50 YEARS AGO:  Maryland Responds to Floods in Italy

Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries is home to political collections such as the Spiro T. Agnew papers, the Theodore R. McKeldin papers, the Daniel Brewster papers, and the Hervey Machen papers, which contain information and interesting perspectives on local, national, and international events. One such event documented in these four collections is the effort of Marylanders to assist in the relief of Italians flooded out of their homes fifty years ago this month. In early November 1966, much of north-central Italy was inundated by flood waters. As many as 300 people may have been killed, up to 50,000 farm animals were drowned, and countless shops and buildings destroyed (1). Refugees sought shelter in makeshift housing. The cities of Florence and Venice were especially hard hit. Devastatingly, the great concentration of art, architecture, and cultural heritage found in Florence was subjected to flood waters that reached 22 feet high in some places. The National Library of Florence was underwater. Astride the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, which dates back 2300 years to Roman times, had been badly damaged.

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The Baltimore News American collection includes photographs of the Italian floods of 1966. Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

The response to the 1966 flood in Florence was decidedly international, as Americans Continue reading

William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins: The Art of Book Design

Our Literature and Rare Book currators recently hosted a talented class of UMD art students studying typography and book design.What better way to illustrate the meticulous work of designing letters and page layouts than giving them opportunity to examine books from our William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins collections!


kelmscottWilliam Morris (1834-1896) founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891. He was already well know as an artist and author in England, as well as an avid socialist. His decorative arts firm Morris & Co. produced textiles, furniture, and stained glass to for decades before he ventured into book design. Towards the end of his life, he set out to create books that reflected his notion of an “ideal book”.  He criticized the ugly, machine-made books of industrialized England, from both a design aesthetic and the impact on traditional craftsmen. His press highlighted the artistry and craftsmanship he admired from the medieval era of early printed books.

Kelmscott Press books have a distinctive look and feel, reflecting Morris’s specific design principles for space, layout, and materials. He designed his own typeface, including decorative borders and intricate initial lettering for use in the press. He also had a hand in selecting the handmade paper and ink used in the printing process.

The masterpiece of the Kelmscott Press is the Kelmscott Chaucer, completed just months before Morris passed away. His lifelong friend and collaborator Edward Burne-Jones wrote of the Chaucer: “Indeed when the book is done, if we live to finish it, it will be like a pocket cathedral – so full of design and I think Morris the greatest master of ornament in the world”

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William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) was an American illustrator, typographer, and book designer. Like Morris, Dwiggins lamented the decline in the quality of books being printed in his lifetime. In 1919, he published Extracts from an Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as they are at Present Published, which included a humorous graph illustrating the plummeting quality of book design.

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Dwiggins designed books that reached a more commercial audience, often working with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, a publishing house in New York  later purchased by Random House.

Dwiggins’s designs are minimalist, utilizing stencil illustrations and playing with bold colors, a stark contrast to the heavily ornamented works by the Kelmscott Press.  However, Dwiggins utilized several of Morris’s design principles, including proportional margins and two-page unified design. He designed several typefaces for his books, including Caledonia, Electra, and Metro. Dwiggins used his familiar stencil designed to produce equally beautiful bindings. This is another clear difference from Kelmscott Press books, which featured plain vellum or blue board bindings. The result is a unique and modern take on a well-designed book.

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And that’s what makes these two collections such a great teaching tool for students interested in graphic design. Comparing the works of two very different, yet connected artists can inspire young designers. They question why the artists made the choices they did, explore what makes their work similar, and why they are unique. Of course it begs the ultimate question when comparing William Morris and W. A. Dwiggins- who designed the better book?

Visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore books from the William Morris and W.A. Dwiggins collections.

Frontlash: Mobilizing the Youth Vote, 1968-1997

200wAre you ready to vote on November 8th? Voting is your opportunity to make your voice heard in this year’s presidential election. For the month of November, the Labor Collections staff at University of Maryland are highlighting an organization that encouraged the youth and minority vote: Frontlash.

Visit the temporary exhibit in the Maryland Room for a sampling of the posters and canvassing materials Frontlash used to mobilize and educate the youth and minority vote during presidential election seasons. Perhaps they will inspire you to vote!

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Poster sponsored by Frontlash displayed at a booth or college campus

In 1968, the non-profit organization Frontlash was founded with the mission to help minority groups and young people register to vote. Frontlash stepped up their voter education efforts for young people when the 26th Amendment was passed, in 1971. The 26th Amendment changed the voting age from 21 to 18 years old. At the time, many young voters were not aware of the registration process. Frontlash worked towards promoting voter education by going door-to-door, putting up poster displays, and setting up public stands on sidewalks and college campuses to assist young voters with the registering process. Continue reading

Get to Know Special Collections- The Maryland Room

Welcome to the Maryland Room!

img_9695-1Have you ever visited the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library? Are you intimidated by the glass walls and reading room rules?  We’re here to help! The Maryland Room, located on the first floor of Hornbake Library is the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives at UMD. If you want to take a look at books or documents from our collections, all you have to do is visit the Maryland Room and our staff will help you find what you need. From 15th century rare books to modern records of the AFL-CIO, there’s so much to explore!

We welcome students, faculty, visiting researchers, and the general public to visit. The Maryland Room is generally open 10am-5pm Monday-Friday, with extended hours during the semester. You can view our current hours online.

Unlike McKeldin Library, where you can wander the open stacks and check out books, The materials in Special Collections and University Archives are located behind closed stacks and do not circulate.

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When you visit the Maryland Room, a staff member will retrieve the materials for you. Why the difference? Items in our collections are rare, one-of-a-kind, and often in fragile condition. To ensure these materials are safeguarded and accessible for years to come, there are some rules you will need to follow when you visit us.

Visiting the Maryland Room

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Student Job Opportunities in Special Collections and University Archives!

Want to pursue a career as a librarian or archivist? Do you love libraries and “old stuff”? Are you detail-oriented? Looking for a job on campus? Good news,  Special Collections and University Archives is hiring student assistants!

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Student assistants in Special Collections and University Archives at UMD are exposed to a wide variety of public and behind-the-scenes elements of the special collection library/archival field.  They work closely with curators and library staff to make accessible some of the University’s most valuable research collections.

Our collections cover a wide variety of subjects/formats, including literary manuscripts and rare books, UMD history, labor history, the state of Maryland and historical collections, mass media and culture, and women’s history.

Primary responsibilities may include:

  • Assisting patrons in the Maryland Room and serving on the Hornbake Welcome Desk.
  • Processing Special Collections materials, including book, archival, and/or digital collections.
  • Contributing to special projects, events, and exhibits.

Knowledge, experience, or strong interest in one or more of the following is preferred: archives; book processing; project management.

Applicants must be detailed oriented and able to maintain a schedule of 15-20 hours per week. This is an hourly position only; not a graduate assistantship. The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Contact Amer Kohl at amberk@umd.edu with questions about student positions in Special Collections and University Archives.

To apply please send a cover letter and resume to Amber Kohl at amberk@umd.edu.

130 Years of Progress: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, 1886-2016

Anniversaries are often a time to look back and reflect on past triumphs (and tribulations) for individuals, couples, and organizations. 2016 marks the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Journeymen Bakers National Union of the United States in 1886, which after multiple mergers and the inclusion of Canadian members is now known as the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. The University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives are the repository for the Bakers Union’s records, with some of the items dating back to the union’s earliest days. The collection includes a diverse range of materials that includes—beyond the standard office files—photographs, publications, posters, flags, charters, and scrapbooks. A look back at the union’s history reveals a complex story with periods of prosperity and hardship, of successes leavened by struggles, and stretches of political influence coupled with periods of internal dissension.

The early history of the union is one of inspired effort by a handful of individuals in the face of truly horrific working conditions. It is also one that, at least initially, took place largely among German immigrants in New York City, who almost exclusively formed the work force in bakeries during the late 1800s. Continue reading

LINK Fall 2016 | UMD Libraries

LINK Fall 2016 | UMD Libraries

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Fall 2016

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Journals targeted for cancellation in 2017

In order to avoid a budget deficit, subject librarians have canceled several research databases and reduced funds for discretionary monograph purchases across all disciplines.

Next up:  Canceling subscriptions to journals not part of contractually protected “big deal” packages purchased in collaboration with consortial partners at significant discount.

A review of serials conducted by librarians in consultation with collegiate faculty in spring 2016 identified cancellations at levels of 8 percent of the total collections budget.

A flat budget and significant serials inflation conspired to create the deficit.

Please contact Daniel Mack, Associate Dean, Collection Strategies and Services, (dmack@umd.edu) with questions about collections.

Severn Library up and running

A crew dedicated to retrieving library materials from Severn Library is now fulfilling requests for items shelved in the newly operational facility. Materials are delivered to McKeldin Library within one to two days of the request.

Materials transferred to Severn Library over the summer were previously held in the offsite shelving at the Johns Hopkins Library Services Center (aka MOSS). The October opening of Severn Library greatly expands shelving capacity for the University Libraries and ensures materials are maintained in optimal environmental conditions.

Severn Library is a high-density, climate-controlled facility for the long-term preservation of valuable books and archival materials. Located on Greenbelt Road, the facility will eventually hold approximately three million volumes.

Apply for funds to publish in open access journals

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