives and special collections, an initiative led by former Library directors John P. McDonald and Norman D. Stevens, Rand Jimerson, and Head of Special Collections Richard H. Schimmelpfeng. The converging of these conversations, and the appeal to the Dodd family’s life-long interest in serving the people of Connecticut, was the perfect storm that was given a seal of approval from UConn President John Casteen.  

Emeritus director of the UConn Library, Norman D. Stevens, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on October 10, 1993. Photo by Paul J. Toussaint courtesy of the UConn Archives & Special Collections.
Emeritus director of the UConn Library, Norman D. Stevens, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on October 10, 1993. Photo by Paul J. Toussaint courtesy of UConn Archives & Special Collections.

Groundbreaking on the state-of-the-art facility began in 1993 under the leadership of then UConn President Harry Hartley. Purpose-built for the management of archival and special collections, the building provided a technologically advanced, secure, climate-controlled environment for storing collections, and a stunning place for research and engagement, the John P. McDonald Reading Room. In addition, the goal was to create a space where people could gather around this wealth of scholarship, to continue to learn and grow from each other’s perspectives. As a result, part of the 55,000 square foot space housed two important and connected UConn programs – the Center for Judaic Studies & Contemporary Jewish Life, and the Center for Oral History. It also provided a physical location for scholars, students, and the public to connect via exhibitions, events, and programs via the Doris & Simon Konover Auditorium, a public lounge, gallery, and conference rooms.  

Boxes from the Thomas J. Dodd Research Collection in Archives & Special Collections

These “layers,” as they were initially called when describing the physical building, would also be used to define a new form of collaborative scholarship. Together, Archives & Special Collections, the Center for Oral History, and the Center for Judaic Studies & Contemporary Jewish Life worked towards collaborative programming, research, and learning initiatives, as well as toward their unique goals, building programs and collections to benefit the University and beyond. This began with the celebration known as The Dodd Human Rights Year, with programming across campus culminating in the dedication of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center by President Bill Clinton on October 15, 1995.  

“I am confident my father would be proud to know his works – as well as the original manuscripts and works of other great politicians, writers, educators, environmentalists, and artists – will be housed in a state-of-the-art facility at the University of Connecticut devoted to their scholarly exploration and physical preservation.”  – Senator Christopher J. Dodd

By 2003, the Human Rights Institute was established in the Dodd Center to coordinate human rights academics across the University. Management of the Dodd Center and its programming initiatives remained under the care of the UConn Library and Archives & Special Collections until 2011, when archives and special collections and the Center’s programming were restructured. Today, the Dodd Center for Human Rights houses three independent programs – the UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections, the Human Rights Institute and its outreach initiative, Dodd Impact, and the Center for Judaic Studies & Contemporary Jewish Life – and continues to provide a technologically-advanced environment for the care and management of critical research collections and a collaborative space for building connection and engagement with the campus community and the broader public.  

Each of these programs carries on the legacy of the Center’s founding, inspiring engagement with the past and carrying its lessons into the future, and creating new opportunities for connection, learning, and understanding. Archives & Special Collections is proud to build on this history, developing rich collections that connect past, present, and future, and supporting the scholarly and creative achievements of our global community of scholars through innovative services and meaningful programming. Learn more about our work at  

Fall 2021 at the UConn Library – glad to be back!

The new Babbidge Booth on Level 1

After 18 months of pandemic closure, the UConn Library opened the doors to all campus libraries in August of 2021 and nobody was happier than the staff. Libraries have spent decades shifting resources to providing online access to collections and services to better serve our patrons, but we heard loud and clear from our community there is absolutely still a place for the physical library. The UConn Library fills so many roles within UConn – we have resources necessary for research, programs and services aimed to help learn and grow, spaces for work and study, and we provide a place where our community connects with one another. It is all of the pieces – online and in-person, that make the UConn Library whole. 

Dave Avery, Head of Facilities & Security and Interim Avery Point Campus Library Director & MASK ON Reward winner Hailey Russell. Photo courtesy of Kristen Jones.

With the opening of the doors, we were certainly not business as usual. We have fully embraced UConn’s aggressive and successful campaign to keep COVID-19 off campus. One of the biggest challenges we faced over the semester was the very real, very challenging, masking fatigue we all feel, and spending hours in the library made it even harder. We designated eating and drinking areas, and developed positive masking campaigns including the MASK ON Rewards program where there was free candy and a weekly drawing for free pizza if we caught you wearing a mask! We also added four sound-proof booths, which after lively and very creative naming voting by students, faculty, and staff, have been named Babbidge Booths. They are great spots that allow for phone calls, taking an online class, or just studying quietly without a mask on. These spaces have been so popular, we will be purchasing more for other campus libraries as well. 

Mica a Golden Retriever mix gives a student a high-five in the Paws to Relax program. Photo courtesy of Kate Fuller.
Mica, a Golden Retriever mix, gives a student a high-five in the Paws to Relax program. Photo courtesy of Kate Fuller.

We also restarted programming both online and inside the building. We reopened our exhibit galleries and added a video component for two of our exhibits to extend our reach – Many Pieces Make a Whole by Deb Aldo, and Fables, Fiction, Pulp and Pens in honor of Richard H. Schimmelpfeng. We also hosted both in-person and online workshops, opened for 24/7 hours during finals, and got back into the business of dog therapy with the Paws to Relax program.

As the semester comes to a close, we are looking forward to a little down time and a chance to reset before the spring semester begins in January. Thanks to everyone who had a part in the reopening of our buildings and helping keep us safe all semester. 

Meet the Staff

Melica Stinnett is the Research Services Coordinator at Archives & Special Collections, overseeing the reference desk, reference inquiries, reproductions, and student workers. If you visit Archives & Special Collections, she will be the one greeting you! She has prior experience in the museum field developing exhibitions and a background in anthropology and archaeology. Her personal interests include painting, making stuff from things she finds, gardening, and taking deep dives into collections that contemplate the complexities of memory and meaning. In a past life, she was an outdoor mural artist.

How did you get into libraries? My library-adjacent career path began at the Connecticut Historical Society’s research center. Their collections are Connecticut-centric and date back to the 17th century. My BA is in Anthropology, specifically in Archaeology with a focus pre-history (Paleolithic era & Pleistocene). When you are trained to make daring inferences with tiny pieces of information from epochs past, being surrounded by historical collections and a written record was quite amazing. It was an ‘aha!’ moment for me. 

What do you love most about working in a library (archives)? I love the exact moment when I’m able to help connect the dots for a patron. You can see their research and ideas swirling around in their eyes. It is exciting to know that our resources are so valuable to many diverse individuals. 

What is a positive that has come from this pandemic? Time to reflect. 

What was your first job? Working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the Mansfield Community Center. 

How do you prefer to start your day? Coffee, as black as midnight on a moonless night. 

What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on? Being the best student supervisor that I can be! Our student staff do an enormous amount of work for us, and we’d be lost without them. 

Tell us a fun fact about you: When I was an undergraduate, I dropped out of UConn to work on an organic farm in Hawaii. I got really tan, never wore shoes, jumped off cliffs, and learned a lot about farming. One weird thing I did at the farm was manage the compost piles, taking temperature readings and charting the results (it’s more work than you think.) I came back and finished my degree, of course!

What’s on your reading list? There’s a Joni Mitchell biography, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, that I’ve been avoiding finishing for the past year because I’m so bored with it. I should probably finish that…

If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be? Woodworking, or house building. 

What’s your most hated household chore? Oh, that’s easy. Emptying the dishwasher. I handwash all the dishes and haven’t used the dishwasher in months.

Dedicating the Richard H. Schimmelpfeng Gallery

Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections and Dean Anne Langley in front of the newly dedicated Richard H. Schimmelpfeng Gallery
Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections and Dean Anne Langley in front of the newly dedicated Richard H. Schimmelpfeng Gallery.

In October, UConn Archives & Special Collections dedicated its exhibition gallery in honor of Richard H. Schimmelpfeng, former director of Special Collections and a longtime advocate for and friend of the UConn Library.

For over fifty years – 27 of those as a paid employee, and 25 as a volunteer – Schimmelpfeng helped guide and develop the exponential growth of Archives & Special Collections, providing leadership in the acquisition of some of our most important and enduring scholarly collections, donating significant collections of materials from his own collecting interests, providing mentorship for generations of library students and staff, and giving of his time to make our collections usable and accessible for scholars. Even after his death, Schimmelpfeng continues to provide sustaining support for Archives & Special Collections with a generous bequest that will enable us to develop new collecting efforts, to expand our research, teaching, and learning programs, and to create new avenues for engagement with our communities.

In recognition of his service and his love of the UConn Library exhibition program, the dedication of the gallery in the Dodd Center for Human Rights Center was marked with an exhibition entitled “Fables, Pictures, Pulp and Pen,” which featured objects from the significant and varied collections Schimmelpfeng donated to Archives & Special Collection over a 50-year period, including fine press books, photobooks, handmade paper specimens, calligraphy and type samples and illustrated bookplates.

Due to pandemic concerns, we wanted to share the exhibition and why Mr. Schimmelpfeng was so important to us, so we invite you to watch the video to learn more. Special thank you to our student Elizabeth Flaherty for the video production. More details on the exhibition can be found at

Post written by Rebecca Parmer, Head of Archives & Special Collections

Collections Spotlight – Increasing Diversity in UConn Library Collections

This fall we continued to add collections and resources that increase the diversity of works available to researchers. These collections, focused on African American and Asian American communities, will open up new primary source materials and give access to voices that all-too-often go unheard. 

Lottie B. Scott in her Norwich home Thursday, July 29, 2021. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Lottie B. Scott in her Norwich home Thursday, July 29, 2021. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

In August 2021, UConn alumna (‘86) and author, civic organizer, and civil rights advocate from Norwich, Connecticut, Lottie B. Scott donated her papers to Archives & Special Collections. Scott built her reputation as an advocate for civil rights through her roles in the founding and presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Norwich chapter, from the 1960s-2010, and service in various positions (often as the first woman of color) with the Norwich Arts Council and the Rotary Club, as a board member of Backus Hospital, and in her work for the Commission for Human Rights and Opportunities over 22 years. This collection is available to the public for research use.

Asian and Asian American Studies Library Collection. 7 Sub-Collections curated by UConn Asian and Asian American Studies Institute faculty and UConn Library staff the Asian and Asian American Studies Library Collection showcases thought-provoking books at the forefront of interdisciplinary scholarship. UConn Library logo

A new Asian & Asian American Studies Library Collection showcases thought-provoking books on Asian American history, politics, and culture at the forefront of interdisciplinary scholarship. Librarians Sam Boss and Michael Rodriguez partnered with faculty members Fred Lee and Na-Rae Kim to create the collection. The books are organized into sub-collections that address challenges Asian Americans face, their role in the United States’ nation-building, social justice movements, stereotyping, solidarity, immigration, and the vibrancy and creativity of Asian American literary and cultural products among other topics. These books can be borrowed only by current students, faculty, and other UConn community members.

Black Thought & Culture is a digital collection of 100,000 pages of nonfiction writings by African American leaders covering 250 years of history. Alongside the full Black Panther newspaper (1967–80), Black Thought and Culture features letters, speeches, essays, leaflets, interviews, and trial transcripts. These sources bring Black voices and perspectives to understanding African American experiences. This resource is available only to current students, faculty, and other UConn community members.

African American Communities is a digital collection exploring African American culture and identity in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City (1863–1986). Pamphlets, periodicals, letters, records, reports, and oral histories offer first-hand perspectives on Black communities and cultures, including aspects such as segregation, poverty, urban renewal, protests, community organizing, voting rights, and more. This resource is available only to current students, faculty, and other UConn community members.

Race Relations in America documents the struggle for Black civil rights from 1943 to 1970. Sponsored by the American Missionary Association and based at Fisk University, the Race Relations Department and its annual Institute investigated issues in race relations and developed methods for educating communities and preventing conflict. The collection showcases the speeches, surveys, and reports produced by the Department’s staff and Institute participants, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black leaders. This resource is available only to current students, faculty, and other UConn community members.

Interested in learning more about these collections? 

Paws to Relax is Back!

The OG of doggie de-stress programs at UConn is back!!! Finals week in Babbidge, with the hustle of 24/7 hours (starting Friday, December 10 – Sunday, December 19) is never the same without visits from some of our four-legged friends. These doggies have gone to school themselves, and are all registered with national organizations dedicated to improving human health through therapy.

Paws to Relax - December 13-17, 2021, 1pm-5pm. Ease your stress! Stop by for a paw shake on Level 1 in Homer Babbidge!

All dogs are on Level 1 in Babbidge Library – so come get a little drool on you for good luck!

1:00 – 2:00 Judith Pepin & Gracie (Pug)
2:00 – 3:00 Jeanne Ladd & Benny (Shih-Tzu)
3:00 – 4:00 Betsy Tubridy & Finn (Labradoodle)
4:00 – 5:00 Peter Lok & Grant (Golden Retriever)

1:00 – 2:00 Sue Glenney & Mica (Golden Retriever mix)
2:00 – 3:00 Sandy Lok & Tori (Golden Retriever)
3:00 – 4:00 Laurel Rabschutz & Wrigley (Newfoundland)
4:00 – 5:00 Claudia Eberly & Tegan (Welch Springer Spaniel)

Golden Retriever saying hi

1:00 – 2:00 Karen Eberl & Jake (Irish Wolfhound)
2:00 – 3:00 Caroline Gaetano & Seneca (Yellow Lab)
3:00 – 4:00 Becky Caldwell & Hunter (Shetland Sheepdog)
4:00 – 5:00 Sandy Lok & Andy (Golden Retriever)

1:00 – 2:00 Katherine Patterson & Kammy (Keeshond)
2:00 – 3:00 Caroline Gaetano & Finley (Yellow Lab)
3:00 – 4:00 Christine Anderson & Bo (Black Lab mix)
4:00 – 5:00 Laurel Rabschutz & Wrigley (Newfoundland)

1:00 – 2:00 Ed Ruchin & Sawyer (Akita)
2:00 – 3:00 Steven Kornfeld & Summit (English Lab)
3:00 – 4:00 Terri Carpenter & Brody (Shetland Sheepdog)
4:00 – 5:00 Karen Tuccitto & Mazzie (Cocker Spaniel)

Times and dogs may be subject to change.